Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Idioms using 'Fish'

The ubiquity of fish in culinary traditions and the popularity of fishing as both a recreational pastime and a food-gathering activity has led to the development of many fish-based idioms, including those listed and described below.

1. all is fish that comes to his net: a proverb that alludes to a person’s resourcefulness

2–4. another/different/whole other kettle of fish: spoken to recognize an abrupt shift in the topic being discussed

5–6. better/other fish to fry: a reference to having more important things to do than what one is doing or than what is proposed

7. big fish: an important or influential person

8–9. big fish in a little/small pond: an important or influential person on an insignificant scale, such as in a small community

10. cold fish: a person who does not exude friendliness or show emotions

11. cry stinking fish (primarily British English): self-deprecate

12. drink like a fish: imbibe excessive amounts of alcohol

13–14. fine/pretty kettle of fish: a predicament

15. fish around: investigate

16–17. fish for a compliment/compliments: encourage someone to say something favorable about you without asking outright

18. fish in troubled waters: involve oneself in a dangerous or difficult situation to risk gaining an advantage

19. fish or cut bait: an admonition to act or to remove oneself as an obstacle to another person acting

20. fish out of water: a reference to a person who feels awkward or uncomfortable because he or she is in an unfamiliar environment

21–24. fish out/fish out of/fish up/fish up out of: retrieve (the first variation is also used literally to mean “deplete a body of water of its fish population by overfishing”)

25. fish story: an exaggerated account or tall tale, from the supposed tendency of fishermen to claim that the “one that got away” was larger than it actually was

26. fish-eating grin: smug smile

27. fish-eye lens: a type of wide-angle camera lens

28. fish: inept or stupid person

29. fishy: suspicious

30. like shooting fish in a barrel: a reference to something that is extremely easy to do, on the notion that fish swimming in a barrel rather than in open water make for an easy target

31–32. need (something) like/about as much as a fish needs a bicycle: a reference to the incompatibility of a fish and a bicycle to convey that something is utterly useless to someone

33. neither fish nor fowl: an allusion to something difficult to categorize, describe, or understand

34–35. odd/queer fish: a strange person

36–37. plenty of/more fish in the sea: a reference to the notion that many other romantic partners are available to one after the end of a relationship or after one is rejected by another person

38. teach a man to fish: the essence of a proverb, one version of which is “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” which means that it is better to teach someone to do something than to do it for him or her

39. The cat would eat fish but would not wet her feet: A proverbial comment referring to the necessity of enduring annoyance or taking risks to achieve goals

40. What’s that got to do with the price of fish? (primarily British English): a response to an irrelevant comment or a non sequitur

And I would add one that you hear in many gangster movies:

41. Sleep with the fish/fishes: He will be sleeping with the fishes by morning means he will be dead (killed) by the next morning.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Conditionals Besides “If” and “Unless”

If and unless are common conditional conjunctions employed to express conjecture and uncertainty, but a number of other words and phrases that perform similar functions are discussed in this post.

“Should you” is the future conditional form of “do you,” seen in formally polite requests such as “Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.” It is more flexible than “if you,” which is strictly conditional in the present, in inviting the audience to contact the speaker/writer at any time, not just now.

“Had you” is an example of a subject-auxiliary inversion, employed in statements such as ‘Had you bothered to ask, I would have told you.” The implication of the sentence is that the audience did not do something that, if he or she or they had, would have achieved the stated result.

If (noun/pronoun) were” statements pertain to possible but improbable occurrences or to recommendations, as in “If you were to open your eyes, you would find what you were looking for.” A more formal version of this form is “were (noun/pronoun) to (verb),” as in “Were we to think otherwise.”

Several words or phrases impose conditions or set limits, such as “As long as” (less formal) or “so long as,” (more formal), “only if,” “on condition that,” and “provided” or “providing” (or “provided/providing that”).

The conjunction or is used conditionally to establish an alternative possibility to a condition or state: “Hurry up, or you’ll be late.” Otherwise, as used earlier in this post, is a pronoun; as a conjunctive adverb, it serves the same function as or (but notice the difference in punctuation): “Hurry up; otherwise, you’ll be late.” (Some writing guides accept the punctuation used with or.)

Suppose and supposing apply to what-if situations: “Suppose that I were to say no—what would you do?” “Supposing that I were to say no, what would you do?” Suppose also pertains to proposing an idea, as in “Suppose I pay for dinner, and you buy the movie tickets?”

In “if only,” only appears as an intensifier to express a strong wish for a different condition or state, as in “If only you had told me before.” “If so” and “if not” pertain to opposite potential affirmative and negative conditions or states, respectively, when the condition or state is known: “Do you plan to attend the event? If so, click on yes. If not, click on no.”  

Even is also used as an intensifier with if, but unlike in the case of only, it precedes if; it pertains to extreme or surprising conditions or states, as in “Even if I were to believe you, what would you expect me to do about it?”


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lay or Lie?

Because the meanings and the principal parts of lie and lay are similar, these two verbs are often confused.

Publisher's note: Even newscasters often do not know how to use these correctly! These are people who should understand how to use the language correctly.


The transitive verb lay means to put or place; it takes a direct object.
Tip: To lay is to place. (Listen for the a sound.)
The intransitive verb lie means to rest or recline; it does not take a direct object.
Tip: To lie is to recline. (Listen for the i sound.)
Don't confuse the past and past participle forms of these verbs:
  • lay (present), laid (past), and laid (past participle)
  • lie (present), lay (past), and lain (past participle)


  • "Now lay the back of the shirt flat on the board and iron out any creases in whatever style you see fit."
    (Nick Harper, Man Skills. Michael O'Mara Books, 2006) 
  • "In politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upward on the table."
    (H. G. Wells) 
  • "The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won't get much sleep."
    (Woody Allen, Without Feathers, 1980) 
  • "The lion lay down beside them to watch, but he also was so weary with the fight, that he called to the bear and said, 'Lie down near me, I must sleep a little: if anything comes, waken me.' Then the bear lay down beside him."
    (Grimm Brothers, "The Two Brothers") 
  • The pumpkin that I had laid on the porch lay there for a month. 
  • "On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died."
    (Adlai E. Stevenson) 
  • "Field flowers no longer grow amid the crops in England’s fields, but once the backhoes are withdrawn from roadworks, poppies spring from the disturbed ground. The seed they have grown from blew off the fields maybe a generation ago, and has lain in the soil ever since, waiting for someone or something to break the sod."
    (Germaine Greer, "How to Bring a Devastated Forest Back to Life." Smithsonian, May 2014) 


"English department: from a television review, page 18, December 10: 'The victim lays on the ground, sobbing.' That should be 'The victim lies on the ground,' or if the past tense is wanted, 'The victim lay on the ground.'"
(Corrections and Clarifications, The Guardian, December 14, 1999)

Usage Notes

  • "A frustrating pair. Here's the deal. In the present tense, lay is a transitive verb, meaning it takes a direct object: you lay something down. Lie doesn't take a direct object: something just lies there. If you're tired of holding something, you should lay it down; if you're not feeling well, you should lie down. (Of course, I'm excluding lie, 'tell an untruth'--this is just the reclining lie.)

    "Not too bad: if this were the whole deal, there'd be nothing to worry about. But it gets messier, because the past tense of lay is laid, and the past tense of lie is, well, lay."
    (Jack Lynch, "Lay versus Lie," The English Language: A User's Guide. Focus Publishing, 2008) 
  • "There have been some difficulties with grammar since I last wrote. Lay is a transitive verb (I lay down a case of claret every month; she laid the table), lie an intransitive one (he lies over there; she lay in bed until noon). Do not confuse them."
    (Simon Heffer, "Style Notes 28: February 12, 2010." The Daily Telegraph
  • A 19th-Century Language Lesson
    "I will here give you a specimen of the errors which are sometimes committed by those who do not understand Grammar. This last-mentioned Verb, to lie, becomes, in the past time, lay. Thus: 'Dick lies on a bed now, but some time ago, he lay on the floor.' This Verb is often confounded with the Verb to lay, which is an active Verb, and which becomes, in its past time, laid. Thus: 'I lay my hat on the table today, but, yesterday, I laid it on the shelf.'"
    (William Cobbett, A Grammar of the English Language in a Series of Letters, 1818) 
  • A Lost Cause?
    "If the grammarians and the schoolmasters and the schoolmarms and the usage writers have succeeded in largely establishing the transitive-intransitive distinction between lay and lie in standard discursive prose, they have not done so well in speech. . . .

    "Notwithstanding the belief of some that social judgments can be solidly based on language use, the lay-lie shibboleth may be changing its status. For instance, several commentators, such as Evans 1957, Follett 1966, and Flesch 1983, are perfectly willing to give the distinction up; Bolinger 1980 thinks it is already a lost cause not worth defending; Coperud 1970, 1980 judges the consensus of his experts to be that at least some uses of lay for lie are verging on the standard. Flesch even goes so far as to recommend using lay for lie if it comes naturally to you.

    "If lay 'lie' is on the rise socially, however, it is likely to be a slow rise, as indignant letters to the editor attest. Bolinger observes sensibly that if you have invested some effort in learning the distinction, you will not want to admit that you have wasted your time. And by far the largest part of our printed evidence follows the schoolbook rules. On the other hand, evidence also shows no retreat of intransitive lay in oral use. So what should you do? The best advice seems to be Bolinger's.

    "Many people use lay for lie, but certain others will judge you uncultured if you do. Decide for yourself what is best for you."
    (Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Merriam-Webster, 2002)

Idiom Alerts

  • Lay It on the Line
    The idiom lay it on the line means to say something directly and honestly.
    "Sam Rayburn, the longtime Democratic speaker of the House, later said of Marshall's congressional testimony, ''He laid it on the line. He would tell the truth even if it hurt his cause.'"
    (Nicolaus Mills, Winning the Peace. Wiley, 2008) 
  • Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
    The expression let sleeping dogs lie means to discourage someone from talking about a problem that others have apparently forgotten.
    "The police have asked us no further questions and the unfortunate gossip in the town has subsided. We begin to think that it may be better to let sleeping dogs lie.”
    (Leo Bruce [Rupert Croft-Cooke], Such Is Death, 1963) 

The Lighter Side of Lay and Lie

"Lie and lay offer slips to the pen
That have bothered most excellent men:
You can say that you lay
In bed—yesterday;
If you do it today, you're a hen!"
(Christopher Morley, "The Unforgivable Syntax," 1919)


(a) The dog sleeps on the couch, and the cats always _____ curled up under the table.

(b) Don't shout when you _____ your cards down.

(c) Linda _____ down for a nap after yoga last night.

(d) "So great was the noise during the day that I used to _____ awake at night listening to the silence." (Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington. Houghton Mifflin, 1988)

(e) "Rosie scratched about, turned over a sack, and revealed a stone jar of cider. . . . Huge and squat, the jar _____ on the grass like an unexploded bomb."
(Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie, 1959)
Answers to Practice Exercises: Lay and Lie
(a) The dog sleeps on the couch, and the cats always lie curled up under the table.

(b) Don't shout when you lay your cards down.

(c) Linda lay down for a nap after yoga last night.

(d) "So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence."
(Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington. Houghton Mifflin, 1988)

(e) "Rosie scratched about, turned over a sack, and revealed a stone jar of cider.
. . . Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb."
(Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie, 1959)

Source: https://www.thoughtco.com/lay-and-lie

Is there a difference between TESOL and TEFL designations?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a British designation so is well known in Europe and in schools elsewhere that either follow the British curriculum or are known to teach British English.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is popular in North, Central and South America and in schools that teach American English.

Many schools have no preference...so long as you have one of these designation. We teach it as the same course and offer it with either designation. Which one you choose might be determined by where you would prefer to teach.

Sunbridge Institute of English