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ESL Student Blog
Language points (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciaton) that are worth noticing for ESL students around the world.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

ESL Student Blog: Recognizable Idioms

Although idioms are fixed expressions (the words that make them up can’t be moved around or replaced with other words), some of them do go through a ‘makeover’ (change).

Are you familiar with the expression 'one man's trash is another man's treasure'? This expression means that the thing that is useless for one person can be valuable for another person. For example, if Bob wants to get rid of his old chair and puts it at the curb of his house for garbage collection, Peter may want to take it home and fix it up. For Danny that old chair is trash, but for Peter the same chair is treasure.

Can you see how this idiom takes a new look in the quote of the bestselling British author Kathy Lette:

"One woman's trash is another woman's treasure — how else do you explain second marriages?"

Funny, don’t you think? One woman refuses to stay in marriage with a certain man, but another woman finds him a godsend.

Here is another version of the same expression in a newspaper title:

One seller's loss is another cellar's gain in B.C.
Cellar is a wine cellar, a room used for wine storage. B.C. stands for British Columbia, a Canadian province. The story was about a winemaker whose efforts to grow grapes (for wine making) weren’t successful, whereas another wine maker was able to find a good solution and made a fortune by growing grapes on the same piece of land.

Here is another example of an idiom that has changed its look, but kept the meaning. This is an advertisement by Microsoft:

Teach your phone new tricks.

What is the original idiom that was used as the basis for that advertisement? Can you recognize it? What does this expression mean?

Answer Key:

This expression comes from: ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, which means it’s very difficult to change the way someone does something if that person has been doing it for a very long time. For example, it may be difficult to convince your grandma to pay bills online through Internet rather than at the bank.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 10:15 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Monday, December 01, 2008

ESL Student Blog: A Note on Number Reading

Students often confuse ordinal numbers (referring to objects put in order, e.g. 50th) and numbers referring to the years in a decade (in 50s).

This is his 50th (fiftieth) birthday. (he’s had 49 birthdays so far, this is the next in order)

She immigrated in the 1950s (nineteen fifties). (sometime between 1951 to 1959)
Practice pronouncing the endings of the following numbers clearly:

This is her 20th (twentieth) grandchild!
She is in her early 20s (twenties).
They live on the 30th (thirtieth) floor.
We bought this house in the 30s (thirties).
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 12:12 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment


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