May 28, 2016
Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.
When you learn a foreign language, it can be very difficult to know the best word to use in a situation. This show can help you learn how and when to use American expressions.
Today, we will explore a seemingly simple word: book.
Everyone knows what a book is. We read books to get information. We read books for stories. A book can be like a time machine that takes a reader on a trip into the past or future.
People who love to read and love books are called bookworms. Like the actual insects that feed on the pages and paste of books, bookworms eat up every word on the printed page. Even with the invention of electronic books, or e-books, book lovers are still called bookworms.
Parts of a book
Besides pages and paste, a book is made up of several parts.
Let’s begin with what we usually see first – the cover. In American English we like to say do not judge a book by its cover. This means you should not judge something or someone simply by how it looks on the outside. The cover of a book may look appealing. But that does not mean the inside is well written. This expression is usually used with people.
Another part of a book is the page. If we say a book is a real page-turner it means it is very well written and very suspenseful. You cannot wait to turn the page to find out what happens next!
However, to turn the page means something different. This means to stop thinking or dealing with something unpleasant. A chapter is also part of a book. It can also mean a part of history or a person’s life.
Sometimes these two are used together as in this example, “It is time to turn the page on that dark chapter in history.” This can also be used in a personal example, “She needed to turn the page on the sad chapter in her life.”
Instead of turning the page or starting a new chapter, you can be on the same page with someone. To be on the same page means you agree about something. It is as if the two of you are reading from the same book and have stopped at the same place.
When you do stop reading in a book, especially a borrowed book, you may want to think twice before dog-earring the page to mark your spot. To dog ear the page of book means to bend the top corner slightly like a dog’s ear. And this upsets many book lovers.
So, do not dog ear someone else’s book and definitely do not tear a page out it … except if you are using the idiom. Taking a page out of someone’s book means to do something they would do. This can be used for people and for organizations. For example, some people feel the government should take a page out of the private sector’s book and operate more efficiently.
Besides reading books, did you know you can also read people?
To read someone like a book means you are able to understand someone very clearly. It is easy to read someone like a book when they are an open book. A person who is an open book shares their thoughts and shows their feelings very easily.
A closed book is the opposite. It describes something that is difficult to understand or a person who does not share personal details. This expression can also mean something that has completely ended. For example, if you have a friend who went through a difficult divorce you could say her marriage is a closed book. And one she does not want to read again.
All this opening and closing of book, makes me think of studying. Students facing a tough exam must hit the books. This sounds violent. But, it simply means to study long and hard. No one has to physically attack the books, although after hours and hours of studying, a student may want to.
Now, let’s listen to some of these expressions in a conversation.
What are you doing this weekend?
Richard and I are hitting the books. We need to study for the big exam.
Richard, the new student? He’s always so cheery. He must have a really easy life.
You should not judge a book by its cover. I’ve known Richard a long time. And, actually, he has had a really rough year.
Really? I’m surprised to hear that. He is always smiling and is so pleasant with everyone.
He has always been a bit of a closed book. He never talks about his personal life, especially the bad times.
I should take a page out of Richard’s book and be happy even when times are tough.
We’re on the same page there. I’m trying to keep a good attitude too. But he said that he’s finally turned the page on a difficult chapter in his life.
Glad to hear it. He seems like a really nice guy.
And now it’s time for us to turn the page and end this chapter of Words and Their Stories. But join us again next time as we talk about more words and expressions in American English.
I’m Anna Matteo.
Words in This Story
shabby – adj. in poor condition through long or hard use or lack of care.
efficient – adj. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy : efficiently is the adverb