Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Baseball Words" from VOA

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

Baseball is America’s national sport. So it is not unusual that many popular expressions come from baseball. But first, let me explain a little about the game.

Each baseball team has nine players. The pitcher of one team throws the ball to a batter from the other team. The batter attempts to hit the ball. If he misses, it is called a strike. If a batter gets three strikes, he loses his turn at bat and is called out. The batter also is out if he hits the ball in the air and an opposing player catches it. But if the batter hits the ball and it is not caught, the batter tries to run to one or more of the four bases on the field. The batter can run to all four bases if he hits the ball over the fence or out of the ballpark. Such a hit is called a home run.

Now, here are some common expressions from baseball. Someone who is on the ball is intelligent and able to do a good job. But a person who threw a curve ball did something unexpected. Someone who steps up to the plate is ready to do his or her job. A pinch hitter takes the place of someone else at a job or activity.

A person who strikes out or goes down swinging attempted something but failed. We also might tell the person that three strikes and you are out. But someone who hit a home run or hit it out of the park did something extremely well.

Sometimes I have to give information quickly, without time to think it over. Then I would say something right off the bat. If someone is doing an extremely good job and is very successful, you might say he or she is batting one thousand.

If I say I want to touch base with you, I will talk to you from time to time about something we plan to do. I might say I touched all the bases if I did what is necessary to complete a job or activity. And if I covered my bases I was well prepared. However, someone who is way off base did something wrong or maybe even dishonest or immoral. A person with strange ideas might be described as out in left field.

Let us say I want to sell my car but I do not know exactly how much it is worth. If someone asks me the price, I might give a ballpark figure or a ballpark estimate.

If someone offers me an amount that is close to my selling price, I might say the amount is in the ballpark. However, if I say we are not in the same ballpark, I mean we cannot agree because my ideas are too different from yours.

Finally, when a situation changes completely, we say that is a whole new ballgame.

This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Shelley Gollust. I’m Faith Lapidus.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"All About Eyes" from VOA

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

Today’s program is all about eyes. When it comes to relationships, people’s eyes can be a window into their hearts. This means that their eyes can tell a lot about how they feel. We will tell a story about a man and woman who are teachers at the same school. The woman is interested in the man. She uses many methods to catch his eye, or get him to notice her. Once he sets eyes on her, or sees her, she might try to get him interested in her by acting playful. In other words, she might try to make eyes at him or give him the eye.

Let us suppose that this man gets hit between the eyes. In other words, the woman has a strong affect on him. He wants to spend time with her to get to know her better. He asks her out on a date.

She is so happy that she may walk around for days with stars in her eyes. She is extremely happy because this man is the apple of her eye, a very special person. She might tell him that he is the only person she wants, or “I only have eyes for you.”

On their date, the couple might eat a meal together at a restaurant. If the man is really hungry, his eyes might be bigger than his stomach. He might order more food than he can eat. When his food arrives at the table, his eyes might pop out. He might be very surprised by the amount of food provided. He might not even believe his own eyes. If fact, all eyes would be watching him if he ate all the food. This might even cause raised eyebrows. People might look at the man with disapproval.

During their dinner, the couple might discuss many things. They might discover that they see eye to eye, or agree on many issues. They share the same beliefs and opinions. For example, they might agree that every crime or injury should be punished. That is, they firmly believe in the idea of an eye for an eye. They might also agree that it is wrong to pull the wool over a person’s eyes. This means to try to trick a person by making him believe something that is false. But the man and woman do not believe in the evil eye, that a person can harm you by looking at you.

The next day, at their school, the woman asks the man to keep an eye on, or watch the young students in her class while she is out of the classroom. This might be hard to do when the teacher is writing on a board at the front of the classroom. To do so, a teacher would need to have eyes in the back of his head. In other words, he would know what the children are doing even when he is not watching them.


WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, in VOA Special English, was written by Jill Moss. I’m Faith Lapidus.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Horse Expressions" from Voice of America

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

Today, we tell about "horse" expressions. In the past, many people depended on horses for transportation, farming and other kinds of work. A lot of people still like to ride horses. And, horse racing is also popular. So it is not surprising that Americans still use expressions about the animals.

Long ago, people who were rich or important rode horses that were very tall. Today, if a girl acts like she is better than everyone else, you might say she should get off her high horse.

Yesterday my children wanted me to take them to the playground. But I had to finish my work, so I told them to hold your horses. Wait until I finish what I am doing. My two boys like to compete against each other and play in a violent way. I always tell them to stop horsing around or someone could get hurt.

We live in a small town. It does not have any exciting activities to offer visitors. My children call it a one-horse town.

Last night, I got a telephone call while I was watching my favorite television show. I decided not to answer it because wild horses could not drag me away from the television. There was nothing that could stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

Sometimes you get information straight from the horse's mouth. It comes directly from the person who knows most about the subject and is the best source. Let us say your teacher tells you there is going to be a test tomorrow. You could say you got the information straight from the horse's mouth. However, you would not want to call your teacher a horse!

You may have heard this expression: You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. That means you can give someone advice but you cannot force him to do something he does not want to do.

Sometimes a person fights a battle that has been decided or keeps arguing a question that has been settled. We say this is like beating a dead horse.

In politics, a dark-horse candidate is someone who is not well known to the public. Sometimes, a dark horse unexpectedly wins an election.

Another piece of advice is, do not change horses in midstream. You would not want to get off one horse and on to another in the middle of a river. Or make major changes in an activity that has already begun. In the past, this expression was used as an argument to re-elect a president, especially during a time when the country was at war.


This VOA Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Faith Lapidus. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at our website,