Thursday, March 20, 2008

Confusing Words


Idioms are difficult to understand because their meaning is not what it appears to be at first sight. Some are easier to guess when they have some association with the original meaning of the individual words.

Thus, the meaning of once in a blue moon is not too difficult to guess. Blue moons do not appear in the sky very frequently so we may guess (correctly) that this means very rarely.

But what about on cloud nine as in: She was on cloud nine.

What does this mean? There are no clues here.

Sometimes the context will help us to understand the meaning:

Charlotte had just been offered a job with a modelling agency when I saw her, so, of course, she was on cloud nine.

However, to be quite sure, we may need to check the meaning in a good dictionary or idioms reference book.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Let’s try to understand the meaning of this idiom or proverb.

Literally, it is clearly not the case that every cloud has a silvery edge or a silver lining. But think of dark clouds behind which the sun is hidden. As a cloud comes out from behind the dark clouds into a bright blue sky, it is edged with a silvery lining.

Thus we are moving from relative darkness into bright light and the meaning of the idiom becomes clear, i.e. even if things look very bad, there must be some good outcome as well.

Here are some other informal expressions involving clouds or sky.

Over the moon / On cloud nine: if you are over the moon or on cloud nine, you are both happy and excited.

Blue skies: a very informal and rather unusual way of ending a letter. It means 'I hope all will go well for you in the future' or 'I hope the sun will shine for you'.

To have one's head in the clouds: to be out of touch with reality; to be a dreamer or an idealist; to be too concerned with your own hopes and ideals.

Pie in the sky: something which is promised or planned but is most unlikely to happen.

A cloud on the horizon: some sort of threat or bad thing which may happen sooner or later.

Under a cloud: if you are under a cloud, people have a poor or unfavourable opinion of you.

Look at the following examples and see if you can think up other sentences using these idioms.
  • When he heard that he had won the lottery, he was over the moon.
  • Emma passed her exam last week so she is on cloud nine. I have never seen her so happy.
  • With all my good wishes for a speedy recovery. Blue skies, Judith.
  • He may be a idealist, but you couldn’t accuse him of having his head in the clouds all the time!
  • When the government says that next year there will be no waiting lists for hospital treatment, we all know that is pie in the sky.
  • My company is doing well at the moment, but the international economic recession is a real cloud on the horizon.
  • After he caused the accident, Peter was under a cloud for several weeks.


Be Con Tinh Nghich said...


Be Con Tinh Nghich said...


Anonymous said...

dear teacher!
em hi vong thay som vuot qua duoc noi buon de som quay tro lai day chung em. em khong con nhieu thoi gian de hoc lop thay day duoc roi vi vao he toi em phai di thuc tap . vi vay, em rat mong thay som quay tro lai va em cung mong thay giu gin suc khoe tot khi quay tro lai day chung em. thay khong day chung em luoi hoc ra va khong chiu chuan bi bai hoc moi, va dieu quan trong la khong duoc nghe thay la moi khi giang bai. do moi chinh la phong cach cua thay

nguyenhonganhtesol said...

Many thanks

meomatbu87 said...

....He's back already,,,Sir,why don't u have an entry for April fool's day?U know,to day,when I caught a big lovely fish...I was on nine cloud...

Anonymous said...

Hi teacher,

For a long time, i didn't attend your class athough i really want to go to school. Because i bussy with my new job & ...,so i miss you & a class so much. and thanks to your teaching me that i feel self-confident for interview to get a new job as a Junior Accountant.Althought i'm not a professtional accountant but i when i have a lot of problem, i often think about a nice teacher so at that time i'm got by strong will from teacher. Anyway, thanks for your teaching us and i hope you'll come back with your lovely job (i don't know what happen to you and what your sad is.
Have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

dear teacher!
what is the diference between"while and whilst","mistake and fault", "utilize and use", "find out and discovery", "permit and allow", "entire, whole and total"?. and sufficient knowledge is the same meaning with enough knowledge?