IDIOMS AND SLANG
Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them. American idioms are no exception; they reflect American culture at every social level. They are used in everyday life, in speaking and in writing, in movies and on television, and by people from all walks of life. Some of them may be unfamiliar even to some Americans, especially ESL (English as a Second Language) learners.
In this book, there are approximately 900 American idioms selected for ESL learners to provide them with a better understanding of American English. Learn them so that you may know what they mean when they are used by Americans, and use them in their right context in your speaking and writing in your daily contacts with Americans.
Each American idiom comes with a simple explanation followed by one or more examples, showing you how to use it. Make an effort to learn ten American idioms a day, and then review what you have learned over the weekend. Then proceed to learning another ten, and so on and so forth. You may not remember all the American idioms that you have learned, but, rest assured, they will come back to you when you hear them in your social contacts with Americans.
Learning American idioms is as important as learning the vocabulary, the sentence structure, and the grammar usage of American English. If you plan to stay in the United States, learning American idioms is a must.
Learning American idioms is a must. Here are some examples from the book:
Turn tail: run away
e.g. As soon as he saw the policeman, he turned tail.
Chow down: eat
e.g. The puppy is always ready to chow down anything you give her.
e.g. “What’s the damage for this hat?” “Twenty dollars.”
Don’t hold your breath: it might take longer than you think
e.g. At last the law might be passed by the Congress, but don’t hold your breath.
e.g. I think she’ll find a job soon, but don’t hold your breath!
Totaled: damaged beyond repair
e.g. My car was totaled in the accident, but the insurance company would not pay for it.
Learning a language takes time and effort, especially if it is not your first language. Even if it is your mother tongue, you still need time and effort to master it because almost every language has its own slang and colloquial expressions, and the English language is no exception.
Language is forever changing. What is currently acceptable or popular may be replaced by something else in years to come, and the use of slang is a strong testament to that. Slang is just an alternative way of saying something. It is sometimes hard to identify what is slang and what is not. Slang and colloquial expressions are often acceptable in informal writing because they are used in communication in movies, newspapers, radio, television, and other mass media The more you learn, the more you will know when to use or not to use them in your formal writing. No matter what, knowing these common everyday expressions is a plus for all ESL learners.
Here are some samples from the book:
Have it in for someone: bear someone a grudge; be determined to punish someone.
e.g. All these years he has it in for you: you married his sweetheart.
Not a patch on: nothing to compare with; very inferior to.
e.g. Your current proposal is not a patch on your previous one.
Hold one’s horse: wait a minute; not immediately.
e.g. Dinner is ready, but hold your horse; wait for the host to come down!
Copyright© by Stephen Lau