urban gardening breeding

Idioms of the Week: Nature

Learning English as a second language is hard enough, but it can be especially difficult when you run into idioms in casual conversation that don’t mean what they seem. In this weekly series, we’re breaking down common English expressions that are used in everyday conversation, so you’ll be able to expand your language skills and have fun with new English phrases.

Today, we’re keeping to the theme of nature, but pay close attention, these idioms refer to situations beyond the outdoors!

  1. a breath of fresh air (noun phrase): a new, imaginative approach

Ex: The honest transparency of the current presidential administration was a breath of fresh air to a country that was used to corrupt practices.

  1. to add fuel to the fire (verb phrase): to make a bad situation worse

Ex: When the soccer players started arguing, Logan added fuel to the fire by encouraging the group to fight each other.

  1. to be in hot water (verb phrase): to get in trouble

Ex: Lauren was in hot water with the school administration after she was caught cheating on the final exam.

  1. to beat around the bush (verb phrase): to stall, avoid or gloss over a topic of conversation

Ex: When Sarah’s brother asked for her opinion on his girlfriend, she beat around the bush by talking about how nice the weather was outside.

  1. calm before the storm (noun phrase): a quiet period before chaos occurs

Ex: Retail employees enjoy the calm before the storm in November right before customers start their Christmas shopping.

  1. to rain cats and dogs (verb phrase): to rain heavily

Ex: They were glad it was raining cats and dogs after the long drought.

  1. salt of the earth (adjective phrase): used to describe someone who is honest and good

Ex: Frank is the salt of the earth—he’s always willing to help out someone in the neighborhood.

  1. to not hold water (verb phrase): used to describe a statement or argument that is not logical or strong

Ex: His argument that the sun revolved around the earth didn’t hold water with the scientists at NASA, who had decades of proven research against his theory.

  1. to make a mountain out of a molehill (verb phrase): to make a fuss about nothing

Ex: The journalist made a mountain out of a molehill when she reported that the whole economy was crashing, when in reality it was just a minor recession.

  1. dead in the water (adjective phrase): used to describe something that has no chance of succeeding or making any progress

Ex: After yet another budgetary setback, the manager declared the project dead in the water.

Try using these idioms the next time you practice your English skills. You’ll find yourself using them more naturally in conversation in no time!

Idioms of the World

Idioms of the World

The following guest post originally appeared on HotelClub.com.

We use idioms to pepper our speech and writing, often without even realizing we’re doing it. These odd little phrases are used to express a sentiment other than their literal meaning. It doesn’t really rain cats and dogs, as the world and his wife knows.

I’ve always been fascinated by foreign idioms; they give us a unique insight into the culture that uses them. Did you know that in German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live the life of luxury”? Idioms can tell us a lot about what matters to a nation. They’re a window to the soul.

We wanted to explore the world in all its linguistic glory, so we asked artist and illustrator Marcus Oakley to draw some of his favorite idioms from across the globe. We hope they inspire you to learn the local idioms next time you travel.

1-idioms of the world title2-itialian-idiom3-polish-idiom4-japanese-idiom5-french-idiom6-portuguese-idiom7-german-idiom8-spanish-idiom9-russian-idiom10-finnish-idiom11-danish-idiom

 

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Five Color Idioms Part 3: Green

Today we’re “going green” in the third installment of the color idiom series!

Green is considered one of the basic colors and is one that is associated with jealousy, nature, good luck, and growth in Western/American culture according to this beautiful graphic.

Check out the following five green idioms! Also be sure take a look at more color idioms from previous weeks’ blog posts. See white and black.

(1) (to be) green with envy


Meaning: very envious
Sample Sentence: I was green with envy when I heard that my cousin would be going to London for a week.

(2) to give the green light


Meaning: to give approval to proceed
Sample Sentence: The company finally has the green light to start the project.

(3) (to have a) green thumb


Meaning: to be good with plants/gardens
Sample Sentence: I should ask the green thumb next door what he recommends for my droopy daffodils

(4) the grass is always greener on the other side


Meaning: a place or situation that is far away or different seems better than one’s present situation
Sample Sentence: I sometimes think I’d be happier living in Spain. Oh well, the grass is always greener on the other side!

(5) green around the gills


Meaning: sickly
Sample Sentence: My friend looked green around the gills after the long bus ride.


Militza Petranovic
Militza is a Pedagogy and Research intern at Voxy. She is currently finishing up her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Columbia University’s Teachers College and received her bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 2012. Militza is interested in researching all aspects of how web technology can help facilitate learning, particularly language learning.

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pot-kettle

Five Color Idioms Part 2: Black

In the second installment of the series on idioms and colors, attention will be turned to the opposite of color of white: black.
What associations do you have with the color black? Taking a look back at the beautiful graphic posted in last week’s blog post: authority, death, eternity, evil, mourning, and style are all cited as Western/American concepts that correspond with the color black.

Let’s see how the following five idioms exemplify these ideas:

(1) blackmail (someone)

Meaning: to extort or take money from someone by threatening him or her
Sample Sentence: The photographer tried to blackmail the famous actress with some photographs that he had taken.
In Pop Culture: A famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller drama film from the 1920s is called Blackmail.

(2) the new black

Meaning: used to say something is the most popular of fashionable color or thing at the moment
Sample Sentence: Designers say that brown is the new black
In Pop Culture: A recently popular Netflix original show Orange is the New Black came up with its name by playing with the fact that women in American prisons often wear bright orange jumpsuits which are not considered very fashionable, to say the least.

(3) black sheep (of a family)

Meaning: a person who is a disgrace to a family or group
Sample Sentence: The man is the black sheep in his family and has not made a success of his life.
In Pop Culture: This comic strip is entitled Black Sheep and its content focuses on nonconventional ideas.

(4) blacklist (someone)

Meaning: to exclude or ostracize someone, to write someone’s name on a list if they break some rules
Sample Sentence: The sports federation blacklisted the swimmer because he was using steroids.
In Pop Culture: A new hit TV show on NBC about the FBI, fugitives, and dangerous criminals is called The Blacklist.

(5) pot calling the kettle black

Meaning: the person who criticizes or accuses someone else is as guilty as the person he or she criticizes or accuses
Sample Sentence: My friend criticized me for not changing jobs but that is like the pot calling the kettle black. She will not change jobs either.
In Other Cultures: This image here shows similar idioms in other languages that mean the same as “pot calling the kettle black” in English.


Militza Petranovic
Militza is a Pedagogy and Research intern at Voxy. She is currently finishing up her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Columbia University’s Teachers College and received her bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 2012. Militza is interested in researching all aspects of how web technology can help facilitate learning, particularly language learning.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook:


brain-color

Five Color Idioms: White

It can be said that color succeeds in communicating without uttering a word. However, what exactly is communicated is very much culture dependent due to the multitude of symbolic representations associated with colors in any given culture. It makes sense, then, that colors often appear in various language expressions and are used to convey non literal meanings.

Today’s color of choice is white, in what will hopefully become a mini series on idioms and color in the English language.

Check out the following five white color idioms below.
For idioms with the color black, see: Part 2: Five color idioms: black.
And for green, see: Part 3: Five color idioms: green.

(1) raise (or wave) a white flag

Smiley face
Meaning: to indicate that you have been defeated and you want to give up
Sample Sentence: After we captured them, they had to raise a white flag.
Pop Culture Reference: Pop singer Dido references the symbolism represented in this idiom in her song “White Flag,” singing: “..and I won’t put my hands up and surrender. There will be no white flag above my door…”

(2) white-tie event/affair

Meaning: an event that requires guests to wear formal dress such as men wearing white bow ties with formal evening attire
Sample Sentence: There was a white-tie wedding ceremony last week which I had to attend.
Pop Culture Reference: Band names are known for being creative or including play on words. The pop/electronica band The White Tie Affair chose to name themselves with this idiom.

(3) white elephant

Meaning: a useless, an unwanted possession that often costs money to maintain
Sample Sentence: Your car is a white elephant, as it often breaks down, causing you too much expenditure.
Pop culture reference: As one alternative to the Western Christmas gift exchange tradition of “Secret Santa,” a White Elephant gift exchange includes a group of family, friends, or coworkers each of whom gets one wrapped gift. Staying true to the idiom’s meaning, the gifts are usually inexpensive, humorous, or used items from home, seeking to provide entertainment for those involved rather than value.

(4) white lie

Meaning: a harmless or small lie told to be polite or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings
Sample Sentence: He told a white lie when his father asked where he was going.
Pop Culture Reference: The popular TV series Breaking Bad has gained so many fans across the world that some have decided to craft special beers in honor of the protagonist Walter White who told many white (and perhaps even more unwhite) lies throughout the show. The india white ale beer is a play on words in itself, named Walt’s White Lie.

(5)  white as a sheet

Meaning: pale
Sample Sentence: Jane was as white as a sheet because of the illness she had suffered for months.
Pop Culture Reference: In the poem Song of Myself, in the famous poetry collection Leaves of Grass, the great Walt Whitman writes the line: “The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a countenance white as a sheet…”

This beautifully done graphic by Information is Beautiful illustrates 84 different emotions, ideas, or symbols represented by 10 majorly recognized cultures. Take a look and see if any of the aforementioned English idioms match up with the ideas represented by the color white in Western/American culture.


Militza Petranovic
Militza is a Pedagogy and Research intern at Voxy. She is currently finishing up her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Columbia University’s Teachers College and received her bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 2012. Militza is interested in researching all aspects of how web technology can help facilitate learning, particularly language learning.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook: