1

Unit 1: Shakespeare Speaks
the episodes

Select a unit

  1. 1 Shakespeare Speaks
  2. 2 Shakespeare Speaks - the extras

Session 8

Are they chasing geese – or horses? We show you how to use the phrase wild-goose chase from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - and bring you some other popular animal idioms!

 

Session 8 score

0 / 15

  • 0 / 5
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 4
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 6
    Activity 3

Activity 3

Animal Idioms!

We asked you this question: What animal idiom do we use to describe how exhausting and competitive modern life can be - particularly in big cities?

The answer is: It’s a rat race!

Well done if you chose the correct animal. We love using animal idioms in English – there are hundreds of them. We are going to share a few more of our favourites with you.

To do

Read and listen to the conversations below. Pay attention to the animal idioms in bold. Can you work out what they mean? - some of them may be similar in your language. Then try the quiz to find out if you are correct!

Try the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

1) I had a whale of a time at the party last night – I didn’t want to leave!

2) I need to get my wife a birthday present – if I forget again I’ll be in the doghouse!"

3) "I'll do all the housework for a month!"
"yeah and pigs might fly!"

4) Hold your horses! We need to find out how many people are coming before we start buying food!

5) Get off your high horse! You make mistakes too!

6) Don’t count your chickens – you haven’t got the job yet!

1) I had a whale of a time at the party last night – I didn’t want to leave!

2) I need to get my wife a birthday present – if I forget again I’ll be in the doghouse!"

3) "I'll do all the housework for a month!"
     "yeah and pigs might fly!" 

4) Hold your horses! We need to find out how many people are coming before we start buying food!

5) Get off your high horse! You make mistakes too!

6) Don’t count your chickens – you haven’t got the job yet! 

Animal idioms!

6 Questions

Can you answer these questions about the meaning of the animal idioms?!

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Well done if you worked out the meaning of all the animal idioms. We hope you had a whale of a time with us today! Hold your horses! Don’t leave us just yet - it's time for us to set you a writing challenge!

Over to you

Now you've learnt all these new phrases and idioms, it's time to find out: are you a great writer like William Shakespeare?! Here's a writing task for you:

Imagine that Daughter and Robert Harley meet at the market the next day. Here's the start of their conversation:

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
... ... ...

Can you continue their conversation? Use the phrase wild-goose chase - and as many of these other animal idioms as you can!

  • have a whale of a time 
  • be in the doghouse 
  • pigs might fly! 
  • hold your horses! 
  • be on your high horse 
  • get off your high horse
  • don't count your chickens
  • it's a rat race


Email your dialogue to us at learning.english@bbc.co.uk. Make sure you write ‘wild-goose chase' in the subject line.

Unfortunately we can't give individual feedback, but we do read every email, and we’ll publish our favourites here or on our social media sites.

____________________________________

Teresa Bagant

Daughter
Oh  hello Robert. It's such a lovely day today, isn't it ?

Robert
Good morning Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
He's at the Duck and Whistle having a drink with his friends; I'm sure he's having a whale of a time!

Robert
I hope so! He's had a great success with Romeo and Juliet

Daughter
Yes, you're right but I wish he wouldn't  be on his high horse, because it's just a beginning!

Robert
Yes, I agree... but nobody is perfect!  Perfection is a wild-goose chase for everybody!

Daughter
But you're..... almost perfect  Robert!

Robert
Oh I know I'm an excellent actor!  I'll have my own theatre and i'll become very rich indeed!

Daughter
Hold your horses! and... don't count your chickens before they're hatched! Don't realise that love in more important than money and success!

Robert
Oh dear! to chase or not to chase......  

Ira Lucava, Ukraine

-          Oh, hello, Robert! It’s such a lovely day today, isn’t it?

-          Good morning, Miss Shakespeare. Where’s your father today?

-          My father? He’s at home. And my mother. They were going to discuss our budget… You know, Robert, it would be better to leave them alone for a while.

-          Ah! I understand, Miss Shakespeare. The greatest talent doesn’t mean a lot of money. But all the same, a rat race rules the world. I’ll visit him tomorrow. I’ve got the news about our star-crossed lovers.

-          Well, you can tell me all about that! But my lips will be sealed, if you like. Trust me, Robert!

-          That’s not an awful secret, Miss Shakespeare. While rehearsing, our Juliet had been charming poor Romeo. She was saying sweet words to him. She stroked him the right way. She’s a good actress, and that’s all. But he fell for it and lost his marbles. But don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Since the première she has spent all her time with the rich French merchant. And our Romeo can’t believe he’s had a crush on a honey-mouthed fox. I’d never make such a stupid mistake!

-          Of course, you wouldn’t. No way, Robert. You are too experienced and smart. You are an excellent Mercutio!

-          Yes. And I prefer horse races to stories about unrequited love, Miss Shakespeare.       

-          Oh, Robert… What you were telling about horse races is so exciting! Please, let me join you when you take part in the next race. I’d like to see you on your high horse!

-          Really? I’m usually being told to get off it.

-          No! I’m sure, the daring riders must look so gorgeous. They are brave. They even risk their own lives! And I’d never think that a talented actor could be so courageous. Besides, you have to learn my father’s poetry by heart, Robert. That’s impossible! Your life is very interesting and mysterious.

-          Thanks. Would you mind to have a closer look at those jugglers and acrobats? It’s a good fair today, isn’t it? I think we’ll have a whale of a time! This way, Miss Shakespeare.

Suddenly Thomas tapped Robert on his shoulder.

-          Hi, Robert! What on earth are you doing? Starting on a wild-goose chase? Hold your horses, guy! Remember, she’s Will’s daughter. You’ll be in the doghouse, my dear friend.

-          Shush, Thomas! Don’t make a fool of yourself. She is very nice and kind. I cannot be rude to her. I’m just playing along. She’s a clever girl and, surely, won’t imagine wild things about us.

 

-          Pigs might fly, Robert. 

Inna Semenova

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
It isn't exactly "where" may be... but you must know - he is in the doghouse.

Robert
Oh, no! What's the matter?

Daughter
He was on his high horse because of the recent success, so he didn't notice mum's new dress at all!

Robert
Hold your horses! I can't understend what are you talking about...

Daughter
It was something like a party - a meeting with young authors, and dad said them not make a rat race, but try to have a whale of a time and it will bring more success, or satisfaction at last...

Robert
And what's wrong with it? They asked him get off his high horse?

Daughter
Ha!  Pigs might fly! They hung on his every word. So, when he came home, he was excited that didn't see anything around. Even my and mother's new dresses. Especially dresses, I think... And for mother's "Won't it match me tomorrow in the church, will it?", he replied absently "Don't count your chickens, dear, don't count..."

Robert
Now I see. But, anymore, where is he now?

Daughter
In the church, of course with mum...Oh, God, it will be wild-goose chase for him to
propitiate mother without me. I must join them, bye!

Robert
Bye...  Wild-goose chase is to undersdend so talkative girl, as for me.

Nur Hamizah, Malaysia

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
I might be in the doghouse if I tell you this but he is on a wild-goose chase today.

Robert
Oh really? What he is on about? I thought he had a whale of a time last night at my house?

Daughter
I have no idea too! By the way, why are you here, at this rat-raced market? Isn’t it you enjoy wild-goose chase? Pigs might fly! Haha!

Robert
Hold your horses, girl! Gentleman enjoys grocery too. My life is not all about horses. Cooking is life too.

Daughter
Well, you seem to be on your high horse today? What are you going to cook? I am not expecting something mouth-watering though.

Robert
Haha! Way to go girl. I will be cooking something I am expertise.  Want to be my assistant?

Daughter
Ahah! Get off your high horse gentleman! I thought your maid did everything? Well, gentleman, don’t count your chickens yet – you haven’t got the job yet!

Robert
Sure. For sure I will cook better than you! Haha!

Carlos Pérez

Daughter:Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert:Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

D: I think he's on a wild-goose chase. He's trying to get a very famous book, but it isn't available wherever he asks for. We have tried all the bookshops in London for all day and I am really tired!
R: Oh! Which is that important book?
D: Don Quijote from Miguel Cervantes, he's from Spain, so it's very difficult to find it, I guess it isn't even translated yet!
R: Hold your horses! I know a friend from Spain, and he's in here, in this market! And he sells books! Maybe he have that one.
...
D: Look! here it is, "Mr. Quijote". My Dad will be very happy! Thank you!
R: Mmmm, don't count your chickens, the book cover is right; but inside, all the pages are blanks ... Sorry.

Rashad, Egypt

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
my father is attending the lavish Oscar award ceremony.

Robert
Oscar ceremony!!!, yea yea this golden award given to suited artists 

Daughter
But all that glisters is not gold, you know Robert if I were them,I would give this award to you; you are lovely, handsome, drop_dead gorgeous.

Robert
Oh,ammm, It's impossible, I'll not win this award ever.

Daughter
So you think It's a wild_goose chase?

Robert
A wild_goose chase!!! oh I've remembered what it mean; you take after your father miss Shakespeare, and  that is not good (whispering)

Daughter
I think winning such this award comes down in the first place to a helpful wife like me.

Robert
OH, ammm, I've got to go, I want to, ammm, feed my cat, Bye 

Daughter
Waite will I see you again or I will just bump in to you?

Robert
TO bump or not to bump, that is the question.

Vincenzo Peccerillo, Italy

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
My father is at home… He’s very busy now… So, Robert, what about a walk along the promenade? We might have a whale of time together!

Robert
I’m sorry, Miss Shakespeare, but I’m afraid I can’t… I’m caught up in a rat race... I’m studying your father’s last play. I want to be ready for my part by next week!

Daughter
Hold your horses, my dear! You haven’t won a role yet...

Robert
In principle, this is true… But it's just like water off a duck's back to me! I’m sure I’ll get the job…

Daughter
Don’t count your chickens, Robert! How can you be so confident?

Robert
The theater’s owner believes that I’m the best candidate for the lead role… Oops! I let the cat out of the bag!

Daughter
Hmm… I’m going on a wild-goose chase… Goodbye, Robert! And get off your high horse!

Nelly Fandino

Daughter

Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter

Well, he had a whale of a time last night in my uncle’s birthday party so i think he must not be feeling well to go out from home

Robert

Oh, then pigs might fly!!, today will be the first day ever that  your Dad misses the market.

Daughter

Hold your horses!! Look!! There he is coming!!

Robert

He stops by the flower shop. I see.. He might be in the doghouse and he is trying to make it up to with nice flowers to Mrs Shakespeare!!

Daughter

You might be right!. My mum was very upset with my Dad for getting drunk last night

Robert

This is your Friend Charlotte coming to say hello to you. Sorry I must leave because I cannot stand that lady. She is on a high horse all the time.

Daughter

I know, but she got off her high horse recently when she called off her wedding. Remains a mystery the reason why she did that though.   She was on a high horse because she believed she was going to be the wife of the richest man on this area.

Robert

Poor girl, that is why you never should count your chickens.. I must go back to the rat´s race Miss Shakespeare, a have an audition in half an hour I must rehearse. Have a nice day!

Daughter

It was a pleasure to see you!

Altif Siham 

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter

he's in the pub with his actor friend Tomas. They have a whale of a time! Dear Robert, would you like to go out together??

Robert

Oh sorry Ms Shakespeare, hold your horses! you're so younger for a such thing!This is a goose chase!

Daughter

Oh dear Robert, Why you don't like me ? I'm so beautiful too, weren't I?

Robert

Oh yes you are Ms Shakespeare. But I'm so sorry I don't like you

Daughter

get off your high horse, Robert!  you're not the most handsome men in the world!

Ia Tabagari, Georgia

Daughter
Oh hello Robert! It's such a lovely day today isn't it?

Robert
Good morning, Miss Shakespeare! Where's your father today?

Daughter
At  home. He  is  going  to  have a whale of  a  time

Robert
Could  you  tell  me  what  exactly ?

Daughter
Yes,  because   you  can  give  no  words  but  mum . Imagine  how  conceited  my  mother  is . As she  says  she  is  8  years  older  than my father  and  wiser , too. So  they  are  competing with each other . It’s  a  competition  of  intelligence , of  wits  and  quick  thinking. It  is going  to  be a  wild-goose  chase. And  according  to  their decision,  results   will  have  an  influence  on  his Will.

Robert
Aren’t  you  interested  in  it  ? Are  you  serious ?

Daughter
Listen ! My  mum  is  always  on  her  high  horse . So  dad  says : Get off  your  high  horse !  It‘s  boring  . If  he wins , he  will  be  in the  doghouse. Otherwise  pigs   might  fly ….This  is  why  I  am  here  and  I’m  feeling  good.  If  only  there  weren’t  so  many blabbermouths around  us. What a  rat  race !  I  want  you  dance  with  me …’’ love  is  in  the  air ,everywhere  I  look  around…in  the rising  of  the  sun….in  the whisper  of  the  trees.. in  the  thunder  of  the  sea”…..

Robert
Hold  your  horse,  miss  Shakespeare ..And  don’t  count  your  chickens . Just   go  back  and  find out what  happened  to  them. By  the way , when  I  look  in  your eyes , I  can  dance  and  sing  so  fast , so  exciting :’’  Love  is  in  the air , love  is  in  the air , love  is  in  the air…”. No   matter  what  blabbermouths   say…..        

 

End of session

That’s all for now. Come back to these pages soon to find out more about William Shakespeare's life and work - and to learn a useful new English expression. In the meantime, go to our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages for more fun with English!

Session Vocabulary

  • For more great Shakespeare content visit our partner,The OU >

    ________________

    Wild-goose chase

    Meaning
    In modern English, a wild-goose chase isn't about horses, or geese: it describes a situation where you foolishly chase after something that is impossible to get - or doesn't exist at all.

    Example sentence
    We looked for the restaurant for hours, but it was a wild-goose chase: turned out that it closed down years ago!

    ___________________

    Extra vocabulary

    star-crossed lovers
    very unlucky lovers

    to have a crush on someone 
    to like someone - in a romantic way

    unrequited love
    when someone is in love with someone who doesn't feel the same way

    a rat race
    a way of modern life in which people compete for wealth and power

    to have a whale of a time
    to enjoy yourself very much

    to be in the doghouse
    to be in trouble - normally with your partner!

    pigs might fly!
    that will never happen!

    hold your horses!
    wait! Be patient!

    to be on your high horse  
    to behave in a superior or conceited manner 

    get off your high horse!
    stop behaving in a superior manner!

    don't count your chickens...
    don't make ​plans that ​depend on something good ​happening before you ​know that it will really happen

    __________________ 

    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University

    ____________________

    More Shakespeare Speaks episodes

    Shakespeare Speaks Podcasts