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Newsletter June 15 - 2011FREE email English course

Are you sociable? Do you like making conversation? Are you gregarious (like the company of others)? Are you the sort of person who likes joining in or taking part in communal (group) activities? A lot of questions, I know but what I'm really trying to find out is how you would be in a certain situation. Let me get to the point and set (describe) the scene. You have got tickets for a show because the star (the main performer) the person, we say, who has the name is the one you really like. It could be a singer or a comic. So you arrive at the theatre full of expectation (hope) and you are ready to sit back (relax) and be entertained (amused). Well, that seems reasonable (fair). After all you have paid for the tickets. But it isn't as easy as that... You see this artist doesn't really want simply to come out in front of you until you are in the right mood (state of mind). I mean you could be in a bad mood because you had a rotten (very bad) journey to the theatre, the train was late, you had to pay for a taxi, it was snowing and so on and so on. So what this star does is employ a warm up man. Now his job is to warm you up make you feel happy, make you feel contented and prepare you for the great star. He tries telling you one or two jokes in the hope that you'll laugh. He will get you to turn to the person next to you and shake them by the hand and tell them your name. After about half an hour of this banter (small talk) when he thinks you are ready to meet the star, he uses those famous (well known) words: And now ladies and gentlemen, I want you to put your hands together and welcome our star. What he's asking you to do is to applaud, clap your hands. Of course our warm up man could have asked the audience to give the star a big hand, which means applaud as loudly as you can... And that's the word I want to talk about 'hand' because it crops up (appears) in several expressions.

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In times of recession when there doesn't seem enough money to buy the essential (important) things in life, taxes go up and people lose their jobs. There are many ways in which people survive (continue living). There are those with so little money that they lead a hand to mouth existence they only just have enough money to pay for food for their family. What they would like to have is a rich relative (member of the family) who could put his hand in his pocket give them some money. Unfortunately we don't all have relatives with lots of money. You could of course go cap in hand to the bank manager ask very humbly (with great respect) for the bank to lend you some money. But then the bank manager has the same problem because his hands are tied - he too is unable to help as his boss is telling him not to lend any more money. There isn't much point in having a row (serious argument) with your employer and asking for more money. That would be like biting the hand that feeds you - being unpleasant to the very (exact) person who is helping you. What happens if you lose your job? I suppose you could turn your hand to something different try to do another job that's not the same as the one you have lost.

What are you like when it comes to managing (controlling) others, either at work or more especially in the home? Do you let your children have a free hand let them do exactly what they want to do? What happens if you do that is that they will soon have the upper hand it won't be long before they start controlling you and that will usually make your life a misery (you will feel very unhappy).It may be too late but in the end you will have to take them in hand make sure that they do what you want. The trouble is that if you wait on them hand and foot look after them so much that they never do anything for themselves, it won't be long before they are completely out of hand out of control.

'Experience' (knowing something because you have seen or done something before) is another area where 'hand' is used. If you keep your hand in with a hobby or a sport, you keep doing this so that you don't forget how to do it We call someone an old hand at something or at doing something or indeed a dab hand if they have practised a skill or a craft and know all about it as in: He's an old hand at sailing, which means he has sailed in boats for many years. Again: She's a dab hand at playing the piano, which means she plays the piano very well. By the way 'dab' suggests that you repeatedly (again and again) pat (tap) something gently as when people dab their eyes with a handkerchief after crying. One of the best expressions for saying that you know something or someone very well is to know them like the back of your hand, which I hope is perfectly clear and makes sense as you can see in: He knows exactly what his friend of fifty years is going to do next because he knows him like the back of his hand.

I expect by now you must want to wash your hands completely (have no more to do with) of these expressions but my only hope is that you will be able to use them yourself very easily indeed without any problem or as we say: with one hand tied behind your back!

Alan Townend

PS: I'm looking forward to your comments and questions which you can post here: Newsletter: Put your hands together


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