Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Say What?

Why do we say that our feet smell and our nose runs?

And take the word, ‘up.’ Talk about confusing! What’s up with that word, anyway? It’s just a little two-letter word but it’s used as a noun, an adjective, a verb with an object, a verb without an object, an adverb and a preposition, not to mention it’s multiple meanings as an idiom! Are you keeping up with me here?

Once international students land on our shores, they feel confused from the get-go. It’s mind-boggling—nothing like the textbook English they learned in their country! And, if that weren’t confusing enough, we Americans are all talking a mile a minute! I think these students deserve a round of applause for staying here and toughing it out! I mean, if it were me, I’d be on the next plane outta here!

There are lots of things about our language that are confusing even to me. For example, if the plural of mouse is mice, why isn’t the plural of house, hice? And here’s another puzzler: Why do we drive on a parkway, but park on a drive way?

Once in awhile the tables are turned and I’m the one scratching my head for a minute when, for example, my homestay students ask if they can ‘open’ or ‘close’ the lights.

Tonight at the dinner table my homestay students and I were talking about idioms. They hear a lot of them at school and in the movies. So, I (foolish me) asked if they recalled any idioms they didn’t understand. “Yeah,” one of them asked, “What does ‘shove it up your a**’ mean?”

Gasp. Sputter. Choke. Ahem. Oh my!…… just how does a ‘mama’ explain that one?!

Yup, my homestay students have a lotta pluck (as in courage)! If I were trying to learn English as my second language, I’d be a basket case by now! ‘Basket case.’ Now that’s an interesting idiom! Where in the world did that one originate? Darned if I know!

Wondering if I’m up for this,


Homestay Mama


  1. OMGoodness - I hadn't really given this a thought, but now that you've brought it "up", hee-hee, It's a wonder that anyone can learn English!

  2. ooh! there's a great book that explains where a lot of idioms come from!! It's called "The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy" and they have a chapters on (including, but not limited to) idioms, proverbs, American History to and since 1865, Mythology... etc! Check it out!! It's fun to page through it!

  3. I am always wondering where words and phrases come from. I will have to get the book Bridget mentioned. FUn to find your blog.

  4. oh my!!! Yeah - that's gotta be a fun one to explain...

  5. Oh I LOVED this post! As soon as you started with all that grammar talk my heart started with the pitter-patter!

    My son has struggled mightily with some of these concepts and asked questions I've been hard pressed to answer for him. I love the question your student asked and your response. Had me laughing out loud. So innocent. Now, me, I sometimes swear in German. And it's the only German I know. Do you think that counts? Do you suppose, in considering our hearts, God speaks German? ;-)

    And THANK you for your kind remark about the clean humor. We truly have kidded Grizzly over the years about his "girlfriends." Everything he likes seems to have a female name. Just had to "roast" him a little.