Sunday, April 10, 2011
Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
Americans use many expressions about fish and fishing. For example, if something sounds fishy, it may not be true. Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water when I go to a party and everyone but me is doing the latest dance. When I ask my friend if she likes my new dress, I would like her to say something nice. In other words, I am fishing for a compliment. You might tell someone to fish or cut bait if he repeatedly attempts to do something he is unable to do.
Sometimes a lawyer will ask a witness many questions in an effort to discover the facts of a court case. This is called going on a fishing expedition.
Some expressions involve different kinds of fish. Information that is used to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation is called a red herring. If you want to express a feeling of surprise, you might cry "holy mackerel!" although we do not know why a mackerel is holy.
Once I went to a county fair and tried my luck with a game of chance. It was so easy; it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Then I went on the fastest, highest and most frightening ride: the roller coaster. At the end of the ride, I did not feel so well. A friend said I looked green around the gills.
I grew up in a small town where everybody knew about my life. There were times when I thought I was living in a fishbowl. So I moved to Washington, where things were different.
Now I take the train to work every day during rush hour when many other people travel to their jobs. Sometimes the train is so crowded that we are packed in like sardines. Sardines are tiny fish that lie close to each other in cans.
One man who works in my office is a cold fish. He is unfriendly and does not like to join us at office parties. Another man in my office likes to enjoy alcoholic drinks at parties. In fact, you might say he drinks like a fish. We need to help him stop drinking.
Last week, my sister's car broke down as we were driving to a friend's marriage ceremony. "This is a fine kettle of fish," I said. "Now we will be late."
My sister attends a small college where she is one of the smartest students. She always wants to be a big fish in a small pond. Recently, my sister broke up with her boyfriend. I told her not to worry, she will find another one because there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
This VOA Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Faith Lapidus. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at voaspecialenglish.com.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Now, the VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories.
People use their mouths for many things. They eat, talk, shout and sing. They smile and they kiss. In the English language, there are many expressions using the word mouth. But some of them are not so nice.
For example, if you say bad things about a person, the person might protest and say “Do not bad mouth me.”
Sometimes, people say something to a friend or family member that they later regret because hurts that person’s feelings. Or they tell the person something they were not supposed to tell.
The speaker might say: “I really put my foot in my mouth this time.” If this should happen, the speaker might feel “down in the mouth.” In other words, he might feel sad for saying the wrong thing.
Another situation is when someone falsely claims another person said something. The other person might protest: “I did not say that. Do not put words in my mouth.”
Information is often spread through “word of mouth.” This is general communication between people, like friends talking to each other. “How did you hear about that new movie?” someone might ask. “Oh, by word of mouth.” A more official way of getting information is through a company or government “mouthpiece.” This is an official spokesperson. Government-run media could also be called a “mouthpiece.”
Sometimes when one person is speaking, he says the same thing that his friend was going to say. When this happens, the friend might say: “You took the words right out of my mouth!” Sometimes a person has a bad or unpleasant experience with another person. He might say that experience “left a bad taste in my mouth.” Or the person might have had a very frightening experience, like being chased by an angry dog. He might say: “I had my heart in my mouth.”
Some people have lots of money because they were born into a very rich family. There is an expression for this, too. You might say such a person “was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”
This rich person is the opposite of a person who lives “from hand to mouth.” This person is very poor and only has enough money for the most important things in life, like food.
Parents might sometimes withhold sweet food from a child as a form of punishment for saying bad things. For example, if a child says things she should not say to her parents, she might be described as “a mouthy child.” The parents might even tell the child “to stop mouthing off.”
But enough of all this talk. I have been “running my mouth” long enough.
WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, in VOA Special English, was written by Jill Moss. I’m Faith Lapidus.