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Last updated at 16:22 BST, Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Plain sailing


It's a lovely day for sailing, so Rob and Li decide to take an excursion on a boat. On the water, not only does Rob need to learn about idioms related to sailing, but also how to sail a boat!

yachts, ap

Can Rob sail a boat?

The script for this programme

Rob: Hello. I'm Rob. And this is Li!

Li: Hello.

Rob: The weather is so great today we're outside on the sea, sailing in this beautiful boat. What do you think Li?

Li: Impressive. Rob, I didn't know you had a sailing boat – in fact I didn't know you could sail a boat!

Rob: Don't worry Li, I know what I'm doing.

Li: Mind that rock!

Rob: Whoa…it's ok Li. I’m in control – just keep your hand on that rope. We've got the wind in our sails, the sea is calm – we can just easily sail around this island and be home in time for tea.

Li: Oh right. I thought our excursion was going to be trouble free – or plain sailing.

Rob: What? Plain sailing? We're not sailing any planes Li.

Li: No Rob. Plain sailing. It's an expression used to describe an activity that goes well or smoothly and is easy and uncomplicated.

Rob: Yes of course – this sailing is going well and is actually quite easy – so you're right – this is plain sailing. But can we only use the phrase to describe sailing boats?

Li: No. Although it was originally a sailing term, it can really refer to any activity. Listen to these examples:

  • Driving through the city was difficult but once we were on the motorway it was plain sailing all the way.
  • Once we found some office space and recruited staff, setting up our business was plain sailing.

Li: So plain sailing means things are going well. I have to admit Rob, your sailing skills are very good and …oh watch out for that big wave!

Rob: Whoa...ouch! I've hit my head on the boom. Oh no, we're heading for the rocks again…hold the rope Li, quick!

Li: I've changed my mind Rob, this isn't plain sailing anymore! That's taken the wind out of your sails Rob.

Rob: Err, it's still windy Li. Look at the sails.

Li: No Rob. That's another sailing idiom – to take the wind out of your sails is an expression that means your boasting and arrogance has been challenged. Let's hear some other people using this expression:

  • I was all ready for a big argument but when he bought me some flowers it took the wind out of my sails.
  • The negative feedback from my boss has really taken the wind out of my sails.

Rob: Hmm, Li you've certainly taught me a lot about sailing today – there are some really good expressions – but one thing you haven't taught me is how to sail this boat.

Li: You said you knew how to sail it.

Rob: Well when I said I had been sailing several times I had….but I meant on a ferry….as a passenger.

Li: Oh. Watch out!

Rob: That was close. I've a feeling this really isn't going to be plain sailing after all.

Li: Too right! Bye bye.

Rob: Bye. Now Li could you just hold that rope there please.


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