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     Volume 1 Issue 10 | November 25, 2006 |


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Learner's Club

Once In A Blue Moon

English often uses idioms and phrases in course of everyday communications. Read the following sentences.

Arun got into trouble for breaking his father's cell phone.
Now he's really in the doghouse.

Look at the pictures below:


The first picture shows the exact meaning of the words in italics. The second picture shows what the words mean when they are used as an idiom. An idiom is a phrase or expression. The words in an idiom do not mean exactly what they say. In other words, an idiom has a different meaning from the individual words it contains.
Read the following sentences.

Munni is very proud of her kitchen. It's always spick and span. On that particular day, she was sitting there with her sisters, having an idle chit-chat, when the news of
Munier's accident came right out of the blue.

Each group of words in italics in the sentences above is known as an idiom. The meaning of an idiomatic expression cannot usually be guessed from the individual words since the meaning of the group of words is different from the meanings of the individual words.

For example, the idiom, out of the blue means 'something totally unexpected'. It has nothing to do with blue or out of. Spick and span means 'absolutely neat and clean', almost spotless. Chit-chat means 'small talk'.

To find an idiomatic expression in the dictionary, you must decide what is the key word in that idiom. Idioms in a dictionary are defined at the entry for the first 'full' word (a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb), but not under any grammatical word such as, articles or prepositions. Idiomatic expressions are always printed in bold italic type in a dictionary.

Here are some sentences with idiomatic expressions. Decide what the key word in each idiom is and find the meaning of the idiom in your dictionary, and then rewrite the sentences in non-idiomatic English. For example,

For Salim, it was love at first sight, which means,
Salim fell in love at the very first meeting or the moment he saw her.

1. Hena's always reading. She will read anything that comes her way. She's a real bookworm.
2. From the top of that mountain you will get a bird's-eye-view of the town.
3. Shila was green with envy when she saw Nadia's palatial house.
4. He's so conceited! He just gets on my nerves.
5. It's strange that Sunil and James are such close friends for they are like chalk and cheese.
6. Matin has a razor sharp mind.
7. I am sick and tired of his lies and pretensions.
8. Hasan's new album is selling like hot cakes.
9. Nazmul and Ali don't see eye to eye on anything.
10. I want nothing more to do with your plan. I just want to wash my hands of the whole thing.

However, it is not enough to understand the idioms by themselves. We have to learn to actually use them in conversation or writing to make them part of our everyday communications in English. The following exercise would help us use some idiomatic expressions in proper contexts.

Put each of the following idioms in its correct place in the sentences that follow.

tooth and nail
cup of tea
pins and needles

a black sheep
once in a blue moon
1. A day labourer in this country makes just enough money to provide for his basic
daily needs. He lives from ________.
2. All his children have settled in Canada, and would come home only _____________.
3. All of Hamid's sons have respectable and honest jobs except Raihan.
Raihan wouldn't study or do any work and he is always in trouble.
I'm afraid he is the ____________of the family.
4. I like literature and music. However, politics is definitely not my ___________.
5. It's really very unfortunate that when the old man died, his sons fought __________
over his will.
6. I've been sitting in the same position without moving for a long time. I think I've
got ________ in my legs.

Here are some idioms which contain words that denote some parts of the body. Can you match the idioms with the definition given below?

A : Hello, Jamil! I hear that you're head over heels in love with Asma!
: Oh, come on! I' just met her once.
: I know. I was just pulling your leg.

: Rumi, do you remember the name of the movie we saw last week?
: Well, it was .... ah! Just a minute, it's almost on the tip of my tongue.

: You know, I went to Hasan for a loan of one hundred taka.
I promised to give it back the next day, but he refused straight away.
: That's not surprising at all! Everyone knows what a tight fisted
man he is!

Before we conclude today, here's another fun exercise for you. Read the news item below and replace each underlined word or phrase with an idiom from the Idiom Box.

Good News
Mariam would like to thank
everyone sincerely for all the cards
and letters she got while she was in
the hospital. Her leg is healing, and
the cast will be coming off soon. She
says it only hurts once in a while, but
most of the time she is in good physical
Idiom Box
a. lend a hand
b. as fit as a fiddle
c. from the bottom of her heart
d. on the mend
e. wind up
f. once in a blue moon


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