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Great Scott

Every language has its ways of expressing strong emotions -- surprise, shock, anger.

The expressions range from mild to strong, from exclamations and oaths, to curses and swear words. The ones that are accepted in public speech change through the years as social rules change.

At times, only very mild expressions are socially accepted.

Some of the most popular expressions are those that are guaranteed not to offend anyone. Most of these exclamations have survived from earlier days. And their original meanings are long since forgotten.

Great Scott! is a good example. It expresses surprise or shock. You might say to someone, "Great Scott! I did not know she was married!"

Language expert Webb Garrison tells an interesting story about the expression.

Just before the Civil War, the Whig political party was making a last effort to remain a part of American political life. For the election of eighteen fifty-two, the Whigs wanted to offer a colorful candidate for president.

They thought that Winfield Scott would be the right candidate.

In his thirty years as a general, Winfield Scott had become one of the best-known military leaders in the country. During the war with Mexico, he had captured Vera Cruz and occupied Mexico City.

So, party leaders thought that if any Whig could be elected president, it was Winfield Scott.

General Scott quickly accepted the nomination and began campaigning. It did not take long for the public to realize that General Scott really liked General Scott!

His speeches were full of praise for himself. It was evident that he thought he was the greatest candidate who had ever lived. Soon his political opponents began to make fun of him. They called him, Great Scott.

General Scott did not come close to winning the presidency. But his name still lives as part of the English language.

Other popular exclamations combine holy with other words.

Holy Mackerel! is one that expresses surprise or wonder. It comes from earlier days when the Roman Catholic Church ruled that Catholics must not eat meat on Fridays. Since mackerel was a common and cheap fish in the United States, it was often eaten for dinner on Friday.

Then there is Holy Toledo! It is another expression of surprise. It refers to the city of Toledo, Spain, an important religious center in medieval times. Toledo was a holy city for both the Roman Catholics and the Muslim Moors of Spain.



Hold Your Horses!

 Today, we tell about "horse" expressions. In the past, many people depended on horses for transportation, farming and other kinds of work. A lot of people still like to ride horses. And, horse racing is also popular. So it is not surprising that Americans still use expressions about the animals.

Long ago, people who were rich or important rode horses that were very tall. Today, if a girl acts like she is better than everyone else, you might say she should get off her high horse


All About Eyes

Todays program is all about eyes. When it comes to relationships, peoples eyes can be a window into their hearts. This means that their eyes can tell a lot about how they feel. We will tell a story about a man and woman who are teachers at the same school. The woman is interested in the man. She uses many methods to catch his eye, or get him to notice her. Once he sets eyes on her, or sees her, she might try to get him interested in her by acting playful. In other words, she might try to make eyes at him or give him the eye.


Down to Earth

Today we tell about the expression "down to earth." Down to earth means being open and honest.  It is easy to deal with someone who is down to earth.

A person who is down to earth is a pleasure to find.  He or she accepts other people as equals.  A down to earth person is the opposite of someone who acts important or proud.



Todays word is belittle. It was first used by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.

Many years ago, a French naturalist, the Count de Buffon, wrote some books about natural history. The books were a great success even though some critics did not like them. Some critics said, Count Buffon is more of a poet than a scientist.


Colorful Expressions

 Every people has its own way of saying things, its own special expressions. Many everyday American expressions are based on colors. Red is a hot color. Americans often use it to express heat. They may say they are red hot about something unfair. When they are red hot they are very angry about something. The small hot tasting peppers found in many Mexican foods are called red hots for their color and their fiery taste. Fast loud music is popular with many people. They may say the music is red hot, especially the kind called Dixieland jazz.


Hot Potatoes, Hot heads and Hot shots

Hot is a simple, easily understood word. So are most of the expressions made with the word hot -- but not always, as we shall see...
The words hot potato, for example, give you no idea at all to the meaning of the expression hot potato.x

The potato is a popular vegetable in the United States. Many people like baked potatoes, cooked in an oven or fire. Imagine trying to carry a hot, baked potato in your hand. It would be difficult -- even painful-- to do so. Now we are getting close to the meaning of hot potato.


The Big Easy and Sin City

Many cities have interesting nicknames. Nicknames can help establish the identity of a city. They can also spread pride among its citizens.

New Orleans, Louisiana probably has more nicknames than any other American city. One web site lists more than twenty nicknames. The most famous is The Big Easy. It describes the gentle, slow and easy-going way of life in New Orleans.x


Gambling and Losing

Many people believe that "money makes the world go around." Others believe that "money buys happiness."
I do not agree with either idea.
But I do admit that money can make people do strange things. Let me tell you about a person I once knew who liked to play card games for money -- he liked to gamble...


Are You Loaded?

Most people enjoy working for several reasons -- their job might be fun, or they like their employer and the other people at work. Most people I know, however, work for the money. I do not know anyone who is "loaded" -- or extremely rich.

Most of my friends work to earn enough money to live. They have to "make ends meet" -- they have to earn enough money to pay for the things they need. Some even live "from hand to mouth" -- they only have enough money for the most important things.

They struggle to earn enough money to "bring home the bacon" -- it can be difficult to earn enough money for a family to survive. Sometimes, poor people even "get caught short" -- they do not have enough money to pay for what they need.


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