English Lessons


Some Common English Idioms, Part III

This is the last part in our three-part Yabla series about sayings in English (called "idioms") that are not always so easy to understand, but that you will often hear native English speakers say. 


But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.

Caption 11, Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do

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To do something "in the nick of time" means to do it at the last possible moment. This comes from a 17th century meaning of "nick" that is otherwise no longer used, which means "a critical moment." Thus "in the nick of time" means "at a critical moment in time." 


Having a serious deadline like that it caused

the whole team, to really buckle down and get it together.

Captions 43-44, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

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To "buckle down" means to "start working hard." Its origin is American, where it first appeared in print in the mid-19th century. The idiom "get it together" is probably related to the phrase to "get your act together," which means to get organized so that you can accomplish something effectively. 


And I am sick and tired of my phone ringing.

Caption 58, Lady Gaga - Telephone, featuring Beyoncé

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This doesn't really mean that somebody is either ill or exhausted, but rather that something is annoying or getting on their nerves. It probably originated in North America in the 18th century.


You better step your game up on that.

Caption 40, Java - The "Java Life" Rap Music Video

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To "step up your game" means to improve your skills. This probably started as a phrase used in sports, but is now commonly used for any subject. 


You keep your nose out of this.

Caption 36, Dream to Believe - aka Flying

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The phrase "to stick your nose in somebody's business" means to involve yourself in something that is none of your concern. Thus "to keep your nose out" means to "not get involved" in something. 


You wanna just kind of take it easy and rest?

Caption 52, Leonard Nimoy - Talking about Mr. Spock

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To "take it easy" means "to relax," but if someone "takes something hard" it means that something has had a negative emotional impact on them.


Because if they don't get him, we're up that creek without a paddle.

Caption 47, Karate Kids, USA - The Little Dragons

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As common sense implies, if you are in boat with no way to control it or make it move, you are in trouble. So "up a creek without a paddle" means to be in trouble! 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and review the three-part Yabla series about English idioms. See if you can make your own sentences using the idioms in different contexts to see if you understand them correctly.

Spanish Words in English, Part I

Many words of Spanish origin have been absorbed into the English language, especially in the United States, whose Hispanic and Latino residents account for nearly 18% of the total population. As well as having predominantly Spanish-speaking territories such as Puerto Rico, the United States also borders the mainly Spanish-speaking Mexico. Thus you will find many words of Spanish origin listed in American English dictionaries that you won't necessarily find in British English dictionaries, or in the latter they will be identified as Spanish words rather than English words with a Spanish origin.


Some of the most common words of Spanish origin in English are food-based: 


Yellow split peas, boiled and grounded [sic] in the food processor, cilantrohabanero [pepper], garlic...

Captions 49-50, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives - Pam's Trinidadian Caribbean Kitchen - Part 1

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The fresh herb "cilantro" is most commonly called "coriander" in British English, whereas in US English, "coriander" usually refers to the dried root of the plant and not the fresh leaves.


Habanero peppers (habeñero in Spanish) are among the hottest chilis around, rating at 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale. The word "chili" (also spelled "chile" in English) is, although also a Spanish word, derived from the indigenous Nahuatl language that is still spoken by 1.7 million people in Mexico. Chili is also a kind of thick stew made from beans, tomato sauce, and chilis: 


Don't ever eat chili out of a dented can. That's my advice.

Caption 27, Karate Kids, USA - The Little Dragons - Part 9

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In the US, it's common to see canned (or "tinned" in British English) chili labeled as "chili con carne," so watch out if you are vegetarian, as con carne is Spanish for "with meat."


...and the good news is that I got some extra tortillas.

Caption 38, Travel + Leisure - Weekend Getaway: Santa Barbara

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In US and British English, as well as North American Spanish, a tortilla is a thin, round pancake made of corn meal or flour. But in Spain, a tortilla is more often a kind of egg omelette! 


Packaged foods, like chocolate and tea and salsa... 

Caption 9, New York City - The Union Square Holiday Market

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Come summer, this place is full of people sunbathing in bikinis, playing beach volleyball, and even dancing salsa.

Captions 24-25, World Cup 2018 - A Tour of Cities and Venues - Part 4

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Here you see "salsa" in its two meanings as a sauce and a kind of music and dance. 


Of course, nearly everybody knows this one, from the Spanish adíos:


If you didn't worship him, it was out, adios, you know, off.

Caption 76, Ask Jimmy Carter - Interview with Anthony Hopkins

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Actor Anthony Hopkins is British-born, but has lived in Southern California off and on since the 1970s, and in fact got US citizenship in the year 2000.


With that, we'll say goodbye for now! 


Further Learning
Take a look at this extensive list of Spanish words in English on Wikipedia and see if you can find some of them used in a real-world context on English Yabla

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