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Idiomatic Expressions - Part 2

Idiomatic Expressions - Part 2

 

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Idiomatic Expressions – Part 2


Hello! In this lesson, we will learn to use more idiomatic expressions. As we learned in a previous lesson,idioms are expressions whose meanings are not predictable from the usual meanings of the constituent words used.  

There are many informal idioms for saying hello. The most common way is to say "Hi!" The word "hi" is the informal word for "hello", and is suitable for most social and work occasions, except formal occasions or meeting an adult for the first time.

Other idioms that are used for greetings are "What's up?", and "What's happening?" which mean (translate: what is happening) , and "hey" which is a very slangy form of "hi!". In formal situations, the ways to say hello are "hello" or "How do you do." and if you are being  introduced for the first time, either "How do you do." or "Glad to meet you." or "I'm glad to meet you."

If something is very expensive, we sometimes use the idiom "It costs an arm and a leg.".  We also sometimes say of such an expensive item "It costs a fortune." or "It costs a small fortune." For example, Jennifer might say "Wow, we can't buy a new car. New cars cost an arm and a leg.". If a thing is very valuable in terms of money, we could also say "It is worth a small fortune.".

If someone asks you a question and you do not know the answer, of course you can answer "I don’t   know.". Idiomatic answers that mean approximately the same thing are "I don’t have any idea.", "I have no idea.", and "I don’t have a clue.".

If you think that someone has been keeping secrets from you, then they have been "keeping you in the dark.". In that case, you should pay attention. We say "Keep your eyes open." which means to stay watchful. You should also "Keep your ear to the ground." which means to listen carefully for quiet gossip or information which might help you.

This expression comes from the idea of people who used to put their ear to the ground to hear the sound of oncoming horses.

Several expressions use the metaphor of a book. Sometimes a person might tell you "I want to be sure we are on the same page.".This is an idiomatic expression which means the person wants to be sure that you both understand the situation in the same way, and that you both perceive the next steps to be the same. It does not have anything to do with real pages or a real book.

Sometimes a person says a situation is "an open book." or "Your face is an open book.". If something is "an open book", it is easy to see, and easy to perceive. Another expression is "You can't judge a book by its cover." which means that one should not make judgments based on appearances only.

If someone tells a joke, it is possible that you will not understand the "punch line." If you do not understand a joke, the idiomatic way of saying you do not understand is "I don’t get it." However, people also use the expression "He doesn't get it." or "They don’t get it." to mean that someone else does not understand the reality of a situation.  If you understand a difficult situation as it is being explained to you, you can say "I see." or "I get it.".

There might be a time when someone says something very rude. The person might say "I'm sorry. I put my foot in my mouth.". Of course the person did not really put his foot in his mouth. The person could also say "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for." or "That was unnecessary." The common response to such a comment is to avert your eyes for a little while.

If you go to a public place and need to go to the restroom, you will find that there are many ways of asking where it is. For both men and women, you can say "Excuse me, where is the restroom?". For men only, you might ask "Excuse me, where is the men's room?". For women only, you can ask "Excuse me, where is the ladies' room?" or "Where is the powder room?"

Some public places give their restrooms the names of male or female animals. For example, the outside of the men's restroom might have the word "Bucks" on it, and the women's restroom might have the word "Does" (pronounced "doughs")  on it. These are the words for male and female deer. This is never done to be insulting to either people or animals. It might be a place where those animals are prolific and provide a living to the residents there.  Some restrooms are marked "His" for the men's restrooms and "Hers" for the women's restrooms.  It is always  fine to go to the proprietor and say "I am not familiar with these words. Which is the men's room? Which is the ladies' room?".

Now that we have seen several new idioms, let us listen to a dialog.  Jennifer and David are in a restaurant.

Jennifer:  I can’t find the ladies' room. Do you know where it is?

David:  Me? The ladies's room? I don’t have a clue.  

Jennifer:  I can't wait much longer.

David:  Okay. I'll ask the manager.
(David goes away for a few seconds)

David:  Okay, I get it.

Jennifer:  You get it?

David:  The women's restroom says "Girls" on it.

Jennifer:  Oh, I saw that, but I didn't get it.

Jennifer starts the conversation by saying "I can't find the ladies' room. Do you know where it is?".Jennifer means she cannot find the ladies' restroom. She could have said "I can't find the ladies restroom." or "I can't find the powder room.". Some people call the ladies' restroom "the little girls' room",  but that expression sounds very immature. Even so, if you hear it, it is best to know what it being referred to.

David says "Me? The ladies' room? I don't have a clue.". David meant he was not the correct person to ask about the location of the ladies' restroom. He could have said "How would I know about the ladies' restroom? I have no idea." or "I don’t have any idea." or " I don’t have the foggiest idea.". He could also have tried to be funny by saying "That's above my pay grade.", which means the information is too advanced for his level of pay.

Jennifer says "I can't wait much longer.". A child in the situation of having to go to the restroom might say "I can't hold it." or "I have to go right now." which would mean that the child needs to use the restroom without delay.  However, among adults, we usually use the expression "I can't wait much longer.".  Children often say "I have to go potty.", which means the child has to use the toilet. "potty" is the child's word for toilet. Sometimes adults say "I have to use the toilet.".

David says "Okay. I'll ask the manager.". He could have said "I'll find out from the manager." or "Let me find out."  or "I'll ask somebody.".

David goes away for a few seconds. When he comes back, he says "Okay, I get it.". This means that David understands.  He could also have said "I see." or "I understand.". To say "I get it." means that he has understood a puzzle or joke of some kind.

Jennifer mirrors his comment by saying "You get it?". She could have said "You understand?"

David says "The women's restroom says "Girls" on it." He could have said "The sign on the women's restroom says "Girls.".  It is safe to assume that the men's restroom in this place would say "Boys" on the outside of the door. Other possibilities could be that the women's restroom would say "Gals" and the men's restroom would say "Guys".   

Jennifer sums up by saying "Oh. I saw that, but I didn't get it.". She could have said, "I saw that, but I didn't understand it.".     

Now that we have figured out what some of the idioms mean, let us listen to the dialog again. Much of English is idiomatic, so it is important to memorize idioms as you learn them. Listen for the idiomatic usages.

Jennifer:  I can’t find the ladies' room. Do you know where it is?

David:   Me? The ladies's room? I don’t have a clue.    

Jennifer:  I can't wait much longer.

David:  Okay. I'll ask the manager.
(David goes away for a few seconds)

David:  Okay, I get it.

Jennifer:  You get it?

David:  The women's restroom says "Girls" on it.

Jennifer:  Oh, I saw that, but I didn't get it.

Great!  You have learned a lot of idioms. English is very idiomatic, so it is important to memorize each idiom as you learn it. You will have a much better appreciation for what is being said if you catch on to the idioms the speakers are using. "Do you get it?"