Category Archives: Discussion

9 Essential Political Idioms in American English

9 Essential Political Idioms in American English

Guest post by Jennifer Renart from Next Step English.

If YOU would like to write a guest post on PurlandTraining.com, please do get in touch!

When students ask me about how to improve their English, one of the things I always recommend is watching the news in English. And you can’t watch the news without running into some common political idioms. Do you know what a spin doctor is? How about a fishing expedition? Keep reading to learn 9 essential idioms about politics in American English, complete with FREE infographic!

Political Idiom 1: Strange Bedfellows

When we say that two people, organizations, etc. make strange bedfellows, we mean that they form an unusual or unexpected political alliance. A sort of political odd couple.

via GIPHY

In the United States, the two main political parties are the Republicans and the Democrats. They are usually adversaries (= they usually oppose or compete with each other), so if a Republican and a Democrat worked together on an issue, we would say that they were strange bedfellows.

Example sentence: Did you hear that Randy Republican and Dorothy Democrat are working together on this new immigration bill? Talk about strange bedfellows!

Political Idiom 2: Lame Duck

This is a political idiom that you often hear after an election. A lame duck is a politician or a government that doesn’t have much real power because their period in office will end soon and their successor has already been elected. We most often use this idiom to talk about the US President, although it can apply to other politicians, too.

Presidential elections in the US take place in early November, but the newly elected president doesn’t start his term until January. The previous president is considered a lame duck from election day until the new president starts. Everyone knows they’re on their way out, so it’s difficult for them to get much accomplished. 

Example sentence: He was hoping to accomplish more during his last days in office, but he’d overestimated how much he could get done as a lame duck.

Political Idiom 3: Spin Doctor

When you spin something, you present information in a particular way, especially one that makes your ideas seem good or your opponents’ ideas seem bad.

So, what’s a spin doctor?

A spin doctor is someone who spins for a living! A spin doctor is someone whose job it is to present information to the public about a politician, an organization, etc. in the way that seems the most positive.

All US presidents have spin doctors. In current American politics, Kellyanne Conway is often referred to as President Trump’s spin doctor.

Example sentence: I’m not interested in the soliloquizing of spin doctors. What are the facts? The plain facts?

(Soliloquize = (usually disapproving) to give a speech about your thoughts, as if you were a character in a play speaking directly to the audience, instead of engaging in a conversation.)

Political Idiom 4: Politically Correct

You probably know that PC can refer to your desktop computer, but did you know that it has a political meaning, too? PC is a short way of saying ‘politically correct’.

If speech or behaviour is politically correct, it makes a deliberate effort not to offend a particular group (or groups) of people.

Political correctness is a hotly debated issue in the United States. On the one hand, it’s obviously wrong to make fun of the disabled or use racial slurs. On the other hand, some people become so worried about being politically correct that they worry that filling their eyebrows might be cultural appropriation. And my sister’s friend actually told her that it was offensive for her to practice yoga because she has European ancestry, not Asian ancestry. (In case you’re wondering, my sister has not quit yoga.)

In the United States, we have people who hate political correctness so much that they behave in offensive ways on purpose. And we have people who are so politically correct that they’re just obnoxious. Luckily, most people live somewhere in the middle.

Is political correctness an issue in your country? Tell us in the comments below!

Political Idiom 5: October Surprise

This American political idiom specifically refers to elections. So, what is an October surprise?

An October surprise is any news event orchestrated or damaging information released in the month before an election, deliberately timed in the hopes of affecting the outcome of the election.

Example sentence: Things look good now, but we need to be prepared for an October surprise. Anything can happen in the final days before an election!

Political Idiom 6: Witch Hunt

These days, you can’t escape this political idiom in American news. It seems to be everywhere on Twitter and other social media!

So what is a witch hunt? A witch hunt is a politically motivated, often vindictive investigation that feeds on public fears.

This popular idiom comes from a dark period in European and American history when people believed that witches were the cause of bad things happening in society. People began accusing members of their communities of witchcraft, and many of those people were executed on the basis of irrational evidence.

This idiom became popular in American politics during the McCarthy Era, when hundreds of Americans were aggressively investigated for potentially being Communists.

Example sentence: No reasonable person could think this investigation was actually after truth or justice. It’s a total witch hunt. 

Related: Are you hungry for more idioms? Check out our latest idioms here!

Political Idiom 7: (To Commit) Political Suicide

Committing political suicide means doing something unpopular that will likely lead to the end of your career as a politician.

Example sentence: I know you think these activists are idiots, but you can’t say that publicly. It’s political suicide!

Political Idiom 8: Fishing Expedition

When you go fishing, you dip your line into the water and hope that something bites. You might not catch a fish right away, but if you keep at it, you know that you’ll probably catch something eventually.

So, what is a fishing expedition? It’s a political and legal idiom that we use to describe an investigation carried out without any clearly defined plan or purpose, in the hope of discovering useful negative information about someone.

Example sentence: These document requests can’t possibly lead to the discovery of relevant information! You’re on a fishing expedition, and I think the judge will agree with me!

Political Idiom 9: Red Tape

I saved the best for last!

Have you ever been frustrated by endless paperwork when you need to do something with the government? Then you have been a victim of red tape!

Red tape refers to official rules that seem more complicated than necessary and prevent things from being done quickly.

This is something that I personally love to complain about. Curse you, red tape!

via GIPHY

…which is why, of course, I love the girl described in Cake’s ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’! (Jump to 1:32.)

I want a girl who gets up early.

I want a girl who stays up late.

I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity,

Who uses a machete to cut through red tape!

Example sentence: You want us to start construction next week? Think again, buddy! We’ve got at least 6 months of red tape to get through first, and that’s if we’re lucky.

Political Idioms Infographic

I hope you enjoyed learning these popular political idioms. Here’s an infographic to help you remember them! Check out more great infographics for learning English here!9 Essential Political Idioms in American English


Jennifer from Next Step English

Jennifer Renart from Next Step English

Jennifer founded Next Step English so she could help advanced English learners master the vocabulary that native speakers don’t expect them to know. Vocabulary that will make native speakers think, ‘Wow! You really know English!’

In her free time, she loves hiking, playing Bananagrams, and binge-watching British murder mysteries.

You can check out her website, or interact with her on Twitter, Pinterest, or YouTube.

‘Happy learning, English nerds!’ 👊🤓

What do you do when students NOOOOOOOOO! your lesson intro?

What do you do when students NOOOOOOOOO! your lesson intro?

So this happened to me on Monday. It was the last lesson of the day and I’d already enjoyed success with my ‘wonderful and imaginative’ lesson plan (my review) five times – including with a couple of difficult groups – and I was looking forward to winding down with the same lesson plan with a high-level group who are usually personable and intelligent people.

I took the register – about eight students were in attendance. It was too hot in the room; the blinds were down and the windows open to allow a meagre wisp of cool air to enter when it chose. I stood in front of the class and introduced the topic: ‘We’re going to discuss social networks!’

I was astonished to hear a chorus of ‘NOOOOOOOOO!’s from the students. Again, I repeat, my lesson plan involved starting with discussion in pairs about social networks. Not a grammar exercise. Not a review of present perfect, or – heaven forbid – future perfect. Not a spelling test, or a written composition ‘na ocena’ – ‘for a mark’. No, discuss social networks in pairs. I had chosen a topic that I knew my students (aged 14-15) were not only interested in, but absolute experts in. They didn’t know but my secret weapon for the second half of the 45-minute lesson was a Kahoot quiz where they were to answer true/false questions about social networks on their (normally forbidden) mobile phones.

‘NOOOOOOOOO!’

So what do you do when the students reject your (fun) lesson plan out of hand at the beginning of the lesson? ‘We want to go home!’

‘OK, but you can’t go home.’

‘We’re tired!’

‘We have to do the lesson.’

‘BRAAAGGHHH!’

‘OK, but this will be fun. Let’s try it.’

I persuaded them to discuss the simplified version of this set of questions, that I had written on the board. Then I led group feedback. IMHO it was interesting and they were more engaged and made some intelligent comment about social networks. (Although they refused to believe that they are, in fact, only ‘free’ with air quotes, as opposed to free without air quotes.)

Then they dropped the bombshell. I announced: ‘Now we’re going to do a quiz about social networks.’

‘NOOOOOOOOO!’

Again – a chorus of NOOOOOOOOOs. What part of my sentence provoked this reaction from the heart – from the belly – ‘NOOOOOOOOO!’ Was it the word ‘quiz’? Did they associate it with ‘test’ and ‘exam’? Did they still not believe, after months of evidence working together, that I only wanted to engage them with interesting and relevant content? I hurriedly put the quiz up on the whiteboard via the projector and asked them to get their phones out and log in with the Kahoot PIN. This kind of quiz is really fun because it’s interactive – you watch the quiz unfold on the big screen and participate by pressing the answer on your phone. I think it’s cool. My other groups had enjoyed it…

The real knockout blow for me came when the students were entering their screen name or nickname for the quiz. This appears on the big screen and everyone can see it, so there is plenty of potential for writing ‘naughty’ nicknames and getting a bit group laugh. In this case they didn’t use swear words (as other groups had done previously) but one student chose the nickname ‘chcę do domu’ – which means ‘I want to go home.’ Like a child in a pre-school or first class of primary school: ‘I want to go home.’

We did the quiz – all twenty questions – but the wind had been knocked out of my sails and I left the school after the lesson feeling a little sad.

How do you engage students who have rejected your lesson plan out of hand before they know what it is, because they want a ‘fun’ lesson – when actually your lesson plan IS the ‘fun’ lesson? (This is the key question for me, but it was too long to be the title of this post!)

How do you engage students who want to go home? ‘Wolny lekcja!’ – ‘free lesson!’ they chorused. They wanted to be allowed to sit and do nothing but chat in Polish for the last lesson of the day. I couldn’t allow that, but then I realised that maybe other teachers do. Can it be true? Perhaps they baulked at having to use thinking and speaking skills when they would have found it easier to answer a reading comprehension in the course book – which I’m briefed not to use in lessons. Did they think I would be a soft touch because my lessons ARE usually more fun and communicative – or because I’m a naïve foreigner? – so they thought they’d try their luck with getting a ‘free’ lesson?

In this blog post I don’t have the answers, just questions, so if you have any tips for how to deal with or avoid the NOOOOOOOOO!s I would be more than grateful!

Image: https://pixabay.com

Hashtag - Englishness

Want to Know what the English are REALLY Like? Try this Hashtag!

When I started reading some of the tweets on this recent trending topic on Twitter, I knew that I had to share them with you! If you are interested in understanding the true character of English people (which is an awkward combination of shyness, embarrassment, and self-righteousness) check out this hashtag to learn more about our quirky ways!

https://twitter.com/hashtag/VeryBritishOffences

Click below to listen to the podcast and hear my commentary of the following top ten tweets. Don’t forget to watch the video and like Purland Training on Facebook!

Listen and download the free MP3 lesson: Hashtag Englishness (22 MB, Google Drive)

There is more free material on the topic of Englishness – including podcasts and videos – here:

Finally, here’s my contribution to the hashtag:

The Businessman and the Fisherman

Free Reading Pack – The Businessman and the Fisherman

This is a great reading comprehension pack for advanced-level learners of English. Based on the modern fable of The Businessman and the Fisherman, this free ESOL material will have you and your students discussing the time-old concepts of work-life balance and how to find true contentment:

If you like this material, please join us on Facebook for more fantastic free printable worksheets and books!

The Businessman and the Fisherman (PDF)

 

New Year's resolutions podcast and worksheet 2018

NEW Podcast! Talking about New Year’s Resolutions – with Daria Storozhilova

It’s time to ring in the New Year 2018!

In this very special holiday podcast I’m joined by online course developer and tutor Daria Storozhilova from Smart English Learning. We have fun discussing New Year traditions, resolutions, and predictions for 2018! I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our listeners a very Happy and Healthy New Year 2018!

Listen and download the free MP3 lesson: Talking about New Year’s Resolutions – with Daria Storozhilova (36 MB, Google Drive)

Don’t forget to download the accompanying free printable worksheet below:

New Year's resolutions podcast and worksheet 2018

 

You can visit Daria’s profiles here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/smartlanguagelearning/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3bYRjDJXQwcsZJOpOhO4sg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/StordarLearn
Website: https://www.stordar.com

Free image courtesy of https://pixabay.com

Talking about a Song in an ESOL Class

NEW Podcast! Talking about a Song in an ESOL Class

Get some great new teaching material for planning a spoken presentation about a song in ESOL classes.

This week we publish a brand new free printable worksheet that will help students to plan and prepare a spoken presentation where they talk about a favourite or memorable song:

Listen and download the free MP3 lesson: Talking about a Song in an ESOL Class (20MB, Google Drive)

You can download the free printable worksheet here:

http://purlandtraining.com/free-lessons/free-printable-worksheets/talking-about-a-song-in-an-esol-class/

If you like this podcast, please subscribe and follow us on:

Podbean: http://purlandtraining.podbean.com

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/purland-training/purland-on-elt

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/purland-on-elt/id1204714487?mt=2

Thank you! I hope that you enjoy the podcast and the new material! If you have any comments or questions, please do get in touch here: http://purlandtraining.com/contact-us/  and
https://twitter.com/purlandtraining

Free image: thanks to https://pixabay.com

Quick Christmas Quiz for ESOL Students!

NEW! Quick Christmas Quiz for ESOL Students!

Are you looking for a fun Christmas quiz that you can do with your ESOL or English Language students in class? Then look no further!

Quick Christmas Quiz for ESOL Students!

Quick Christmas Quiz for ESOL Students!

ArtsyBee / Pixabay

Podcast featuring Moz the Monster!

Brand New Podcast – Free Teaching Material Featuring Moz the Monster!

It’s time for a video lesson with the eagerly-anticipated new advert from John Lewis!

Listen and download the free MP3 lesson: Free Teaching Material Featuring Moz the Monster! (18 MB, Google Drive)

Join me as I introduce some free teaching materials based on the new John Lewis Christmas advert featuring Moz the Monster. Click below to access the discussion questions and comprehension questions:

http://purlandtraining.com/free-lessons/free-printable-worksheets/moz-the-monster-comprehension-questions-for-english-classes/

http://purlandtraining.com/free-lessons/free-printable-worksheets/moz-the-monster-discussion-questions-for-english-classes/

If you like this podcast please tell your friends and colleagues about it and subscribe on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher – or your favourite podcast provider!

Background music: ‘Tom’s Drops’ – thanks to: http://podsummit.com/freemusic/

Free image courtesy: http://johnlewispresscentre.com/imagelibrary