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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 attentively!".

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 careful.

  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 "don't speak".

  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 achieving anything.
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 (开始认真地干)your targets.

  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 prize.
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 business.
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 with.
  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 down.他有三寸不烂之舌。几乎没人能把他驳倒。
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 his actions.

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 friend.
"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 leg
Sandra: I say, Frank. Have you thought about changing the bed sets(床上用品)?
Frank: Well, I've actually been thinking of discarding them.
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 decide.
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 know?
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. 她说他搞不清楚为何公司里的人都不愿已接近他。

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 professor.

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 childlike."

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 embarrassed.

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 express.

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. (当经理得知某公司已经把该产品投放市场时,他不禁大吃一惊。)
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 feel.
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 promoted.


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 the company.

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 of myself.

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 every day.

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 card".

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?
John: I'd recommend Samson. He's the best choice, I'm afraid.
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 request.
Nancy: Maybe you can change your plan and put it off till later.

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 light.

The manager knew that the two new employees came in by the back door, but he didn't know exactly who were at the back. 总经理知道那两个人是通过后门进来的,但是他不清楚到底谁是他们的后台。

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 sitting pretty(处于有利的地位;过上优裕的生活).
Frank: I hope so. But I have to work hard and bring home the bacon.

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 steps(注意自己的言行).

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?

Martha: yeah.