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I am wondering what standard phrase or idiom expresses that one's skill or talent in a particular area has not decayed through the passage of time.

I believe a related idiom is, "[the person] has not skipped a beat", but I have a strange feeling that this is not the "standard" English expression for this use case. Indeed, I suppose "skipped a beat" does not express the time component above, merely that the person's ability is flawless.

Example sentence: Lieutenant Columbo is a real sleuth. Despite his advancing years, he never skips a beat.

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14 Answers 14

44

He's still got it.

He hasn't lost his touch.

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10

He's still at the top of his game.

at the top of (one's) game

At one's best or most skillful.

I can't believe I got the hardest question right. I'm really at the top of my game today!

I think their quarterback is at the top of his game this year—I doubt he'll be able to replicate these stellar stats next season.

From "The Free Dictionary."

Also see here.

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  • This was the first to come to my mind when I read the question.
    – B.Kaatz
    Nov 11, 2021 at 23:33
7

"You haven't lost a step"

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    Nov 10, 2021 at 21:12
7

You still got your chops is what I hear.

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I think you may have heard this one:

[the person] hasn't slipped a bit.

It sounds similar, and be slipping is in the dictionary:

3.1 (be slipping) informal Be behaving in a way that is not up to one's usual level of performance.

‘you're slipping, Joe—you need a vacation’

[Lexico]

5

There's life in the old dog yet

This has a hint of skill not being expected by a younger cohort.

Can still cut it with the best of them

which I guess relates to another fine idiom: "cutting the mustard" meaning up to a high standard.

4

The opposite of 'My footballing skills are rather rusty' is shown in the saying

  • Time hasn't dulled his ability to bend a ball into the top corner of the net.

Both use the 'sharpness [/dullness] represents retention [/loss] of proficiency, whether mental acuity or physical skill' metaphor.

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  • You've still got it Edwin. Nov 10, 2021 at 20:23
  • Not, @High Performance Mark, when it comes to playing football. Nov 11, 2021 at 12:49
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"The old lion still roars" may be a good fit. Used as a metaphor, it's self-explanatory.

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    Never heard this in the US, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a common metaphor in Africa.
    – Barmar
    Nov 11, 2021 at 15:35
  • @Barmar I never said it's a common saying or proverb. Just a metaphor, and metaphors are not necessarily common. ok?
    – Centaurus
    Nov 12, 2021 at 13:20
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If it's a mental skill (usually around perceptiveness or quick thinking), you can say someone is "as sharp as ever". For a mental or physical skill, you can say "he hasn't lost his edge".

Edwin remarked that sharpness can apply to a physical or mental skill, but that's not exactly true. You can say a physical skill has not dulled, but you probably wouldn't say someone is "sharp" to refer to physical skill.

(My perspective is as a native American English speaker.)

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3

A skill a person never loses is like riding a bike. Another expression for this is, “[as] good as ever [at something].”

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The phrase"pack a punch" combined with still is used in that sense.

Lexico:

pack a punch
PHRASE

1.1 Have a powerful effect.

‘He may be approaching 80, but the former cabinet minister and idol of the hard left still packs a punch.’

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Better than ever.

Well, you're either coming, or going.

Logically speaking, a diminished capacity is worse, so, the opposite is better. (No, holding ones own isn't the opposite of diminished.)


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  • May I down-vote the person(s) who wants to delete this answer?
    – G. Rem
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:43
  • No, you may not. Nov 12, 2021 at 10:41
  • I don't know the reason that people are so easily offended or whatever in here. I bet that it was @Edwin Ashworth. Doesn't seem to like me, and, he's at 66.6k points, ha. P.S. I keep getting "penalized" for down-voting in threads in which he replied. Down-votes that had nothing to do with him personally, and, which I thought were fair and warranted. Anyway, I'm not going to worry about it.
    – G. Rem
    Nov 12, 2021 at 10:51
  • That's not how it works. Anyone can down or up vote for any reason, however it is usually for prioritizing among the answers the voter thinks are most relevant. It is just a downvote. Nov 12, 2021 at 10:53
  • I lost 1 point each for down-voting four times, yesterday. When I click on the lost point in the trophy-icon section, it brings me to a post that I down-voted. Must have been someone with over 10k points or something. Anyway, I rarely down-vote posts.
    – G. Rem
    Nov 12, 2021 at 11:14
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You can describe a person whose skill/talent hasn't declined over time as ageless:

not growing old or showing the effects of age

For example, you can find many articles out there describing Tom Brady (the NFL quarterback who is still playing well at age 44) as "ageless" or an "ageless wonder".

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    I read "ageless" (and "timeless") to infer "applicable to any period of time" as opposed to "not waning over time". The cited Tom Brady usage feels like a headline reaching just too far for that single-adjective summary. Is that just me?
    – drekbour
    Nov 11, 2021 at 18:49
-3

Real Tom Brady

  1. He's a real Tom Brady.

  2. Wow, looks like we got ourselves a real Tom Brady over here.

  3. Now I'm the real Tom Brady, all these other Tom Brady's are just imitating...

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    It only works if you know who Tom Brady is. Nov 12, 2021 at 12:05

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