In honor of Thanksgiving, here’s a lesson teaching American English idioms and expressions related to Thanksgiving. It’s the Johnson family celebrating Thanksgiving. You’ll remember the Johnson family from our book Speak English Like an American. The target idioms and expressions in the dialogue are highlighted and defined below. You can download an eBook edition of Talk Turkey on Thanksgiving here: Thanksgiving eBook. The eBook also includes a quiz. We hope you’ll enjoy this English language learning material!
A THANKSGIVING DAY FEAST
The Johnson family is celebrating Thanksgiving with a traditional Thanksgiving day feast. As usual, Ted and his sister Nicole are having trouble getting along. Fortunately, Ted’s girlfriend Amber is with the family and helps break up the tension.
Amber: She’s got a carving knife, she knows how to use it!
Susan: Amber, what a pretty song!
Amber: I’m killing two birds with one stone. I’m coming up with new songs while helping you get Thanksgiving dinner ready.
(ten minutes later)
Susan: Everything’s on the table. We’re ready to eat.
Bob: Before we dig in, I think we should count our blessings.
Susan: I agree. We have so much to be grateful for. For starters, we have our whole family together with us today.
Bob: I’m grateful to the National Cookie Company for buying Susan’s Scrumptious Cookies. That helped us buy our new house.
Ted: I’m grateful to Amber. With her beautiful singing voice, she helped us land a recording contract with Big Deal Records.
Susan: Yes, Amber is certainly blessed with a lovely voice.
Amber: I’m grateful that Ted was able to quit smoking this year, cold turkey!
Susan: What? Ted smoked?
Amber: Oh, not that much.
Nicole: Not much at all. Only about a pack a day!
Ted: It’s a mixed blessing being here today. On the one hand, I get to see Mom and Dad. On the other hand, I have to put up with my sister!
(Everyone is eating)
Susan: Amber, you’re eating like a bird. Everything okay?
Amber: I stuffed myself on turkey while I was cutting it in the kitchen.
Nicole: I thought I noticed a leg missing. I though it walked away by itself!
Ted: Everything was delicious. I’m stuffed!
Susan: I hope you saved room for dessert. We have pecan pie and pumpkin cookies for dessert.
Nicole: Pumpkin cookies?
Susan: Yes. Now’s a good time to break the news. The National Cookie Company* has hired me as a recipe consultant. I’m having all of you test out my new recipe tonight.
Amber: Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
* In the book Speak English Like an American, Susan and Bob sell their cookie business to the National Cookie Company for a “small fortune.”
IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS
(to) kill two birds with one stone – to get two things done at the same time; to solve two problems with one action
Example: Susan killed two birds with one stone by listening to the new Stephen King novel on audiobook while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
(to) dig in – to start eating
Example: Dig in! Everything will get cold if you don’t start eating.
(to) count one’s blessings – to think about the good things in one’s life; to express gratitude for all that one has (and not focus on what one does not have)
Example: We need to count our blessings. Many houses in town were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, but ours was hardly touched.
for starters – as a first step; to begin with
Example: We need to clean the house before our company comes. For starters, let’s vacuum downstairs.
(to) land a contract – to get a contract; to finalize a contract (note: land in this context means to gain or secure; you can also land a deal, a job, a contract)
Example: The National Cookie Company landed a contract to distribute its cookies in the largest supermarket chain in California.
blessed with – lucky to have a special quality or character
Example: Nicole finds her chemistry and physics classes very easy. She’s blessed with a scientific mind.
cold turkey – immediately, not gradually (when you quit a habit cold turkey, you stop doing it immediately instead of gradually stopping it)
Example: I drink five cups of coffee a day. If I quit cold turkey, I’m sure I’d start getting headaches.
mixed blessing – a situation or event with both good and bad aspects
Example: Having house guests over Thanksgiving is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we need to prepare rooms for them. On the other hand, we have people to help us eat all that leftover turkey!
(to) put up with – to endure without complaint
Example: Tina’s husband always complains about her cooking. I don’t know how she puts up with him.
(to) eat like a bird – to not eat much; to have a small appetite
Example:That’s all your having? A turkey wing and a small blob of mashed potatoes? You eat like a bird!
(to) stuff oneself / to be stuffed – to overeat; to eat too much / to feel very full
Example: Unfortunately, the dinner was so delicious, I stuffed myself. I don’t think I’ll be able to eat dessert.
(to) save room for dessert – to not eat too much so that one can still eat dessert
Example: “May I have seconds?” – “Sure, but be sure to save room for dessert. We’ve got pumpkin pie.”
(to) break the news – to make something known
Example: Ted said, “Now’s a good time to break the news: Amber and I are getting married!”
Talk about … – That’s an example of; we were talking before about … (often used when a topic has recently mentioned and another example has come up, or to add emphasis to a point you are making)
Example: Talk about overeating. Ted just ate two turkey legs, a big pile of stuffing, and half a green bean casserole!