English for Everyone

<b>English for Everyone</b>
Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Language is forever changing. What is currently popular may be replaced by something else in years to come, and the use of slang is a strong testament to that. Colloquial expressions are often acceptable in informal writing. The more you learn, the more you will know when to use them or not to use them in your writing or speaking. 

Blue pencil: censor.
e.g. The committee will blue pencil whatever you are going to say.

Put one's shirt on: wager everything.
e.g. We have to put our shirt on this project; we've no other option.

Pooped: exhausted.
e.g. I was pooped after working for nine hours in the yard.

Hard at it: busy.
e.g. "Are you working on the project?" "You bet! I'm hard at it."

Not so dusty: quite good.
e.g. Well the performance was not so dusty; much better than I expected.

Are you with me?: understand or agree with me.
e.g. I've been explaining this for an hour. Are you with me?

Bang out: reveal.
e.g. If you go into politics, you must be prepared to let all your secrets bang out.

Half-baked: silly.
e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Not worth powder and shot: not worth the effort.
e.g. If I were you, I would just give it up; it's not worth powder and shot.

Cry blue murder: make a great fuss.
e.g. Just ignore him: he's crying blue murder over everything.

Beat hollow: be superior to.
e.g. She is bossy, beating everyone hollow.

Excuse my French: pardon my bad language.
e.g. Ladies, please excuse my French; he really made me mad.

Back to square one: back to where one started.
e.g. We're back to square one: no deal.

Jump on: blame or criticize strongly.
e.g. You jumped on him every time he opened his mouth.

Gift of the gab: ability to give effective speeches.
e.g. The new Mayor has the gift of the gab: people like listening to him.

Keep one's head above water: stay out of debt or a difficult situation.
e.g. In this economic environment, it is not easy to keep your head above water.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More American Idioms

Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them.

Hit the nail on the head: do exactly the right thing
e.g. Your remark hit the nail on the head; that was precisely the solution to the problem.

Flash in the pan: only temporary
e.g. His initial success was only a flash in the pan.

Keep a straight face: refrain from laughing
e.g. It’s difficult to keep a straight face when someone acts so funny.
Add insult to injury: make things worse
e.g. Enough is enough! Don’t add insult to injury.

Have it coming: deserve what one gets
e.g. Failure was unavoidable. What you did had it coming.

After hours: after normal working hours
e.g. We are so busy that many of us have to stay after hour.
Just as well: good that an unexpected problem has come up
e.g. It was just as well the customer didn’t show up; we didn’t have anything ready for him.

Pitch in: help and get busy
e.g. We need help for this project; would you like to pitch in?

Play both ends against the middle: gain an advantage by pitting people on opposite sides of an issue against each other
e.g. In American politics, it is not common for politicians to play both ends against the middle to win their elections.

Quick on the uptake: quick to understand; smart
e.g. He is quick on the uptake; you don’t need to give him unnecessary details.

All thumbs: awkward and clumsy with one’s fingers
e.g. She will not learn to play the piano because she knows her fingers are all thumbs.
Make headway: make progress or advancement
e.g. Despite our effort, we have made little headway with our business.

Actions speak louder than words: do something about it, not just talking about it
e.g. Show me what you have done! Actions speak louder than words.

Have one’s fingers in the pie: become involved in something
e.g. As long as you have your fingers in the pie, things will not run smoothly.

Abide by: accept and follow
e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

American Idioms

Give someone or something a wide berth: keep someone or something at a distance.
e.g. That dog is very fierce. We’d better give it a wide berth.
e.g. Your Mom is in a foul mood; give her a wide berth.
As plain as day: plain and simple

e.g. The briefing was as plain as day; nobody had to ask any question.
All at sea: confused
e.g. The lawyer was all at sea when he read the two conflicting reports of the incident.

Odd man out: atypical person or thing
e.g. Everybody has a partner, and you are an odd man out because you don’t have one.

Take the bull by the horns: deal with the challenge directly
e.g. This is a very difficult situation, but we must take the bull by the horns.

Accountable for: able to explain why
e.g. You have to be accountable for every decision you are going to make.
Actions speak louder than words: do something about it, not just talking about it

e.g. Show me what you have done! Actions speak louder than words.
Vested interest: a personal stake
e.g. He showed a vested interest in his uncle’s business.

Above all: most importantly
e.g. Above all, you must have a valid visa if you wish to continue to stay in the United States.

Go for broke: make great effort; risk everything
e.g. To win his re-election, the Mayor would go for broke.

Mind one’s p’s and q’s: pay attention to one’s manners
e.g. When you meet the President, you must mind your p’s and q’s.

Run in the family: a characteristic in all members of a family
e.g. Longevity runs in the family: they all live to a ripe old age.

All at sea: confused
e.g. The lawyer was all at sea when he read the two conflicting reports of the incident.

Act one’s age: behave maturely

e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.
You bet: yes, of course
e.g. “Are you hungry?” “You bet!”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau