show one the ropes

Who taught: Lujo

learn the ropes

learn the ropes (source:

Every summer, I co-advise two Practicum projects which last 9 weeks. It is fun, working with bright students and other faculty members to solve very interesting and unique real-world problems. This summer, I worked with Jeff and Lujo. It was Lujo’s first time to be involved in advising these types of projects. Over the time, we have discussed and learned a lot from each other. It was great working with him. Yesterday was the last day of those projects and the team we advised won the third prize. I was happy as much as the students in the team were. Unfortunately, Lujo was not able to be there to witness the final presentation and the award announcement due to some conflicts. I am sure he would be very happy to see it.

So, I emailed him as soon as the announcement was made to let him know that the team won the third prize. In his response, he used the following sentence, “Thanks for showing me the ropes.” 

From the context, I was able to understand what he meant but that was my first time to see this expression.

Well, if I were to ask you about what you think, you would also be able to get it, I guess. As usual, I decided to dig more into about the expression. Like many other expressions, this one is of nautical origin. In the old sailing days, there were so many ropes and any new recruit needed to learn how to tie knots and which rope to control to perform a specific action, etc.

With that said, there are three major expressions to remember.

1. learn the ropes

2. know the ropes

3. show one the ropes

Here is an easy way to remember these, at least for me.

I, as an experienced employee who knows the ropes in the organization, need to show a new employee the ropes so that he/she can learn the ropes and eventually knows the ropes himself/herself.

How is it? Easy, isn’t it? I feel like each one of the ropes in the picture here is a new English expression to learn. It never ends. So, good luck with learning the ropes and hope I can show you the ropes.

P.S. : I realize that I did write another post about “learn the ropes” but did not get to know “show one the ropes” at that time.

Posted in From friends | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

dressed to the nines

Who taught: Tami

dress to the nines

dress to the nines

A few weeks ago, it was Easter. In Korea, people do celebrate but not as a family. Some people go to churches, participating some events.

On Easter, people here not only go to churches but also spend a day or two together with their family. In fact, if anyone goes to a church once a year, Easter would be it. Also, when they go, they dress really well. I remember I did not wear a suit on my first Easter in the U.S. and I was embarrassed by all of the other people at the chapel because they all looked really nice.

Now that I am talking about dressing well, let me introduce a new expression I learned from Tami the other day. I am so thankful that I have friends who are willing to spend some time to teach me and discuss with me those expressions.

She sent an email to me, “Here is a new one for you. Dress to the nines.”

As usual, I tried hard to think about what it would mean but could not think of any good definition of this expression. Can you? What do you think it means?

So, I wrote down, “dress to the 99999999999999999999999”

What the heck this would mean? Why nine? What about 8 or 7?

Every time I think about these expressions, I do some extensive researches and this time Tami helped me out. Out of a few different ones, I personally like this one because it is simple and makes me to remember this expression better.

Well, nine is considered the perfect number – in numerology, etc – so, 9 could be used to mean dress really nicely.

So, I just gave you the definition of the expression. I guess people dress to the nines on Easter here in the U.S.

In addition to that, here is another one Tami told me.

When I was young…er…- my Mom, who is English – used this phrase regularly – when I would attend some pageant functions, I would ask her opinion on what to wear – she has great fashion sense- and she would suggest getting “dressed to the hilt!!

Tami also told me that “dressed to the hilt” originated from the United Kingdom when on formal royal occasions, royalties and other monarchies wore Court Dress with gilt hilt” ; so when they say , you are dressed to the hilt, it means you are dressed like royalty ready to attend a royal occasion – in short, you are well dressed.

Aha… awesome to know these ones. I will use this expression on Easter next year to my friends. “Hey, I dressed to the hilt today. Do you like my suit?”

You should try too. Now, my next question is “Can I dress to the eights?” I think my usual dress code is “dressed to the ones.” :)

Oh.. I almost forgot. How about your wedding? You did dress to the nines and nine.nines? Right?

Posted in From friends | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

rediscovering a word series 6: rug

Who taught: Audrey

toupee rug

toupee rug

I just sent an email to my coworker, Amber, and made a dummy mistake. When I meant to say, “Thank you very much, Amber! – Terry,” I wrote, “Thank you very much, Terry!”

These two mean so different. How dummy does it sound? I was thanking myself. Arghhh….

Luckily, I realized my mistake very quickly and sent another email to her to clarify. She understood and gave me an example where a comma can make a big difference.

“Let’s eat, Grandma!” vs. “Let’s eat Grandma!” The only difference is a comma here but they man very different, right, like my mistake?

English…. English…. How can I not love you?

Anyway, today, I want to continue the series of rediscovering a word. Today’s word is “rug.”


So, what is a rug?

A rug is a floor covering of shaggy or woven material, typically not extending over the entire floor. It’s similar to carpet but there is a difference. You want to read this post to understand the difference.

Great… Well…. Let me ask again! What is a rug? I know.. I already told you what it is. But, there is another definition.

I am a man. When a bold man wants to cover his bold head, they would wear a thing. That is “toupee.”

Well, when you are in front of those men, you want to be careful about saying “rug” because rug also means toupee. A few days ago, I was watching an episode of a TV show, Rules of Engagement. Audrey in the show used this word to mean “toupee” that another guy was wearing but I had a hard time to understand why it was supposed to be funny because she and her husband did talk about a rug for their apartment a few seconds ago.

You may think you can speak English? But, until you live here in the U.S., you do not know how hard English can be.

Posted in From media | Tagged , , , , | 4 Responses

hershey squirts

Who taught: Max


squirts a water pistol

Do you like chocolate? I do. Also, I live in Pennsylvania. What is a big deal of living in PA?

Well, I am very sure that you all have ever eaten some chocolates from Hershey’s. There is a town called Hershey in PA where the company has its headquarter. I am not sure what is first, the town or the company? I have never been to it which is a shame. I really should. Maybe, sometime this year.

Let me shift gears! A few weeks ago, my dog, Max, ate four hard-boiled eggs while we were not around. Do you guys know that guilty look that dogs have when they did something wrong? I saw that on that day. Personally, I think it is dog’s poker face. “What could go wrong? He got bunch of protein. That should be good for him.” That’s what I thought.

But, that evening, he had diarrhea. Gross!

Here is the question! What is the connection between hershey and diarrhea? Take a moment to think about it. Hope you are not reading this while eating something. :)

So….. did you get it? That’s right. They have the same color. While writing, I am having some chocolates. Yummy!

There is the last touch to come up with a perfect expression to mean diarrhea. We cannot just say “hershey” to mean diarrhea.

Now, time to think about how things come out of your body when you are experiencing diarrhea. Well, I saw that from Max. It squirts. The best way you can remember the word, “squirt,” is to think about water coming out from a water pistol. Isn’t it perfect? Look at the picture I added here. Can you get it?

What else you can do other than combining “hershey” (color) and “squirts” (action) to mean diarrhea? This is a pure perfection. Someone was a genius.

Here is your task to do: From now on, try to use “hershey squirts” when you have outbreaks of diarrhea.

P.S.: I have always had a hard time to spell “diarrhea” correctly. How about you? Don’t you think it is hard to spell?

Posted in From friends | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Under the bus and scapegoat

Who taught : Ellen and Sheldon

throw under the bus

throw under the bus (source:

It’s been a while. I am so sorry that I have not been able to update you with new expressions. In my defense, I have been extremely busy during the last few months. Still sounds like a lame excuse, I know…

I will try to do my best to not slack any more. Anyway, that does not mean there have been no new English expressions for me. In fact, there have been a lot.

As I mentioned before, one of the things I regularly do to improve my English is to watch diverse TV shows, at least one or two hours a day.

Sometimes, I get to hear the same expression over and over for a short period of time. And, there was one recently.

That’s “throw someone under the bus.”

First I heard it from watching Ellen Show and later heard again in Big Bang Theory.

If we take it literally, we would think that it should mean something like “murder someone” because that is exactly what would happen if we throw or push someone under the bus.

But, living in the United States, I have gotten better at catching the context. In both Ellen Show and Big Bang Theory, it was definitely not used to mean “murder someone.”

Instead, I felt that the expression should mean something like, “I do something that would hurt my friend to save myself from a bad situation.” Do you guys know “make a scapegoat of someone?” That was the feeling I had and fortunately I was right.

But, then I asked to myself this question, “why?” Who started to use this expression? According to my research, here is the best origin of the expression.

In Septuagenarian Stew (The Life of a Bum), published in 1990, the Charles Bukowski character Harry pushed his friend Monk in front of a bus, and then stole Monk’s wallet while Monk lay unconscious and probably dying in the street. After taking the wallet, Harry went directly to a bar and, using Monk’s money, bought himself two double whiskeys. Later, Harry went to the Groton Steak House and, again using Monk’s money, bought two beers and two Porterhouse steaks with fries (“go easy on the grease”).

What do you think? This origin really makes me feel the expression perfectly.

So, don’t throw your friend or someone close to you under the bus. Whatever bus it is, that would hurt them. You yourself would not want to be a scapegoat for anything, would you?

Posted in From media | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment