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English idiom ~ go "Cold turkey"

English idioms ~ go "Cold turkey"


Did you ever have a bad habit? Did you use to smoke? (Did you smoke in the past but not anymore?) How about drink too much alcohol? Do you still have a bad habit? My bad habit recently has been drinking too much coffee. 

My main problem was that I would go to Mister Donut to study Japanese, and I would drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee while I was there, 4 days a week! At Mister Donut in Tokyo, they have free refills of coffee, so it was easy to drink too much.

So I stopped going to Mr. Donut. I didn't reduce my visits to only 1 or 2 times a week. I also didn't have only 1 or 2 cups of coffee while I was there, I just stopped going. I suddenly and completely stopped. I stopped going to Mister Donut cold turkey.


Can you guess the meaning of cold turkey? It means to give up (quit) a habit abruptly (immediately) without stopping slowly, without reducing little by little. 

People quit smoking usually by reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke, slowly, over time until they stop. If you smoked 2 packs a day, and you reduced to 1 and a half packs, then 1 pack until eventually, you don't smoke any cigarettes, this is quitting gradually. 

If you smoked 2 packs a day, and one day you decide that you will quit smoking and then stop immediately (abruptly), you have quit cold turkey



Idiom origin 
I think this idiom comes from Western Christmas culture. After Christmas, there are lots of leftovers in the refrigerator, and turkey is a traditional holiday food so there will be lots of turkey, cold turkey, in the fridge.

You can eat these cold turkey leftovers quickly (immediately) when you are hungry. The New Year holidays are also times when people like to make decisions (resolutions) often to stop a bad habit. These 2 ideas got connected to make the idiom cold turkey.

I still drink coffee, but not as much as before. I feel better now :) Have you ever quit a bad habit cold turkey? I am very proud of you!





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Using "root words" to find meaning

One of my students told me about his daughter staring at a frog during a recent trip to a farm. She couldn't stop focusing on it. I taught my student a new word to describe this situation, captivate. His daughter was captivated by the frog. Captivate is a verb that means : to hold the attention of, by beauty or excellence. As I explained the meaning of the word we looked at the root (the base) of the word and used it to help understand the meaning. I thought this technique would be a good blog topic :)

To hold attention can mean to capture the attention, and capture is the root of captivate. Capture means to take something/someone prisoner, by force. Captivate is a little softer and the past tense from can also be used as an adjective. (remember that captivated is a persons feeling and captivating is the thing that gives us that feeling. ed ing adjective review)
The audience was captivated by the speech.

If we associate (connect in our minds) the root word with the new vocabulary it can be very helpful. I find this most helpful when understanding written text. (I live in Tokyo so understanding words by their pieces is very helpful with Kanji characters)

Now if we hear other words that use capture as a root we can figure out the meaning by the rest of the sentence. Remember that if you you can tell if the word is a noun, verb or adjective/adverb it will be easier to find the meaning. Try this:

"The army kept me in their prison until my government freed me. I was their captive for 3 months."


I hope that you are captivated by my blog, but not a captive!

"Sweating Buckets!"

Hi everyone! Sorry it's been a few weeks! Today is July 16, summer is here and Tokyo is very HOT! The hot weather is my excuse for not writing a new blog post for 2 weeks, but maybe I am a little lazy too ;)

Today's idiom is "sweating buckets" and I have been sweating buckets since the beginning of June. Maybe you can imagine already that this idiom means to sweat a lot. Buckets can be used to collect water, and often in an emergency. When a boat (a small boat) is filling with water this is a problem, the boat could sink. We use a small bucket to take the water out of the boat. (It is called a "bailing bucket")

Another problem is if we have a leak in our roof or ceiling and water is dripping down on the floor. When this happens we usually use a bucket to collect the water.


These are both problems and the feeling is that there is too much water. If we are sweating a lot the feeling is usually not good, and we are uncomfortable so we use bucket to say it's too much.
"It's so hot today! I'm sweating buckets!!!!!"

How about you? Are you sweating a lot this summer? Are you sweating buckets? I am!!!


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Little and Few \ A little and A few

LITTLE is used with uncountable nouns and FEW is used with nouns we can count. LITTLE and FEW mean not much/not many. Here are some examples:

"I am very busy with work, I have LITTLE time for other things."
"Most of my friends moved away after high school, I have FEW friends in my hometown now."
This grammar is correct, but in conversation NOT MUCH and NOT MANY are more common.

"I am very busy with work, I DON'T have MUCH time for other things."
"Most of my friends moved away after high school, I DON'T have MANY friends in my hometown now."
These are more natural in conversation.

BUT
A LITTLE means a small amount and A FEW means a small number. Here are some examples:
"If you have A LITTLE time I would like to talk to you." (a small amount of time, some time)
"I saw the 'Amazing Spiderman' A FEW days ago. It was great!" (a small number of days ago, some days)

COMPARE
"I speak LITTLE Japanese so I can't communicate well in Tokyo." (I don't speak much Japanese)
"I speak A LITTLE Japanese so I can give directions to a Tokyo taxi driver. (I can speak a small amount of Japanese)

"To the station! I don't have MUCH time! I have A FEW friends visiting Tokyo today."

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