Tag Archives: travel

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it

I stopped teaching when I had Alisa, but 7 months on I have a new student learning Russian and I’m really enjoying our lessons. On Saturday he asked me about words in Russian that can be used at the beginning of a phrase, or as a filler, but I know that once students learn a filler word it’s impossible to unlearn it – it crops up everywhere! So I diplomatically evaded this and my student said ‘OK, I will cross that bridge when I come to it‘, which is a wonderful phrase, and brand new to me!

The meaning is fairly clear – it’s about dealing with a problem only when it arises.

Here are some examples:

  • You’ll need to repave it every few years, but I guess you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it (Oxford Dictionaries)
  • ‘What if the flight is delayed?’ ‘I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.‘ (The Free Dictionary)
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Linguistic Spy nominated by MacMillan Love English Awards 2014

Macmillan Love English Awards 2014 blog

Dear readers,

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone who has been reading / following / sharing this blog. It means the world to me!

Second… I never thought I’d make it, but surprisingly my blog was chosen as one of 35 nominees by MacMillan Love English Awards 2014 and the voting is now open! I am particularly flattered by being together with The Economist’s wonderful Prospero blog – perhaps I’ll vote for them!

You can vote for the Linguistic Spy on this page (just scroll down until you see the list).

Many thanks in advance and have a great year!

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P.S. I am now back from my snowy motherland and I am looking forward to updating this blog as often as I can with lots of quirky words and phrases!

 

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To lock yourself out / in, continued

lock yourself out in

Photo credit: Getty Images

I wrote about these verbs almost a year ago, but today an opportunity to use them presented itself.

Yesterday I went for a run and took my keys off the keyholder. Today when I was leaving house to meet my friend I took the keyholder and when I got to the front door I realised the keys were not there. The front door was locked – I managed to lock myself both out (of my flat) and in (inside the house) – quite an achievement, isn’t it?

I phoned my husband who, luckily, works only 15 minutes away by bike or by bus and while waiting for him I had a chance to catch up on my vocab revision with Anki flashcards.

A few minutes later I heard a buzz. “This must be the postman delivering the parcel with my yoga blocks”, I thought. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Hello? Hello? Hello? 

Postman: …

(I realise this must be the postman who always wears headphones and sunglasses, and obviously cannot hear me).

Me: Hello? 

Postman: Hello?

Me: Hi! Sorry I cannot open the door – I managed to lock myself out of my flat and I don’t have the keys to the front door, but my husband is about to come and rescue me, so could you leave the parcel by the front door please?

Postman: Yes, I’ll leave it by the flowerpot.

Me: Thanks a lot!

 

Phew… My husband arrived just a few minutes later, I got reunited with my yoga blocks and was just in time to meet my friend. All’s well that ends well!

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Bob’s your uncle

bobs_your_uncle meaning

Photo credit: zazzle.co.uk

A few weeks ago my other half and I went to a medieval city of Wells, known for its impressive cathedral. This time we decided to go inside and explore the cathedral (not something we often do, since the entry to such places in the UK is by no means cheap). We were just in time for a guided tour, and even though I used to hate the idea of walking anywhere as a group, I started to realise that you learn much more this way. So in we went with our knowledgeable guide. Towards the end of the tour he used the phrase ‘… and Bob’s your uncle’, which at first puzzled me as I’ve never heard it before, but it seemed to mean something like ‘and here you go’.

Indeed, according to World Wide Words, ‘It’s used to show how simple it is to do something: “You put the plug in here, press that switch, and Bob’s your uncle!’

The origin of this phrase is, as usual, quite obscure, but you can find a detailed explanation on World Wide Words’ website and on Wikipedia.

I particularly like this bit: “It is sometimes elaborately phrased Robert is your mother’s brother or similar for comic effect. With his customary whimsical humour, P.G. Wodehouse (one of my favourite writers, by the way) extended it to “Robert’s your father’s nearest male relative”.

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In any shape or form

in any shape or form meaning

Photo credit: starsketchers.blogspot.co.uk

As you probably gathered from my previous post, I went to Paris last week, that’s why there’s not been many updates with new English phrases (I’ve just tried a typical British understatement – there’s been none, actually). However, I did learn quite a bit of French vocab, though I’m still not sure whether I should be sharing it here, I’ll have to think about it.

Anyway, when I came back one of the first things on my to-do list was to phone up the Hay Festival people and book some tickets – students can only do this via the phone, apparently. So, armed with a list of events I was hoping to go to, my student card and my debit card (students go free, but you need to pay a deposit), I phoned their number and one of the first questions I was asked was “Have you ever been to the Hay Festival in any shape or form?” I haven’t come across this idiom for a while, so I noted it down and carried on answering the questions. Sadly, all the events with Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins had been sold out by then, but I’m still looking forward to this event!

I thought I’d include a few examples of how “in any shape or form” (meaning “in any manner or under any circumstances”) is used. Note some slight variations:

– 96 per cent of the electorate voted against Europeanization in any shape or form (Oxford Dictionaries)

– BBC News arts editor Will Gompertz suggested that the four all “make work that is in some way, shape or form, a collage (BBC – oops, BBC missed a comma between ‘way’ and ‘shape’).

– The opposition parties know that the only way to break Labour’s stranglehold on Wales is to come together, or work together in some shape or form (BBC).

– It’s worth recalling that UN security council resolution 1973, passed last month, does not authorise member states to support the rebels, to defend armed groups, or to oust Gaddafi. Nor does it authorise an Iraq-style ground invasion or military occupation, in any shape or form, size or scale. But in reality, much of this is now happening, willy-nilly. Make no mistake: the creep is on (The Guardian).

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With a little bit of luck

with a little luck phrase usage

Photo credit: tripadvisor.com

First of all, apologies to the esteemed readers for neglecting this blog – there’s been too much going on these past few weeks (or months?), but hopefully things will settle down a little bit.

And now to some new phrases. There’s one in particular that I seem to encounter almost on a daily basis.

On Saturday I took a coach to London to see The Cure (they were awesome, by the way). To make sure I have enough energy left for the 3-hour performance I picked the coach that arrived 45 minutes before the start, so that I had just enough time to walk to the venue, but didn’t have to kill any time before that. But on our way I noticed ‘Long delays’ signs on the motorway, which didn’t bode well. And in due course the driver announced that there’s been an accident ahead, which caused a huge tailback. I was duly annoyed – I was now running late! I tried not to get too stressed as the accident was still quite a long way ahead. Later on it turned out that the cars had been cleared and the traffic was starting to move, and the driver added that ‘With a little bit of luck we’ll make it to London with only a 5-10 minute delay’, which we did! Phew, what a relief it was!

I heard the very same phrase today when I went to see the doctor. His last words were ‘With a little bit of luck you don’t have it and then you’ll rub your hands with glee and forget all about it’. I need lots of luck on this one, that’s for sure.

And if you care for some more examples, here they are:

– Now Americans have a high level of tolerance for inequality because they generally believe that the system is basically fair and that with a little bit of luck and even more hard work anyone can achieve a tolerable level of success and economic security (The Economist)

– Thank you for your support and for spreading the message. Keep doing so please. With a little bit of luck it will end up on Condoleezza Rice’s desktop. I know it won’t stop the war, but i am sure at least that she’ll ask me to do her portrait (The Guardian).

Speaking of luck, here’re some more ‘lucky phrases‘.

P.S. As you’ve noticed this phrase is a good example of British understatement – most of the time what you need is a lot of luck for all these things to be achieved!

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I’ll make my own way

i will make my own way phrase

Photo credit: toomanymornings.com

Last week I started giving Russian lessons to a student… actually, three students (I’ve gone from zero to three in a week!), but this one turned out to be an author of books on Business English. I was astonished! He showed me one of his latest books with basic Business English phrases and I wished I had this book years ago, when I was a student myself. Somehow we were never taught the ‘real’ English, but some ancient form of it (and I don’t mean Old English either – they’ve made us work really hard on that one).

There was one phrase in that little book that caught my attention – I must admit I haven’t come across this one before – ‘to make your own way‘, as in:

– Shall I send a car for you?

– No, thanks, I can make my own way.

And another example:

– Is it still possible for someone to pick me up, or should I make my own way to the airport? (Wordreference.com)

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To lock yourself out / in

lock yourself out or in phrase meaning left key outside or inside

Photo credit: monstermakethis.com

On Sunday night we came back from Green Man music festival in Wales. My husband went to take some of the stuff to our flat while I continued unloading the car. In a few minutes he came back with a slightly worried look, saying that we were really lucky our neighbour was in, as he had managed to lock himself out (and there’re only two flats in the house!). Well, if our neighbour wasn’t in I would have been, ahem, quite angry – after two days at the festival, a hike in the mountains and a 2-hour drive, hungry, sweaty and exhausted. That’s precisely why I always insist on taking both sets of keys!

When I asked my husband a couple of hours later if he knew the English verb for what he had just done, he said he wasn’t interested in learning the verb for something he would never do again! That’s quite a statement, if you ask me!

Anyway, depending on your location and that of your key you either:

  • lock yourself in = you are inside and the key is outside
  • lock yourself out = the key is inside the flat/house and you are outside (hopefully not for long!)

Let’s hope you won’t need to use this verb much!

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