Enjoy this year’s trio of Christmas idioms. Use them in good health and cheer!
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Enjoy this year’s trio of Christmas idioms. Use them in good health and cheer!
College students in the USA can be very creative with their English. Going to college or university in the United States? Just want to learn how American college students speak these days? This lesson on college slang and idioms is for you!
Download the PDF mini e-book on American College Slang
February 14 is Valentine’s Day! Love Idioms to Celebrate!
Example: Jim told Tyler not to invite Angela to the dance because Angela already had a boyfriend. Then Jim invited Angela to the dance.
(2) head over heels in love – very much in love
Example: After taking Angela to the dance, Jim realized he was head over heels in love with her and wanted to marry her.
(3) love at first sight – falling in love from the first moment one sees someone
Example: When Mike saw Liz, he felt attracted to her immediately. It was love at first sight.
As it says in the introduction of our ESL book Speak English Like an American, the English language is very dynamic, always changing to let in new words and expressions. ESL students are challenged to “stay on top” of emerging new slang and expressions (many native speakers are similarly challenged!).
Believe it or not, a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to decide what the English Word of the Year is each year. In fact, hundreds of people went to Boston last week to cast their votes for the English World of the Year at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting.
And the 2012 Word of the Year is … hashtag. That’s right, the written out version of this symbol #. Twitter users will recognize that as the symbol put before a word to make searching posts for that word easier, like: #ESL. This usage started in 2007. In 2012, its popularity apparently exploded. Says Ben Zimmer of the American Dialect Society:
“This was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk. In the Twittersphere and elsewhere, hashtags have created instant social trends, spreading bite-sized viral messages on topics ranging from politics to pop culture.”
Thus, the little hashtag got cast into the spotlight. It got its fifteen minutes of fame as we say in English when talking about something or someone that gets a lot of media publicity (often for a short period of time — hence the reference to “fifteen minutes”).
Many people thought the expression “fiscal cliff” would win the Word of the Year (threat of spending cuts and tax increases hanging over the end-of-year budget negotiations). We certainly heard a lot about that from the media!
In addition to the word of the year prize, new expressions and words can win in a variety of other categories. In the most creative category, the new American English expression gate lice was one of the runners up. Gate lice are those annoying airline passengers who rush to the gates waiting to get on board the plane. How nice to now have a simple way to describe these people. Instead of having to say, “Look at all of those silly people rushing to get on the plane when boarding hasn’t even started” we can now simply say, “Look at the gate lice!”
In the least likely to succeed category, the expression YOLO was the winner (tied for first place with phablet — which is an electronic device sized between the smartphone and the tablet). As just about any American under 30 probably knows, that is an acronym for “You only live once.” It is often used sarcastically (“Go ahead and take the last cookie, YOLO!”). It was popularized by the rapper Drake, who sang about YOLO in one of his songs. YOLO nearly also won for the category of “most useful” — clearly the expression has its supporters, despite being judged “least likely to succeed.” Perhaps it became too popular, too quickly and it’s time has already passed (in other words, maybe it’s no longer cool or trendy to use the word YOLO. I plan to keep using it for another few months, YOLO!).
Since we publish books for learning business English, we are always looking for new business English expressions. We were pleased to see the word disruptive as a runner-up in the “most euphemistic” category. Disruptive in its new sense means “destroying existing business models.” This concept was introduced into business vocabulary by Professor Clay Christensen of Harvard University (who writes a lot about disruptive innovation, meaning innovations that create new markets, as the automobile disrupting railroad transport and the GPS navigation system disrupted the navigational map).
For a complete list of all the words nominated for prizes in 2012, visit the American Dialect Society’s website.
Ho ho ho, it’s holiday time and we at Language Success Press are celebrating with the release of Speak English on Christmas Day. This new lesson teaches 14 American English idioms and expressions related to the upcoming holiday. It’s the Johnson family celebrating Christmas. You’ll remember them from our book Speak English Like an American. The target idioms and expressions in the dialogue are highlighted and defined below. You can also download an eBook edition of Speak English on Christmas here: Christmas English eBook. The eBook also includes a quiz. We hope you will enjoy this English language learning material. If so, print out the ebook, wrap it up, and give it as a holiday gift. It makes a great stocking stuffer! (A stocking stuffer is a small gift given at Christmas).
CHRISTMAS MORNING WITH THE JOHNSONS
The Johnson family is celebrating Christmas. The kids, Ted and Nicole, are home from college for the holidays. Ted’s girlfriend Amber is also with them. Now it’s time to gather around the tree and open the presents.
Susan: Merry Christmas, everyone!
Bob: It’s wonderful to have the family here for the holiday. Now that Mom and I are empty nesters, the house is usually so quiet.
Nicole: I’m sure you miss Ted’s loud rock music at 2 a.m.!
Susan: Who would like to start out the day with one of my fresh-baked gingerbread cookies?
Nicole: Mom, it’s 10 o’clock in the morning. Who eats cookies so early?
Ted: Get in the holiday spirit! I’ll take a cookie, Mom.
Amber: Mind if I take one too?
Susan: Be my guest.
Bob: Let’s get started with the presents.
(everyone sits by the Christmas tree)
Bob: Here’s one for Amber from Ted.
Amber: (opens box) A beautiful silver nose ring! Just what I wanted. How did you know?
Ted: You dropped a few hints!
Bob: This big box is for Mom from Ted.
(Susan unwraps present and takes out a sweater)
Nicole: Oh, it’s an ugly Christmas sweater!
Bob: Nicole, it’s the thought that counts. Besides, that sweater is quite a conversation piece.
Susan: Thanks, Ted. I love it. Look at all the smiling snowmen on the sweater. Looking at their happy faces would help anyone beat the holiday blues!
Bob: And this present is for Ted from Nicole.
Ted: (unwraps present) It’s a book. Chemistry for Dummies. Just what I wanted. Did you save the receipt?*
Nicole: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!
Bob: And here’s a present for Ted from Mom and me.
Ted: (unwraps present) A new iPad. Great! Thanks a lot.
Nicole: Now Ted can spend even more time playing video games.
Ted: Mind your own business!
Susan: That’s enough, guys. I hope you two won’t be at each other’s throats for the entire holiday.
Bob: Right. Don’t forget what Bing Crosby* said: “Christmas has a way of bringing out the best in everyone.”
Ted: Bing Crosby never met Nicole!
* Ted is asking for the sales receipt so he can return the book.
* Bing Crosby was an American singer and actor (1903-1977). His most popular song was his 1941 recording of “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin.
IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS
at each other’s throats – arguing with each other; fighting
Example: Gina and Jim are always at each other’s throats. I can’t believe they’re still married!
be my guest – help yourself; go ahead and do something
Example: “Do you mind if I slice the apple pie?” — “Be my guest.”
(to) beat the holiday blues – to do something so that one does not feel stressed and depressed during the holidays
Example: Susan always says that helping others is a great way to beat the holiday blues.
(to) bring out the best in someone – to cause someone to behave in the best way; to bring out their best qualities
Example: With her great sense of humor and positive attitude, Amber always brings out the best in people.
conversation piece – something unusual that attracts attention or makes people talk
Example: My boss gave me a sparkling angel pin for Christmas. It’s a real conversation piece!
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift
Example: “These earrings Jane gave me are so ugly!” — “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
(to) drop a hint – to give a small hint or clue about something
Example: I don’t know what you want for Christmas. I wish you’d drop some hints!
empty nester – a parent whose child has grown up and left the house
Example: Now that Tina and Carl are empty nesters, they’re planning to travel around the world.
(to) get in the holiday spirit – to start having good feelings about the holidays
Example: Anna put on a Bing Crosy Christmas CD to try to get in the holiday spirit.
How did you know? – asked when someone gives you just the gift that you wanted
Example: Great, a new Hermès tie! How did you know?
it’s the thought that counts – it doesn’t matter what the gift is, at least the giver was kind enough to give something
Example: “Look at these bunny rabbit slippers my friend gave me. They’re ridiculous!” — “It’s the thought that counts.”
mind your own business – don’t interfere in matters that you are not a part of
Example: “Nicole, who was that guy you were talking to on the phone?” — “Mind your own business, Ted.”
(to) start out the day with – to begin the day with
Example: Nicole always starts out the day with a jog around the block.
ugly Christmas sweater – a tacky sweater with holiday themes like Christmas trees, reindeer, or snowmen and bold colors
Example: Mike always wears his ugly Christmas sweater to his office holiday party.
Note: Ugly Christmas sweaters became a trend about 10 years ago. They are often worn with irony (the wearer knows they look a little silly, but they enjoy it). There are even ugly Chistmas sweater parties.
At Language Success Press, we’re all about idioms. Six of our books focus on American English idioms and expressions, including our bestseller, Speak English Like an American. In addition to loving idioms, we also love food. So we were excited to see this very nice poster below called “10 Idioms About Food.” Several of these idioms are featured in our various books. Other food-related idioms not in this list that are featured in Speak English Like an American include:
Enjoy this poster, which is courtesy of Grammar.net.
There has been some “buzz” lately about British English words and expressions coming into American English. These are called “Britishisms.” This trend is easy to understand given two huge British cultural influences on America: Harry Potter (still hugely popular in the USA) and Downton Abbey (a delightful television program that I recommend you start watching immediately if you are not already!). We at Language Success Press welcome the British English expressions into our American vocabulary “with open arms.” Apparently, the British are not so “keen” on having American English vocabulary enter British English. “In the U.K., the use of Americanisms is seen as a sign that culture is going to hell,” said Jesse Sheidlower, American editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary in an interview with the BBC News.
So what are some popular terms that have sailed across the Atlantic to join our American vocabulary recently? Here are a few:
one-off: this means something unique; something that only happens one time and is not repeated. You will hear this a lot in the American workplace these days.
keen on: to like someone or something. Example: I’m not keen on going to New York this weekend (meaning: I don’t really feel like going). Or: Sandy is really keen on her new neighbors.
twee: too sweet or sentimental; excessively cute (apparently comes from a child trying to say “sweet”). Americans would also say “corny” in some cases. Example: The movie, in which two giant teddy bears fell in love, was a little twee for me.