Understanding and Speaking English Like an American Section One: It’s a Zoo Out There 1 – Smell a Rat (feel that something is wrong) * How come the front door is open? Didn’t you close it before we went shopping? * I’m sure I did. I can’t understand it. * Frankly, I smell a rat. * Me, too. I’m convinced that something is definitely wrong here. * We’d better call the police. 2 – Go to the Dogs (become run down) * Have you seen their house lately? It’s really gone to the dogs. *
It’s true that it has become run – down and in serious need of repair, but I’m sure that it can be fixed up to look like new. I guess with a little carpentry work and some paint it could look pretty decent. 3 – Fishy (strange and suspicious) When the security guard saw a light in the store after closing hours, it seemed to him that there were something fishy going on. He called the central office and explained to his superior that he thought something strange and suspicious was occurring. 4 – Take the Bull by the Horns (take decisive action in a difficult situation) Julie had always felt that she was missing out on a lot of fun because of her clumsiness on the dance floor.
She had been putting of taking lessons, but she finally took the bull by the horns and went to a professional dance studio for help. She was tired of feeling left out and acted decisively to correct the situation. 5 – Horse of a Different Color (quite a different matter) Eric likes to play jokes on his friends, but he makes sure that nobody is hurt by any of his pranks. A prank that hurts someone is a horse of different color! Being playful is one thing, but hurting someone by one’s prank is quite a different matter. 6 – Let the Cat Out of the Bag (inform beforehand)
Bob was going to retire from teaching in June, and the foreign language department was planning on presenting him with some luggage at his retirement dinner. He wasn’t supposed to know about it, but someone let the cat out of the bag. At dinner Bob acted surprised, even though someone had told him what he was getting before the official presentation.
For the Birds (uninteresting an meaningless) They went to a poetry reading, but they got bored and restless. As far as they were concerned, it was for the birds! They left during an intermission because they found the reading totally uninteresting and meaningless. – Straight From the Horse’s Mouth (from a reliable source) * How did you find out that Jill was engaged? I got the information from a very reliable source. * You mean Jill told you so herself? * That’s right. I got it straight from the horse’s mouth! 9 – Horse Around (play around) * Did you hear about Dave’s back injury?
The Body Has Many Uses 11 – Get in Someone’s hair (bother someone) * Children! Would you please stop making so much noise! And for heaven’s sake, pick up your clothes and toys! It’s hard enough trying to keep this house clean without your throwing your things all over the place! Clara, I know that the children get in your hair, but you should try not to let it upset you so much. * Listen, Jim. I can’t help it. The children bother me and make me very angry when they’re so noisy and messy. 12 – Shoot Off One’s Mouth (express one’s opinions loudly) Jim doesn’t play tennis very much, but he’s always shooting off his mouth about how good he is. Yet he is fooling nobody. Jim is somewhat of a braggart and everyone knows that he gives opinions without knowing all the facts and talks as if he knew everything about the game. 13 – Jump Down Someone’s Throat (become angry with someone) * That’s it, Greg!
You’d better not come in after midnight again tonight! * I know, dad. You don’t have to jump down on my throat! I told you that I’d make it home around 11:30. I don’t intend to be late! * Well, you’ve said that before and in your come at 2:30 in the morning. You can’t blame me for getting angry and scolding you. I’ve got good reason. 14 – Pay Through the Nose (pay too high a price) At last Mr. Smith came upon the rare stamp he had been seeking at an auction. Since many other stamp collectors would also be bidding for it, he realized that he would have to pay through the nose in order to have it.
After considering the increasing value of the stamp, he decided that he would not mind paying such a high price for something so rare. 15 – Tongue – In Cheek (not serious) * Why were you teasing Sonia about her new hairdo? She really took offense at what you said. * I didn’t mean to offend her. I was simply making a tongue-in-cheek remark when I said that it was too elaborate for a girl of her young, tender age. * Well, she thought you were serious. She had no idea that you were just saying that as a joke. * I’m really sorry. I suppose I owe her an apology.