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Thursday, July 21, 2011

mom and pop

Idiom: Mom and pop; used as an adjective

First example: My parents have never been rich, but they were always able to provide for us. I spent many happy days at their mom and pop restaurant watching them work and learning how to run a business. It was the only Greek restaurant in the small town I lived in. My parents were always there, and they knew personally many of the customers who ate there. When they retired and closed the restaurant, many of their customers cried.

Meaning: "Mom and pop" literally means "mother and father." It is a term used to describe a small business that is owned by a single owner or family. The business generally has only one or two locations. The owners are personally involved in taking care of the business. In the situation above, the writer's parents were always at the restaurant and the restaurant depended on their involvement to stay open.

Here is another example:

Second example: In my neighborhood when I was young, there were a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants. Most of these families opened small convenience stores to survive. These mom and pop stores were on almost every corner. Each was owned by a different family. When one family felt it had enough money or education to pursue other opportunities, it would pass the store on to a new family. This is how the Middle Eastern immigrant community took care of one another.

Meaning: In this situation, the stores are not always owned by mothers and fathers, but they are still individually owned. One family would start a store, and pass it to a new family when the first family no longer needed it. The store owners never combined their stores into a chain group. Each store was controlled by a different person/family.

This idiom is from LSI's book "Reading Horizons," which is used in the level 6 Reading classes. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

to give/get the runaround

Idiom: to give/get the runaround; used as a verb

First example: Terry was in a car accident, but it wasn't his fault. He called the other guy's insurance company to get money for his medical bills. Unfortunately, the insurance company wasn't helpful at all. They gave Terry the runaround and never told him what papers he needed to submit to get his money. He finally had to hire a lawyer to talk to the insurance company.

Meaning: To give the runaround means to give unclear information or answers about something. In this situation, the insurance company wanted to avoid paying Terry for his medical bills. Therefore, they wouldn't answer his questions clearly about the forms he needed to turn in. This idiom is often used in situations where companies or official organizations are unclear or unhelpful.

Here is another example:

Second example: Maria knew she was the most qualified for the promotion that was available at her company. She was extremely disappointed when she found out Sam got the promotion instead of her. Maria tried to ask several managers why she didn't get promoted. None of them would answer her directly. She kept getting the runaround and never found out why she didn't receive the higher position.

Meaning: To get the runaround means to receive unhelpful, unclear information or excuses about something. In this case, Maria wanted to know why she didn't get a particular position in her company. The managers, who knew the reason, didn't want to tell her, so they gave a lot of excuses or avoided talking to her. The managers probably didn't want to hurt Maria's feelings; this is often the reason people get the runaround in situations like this.

This idiom is from LSI's book "Speaking Transitions," which is used in the level 4 Listening/Speaking classes. For more information, please visit