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Idioms and Expressions.pdf



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   1  Idioms and Expressions  by David Holmes A method for learning and remembering idioms and expressions I wrote this model as a teaching device during the time I was working in Bangkok, Thai-land, as a legal editor and language consultant, with one of the Big Four Legal and Tax companies, KPMG (during my afternoon job) after teaching at the university. When I had no legal documents to edit and no individual advising to do (which was quite frequently) I would sit at my desk, (like some old character out of a Charles Dickens’ novel) and prepare language materials to be used for helping professionals who had learned English as a second language—for even up to fifteen years in school—but who were still unable to follow a movie in English, understand the World News on TV, or converse in a colloquial style, because they’d never had a chance to hear and learn com-mon, everyday expressions such as, “It’s a done deal!” or “Drop whatever you’re doing.” Because misunderstandings of such idioms and expressions frequently caused miscom-munication between our management teams and foreign clients, I was asked to try to as-sist. I am happy to be able to share the materials that follow, such as they are, in the hope that they may be of some use and benefit to others. The simple teaching device I used was three-fold: 1. Make a note of an idiom/expression 2. Define and explain it in understandable words (including synonyms.) 3. Give at least three sample sentences to illustrate how the expression is used in context. For instance, Idiom: “It’s a done deal.” Definition: “We agree. Everything has been decided. We’re ready to sign the contract.” Examples: 1. “The bank has confirmed the loan agreement, so It’s a done deal.” 2. “The court has approved the restructuring plan, so it’s a done deal.” 3. “The Senior Partner has signed my promotion papers, so it’s a done deal.” If a student came to me with an idiom he wanted explained, like “a rotten egg ” or “a lit-tle stinker,” we would follow the above formula, and we would work it through together, discussing and explaining the words and situations as we went along, to the point where we could finally get the student using the expression in sample sentences referring to life situations of his own. If a student was anxious to learn idiomatic expressions, on a broader range, in general, I would often encourage him just to open the book at any page and put his finger on the first expression which caught to his eye, and we would talk about that, often getting into a lively conversation on the topic, sharing related incidents, anecdotes and stories, and dis-   2 cussing the main issue or moral point of the day’s lesson—just letting itself roll out, like a ball of wool down a gentle incline. A word to the wise, however, is that students should learn only one idiom/expression at a time, because (as research indicates) if they learn seven in a row in fifteen minutes, they won’t remember anything at all later on. It is better to do one thing well and hammer it home until the learner has it clearly in his head and will be able to use it when he needs it. It is best for the student to use this book together with a native-speaking teacher because working together is ten times easier than working alone. Some advanced students, how-ever, may find that they can work with the text to their benefit on their own. The list of idioms and expressions below is by no means complete, and, indeed, as the reader will see, if he works far enough into the text, many idioms are merely noted and only partially defined and explained,* as our website is still under construction. This need  be no problem, however, because the method we are practicing is a process intended as a device for learning rather than a long list of idioms and definitions and examples to be memorized in the old-fashioned way. This technique is a working tool rather than a finished product. Indeed, in discussing words which describe human situations, the best examples will be those that arise out of student-teacher interaction, picking up on and developing the ideas that interest them. As with many things, once you are practicing the technique, you no longer need the book. Incidentally, the opinions and attitudes herein cited represent no unified point of view,  but are, rather, quoted quite at random, the way different kinds of people talk in the world different ways—sometimes sensibly and sometimes arbitrarily—sometimes ignorantly and sometimes wisely. So please feel free to agree or disagree with anything anyone says or does in any situation depicted in this book. Please, don’t blame the present writer for the way people talk or the things they say. Language is just a crude cultural convention. Who is to blame me for the ignorant and abusive things common people customarily say?  Note also that every boxed-idiom can be used and expanded into a lesson in itself con-taining a main idea, with related vocabulary, and issues to define explain and discuss. The slower you go and the more you converse together on any single matter of interest at a one time, the better it is. Teachers should note that just even reading the sentences, phrases or words aloud can be good pronunciation and rhythm practice. Learning a language also means speaking  so the less the teacher talks and the more he listens and prompts the better the results should be. At the very least, the text will provide a wide range of ideas to choose from for teaching vocabulary and related, real-life, conversation-discussion topics. If you see an idiom you don’t want to teach, or is not appropriate for your audience, don’t bother with it. Do one you prefer instead. (*Editorial Note: an asterisk indicates that an idiom/expression has been noted and de-fined with at least three examples. No asterisk means the entry still needs work.)   3 A | B | C | D | E | G | H | I | J | K  | L | M |  N | O | P | Q | R  | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z  A  Idioms and expressions Definitions followed by examples A backslider A lazy, irresponsible person who does not support a combines effort; someone who causes development to slide backwards rather than forwards; someone who can’t  be trusted to get a job done.   “I see you have assigned Captain Morgan to my project. He’s a no-good back-slider who will hinder rather than further the success of the mission.” “Mallory is nothing but a backslider. He’s never done anything useful in his life that would bring credit to his name or family.” “If I ever get my hands on that backslider, Mullins, I will kick him in the backside for letting down his wife and children by wasting his life on gambling and drink.” * A back-stabber Just as a person may sneak up behind you to stick a knife in your back, so we can call a person a back-stabber who unexpectedly betrays your trust. “Be careful who you trust, because even your best friend could turn out to be a  backstabber.” “My first wife was a backbiting, back-stabbing-bitch.” “I wouldn’t trust Charlie as far as I could throw him. He’s a liar, a thief and a back-stabber.” * A bad omen A bad sign which indicates that, when a bad thing hap- pens, something even worse is going to happen. A sign that something bad or evil is going to come .  “It’s a bad omen that our son was born on Friday the thirteenth.” “They say it is a bad omen when a black cat crosses your  path.” “It’s a bad omen when a voodoo witch smears, the  blood of a chicken on your front door.” * A baker’s dozen It used to be an old English marketplace tradition to pay for twelve bread rolls, and get one extra one, thrown in for good measure, to make a total of thirteen .  “In the London market, a baker’s dozen doesn’t mean twelve. It means thirteen.” “Before Britain joined the European common market, people sold things by the dozen in units of twelve, or perhaps thirteen, if they gave the customer a  baker’s dozen.” “We had thirteen children in our family, and father was fond of saying he had produced a baker’s dozen.”* A ballpark figure A guess as to how many people are in a baseball or foot- ball stadium; an approximate estimate of how-many or how-much. “I can’t tell you exactly how many spectators came to see the game, but if you want a ballpark figure, my estimate would be about sixty thousand.” “How   4 much is this wedding reception going to cost? Can you give me a ballpark figure?” “I hate it when people say they will give me a ballpark figure. What I want is an exact number and not an approximate guess.” * A barefaced-lie A bold and brazen untruthful statement; a shameless, ob-vious lie. “Don’t try to tell me you gave the money to some poor old woman. That’s a brazen and barefaced-lie!” “When you claim you don’t desire other women, I can see that you are telling a barefaced-lie.” “Don’t try to deny you stole the cookies; I know it is a bare-faced lie.” * A bee in her bonnet Just as woman with a bee in her hat (or bonnet) might run around, wildly, waving her hands in a panic, so we may say that a woman with an angry idea in her head re-acts in frantic and frightful manner. “My Mom has got a  bee in her bonnet about Father’s forgetting Valentine’s Day.” “Don’t run around like a woman with a bee in her  bonnet just because someone said you are too tight and stingy.” “Aunt Caroline had a bee in her bonnet because the Ambassador had left her off the invitation list for La-dies’ Night.” * A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Be satisfied with what you’ve got; don’t dream of what you have not. “If you let go of the bird that you have in your hand in hopes of catching two in the bushes, you will more than likely end-up empty-handed.” “It’s better to be thankful for what little you have; than being disap- pointed by unfulfilled desire for twice as much, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” “Be content with the one thing that you have rather than be discontented by two things you desire but are unlikely to get because a  bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” * A bit beyond my ken Above my level of understanding; beyond my ability to grasp; more than I can comprehend; beyond my knowl-edge. “I could never understand the physics behind pres-sure points causing geological rifts on the sea-bed at the  point where continental plates meet. It’s a bit beyond my ken.” “The justification for Heisenberg’s uncertainty  principle is a bit beyond my ken.” “It is beyond my ken why and how a whole galaxy can be sucked together and disappear into a black hole.” * A bit dicey A little risky; chancy; a gamble, as in a throw of the dice; uncertain; not totally honest. “I wouldn’t invest any money in such a chancy venture. It seems a bit dicey to me.” “Don’t take any risks in business. Bet on a sure thing and avoid anything that looks dicey.” “I wouldn’t want to trust Charlie as a business consultant: his long-shot ideas always seem a bit dicey to me.” * A bit dodgy Dishonest; tricky; dicey; dubious; chancy risky. “A busi-
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