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to work; to toil; to exert oneself; to work hard
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Keep in touch with us and learn new English words and idioms through our newsletter. Every month Alan Townend will send you a short essay on a particular topic such as advertising or money. The texts contain a lot of expressions and idioms related to the theme in question. With our newsletter you can both learn and smile as Alan writes his texts in a unique and humorous style. Explore the English language in a very amusing but informative manner and see just what fun learning can be. If you are concerned about the privacy of your email address, you can browse through the back issues of our newsletter before you sign up for it. Still got questions? Contact us on our forum. See you soon.
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Newsletter May 02 - 2006FREE email English course
Dear Friend,

About two years ago Professor Kate Burridge, who holds the Chair of Linguistics at Monash University, Australia, published a book called «Blooming English» based on some of the broadcasts about language she has made on radio. Now «blooming» is one of those adjectives you can take two ways: either it means coming into flower or blossoming (as my garden is right now — I'll come back to that in a moment) and it can also be used to mean wretched, annoying what you might call a very, very mild swear word. So we use it like this: «You are a blooming nuisance» (you get on my nerves) or «Once again I've missed the blooming bus!» So you can imagine its use in the title of this book. No doubt you sometimes would want to use a stronger word to describe how you feel about English. Referring to my garden and the blooming there (the horticultural bit) I have to explain that because of the current water shortage in SE England there is a so-called «hosepipe ban», which means you can't water your garden by means of a hosepipe.

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You can fill endless buckets of water, transfer it all into watering cans and then water the garden, you can fill a swimming pool in your garden, you can use a pressure water cleaner to clean your drive or patio — that's all right but you can't use a hosepipe to water your plants. What you might call blooming stupid!

But enough of that. Reading the good Professor's book set me thinking how many words and expressions originate in things to do with horticulture. «Everything in the garden's lovely» means life is good and everything is working well. «Life is not a bed of roses» suggests the very opposite that things are difficult for you. Mind you sleeping on a bed of roses, I would of thought, was not exactly comfortable. Two more rose ones: «Everything's coming up roses» — all is well and prosperous and «look at the world through rose tinted spectacles» — that's the attitude of the optimist who sees everything in the best of all possible ways. Of course the rose doesn't have it all its own way. Who do you think is a «wallflower?» She is the girl at the ball who's never asked to dance. And the violet? Well. A «shrinking violet» is someone too shy to express their opinions or views.

Back again to the garden which often has a path running through it. Now if you «lead someone up the garden path», this doesn't mean you're going to show them the roses but you are misleading them because you are going to trick or deceive them. And if you're in a place where people are making a lot of noise and behaving in a rowdy way, that's called a «bear garden» — you know, that's what happens sometimes when politicians start shouting at each other in parliament.

It's in the spring that we start to see the first signs of a flower appearing and at that stage it's called a bud. If you «nip something in the bud», you stop something developing before it takes hold like teaching children the dangers associated with smoking. As a «budding writer», you are a potential or future author full of enthusiasm. But of course we mustn't ignore all that green stuff everywhere called grass. If you're what is called a get up and go person, you always use opportunities to make progress — «you don't let the grass grow under your feet». Possibly you chase after some proposal that turns out to offer no better conditions than the ones you are enjoying now. There is a belief in that case that the «grass is always greener on the other side» and when you get there, nothing has really improved. Whatever you do you have to watch out for someone we call «a snake in the grass», who appears friendly but is ready to trick you. You might even find yourself «turned out to grass» — made to stop work earlier than you hoped because you're too old. Above all if you do something dishonest, beware those who might «grass on» you — tell the police about what you've been up to.

Now I won't «beat about the bush» — speak to you in an indirect way as I'll tell you what I intend to do. I've just looked out the window and my favourite plant looks as if it's «wilting» (becoming limp and weak) and so there's nothing for it but to start filling those buckets with water. Blooming nuisance!

Alan Townend

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Three letters for you?Too many words
In touchEverything in the garden is lovely
A funny thing happened...Briefly
Whose English is it, anyhow?Potatoes
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