Toyota has bought a $50 million stake in electric car manufacturer Tesla. Some say it's a shrewd business move, others say it's a PR effort for Toyota, which has been reeling for months. Read transcript >>
COMMENT Several juicy idioms in this report: buy for pennies on the dollar (i.e., at a low price), shoots from the hip (i.e., talk or act directly, without thinking beforehand), to blindside (i.e., to surprise unpleasantly).
Most of today's UK national dailies feature election cartooons (see below), but this one by Peter Brookes from The Times is my favourite. The cartoon plays on the expression 'to measure up'. On one level, if you measure something or someone up, you take their measurements. For example, David Cameron is shown measuring the curtains at Number 10 (in itself a metaphor for preparing to become PM). Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is measuring his chest. Although he's really quite skinny, he boasts of having an impressive 50" (i.e., 50 inch) chest, suggesting that his suprising success during the election campaign has given him an unrealistic view of his status. Finally, Gordon Brown is being measured by Peter Mandelson, who is dressed as an undertaker. We are meant to understand that he is measuring Brown for his coffin—a metaphor for Brown's impending political death (if the opinion polls are anything to go by).
The other meaning of 'measure up' is figurative. If you measure up to a standard or to someone's expectations, you are good enough to achieve the standard or fulfil the person's expectations. • It is sometimes difficult to measure up to one's parents' expectations. In this sense, we can understand 'how they've measured up' as a reference to how the three leaders have performed during the election campaign.
COMMENT It should be clear from the cartoon who The Times thinks is best suited to the job of running the country.
COMMENT The presenter avoids using the F-word by saying 'a big blanking deal' (a blank is a space left in a piece of writing). What Biden actually said was 'This is a big fucking deal'. See here and here for more examples of how the American media avoided printing the offending word in full.
1. If someone drops the F-bomb, they use the word 'fuck' (probably by analogy with with dropping the A-bomb). 2. If you tell someone to put a sock in it, you want them to shut (the blank) up.
VOCABULARY 1. If you come under fire from someone or are under fire, they criticize you strongly. • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came under fire Saturday for the way he defended his role in the 2003 Iraq invasion. This usage is figurative. If you are literally under fire, someone is shooting at you. Since this story involves weapons, there is probably an intentional play on words. 2. A slur is an insulting remark which could damage someone's reputation. • Five people were charged with fighting after an alleged ethnic slur ignited a brawl in downtown Naperville.
This cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times portrays UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown as an arrow-ridden cowboy who lies dying on the ground in the American desert. The US Cavalry have just arrived. One of them has a flag reading "Recession Over". Brown's speech bubble trails off, "Here Comes The Cava ...", suggesting that he has just breathed his last breath.
EXPLANATION In Western movies the arrival of the cavalry just in time to rescue the hero is a well-worn cliché. So much so that the expression 'Here comes the cavalry' can be used to refer to any situation in which help arrives at an opportune moment. In Gordon Brown's case, however, the cavalry (i.e., the end of the recession and the improving economy) have come too late to save him from certain defeat in the forthcoming general election.
It's been a while since I reviewed any sites for English learners. There's no shortage of sites, but I must have covered all the main ones over the past few years (see Top ELL Sites on the left for the very best). Besides which, there are a lot of mediocre sites which are not really worth a mention. However, I recently came across EC's Learn English site, which does have some interesting resources. To begin, there's the free daily lesson, which you can receive by email. There's a nice mix of idioms, vocabulary and articles at different levels, which should appeal to a wide range of learners. You can also find over 600 past lessons in the archive, organized into categories. The 7 Letters Word Game is also worth checking out, if you like that sort of thing.
Tiger Woods' apology for the numerous affairs that threatened to end his marriage and derail his golfing career is the front page for The Independent. Full story >>
VOCABULARY If you draw a line against something, you refuse to accept it, you reject it. • Whatever inclination California might once have had to regulate nude dancing, it is clear that one may now dance nude in bars with aplomb. But California continues to draw a line against those who expose their genitals in public when they do so "lewdly," meaning "for purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or affront."
The death of a Hamas leader in Dubai takes a new twist as The Independent reports security sources saying he may have been lured to his death. Full story >>
VOCABULARY People sometimes say 'the plot thickens' when a situation or series of events is getting more and more complicated and mysterious. • The police assumed that the woman was murdered by her ex-husband, but he has an alibi. The plot thickens.
Note that the original song title 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' has become 'Hopelessly Devoted to EU'. 'Greece' is also described as a 'song and dance crisis musical'. If you say that someone is making a song and dance about something, you mean they are making an unnecessary fuss about it.
We see the Queen sitting in a railway carriage. She is wearing a headscarf and the royal handbag is on the seat beside her. (ER stands for Elizabeth Regina, the Queen's monogram. 'Regina' means 'Queen' in Latin.) The man sitting opposite the Queen (who, we must assume, is just a regular passenger), says, "Give me another clue—your face definitely rings a bell ..." The Queen does not look amused.
IDIOM If you say that something rings a bell, you mean that it reminds you of something, but you cannot remember exactly what it is.
This cartoon by Mac from The Daily Mail relates to the news that Tiger Woods is being treated in a sex addiction clinic. A doctor is talking to a group of clinic staff. She says, "I think he's cured. It's been days now and he hasn't made a pass at any of us." Behind them, we can see a door marked "Tiger Woods".
COMMENTARY If someone makes a pass at you, they try to begin a romantic or sexual relationship with you (by kissing you, for example). The joke is that the women are all extremely ugly, so Tiger Woods is unlikely to be sexually attracted to any of them.
The Independent leads on the plight of Haiti's orphans, who are desperate for aid. Full story >>
VOCABULARY 1. An orphan is a child whose parents are dead. • Dozens of orphans from Haiti have begun to arrive in the US after having their adoptions fast-tracked in the wake of the earthquake. 2. The Independent's headline features a play on the phrase 'one in a million'. Normally, if you say that someone or something is one in a million, you mean that person or thing is very special. (One In A Million is a popular song title.) However, the suggestion here is that the girl pictured is just one of countless children orphaned by the earthquake in Haiti.
The cartoon shows Gordon Brown standing in the snow (a nod to the deep freeze currently enveloping Britain). He has been stabbed in the back both literally and figuratively. Literally, because two daggers are sticking out of his back, and blood is dripping onto the snow; and figuratively, because if you say that someone has stabbed you in the back, you mean they have done something very harmful to you when you thought you could trust them.
Above Brown's head we can see an enormous sword marked 'General Election'. This too is a literal representation of a metaphor. If you say that a sword is hanging over someone's head, you mean they are in a situation where something bad is likely to happen to them very soon. This phrase comes from a story about Damocles who had to eat his food with a sword hanging over him which was tied up by a single hair. The message is clear: Brown may have survived the treachery of his ex-ministers, but he won't survive the upcoming General Election. In view of the parlous position in which he finds himself (a rebellious party combined with poor poll ratings), Brown's statement 'I am not damaged. I'm immortal.' both ironic and delusional.
The caption relates to Gordon Brown's reaction to the leadership challenge, which he described as a storm in a teacup. If you describe a situation as a storm in a teacup, you think that a lot of fuss is being made about something that is not important.
COMMENTARY The cartoon is a metaphor for Gordon Brown's current difficulties. If someone is skating on thin ice, they are on the verge of getting into trouble, or something bad happening to them. (Thin ice is dangerous to stand on, and if you walk or skate on it, you will fall through the ice into the freezing water below.) Note the red hat and scarf; red is the official colour of the Labour Party.