Category Archives: Words and Phrases

Ignorance At Work

If you teach The Chosen or Night or something like it, then you might want to check out how tefillin caused an airliner to land. Of course, the real story is ignorance and those who wield it.

My students thought these people on the plane were ridiculous.


Only One Parent Is Needed

That’s right. Only one parent needs to complain to entice an entire school district to remove dictionaries from schools. Nope, this isn’t a news item (yet as far as I know). This is an entire school district removing a specific edition of dictionaries because the term “oral sex” is in them.

How ridiculous is this?

I know someone will probably mention that maybe elementary kids are too young for these dictionaries, but I remember looking up worse terms than this as a kid and not even understanding the definitions! Besides, the internet provides pictures, so I’m thinking the dictionary is safer.

Sometimes I just think people are looking for something to do.

Update: I just saw the article on Fark. 🙂

A Teaching Resource

One site I enjoy using is Discovery’s Puzzlemaker site. You can create crossword puzzles, word searches, double puzzles, and more.

My high school students love the puzzles I make for reviews and for introducing new vocabulary words. Sometimes I make puzzles for characters, locations, literary terms, vocabulary words, and even grammar.

Why not change it up a bit in class? A little fun never hurt.

Why Cats and Dogs?

Students often ask me, as I have previously stated in another post, the origins of words and phrases because I love reading about the stories behind them. One popular question I get is “why do people say it’s raining cats and dogs?” (just like in the picture to the right).

There is no definitive answer for it, though there are a number of theories (including a few here and here). However as I have read in more than one place, the most plausible origin for the phrase is that English streets were filthy; repugnant is probable a better word to describe the offal, refuse, and putrid debris carried along the streets after heavy rains. People would not have been surprised to see the carcasses of animals float by them. In fact, Jonathan Swift described such a disgusting picture in a poem (check out the last two lines).

The poem and/or the common sights of death floating along the streets may have given rise to the saying. Or perhaps there is another explanation that you may know?

Happy As A Clam

My students know I am a fan of word and phrase etymologies, so they routinely ask me from where words and phrases stem. One of my favorites is “happy as a clam” because it’s one that mystifies the students.

From what I have been told and read, the original phrase was “happy as a clam at high tide” when the clams are safe from their predators. As people often do, they shortened the phrase and it lost the obviousness of its origin, how it came to mean content. Continue reading