Explaining English Expressions

English is a language rife with weird and wonderful expressions. These idioms are so often culturally indexed and require context to help with their usage and comprehension.

In this blog series, I will be sampling an array of the most popular English expressions and attempt to shed some light on their origins, and indeed on their (not so) apparent meanings. In this entry we have gold, feathers, and bees...

1. All that glitters is not gold

Like so much of our language, we can attribute this turn of phrase to Latin. It is used notably by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, and by William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice:

All that glisters is not gold,
Often have you heard that told.

But what does this little aphorism actually mean? This phrase encapsulates the concept of things not being what they seem to be. For example, you may come across a used car that looks spectacular on the outside, only for it to not start when you get behind the wheel! When all is said and done, all that glitters is not gold...

2. A feather in one's cap

This one conjures up images of Robin Hood for me, albeit totally unrelated to its meaning or origin. If something is a feather in your cap, this means that it is a personal achievement or honour for you to be proud of. As a proud and visible emblem of victory, the gesture of putting a feather in your hat is universal.

Dating back to ancient customs in Asia, Europe, and among Native Americans, the act of adorning your headgear with feathers symbolised enemies killed. Thankfully, the expression has taken on a far more generic meaning nowadays! You might say that learning English is another feather in your cap.




3. To have a bee in one's bonnet

Taken literally, this one could appear quite alarming. Like many English idioms though, its origins are literary. It is thought to have first appeared in the Robert Herrick poem 'Mad Maid's Song', penned in 1648.

If you have a bee in your bonnet, this implies that you are obsessed with a particular idea or notion. Perhaps the bee buzzing around represents the torment of this obsession. This idiom could be used in a business context: 'Steve considered pitching the North American expansion idea to his boss, but he was aware of the bee in his bonnet about Asia ever since the conference call with the Japanese branch'.




If this article has interested you, and you feel like you are ready to start exploring some more English idioms for yourself, it would be my pleasure to get the ball rolling with you. Book a free trial lesson, and let's see how many you can use with confidence!

MW

References
Parkinson, J. (2009). Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pyjamas. 3rd ed. London: Michael O'Mara Books Ltd.


May 4, 2020
Profile Picture
$27
$24.30
USD/h

Mark Wood

security_checked
5.0
$27
$24.30
USD/h
Flag
English
globe
United Kingdom
time
26
Speaks:
English
Native
,
French
C2
,
Spanish
A2
Hello! My name is Mark Wood and I am from Cheshire in North West England. I am a qualified TEFL instructor (240 hour course), with a specialism in teaching English one-to-one and online. I am also a qualified modern languages teacher in the UK (ages 11-18), and my total teaching experience is now 7 years. I have taught English in France to students from the age of 5, all the way up to adult learners! Having lived in France for 3 years, I know first hand the challenges and rewards that learning languages can bring. I have also taken up Spanish ab initio, and I am keen to expand my knowledge of different cultures and languages from around the world. Maybe you could teach me about where you come from and your own culture? I am a real lover of languages! I enjoy travelling, cooking, keeping fit and active, playing board games, and football (that's soccer for you American English speakers!), to name but a few of my hobbies and interests. My lessons will be customised to you. The content of our lessons will match your needs, whether that is English for business, general conversational English, speaking and listening practice, English for teachers, or even test preparation (TOEFL, IELTS). My lessons are based on the highly versatile and reputable Off2Class platform. I am very flexible and I am experienced enough to adapt my teaching to your requirements. I prefer to teach fun lessons in a relaxed atmosphere, using a multi syllabus format. This approach ensures a balance between speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, while also prioritising your own areas of interest covering a wide range of topics. You will have your own personalised syllabus to develop your English fluency. Before we start our lessons, I will email you an Off2Class placement test to determine your starting point, and to analyse your strengths and areas for development. It will be important to supplement your lesson time with extra activities to consolidate your learning. These homework activities will be essential for you to make the most out of your experience learning English. So whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced user of English, feel free to book a trial lesson to begin the next step of your English journey. See you soon!
Flag
English
globe
United Kingdom
time
26
Speaks:
English
Native
,
French
C2
,
Spanish
A2
Hello! My name is Mark Wood and I am from Cheshire in North West England. I am a qualified TEFL instructor (240 hour course), with a specialism in teaching English one-to-one and online. I am also a qualified modern languages teacher in the UK (ages 11-18), and my total teaching experience is now 7 years. I have taught English in France to students from the age of 5, all the way up to adult learners! Having lived in France for 3 years, I know first hand the challenges and rewards that learning languages can bring. I have also taken up Spanish ab initio, and I am keen to expand my knowledge of different cultures and languages from around the world. Maybe you could teach me about where you come from and your own culture? I am a real lover of languages! I enjoy travelling, cooking, keeping fit and active, playing board games, and football (that's soccer for you American English speakers!), to name but a few of my hobbies and interests. My lessons will be customised to you. The content of our lessons will match your needs, whether that is English for business, general conversational English, speaking and listening practice, English for teachers, or even test preparation (TOEFL, IELTS). My lessons are based on the highly versatile and reputable Off2Class platform. I am very flexible and I am experienced enough to adapt my teaching to your requirements. I prefer to teach fun lessons in a relaxed atmosphere, using a multi syllabus format. This approach ensures a balance between speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, while also prioritising your own areas of interest covering a wide range of topics. You will have your own personalised syllabus to develop your English fluency. Before we start our lessons, I will email you an Off2Class placement test to determine your starting point, and to analyse your strengths and areas for development. It will be important to supplement your lesson time with extra activities to consolidate your learning. These homework activities will be essential for you to make the most out of your experience learning English. So whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced user of English, feel free to book a trial lesson to begin the next step of your English journey. See you soon!
Mi vida antes del Covid- 19 (IMPERFECTO) A-2
Profile Picture
Alejandra Santiago
August 7, 2020
팔랑귀
Profile Picture
Abby H
August 7, 2020
The Origins of popular English Idioms
Profile Picture
Jen Mc Monagle
August 7, 2020