|I am all ears 洗耳恭听
One day, we hired a carpenter to repair our house. I dwelt
on (详细讲述）all the details that needed repairing to him.
then I asked him, "Are you clear? Can you remember all
that?" "Yes!" the carpenter replied. "I am all ears!" I
felt puzzled and did not know what he meant. Later my
eldest son explained to me that he meant, "I am listening
I am broke 我没钱了
One day when I was walking in the school corridor, Anna
ran over to me and said, "I'm broke. May I ...?" I thought
she might have fallen somewhere and was injured, so I
hurriedly supported her with my hands and asked her, "Are
you OK? Do you want me to send you to the clinic?" She
felt a little puzzled, but then she said , "I'm ok. I'm
broke. May I borrow some money?"
I assumed that she wanted to borrow money to go to
hospital to see a doctor, so I responded quickly, "Let me
help you to call an ambulance to the hospital."
Not until then did she realize that I had not understood
what she meant. She told me that "I'm broke" meant, "I'm
penniless." I suddenly saw the light too.
Have an affair with...与...有暧昧关系
The president was forced to resign, for his having an
affair with a film star was like a time-bomb that would
sooner or later ruin his fame.
It was reported that President Clinton had an affair with
a girl called Monica.
The eyes are extremely precious to us. That is why we
say“Mind your eye (当心)!”when we reminding someone to be
Not only human beings and animals have eyes, many things
also have“eyes”- the eyes of a ship, the eye of a needle,
the eye of a typhoon, and so on.
The ear is the organ of hearing. A piece of light music
is easy on the ear. (悦耳动听). We are usually all ears (专心聆听)
for bit news.
When they think somebody is overhearing, English people
use either of the two proverbs: Walls have ears (隔墙有耳) and
Pitchers have ears (壶罐有耳). They also think that little
pitchers have big ears(小孩子耳朵尖). Nice boys and girls
respect other people. They will not secretly listen to
others' private conversations.
The English phrase "face to face (面对面)" and its Chinese
counterpart(对应)are exactly the same. But English people,
to express the same idea, can say nose to nose instead.
There is no such substitute in Chinese.
The word nose appears in many idioms. Here are two which
are quite similar to their Chinese equivalents: lead
somebody by the nose (牵着某人的鼻子走) and turn up one's nose at
somebody or something (对某人或某物嗤之一鼻).
We have two lips: the upper lip and the lower lip. If
one's two lips are closed, one cannot speak. So it goes
without saying that "don't open your lips (不要开口)" means
His lips are sealed. Are his lips really stuck together
by wax or glue? No, his lips are sealed when asked about
something that he must keep secret. Sometimes a top secret
is betrayed because it has escaped someone's lips (脱口而出).
Then the incident may become a piece of news that is on
everybody's lips (众口相传).
We all know we cannot speak without the tongue. So the
tongue is closely related to speech. To hold one's tongue
(保持沉默) means "to keep silent". A person who has too much
tongue (太多嘴) is disliked by all, for he is too talkative.
Mother tongue is not the tongue of a mother: it is a
person's native language.
"Don't you have a moth below your nose (你鼻子底下不是有张嘴吗)?"
The Chinese say so to blame a person who did not say what
he should have said. But this not the right way to express
the idea in English. English people would say, "You have a
tongue in your head, haven't you?"
as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb
One scabbed sheep infects the whole flock.
There is a black sheep in every flock.
sheep that have no shepherd
aim high 胸怀大志
Frank aimed high, but achieved little
Sue: You seem to be worried about something these days
Bob: Yeah. I'm running around in circles (忙得团团转）without
Sue: Running in circles? Maybe you aim too high and you've
taken more than you can chew.
Bob: Maybe. but I can't tolerate doing nothing.
Sue: You may take a break before buckling down on
The cat shuts its eyes when stealing cream.
The scalded cat fears cold water.
When the cat's away, the mice will play.
go ape 神魂颠倒的，发疯
He went ape as soon as he learned that he got the first
Mary: Jack went ape. What's happened?
Lora: He made a bomb (赚大钱）in his business.
Mary: How come? He told me that his business had almost
landed on the rocks （没有前途，没指望了）only a couple of days ago!
Besides, he doesn't seem to be cut out for （天生适合干...)doing
Lora: Fools may have a fortune. And this is why he went
ape when he make bundles(发大财）.
Scornful (Hungry) dogs will eat dirty puddings.
love me, love my dog.
Give a dog a bad (an ill) name (and hang him).
Every dog has his day.
Beware of a silent dog and still water.
A staff [stick] is quickly [soon] found to beat a dog
Barking dogs seldom bite.
Every dog is a lion at home.
Athens (雅典)——the city of jasmines (茉莉花城)
Berne (伯尔尼)——the city of clocks and watches (钟表城)
Brazil (巴西)——the country of coffee (咖啡国)
Canada (加拿大)——the country of maple leaves (枫叶国)
Ecuador (厄瓜多尔)——the equatorial country (赤道国)
Ethiopia (埃塞俄比亚)——the barefoot country (赤足国)
Egypt (埃及)——the country of the pyramids (金字塔国)
Ghana (加纳)——the country of cocoa(可可国)
Guba (古巴)——the country of sugarcane (甘蔗国)
Japan (日本)——the country of Cherries(樱花国)
Jerusalem (耶路撒冷)——the holy city (圣城)
Lusaka (卢莎卡)——the city of copper (铜城)
Lima (利马)——the city of drought (干旱城)
London (伦敦)——the city of fog (雾都)
Malaysia (马来西亚)——the rubber country (橡胶国)
Mexico (墨西哥)——the cactus country (仙人掌国)
Mexico City (墨西哥城)——the city of frescoes (壁画城)
New York (纽约)——Big Apple (大苹果城)
Panama (巴拿马)——the butterfly country(蝴蝶国)
Singapore (新加坡)——the country of gardens(花园国)
Tunisia (突尼斯)——the olive country (橄榄国)
Venice (威尼斯)——the city of water (水城)
Washington(华盛顿)——the city of snow (雪城)
Wellington (惠灵顿)——the city of wind (风城)
argue someone down 驳倒某人
He has a glib tongue. Few people can argue him
Frank argued the manager down, though he could hardly be
convinced by any other people.
Most people present at the meeting argued against the
measures to be taken by the local government in dealing
with traffic jams.
Jack was punished, but most of his colleagues argued fro
I am the one wearing pants in the house 我当家
One day we invited our American friends, a couple, to our
home. We had a pleasant chat. During the chat, I asked
them who was in control of their family's finance. My
friend's wife answered, "I am the one wearing pants in the
house." Both my wife and I were very confused. We were
wondering why she told me that only she wore trousers in
her house when I asked who was in charge of the money I
their family. A few pointers (指点，暗示）from my friend made us
suddenly see the light. It turned out that what she meant
was "I am in charge."
It's up in the air 尚未确定
Once I met an old friend of mine at the school's
celebration meeting. Hence it was quite natural that we
had a talk.
"I am going to be transferred to another school," said my
"When?" I asked.
"It's up in the air," she answered.
I felt rather confused and wondered why she said it was
"up in the air".
Finding I looked puzzled, my friend knew that I did not
understand what she meant. So she explained to me with the
help of gestures.
Finally I got the point that "It's up in the air" meant
"It is uncertain".
cost an arm and a leg 付出过高的代价
Eating in the restaurants in this street will cost you an
arm and a leg.
Buying an apartment in Beijing will cost you an arm and a
Sandra: I say, Frank. Have you thought about changing the
Frank: Well, I've actually been thinking of discarding
Sandra: And have you thought about where we should go for
the new sets?
Frank: Well, I need to shop around a bit before I can
Sandra: How about the Johns' in the Fifth Street?
Frank: The Johns'? They will cost you an arm and a leg.
You have to pay through the nose（为买...付出过高的代价；被敲竹杠）， you
Sandra: But their quality is first rate.
Frank: I know. And their price is first rate, too.
keep someone at arm's length与某人保持距离
She said that she couldn't put her finger on why everyone
in the company should keep her at arm's length.
If you've kept her at arm's length, she wouldn't be able
to et hold of your weakness and take advantage of you.
touch someone on the raw.触及某人的痛处
The question asked by the Japanese lady seemed to have
touched the president on the raw, and it had almost driven
him on the wall.
When with friends, people always try to avoid the topics
that would possibly touch them on the raw.
Your acid comment made him lose face and the question you
raised had touched him on the raw.
You should avoid offending him by touching him on the raw.
Childlike and childish 天真和幼稚
I had been to America for only a few years, as I did not
understand the actual meanings of the two words
"childlike" and "childish". A minor misunderstanding was
the result, and I nearly offended my supervising
One day I had a chat with some professors and
postgraduates in the office. the subject came to the
character of my supervisor. She was a senior professor who
was always very cheerful and enthusiastic, interesting and
full of childlike innocence. I said without thinking, "She
is childish." Actually what I meant to say is, "She is
Not long after that, my professor was told that I had said
she was childish. She was a little unhappy to hear that,
and asked me, "Did you say that I am childish?" I felt at
once that something bad would happen to me. I hurriedly
explained what I meant, and she forgave my inappropriately
using the word.
"Childlike" and "Childish" are different, in that the
former is a commendatory （褒义的）term, which praises one who
is innocent and has characteristics of a child, while the
latter a derogatory (贬义的）term, which describes an adult
behaving like a child.
Considerable and considerate 相当大的与考虑周到的
Once I went on an outing with one of my American friends
together. On the way he looked after me very carefully. I
was very grateful to him in my heart. Besides saying
"thank you", I also added, "You're so considerable." In
fact I meant to praise him for being thoughtful. However,
as soon as I uttered that, my friend, previously wearing a
bright facial expression, then quickly took on a ghastly
(难看的，可怕的）look. I immediately perceived something wrong,
but I did not know where my mistake laid and I felt very
Fortunately, my friend was really good at understanding
others. He hesitated and said, "I think you wanted to say
I'm considerate." I hastened to ask him about the
differences between the two words.
It turns out that "considerable" means" rather large in
size, etc. or of noticeable importance", （and my friend
happened to be an extremely burly （大块头的）man, which he was
sensitive to) while "considerate" was what I wanted to
It is really true that an error in the breadth of a single
hair can lead you a thousand li astray（失之毫厘，差之千里）!
Dead end 死胡同
When I first caught sight of the sign "Dead End", I was
really startled. Literally it means the road to death. I
wondered whether it was " a dragon's pool and a tiger's
den (龙潭虎穴）-- a danger spot", or mines or bombs were laid
there and once you made your entrance to it you were sure
to die. Therefore a shocking sign was set up, warning
people against getting into the forbidden area without
authorization. Later I got to know that the sign "Dead
End" tells people that the road is closed at one end, and
therefore does not lead anywhere.
Doggy bag 打包袋
When I went to dine in a restaurant with my colleague for
the first time, neither of us had a good appetite. As a
result, a lot of food was left over. "I want a doggy bag,"
she said, "what about you?" I said I had no dogs. Looking
at me strangely, she asked the waiter for two "doggy
bags." . As I was suspecting whether she was keen on
gaining petty advantages, she explained to me the "doggy
bag" was a small bag that a restaurant provided so that
customers could take home any food they had not finished,
and then she gave me one.
be taken aback 大吃一惊
The Manager was taken aback at the news that some company
had already launched the product into the market.
Mary: Do you know what Jack has done to John's daughter?
Sandy: Yeah. But I was completely taken aback at the news
that he had killed Jenny.
Mary: That has taken many people by surprise. Nobody could
believe that Jack would kill Jenny with whom he had been
getting on like a house on fire.(交往得火热）
Sandy: No! And I can't imagine how terrible John would
Mary: He can't be more saddened. Jenny was the apple of
his eye,（他的掌上明珠） you know.
Sandy: Sure. The news is too much to bear. And Jenny's mum
must have been knocked into the middle of next week
（被打得不省人事）by the news.
Mary: Well, better talk about something else. I can't put
up with this sort of violence.
Be above oneself 趾高气扬，得意忘形
Sally was quite above herself when she learned the news
that she was the only one in the company that had been
Jane: What's the matter with Sue? She seems to be quite
above herself these days.
Frank: She got promoted over many other girls. She almost
went ape (俚）发疯 when she got the news , you know?
Jane: But she had not been doing well since she came to
Frank: She is quite good at pleasing the boss. And she
knows how to butter him up（巴结某人，大献殷勤）.
Jane: If I were the boss, I wouldn't give preference to
（偏心对待；偏爱）a girl like her.
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket 不要孤注一掷
It happened before Easter Day last year when my cousin was
out of work and trying to find a new job. One day she went
to a supermarket to shop with her good friend. In
addition, she wanted to buy some eggs for her daughter to
make Easter eggs.
After putting four boxes of eggs in her shopping basket,
my cousin went on choosing other goods at the same time
she was talking with her friend about her experience of
hunting for a job. Then her friend said, "Don't put all of
your eggs in one basket." My cousin nodded and then went
away. After a while, she came back with one more shopping
basket in her hands. Her friend asked her, "You are taking
two baskets. Are you going to buy a lot of things."
"Didn't you ask me not to put all of my eggs in one
basket?" asked my cousin in reply.
Her friend chuckled. It turned out that she meant that
when looking for a job, it was not wise to put all one's
attention or hopes into one company, but instead one
should "cultivate extensively" so that there would be more
chances of finding a job.
Do you have straws? 你有吸管吗？
A decade ago when I first went to dine in McDonald's since
coming to America, I was so nervous that I forgot the
right word to express what I meant, and thus I made a fool
That day my friend and I agreed to eat hamburgers. When
we, holding our trays, happily sat down, I found there
were no straws. I looked around but did not find where the
box of straws was. I then got up to make an inquiry.
I lined up again. After I waited for a while, the busy
attendant glanced at me. Looking at her two big eyeballs
on her shiny black face, suddenly my mind was a blank. I
was at a loss for words for quite a while and it was not
at all easy for me to say, "Do you have pipes?" She asked
loudly with a frown （皱眉）"What?" I was so anxious that I
made gestures. My friend saw me, hurriedly came to help me
out of the predicament (困境，窘境）and said, "Do you have
straws? Aha! It was no wonder that the attendant got
puzzled why I asked her for oil pipes.
face the music 受惩罚
One day I was having a chat with two English teachers in
the office. The female teacher said that one of her
students fought with his classmate at school a few days
before and were caught by the police. The male teacher
asked her, "Did they face the music?"
I was very confused and asked him why the two students
were asked to read the music after they had a fight.
Hearing what I said, the two teachers laughed heartily.
The male teacher told me, while still laughing, that "face
the music" meant "to be punished", which was entirely
different from my understanding.
Brown bagging 自备午餐
One day it was time for lunch, and I was eating my
sandwich that I prepared myself. Vera, the secretary of
our company, asked me absent-mindedly, "Brown bagging
today?" For a while, I was at a loss to find a work to
respond to what she had said. I thought to myself, "You
should have seen the black bag that I take with me to work
Seeing I was wearing a puzzled expression., Vera promptly
explained that "brown bagging " had the meaning of
providing lunch for oneself or taking one's lunch to eat
in the presence of one's company. Usually the food is kept
in a brown paper bag, so it has this name. The persons who
take their lunch with them are called brown baggers.
Buzz off 走开
It happened more tan twenty years ago. At that time, I
only knew that "buzz" in the dictionary has the meaning of
"a continuous low sound that a bee makes."
One day my two sons, who were elementary school students,
were playing games in the next room. Suddenly I heard my
elder son shouted, "Buzz off!" I immediately rushed into
their room, wondering how the bee came into the room since
all the windows were closed.
By the time I entered their room, I found my younger son
was feeling wronged and complained to me that his brother
ordered him to go away. Then I came to learn that "buzz
off" means to order someone to go away, which is
equivalent to "Don't bother me" or "Leave me alone".
Calling card 特点，特征
I was describing a friend whom I met at the supermarket
the other day to my American friend Susan, for Susan also
knew her. However, Susan could not think of whom I was
talking about form beginning to end. She asked me: "What's
her calling card?" What she said kept me in the dark. I
wondered what this had to do with the calling card of that
friend. Did Susan have the ability of recalling whom her
friend was by the calling card that her friend was using?
After I queried (提出疑问）her about it. Susan couldn't help
laughing and explained that "calling card" could also have
the meaning of "distinguishing features or
characteristics" of a person besides meaning " telephone
Can you make it? 你能来吗？
When I was pursuing my studies in Florida, I came across
(碰见，遇见）an American classmate of mine in the street, with
whom I got along pretty well in normal times. He said to
me, " Our class will have a party this Saturday at 3:00
P.M., room 101. You could bring a Chinese dish or dessert.
Can you make it?" Immediately I thought that I was always
a gentleman who had never cooked, how could I cook a
Chinese dish or dessert or things like that. Thereupon I
said with curt （简短失礼的，唐突草率的）finality（终结）, "No, I can not
make it. " My American classmate seemed a little
disappointed at what I said, and turned with a shrug.
On the day of the party, I bought a dessert and went to
the party on time. At the sight of me, that American
classmate opened his eyes wide and said, "I thought you
can not make it".
"I bought it, I did not make it myself," I held the
dessert in my hands in front of him and emphasized.
On hearing what I said, the American bent over with
laughter. After a while, he explained that last time he
wanted to know whether I could come, and did not ask me if
I could cook a Chinese dish or dessert. Now I understand
that "make it" usually has the meaning of arriving at or
reaching a place or destination successfully.
a pat on the back 赞扬，鼓励
At a time like this, what she needs is a pat on the back
rather than a blame.
For children, a pat on the back is much more beneficial to
their healthy development than blaming them.
The teacher blamed Joe for being lazy, which was regarded
by Joe as a pat on the back rather than a criticism.
I gave all the students a pat on the back by saying that
they were already on their way to remarkable success.
get someone's back up 惹某人生气；把某人给惹翻了
What did you do to get Nancy's back up? She is not the
sort of persons who is quick to take offense.
Jack: What did you do to get her back up?
Mark: I only said she was easy to take offense.
Jack: And what else did you say?
Mark: Well, I also said she was not eve a child.
Jack: But these remarks were enough to get her back up.
know... like the back of one's hand.对...了如指掌
You may ask Frank to work in that city. He knows the place
like the back of his hand.
Frank: I'd like someone to work in California and take
charge of the development there. Whom do you recommend,
John: I'd recommend Samson. He's the best choice, I'm
Frank: Samson? He's never been working outside the city.
John: Well, he was brought up in California. He knows the
place like the back of his hand. Besides, he still keeps
in touch with many of his former relations.
Frank: I didn't know that.
turn one's back on/upon...背弃...，抛弃...;对...不闻不问
We requested that he look into the matter, but he just
seemed to turn his back on our request.
Did she really turn her back on his proposal?她真的拒绝了他的求婚？
Nancy: You look upset these days. What's troubling you?
Selma: I've requested to take a leave from work so that I
can spend our annual holiday in Spain with my family. But
our boss turned it down by saying that the company is
short of hands.
Nancy: Did you explain your situation and ask him again?
Selma: Yes, I did. But he just turned his back on my
Nancy: Maybe you can change your plan and put it off till
by the back door 通过后门；用不正当的途径
It is said that he got many of the spare parts into China
by the back door.据说他把很多备件非法偷运到中国境内。
Most government officials knew pretty well that this
rubbish came into the country by the back door, but they
did not know who exactly had given the smugglers the green
The manager knew that the two new employees came in by the
back door, but he didn't know exactly who were at the
bring home the bacon 养家糊口；成功，取胜
In every country and regardless of their social systems,
there must be someone in the house who will have to bring
home the bacon.
Frank: I'm feeling under the weather(感到身体不舒服）. I'm not in
the mood for doing anything today.
John: Play hooky（逃学，开小差）. I won't spill the beans（泄密）.
Frank: I know, but I can't. I'm swamped with
work（有一大堆工作得做）. My job is no picnic（不是轻松的事）, you know.
John: Well, hang in there. In the long run, you'll be
Frank: I hope so. But I have to work hard and bring home
hold the bag背黑锅
Although the four of them robbed the bank with joined
efforts, it was Joe who had been left holding the bag.
Martha: Do you know what's happened to Frank?
Nancy: Not an inkling. What's happened?
Martha: He was caught stealing a file from a company.
Nancy: Sorry to hear that. He should have mended his
Martha: But the job was engineered by someone else.
Nancy: Did that someone else stand up?
Martha: Nobody likes to face the music（面对惩罚）， of course.
Nancy: So it was Frank who was left holding the bag?