Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010

New Years

New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the US like in most of the world with parties, champagne or other type of booze and – at least in New York – with a ball dropping and a loud count down.

Happy New Year to you all! pic: © Roxana González |

In most of the US New Year’s Eve is the only day in the year when grown ups (those willing) are able to dress up and attend costume parties.  mardi gras is only celebrated in the New Orleans area and Halloween really is a kid’s event (although people like me use it to dress up at least a little and some grown ups actually have parties)  – that leave New Year’s Eve for some foolishness.

people either attend parties with their friends, families, neighbors or go out to official events hosted in hotels, or watch special show in one of the theaters.

Once the big moment of midnight has arrived people wish each other “A Happy New Year” – and depending on how well they know each other or how drunk they are a hug and or kiss are okay

If you send cards you can choose from a variety of expressions in connection with New Year: happy, healthy, successful, prosperous, 0r any combination thereof are standard as well as rather formal expressions for business acquaintances such as “May the New Year bring you much joy and happiness” or “A year of happiness and success”

I that spirit:  A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!


December 30, 2010

Small stuff

This is an expression you will hear quite frequently in the US, especially if you tend to stress out over a lot of things: “don’t sweat the small stuff”

he looks like he might be sweating the small stuff, pic:

This expression is a friendly and non-offensive way to tell you not to worry about trivial or unimportant issues.  It is a reminder that it isn’t worth to get all worked up about a broken glass, a dinner of overcooked spaghetti, or a plane that leaves late (which one doesn’t anyway, these days?)

People who complain a lot or like to portrait themselves as the poor victims of a never-ending assault of bad luck and fortune are preferred recipients of this advice which has found its way into the title of numerous books and blogs.

Here is an example:

Small-stuff sweating person: “We got to the restaurant right in time for our reservation but they weren’t ready for us so we all had to wait 10 minutes.  Can you believe that??  I’ll never go there again!”

Relaxed person: “10 minutes, that is really no big deal.  Come on now, don’t sweat the small stuff!”

December 28, 2010

A little bit of Mexico

I am in Mexico and so I have been looking for a Mexican proverb with an English translation and came up with this one:

Leopard not changing its spots!, pic: © Lori Martin |

“El que es perico, dondequiera es verde”.  In a direct translation that means “a parrot is green no matter where it is”.  The English equivalent is the following proverb:A leopard never changes its spots”, also possible” the tiger cannot change it’s stripes”

Basically that expresses the somewhat fatalistic attitude that people will never change.  It seems to be used mainly to express the idea that people won’t change for the better or make drastic adjustments to their habits and attitude, especially as they get older.

It is a fairly friendly and non offensive saying implying slight resignation mixed in with understanding for the fact that people tend to not change their basic nature.

Here are some examples:

Guy to his friend: “I want to climb Mount Everest, do you want to come with me?”

Friend: “You know that I don’t like risky adventures like that and never will – a leopard never changes his spots! So no, you’ll have to find somebody else!”

Girl to friend: “My fiance is very conservative, I wish he was a little more liberal.  Do you think I can change him?”

Friend: “Honey, a leopard never changes its spots!”

December 27, 2010

Stick a fork in it

You might hear this expression from time to time: “Stick a fork in it.”

This sausage is seriously done, pic: © Dmitry Maslov |

As with most expressions you aren’t supposed to actually spear anything with a fork.  The expression indicates that something or somebody is done, finished, over with.

For people a situation might be like this: you have just been cross country skiing for 30 miles and your skiing buddy asks you: “you want to go another round?” unless you are in Olympic condition your answer could be: “stick a fork in me.  I am done!”

An example for sticking a fork into a thing is this headline: “Stick a fork in it. Pass the Child Nutrition Act.”

Since this expression does not have its origin in sports it must be food.  And so it is: when cooking meats or sausages one often sticks a fork in it to see whether it is done.

December 26, 2010

Santa Claus is coming

Santa looks like he is freezing there on the North Pole, pic: © Annsunnyday |

Okay, one more post about Christmas and then we are done with that topic.

In  Germany we celebrate Christmas Eve, that’s when Bay Jesus (Christkind) comes and brings presents for the good kids.  He slips in a present or two for the grown-ups as well.

Here it is Santa Claus in his sleigh who brings the presents during the night of December 24.   Santa Claus is apparently a Dutch character who only became fully Americanized in 1823.  The origins date back even further to Saint Nicholas who lived in 4th century AD in what is now Turkey and loved to give presents to children.

So this jolly, bearded guy in a red suit with white trimming is coming from the North Pole (where he lives, poor guy) in his sleigh pulled by his reindeer: Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, and Donder and Blitzen and, of course, the famous Rudolf with his red nose. Elves make the presents all year for the kids in a special toy factory.  Santa also has a wife, Mrs. Claus who keeps him on his toes.  It’s all quite idyllic – if it wasn’t so cold on the North Pole one would almost want to join them.

December 25, 2010

More travel expressions

Some more travel related expression used in the US.

A tall frosty one on the road doesn't happen much anymore. pic: © Ksenia Krylova |

Let’s start with one that is related to air travel and pretty widely known and used even in other countries: red-eye flight.

Red-eye flights are those departing late at night getting you to were you want or need to be the next day, fatigued and with red eyes from lack of sleep.  The expression is often shortened in spoken language and so somebody will say: “I took the red-eye out of LA last night to get to DC in  the morning.”

Red-eyes are very common in a country with four time zones.  Less popular, at least now, I am under the impression that this used to be different back in the days is the habit of having “one for the road”.   This expression refers to having one more of something, but particularly one more (alcoholic) drink before one hits the road.  These days we all know how dangerous dunk driving is and if somebody has “one for the road” they are much more likely to be referring to a cookie or a glass of OJ (orange juice) than a martini.

December 24, 2010

Early Christmas

Christmas wishes comig true early, pic: © Cindy Hughes |

It’s almost Christmas so we need to have a little bit of a Christmas spirit here with a Christmas themed idiom.  There aren’t that many to choose from so here is one:

“Like Christmas came early”

The meaning is pretty obvious: when something really good happens to you unexpectedly it might feel like Santa brought you a present – whatever time of the year it might be.   The good thing could be good news, good fortune, a lucky break, an unexpected gift.

Here is a headline from 2009 utilizing the expression: “Christmas came early for Disney. Their latest film ‘Disney’s A Christmas Carol’, starring Jim Carrey, made $31 million dollars in its opening weekend.”  Apparently, nobody believed that the movie would make that much money, else they wouldn’t have used the expression.

Here is a recent one: “For democrats and Obama, Christmas came early”.


December 23, 2010

Funny word – Smorgasbord

it looks Scandinavian and it is – only that in Swedish this word would be spelled like so: Smörgåsbord

A real smorgasbord -yum! pic:

In Sweden a Smörgåsbord is a meal served buffet-style with many dishes of various types of foods on a table.  Smörgåsbord came to the new world and was transformed into  Smorgasbord in 1939 when it was served in the Swedish pavilion during the New York World fair.

Since then the word has considerably broadened its meaning in English and now is used to describe a large heterogeneous mixture of almost anything.   Here are a couple of examples:

Tourist after a visit in an all-inclusive resort: “Every day we could choose from a smorgasbord of different activities.  It was great.”

HR person at a company meeting: “as you can see, we offer a smorgasbord of different benefits for you to choose from.”

Smorgasboard is one of the few Swedish words that have found their way – minus a few dots and circles – into the English language.

December 22, 2010

Close but no cigar

If you try something and fall just short of achieving it people might say “close but no cigar”.  It is a fairly friendly way of saying “buddy, you didn’t quite make it.”

Close enough for a cigar, pic: © Budda |

It is a expression used among friends and is non-offensive and in the universe of possible ways of telling people they failed this falls on the harmless, friendly side of the spectrum.

It is a funny little expression and seems to make no sense until you understand where it comes from (at least most likely comes from):  cigars where standard prices (I assume for the men only but who knows) on the fairgrounds of the olden days, i.e. the 20th century.  So if somebody played a game on the fairgrounds and didn’t quite make it the standard expression was “close but no cigar.”

In California nobody smokes anymore but the expression remains.

December 21, 2010


Ingrid being gaslighted, pic: wiki

I just heard that one on TV today – I actually never heard it before but I thought it was interesting.  This is maybe not the expression you want to be using liberally but it is good to know what it means.

So anyway, the detective said to her partner “you are being gaslighted”.  If you know the 1944 movie with Ingrid Bergman in which her husband is trying to drive her crazy with – among other things – playing tricks with the gaslights you will immediately understand what “you are being gaslighted” means, namely that somebody is trying to drive you crazy or at least is trying to make you believe that you are about to go crazy.  Which – for all practical purposes is probably the same.

Just in case you wondered: in the movie all ends well and the bad husband is brought to justice with the help of an inspector the heroine meets by chance.