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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tongue in Cheek

Idiom: tongue in cheek; used as an adjective or adverb

First Example:

Helen: What did you get me for my birthday?
Rick: Tickets to see One Direction!                                          
Helen: You're kidding, right?
Rick:  No.  You said you liked them.
Helen: Yeah, but I said it tongue in cheek. I can't believe you took me seriously!
Rick:  I'll admit, I'm kind of glad.  I thought it was a strange band for a 35-year-old woman to like.
Helen: Yeah, well, hopefully you can sell them and buy me a real present.

Meaning: When an American says that something was said "tongue on cheek," it means that the statement is meant to be understood as ironic and humorous.  It can be used as an adverb (as above) or an adject.  In the example above, Rick believed Helen when she said she liked the boy band One Direction, but he didn't realize she was making a joke, so he bought her tickets for her birthday.  This is a common problem when Americans say things "tongue in cheek." Here is another example using the phrase as an adjective:

Jen: Hey John. How was your weekend?
John: It was great!  Like I texted you, I took my grandmother to the opera on Saturday, and then...
Jen: Wait, you mean that wasn't a tongue in cheek text? You really took your grandmother to the opera?
John: Yeah, she and I both love Bizet, and they're doing Carmen.  It's a great production.  I thought it was strange that you responded back with "LOL."
Jen: I didn't realize you liked opera. Huh, you learn something new every day.

Meaning: In this case, John told Jen via text that he was going to an opera with his grandmother, but Jen thought the text John sent was a "tongue in cheek" joke, so she responded with "LOL" ("Laugh Out Loud").   In this case, John was not being ironic as he actually likes opera.  Notice that this example uses the expression as an adjective, whereas the previous example used the expression as an adverb.

This week, we have been covering strange/humorous American idioms in honor of our new favorite blog,  Venezuela Sayings.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

To fall off the back of a truck

Idiom: to fall off the back of a truck; used as a verb ("must" being a noun).

 First Example:

Christina: Ooh, I like that phone.  Can I see it?
Salesman: Sure! And it's a great price! Only $100.                  
Christina: Wow, that's cheap for a new phone. Is it used?
Salesman:  No, it's brand new.
Christina: Then why are there pictures on it of someone's kid?
Salesman:  Maybe it fell of the back of a truck.
Christina: I'm sorry - I can't purchase stolen goods.  But thanks!

Meaning: When an American says that something "fell off the back of a truck," it means that the item is stolen property.  One common usage is like the one above, when a person will state euphemistically that something "fell off the back of a truck" to suggest that something is stolen without admitting to selling stolen goods (which is illegal).  In the example above, the salesman is telling Christina that the phone might be stolen, but without admitting anything wrong.  However, while the idiom was initially used to euphemistically admit that something was stolen, it is now sometimes used in everyday English to replace "stolen" even though no admission of guilt is being avoided.  Here is another example:

Maria: Wow, Daniel! That's a nice bike!  Where did you get it?
Daniel: I bought it from a guy in an alley in downtown.
Maria: Did it falloff the back of a truck?
Daniel: I didn't think of that; it was pretty cheap.  Think I should go by the police station and see if anyone has reported it stolen?
Maria: Probably a good idea. And who knows - if it is stolen, maybe the owner will give you what you paid for it as a reward.

Meaning: In this case, Maria asks if the bike could be stolen - a possibility Daniel hadn't thought of.   Of course, if he gets caught riding a stolen bike, he could get into trouble, so Maria suggests that he check with the police station to find out if it is stolen.

This week, we will be covering strange/humorous American idioms in honor of our new favorite blog,  Venezuela Sayings.

For more information, please visit