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A Chinese colleague just told me of a Chinese idiom for anxiousness or restlessness. They will often refer to someone who is overly restless as an ant standing on a heated pot. I'm pretty sure there is at least one English idiom for restlessness/anxiousness, but for the life of me I cannot think of it right now. Is there indeed one or more common idioms for restlessness in English, or am I imagining things? :)

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9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Someone who is anxious may be said to have ants in their pants.

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As restless as a cat on a hot tin roof.

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That is surely the closest one to the original. –  Colin Fine Apr 27 '11 at 17:05
    
@Colin Fine Indeed! @cindi +1 –  Daniel Standage Apr 27 '11 at 17:09
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There are few choice idioms for restlessness in English, including:

  • Sitting on pins and needles

  • At sixes and sevens

  • As jumpy as a puppet

And a whole bunch of amusing ones here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/restlessness

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Another to consider, to go with the most notable ones already stated:

Champ at the bit

To show impatience at being held back or delayed.

There is also an even lesser known phrase which we can read a little about here. From which we can derive a Dutch idiom:

To have a flea in ones ear.

On the whole this sounds synonymous with 'Ants in your pants', but, if you read, it is noted that an English variation exists which essentially means something else, so I'd be careful about using this indeed.

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+1 for champ, not chomp. –  Wilduck Apr 27 '11 at 19:14
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as frantic as a cockroach in a henhouse

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Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rockin' chair factory.

Or I've heard it "Jumpy as a ...".

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Be as busy as a bee

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You could also have a bee in your bonnet. –  Sam Apr 27 '11 at 15:35
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@Sam That's not quite the same, it means you have an obsession about something. –  z7sg Ѫ Apr 27 '11 at 16:48
    
true, but it could certainly make you anxious and restless. So both might be applicable to the underlying cause. –  Sam Apr 27 '11 at 17:51
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As a child, I heard the phrase, "She has a bee in her bonnet."

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