Archive for August, 2018


August 3, 2018

Unleash Limitations.


List of idioms:

Bite off more than one can chew = try to do more than one can

Burn oneself out = wear oneself out by using all of one’s energy or strength

Drink like a fish = consume alcoholic drinks excessively

Eat like a horse = eat excessively

Eyes are bigger than one’s stomach = Think that one can eat more than one is able

Lose one’s head = lose control of oneself

Make a pig out of oneself = eat in excess

Run oneself ragged = make oneself excessively tired by trying to do too much work

Spread oneself too thin = become involved in too many activities

Talk until one is blue in the face = talk excessively but not convincingly

Take it easy = avoid hard work; relax



Coach Palmer: Jim, you’ve practiced enough. I want you to take it easy tonight. You know you should get plenty of rest before the big game tomorrow. It’s going to be a tough one.

Jim: I’m too nervous to do anything else, coach. Can’t I stay and work out some more?

Coach Palmer: You are running yourself ragged. Save some of that energy for tomorrow, Jim. If you push yourself too hard, you won’t be any good for the game.

Jim: Okay, coach. You’re the boss.



Monica, a good friend of yours, tries to do many things at once. She does not know her limitations. You see that she is always tired and anxious, and you are worried about her. One day, you sit down with her and try to convince her to slow down. Using the above expressions write out what you would say: (BEGINNING: “Monica, you have to slow down. You can’t do everything that you want to do. You are running yourself ragged…”)


Discuss the following:

  1. Several of the expressions in this lesson compare people to animals, such as “she drinks like a fish,” “He eats like a horse,” and “She is making a pig out of herself.” There are many other expressions in English that compare human traits to animals, such as “wise as an owl,” “sly as a fox,’ and “timid as a mouse.” Are there expressions in your language that compare humans to animals? What are they?
  2. Look at the following sentences. After each one, someone might say, “Be careful, don’t spread yourself too thin.”


  1. I have to take seven courses this semester.”
  2. “I have four meetings scheduled for tonight.”

Think of other sentences like this.

  1. When people “lose their heads”, they become so upset that they lose control and do or say things they later regret. This happens to almost everybody. For instance, if a man breaks all the windows in his home because he had a bad day at work, he lost his head. Talk about a time when you lost your head or when someone you know lost his (or her) head.


August 3, 2018

paying with own card

On July 31, a young man used his card in Kyiv metro to let passengers go through turnstiles ( ). Later, he explained that he had bought the card with his own money, but he made up his mind to arrange a charitable event because the card was expiring that day and he was not able to use all the money himself. The card was working perfectly. However, the supervisor, who was overseeing the passengers passing through the checkpoints “for free”, blocked the turnstiles saying that the young man’s action was “against regulations.”

The supervisor was not right. I use such a card exactly the same way to pay for my friend (or friends) if they don’t have their own cards. On the other hand, I liked the man’s initiative. He demonstrated his generosity and he was thinking “outside the box” by doing something many other people wouldn’t even think of doing. Secondly, he dared challenge the heavy-footed, state-owned system knowing that those “in charge” would feel there was something wrong and refer to non-existing rules. And lastly, the guy had a sense of humor. He reminded me of a group of students I know who, a couple of years ago, walked from one metro car to another, pulling banknotes of small value out of their upturned caps and offering them to stunned passengers in their seats, “We are strangers here. Please, take this money for a living.” The plea was the same (though with some alteration) as was generally pronounced by beggars who used to come to Ukraine’s capital from afar: “We are just strangers here, could you give us something for a living?” (Russ.: My liudi ne mestnye, podayte na propitanie”).


August 2, 2018

bees knees

The bee’s knees = excellent; the highest quality.

The origin of the phrase:

Bees carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs. It is tempting to explain this phrase as alluding to the concentrated goodness to be found around a bee’s knee, but there’s no evidence to support this explanation. It is also sometimes said to be a corruption of ‘business’, but there’s no evidence to support that either.

Nor is there any connection with another earlier phrase, ‘a bee’s knee’. In the 18th century this was used as a synonym for smallness, but has since disappeared from the language, replaced more recently by the less polite ‘gnat’s bollock’:

Mrs. Townley Ward – Letters, June 1797 in N. & Q. “It cannot be as big as a bee’s knee.”

‘Bee’s knees’ began to be used in early 20th century America. Initially, it was just a nonsense expression that denoted something that didn’t have any meaningful existence – the kind of thing that a naive apprentice would be sent to the stores to ask for, like a ‘sky-hook’ or ‘striped paint’. That meaning is apparent in a spoof report in the New Zealand newspaper The West Coast Times in August 1906, which listed the cargo carried by the SS Zealandia as ‘a quantity of post holes, 3 bags of treacle and 7 cases of bees’ knees’. The teasing wasn’t restricted to the southern hemisphere. The US author Zane Grey’s 1909 story, The Shortstop, has a city slicker teasing a yokel by questioning him about make-believe farm products:

“How’s yer ham trees? Wal, dog-gone me! Why, over in Indianer our ham trees is sproutin’ powerful. An’ how about the bee’s knees? Got any bee’s knees this Spring?”

There’s no profound reason to relate bees and knees other than the jaunty-sounding rhyme. In the 1920s it was fashionable to use nonsense terms to denote excellence – ‘the snake’s hips’, ‘the kipper’s knickers’, ‘the cat’s pyjamas/whiskers’, ‘the monkey’s eyebrows’ and so on. Of these, the bee’s knees and the cat’s whiskers are the only ones to have stood the test of time. More recently, we see the same thing – the dog’s bollocks.

The nonsense expression ‘the bee’s knees’ was taken up by the socialites of Roaring 20s America and added to the list of ‘excellent’ phrases. A printed reference in that context appears in the Ohio newspaper The Newark Advocate, April 1922, in a piece on newly coined phrases entitles ‘What Does It Mean?‘:

“That’s what you wonder when you hear a flapper chatter in typical flapper language. ‘Apple Knocker,’ for instance. And ‘Bees Knees.’ That’s flapper talk. This lingo will be explained in the woman’s page under the head of Flapper Dictionary.” [an ‘apple knocker’ is a rustic]

Clearly the phrase must have been new then for the paper to plan to take the trouble to define it. Disappointingly, they didn’t follow up on their promise and ‘the lingo’ wasn’t subsequently explained. Several U.S. newspapers did feature lists of phrases under ‘Flapper Dictionary’ headings. Although ‘bee’s knees’ isn’t featured, they do show the time as being a period of quirky linguistic coinage; for example, from one such Flapper Dictionary:

Kluck – dumb person.
Dumb kluck – worse than a kluck.
Pollywoppus – meaningless stuff.
Fly-paper – a guy who sticks around.

One tenuous connection between the bee’s knees and an actual bee relates to Bee Jackson. Ms. Jackson was a dancer in 1920s New York and popularised the Charleston, being credited by some as introducing the dance to Broadway in 1924. She went on to become the World Champion Charleston dancer and was quite celebrated at the time.

It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the expression became popular in reference to her and her very active knees, but 1924 post dates the origin of the phrase






'What's the best job to have when the economy is bad?'

%d bloggers like this: