Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lay low

'Lay low' is what people tell you to do when you're sick, which means to rest and do as little as possible. However, this is a change-in-progress, because people lie and things lay. But it would sound quite odd to hear a native speaker of American English say, "Lie low."

-I feel awful. I have a fever, a stuffed up nose and a terrible cough.
-You'd better lay low for the next few days. Hope you feel better!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Keeping tabs on

If someone is 'keeping tabs on' you, it means they are paying attention to everything you do, as if they want to know your every move. It's very frustrating if someone is keeping tabs on you.

-Your parents are constantly asking me where I'm going or where I've been. It's driving me crazy.
-I'm really sorry they're keeping tabs on you. I'll talk to them.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Same old, same old

'Same old, same old' is a rather unenthusiastic and perhaps somewhat negative response to the question, "How are you?" It means that nothing has really changed.

-So, how are you doing? I haven't seen you in such a long time!
-Oh, you know. Same old, same old.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dead-end job

A 'dead-end job' is one where there is no opportunity for advancement. It leads to nowhere, like a dead-end street.

-I'm afraid I may have to get a job at a fast-food restaurant.
-Well, it's pretty much a dead-end job, but hopefully it'll help you pay some bills!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hold your horses!

'Hold your horses!' is a way of telling someone not to get too excited about something because it isn't sure if it will happen or not.

-We're putting an offer down on the house.
-(child): For real?! I'll get my own room and my own bathroom! And...
-Hold your horses, sweetie. They haven't accepted our offer yet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pull an all-nighter

To 'pull an all-nighter' means to stay up all night to meet a deadline the next day. It is frequently used by college students, but also happens in the business world.

-I have a 20 page paper due tomorrow and I'm only on page 3.
-Looks like you'll be pulling an all-nighter!

Free refills

A 'free refill' is what you get when you're at a restaurant and the server refills your drink free of charge. They are common in chain restaurants, but not as much in smaller, local restaurants.

-Would you like some more Coke?
-Do you have free refills?
-Yes, we do.
-Then, yes, please!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


A 'tear-jerker' is usually movie or tv show that causes you to suddenly cry.

-Have you seen the new Meryl Streep movie?
-Not yet, but I heard it's a real tear-jerker!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Knee-jerk reaction

A 'knee-jerk reaction' is the reaction you have to something without giving it much or any thought.

-Why did you swerve into the other lane of traffic?
-I had a knee-jerk reaction. I saw the deer and didn't want to hit it!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


'Whatever!' is used to end a conversation and to tell the other person you don't care one bit about what they just said. It's disrespectful when used with a person of power. Among friends, however, it's used sarcastically and is not considered rude.

-I'm not going to say it again. You have to start your homework.
-Don't talk to me like that, young man....

-Sushi is really good! You should try it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Um, yeah....

'Um, yeah...' can be used as a floor-keeping device while you're trying to figure out how to respond to someone. It can be used as a sarcastic response to show that you disagree with or dislike what another person said. The tone of voice is important. On the surface, saying 'yeah' to something sounds like you agree with it, but because of the sarcastic tone of voice, it's obvious you do not.

-I'm so glad you like the sweater I knitted you! It took several months.
-Um, yeah, it's really nice.

-Today in Poli Sci, we were assigned a 30-page term paper.
-Oooh, fun!
-Um, yeah....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let me let you go

'Let me let you go' is used in a phone conversation. The person who says it is trying to sound polite by saying they don't want to take up too much of the other person's time. The reality, though, is that usually the person who says this is simply trying to find a nice way to end the conversation without appearing rude.

-(slight pause in the conversation)
-Well, let me let you go. I'm sure you have a lot of things to get done today!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Knee deep in

'Knee deep in' is used to describe when someone is in the middle of doing something and doesn't want to or can't be interrupted. The visual it suggests is that the person is standing in something that is up to their knees, and they can't easily get out, if out at all. It can be used as an apology.

-I'm sorry I can't go to lunch with you! I'm knee-deep in paperwork!
-Maybe tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


'Shotgun' is used by siblings or close friends in a situation when they are about to get into the same car, and the first person who says it gets to sit next to the driver in the front seat of the car. This is considered good, because the person won't have to share a seat with anyone and will have the best view.

(Two people at the same time) -Shotgun!
-I said it first!
-No, *I* said it first! Mom!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The half of it

"The half of it' is used by a speaker to emphasize that there is more to the surprising or unbelievable story they are telling. It is usually used when complaining about someone or a situation.

-He is *such* a jerk!
-You don't know the half of it!

-First she decided she wasn't going to get him a birthday present. Then she decided she wasn't going to return any of his calls. And that's not the half of it! Then, she..."

Sunday, December 4, 2011


'*Just*' when used with a little pause and emphasis after it means that someone has, moments ago, completed an activity. Sometimes it can also be said a little slower to be used as an indirect apology to someone when a person has finally done something that was supposed to have been done earlier.

-I *just* texted you their phone number!

(Running late, talking on the phone). -He *just* finished his nap and we're on our way out the door now!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


'Side-tracked' is an adjective used to describe when a person is doing one thing, gets interrupted or distracted, and goes on to do something else, forgetting the first thing.

-I started to clean my room, but then I saw an old photo album and got side-tracked.

Friday, December 2, 2011

On the same page

Being 'on the same page' is a phrase used by one person to reassure that the listener is in agreement with them about something, understands or is thinking about something in the same way. It is usually used after there has been some discussion about something and an agreement has been reached.

Okay, let's make sure everybody is on the same page. We'll meet back here tomorrow at 2:30 for rehearsal.

-Carol really needs to go to the doctor tomorrow. I think we're all on the same page about that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


'Completely' is used as a way to apologize for something that was done by accident that a person is embarrassed about.

-I'm so sorry I missed class! I went home after my first class and completely fell asleep!

-I can't believe I didn't call you on your birthday! I completely forgot!