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ESL Lesson: Expressions: In Order/Disorder

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Expressions with the word order or "Order into chaos"

In this story you will find words and expressions in the first half to do with order, tidiness and correctness but in the second half you will find their opposite — words and expressions to do with disorder.

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That is why I have called this story

Order into Chaos

Maurice Carpenter used to love order. Everything had to be in its place. You only had to look at his desk to realise that; there were three rows of pencils all lined up, two rows of pens and a pad of paper dead centre in the middle of his desk. Everything you could say was in apple pie order. His appearance also gave you a clue to his fondness for fastidiousness. His head was immaculate as there wasn't a hair out of place. His tie, as he always wore one even on holiday, was totally symmetrical.

Maurice had a very important job, at least he thought so. He worked for the district council as one of the planning officers. He and his colleagues had the responsibility to check whether the local residents had submitted plans for alterations to their houses correctly. Whereas the other two were fairly lenient, Maurice was a nitpicker, which is another word for a fusspot, which is another word for someone who insists that every detail is correct and all the "i's" are dotted and all the "t's" are crossed. People would sometimes have to wait weeks for a decision if their plans were not correct down to the last detail. He inherited this liking for precision from his father whose favourite saying was "There's a place for everything and everything has its place." He grew up knowing where everything was in the house. As a result nothing was ever lost or misplaced. His long-suffering mother knew her place as well. Heaven forbid if she didn't lay the cutlery in the right way at mealtimes. If a fork or a knife were even slightly askew, there would be a long lecture about tidiness. Correct car parking was another obsession that Maurice inherited from his father. Whenever he went shopping in a large supermarket, he would take down the numbers of those cars that were not properly aligned within the white lines and report them to reception. Most of the receptionists knew him and assured him the matter would be reported and then did nothing about it. At work he would also accept what his boss told him even when he really disagreed. He never stepped out of line. His boss knew he could rely on him to toe the line on every occasion. But all this stopped one hot July morning 3 years ago.

At precisely 8.36 Maurice arrived at work having parked his car in his special space and having assured himself that the car was bang in the middle. As he walked into his office he saw a young woman sitting by his desk. At first glance he thought how untidy and dishevelled she was. She was the complete antithesis of what a young woman should look like. Her hair was a mess, for starters. Her jacket was crumpled as well. Maurice found it difficult not to tut tut aloud at her unkempt appearance at least from the back. When he came to sit at his desk and see her from the front, something inside him snapped. He felt strange and this to him was totally out of order because he didn't usually take much notice of young women in the office especially if they looked as disorderly as she did. But she did have wonderfully blue eyes and a dazzling smile though perhaps her lower lip was a little lopsided. She had come, she explained to query a decision about the garage she wanted to be built next to her house. As she clumsily argued her case, Maurice found he was not listening but gazing into her bright blue eyes. His thoughts for the first time in his life were jumbled and chaotic. At the end of her explanation he found himself agreeing to her objection and even against his will he was asking her out. Within weeks they were engaged and not longer after they married in a small church with a crooked spire, which actually made Maurice laugh. They now have two children whose toys lie higgledy-piggledy over the floor. They run helter-skelter to meet visitors . I say "they" but in fact the younger one runs up to you in a zigzag fashion, the older one walks sedately. His mother is convinced that the latter will make an ideal planning officer. She said this once in front of him and almost as if he understood, he walked up to his mother and tried to straighten her tousled hair.

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Next:ESL Lesson: Conversations about English

Author: Alan Townend


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