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Idioms Lockdown Idiomatic
|Up In The Air||11|
|How To Speak English||3|
|Hanging In The Air||2|
|In The Air The||2|
|In The Air And||2|
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. If you want to learn how to speak English, then Adept English is here to help you with that. If you want to speak fluent English, Adept English aims to give you useful lessons about the English language, but also good listening material – like this podcast – which you can listen to a number of times, until you know all the words. So if you want tips to improve your English fluency, we are here to help you! Tips on how to speak English well – that’s our purpose and our aim.
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So one of the things I help you with is English idioms and we’ve not done any idioms for a while. So let’s do some idioms today around the English word ‘air’, A-I-R. Like with many other common words in English, the word ‘air’ has quite a lot of idioms associated with it. So I’m just going to choose 3 of them to talk about today. And I’ll give you examples to try to help you remember them. Here goes.
So if I use the phrase, the idiom ‘A breath of fresh air’, then there is a literal meaning to that phrase as well as an idiomatic meaning. So ‘a breath’ first of all. So if I ‘take a breath’, you can hear it. This is me taking a breath….so what you can hear there, is a breath. So that’s B-R-E-A-T-H and it’s a noun. So the literal meaning – literal L-I-T-E-R-A-L – means ‘used in the basic, the usual sense’, as opposed to ‘idiomatic’ which means ‘used as an idiom’ – so there is extra meaning.
So the literal meaning of ‘a breath of fresh air’ – let me explain that first. Currently we’re in April 2020 and we’re under lockdown in the UK – we have to stay at home most of the time and we’re allowed out once a day to do exercise. So needing ‘a breath of fresh air’ is a very real feeling at the moment, when we’re stuck inside much of the time. Going for a walk, a run or a bike ride means ‘having a breath of fresh air’ quite literally. We would say ‘I’m just going out to get a breath of fresh air’. And it’s still quite cold in the UK at the moment, so we’d be breathing in air that feels cold and fresh.
Lots of oxygen in it. Another time where I might use ‘a breath of fresh air’ literally would be when I go up into my children’s bedrooms. My son and daughter are home at the moment, not going to college, not going to school because of the lockdown, and they’re on their computers a lot, in their bedrooms a lot. And let’s just say maybe they don’t always open their bedroom windows very much. So I say to them ‘Open your window, it needs a breath of fresh air in here! It’s like soup!’ So a breath of fresh air can be energizing, oxygen rich – a good thing in reality.
But we also use this phrase, this idiom to mean something more. If you say of someone ‘Oh, he’s a breath of fresh air’ – it means that he’s different, he’s a change from everyone else – and that difference is a positive one. We’ve got a positive feeling about this person who is different. It might be that you’ve got a new boss at work who has different ideas, who you feel is going to run things more effectively, who’s different from what’s gone before, so ‘My boss? She’s a breath of fresh air’.
It could be a piece of music, which is different from what you’ve heard before – or a person, whose music is different, who is ‘a breath of fresh air’, or in art, a painting that’s new and different. So when we say someone or something is ‘a breath of fresh air’, not only do we notice that they’re different, but we’re enthusiastic, we like the change – and it may indicate a way in which things will be better in the future. It’s a refreshing change and we like it. That’s ‘a breath of fresh air’.
If we talk instead about something being ‘in the air’, the meaning there is as though something is ‘hanging in the air’. Almost, if you can imagine this, like there are particles, tiny pieces hanging in the air. If someone is having a fire – or a bonfire, as we might call in in the UK, in their garden, often you will smell the smoke from the fire in the air. Tiny particles of smoke go into your nose and you smell them.
When we use this phrase ‘in the air’ as an idiom, we might say something like ‘Uh, there’s a very bad feeling in the air’. And the meaning here is that we’re sensing a bad feeling, we perceive a bad feeling, but it’s not something that people are talking about or acknowledging. It’s much more at the level of being felt, not spoken about. So there might be a feeling of fear ‘in the air’, or a feeling of anger ‘in the air’ perhaps.
No one is speaking about it, but you can feel it. ‘In the air’ can also be used positively – we might say for example right now ‘Spring is in the air’. So at the moment, in the UK, it’s been quite cold, but there are flowers in the garden, there’s blossom on the trees – there are lots of signs of spring. So ‘spring is in the air’. The phrase ‘Love is in the air’ – that’s actually quite any old song, isn’t it?! ‘Love is in the air’! Have a listen on YouTube, to see if you know it – it’s the sort of song which pops up in films and series sometimes! And someone might comment ‘Love is in the air’ if you can see that two people like each other!
Another phrase with air, which is just one word different from that one, yet has a very different meaning. We can say ‘up in the air’ and that’s entirely different. So we might use ‘up in the air’ in a literal sense. We might talk about planes for example being ‘up in the air’ – normally anyway. In these times, what’s really noticeable in the air above the UK is the absolute lack of planes. We live fairly close to Heathrow airport – and there are a number of busy smaller airports around where we live. So planes travel overhead regularly – that’s normal for us. But with most flights in the UK being grounded at the moment, it’s strangely quiet. You can hear the birds sing – it’s really odd. So there are literally not many planes ‘up in the air’ at the moment.
A photograph of a passenger airplane, something you don't see much of in the UK during the Wuhan virus lockdown.
However, the idiomatic meaning of ‘up in the air’ is different. You can say of a situation, ‘It’s up in the air’, it means ‘It’s not been decided yet’. We don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s uncertain – it’s ‘up in the air’. So at the moment, we’re in a situation where many things are ‘up in the air’. We don’t know what’s going to happen with them. So for the airline industry in particular, not just in the UK but around the world, the planes are not ‘up in the air’ in any literal sense’, but the future of the airline industry is most certainly ‘up in the air’. Let’s hope that this lockdown situation doesn’t last too long-term and we still have an airline industry at the end of it.
OK, so I’m going to stop there - you’ve more chance of learning and remembering three examples of idioms with the word ‘air’ than if I run through a list of 10 or 20! So remember, listening to lots of English is a really important part of how to speak English. Listen to this podcast a number of times, until you understand all the words!
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.