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Thursday, April 20, 2017

To take a shortcut

Context #1

Tom:  Wow! The traffic is really bad on this freeway. I think we are going to be late for class.
Jim: Don't worry! Get off at the next exit. I know a shortcut that we can take.

Context #2

Samantha: This Friday me and my boyfriend are going to a concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I know the traffic on the 10 freeway is going to be bad around rush-hour. Do you know of any shortcuts?
Jenny: Yeah, don't go the freeway. Just take Pico Blvd all the way to the Staples Center. It will be a lot faster.

Meaning: "to take a shortcut" means to take the fastest or shortest route to your destination. It is often used when there is traffic or construction that may be causing delays. 

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Get out of here

Context #1

Sam: Guess what?  I got a new car.  I got a brand new BMW.
Chris: Get out of here!
Sam: Really!

Context #2

Sharon: I finally broke up with Matt.
Tammy: Now way. Get out of here!
Sharon: Really. This time it's is over.

Meaning: "to get out of here" is a common idiom that is used when you are surprised and don't believe someone.  It has the same meaning as "no way!"

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Friday, April 14, 2017

A Basket Case

Context #1

My dogs are my babies. I treat them like my children and they always have the best food, toys, beds, everything. I remember once when one of my dogs got sick. I was a complete basket case. I dropped everything and rushed my little dog to the veterinarian. I missed a whole day of work, I didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, I couldn’t rest or function normally until I knew my precious little dog was going to be OK. Luckily, she only had an upset stomach and was perfectly fine the next day. I realize now that I may have overreacted to the situation. 

Context #2

Jake is such a nervous student. He is also a perfectionist who expects perfect scores on all assignments, projects, and tests. I have known him since elementary school and I remember once in 5th grade, he didn’t read the directions correctly on a test. He missed 1 point on the test and became a total basket case. He didn’t play with us at recess; he only sat under a tree and reviewed his test paper over and over again! At lunch, he did the same thing! Now that we are in high school, he still puts the same pressure on himself.


A basket case is an anxious and nervous person who cannot function normally in situations where there is slight pressure, unplanned changes, or unfamiliar settings.

In Example 1, the writer became a basket case when her dog fell ill. In Example 2, Jake became a basket case when he missed a point on his test.

You can use different verbs with this expression:

You are a basket case!

Don’t be a basket case. Everything will be fine.

You turn into a basket case every semester during finals.

She was a basket case after her car accident.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Have second thoughts

Context #1

Getting married is one of the biggest steps someone can take in life and it is always wise to consider many things before making this huge commitment. Some people may say that being in love is the only requirement for getting married; others say it’s not that simple. Where will you live? Will you have children? Will you share household duties? How well do you know each other? Some believe the last question is the most important. If you don’t know someone very well, you may not be able to trust them or there may be some things in their past that you don’t like. There are many instances of couples who rush to get married but have second thoughts as the wedding date approaches. If you have many doubts as you move towards this great life step, perhaps it’s best to take a step back and reconsider.

Context #2

Sophie: I’m getting nervous. I don’t think this is a good idea, Margie.
Margie: Are you serious? We’ve been preparing for this for weeks! This is the only way we can pass our chemistry test. We have to cheat!
Sophie: It doesn’t feel right. I’m having second thoughts. Maybe we should just try and study more.
Margie: Are you crazy? The test is tomorrow. We don’t have time!
Sophie: What if we get caught? We’ll get a zero on the test AND be in trouble. We can try our best and get a score we deserve.
Margie: I can’t believe you’re changing your mind. You can go ahead and study. I’m going to get a perfect score on tomorrow’s test without you.

When someone has second thoughts, they are reconsidering their decision and there’s a chance they could change their mind. Their 1st (first) thought is their original plan/idea. Their 2nd (second) thought comes when they doubt their 1st one and begin thinking of a way out.
In Example 1 on the subject of marriage, the writer shares an example of a couple who rushes to marry, only for one of them to have second thoughts. Their first thought was “yes! Let’s get married!” Their second thought is now more like, “hmm, maybe this isn’t the best idea..”
In Example 2, the girls are preparing to cheat on an exam (1st thought), but then Sophie has second thoughts (maybe it’s not such a good idea after all). Sophie changes her mind and doesn’t participate in the cheating with Margie.
If someone has second thoughts, they might not always change her mind. If someone is having second thoughts about their wedding, it’s very possible they are just nervous but will still get married.

More examples:

I am having second thoughts about changing careers. I like my current job.
Jan had second thoughts about buying those shoes. Her bank account was nearly empty.
I have a sky diving appointment this weekend. I’m excited, but also nervous. I’m worried I will have second thoughts once I’m in the plane.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Play it by ear

Play it by ear: (1) Play music without reading from a score; (2) To do something instinctively; to do something without planning based on the circumstances.

Context #1 – Friends talking about an upcoming trip

Hanna: So what are we going to do when we get to London?
Leslie: Well, we said we would go to the major attractions during the day.
Hanna: Yeah, but I want to go out at night too.  Should I do some research?
Leslie: Let’s just play it by ear.  I mean, we don’t even know what it will feel like until we arrive.
Hanna: Yeah, that’s not a bad idea.  Let’s just play it by ear then. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

Context #2 – Two traveling musicians.

Jason:  I can’t wait for our concert this Sunday.  I can’t believe we’re opening for Black Violin.
Jose: I know.  I heard they always invite their opening act to play on stage with them impromptu.  What should we do if that happens?
Jason: We’ll just play it by ear man.  That’s the best way to approach something like that.
Jose: I guess we have no choice.  Awesome!  Wyld Stallyns!!!

Explanation: “Play it by ear” means to do something without any planning.  It could apply to music or any situation where there are no instructions.  Many people use it when they feel confused about life. 

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Get your act together

Get your act together: to organize in ways necessary to achieve a goal, necessity, or responsibility.

 Context #1 – Friends talking about relationships

Don: Are you seriously considering marrying your girlfriend.  I thought you said you had no job or plans for the future.
Jerrad: Well, she’s pretty great and she makes me want to be a better person.
Don: Well then, you better get your act together before her parents or friends disapprove of you.
Jerrad: I’m really trying to get my act together.  I don’t want to lose her.
Don: I hope so.  Otherwise, some other guy is going to take her from you.

Context #2 – Brother and sister talking about responsibilities in college

Kelly:  I’m glad you’re home for spring break. How’s college?
Devin: I’m not doing so well.  All the partying is keeping me from being focused.
Kelly: Hey, mom and dad are paying a lot of money for you to go to school.  You better get your act together.
Devin: I know.  I don’t want to disappoint them and I want to make sure I get a good education.

Explanation: “Get your act together” means to become responsible by taking steps in a positive/productive direction.  It means that your ideas are in many separate direction and you have to sit down, focus and complete the tasks necessary to succeed.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Second to None

Second to None: the best, better than anything or anyone else

Context #1 – A friend is asking his roommate about restaurants

Mark: Hey, Mannie. What are you doing?
Mannie: Well, I’m looking for a really nice restaurant. I’ve decided to ask Tanya to marry me and I would like to do it in a romantic restaurant.
Mark: Congratulations! You make a great couple! I know a perfect restaurant right on the beach. It has a beautiful view and the food is delicious!
Mannie: Are you sure it is the best restaurant in the area?
Mark: I guarantee you that this restaurant is second to none. You will love it!

Context #2 – Friends talking about a concert

Cassandra: Hey, would you like to go see that new band “Things Hidden” tonight at the coliseum?
Tabitha: Oh, yes! I heard they are the best new band out there!
Cassandra: They are second to none! No other band can compare.
Tabitha: Let’s go early so that we can get really good seats.

Explanation: “Second to none” means the best or better than anything or anyone else. In context 1, Mannie wants to take Tanya to the best restaurant in town so that he can propose to her.  Mark assures Mannie that the restaurant he recommended is the best, or second to none. In context 2, the band that the two friends are going to see is the best new band in town. 
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