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Other Notes:

English Skills Notes 2004
English Skills Notes-03
English Skills Class Notes-Spring-02
English Skills Class Notes Fall-02


January through May, 2002
(Learning Idiomatic English)

Find the notes for previous classes below (Note: each set includes a quiz to test yourself): 
Nine Idioms Wrap Your Head Around This! Let's Face It!
A Surprising Day (Idioms from The Globe and Mail) More Globe Idioms It's Money that I Love

It's Money that I Love! (May 10)

tighten your belt

If you have limited money or a small budget, then it is a good idea to "tighten your belt." This means to reduce spending in general.

out of pocket

If you are "out of pocket," perhaps you have loaned some money to a "friend" and this "friend" has not paid you back.

money grows on trees

You think "money grows on trees" since you are always asking me for more and more and more.

money to burn

If you have "money to burn" you have plenty and do not need to worry.

make a killing

When you "make a killing" you make lots of money on some kind of small investment, such as buying a stock at fifty cents and selling at fifty dollars a share.

from hand to mouth

To live "from hand to mouth" is to have only just enough to eat, a place to sleep, but nothing to spare.

from paycheck to paycheck

Students often live "paycheck to paycheck". This means that the money is gone before the next paycheck comes.

a nest egg

The savings my wife and I have made for my children is a "nest egg" for their future.

don't put all your eggs in one basket

When you invest, diversify. If all your "eggs are in one basket" you could lose all your money.

go Dutch; chip in (kick in)

The teenagers "chip in" or "kick in" a few dollars each, so they can order a Big New Yorker pizza from Pizza Hut.

two bits

First "two bits" is 25 cents. My "two bits" is my opinion. "If you want to hear my two bits about that . . . "

two cents worth (more American, but also Canadian)

same as above; an opinion

red cent (very small amount; almost nothing)

I wouldn't give you a "red cent" if it was the last day of my life.

salt away money

To "salt away money" is to save money carefully.

Try a Quiz on the above idioms.

More Globe Idioms (May 6)

to get under someone's skin

I'm trying to get under your skin with my comments about your work habits, your test marks, and your language practice. To get under someone's skin is to bother them with some idea, or problem that that person needs to solve.

cry into your beer

If you think Brad is being mean, you can go and "cry into your beer." This does not mean that you must go out and drink beer, but it does mean that you feel bad and you whine about it to your friends.

the seeds are sown

The seeds are sown. When you raise your children well, the seeds are sown for their successful future. Where did Bill Gates sow his first successful seeds? DOS was written by IBM and Bill Gates licensed it from them and sold it to the world.

the middle ground

Do you take the middle ground when people argue in your house? If you do, you try to compromise and find a solution that will satisfy both sides.

the odds are stacked against

Now many people have tickets on tonight's Super 7, but the odds are stacked against them. Odds are your chance to win the prize. 6/49 odds are 13 000 000 to one. (These odds are like this: take 13 000 000 five dollar bills and place them end to end until Calgary and place a black dot on one. Drive your car beside the road, stop, and pick up the one with a dot.)

a thorny issue

It's a thorny issue to decide what to do IF you win a very large lottery prize. The word issue is used to mean problem.

the turn of events

The turn of events that has occurred in many former Communist countries has not always been as happy as people expected. So, this turn of events is opposite to many people's original thinking.

business mantra

A business mantra is a saying or motto such as "People come first in our company." It is used in a negative way, to say that everyone says it, but not everyone really believes what is said is true.

identity theft

Are you aware that identity theft is becoming a big problem. To do this, criminals go through your garbage to find visa slips, bank statments, and then apply for cards in your name.

to work around something

The problem we have is not easily solved and perhaps never can be completely solved, so we "work around" the problem (avoid it somehow and still get the job done. The solution we use is called a "work around."

to lay on a big spread (table)

This idiom is used for large celebrations and parties. "To lay on" means to put out a big meal for everyone to enjoy. The meal itself in the second idiom is called "the spread."

to count yourself among (to be a part of a group of people with the same opinion as your own)

I count myself among the people who reduce, reuse, and recycle.

an appetite for change

In the late 1980's many countries had an appetite for change. In Europe, East Germany, for example, had this appetite and threw out the Communists and replaced them with a democracy.

to cross the line

There are a number of variations on this idiom. President Bush says, "This is the line in the sand." He means this is as much as we will accept or else.

In your house, your "line" is your limit of acceptable behaviour. For example, what you will or will not allow your children to do. What we say is "Where do you draw the line with your children?" What we mean is what will you accept and not accept from them?

Try a Quiz on the above idioms.

The Eyes Pop Out; The Ear Plays; The Nose Leads

give someone the eye

Were you giving that pretty girl the eye? Oh you bad boy!

have an eye for

He has an eye for value. He never pays too much for anything he buys. He is able to correctly judge things.

turn up one's nose at

He always turns up his nose at his children's homework. This is a Chinese parent's example. Usually, we use this expression for anything we don't like.

turn a deaf ear to

The son-in-law turned a deaf ear to his mother-in-law's complaining voice.

get the eye

The teenagers got the eye from the manager of the 7-11 when they came in the door.

eyes in the back of your head

Mothers are famous for having eyes in the back of their heads. It is like a woman can see even though she has her back to her son. She knows when he is naughty.

eyes pop out

His eyes popped out when his dad gave him a new Civic.

lead by the nose

The wife leads the husband by the nose, though often she will wait until after she gets married to begin.

under one's nose

My son says where is my textbook. I say it's right under your nose, why don't you look for yourself!

make eyes at

The young man made eyes at the pretty girl across the room. This is also called "flirting." A person who flirts is a flirt

Take a quiz on Eyes, Ears, Nose Idioms

Sample Dialogue using Idioms (February 22)

Situation: Two friends hiking in the mountains.

Brad: You know, John, we should head back soon!

John: Don't worry, it's a piece of cake. We can make it to the top of the mountain easily!

Brad: Not really. We should face up to it. We left too late today. We won't be able to get there in time.

John: I know how you feel, like we're in over our heads this time, but trust me, it won't be any trouble.

Brad: No dice! I don't know about you, but I'm heading back right now.

John: Alright, already! Take it easy! I'll come too. Don't make a face about it, I agree. Let's just go on for another ten minutes, until we get to the next ridge, okay?

Brad: Okay, but I really wish you weren't such a hot dog about hiking so far all the time. I don't think it's safe to hike home in the dark.

Let's Face It! (February 15)

Let's face it, we have no money! The idiom means to accept something as it is now.

Don't make a face, the medicine is bitter, but it will help you and it won't taste so bad in a short time.

If you make a poker face other people cannot know your emotion, neither happy nor sad.

A stone face is usually an angry face.

A horse face is usually an ugly face (often a woman).

Let's meet face to face (f2f) because in e-mail I don't know your emotions.

After the husband argued with his wife, he sure had a long face.

Oh my, he sure had egg on his face after he said that. To have egg on your face is to be embarrassed about something.

The bank robber had to face the music. To accept your punishment for a crime (anyone, including speeders).

Knock on wood; it is unlucky to say something, so people actually knock on something made of wood to push away the bad luck. (superstitious; superstition)

He said he was a rich man, but I couldn’t take what he said at face value. So, face value is an indication of how much we can trust what someone tells us. If we accept at face value we trust it.

On the face of it, I think he was telling me the truth, but I'm not sure. I have some information, but incomplete, so I can't tell you whether it can be trusted.

He was in my face so much today. Really, I had to tell him to get out of my face! He was teasing or bothering or bugging me and I told him to stop.

You know, son, you are in a lot of trouble. You'll have to face down your problem. You'll also have to face up to your punishment. You can face down someone.

My car burned in my driveway one September. To put a brave face on it, the ICBC claim was probably more than someone would have paid me for that old car.

Wipe that smile right off your face! (The mother is telling the boy that she doesn't think what he did was funny at all.)

Take a Quiz on the Face Idioms

Wrap Your Head Around This! (February 8)

My friend called to say he won one million on BC 49. I said, Give me a minute, I'm trying to wrap my head around that! So to wrap your head around some idea or news means that you cannot understand it, but you are trying really hard to do so.

She is beautiful from head to toe. (She has no bad qualities, physically).

You may be in over your head! John was in over his head on the Mathematics 12 Final Examination, so he got only 54%.

I racked my brain over the problem. I was trying very hard to remember, but I was having lots of difficulty.

Let's head out after we eat dinner and go to see "Black Hawk Down" at Metrotown. The people in this example will travel to the mall to see the movie after dinner.

Thanks for the heads up! If you hadn't told me, I would have made that same mistake again. So, a heads up is a kind of advice or reminder about some problem or mistake that may embarrass you. Your friend helps you to avoid that by giving you a heads up!

Head back, before it is too late! It will be dark soon and you should not be on the mountain trail because you will not be able to see. Head back means "return" to where you started from.

Let's head in to shore, before the wind gets any stronger. Later, we can head back to the parking lot, after the wind dies down.

Keep your head down, the teacher is coming! In this case, you don't want the teacher to notice you (you misbehaving student, perhaps) and so your friend has warned you to stop what you were doing.

Keep your chin up! Everything will be okay. Don't be sad, because soon it will all work itself out. (all the problems will be solved)

When will you head off on your vacation, Brad? When are you heading off on your vacation, Brad? Both the above mean leave for somewhere.

Where are you heading (to) this year for your vacation, Brad? Hawaii. Where will you head to this year? In this case, it is the destination you will go for the vacation.

A heavy head means a sleepy head, which is difficult to hold up with your hands. A heavy heart is a sad heart, but not necessarily a broken heart. Broken is in love; heavy is from any sadness.

Nine idioms from the January 25 class:

It's not what you know, it's who you know. This is a saying that explains how it is most important to get to know local people if you wish to get into our job market.

The dog days of summer. Theresa says that these are the hottest days of the summer. To explain, a very hot dog is a sad looking dog with a tongue lolling out and panting uncomfortably.

He is a hot dog! He just skied down the hardest run at top speed and jumped up and turned 360 degrees and landed safely. The girls were impressed!

That will happen when pig's fly! It is never going to happen.

That's my bread and butter. In a Time Magazine article software is described as bread and butter. For example Microsoft's bread and butter software is Windows.

It's a piece of cake! Studying English is NOT a piece of cake. For the hot dog skier, skiing fast is a piece of cake. It is very easy if it's a piece of cake.

No dice! Say this when you mean NO, NEVER, NO WAY.

He is like a fish out of water. A new immigrant often feels like a fish out of water. Often, Hollywood movies use this kind of story for fun. For example the Fresh Prince of Belair on TV has a black family living in a rich neighbourhood. It's a comedy.

I wasn't born yesterday!  It's often when someone says something obvious to us and we are insulted by them. Not every culture would say such a thing, even if the person said something stupid.

Try the Fill-in-the-blank quiz on these idioms.

Example Idiom:

There are "questions as to whether the influential U.S. economy was actually turning a corner . . . ." (from The Globe and Mail)

Explanation: To "turn a corner" is a kind of metaphor. It means, here, that the U.S. economy will again grow. The idea in the metaphor is of a change in direction in a positive manner.







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