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Newsletter March 15 - 2011FREE email English course
Dear Friend,

Perhaps I should start off by explaining what the title means. I am referring to those small signs that show something has begun to grow in the earth. Throughout the winter the earth has just looked brown and boring (uninteresting) and you think nothing will ever come back again. Then one morning you’re out in the garden, you look down and there are these lovely little green shoots saying hello’ to you. Well. I’m being a bit sentimental about it, I know, but I am pleased that a new season (time of the year) called Spring has arrived. I am so happy about it, I’ve even given it a capital ‘S’! The poets get all excited about it as well. Robert Browning (1812-1889) starts his poem on a patriotic (proud of his country) note:
‘Oh, to be in England now that April’s there!’

You see, he was living in another country when he wrote that. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was even more carried away (enthusiastic) because he was delighted by the sight of daffodils, the yellow flower that tends (begins) usually to appear all over the place this time of the year:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.

But of course it’s also a time of the year celebrated by Christians during the festival of Easter. This marks the time when Christians show their joy (happiness) remembering that Jesus Christ came back to life after he had been put to death on a cross. Easter also refers to the rebirth (the coming back to life again) of the earth, which is what I mentioned when I was talking about green shoots. If you wanted to choose a symbol (an image) to show this new life, what could be better than an egg? And as far as children are concerned, a chocolate egg.

But before you start salivating (watering at the mouth) I have to tell you that I’m not going to talk about the chocolate type. I want to take that little three letter word and show you just how idiomatic and versatile (ready to change) it can be...

There’s a saying that advises you to put some money to one side for a rainy day. The idea is that you should have a little money ready for when things go wrong – that’s the rainy day. And of course in the UK you don’t have to wait long for one of those. This money that you keep safe to use for some future event (happening) is what we call a ‘nest egg’. It’s a pretty picture, isn’t it? This sum of money sits in a nest, all warm and safe and one day you take it out and spend it. Now if you do this for someone else and not just for your own use, you could be called a ‘good egg’. This is perhaps an old fashioned expression but can still be used to describe a very likeable person. It won’t surprise you to know that the opposite of this is a ‘bad egg’. This is someone nobody likes and it’s not difficult to understand if you’ve had the misfortune (been unlucky enough) to smell one.

As you probably know, Sherlock Holmes is a famous fictional detective. He is so clever that he can almost describe a person’s whole life – job, way of life, personal health and so on by just looking at them. Well, you don’t have to be a Sherlock if you see someone who has egg all over their mouth to deduce (work out) that this person has not only just had breakfast but also isn’t a very careful eater. But the question is what does – ‘He’s been left with egg on his face’ mean? It means that he is left looking foolish or stupid...

Imagine that you have insisted (said definitely again and again) that you are right and can’t possibly be wrong in saying that you spell a word in a certain way. You just keep saying that you’re right and everyone else has got it wrong. Then someone shows you the correct spelling in a dictionary and you are not only wrong but ‘you are left with egg on your face’. Are you any good at deciding what to do with some extra money you find you have? Do you put your money in just one bank or put it into several banks to make sure it will be safe and grow? People who tell you to put it into different banks are telling you that it’s not a good idea ‘to put all your eggs in one basket’ – you have to consider different possibilities in life and not just put all your energy (hard work) in one area only. But then not everyone is necessarily very clever like Sherlock or very careful with money. You can sometimes tell who the very intelligent people are by looking at their heads. They have a lot of forehead (the bit at the top) and the whole head looks ovoid (egg shaped). That’s why we call them ‘eggheads’. Now I’ve no wish to ‘over egg’ (talk too much about) the use of this three letter word but I must just tell you one more idiom – ‘teach your grandmother to suck eggs’. This is something you shouldn’t do because it means you are trying to tell someone how to do something that they know much better than you do.

I said just one more idiom but I can’t stop myself from adding yet another and that is ‘egg on’. Which means ‘encourage’. And this is directed at you – I would like to ‘egg you on’ to ask questions about all these idioms and even tell me about similar ones you may have in your language.

Alan Townend
PS: As usual, please post any of your questions on the forum here: What do you think about The Green Shots?

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