I’ve taught ESL students my whole teaching career (going on 5 whole years baby!) and in that time I’ve found that there are phrases in the English language that just don’t make much sense to English language learners.
*It’s raining cats and dogs?
*Break a leg?
*Lose your marbles?
No wonder it takes these kids years to figure it all out! Not to mention the fact that although I, an mono-lingual (is that even a word? I feel so inadequate that I only speak one language…) English speaker, can’t even keep up with all the phrases and cultural slang floating around out there. Here are just a few examples of my total confusion…
“Will Work for Mary Janes”
Yep. That’s the phrase I changed my MSN profile name to for a brief period of time in high school. I was co-captain of our high school’s color guard, our half-time show had a 50’s theme, and I was on a desperate mission to find affordable Mary Jane inspired shoes for the squad to wear. Hence the “will work” part.
Little did I know, until some friendly soul finally told me, that Mary Jane is slang for marijuana.
Wow. Totally not what I was willing to work for.
“Go Insane, Go Insane, Throw Some Glitter Make it Rain”
I’m def not a Ke$ha fan, but I love me some glitter…so I love the image of glitter just raining down from the sky.
<The image. I love the image. If glitter were really raining from the sky it would probably be too much for my little OCD self to handle. Major mess, for one. Plus it would take forever to get out of my hair, and I would probably be finding it for weeks. So don’t go throwing glitter at me thinking it will make you my new BFF.>
One day as I’m dancing around the house singing this line of the song, Chris informs me that I should stop and never sing that again.
“Why?” I say…”I really love glitter. It’s like a job requirement as a Kindergarten teacher for me to love glitter.”
“Because!” he stomps. “It’s a slang word for cocaine!“
Oh. Right. WHAT IS IT WITH ALL THE DRUG REFERENCES ANYWAY? A girl can’t say anything these days without inadvertantly referring to some type of illegal drug! It’s insane!!!
As I was writing this post I tried to look it up to see if Chris was right or just trying to make me stop singing. The answer is…lucky guess. I did find “Gutter Glitter” as a slang word for cocaine/drugs in general, so I guess the point goes to him.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, you should probably cut the following words out of your daily vocabulary because they also reference drugs: baseball, candy cane, cat’s pee, flaky, fluff, Ocean Spray, Angie (sorry bout ya if that’s your name!), Aunt Nora, blizzard, bush, zip, wildcat, turkey, toot…and so many others I can’t even list them all here. Visit this website for a more comprehensive list. http://parentingteens.about.com/cs/cocainecrack/l/blsldiccocaine.htm
“Up and Adam”
This is the one that actually inspired today’s post. Ugh. I hate that it took me 26 and a half years to catch onto this one.
All my life I’ve said “Up and Adam!” when it’s time for someone to wake up/get up. I’ve said it to my kids at school when they look like they are about to fall asleep. I’ve said it to my husband when it’s his day to take the dog out. I’ve said it to myself in an attempt to drag my rear out of bed.
Then, just a few mornings ago, I went to update my Facebook Status. I’m trying to motivate my fellow teachers / get myself going, so I type in “Up and at ’em!”
And then this is what happened in my brain. <Up and at ’em. Hum. Why does that feel familiar? Up and at ’em. Up and atem. Up and adem. Up and adam. ……..gears turning……recognition dawning on the horizon….wait just a minute there….UP AND ADAM?! UP AND ADAM IS REALLY SUPPOSED TO BE UP AND AT ‘EM?!”
So I did the only rational thing. I googled it. The proof was right there. I’ve been saying it wrong all along.
But, as a consolation, google also told me that this is a very common misconception. Not sure if that makes me feel better about myself or worse about Americans. 😛
“Living on Refried Beans”
Ah. The one that started it all. As a child I would belt out that Tim McGraw song at the top of my lungs, always wondering why anyone would actually want to LIVE on refried beans.
In case you are drawing a blank, no one does. Tim was singing about refried dreams.
At least it wasn’t a drug reference. (You can trust me. I looked it up.)
If you want to see a big ol’ list of American phrases, check this link out. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/american-phrases-and-sayings.html
If you want to make me feel better about myself, comment below on a phrase you’ve misused or misunderstood.
If you want to help me learn a second language so that I won’t feel so inadequate, buy me Rosetta Stone.
KEEP CALM & THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!