Friday, September 30, 2011

Play to (someone/ something)

If you “play to” someone you are behaving, performing or doing something in a way that pleases people and gets their approval or convinces them. To “play to” can also be to appeal to, especially in satisfying a need that someone has.

1.  As an English teacher I play to peoples’ need to learn English in a global community; where English is becoming more of a “must” rather than an option. In doing so, I remind and focus my students on their objectives and how English is so important to their future.

2. If you tell someone exactly what they want to hear, you are playing to their sense of insecurity and might be giving them an inaccurate idea of their ability. We need to be honest in our opinions when people ask for them, otherwise we will just be flattering them, which is not sincere.

3. When any politician is running for office; whether it be for President, Mayor, Governor etc., they play to peoples’ hopes and dreams - and many times make some promises that they will probably not be able to fulfill. Everyone wants a change in the right direction, and so we vote for the person who we think will bring it to us.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Handed (something) on a silver platter


If you are handed something on a silver platter, you didn’t have to work hard to get it or put much effort in.
* Pay your dues -> to pay your debts/ what you owe someone.

1. Bill Gates has 3 children. I think that they will be handed everything on a silver platter. They will not need to worry about opportunities in life. They’ve got it made. If someone is born into a rich family, we can say that they were “born with a silver spoon in their mouth.”

2. Do you remember when you had to go to a library to do research? Well those days are gone… these days everything is handed to us on a silver platter on the internet. With the advance of the World Wide Web, information is served to us on a silver platter.

3.Would you like to be handed everything on a silver platter or would you prefer to become successful though blood, sweat and tears (hard work)? They say that if you work hard for something you’ll appreciate it a whole lot more.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blow over

If you are waiting for something to blow over, you are waiting for it to pass, just like the winds carry a storm away and it passes. We talk about difficult situations or circumstances blowing over, especially any kind of conflict.
Parcheesi: A board game originally from India, also known as Ludo in the UK, Parchís in Spain, and Parqués in Colombia.

1. When all of the unrest (conflict) in Egypt, Libya and Syria has blown over, I’m sure they will be safe places to visit as a tourist.

2. When someone is angry – whether it be your husband, wife, boss, parents etc. – you might want to wait for the situation to blow over and for them to calm down before you speak to them. Patience is a virtue!

3 When any kind of service in the city stops because people have gone on strike; for example: the employees at banks, schools, universities, hospitals, bus drivers etc… the only thing you can do is wait for it to blow over and hope the strike will end sooner rather than later.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Give it a shot

If you “give it a shot”, you try something to see if it will work or if you might like it. Usually we say this to someone to motivate them to try something… or we say this when we are going to try something that might be difficult for us. You can also say, “Give it a try”.
-> UPS = United Parcel Service (delivery of mail/ parcels)
-> A battering ram is a "machine" used to break down doors or walls.

1. I had never enjoyed the idea of eating raw fish (sushi), but then recently I decided to give it a shot. I must say that I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would!

2. Have you ever taken a risk with a business idea or given it a shot and applied for a job at a company that you thought might be impossible for you to work at?

3. We have a very common expression in English: “If at first you don’t succeed… try and try again”. We say this to people to encourage them. You could also say, “Why don’t you give it another shot?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Keep tabs on

If you “keep tabs on” someone or something, you are watching or observing them attentively so you know what is happening at all times. You may be keeping a record (most of the time a mental one). You stay up to date with what it happening. To “keep track of” someone/ something is a similar expression.

1.  Some boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives keep tabs on their hubby (partner) by calling them on their cell phone frequently to see where they are and what they’re doing. Some people even hire a private investigator if they are suspicious of their partner and think they are up to no good.

2. Did you know that Google has many ways to keep tabs on your internet activities? They will target you with specific ads (advertisements) because they know your preferences based on the sites you visit. Also in your Gmail account, when you read each email, you might have noticed that there are ads that are based on the content of the emails you send and receive.

3. There is a device called “CarCheckup” which when installed in any car allows you to keep tabs on anyone’s driving habits: the speed they drive, when they break or accelerate suddenly, etc. It works by GPS so you can also see where someone has been. People are using it to keep tabs on their teenage kids or on their elderly parents.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sneak up on


If you “sneak up” on somebody, you get closer without them knowing because you move quietly or without being seen. If a situation, deadline or date sneaks up on you, you didn’t see it coming… it’s a surprise because you hadn’t been thinking about it or aware of it.

1. When a lion stalks its prey (victim), it needs to sneak up on it before it charges and chases it down (pursues it). The lion needs to get as close as possible to have an advantage.

2. When you see a friend in public do you like to sneak up on them and surprise them?

3. “Before an elite team of U.S. Navy SEALs executed a daring raid that took down Osama bin Laden, the commandos were able to silently sneak up on their elusive target thanks to what aviation analysts said were top secret, never-before-seen stealth-modified helicopters.” –

4. My birthday always seems to sneak up on me because I don’t give it much importance… sometimes I only realize the day before that it’s my birthday. Has that ever happened to you before with special days such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rub it in

If you “rub it in”, you make a bad situation worse by commenting on it or reminding someone about it. We often do this when we tease people in a fun way. The full expression is: “To rub salt in a wound”.

1. Calvin and Hobbes are standing in the pouring rain waiting for the school bus. Calvin talks about how comfortable and warm he would be if he were still in bed. Hobbes doesn’t have to go to school with Calvin and rubs it in by saying that he was going to get back into the warm, cozy bed.

- In the last Soccer World Cup, South Africa didn’t make it to the round of 16.
- I know… please don’t remind me.
- Weren’t they beaten by Uruguay and eliminated? The goalkeeper got 

  a red card…
- Now you’re just rubbing it in… Everyone knows it was a bad call 

  by the referee.
- Wasn’t the score 0-3?

3 A conversation on Skype:
[17:12 PM] Frank Degenaar: Hey Amauri, how are you doing in Finland?
[17:12 PM] Amauri Holanda: It’s freezing... I can’t feel my toes it’s so cold, even with
                                         2 pairs of socks on!!
[17:13 PM] Frank Degenaar: Well, today I went to the beach and worked on my tan...
                                          And you? Did you go ice fishing?
[17:13 PM] Amauri Holanda:  LOL! Stop rubbing it in! No… I’ve been doing some research
                                          for my doctorate… on things you’ll never understand.
[17:14 PM] Frank Degenaar: Yeah, I know… now you’re rubbing it in! I know… I’m just a
                                          simple English teacher :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tick (someone) off

If you tick someone off you make them angry/ mad.
To hold a grudge: to not forgive someone
To get (someone) back: to take revenge, to give someone a taste of their own medicine.

1. Doesn’t it tick you off when a taxi driver takes advantage of you and takes you on an unnecessarily long detour so that he can make extra money?

2. I got really ticked off last year during the Soccer World Cup when the referee gave the South African goalkeeper a red card for a foul that he didn’t actually commit. I am South African, by the way… otherwise there would have been no reason to get ticked off!

3. Does it tick you off when someone cuts in front of you in any line – whether you are waiting to buy a movie ticket or buying coconut water at the beach?

4. It ticks me off when my internet goes down (service is interrupted) and there’s no apparent reason, because I really depend on it. Two weeks ago I had no internet access at home for 2 days… and only later did I discover that it was because they were servicing the power lines for the newly constructed buildings across the street. Aaargh!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tightly wound

If someone is “tightly wound”, they are stressed out and may overreact very easily. They may be very tense, anxious and highly reactive. It is difficult for someone who is tightly wound to relax.
* Tad = a little

1.  If you are tightly wound because of prolonged periods of stress (especially at work) it’s easy to get frustrated about small things that ordinarily don’t irritate you or even explode.

2. If you are burning the candle at both ends and not getting enough sleep for days on end, you will probably be tightly wound and moody (easily irritated).

3. Someone who is tightly wound may get offended easily, especially when people don’t treat them the way they expect. Are you defensive, just waiting to put someone in their place if they are rude to you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Live off


If you live off someone or something, you survive using that person or thing or with their help.

1. Many people live off the land by eating and using what they find - fruit that grows naturally or hunting animals that are natural to that specific area. Do you have the survival skills to live off the land?

2. What is the maximum age where people should stop living off their parents and get a job?

3. Senior citizens are elderly people, many of whom have retired and live off a pension.

4. If you win the lottery and put that money in the bank, it is possible to live off the interest.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Out of sight out of mind

“Out of sight out of mind” is an idiomatic expression which has a literal meaning… so basically if you don’t see someone or something, you normally forget about or don’t think about them or it.

1. When we haven’t seen our old school friends after so many years, we seem to forget that they even exist. Out of sight out of mind. Well… that was until Facebook and other social networks came along (appeared).

2. Many times we suddenly get the urge (desire) to eat something only when we see it… so it may be a good idea to put all of those unhealthy snacks in a place where you don’t see them every day… out of sight out of mind.

3Have you ever seen the inside of a favela/ shanty town/ slum? Often we never get to see abject poverty and the poor living conditions that so many people live in… and rarely do we even think of underprivileged people. As they say – “Out of sight out of mind”.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stand behind

If you stand behind someone or something, it means that you support or endorse them or it. You guarantee the performance or worth of someone or something.

1. The German government is standing behind its controversial biofuel, saying that it was sticking with the biofuel E10 despite major problems. "We need to reduce our dependency on oil," the Environment Minister said after the meeting with oil company representatives, and automakers. E10, which contains 10 percent ethanol, is safe for 93 percent of all cars registered in Germany - yet, despite it being cheaper than regular gasoline, many drivers have refused to buy it fearing that it will damage their engines. In Brazil the mandatory minimum blend (mix) of Ethanol (from sugarcane) has been set at 25% (E25) since 2007.

2. Many of Muammar Gaddafi’s officials who stood behind him and who were called “Gaddafi Loyalists” have already defected to the former rebels in Libya or are fleeing Tripoli and other cities. Did they seemingly stand behind him because they were intimidated or fearful for their lives or perhaps were promised money and power?

Monday, September 5, 2011


When someone asks if they can ask you a question, the response that always comes to mind is “shoot”, which is a more casual way of saying, “Go ahead and ask your question” or “say what you want to say, I’m listening”.
*Betty Crocker is a brand name, which is especially famous for their chocolate brownie and cake mixtures which come in a box.

- I was watching a movie last night… and there were some phrases I didn’t understand… can I ask you some of them?
- Of course… shoot!

- There are so many questions I would like to ask you… I don’t know where to start!
- Shoot.
- Before I make my final decision, I’d like to ask you just two more questions.
- Ok… shoot.

- Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
- Not at all… shoot.

- You can ask me any question. Anything about anything.
- Ok… here’s one you’ll never know….
- Shoot.