Let's all bear with each other!
This expression came up in class last week. During a complicated explanation, I asked the class to bear with me ("be patient with me"), and then I asked them what that phrase meant, and they only knew about the animal bear:
It actually comes from the meaning of the word "bear" which means "to carry." I think the idea is to carry the burden of the communication encounter (when things aren't clear, the load gets pretty heavy on the part of the listener).
Let's all bear with each other!
I apologized to a friend the other day for flaking on him, and then I drew this cartoon. The phrasal verb "to flake on" generally means to cancel meeting someone with rather dubious or strange reasons, or it could mean behaving in a very strange, dodgy manner or being noncommittal in a strange and unexplained way.
The funny thing is I'm pretty sure getting flaked on metaphorically feels just as annoying as it would if someone were pouring corn flakes on your head.
Have a good one, and good luck out there!
P.S. If any of you reading this want to see a cartoon of your favorite idiom or expression, let me know by sending me an email. I will do my best to accommodate, and I enjoy a challenge.
I encountered this one at the CMU English Language Institute's Annual Poetry Contest:
If someone says this and they are not handing you a bottle of glue, then they probably just want you to stay wherever you are and not leave.
I looked across the table at the butter dish the other day, and this is what popped into my head:
For my non-native English speakers, when you "butter someone up," it means you do nice things for them or say nice and sweet things to them in the hope that they will do what you want. For example, you might compliment your boss on his hat or agree to read some pages from his new young adult novel so that you can get a promotion or be put on a nice committee.
Good luck persuading people today, but be careful because butter stains!
I found this cartoon from a few months ago when I had a bad cold. I was almost as frustrated as the guy in the picture:
Have a good one, and remember not to touch the T-zone!
I had a student in the spring who made a joke of inviting me to dinner with the class, and he even correctly used the expression, "dinner is on me." As he was explaining it to the other students, they started laughing about dinner being "on" someone like dinner can be "on" a table. I had to capture this idea:
Have a good one, and don't literally have dinner be on you!
Something funny happened the other day that made me think about the ideal mindset for language learning. I was joking with a student about going out and buying a jalopy.
"What is a jalopy?"
"Oh, it's an old, beat up car that's practically worthless."
"Oh. We have a word for this. We get it from English. We call it 'sick crab.'"
"Yeah. It's an English word."
"Oh. Hmmm... I guess those are English words, but they don't mean that in English."
"You don't know this English vocabulary?"
"No, I know it, I would just never use it that way."
Meanwhile, in my brain, the following conversation is playing out...
"They call a jalopy a sick crab?"
"I don't know. A lot of English words get borrowed and then re-purposed so that they don't quite make sense. Maybe it's like that?"
"That doesn't make any sense."
"It could make some sense. I mean, does it make any more sense than 'buying a lemon?'"
"I mean, maybe if you sat down to a fine crab dinner and then it turned out the crab you ate was a sick crab, and then you're like, 'Oh man, I ate a sick crab. I'm so sick now!' Maybe it's like that?"
Finally, one of them offers a dictionary that shows the spelling.
"Oh! Scrap!" (The word 'scrap' has only one syllable, but thanks to epenthesis, some ESL learners may insert a vowel to break up the [skr] cluster, resulting in two syllables, or 'sick crab'.)
We all laughed at the misunderstanding, but it made me think about the mindset we need for language learning. Sometimes, when learning a language, we might get frustrated with expressions that make no sense or with grammar rules that aren't consistent or with native speakers whose handwriting is too hard to read or with people speaking too fast. Nevertheless, sometimes we just have to roll with the punches, accept whatever language facts we run across, and just not fight it.
I notice this with children learning their first language--my three-year-old readily accepts almost any new vocabulary I teach him, and then he quickly busies himself with using it in new contexts. Sometimes I hear him using words he must have heard in a movie or in a conversation he was eavesdropping on. There is this kind of appreciation and welcoming of the new and foreign that we often see fade as we get older.
I guess what I'm saying is, sure, it's silly to think of sick crabs and jalopies (or lemons!), but sometimes we just have to run with it if we're learning another language and not get too embarrassed when we get it all wrong.
Ray Stantz was my favorite Ghostbuster as a kid, and I never forgot that scene where he "chose" the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Just like Ray in that scene, these images just kind of pop into my head when I stop to think about certain expressions and phrases in English.
Anyway, so a week ago, as I sat down to a particularly delicious looking pizza dinner, I said, "I'm going to go to town on this pizza!" and then I stopped to think about what my ESL students might think when they hear phrases like this. This was the image that popped into my head:
I drew more comics as I thought of more English expressions, and so I decided to make a section of my website devoted to these little sketches. I hope you get a kick out of them--but not a literal one involving a foot. Gosh, these things just creep up on you. Oh man! Creeping idioms! Like Night of the Living Dead or something... Okay, I'll stop.
If you have any expressions that you think would make a funny comic, drop me a message and I might try my hand at it, so to speak (or literally).
Hi! I'm Bill.
I'm all about making English more accessible to English language learners and their teachers. Click here to learn more about me and my site.