Hello, one and all!
At long last, the rain has stopped tipping down and the sky is now blue again. You all did really well guessing the meanings of those words related to weather, and I should say a special ‘well done!’ to Melissa, who got all of them correct.
Here are the answers:
1) It’s boiling = it’s extremely hot
2) Nice weather for ducks! = it's raining really hard, so hard in fact that there are puddles on the ground
3) Brrr! It’s a bit parky today! = It’s quite cold.
4) It’s bucketing down! = it’s raining very heavily
5) It’s close = it’s hot and humid
Thanks also for all your descriptions of revolting food. I don’t think my stomach can stand any more, so let’s move on to a new topic.
Today, I want to talk about superstitions. Manas from India asked me when we can use the phrase ‘touch wood’ and when we can use the phrase ‘keep your fingers crossed’.
You say ‘keep your fingers crossed’ when you are hoping for the best, and want good luck, e.g.
I’ve got my final exam tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
You can also simply say: ‘Fingers crossed!’
‘Touch wood’ is slightly different. You use ‘touch wood’ if you have said something slightly boastful, or if you have been talking about how good life is, e.g.:
I haven’t been sick for two years, touch wood.
Why do we say this? Well, some people think that if you talk too much about how great life is, it’s tempting fate – you’re asking for something bad to happen. So to avoid bad luck, you say ‘touch wood’ and you’ll usually try to touch something made out of wood at the same time, as you say it. I’m not a very superstitious person, but I do always say ‘touch wood’ if I have said something about how fortunate I’ve been. Sometimes it’s difficult to find something wooden to touch at the same time, so I usually tap the head of my fella, Richard. ;->
Years and years ago, some people (Druids, maybe?) used to believe that touching anything wooden would offer you protection, because trees were inhabited by kind spirits. We don’t really believe that these days, but the superstition about touching wood for good luck has remained.
Another phrase you might hear about superstitions is: ‘Your ears will be burning!’. You would say this to someone if you thought another person was talking about them. Superstition says that if your right ear burns (feels hot and goes red), someone you hate is talking about you. If your left ear burns, someone you love is talking about you.
And of course, we have plenty of superstitions about money. For example, if the palm of your right hand begins to itch, it means you’re going to receive some money. If it’s your left palm, you’re going to lose some money.
What superstitions do you believe in?
Of course, we have loads of other superstitions in the UK. Here are just a few – do you know whether they’re lucky or unlucky?
1) A horseshoe
2) Opening an umbrella whilst indoors
3) A new pair of shoes on the table
4) A black cat crossing your path
5) Breaking a mirror
one and all – a slightly theatrical way of saying ‘everyone’.
at long last -- finally.
tipping down – raining very heavily.
A puddle is a pool of water.
revolting – vile, disgusting
superstition – a belief that something will bring good or bad luck
boastful – the adjective related to the verb ‘to boast’, which means ‘to talk about one’s achievements with pride’.
If you tempt fate, you encourage bad luck.
tap – to hit very gently
fella – the slang version of ‘fellow’ (man). You’ll hear women describe their husbands/boyfriends as ‘my fella’. It’s another term of affection.
spirit – the supernatural, ghost-like part of a person (not their physical body).
The palm of your hand is the inner surface of your hand (where all the lines are), between your fingers and your wrist.
Answers to your comments
Fulvio – I think you win the prize for the vilest dish. Squashing worms and eating them sounds truly revolting. I think I would prefer just the cheese, without the worms.
Ana Paula – I was interested to read you do a BodyCombat class. I do a class called BodyPump. Are you an expert kick-boxer? Also, you can say ‘I think this book is interesting’ or ‘I find this book interesting’.
Tomo – are you in Kyoto?
Pary – You can find out more about Druids (and see a photo of them) here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/south/series3/druids.shtml
Heinrich – most people stop for lunch at about midday in the UK, and if they’re lucky they’ll have a one-hour lunch break. The older generation does still sometimes have dinner really early – sometimes 5 o’clock! But younger people tend to eat later. Richard and I usually eat at around 7.30 to 8 p.m.
Wisarut – you can use the word ‘Yummy!’ to say you think something tastes good. You can also say ‘Mmmmm!’ if you think something is tasty.
Adil – I used the future tense: ‘I’ll never forget visiting Stonehenge at the age of eight’, because although the action (visiting Stonehenge) was in the past, the sense is in the future – I will never forget for the rest of my life, visiting Stonehenge.
Ruth – I’m glad to be of help.
Muhammad Asim Munir – apostrophe + s can be used with nouns (not just living things) to show possession:
The book’s last page.
Apostrophe + s is the more common version, while ‘of’ can sometimes sound a bit formal.
Directions are usually lower case when they refer to a compass point: Naheed’s window faces east, but upper case when they refer to a region: Japan is in the Far East.
Paul – there’s not much difference in meaning between ‘the biggest challenge is caused by divorce’ and ‘the biggest challenge has been caused by divorce’. You could argue that the first one gives a more immediate feel (divorces are still happening) while the second one is slightly removed (divorces may or may not still be happening).
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