Saffle Says --- Lessons for English Learners

Here you can find out all the information you need about the Michael's ESL podcast and blog. Post questions and comments as you wish. I value listener and reader comments so don't be shy! The questions you ask me more than likely will be questions others want to know the answers to!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spring Time Idioms


It's Spring time and my cherry tree is about to burst with color. Spring is traditionally the time of renewal and a chance to begin again. When I lived in Japan the school I taught in (and all schools for that matter) started their year in Spring, not in the Autumn like we do in the U.S. I always thought that was a wonderful idea. 

Here are some idioms for this time of year that maybe you can sprinkle into your conversations in English. Remember, if you want to practice with me, you can set-up a one-on-one casual English conversation with me. Just follow this link for details. 

  • The heavens open - When it suddenly starts to rain heavily. "As soon as we left the house, the heavens opened and we were soaked to the bone." What makes this idiom slightly different from the classic "it's raining cats and dogs" is the suddenness of the rain. 
  • No spring chicken - Means that someone is quite old or well past their youth. "How old is the gym teacher?"  "I don't know, but he's no spring chicken for sure." 
  • Fresh as a daisy - Someone who is as fresh as a daisy is lively and attractive, in a clean and fresh way. "I met Susan for breakfast after the long night of karaoke. Unbelievable, she looked as fresh as a daisy!"
  • One swallow does not a spring make - One piece of evidence does not mean that something is definitely the case or is going to happen. "I know you're excited about getting your vaccine, but you can't go out maskless yet, and one swallow does not a spring make." 

Enjoy your spring and get outside (but bring an umbrella)! 

- Michael 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What Makes a Great Jingle?

Hello and congratulations for making it through another week! In the U.S.A. and other countries around the world, we have been mostly self-quarantining ourselves in our house this week. Social Distancing is the new phrase in our collective zeitgeist and boy-howdy, can it be a challenge. Our family lives in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and we have closed our schools and have been directed to work from home. The good news is that working from home is possible for both my wife and I so we can continue to provide for our children. It does make it difficult to work though when you have two young children in the house and you have to not only keep them entertained, but also educated. As a former Junior High School and Elementary school teacher I have some experience, but it's definitely a full-time job.

One of the things I have been doing is playing old commercial jingles for my children. If you are like me, you don't really watch a lot of live television anymore. We mostly watch on-demand programing. Netflix, YouTube and the like. So we don't generally ever see any commercials anymore. For my children, these old commercial jingles are just short songs. And I think that's what makes them so memorable. Some of the best jingles are very very old. One of the shortest but memorable is the one for Jello which has been around for almost 100 years.

So I thought I would link to a few of my favorite jingles here for your enjoyment.

Here is one of the oldest Jello radio commercials. Back in the 1930s radio programs would have one advertiser for the entire show. The Jack Benny Show was sponsored by Jello for years and years. 

Classic commercial from my youth, Kit-Kat! One of the world's most popular candy bars. Now I was one.

I have never bought this cat food but I will never forget this jingle! Classic!

And maybe the most famous one of all! The Coke commercial that was translated into many different languages. Did you have this one in your country?

Hang in there if you can't leave your house! Send me your favorite commercial jingles!

- Michael

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Sunday, March 08, 2020

To Lick Someone's Boots - What? Why?

Why would someone want to lick someone else's boots? Well, this idiom refers to someone who is trying to please a person, usually a superior at work, often in order to obtain something, often not seen as genuine to others.

An example would be "Roger is licking the manager's boots in the hope of obtaining a pay rise." 

It can be easy to see why this would be a negative idiom, in the sense you wouldn't use this to compliment someone. We have other idioms similar to this one. To "butter up" someone is to complement them in order to curry favor. Though not 100% positive, it's far better than the image of licking someone's footwear.

We can assume the the original message behind this week's idiom is that when spoken, we are to see what the "boot licker" is doing is not condoned appropriate or is irksome. If you find yourself in a conversation with a co-worker and this idiom is being used, know that this isn't friendly banter, this is someone angry with another and letting you know about it.

Does your language have something similar? I would love to know!



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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Who doesn't like cake?


It's birthday season here in the Saffle household (we have three in a one-month period) and I have been thinking about one of my favorite parts of any birthday. Cake! Sure, presents are nice but it's the cake I don't get to eat very often that I look forward to the most. (Side note, did you know that on your birthday, cake doesn't have any calories? That's a fact! )

So I was thinking about cake when I sat down to add more idioms to the site. So here are a few idioms that have something to do with cake. Enjoy!

Have your cake and eat it
To say that someone wants to have their cake and eat it means that they want the advantages of two alternative situations when only one is possible.
"Satoshi enjoys his comfort but is always complaining about the cost of things. He can't have his cake and eat it." So in this example, either Satoshi lives in comfort, thus will have to pay for such luxuries like a nice apartment or home, or he saves his money and lives like a monk.
This idiom is one of the most misunderstood and misused in the English language. People don't always understand that the basic idea is impossible. Having your cake (holding it let's say in your hands) and eating your cake are two different things You CAN'T have it both ways. That's the point of the idiom. But nonetheless, I see people misuse this idiom all the time.

Piece of cake
To refer to something as a piece of cake means that you consider it to be very easy, not at all difficult.
"The driver's test was a piece of cake!" 
You will sometimes hear "Easy as pie" which is a similar idiom, but today we are taking about cake. I do love pie though. Where some people get mixed up, they will say "piece of pie" or "easy as cake." Watch out for that!

Sell like hot cakes
Things that sell like hot cakes sell quickly or in large quantities.
"She's a very successful phone saleswoman. Her phones always sell like hot cakes."
Now, hotcakes are not real cakes, they are pancakes. Pancakes are fantastic and I might love them more than actual cakes, but don't be confused. In Japan, pancakes are a dessert, but in the U.S. they are a breakfast food.

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