Monday, January 31, 2011

Horn in on

If you horn in on a conversation you are interrupting a conversation. Another way of saying to “horn in” is to “butt in”. Both are informal. Here the Rhinoceros is literally horning in on the conversation because he has a horn (the sharp thing on the end of his nose).

1. If I hear a tourist trying to speak Portuguese or Spanish and they are having difficulty communicating with the locals, sometimes I horn in on the conversation and help them.

2. If a tourist is paying too much for a souvenir, I might horn in on the conversation/ negotiation and tell them in English that they can definitely get a better price.

3. When you disagree with someone’s opinion, especially in a group of friends, it’s not a big deal to horn in on the conversation and give your 5 cents (give your opinion).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Get my drift?

If you ask someone, “Do you get my drift?” - you are asking if they understand you. It’s like saying, “Do you understand what I am trying to explain?” It is very informal. “Catch my drift” is another way of saying it. You may also be asking someone if they understand the implications, even when you don’t directly state it. Here Rosalyn is implying that she is going to use the “rat tail” on Calvin if he doesn’t get in the pool.

1. - The closer you are to the equator, the easier it is to get sunburn. 
       Get my drift?
    - Yes, I know… I should be using sunscreen/ sun block.    

2. - When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Catch my drift?
    - Oh, OK - so if I’m not sure how to behave in a foreign country I 

       should watch and imitate the locals.
    - Yes, so right now you should take off your shoes before we enter 

       the house.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Screw up


"Screw up" is definitely an informal way of saying to make a mistake/ mess something up/ fail. I wouldn't use it when speaking to your future mother-in-law, a formal job interview or at church, lol! ... that is if you're in conservative circles or simply want to make a good first impression.

1. Some people think that BP (British Petroleum) screwed up in their Gulf of Mexico oil leak. There were serious consequences, of course, but I think it was a tragic circumstance that might have happened without them necessarily being negligent.

2. Oops! I think I seriously screwed up. I sent that email to the wrong person. It's going to be embarrassing.

3. Do you think Brad Pitt screwed up when he got divorced from Jennifer Aniston?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kudos + Sweet!

"KUDOS" basically means to give someone recognition. It’s exactly like saying, “Well done!” or “Congratulations”.
SWEET (phonetically: Suh-weet) is slang for great/ nice/ cool/ cute/ beautiful/ awesome/ amazing/ wonderful/ excellent etc. See  for a more complete definition of the above words.

1. Sweeet! Kudos to you on your new car. It’s really cool.

2. Kudos to Russia and Qatar for winning their bid to host the 2018 and 2022 world cups. I especially think that Qatar’s stadiums are sweet. Take a look at the virtual tour of Qatar’s proposed stadiums on Youtube. (Really sweet!).

3. Kudos on getting your scholarship to study in Europe! It’s quite an achievement because there were thousands of other applicants.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To wipe out

To wipe out is the same as saying to eliminate/ to destroy/ to annihilate/ to end/ to erase/ to delete/ to eradicate.

1. The computer virus wiped out all of the information stored on my hard drive. Thank God I had a backup of my important documents that I sent to my email.

2. The Dodo, a now extinct bird that was native to the islands of Mauritius, was wiped out because they were so easy to hunt. They are now extinct.

3. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions often wipe out whole villages or even cities.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Keep your eyes peeled

If you keep your eyes peeled, you keep your eyes wide open and stay alert/ you watch carefully for something. (If you peel an onion, a banana, an orange etc, you are removing the skin of the fruit.)

1. When we go to the mall on a Saturday we need to keep our eyes peeled for an empty parking spot (space) because they are not easy to come by (find).    

2. In the classic 80's TV series "Knight Rider", Michael Knight (David Hasslehoff) used to say to KITT (His artificially intelligent black car), "Keep your eyes peeled" as he went into a house or a building. KITT was supposed to keep an eye out (watch) for the bad guys. Click here to see a 1-minute youtube video intro of Knight Rider.

3. These days cargo ships, oil tankers and fishing vessels have to keep their eyes peeled for modern day pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Grow up


Most of you already know what "grow up" means: It's the process of becoming an adult - both physically and in terms of maturity... or simply to get older. What some of you don't know is that its use is limited. For Instance (for example), it is incorrect to say: "My business is growing up". Similarly it is not possible to say, "I am growing up in knowledge". In both cases, just omit the preposition "up".

1. Some people are surprised to find out that Hugh Laurie grew up in England. Even though he speaks with an American accent in the TV series Doctor House, he's British and he lives in London.

2. Many young boys want to be astronauts when they grow up.

3. Some grownups (adults) have forgotten how to have fun. Have you?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

To hog something

A hog is a pig. If you hogging something, you are keeping something for yourself that is supposed to shared... you won't give anyone else a chance to use it. *["Squirt" is slang for an annoying, insignificant person]

1. Stop hogging the remote control (TV) and let me watch something that I like!

2. You're hogging the hammock... you've been in it for 5 hours. There's only one... so it's my turn now.

3. You have been hogging the computer all day. I just want to check my email quickly.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Get over something/ someone

There are many meanings for this phrasal verb - but in this context it means to recover from something or feel better. Here the pig is saying that he will not recover from feeling humiliated or embarrassed.

1. If a friend of yours is having difficulty getting over a relationship that has just ended, you could give him/ her this advice: "There are plenty of fish in the sea!"

2. Some people just can't get over the death of Michael Jackson, especially his  look-a-likes and extreme fans. It was totally unexpected.

3. When Brazil or Argentina lose a game in the world cup soccer, the players (and the fans) take weeks to get over the disappointment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The rat race

The "rat race" refers to those people who are caught up (involved/stuck) in a lifestyle or work routine that is tiring, stressful, demanding and competitive. If you are caught up in the rat race you don't have much time for relaxation.

1. Working in a city like New York or London would be a rat race. There people live life in the fast lane and are always on the go.   

2. Many of my English students who used to live in São Paulo say that they moved to Fortaleza because it was too much of a rat race... and also they spent too much time stuck in traffic.

3. Everyone needs to get out of the rat race and go on a vacation once in a while to de-stress.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Look (something) up


If you look someone or something up, you are looking for information from a reference source such as: the internet, the yellow pages, any kind of dictionary, an encyclopedia (or wikipedia), a telephone directory... facebook, Google Maps etc.

1. I wonder (ask myself) how many people actually use encyclopedias these days to look up facts, especially when the internet is so accessible.

2. In Brazil Orkut is so popular that everyone uses it to look up services and businesses as well as people.

3. Wikipedia is an incredible worldwide collaboration - a digital encyclopedia where you can look up almost any information you might be curious about.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Like watching paint dry

If you say that something is like watching paint dry, you mean that it is very boring. Paint literally takes a while to dry. Imagine watching paint dry... booooring!!

1. For me, looking at other peoples' family photos is like watching paint dry.

2. Watching the financial news on CNN about the stock market is like watching paint dry.

3. A 20-hour bus ride is like watching paint dry. There's nothing to do but watch movies you've already seen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lug (something) around

To pull or carry something that's heavy or cumbersome (big) with great difficulty.

1. I've been lugging this huge umbrella around all day and it hasn't even rained!

2. Nomads who live in the desert need to lug all of their possessions around as they move from one place to another - or at least their camels do!

3. Over the last 8 years I have lived in 5 different countries... I used to lug some of my favorite books around (They were super heavy!), but then the maximum weight allowance for luggage on airplanes was decreased to about 20kg, so I had to get rid of (eliminate/ throw away/ give away) most of them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Take up (something)


If you take up something, you are starting a new hobby or activity.

1. Millions of people around the world are taking up blogging every year.

2. I decided that at some point this year I'm going to take up Capoeira - it looks like a lot of fun and it keeps you fit.

3. Everyone should take up a hobby that helps them to relax.

Call it a night/ Call it a day

"Call it a night" is more specific (used at night, of course) and "call it a day" is more general (used at any time of the day or night). It simply means to finish/ stop what you're doing, such as an activity or something you're working on. It could also be used metaphorically to mean stopping an activity/ project or job after a long period of time (longer than a day).

1. I've been working on the computer all evening. I think it's time to call it a night and get to bed.   

2. The party is over and we've seen the fireworks... let's call it a night.

3. After 12 years of playing for the French National soccer team, Zinedine Zidane decided to call it a day and retire from professional soccer. Now he's the advisor to Real Madrid.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Call dibs on (something)

If you call dibs on something, you are declaring that you have the first choice, you claim the right to have or do something first... but you have to be the first one to call/ say "Dibs!". It's the same as saying, "Me first!".

1. "I've got dibs on the front seat!" (Passenger seat in the front of a car).

2. When young guys go out to a party and are looking for girls, it is not uncommon to hear one of them say, "I've got dibs on the blond girl with the blue shirt!"

3. Kids or teenagers may say: "I've got dibs on the X-box when we get home", which means, "I'm going to play on the X-box first."

Fill out (something)

Usually you can fill out a form/ a document/ a questionnaire, a report or any kind of legal or official form. It is the same as saying "to complete in writing". Curiously, the phrasal verb "Fill in" is exactly the same as "Fill out"... they are synonyms.

1. When you open a bank account you need to fill out a form with all of your personal details, such as ID, telephone, address etc.

2. I opened a Gmail account the other day and I had to fill in some basic information online, including my cell phone number so that I could receive a confirmation code.

3. In your Facebook/ Orkut/ CouchSurfing profile you can fill out as much or as little information as you want.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Put up with


If you put up with someone or something, you tolerate something that you don't like or something that irritates you.

1. Everyone had to put up with the noise from the Vuvuzelas during the 2010 soccer world cup in South Africa.

2. I can't put up with being stuck in heavy traffic every day, so I decided to start working from home.

3. I can't put up with our neighbors who always play loud music until very late.

No big deal

If something is a big deal then it's important... or it may be a big problem. On the other hand, "No big deal" means "It's not a problem, there's an easy solution".

1. - Oh crap, those people took our taxi!
    - No big deal sweetheart, we'll catch the next one.

2. If you forget your password it's not a big deal... you can get most sites to send you an email with a new password.

3. If you're buying an item of clothing as a gift for someone and it's not the right size - don't worry, it's not that big of a deal - they can always exchange it later.

4. - The internet is down!
    - No big deal, you can write your emails offline and send them later.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Be up to (something)

In this context, if you are up to something it simply means that you are doing something... you could also be scheming (secret plan).

1. - Hey Frank what are you up to?
    - Nothing much... I'm just surfing the internet.

2. - What have you been up to these days?
    - I'm on vacation so I've been watching a lot of my favorite TV series.

3. I wonder (I'm curious about) what Steven is up to these days. I haven't heard from him in a while (long time).

4. I don't know what you're up to, but you've got some explaining to do. 

Out of touch with (something)

If you are out of touch with a situation you don't know what is happening or don't have the latest information and need to be updated. Perhaps you haven't done something for a long time and need to get used to it. It could also be that you can't identify with a situation.

1. I'm out of touch with the politics here in Brazil because I don't really watch the local news.

2. Many people in first world countries are out of touch with the suffering and poverty that exists in other countries.

3. Many Hollywood stars are out of touch with reality and are living in a fantasy world.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stay away from


If you need to stay away from something or someone, you should avoid it or them because it might be dangerous, risky or bad for you.

1. My New Year's resolution is to stay far away from pizza this year.

2. Stay away from that girl... she's pretty but she's a lot of trouble.

3. Stay away from that section of the beach - the surfers there are very territorial.

4. Don't even think about it. Stay away from the casino if you're not lucky... the odds are statistically against you.

Let (me) get this straight

When someone uses this expression they want to clarify something/ they want to verify and see if they understood the situation. Often it is used in a rhetorical and sarcastic way. "Let's (let us) get this straight" can also be used in an assertive and confrontational way - the person is putting their foot down or exercising their authority.

1. Let me get this straight: you want to take credit for the project when I did 90% of the work!?

2. Galileo... let me get this straight... you're telling me that the earth revolves around the sun even though we see with our own eyes that it rises in the East and sets in the West?

3. Let's get this straight - You work for me, I don't work for you.

4. Let's get this straight... I'm not going to pay for something that I didn't authorize on my credit card.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why the long face?

When you ask someone this, you are asking someone why they appear to be sad, depressed or upset in a way that is sometimes not very sympathetic.

1. What's with the long face David? I told you that she would break your heart!

2. In the world cup finals the fans of the losing team always have long faces.

3. What's with the long face? Have you failed your chemistry exam again?

4. The English reporters had long faces when England lost the bid for the 2018 world cup to Russia. (Please don't take offense! Just an observation.)

be at (something)

Almost always used in the present perfect tense. If you have been at something, it means that you have been working hard on something for a long time... or you've been trying to resolve something or find the solution.

1. I've been at this math equation for an hour and I still can't figure it out!

2. Larry King has been at it (hosting his talk show) for decades. I think he'll probably kick the bucket live on Larry King Live.

3. I've been at it for a few hours and I can't seem to get rid of the virus on my computer.

4. Researchers have been at it for years, but still haven't found a cure for AIDS.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Be on to (someone)


If you are on to someone, then you are suspicious of them. You know what they are planning.

1. I'm planning a surprise for Valentine's Day, but I think my girlfriend is on to me.

2. The police are on to the serial killer - he's making mistakes and becoming sloppy and predictable.

3. I need to stop surfing the internet so much at work. I think the boss is on to me.

4. I think the teacher is on to you... you always give the same excuses.

Mess with (someone's) mind

When you mess with someone's mind, you are trying to confuse them, trick them or "play games" with them.

1. A con artist will manipulate you and mess with your mind to take advantage of you.

2. Sleep deprivation (a lack of sleep) can mess with your mind.

3. Advertising can brainwash children easily and mess with their minds.

4. Don't let the political propaganda mess with your mind.

5. The movie, "Inception" really messed with my mind... it was difficult to know what was reality and what was part of a dream.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

(something) is over

If something is over then it's finished/ it's the end.

1. Our vacation is over and now we have to return to our normal routines.

2. Christmas is over and soon we need to take down the Christmas tree.

3. In John Lennon's song, "So this is Christmas", some of the lyrics say, "The war is over...".

4. "The show is not over until the fat lady sings".

New Year's Resolution

If you make a New Year's resolution, you set a new goal/ objective at the beginning of the year and it is your intention to follow through with it.

1. Some common New Year's resolutions are: losing weight, quitting smoking, doing more exercise... or even deciding to relax more, especially if you are a workaholic.

2. People try to break bad habits by making New Year's resolutions.

3. My New Year's resolution is to eat healthier.

4. The best time to make a change and set New Year's resolutions is at the beginning of the year because you have more enthusiasm and excitement then.

5. I don't make New Year's resolutions because I can motivate myself to do something or break a bad habit any month of the year.