Saturday, October 03, 2015

Historical origins of some idioms.

Here is a passage that was forwarded to me, which describes the origins of many English idioms, such as 'one for the road' and 'raining cats and dogs'. I'm not sure it's 100% accurate, but I think you'll find it interesting anyway:

There is an old Hotel/Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial of course) to be hanged. The horse-drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who  would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the  prisoner if he would
Like ''ONE LAST DRINK''.  If he said YES, it was referred to as ONE FOR THE ROAD.   If he declined, that Prisoner was ON THE WAGON.
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and t hen once a day it  was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were "piss poor", but  worse than that were the really poor folk, who  couldn't even afford to buy a pot, they "Didn't  have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of  the low.
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water
Temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to  be.
Here are some facts about the 1500s: Most people got married in June, because t hey took  their yearly bath in May and they still smelled  pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!" 
Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was t he only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."      
There was nothing to stop things from  falling into the house. This posed a real
problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence. The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "dirt poor." The wealthy
Had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their  footing. As the winter wore on they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance. Hence: a thresh hold.
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung
over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate
mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for
dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next
day.  Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence
The rhyme: ''Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old''.   
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When
visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off. It was a sign of
wealth that a man could, "Bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to
Share with guests and would all sit around talking and  ''chew the fat''.    
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death.  This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.   
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf,
The family got the  middle, and guests got the top, or ''The Upper  Crust''.  
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and  wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ''Holding a Wake''.      
England is old and small and the local folks started  running out of places
to bury people, so they  would dig up coffins and would take the bones to 
a bone-house and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out
of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up  through the ground and tie it to a  bell.   Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night  (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell;  thus someone could be, ''Saved by the Bell ''or  was considered a ''Dead Ringer''

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rebus Puzzles

If you've never tried a Rebus Puzzle before, it's a play on words presented as a picture.

Here are some examples:

The answers are:
1 Coffee Break
2 Misunderstood ('miss under stood')

Try 50 more here:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vocab Activities for Mobile Devices

Two vocab activities have been updated to work on mobile devices: you can now either type in the answers or tap the tiles on the screen.

The first activity covers types of fruit and is suitable for elementary level:

The second activity covers items found around the house and is also suitable for elementary level:

Both activities will work well in class with a projector!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Smartphone Activity: Random Discussion Questions

This is the fifth in a series of smartphone games and activities for the ESL classroom. 

This activity is a set of random discussion questions that you can use as a warm-up or icebreaking activity. Point your students to one of the links below and ask them to discuss the question that they find with their partner or group.

Random discussion questions (basic):

Random discussion questions (int/advanced):
Random discussion questions (business):

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Find Someone Who...

This is the fourth in a series of smartphone games and activities for the ESL classroom. 

This is the classic icebreaking activity where students get to know about each other by asking simple questions. The smartphone version gives the student a randomised list of five characteristics, such as 'Find someone who goes to bed late', and the student has to match a name to each characteristic.

This activity is good for icebreaking or practising asking simple questions. You could turn it into a competition by stating that the first person to get five names is the winner.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Job Interviews

This is the third in a series of smartphone games for the ESL classroom. 

In this activity, students log in to the activity page on their phones and have a list of interview questions to ask each other.

There is a basic version, for general ESL classes. In this version, each students gets a job which they will interview their partner for, and a list of questions. There are 10 different jobs in total.

Student A:
Student B:

In the advanced version, for Business English classes, the questions are more general, but more realistic. The students rate their partner's answers, confidence and body language, leading to a score out of 100.