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Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
MAJOR ARTICLES

Means of mass memorisation of multi-word expressions,
Part II
The power of images

Frank Boers (Erasmus College of Brussels & University of Antwerp, Belgium)
Seth Lindstromberg (Hilderstone College, Broadstairs, Kent, England)

[ Editorial note to read Part 1 click here.]

Preview:

Introduction
Calling up new images or waking up dormant ones
Why it works
Idioms resulting from metaphor and/or metonymy
A selection of idioms
Classroom activities
References

Introduction

This is the second part of a two-part contribution exploring techniques to help learners remember large numbers of multi-word expressions such as collocations and idioms. In the first part we (a) argued for a place for 'phrase-learning' in the language classroom and (b) proposed mnemonic activities exploiting the memorable nature of striking sound sequences, especially alliteration (e.g., Beat about the bush; Chop and change; Live and learn; Precious prize; Spic and span; Time will tell; Road rage; Wage war). In this second part we shall propose activities that exploit the mnemonic effect of associating expressions with (mental) pictures. These activities are meant first and foremost to help learners remember a particular (core) segment of the English repertoire of multi-word expressions, namely, figurative idioms. The pedagogic technique basically consists in raising learners' awareness of the original, literal usage of figurative expressions that have become standardised. Learners are informed, for example, that the idiomatic usage of The Home Secretary is on the ropes is derived from its literal usage in the context of boxing matches. This information is likely to call up in the learner's mind a mental picture of a concrete scene, which is believed to help memory (see below).

Calling up new images or waking up dormant ones

Sceptics may doubt whether it is useful to raise learners' awareness of the original, literal sense of figurative idioms. After all, few native speakers of English are constantly conscious, for example, of the original, 'nautical' usage of expressions such as The economy is on an even keel, Our industry is in the doldrums and Nationalism came in the wake of the recession. That is why idioms have often been called 'dead' metaphors. Usually, however, the original imagery of an idiom can easily be 'resuscitated' (which why the term dormantmight be more appropriate than dead), for example in puns, poems or papers in linguistics. While this resuscitation may merely be amusing when one is dealing with one's mother tongue, there is solid evidence that it can be a useful vehicle when one is learning an additional language. In the context of learning an additional language, this 'waking up' of dormant images has in fact been shown in various controlled experiments to be very beneficial to learners' remembering vast numbers of figurative multi-word expressions (e.g., Boers, 2000; Boers, et. al., 2004). Simply telling students that the idiomatic expression A new generation of politicians is waiting in the wings originally referred to actors waiting in the wings of the theatre before entering the stage helps them comprehend and remember the figurative, idiomatic meaning of the expression, and it helps them recollect the expression for active usage. Furthermore, asking students to first try and 'figure out' the idiomatic meaning of an expression on the basis of knowledge of its original, literal usage (which turns out much more feasible than linguists used to assume) enhances this mnemonic effect.

Why it works

There are at least two established theories about memory that help explain the mnemonic benefits of our proposed pedagogic technique. Firstly, Dual Coding Theory predicts that storing an associated mental picture alongside verbal information will provide an extra pathway for recall of the verbal information. For example, having associated the verbal form The economy needs a shot in the arm with the (mental) image of an injection of medicine is likely to help retrieve the idiomatic expression from memory. Secondly, Levels-of-processing Theory predicts that information that is processed in an insightful way, for example through a problem-solving task, is more likely to be retained in long-term memory than information that is processed at a 'shallow' level, for example through blind memorisation. This explains why asking students to try to figure out the figurative meaning of idioms on the basis of their literal origins results in even better retention than resorting to dual coding alone. We have found, for example, that informing students of the literal origins of idioms, such as Our project was put on the back burner for a while(food) and He decided to take a back seat while his wife organised their wedding party (cars), before explaining / confirming the actual metaphoric meaning to them yielded better recall rates than doing it the other way around (Boers, et. al., forthcoming).

Idioms resulting from metaphor and/or metonymy

In general, figurative idioms are the outcome of two complementary processes of figurative thought: metaphor and metonymy. Metaphor draws an implicit analogy between two different 'experiential domains', a concrete 'source domain' and a more abstract 'target domain'. The source domain can be quite general, for example, our bodily experience and orientation in physical space. This is the source domain behind, for example, various so-called 'orientational metaphors', often expressed by means of prepositional phrases and phrasal verbs, as in What lies behind this mystery (because an object is often hidden from view if it is located behind another object), Interest rates are up (because adding objects to a pile will make the pile grow) and She's feeling down so let's try to cheer her up (because health and happiness usually coincide with an upright bodily posture, etc.). These kinds of metaphorical expressions fall outside the scope of the present article (but see Lindstromberg, 1998, for a systematic treatment of prepositional phrases, including those with a figurative meaning). However, source domains for metaphor can also be quite specific. For example, card games constitute the source domain behind idioms such as Have an ace up your sleeve, Come up trumps and Follow suit. The classroom activities proposed below will mostly target metaphorical expressions derived from such rather specific source domains. On the one hand, such idioms are more likely to require cognitive effort on the part of the learner, because they may contain less familiar words (i.e., words belonging to a confined lexical field - at least in their literal sense) and because they may be fairly culture-specific (e.g., not all games are equally popular across communities). On the other hand, such idioms tend to lend themselves well to pedagogic techniques exploiting imagery, precisely because the source domains behind them are specific enough to readily call up rich and vivid mental pictures.

While metaphor involves an analogy between two distinct domains, metonymy is a process of associations within one single experiential domain. The best known type of metonymy is where a part of an entity stands for the whole of that entity, as in I need some wheels to get home (where the wheels stand for the vehicle as a whole), but many more types exist, for example the type where an object stands for the actions performed with it, as in Lending someonea hand (where the hand stands for the action of helping). A metonymic relationship can also be indirect, as in the collocations Wide awake and Fast asleep, where wide and fast (with its old meaning of, more or less, 'tight') refer implicitly to distance or contact between the eyelids, i.e., the metonym for waking or sleeping.

The recognition of the systematic nature of metaphor and metonymy in everyday language is relevant for teaching and learning, because it can show learners that a lot of figurative collocations and idioms are much less arbitrary than has often been assumed. This must be an encouraging thought to students, as it paves the way for insightful learning.

The distinction between metaphor and metonymy is not always easy to make, for the simple reason that experiential domains are not clearly delineated and so it is sometimes difficult to decide whether a given association involves just one domain (metonymy) or more (metaphor). In fact, many of the figurative idioms that are targeted in our sample activities are the result of both processes. For example, within the source domain of warfare, the expression Burn your bridges (or Burn your boats) can be interpreted as a case of metonymy where the action of burning the bridges stands for a broader idea (forcing your troops forward and preventing them from retreating). This metonymy is subsequently carried over in the analogy with a more abstract target domain (e.g., a family dispute), i.e. through metaphor.

A selection of idioms

Below we present a bank of idioms that we feel are suited to the types of classroom activities we shall be proposing. These idioms have been selected in line with the following criteria.

1. The selected idioms all belong to the set of items that are signalled in the Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Idiomsas those most frequently used, and which therefore (according to the dictionary editors) should get priority in TEFL. When working with advanced students, many more idioms could obviously be tackled by means of the classroom procedures outlined below. In fact, our own entry-by-entry hand counts in standard idiom dictionaries suggest that over 1,200 English idioms (i.e., about 30% of the English repertoire of idioms) could possibly be taught in these or similar ways.

2. The idioms selected can all be related to fairly specific source domains (games and sports, transport and travelling, war and aggression, etc.) and most of them can be related to further specified source domains within those already fairly specific ones (e.g., they can be further related to the domains of card games, ball games, running contests, etc., which are sub-domains under the overarching domain of games and sports). As such, they can call up relatively rich, concrete, vivid scenes in their original contexts of use. Information about the origins of these idioms can be found in, for example, the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms (Speake, 1999) and the 2000 edition of the Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Idioms (Sinclair & Moon) (the 1995 edition does not provide this kind of information).

3. The idioms selected do not contain words that would make the task of tracing them back to their source domains (which is one of the exercises proposed below) too easy and thus superfluous. For example, whereas asking students to hypothesise about the likely source domain of Blow the whistle on someone may set in motion a bit of thinking and perhaps a bit of discussion, asking students to decide whether the likely source domain of Play the game might be 'games' would obviously be perceived as a task without much face validity.

Here is the list of frequently used idioms that we had in mind when designing our classroom activities. These activities lend themselves equally well to tackling less frequent idioms, of course, as long as they can be related to source domains that call up mental pictures. Because experiential domains are not clearly delineated (as mentioned above), some idioms are listed twice, as possibly being derived from a combination of source domains. As mentioned above, we have based our 'categorisation' on the 'etymological' explanations offered by the Oxford and Collins Cobuild dictionaries of idioms.

Source domain: GAMES and SPORTS
Sub-source domains: gambling and horse racing

Up the ante / Raise the ante Break the bank A safe bet
Hedge your bets Draw a blank Across the board
Go for broke When the chips are down Too close to call
The numbers game Win hands down A dark horse
Hit the jackpot Neck and neck Pay over the odds

Sub-source domains: card and board games

Call someone's bluff Above board The buck stops here
Pass the buck Get something off your chest Get a raw deal
To force someone's hand Get out of jail Have something up your sleeve
To force someone's hand Get out of jail Have something up your sleeve
Back to square one Follow suit Turn the tables
Not miss a trick Come up / Turn up trumps Make no bones about something

Sub-source domains: various ball games

Call someone's bluff Above board The buck stops here
Pass the buck Get something off your chest Get a raw deal
To force someone's hand Get out of jail Have something up your sleeve
Back to square one Follow suit Turn the tables
Not miss a trick Come up / Turn up trumps Make no bones about something

Sub-source domains: various ball games

The ball is in your court Set the ball rolling Off base
Get an even break An own goal Play into someone's hands
Below par Par for the course There's the rub
Knock / Hit someone for six A level playing field Blow the whistle on someone

Sub-source domain: hunting

In the bag A mixed bag Keep something at bay
A lame duck A red herring Run riot
Open season Through thick and thin

Sub-source domain: fighting

Throw someone off balance A body blow Take it on the chin
Be in a (tight) corner Go the (full) distance At the drop of a hat
Catch someone off guard Lower your guard On your guard / On guard
Head-to-head Dig in your heels No-holds-barred
Cross the line Draw the line Flex your muscles
Stick your neck out Not pull your punches On the ropes
Rough and tumble Not (come) up to scratch Throw in the towel / sponge

Sub-source domain: running contests

Jump the gun Hard / Hot / Close on your heels Toe the line
Quick off / First off / Slow off the mark Home and dry / Home and hosed From scratch
Streets ahead The fast track / The inside track A track record

Sub-source domain: archery and shooting contests

Hit and miss / Hit or miss Wide off the mark Give something your best shot
A long shot Have something in your sights Set your sights on something

Sub-source domain: ice skating

Cut no ice with someone Skate on thin ice

Source domain: TRANSPORT and TRAVELLING
Sub-source domain: boats and sailing

A clean bill of health Take something on board A close call
A loose cannon Steer clear of something Show your true colours
With flying colours Stay the course Dead in the water
Clear the deck(s) In / Out of the doldrums The sharp end
To the bitter end Loose ends Leave someone high and dry
Break the ice On an even keel Pass muster
A leading light Learn / Know / Show the ropes Show someone the ropes
All) At sea A sea change Burst at the seams
A shot across someone's bows The tip of the iceberg In the wake of something

Sub-source domain: horses

Give someone their head Ride high Give someone a leg up
Put someone through their paces Give someone free rein Keep a tight rein on someone
Ride roughshod over someone

Other sub-source domains: trains, cars, etc.

Make the grade Get into gear / In gear The fast lane / The slow lane
Give the green light Middle-of-the-road Go into overdrive
On automatic pilot / On autopilot A free ride A rough ride / A bumpy ride
In the driving seat Take a back seat On the skids

Source domain: WAR and AGGRESSION

Be up in arms A baptism of fire The battle lines are drawn
Fight a losing battle A running battle A body blow
Drop a bombshell Put the boot in(to someone) Burn your bridges / boats
A loose cannon Take it on the chin A chip on your shoulder
Cloak and dagger Show your true colours With flying colours
Come out fighting Fight your corner The cut and thrust
A last ditch attempt / A last ditch effort At the drop of a hat Bite the dust
Come under fire Throw down the gauntlet Gain ground / Lose ground
The (moral) high ground Catch someone off guard Lower your guard
On your guard / On guard The big guns / A big gun Stick to your guns
Head-to-head Keep your head down To the hilt
Hit and miss / Hit or miss A hit list No-holds-barred
A Trojan horse Kick someone in the teeth Move in for the kill
Bring someone to their knees The knives are out Cross the line
In the firing line / In the line of fire In /On the front line Step out of line
Lock, stock, and barrel At loggerheads Steal a march
Stick your neck out Marching orders Not pull your punches
Break ranks Close ranks Fight a rearguard action
On the ropes Rough and tumble Ride roughshod over someone
Sabre-rattling / Rattle your sabre Not (come) up to scratch A shot across someone's bows
Shoulder to shoulder A slap in the face The standard bearer
Over the top / OTT Throw in the towel / sponge On someone's watch

Source domain: ANIMALS

Keep something at bay Go belly-up A bone of contention
Carrot and stick Dangle a carrot in front of Ruffle someone's feathers
Land on your feet A feeding frenzy Raise someone's hackles
Bite the hand that feeds you Bury your head in the sand Give someone their head
Bring / Call someone to heel Off the hook Go for the jugular / the throat
(Out) on a limb Poke your nose into something Rub someone's nose in it
Put someone through their paces The pecking order See red
Give someone free rein Keep a tight rein on someone Run riot
Come home to roost Rule the roost Open season
Come out of your shell Get a lot of stick A sting in the tail
With no strings attached Get your teeth into something At the end of your tether
At each other's throats Get wind of something Take someone under your wing
Clip someone's wings Spread your wings Lick your wounds

Source domain: FOOD and DRINK

Small beer Tighten your belt Bread and butter
On the back burner Carry the can Not your cup of tea
Be past your sell-by date Flavour of the month Live (from) hand to mouth
Go the whole hog Live high on the hog Put something on ice
The icing on the cake A piece of cake Hand something on a plate
Have enough on your plate A hot potato Take pot luck
Take something with a pinch of salt Be worth their salt Give someone the cold shoulder
On tap Call time on something

Source domain: COMMERCE and ACCOUNTING

Be in the balance Foot the bill In the black / In the red
On the block A blank cheque Chop and change
The other side of the coin Count the cost Pay dividends
Make ends meet Deliver the goods Under the hammer
Ring / Sound hollow A new lease of life / on life The bottom line
In the market for something Make a pitch Be worth their salt
Wipe the slate clean / A clean slate Keep tabs on someone Tip the balance / Tip the scales

Source domain: ENTERTAINMENT and PUBLIC PERFORMANCE
Sub-source domain: the theatre

Fit the bill / fill the bill Centre stage The curtain comes down
Look the part Set the scene / stage Behind the scenes
Set the stage for something Pull the strings The villain of the piece

Sub-source domain: music

Have a ball A one-man band Jump on the bandwagon
Strike a chord / Touch a chord Play second fiddle Face the music
Pull out all the stops Call the tune Change your tune

Sub-domain: the circus

A balancing act Walk a tightrope The thumbs down / up

Sub-domain: magic

A crystal ball In / on the cards Pull something out of the hat

Source-domain: JURISDICTION and PUNISHMENT

A stumbling block Bring someone to book Get the chop
Sign someone's death warrant Egg on your face Seal someone's fate
Run the gauntlet Hang over your head Heads roll
Turn (up) the heat on someone The jury is still out Rap someone on the knuckles
Face the music Catch someone red-handed Rub salt into the wound
Tighten the screw on someone Give someone short shrift Get a lot of stick

Source domain: RELIGION and SUPERSTITION

A crystal ball In / on the cards (The wheel has) Come full circle
Tempt fate (Keep your) Fingers crossed Fall from grace
Pie in the sky Practise what you preach The black sheep (of the family)
Short shrift Sell your soul Touch wood / Knock (on) wood

Source domain: HANDICRAFT, MANUFACTURING and BUILDING

Back to the drawing board A carbon copy Paper over the cracks
A dab hand Take the edge off something Go against the grain
Prepare the ground Break the mould Hit / Reach rock bottom
A rule of thumb Knock something into shape Dyed-in-the-wool

Source domain: GARDENING and AGRICULTURE

Nip something in the bud Cut and dried Have a field day
Bear fruit Grist for the mill Break / Prepare the ground
Draw the line Take root Sow / Plant the seeds of

Source domain: MACHINERY and MECHANICS

Recharge your batteries At the touch of a button A hot button
Fire on all cylinders Put a dampener on something Blow up in your face
Get a fix on something Flash in the pan In the groove / In a groove
Hear something through the grapevine Run-of-the-mill Go into / Be in overdrive
The penny drops / The penny has dropped On automatic pilot / On autopilot Pull the plug on something
Prime the pump Throw a spanner in the works Let off steam / Blow off steam
Pull out all the stops In full swing On the same wavelength

Classroom activities

Some of the below activities have been inspired by a package of online exercises, called Idiom Teacher, developed at the Erasmus College of Brussels, and briefly described in an article that appeared in Humanising Language Teaching 6/4 (Stengers, et al. November 2004). For more information, please contact Frank Boers at Frank.Boers@docent.ehb.be.

Activity one: In the frame

Preparation
- Select idioms derived from three source domains, for example idioms derived from 'games and sports', 'transport and travelling' and 'war and aggression'. The number of idioms will depend on how many you think it is feasible for your group of students to learn in one or two classes.
- Put each of the idioms on a separate card, also providing a context in which the idiom could be used. For example: JUMP THE GUN

Although we had agreed not to tell anyone about my pregnancy until we were absolutely certain about it, my husband JUMPED THE GUN and told his parents straightaway.
" For each of the idioms prepare a second card which adds an explanation about its origin and its present figurative meaning. For example: JUMP THE GUN
Origin: An athlete contending in a running contest who jumps the gun sets off before the starting pistol has been fired.
Figurative meaning: If someone jumps the gun, they do something before the appropriate time.

Procedure
1. Draw three partially overlapping diagrams on the board and label them according to the source domains you have chosen, for example:
2. Hand out the first type of cards (with idioms and contexts) to pairs of students.
3. Tell students the diagrams represent three possible domains of experience that the idioms were originally used in (in their literal senses).
4. Ask students to (a) read the context in which the idiom is used, (b) stick their cards to the board in the domain they believe to be the source of their idioms, and (c) explain to their classmates how they have reached this decision. The overlapping parts of the diagrams provide the possibility of relating an idiom to two (or three) source domains at the same time, or simply to avoid committing oneself to any choice at all.
5. Hand out the second type of cards (with the added explanations about origins and meanings) randomly to the pairs of students. Ask (a member of) each pair to do two things: (a) either confirm or adjust the location of the given idioms in the diagram, and to explain to their classmates why (for example, if the card with Jump the gun was previously stuck to the domain of 'war and aggression', it will now be moved to 'games and sports'), and (b) ask classmates if they can work out what the figurative meaning of the idiom might be, now that they have been informed of its origin, and to fine-tune their classmates' interpretations if necessary.
6. Ask all students (a) to individually choose an idiom they have not 'presented' themselves and (b) to invent a verbal context in which they could use the expression.
7. Ask volunteers to present their work.
8. Remove all the cards from the board and quiz the students (playfully) on their recollection of some of the expressions and their meanings.
Note: This activity could be repeated with any other combination of source domains, if one were to aim at a wide 'coverage' of the idiom repertoire.

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Activity two: Zooming in

Preparation:
This is a follow-up and extension of activity one. A number of the idiom cards used in activity one can be re-used, but a number of additional ones may need to be prepared.
Procedure:
1. Take one of the fairly general source domains used in activity one and draw three partially overlapping ovals to represent three of its more specific sub-domains. For example, zoom in on 'games and sports' and draw diagrams representing the specific sub-domains of 'gambling and horse-racing', 'card and board games' and 'various ball games'. Afterwards, you may wish to proceed with the sub-domains 'hunting', 'archery' and 'fighting'. Alternatively, you can zoom in on 'transport and travelling' and distinguish between 'boats and sailing', 'horses' and 'other means of transport'. If in the previous activity, you dealt with a different combination of general domains, including, for example, 'entertainment and public performance', you may wish to zoom in on the latter and draw diagrams representing 'the theatre', etc.
2. Proceed as in activity one, using the same idioms (belonging to the source domain of your choice) plus a few additional ones not targeted in activity one. By including both 'already-learned' and 'not-yet-learned' idioms, the zooming-in activity will serve both the purpose of consolidation and the purpose of extension of knowledge.

Activity three: Picture this

Preparation:
This activity is described here as a follow-up of activities one and two, but it could also be used independently with a view to consolidating (or re-awakening dormant) knowledge. The preparation stage only involves making a choice of previously 'learned' idioms whose imagery can easily be depicted by means of drawings. For example, In the wake of something can easily be depicted by drawing a boat and waves behind it.
Procedure:
1. Hand out cards with previously 'learned' idioms whose storage in long-term memory may need to be consolidated. Tell students to keep their cards to themselves. Give each student at least two cards (to minimise the chances of any students finding themselves unable to carry out the subsequent task).
2. Ask students (a) to choose one of their idioms, (b) to tell their fellow-students "You're looking for an expression that means [the meaning learned in the previous activities]" and (c) to make a drawing on the board that will help fellow-students identify the expression.
Variation
Turn the activity in a game with two teams taking turns to try and identify the idiom being drawn or mimed by one of their team members.

Activity four: Goes to show

This activity mimics activity three, with the exception that students will be asked to mime an action to help their peers identify the idiom. Preparation therefore consists in choosing idioms, such as Getting into gear, that can be enacted fairly easily.

Activity five: Story quiz

In this activity, students hear various multi-word expressions in a narrative and decide, for each one, whether it is used figuratively or literally. The mental processing involved in performing this categorisation should help fix these expressions in students' memories. Preparation
1. Choose a dozen or so sometimes figurative multi-word expressions that your students have already encountered and think of one or more traditional tales or fables into which you can fit them. Of course your version is likely to take liberties with the traditional ones!
2. Plan either to dictate the expressions or to display them in a numbered list in the order you will use them in your story, or stories.

Procedure
1. Refer to the expressions and tell your students they will now hear them, in order, in narrative. Add that their job will be, each time they hear one of the expressions, to decide whether you have used it literally or figuratively. They indicate their decision by writing the corresponding number and either 'L' or 'F'. For instance, if expression number 1 is go belly up and you say, "Jonah made the whale sick and he went belly up before finally…" , then students should write: "1 L" because you have used the expression go belly up literally.
2. Begin narrating. Each time you come to one of the target expressions, give a pre-arranged signal (e.g., point to the relevant number on the board). (It is essential to tell the story in such a way that your students find it very easy to follow.)
3. Check by asking, for each expression, who can remember how you used it. If no one can, tell them.

Follow on
Invite students, as homework, to prepare something similar to what you did.

Example list (with 'answers') and story

(1) high stakes L
(2) had an ace or two up her sleeve L
(3) he followed suit. F
(4) to play their cards close to their chest L
(5) to break the bank L
(6) call their bluff L
(7) the chips were down L
(8) dark horse L
(9) hit the jackpot F
(10) all above board F
(11) had an ace up their sleeve F
(12) forced their hand F
(13) tried to break the bank F
(14) had drawn a blank F
(15) made no bones about it F

A while back…some years ago I can't remember just when…there was a married couple who had a goose. Also, they both had the gambling habit, and bad. Card games were their favourite way of losing money…(1) high stakes card games…ones where they had to ante up 50 just to see their first card. Of course, I'm being ironic, they didn't want to lose…they just did. Actually, they wanted to win so bad they never hesitated to cheat if they thought they could get away with it. (2) She generally had an ace or two up her sleeve and (3) he followed suit. But it didn't do them much good because neither of them ever could master the simplest basics of card playing. For instance, neither of them could remember to (4) to play their cards close to their chest. So the people sitting next to them could always see what they had in their hand. And they were both reckless as hell, always making huge bets and generally trying (5) to break the bank in one go. They both bluffed constantly but because neither of them could keep a poker face, one of their opponents would always (6) call their bluff and, when (7) the chips were down, take the pot…all the money in the centre of the table.

You may wonder how this couple could keep on gambling and losing, gambling and losing. You remember the goose? I didn't tell you before but it laid a golden egg every single day, and these eggs weren't hollow. They were solid, 24 carat gold. That's how this couple funded their habit. That's how they were able to keep on losing money day after day. They could've gone on like that forever maybe. But one day they had a talk and decided to try a new career they'd heard about. They decided to start playing the stock market…you know, look for (8) dark horse stocks…like Microsoft when the company was just a month old, buy them low, wait a bit, and sell them high. They thought maybe they could (9) hit the jackpot in life that way. No cheating this time…(10) all above board. But in order to start, they needed a stake-that is, a sackful of 'start up money'. Where to get it? Then they realized they (11) had an ace up their sleeve. The goose. For sure it was full of gold…solid gold. They liked the goose. It was a nice goose and all that. But the couple decided that their pressing need for a stake (12) forced their hand. There was no alternative. That goose was going to get the chop. You know the rest. When the goose was dead, they cut it open and there was no gold to be seen anywhere. Inside, the goose was just like any other goose. The couple (13) had tried to break the bank but had (14) drawn a blank. A neighbour of theirs (15) made no bones about it. "You two", she said, "You could've lived a quiet and very comfortable life with your marvellous goose, but you got greedy and blew it. What a pair of idiots."

References

Boers, F. (2000). Metaphor awareness and vocabulary retention. Applied Linguistics, 21, 553-571.
Boers, F., Demecheleer, M., and Eyckmans, J. (2004). Etymological elaboration as a strategy for learning figurative idioms. In: Bogaards, P. and B. Laufer (eds.), Vocabulary in a Second Language, Selection, Acquisition and Testing, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, John Benjamins, pp. 53-78. .
Boers, F, Eyckmans, J. & Stengers, H. (forthcoming). Presenting idioms with a touch of etymology: more than mere mnemonics? Language Teaching Research. .
Lindstromberg, S. (1998). English Prepositions Explained. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. .
Sinclair, J. & Moon, R. (eds.)(2000). Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Idioms. Harper Collins. .
Speake, J. (ed.)(2000). Oxford Dictionary of Idioms. Oxford, Oxford University Press. .
Stengers, H, Eyckmans, J, Horemans, A, and Boers, F. (2004). 'Idiom teacher: problems in designing a CALL package. Humanising Language Teaching 6/4, (November) .


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