English Through Idioms

Posted May 29th, 2012 by admin

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* Speak With Confidence
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Learn English Idiomatic Expressions and Speak With Confidence.

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Story / Translation / Vocabulary

Cats And Dogs And Bigfoot

Story (excerpt):

Out of the blue it started coming down cats and dogs with no indication of letting up. This was a real bummer. We all had big time plans for the night, but now it looked like we were going to have to rough it in George’s trailer all night in the boonies. It started getting really nippy out. They were even calling for flurries later on, and possibly some serious accumulation. Doggonnit!! Come hell or high water, we decided we were English Idiomatic Expressionsgoing to enjoy that night….

Story Translation (excerpt):

Suddenly it started raining very hard, with no indication of slowing down. This was very upsetting. We all had major plans for the night, but now it looked as if we were going to have to live inconveniently and uncomfortably in George’s small mobile home, all night in the deep woods. It started getting really chilly. The forecast was calling for light snow, and possibly a lot of accumulation of snow later on. No matter what, we decided we were going to enjoy that night….

Vocabulary List (excerpt):

1. Bigfoot
2. Out of the blue
3. On the up and up
4. Get a load of this
5. Head over heels
6. To not know someone from Adam
7. Coming down (raining) cats and dogs
8. A bummer
9. To let up
10. Come hell or high water

Vocabulary Explanation (excerpt):

  •  Out of the blue.

This means suddenly, without warning, something happened. The “blue” is the sky, as if something fell from the sky. It happened that suddenly.

Out of the blue, the teacher gave us an exam.
Out of the blue, it started snowing.
Out of the blue, her dog attacked her baby. 

  • Coming down cats and dogs, or raining cats and dogs.

Usually you’ll hear raining cats and dogs. This is severe rain, heavy rain, violent rain. The image is cats and dogs falling from the sky, fighting each other, noisy and intense. It is believed that this expression dates back to the mid-1600s. The precise allusion to the term has been lost. Many believe that it refers to heavy rains causing gutters to overflow with all kinds of debris…some of which included garbage and dead animals (cats and dogs). For the sake of memory, it’s easier to imagine cats and dogs falling from the sky fighting each other.

All the way from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia it rained cats and dogs. I could hardly see the highway.

  • Tolet up

    means to slow down, to lessen. This is a phrasal verb. The verb “let” plus the preposition “up” means to slow down, to lessen

All along the highway the heavy rain never let up for one minute.
During the fight, the aggressive boxer never let up. He continued to punish his opponent throughout the fight.

  • A bummer.

It’s a major disappointment. It’s a situation that’s a major disappointment. The word BUMMER comes from a German word describing a bum or a beggar, a person who doesn’t work. This word in the 1960s began to take on new meaning in the U.S. at a time when young people were expressing their “new freedom.” It became desirable to grow beards and long hair, to live in communes, have “free love,” etc. and actually look like a bum. The word ‘bum” became a major part of young people’s vocabulary. Many new variations and meanings of this word soon became widespread. “A bummer” is one of these variations.

What a bummer. I accidentally deleted all my files.
Talk about a bummer,  Mary just failed the exam by one question.

So what exactly are idiom stories?

Idiom stories are designed for people who are already reasonably fluent in English, and have learned it as a foreign language. Idiom Stories are very short, concentrated stories that expose a serious vocabulary deficiency. Normally, this deficiency would not be noticeable.

The scope of this problem is much larger than one might imagine. The stories go beyond just bringing this issue to one’s attention. The stories present a method of actually fixing the problem.

Each story artificially compacts 20 to 30 very essential and common, English idiomatic expressions into a few, short paragraphs. Most of the context words are carefully removed. This prevents the foreign student from trying to “guess” the meaning. The story remains quite coherent, and makes perfect sense to the native ear.

To the foreign student, however, the resulting story appears to be completely nonsensical and does not communicate any clear idea.

For the purpose of proving my point in class, I would then recite the story to a stranger, who was a native speaker of English. The results were always the same. The native speaker would invariably understand the whole story with no difficulty, and would admit that all of the expressions used were very common, and easily understood by virtually every native speaker. The students would always be shocked and could not believe that anyone could understand such gibberish.

This method reveals a serious deficiency in the learning of English vocabulary. How is it possible to feel comfortable in a conversation when a significant portion of the vocabulary is not understood?

Even the most polite native speakers, who would normally try to avoid the use of English idiomatic expressions when talking with foreigners, sometimes do not even realize that they are using them. This is particularly so when the expressions happen to be everyday, normal speech.

For example, what would you think if you heard this phrase in a conversation?

“She came down with something mysterious last month and was laid up for two weeks before they could even come up with what to do. But she’s starting to come around now, and they say she should be back by next week”.

Are you missing something from this discussion? Every native speaker would easily understand this phrase.

The phrasal verb idioms used in this phrase are so common, that most native speakers do not even realize they are using idioms. They don’t realize how confusing specific combinations of verbs and prepositions can be to a foreigner, who has not been taught the specific meaning of each of these combinations. It is impossible to understand the meaning of idioms by just understanding the meaning of their individual words… and guessing is usually incorrect. See for yourself.

Here is the translation of this phrase:

She became ill with something mysterious last month and was in bed for two weeks before the doctors could even decide what to do. But her health is starting to improve now and they say she should be back by next week.

So who needs idiom stories?

  1. Everyone who speaks English as a foreign language and needs to interact with, and understand native speakers in the U.S.
  2. English teachers who are looking for a method of teaching idioms to their students.
  3. Foreigners seeking employment in the U.S. that requires a high level of English comprehension.

CLICK HERE To purchase  English Through Idioms Vol. 1

This a major step towards mastery of English idiomatic expressions and getting the respect you deserve… you will speak with confidence, understand everyone and really feel the power.

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