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Evil Eye, Belly Laugh, Hope Chest: Conversation Partners Have Fun

Posted by Randy LeGrant | May 18, 2010, 10:18:00 AM

Conversation Partner logoConversation Partners and members of the Conversation Corps teach conversational English.  Over time, we have found that organizations requesting GeoVisions Conversation Partners are more interested in conversational English than formal English or grammar.

That of course makes it impossible to stay away from Colloquialisms--those informal (almost slang) phrases we take for granted in the U.S.  If you are having a meal with your host family you might just blurt out, "That meal was great but we're going to need a lot of elbow grease to clean the plates." Your hosts may look at you as if you have 12 heads.

Language in many other countries is more formal and sometimes have a lot of usage rules.  In English (especially conversational English) native speakers will easily lapse into informal English, and that is when the fun begins.

Sometimes Colloquialisms are geographical in the U.S.  In the Northeast we "take" someone to the movies.  In some places in the south they "carry" that same person to the movies.

We thought it would be fun to list the Colloquialisms our tutors have written to us about, which have created the most laughter at a family dinner table or in an informal class. We would love for you to add your own in our comments section below.  As you read the Colloquialisms below (highlighted in red) imagine people listening to you who have no knowledge of these everyday, informal phrases and imagine the look on their faces when they hear:

  • I guess we'll have to browbeat you to go with us.
  • I just dumped my sweetheart.
  • I just got a serious tongue-lashing.
  • Don't buy him a beer, he's a hothead.
  • When I looked out they were necking at the front door.
  • I just don't want her to badmouth me.
  • I just had a brainstorm.
  • Wow! What a brownnose.
  • He is very headstrong.
  • Can you believe that egghead? (knucklehead, numbskull)
  • What a great belly laugh.
  • I think she just gave me the evil eye.
  • We're going to have to knuckle under.
  • Her hope chest is large.
  • Have you ever seen a one-armed bandit?
  • Keep a stiff upper lip.
  • People are different in this neck of the woods.
  • She's a bleeding heart.
  • You're skin and bones.
  • Give me a little elbow room, will ya?
  • It happened in the blink of an eye.
  • Now I have to go face the music.
  • You are going to have to toe the line.
  • I'd rather meet face to face.
  • We went toe-to-toe over that.
  • That stone is like a baby's bottom.
  • When they questioned us, I got fingered.
  • She broke my heart. (She must have a heart of stone.)
  • You are a sight for sore eyes.
  • Just made it by the skin of my teeth.
  • You are the apple of my eye.
  • He has no stomach for it.
  • I'm having a bad hair day.
  • Zip your lip.
  • Just eyeball it.
  • Can I have that last ear of corn?

Language is fun.  And using Colloquialisms can lead to some great lessons around a dinner table or in a classroom.  And a lot of laughter.  As a former teacher, I found when you combine laughter and a lesson...the lesson is rarely forgotten.

So what do you say?  Don't get all up in arms about it.   That new Colloquialism is right on the tip of your tongue.  You can write it in a comment box in the blink of an eye.  Go ahead, I've got your back.

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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