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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Phase Lesson #11 "On The Fly"

The phrase "on the fly" indicates that something is created, or an action performed when it is needed. There is no planning involved, you just do it at that moment.
Consider the text of the example below:

Two friends have been separated for a long time and they had an opportunity to see each other once again. They wanted to go a restaurant to have dinner to talk about old times. The restaurant would be determined "on the fly!"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lesson #10 "Until The Cows Come Home"

This phrase indicates "a long time!"


In the southern rural portion of the United States where families had cows, they would turn them loose to graze and the cows would be gone all day. At evening time the cows would come home.

When a person uses this phrase, they are indicating in the sentence that someone is doing something that they will continue to do for a relatively long time. Consider the examples below:

1. Serious basketball players will practice basketball "until the cows come home!"

2. When a comedian "get on a roll" (get a momentum in joke telling) they will have you laughing "until the cows come home!"

3. Some people will argue with you "until the cows come home!"

As you can see from the example sentences, using this idiom is communicating that someone will do something for a relatively long time, not necessarily literally, but figuratively. This phrase is commonly used in American daily life and the person listening will understand exactly what is meant, now you will too!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lesson #9 "The Proof Is In The Pudding"

This phrase is used to communicate that the results are the most important thing which gives credibility to the means of obtaining the results.

For example, if someone was making pudding (which is a sweet dessert, different than ice cream) and didn't follow a recipe but put a little of this and a little of that (ingredients) into making the pudding and afterwards, upon tasting it, it tasted delicious! This would indicate it wasn't the recipe, but the skill of the Cook for the good results.

There are different situations that this phrase can be used, it also indicates that it doesn't matter what you say or do but what are the end results? Consider the examples below:

Example 1
A father says to his son: "Son, everyday after school you've been going to your room and closing the door. After seeing your school report card, "the proof is in the pudding" of what you've been doing in your room! These straight A's shows that you've been studying!" Congratulations Son!

Example 2
A certain school continually has graduates which excel in their area of study, "the proof is in the pudding" as to the caliber of teachers and administrators in that school!

Example 3
There is a phrase that says, "practice makes perfect" but if you do inferior work, "the proof is in the pudding" that you really haven't been practicing!

I hope these examples will help you to understand the phrase, "the proof is in the pudding." If so, please leave a comment, thanks!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Lesson #8 "At The Drop Of A Hat"

This phrase indicates telling someone you would do something quickly without taking the time to think about it.

This phrase is taken from the fact that if a hat falls off of your head, it falls quickly to the ground.

Consider the examples below:

1. If I had the opportunity to travel around the world, I would do it "at the drop of a hat!"

2. If I could retire early, I would do it "at the drop of a hat!"

3. If I could visit Paris France, I would go there "at the drop of a hat!"

This type of phrase is used often in everyday American English during informal speaking.

If you read this blog to learn English, please make a comment so I can know how to help you.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #7 "A Happy Camper" or "Not A Happy Camper"

The phrase "A Happy Camper" means having a contented feeling about service rendered to you or a state of satisfaction.

Background for the phrase:
A Camper is a person who sleeps in the woods in a tent or a camper type vehicle for the fun of it. Since they may be sacrificing the conveniences of home, such as no television, shower, electricity, etc. they are enjoying "getting back to nature" away from people, noise, etc. In this condition, they are "happy!" therefore, they are "A Happy Camper!"
However, if bugs, insects, rain, wind, noise, thunder, lightening, cold, etc. begin to cause them problems, then, they are "Not A Happy Camper!"

As used in everyday American English, we would take these meanings and use them to describe if we are happy about a service we received, such as in a restaurant or if we are not happy about the service we received.
Consider the examples below:

A. The food was very good, "I'm a Happy Camper!"

B. The service was terrible, "I'm not a Happy Camper!"

Saturday, May 3, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #6 "A Done Deal"

This phrase is used to describe that there has been a final decision, an agreement, or the completion of something.

Example 1:
The company spent many hours searching for the right person to do the job and now it's a "done deal!"

Example 2:
Joe is the driver for a delivery company and he has 15 important deliveries in his work day. His supervisor Bob is concerned that he makes all of his deliveries by a certain time. Consider the conversation below:

Bob: I think I'd better call Joe on the cell phone to determine his status, Hello Joe, have you completed your deliveries?

Joe: It's a "done deal" Bob!

Monday, March 31, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #5 "On The Same Page"

This idiom is used when one person is trying to make sure another person has the same understanding on a topic or is using the same source of information to eliminate any confusion.

Sample Sentence:

Mary: Hello Sue, I'm calling you on the telephone to remind you of the meeting we have for tonight at 7:3opm and the proper location, I wanted to make sure we were "on the same page" since this meeting is very important.

Sue: Thanks Mary, I really appreciate the "heads up" (notice) concerning this meeting, I hope to see you there!

Mary: No problem!

You can see from the conversation that Mary wanted to make sure Sue knew the proper time and location of the important meeting. The phrase was used to confirm that they both had the same understanding of the meeting.

Friday, March 14, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #4 "Up The Ante"

Background of the phrase:

This phrase comes from the card game of "Poker" where the amount of money in the winning pot is increased, the card player may say, " I want to up the ante $50.00!" Therefore, it has been taken to be frequently used in everyday American English to describe making something to increase in relation to competing against something else. Consider the examples below:

Example 1: If restaurant (A) offers a dinner for $15.00 and restaurant (B) offers the same type of dinner for $12.00 and includes a salad, then restaurant (B) has "up the ante" for dinner customers in the area.

Example 2: In the transportation industry, Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company "up the ante" by introducing the Model T Ford car into the market by offering it at a price that working people could afford to purchase.

Now if you hear in a conversation in the United States the phrase, "up the ante" you will understand what was spoken!
Please return for more everyday American English Phrases, and I invite you to offer your comments by clicking on the comments button below.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #3 "At The End of the Day"

This idiom is a relatively recent phrase that is being used frequently in everyday American English.

"At the end of the day" means after you have done all that you can say or do about something, it is an assessment of the results. In other words, what did you accomplish!

Consider this example:

There were two people who were in a bicycle shop to purchase the same color bicycle. The salesman told them he had only 1 bicycle in that color. Both of the customers insisted on purchasing the same color bicycle, leaving the salesman in a very difficult situation. After talking with his manager, the salesman offered a solution to the problem by offering to sell a higher priced bicycle for the same price to both of the customers. One of the customers accepted the offer, and "at the end of the day" both customers were satisfied!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #2: "On The Back Burner"

The phrase, "on the back burner" is used when the speaker is trying to indicate the priority or importance of the subject in relation to another.

Background: The object "burner" is talking about a stove top where there are 4 burners used for cooking food. There are 2 front burners and 2 rear (back) burners, usually the person cooking will have the back burners on low heat to be used for keeping the food warm.

The front burner(s) are used to cook the food that requires a higher temperature.

Usage: When someone is talking and use the phrase, "I'll put it on the back burner" what they're saying is, they will assign the object to a lesser priority, consider the conversation below:

Bill: Say Tom, I was giving some thought to the unusual weather patterns that we've been having lately. You know, when I was growing up, summer was summer and winter was winter. You knew what to expect concerning the weather. But now, the seasons are really weird!

Tom: I know what you mean Bill, I don't know the answer to all of this, but I do know that when some companies pollute the environment, it doesn't help. Furthermore, when they put their proper environmental responsibilities"on the back burner" for the sake of profits, it's enough to make you sick!

Bill: Hopefully, someone in upper management in those type of companies will see the light and put their environmental responsibilities on the front burner, where they belong!

As can be seen from the conversation Tom was telling Bill that some companies assign their environmental responsibilities a lower priority than their profits, since it would cost them more money to properly dispose of their hazardous waste.

This phrase would be used informally in everyday American English . I hope this will help some ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

How to Understand American English Phrases

ESL Phrase Lesson #1 "The Bottom Line"

Hello everyone! I live in Southern California outside of Los Angeles where there are people from many parts of the world. I have worked with people who are learning and using English to actively participate and communicate in American Society. To their credit, they do a fantastic job of living in the United States using a minimum amount of English and some cannot understand English at all. On the other hand, there are many people who understand formal English, however, they cannot understand American English that is used in everyday life. American English is filled with verbal phrases, idioms, proverbs and slang that is difficult to understand to ESL students. Many people who are not a native of the United States simply ignore what is being spoken. I can understand how it would be difficult to learn what was spoken.

Because of this situation, I have a passion to create a website devoted to learning American English, it is currently in the development stages. Therefore, I request any suggestions from you for my consideration to include in this website. I currently work with ESL students on a one-to-one basis and afterwards they are delighted to understand the meaning of various phrases. Actually, it’s really not that difficult, if someone gives you an understanding. That’s one the objectives of the website!

For example, the phrase: “the bottom line“ is a term that is used in Finance which means the point of profitability, that is, the point where a business will start to lose money. However, this term is used as a commonly used phrase in American English to mean the main point of necessity.
Consider the conversation below of how it would be used:

John calls his friend Tom on the telephone: Hello Tom, how’s it going? Say, I just bought a new computer and I have to get an important letter typed, you know I don’t know much about setting up a computer and you do. Can you come over to help me?
Tom: For you John, sure! You’ve helped me get out of many jams (difficult situations).
There’s a knock at the door.

John: Hi Tom, come on in. How’s the family? Tom: The family is doing fine! How’s your’s (family)? John: They’re fine, they left to go to my mother-in-law’s so I thought this would be a good time to set up the computer, it’s over here.

Tom: I was inspecting the items that came with the computer but the speakers are missing.

John: Well, if you could set it up without the speakers, I’d appreciate it, since “the bottom line” is getting this important letter typed, I can deal with (handle it) the speakers later!

Tom: Okay John, you’re “the man!” (an informal friendly way of saying you’re the boss!)
As you can see from the scenario above that the language used was very informal and casual and totally understood by each person.

After you have read this, you will now understand what is meant by "the bottom line” but remember to consider the context in which it is spoken, since it could have the literal meaning as used in speaking of financial matters.
I hope this helps someone, and if the response is there, I plan to provide additional mini American English lessons in this blog. Looking to hear from you!