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Newsletter July 06 - 2005FREE email English course
Dear Friend,

As those of you for whom English isn't a first language, you will know only too well that there are a lot of very simple words — sometimes just 4 letters long — that lead a double life. You look the word up in a small dictionary and are not quite sure which is which. You could come across a sentence like this: «He was sitting there very peacefully fishing on a bank.»

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And you might be forgiven for thinking that either the writer or the fisherman was crazy or as we can also say, «round the bend» because as far as you know that word «bank» means a place/a building where you keep your money. That's quite correct but it can also mean the side of a river. And that's not all. As a verb it takes on another life and means what a plane does when it turns at an angle and rounds a curve. So perhaps it's a good idea to get a bigger dictionary. But let's just stick to the one to do with money.

If you put your money into the bank or «deposit» it, you open an «account», which will keep the details of what you «withdraw» (take out) and what you «pay in/deposit» (put in). You can then write out cheques and the person you write the cheque out to is called a «payee». As a precaution used on all cheques nowadays they have two vertical lines down the middle and in between the two lines you see written «Account Payee», which simply means that the money can only be paid into the account of the person who is named on the cheque. Of course on occasion somebody may give you a cheque and then you discover that there is not enough money in that person's account to cover the cheque. Cheques like that are called «rubber» because they go back to the original sender and are said to «bounce» and never actually reach your account.

Although money and banks are serious subjects, there are a few expressions that are used in general conversation. There is an expression as the heading of this letter — «Don't bank on it» — and that means: Don't automatically assume that something is definite. For example you could say this to someone if you say that their chances of getting a job are good but they shouldn't take that for granted. Again you could be out for a meal with friends and decide it would be good to finish with coffee because: «That won't break the bank» — That isn't going to cost all that much more. It comes from the idea of someone winning so much money at a casino that the casino bank hasn't got enough money to pay and they have «broken the bank».

Banks like shops of course have their opening and closing times and in an age when there were only a few days available as public holidays, the banks would close. We have taken this idea and now use the words «Bank Holiday» to describe any type of public holiday. What happens then if you want some real money — some cash? You go to what is popularly known as the «hole in the wall» — a machine outside a bank into which you put your bank card and then tap in on the keyboard your «PIN» (Personal Identification Number) and out comes the money. The proper name for this device is an «ATM» and those letters stand for «Automated Teller Machine».

Mind you there are those who never trust banks and it hasn't been unknown for a bank to «go bust» — to run out of money and have to close. I once had a very old aunt who belonged to the disbelievers as she always put her paper money under the stair carpet. The only trouble was it was a very long staircase and whenever she wanted to go shopping, she could never remember the exact stair she had last hidden it under.

Alan Townend

Words, words, words...If you vote
Communicating with you?Don't bank on it
Read all about itAre you a persuader?
The way you write itNew year resolutions
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