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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"To hold your horses"

Dad: Come on kids!  Let's go!  We're going to be late.
Kid: Dad, hold your horses.

Let's go!  I don't want to miss the beginning of the movie.
Tom: Hold your horses!  I'm coming.

"To hold your horses" is used when you tell someone to "wait" or "hold on."  People usually say "hold your horses" when they feel like the other person is being a little impatient or too much in a hurry.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

To Break the Ice

To Break the Ice - Meaning: to do or say something when you first meet someone to make the other person feel more comfortable or relaxed, like playing a game or telling a joke.

Hey Amir,

My first day in school was great! I was super nervous meeting all the new people and teachers.
Everyone was in the classroom when our first teacher, Ms. Buell came in. She looked very serious and strict.
I was nervous, but suddenly, she asked everyone to stand up and tell each other about the most interesting place we had ever visited.
It was so much fun. I talked to four different people and felt much more relaxed after that. It was a great ice breaker.
After that, she started the class and I can tell already she will be my favorite teacher!

How was your first day at your new school? Let me know!


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Hug it out

Noni: I can’t believe you were so mean to me in front of all those people. I felt humiliated.
Chad: Really? I wasn’t trying to be mean. Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. Come here, let’s hug it out.
Noni: No way. That’s not how I solve things. I really need you to listen to what I have to say.
Chad: Not sure what to think. I’m not very confrontational, so it makes sense to me.

To “Hug it out” means to end an argument, or calm a situation, by giving each
other hugs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

To Cover [one’s] Tracks (used as a verb)

The expression, “to cover [one’s] tracks,” refers to the act of someone intentionally concealing or hiding his or her activities, whereabouts, or any evidence for the purpose of avoiding discovery.  Typically used in mystery stories, this idiom evokes the image of a nefarious criminal eliminating his “tracks” to avoid being caught by the police.

Situation 1:
“The killer attempted to cover his tracks of the murder he had committed by hiding the victim’s body in the forest.”

Situation 2:
“The cheating husband tried to cover his tracks by paying only in cash whenever he went out with his mistress.  Unfortunately for him, his wife was suspicious of his infidelity and had hired a private detective.”

*Note that in situation 2, the cheating husband attempted to conceal his affair by using only cash to cover his tracks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Snowflake (noun)

Situation #1: Two friends
Mia: George is such a jerk.                                             
Henry: What happened?
Mia: Well, he said something racist, so I called him on it, and I asked him not to say stuff like that, at least not around me. 

Henry: Did he apologize?
Mia: No. He said I was acting like "a special snowflake" and that I needed to grow a thicker skin. So I told him I'd rather be a sensitive snowflake than a racist jerk.
Henry: Wow.  

Explanation: When used as a putdown, "snowflake" means that a person is being too sensitive about a sensitive topic. Using "snowflake" as a putdown became popular after the movie FIGHT CLUB, where it is used to suggest that someone thinks they're special and is too sensitive. More recently, this usage has been embraced politically by conservative people when putting down liberal people who claim offense at potentially intolerant language.
Situation #2: Two friends
Chad:  Did you see that new comedy that just came out? I went with my girlfriend, and it was so gay.
Sam: Dude, don't call things "gay."
Chad: What? Why not?
Sam: Because it's homophobic.
Chad: What? I'm not homophobic! Don't be such a snowflake. You know what I meant.
Sam: I'm not being a snowflake. My brother is gay, and he's cool. If you think a movie is lame, call it "lame." Using "gay" in a negative way is just continuing negative stereotypes about gay people. And that's homophobic.
Chad: Ok. I get it. Sorry.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Take (something) in Stride

Take (something) in stride - To deal with something bad without much effort; to deal with (something difficult) in a calm way.

Two students are talking about the TOEFL class
Jay: Hi, Cheri! How did you do on yesterday's practice TOEFL test?
Cheri: Actually, I really messed up. I didn't even finish it, so I got a super low score.
Jay: Sorry to hear that. Don't you need to get a high score in just a few weeks?
Cheri: Yes, I do.
Jay: You don't seem very upset about your low score.
Cheri: No, I'm trying to take it in stride and just remain calm about it. If I freak out, it won't help me.
Jay: Taking it in stride is a good idea. If you want, I can help you study for the next TOEFL test. I got a high score yesterday, and I have the time.

Two friends are talking about another friend
Jack: Did you hear that Janet broke up with Bob and started dating his brother?
Jan: Really? Bob loves her so much. He must be so unhappy!
Jack: Actually, he is just taking it in stride. I saw him at the gym the other day, and he was playing basketball with his friends. He looked happy.
Jan: That's nice. I'm glad he is just moving on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

To have a good head on ones shoulders

Context 1
Jim: I like the new quarterback on our high school football team this year.
Steve: Yeah, me too.  He is a very good player and he seems like he has a good head on his shoulders.

Context 2
Sara: I heard we hired a new secretary for the office.
Amy: Yes, her name is Suzie.  She is a very hard worker and she has a good head on her shoulders.

Meaning: This American idiom is used to describe someone who is acts maturely and has good, sound judgement.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Stab in the back - Meaning: To betray someone

Hey Laura,

I am writing you this e-mail to let you know how upset I am with what you did!
I thought you were my best friend... I told you I wanted to apply for the new position as head teacher at our school.
I told you I was going to apply, but you went ahead and did it before me! I heard you got the job.
That was a stab in the back!
Congratulations... You got a new job, but you lost a friend.

Good bye,


In this example, Ericka felt betrayed because Laura knew she was interested in the new position. She applied for the job, didn't say anything to Ericka, and she got the job!

Ericka felt like that was a stab in the back and ended their friendship. How sad...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Square Away

The expression, “square away,” is typically used to describe someone who is
performing at a high level of satisfaction or expectation, and continues to do so now or for an extended period of time (Sit 2). It can also be applied to things, places, or anything of high order or discipline. It also means to take care of your
responsibilities (Sit. 1).

Situation 1:
“Before leaving on vacation, Charlie made sure that his room, bills, and work were all squared away.”

Situation 2:
“Victor is always squared away when it comes to doing his job correctly and in a timely fashion.”

Situation 3:
“The Louvre Museum’s security is squared away. They have all sorts of alarms
and sensors that can monitor the art displays, in case someone wants to touch it or move it.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Half-hearted (used as an adjective)

The expression, “half-hearted,” is typically used to describe an unenthusiastic effort or disinterest in performing a particular action. This expression invokes the image of a “half-heart” to show a lack of enthusiasm about a certain activity.

Situation 1:
“It was obvious from his half-hearted kicks that the boy did not share the others’ enthusiasm at playing soccer.”

Situation 2:
“After having lost their chance at winning the championship, the disappointed basketball players half-heartedly gave their opponents congratulations.”

*Note that in situation 2, half-hearted is used as an adverb to describe the degree in which the players gave their congratulations to their opponents.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Out of your mind

Out of (one's) mind (used as an adjective or adverb)

Situation #1: Two friends
Edward: What's going on with Tom? He's acting weird.
Jean: Oh, he's completely out of his mind right now. His girlfriend dumped him, and now he's acting crazy. But he'll be fine once he calms down.

Explanation: To be "out of (one's) mind" means that the person is not thinking clearly, and usually suggests that the person is acting crazy, as in the example above. In addition, the expression can be altered with certain words for additional meanings, as seen below:


Situation #2: Two friends
Frances: Do you have any plans tonight?
Bill: No, and I'm bored out of my mind! What's going on?
Frances: Let's get dinner then.
Bill: Cool.

Explanation: To be "bored out of (one's) mind" means to be extremely bored. 

Situation #3:Two friends
Kim: How was the party last night?
Jack: Not great. Steve got drunk out of his mind, and he tried to start a fight at the bar, so I had to give him a ride home.
Explanation: To be "drunk out of (someone's) mind" means to be extremely drunk, usually to the level that the person will not remember his/her actions the following day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

To be fire

To be fire: Referring to something in a positive way; a really good, awesome or amazing thing

#1: Two roommates are talking about a friend
Tina: Hey, Cal. Did you see Cheryl at the party today? She has lost so much weight.
Cal: Yes,  I talked to her for quite a while. She has also been working out almost every day because she wants to get in shape for her wedding.
Tina: Well, she doesn't need to worry. She looks gorgeous!
Cal: I know! She is fire!

#2: Two friends are eating at a new restaurant

Jason: This restaurant is great! Thanks for inviting me.
Jen: It is. I heard about it from a friend who eats here all the time.
Jason: I don't blame her. This food is fire!
Jen: It's so delicious. We should come here again tomorrow!

Explanation: "To be fire" means that something or someone is really awesome or amazing. Something is really cool if it is fire. In conversation #1, two friends are talking about how beautiful Cheryl looks. In conversation #2, the food at the restaurant is really delicious.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"To have a short fuse"

Context #1
Sara: I think I am going to break up with my boyfriend.
Tammy: Really?  Why?
Sara: He gets angry so easily.  One little thing gets him upset.
Tammy: Yeah, I have noticed that he has a short fuse.


Context #2
Chris: When I was in the 4th grade, I had this teacher named Mr. Wilson.  He would explode with anger over really small things.
Ryan: Wow!  It sounds like he had a really short fuse.
Chris:  He sure did!

Meaning: "to have a short fuse" is used when someone gets angry really easily or quickly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

To Tie the Knot

Meaning:  To get married

Hi Karla,

I hope you had a great vacation! A lot happened here while you were is Costa Rica!
Michelle went to Florida for a few days, Vini bought that car he wanted, and... what else? Ah, guess what?! Lina and John tied the knot last week!
I am so happy for them. I saw some pictures and they looked fabulous.
Well, I hope to see you soon and hear all about your trip! Call me when you have a chance.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Melissa: I’m trying to get Jon to move in with me, but he says he prefers living
with you as a roommate.
Aaron: It’s great living with Jon. It’s like we never left college.
Melissa: You guys are such Kadults. When are you going to grow up. That’s why you don’t have a girlfriend.
Aaron: Blame our parents, they loved us too much.
Melissa: You guys need to become men. Playing video games all day is so

Kadult means you are a grown adult, but still act like a kid (child)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ball in (your) Court (used as an expression)

The expression, “the ball’s in (your) court,” is typically used to express that it is now the other person’s turn to commit to the next move.  This expression comes from the game of tennis, where it is now the opponent’s turn to perform the next action.  This is usually a follow-up expression where the first person had already initiated the first action and it is now the other person's turn to react to it.

Situation 1:
“The salesman provided the customer with all of the information and details about the product and also offered him a great discount as well.  The ball is now in the customer’s court to decide if he wants to buy it or not.”

Situation 2:
Mary:     “My boyfriend and I have been together for about 10 years now and I think I’m ready to take it to the next level.  We both have good jobs now and we both still love each other very much.”
Lisa:    “Have you tried asking him if he wants to start a family together?”
Mary:    “I did and he said he needed a bit more time to think about it.”
Lisa:    “Okay, then it sounds like the ball is in his court now.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tag along

Tag along (used as a verb, adjective or noun)

Situation #1: Two friends

Kate: I'm so excited. I'm going to check out that new horror movie!
Chris: Really? I've been wanting to see that. Mind if I tag along?
Kate: Not at all! Let's go!

Explanation: "Tag along" means to go with someone. When used as a verb, it's usually asked in a question (as in the above example, or if Kate had asked "Would you like to tag along?"). However, when used as an adjective or noun, "tag along" (or sometimes "tagalong" or "tag-along") is usually more negative, suggesting that the person is following another in a constant and possibly annoying way, as seen in the next example:

Situation #2: Two friends
Brie: Have you seen Valerie?
Kim: No, why?
Brie: Well, I'm avoiding her. She is such a tagalong! She follows me everywhere, and it's getting annoying!
Kim:  She doesn't seem like she's that annoying.
Brie: She followed me into the bathroom earlier, even though she didn't have to go, and then she followed me to my class, even though her class was on the other side of the building! I don't need a tag-along friend!
Kim:  Uh...
Valerie:  Hey guys! What are you talking about?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Meaning: Fun or exciting

Dialogue #1: Karla and Trey are at a big house party in LA.
Trey: Hey, Karla! How's it going?
Karla: Oh, hi Trey. Great! How about you?
Trey: I'm good. Isn't this party lit?
Karla: Yes! I'm having so much fun!
Trey: Me, too. Tom's parties are always exciting.

Dialogue #2: Pam and Terry are talking about a new movie.
Pam: Have you seen the new James Bond movie?
Terry: Yes, I went last night. It was lit!!
Pam: Really? I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard it's awesome. I can't wait to go this weekend.

Explanation: The term lit has meant "drunk or intoxicated" for over a century. However, recently its meaning has changed to "exciting," as well as "excellent" or "awesome." In the first dialogue, Karla and Trey are talking about the party as being lit or really exciting. In dialogue #2, Terry tells Pam that the new James Bond movie is lit or awesome.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

To hit the nail on the head

Context #1
Jill: I like John, but there is something a little strange about him.
Jane: Yeah, he always wears the same shirt.
Jill: You know what? That's it! You hit the nail on the head!

Context #2
Tom: People in Southern California drive so dangerously on the freeway. I wonder why?
Joe: Well, people could avoid a lot of accidents if they just used their turn signals when changing lanes.
Tom: Exactly! You hit the nail on the head!

Meaning: "to hit the nail on the head" is used when someone has an opinion or an idea and it is exactly right.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"To get something/someone out of someone's head"

Meaning: to stop thinking about something or someone

Example 1
Hey Lina, I love that song you played for me yesterday! What is it called?
I can't get it out of my head! I really want to add it to my playlist!
Let me know as soon as you get this text! This is driving me crazy!

Example 2 
John, I had a great time with you last week at the party. I know we are friends, but... I think about you all the time.
I think I am falling in love with you. I can't get you out of my head. Do you feel the same way?
I am so embarrassed to ask, but I need to know. ?? xoxo, Anne.

Notice that in both text messages Anne is having a hard time not thinking about something or someone.
In the first example, she is asking her friend to let her know the name of A SONG she can't GET OUT OF HER HEAD! She can't stop playing the song in her head.
In the second example, she is letting her friend know she can't stop thinking about him... She can't GET HIM OUT OF HER HEAD because she is probably in love with him! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Jay:  How was your trip?  Did you take any pictures?
Mina:  It was great, but the photos weren’t that great.  I’m just not selfigenic.
Jay:  How can you fail at that?  I mean, it’s not that difficult because you can actually see yourself on the screen.
Mina:  I don’t know.  I’m just not good at any photos.  Even if I can see myself, it’s difficult not to look awkward.
Selfigenic means to have a good appearance in a selfie.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Patch (Things) Up (used as a verb)

Situation 1:
“Tom and Jerry used to be best friends when they were little.  Unfortunately, when they became older, they both got into a disagreement with one another because they liked the same girl.  Eventually, they patched things up and decided that their continued friendship was more important.”

Situation 2:
Susan:  “I thought Tom and Jerry hated each other.  Usually I see them arguing with one another despite having been childhood friends.  Today, they seem to be enjoying each other’s company.”

Peter:    “They fought over a girl awhile back, but apparently, they patched up their differences and became best friends again.”
To patch things up means to deal, repair, or reconcile one’s differences.  This is typically treated as a phrasal verb and used to communicate the resolution of a disagreement or conflict.  Both of the situations above communicated how Tom and Jerry resolved their differences and became friends again.  In situation 2, the alternative form of patch up (their) differences is also commonly used to express the same idea.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Lightweight (used as an adjective)

Situation #1: Two friends
Brant: Do you want another cocktail?
Jean: Nah, I'm ok. I'm a total lightweight.
Brant: But you've only had one?
Jean: I know, but if I have another drink, I won't be able to walk out of here.

Explanation: "Lightweight" has a number of meanings. Most commonly, it's used for a category of boxers who don't weigh very much. It can also be used to describe a material, such as in a lightweight jacket. Informally, it can also be used to describe someone who can't "hold their liquor," another idiom for a person who gets drunk very easily.

Situation #2: Two coworkers
Sharon: Hey, Brian. How was the office Christmas party?
Brian: Oh, you should have been there! It turns out, Karen is a lightweight.
Sharon: Really? What happened?
Brian: She got completely wasted and started dancing on the table! I think she was going to start stripping for the boss before someone got her down.
Sharon: You're right; I wish I hadn't stayed home. That sounds hilarious!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

To Bounce

To Bounce: To leave; to depart

Situation #1: Two friends are at a party
Sam: This party is so boring!
Rachel: Yes, I know. I guess the speakers are broken, so they can't play any music. Everyone is just sitting around looking at each other.
Sam: Well, if we can't dance or talk to anyone, let's bounce!
Rachel: OK. That sounds good. I want to find something fun to do!
Situation #2: Two people are having a date at a restaurant
Kim: This is such a beautiful restaurant, and the food is delicious!
Calvin: I also love the view of the beach. I could just sit here all night.
Kim: Me, too.
Calvin: I think we are the last two people in the restaurant, and they are closing.
Kim: That's too bad. I guess we had better bounce before they kick us out.

In situation 1, the two friends are really bored at a party, so they decide to leave or bounce. In situation 2, the restaurant is closing so the couple has to leave. The word "bounce" can be used in many different ways, but a lot of people use it as a slang term to say they want to leave a place. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

To have a blast

To have a blast: To have a great time

Postcard from Soyoun, who is studying English in LA, and her friend Maria, who is from Spain.
Hey Maria,
How is everything in Spain? We miss you! This week is our vacation and I am joining some of our classmates on a day trip to Santa Barbara. There are some new students from Japan, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia! They are all very nice :-) Yesterday we went to Disneyland and we had a blast! It was my first time there and I can't believe how much fun it was! Please come to visit us soon! Love from LA!

Two friends talking after vacation

Jim: Hi, Kate. Where did you go on vacation?
Kate: We went hiking at Big Bear. It was so beautiful.

Jim: Wow. Do you like hiking in the summer?
Kate: Of course! We had a blast! We got to exercise and see some amazing views!

Meaning: To have a blast means to have a really good time doing something. In the postcard, Soyoun describes a trip to Disneyland where she had a lot of fun. In the conversation, Kate tells Jim that she had a blast, or had a lot of fun, hiking at Big Bear mountain.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Straight Fire

Pete: Yo Josey, did you watch last night’s World Cup match?
Josey: No why? Did something great happen?
Pete: Dude, Neymar scored a goal from sixty meters. That kid is straight fire.
Josey: If he keeps playing like that, he’ll never stop being popular.

Jessica: OMG! The new eating adventure show is straight fire; I can’t stop watching it.
Barry: It’s so true! My parents and I watch it every night. It’s so addicting.
Jessica: Let’s hope it continues with such great content.
Barry: Yes, let’s hope it keeps trending.

Straight fire is used as an adjective to describe someone/something that is currently trending, or super popular. People use it in a positive context to denote admiration of a specific characteristic or skill.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Chat Abbreviations

In today’s world of instant chatting technology, there are literally thousands of instant messaging apps out there!  From Whatsapp, WeChat, Line, and Facebook’s Instant Messenger, the English language itself has evolved into a more tech-friendly language.  Welcome to the world of chat abbreviations

Chat abbreviations are basically short-hand abbreviations for commonly used words and phrases.  Rather than typing the entire word, people often use these shortenings when they text each other.  Below is a list of some of the most common chat abbreviations and acronyms.  These are just a few that you might encounter and are also extremely easy to use!  Happy texting!
QT        “Cutie” 
BFF       “Best friend forever”
LOL       “Laugh out loud”                
BRB       “Be right back”
GR8       “Great”                        
BRT       “Be right there”
IMU       “I miss you”                    
CUS       “See you soon”
CU         “See you”                   
XOXO    “Hugs and kisses”
F2F       “Face to face”                    
IDK       “I don’t know”
WYWH  “Wish you were here”               
IRL       “In real life”
TIX       “Tickets”                    
IDC       “I don’t care”
JK         “Just kidding”                    
L8R       “Later”
UR        “You are / You’re”               
OIC       “Oh, I see”

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Sketchy (adjective): someone or something that seems strange, bad or potentially dangerous

Situation #1: A mother and son
Mom: Have you talked to your dad today?
Son: No. Why?
Mom: Well, he's acting kind of strange. Like, he's been really secretive about where he's going.
Son: Don't worry, Mom. He's not doing anything sketchy.
Mom: How do you know?
Son: Well, I don't want to ruin the surprise, but you know what Friday is.
Mom: Hmm... Oh, it's our anniversary. Is he planning something?
Son: I can't tell you!
Explanation: While the word "sketch" means to draw, "sketchy" means someone or something seems strange, bad or potentially dangerous. In this first example, the mother is concerned that her husband is acting strangely, but her son assures her that he's not doing anything sketchy, or potentially inappropriate, by suggesting that he is planning something for their anniversary.

Situation #2: Two friends

Val: Are you going to the party at Tom's?
Frances: Probably not.                                                     
Val: Why not?
Frances: He lives in a sketchy neighborhood. Last time I left his place to go home, I thought I was going to get robbed.
Val: Then come with me. We'll be safer if we're together.                                

Explanation:  In this example, Frances calls the neighborhood "sketchy," which means she thinks it might be dangerous.

The bridge photographed by Maria Ly looks pretty sketchy. Would you cross it?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Throw Shade (on/at someone)

To throw shade on/at someone - to publicly show disapproval, disrespect, or dislike for someone but often in an indirect way

Context 1: Two friends are talking about Hollywood actresses
Kendall: Did you hear what Reese Witherspoon said when she accepted her award last night? She totally threw shade at Kim Kardashian.
Dina: No, what did she say?
Kendall: She said that it is possible to make it in Hollywood without doing a reality show, and if you ever made a sex tape, you should be embarrassed about it!
Dina: Woah!
Kendall: Yes, and of course everyone knew who she was talking about.
Dina: I think actresses like to throw shade at each other!

Context 2: Two people watching a talk show on TV
Chris: Wow! That little 5-year old is throwing shade at the President of the United States!
James: Oh, I wasn't watching. What happened?
Chris: Well, this kid knows everything about geography and can recognize any country's shape or flag, even the smallest country far away.
James: OK. But what does that have to do with the president?
Chris: The kid was drawing a bunch of different countries and when it came to Russia, he drew a picture of the president on it!
James: Woah. Even a 5-year old is aware of all the drama in the white house, but his parents probably helped him throw shade at the president!

To see the original video, click the link below:

5 year-old geography expert throws shade at President Trump

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

To be (all) set

Context #1

Tom: "We have a big exam today.  Are you ready for it?"
Sam: "Yeah, I studied all night.  I'm all set."

Context #2
Kathy (on the phone): "Hey Jane, I'm on my way and I'll be there in about 10 minutes to pick you up.
Jane: "No problem.  I'm all set and ready to go."

Meaning: "to be (all) set" is an American idiom that is used to express the meaning of being ready and prepared for something.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Example 1: Two friends discussing weekend plans
Barry: What are you doing this weekend?
Iris: I’m going out with (my) bae to the beach.
Barry: Oh, I didn’t know you were in a relationship.
Iris: My bae is all I think about.

Example 2:
Nusret: I’m going to start a steak house
Henry:  Why? What’s so special about the meat you will sell compared to others?
Nusret:  I will only buy the best, most expensive meat, and perform for my clients by pouring salt in a fun way.
Henry:  Is it a gimmick?
Nusret:  No, it’s entertainment.  I’ll film the videos and attract people to come.  No one has ever done it.  I’ll be the first, before anyone else.  I will call myself “Salt Bae.”


Bae is an acronym for “Before Anyone Else.”  It’s more typically used to describe someone’s significant other (Example 1).  However, many people think it means baby or babe, but that’s incorrect.  It means to do something first that no one else has.