Sunday, February 2, 2014

Today’s idiom – Spill the Beans

Hi everyone,
I'm writing today’s entry because a lot of people have asked me to speak about idioms. What is an idiom? An idiom is “a group of words that have a special meaning that is very different from the ordinary meaning of the separate words” (from the Longman Dictionary of American English). Americans (and other native English speakers) use a great number of idioms. It makes the English language beautiful, varied and alive. However, it also makes the language learner’s life difficult. But believe me, it’s a great adventure. In this series within my blog, I’m going to introduce books, websites, and video channels that can help you. An important notice: I never use other people thoughts as mine. I always indicate the source. I can’t show all the idioms, it’s impossible, but I can show you where you can learn idioms from.

Let’s begin with the idiom “spill the beans”. What does it mean? According to the Free Dictionary by Farlax*, it means, “to give away a secret or a surprise / to tell people secret information/ to let secret information become known". For example: “There is a surprise party for Heidi on Wednesday. Please don't spill the beans. / Paul spilled the beans about Heidi's party. / My husband was afraid to spill the beans about the cost of his purchases. / She found out a secret and told all of her friends.
One of my favorite books (about American idioms) is 101 American English Idioms by Harry Collis. It gives you funny illustrations by Mario Risso beside examples.

 Finally, let’s turn to Rachel’s English. She has a series on idioms. She always explains what an idiom means and how to pronounce it. So let’s spill the beans. 

Today I'm going to go over the pronunciation for the idiom --to spill the beans--. This is what you say when someone reveals something that was supposed to be kept secret. For example, my mother's birthday party was supposed to be a surprise, but my younger brother spilled the beans. Meaning, he accidentally told her about it.

--Spill-- begins with the S consonant sound, ss pp, followed by the P sound. Both are unvoiced. Sp- sp-. Then the 'ih' as in 'sit' vowel sound [ɪ], spi-, spi-ll. The dark L sound where the tongue moves up into position, ihll, spill. --The-- begins with the voiced TH sound [ð], th, th, tongue comes through the teeth to make that, the, with the schwa sound [ə]. Spill the-. --Beans-- begins with the voiced consonant sound, bb, followed by the 'ee' as in 'she' vowel sound [i]. Bea-, bea-nn. Tongue moves up into position for the N, where the front part of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, bean, nn, zz. And finally, the Z voiced consonant sound. Beans, beans, spill the beans. Spill and beans are both the stressed words in this phrase. Spill the beans.” 

I’m sure Gardeniafly also uses a lot of idioms. What do you think about idioms?
„Knowing how to use idioms is quite tricky. It's hard to find the right situations in which to practice them. If you use too many idioms when you're speaking, it can make you sound a bit 'corny' (a little silly and over-the-top sounding). However, they are good to knowing because they can add 'flavor' to your conversations and make you sound more like a native. Plus, you can impress your English speaking friends! Don't try to just memorize a list of idioms. Just pick them up slowly as you hear them.”

Gardeniafly is not searching new students any more. Next time, you can read an interview with her. If you need someone to teach, I can help you or you can register on italki.

Bye – bye,



* The definitions and examples are from the Free Dictionary by Farlex. (based on McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms, Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd edition), from the 800 most commonly used idiom in America by Paul S, Gruber, and from the 101 American English Idioms by Harry Collis – illustrated by Mario Risso.


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