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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Animal Idioms! Conversational American English with JenniferESL

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Hi everybody! This video is going to be a little different from what youre used to

seeing on Rachels English. This is a compilation video where Im taking several of my videos

and combining them into one longer video on a single topic. Whats really exciting is

that we have another teacher helping with this video. Jennifer of JenniferESL. Shes

been a popular YouTube English teacher since 2007 and Im really excited that shes

helping with this video.

Todays topic: animal idioms.

People are always asking me for more videos on idioms. So today youre going to learn

a lot, all related to animals: chickens, horses, and monkeys. All of these idioms are familiar

to Americans, and used in conversational English.

Lets get started hearing from teacher JenniferESL on idioms relating to chickens.

In our first set of expressions related to chickens, we have two nouns. The first, chicken.

A chicken is a coward. If someone saysdont be a chicken’, theyre saying, ‘dont

be a coward’, dont be scared. We can say this in a teasing way, as a joke. But,

because chicken means coward, its an insult. It can be offensive, so be careful.

The second is a noun phrase, pecking order. Pecking order. To peck is an action that chickens

do with their beak, their mouth part. They can peck at the ground. Peck, peck, peck.

Pecking order refers to behavior within a group. Not a group of chickens, but a group

of people. Pecking order is hierarchy, its everyones status within a group. If we

ask, “Whats the pecking order?”, were asking whats the ranking within a particular

social group.

In our second set of expressions related to chickens, we have four verbs. The first, chicken

out. Chicken out. I already explained that a chicken is a coward. So tochicken out

is to decide not to do something because youre a coward. So if you chickened out, you didnt

do something because you were too afraid.

Next, flew the coop, usually said in the past tense. Flew the coop. A coop is a structure

where we keep chickens. Its where they live. If the chickens flew the coop, they

got out. If someone flew the coop, they left, theyre gone for good. And it usually implies

some sort of escape to freedom.

Next, run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Its a very colorful and maybe

not-so-pleasant. But to run around like a chicken with its head cut off means that someone

is going around in a crazy rush with little direction and no clear thinking. Theyre

very stressed and worried. Theyre running around like a chicken with its head cut


And last, we havewalk on egg shells’, often used in the progressive, walking on

eggshells. Egg shells break, they crack easily. If youre trying not to crack these eggshells,

youre walking carefully. If youre walking on eggshells, youre trying to be very careful.

Youre afraid that maybe something you say or something that you do could offend or upset

someone. So if youre walking on eggshells, youre being very careful not to upset anyone.

One time I got to see a chicken being slaughtered, so I literally got to see a chicken run around

with its head cut off. It was pretty out of control. Thanks so much to Jennifer for

teaching us those idioms. Theyre all idioms that are well-known and used, so dont chicken

out, do try using them in speech.

Because people used to use horses a lot for work and transportation, there are a lot of

horse idioms. One night a couple of years ago, I was wearing a big horse mask in lower

Manhattan and got inspired with my friends to come up with as many horse idioms as we


Would you believe we came up with almost 20 phrases and idioms that use the word horse,

or somehow reference horses. And, Im sure there are more.

>>Get off your high horse. >> Get off your high horse. Thats a perfect one.

>> Lori ... >> Stop horsing around.

>> These are, you have so many idioms! >> Yeah, Im cheating.

Get off your high horse. To be on ahigh horseis to have an attitude of arrogance,

of self-righteousness. ‘Get off your high horsemeans, stop being so arrogant. You

have a couple options with the T inget’. You can either make it a flap T, connecting

it to the wordoff’, get off, get off. Or, if youre really emphasizing and going

to make a pause, you can make it a stop T. Get off. Get off your high horse. Stop horsing

around. Horsing around is rough or rowdy play, usually in good fun. My mom often accused

my brother and I of horsing around.

>> Horse idioms. We have: dont look a gift horse in the mouth

>> …you can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink,

>> …hoofing it.

Dont look a gift horse in the mouth. This means, dont be ungrateful or suspicious

when someone gives you something. A friend said this to me recently when I was talking

about an offer that I got from someone to help me with my business. And I was a little

suspicious. He said, “You know, Rachel, dont look a gift horse in the mouth.”

You can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink. This basically means, you cant

make people do what they dont want to do. Lets talk a little bit about the pronunciation.

You can lead a horse. So the main verb here is the wordlead’. That meanscan

is a helping verb. So we dont want to saycan’. We instead want to reduce that

word tokn’, ‘kn’. You can lead. You can lead a horse to water. But you cant

make it drink. You might hear a CH sound happening betweenbutandyou’, but you,

but you. This can happen when the T is followed by the Y consonant, but you, but you. But

you cant make it drink. You can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink.

Hoofing it means to be moving really fast, to be running somewhere. For example, I hoofed

it to work because I overslept. Note that the double-O here is pronounced as the UH

vowel, just like cook, book, and Brooklyn.

>> Straight from the horses mouth. >> Making hay.

>> A charlie horse.

Straight from the horses mouth means that youve something from the most authoritative

or dependable source. For example:

>> Did you hear Jane is quitting her job? >> No way. Where did you hear that?

>> From Jane herself. Straight from the horses mouth.

Making hay, or, making hay while the sun shines. This is to make the most of current opportunities.

If you put doing something off, you may loose the opportunity to do it. For example, lets

make hay and go for a run before it starts raining again.

A charlie horse. This phrase is used for muscle cramps in the legs. You might hear this phrase

as you watch the Olympics this summer.

>> I could eat a horse. >> Im so hungry I could eat a horse. Thats

true. >> Did we say dont beat a dead horse? Dont

beat a dead horse.

I could eat a horse. Well, this means, of course, that youre very very hungry. Notice

the T at the end of the wordeatlinks to the next word, a, a schwa sound, so its

a flap T or a light D sound. Eat a, eat a, eat a. I could eat a horse.

>> Rachel, are you hungry? >> Yeah, I skipped lunch, so I could eat a


Dont beat a dead horse. You might say this to someone who cant let a situation go.

If you think someone needs to accept things as they are, and they just keep talking about

what if?’, ‘what if?’, then you might say: Look, dont beat a dead horse. Its

done. >> Dont put the cart before the horse.

>> Thats a horse of a different color.

Dont put the cart before the horse. This means be patient and do things the right way,

in the right order. Sometimes its very tempting to do things out of order and skip

ahead. But it doesnt always get the best results. Someone might say to you: do it right,

dont put the cart before the horse.

A horse of a different color. That is when you bring something up that is unlike that

which you are already talking about. For example, to me, writing and spelling are easy. But

math, thats a horse of a different color. Meaning, to me, math is very hard.

>> Oh, there are so many idioms withhorse’! >> Hold your horses!

>> Hold your horses! >> Thats a great one.

Hold your horses. That means hold on, be patient, stop what youve just started. Its among

the most common of these horse idioms. Notice Imreducing the wordyourtoyer’,

yer’. Hold your horses.

>> This is a one-horse town. Put a horse out to pasture.

A one-horse town is a small, maybe insignificant town. For example, hes very overwhelmed

by the city, he comes from a one-horse town.

To put a horse out to pasture. This is when a racing horse is retired, but it can also

be used with people, when someone is forced to retire. For example, Larry is past retirement

age. I think its time to put him out to pasture.

>> Wild horses couldnt drag him away. >> Oh thats a good one. I use that sometimes.

My friend used that once recently. Wild horses couldnt drag him away. This

is said when someone is very engrossed in or committed to something. Nothing can persuade

him or her to leave or stop doing that thing. For example,

>> Are you watching the Mad Men Finale tonight? >> Yes, wild horses couldnt drag me away.

>> A dark horse candidate, for example.

A dark horse is someone who is more or less unknown who emerges to a place of prominence

or importance, usually in a competition. This is used quite a bit to describe a candidate

in politics.

After doing our idiom research, we went out to dinner, and then made our way home. Although,

I cant really recommend riding a bike in the horse mask, because essentially, I could

not see a thing out of it.

And finally, a few monkey idioms. At the YouTube space in Los Angeles, I found a monkey suit,

and couldnt resist going over a few monkey idioms in costume.

To begin, lets go over the pronunciation of the wordmonkey’. This is a two-syllable

word with stress on the first syllable. DA-da, monkey. It begins with the M consonant sound,

where the lips come together. MMmmmo-. Then we have the UH as in BUTTER sound. This is

a completely relaxed sound. So, your tongue should be forward and relaxed, uh, uh, a little

bit of jaw drop, and your lips should be completely relaxed. MMmmmo-. Because this is a stressed

syllable, it should have the up-down shape of a stressed syllable in the voice. Mo-,


Now we have the NG sound. The reason why the letter N is representing the NG sound is because

the next sound is the K, and theyre made in the same spot. So, to make the NG sound,

the tongue tip is here, touching behind the bottom front teeth, and the back part of the

tongue reaches up and touches the soft palate. The soft palate is lowered here because its

a nasal consonant, ng, ng-k. Then, to make the K, you just release the tongue down, monk-,

-k-. The soft palate will close for that. Then we go into the EE as in SHE vowel. Monkey.

Since its in an unstressed syllable, it should be very short and low in pitch, -key,

-key, -key. Monkey.

Lets get into some idioms. First, ‘fun as a barrel of monkeys’. This means something

thats really fun, kind of like this video. But I usually use it sarcastically, which

means that I am explaining something that is not at all fun. For example, Im going

to the dentist to have a cavity filled. Fun as a barrel of monkeys. The stress pattern

for this phrase is DA-da-da-DA-da. Barrel of monkeys. So, in many cases well reduce

the wordofto just have the schwa sound, no consonant at all. Barrel of, DA-da-da,

Barrel of. Barrel of monkeys. Now here were makingmonkeyplural, so the S will

be a Z sound, zz, because the sound before was a vowel. Monkeys, monkeys. So just a very

quick, soft Z sound at the end there. Barrel of monkeys.

Monkey business. This can mean silliness. So you might say to a room full of rowdy kids,

Enough with the monkey business’. But, it can also mean dishonest behavior. Monkey

business. DA-da-DA-da. So, the first syllable ofbusinessis also stressed. This stressed

syllable has the IH as in SIT vowel, bu-, bu-, and the first S here represents the Z

sound. Bus-, business. The second syllable, since its unstressed, should be very quick,

-ness, -ness, -ness. Business. Monkey business.

Monkey suit. Thats what Im wearing! Thats the literal meaning. But theres

also an idiomatic meaning, and thats a tuxedo or other formal evening wear for men.

Monkey suit. DA-da-da. Monkey suit. So, the wordsuithas the S consonant sound.

The letters U-I represent the OO as in BOO vowel, and we finish with a Stop T. Monkey

suit, monkey suit. Monkey on my back. This is a problem or something

thats really stressful thats taking a long time to resolve or wont go away.

For example, my friend is going through a nasty divorce. Its a monkey on his back.

The stress pattern is DA-da-da-da-DA. Monkey on his back. So, ‘backis stressed. The

wordson’, and the next function word, whether itsmy’, ‘your’, ‘his’,

orher’, will be unstressed. So, ‘on my’, ‘on my’, those two words will be

really quick, low in pitch, and not too clear, on my, on my. Or, it could beon your’,

on your’. Notice Im reducing the wordyourtoyer’. Weve already made

a video about that, so check it out. ‘On hisoron her’. In both of those cases,

well probably drop the H. On his, on his, monkey on his back. Or, on her, on her, monkey

on her back. Check out this video on Dropping the H Reductions.

Have you ever heard someone sayIm going to go ape.” That means to get really angry.

For example, if she screws up my car, Im going to go ape. Bothgoandape

are stressed, so the stress pattern is DA-DA. Go ape. We have the G consonant sound and

the OH as in NO diphthong. Sometimes my students dont round their lips enough for the second

half of this diphthong, go, go, so make sure you do that. Ape. It begins with the AY as

in SAY diphthong. Make sure you drop your jaw enough for the first sound of that diphthong,

a-, a-pe. And finally, the P sound, ape. Go ape.

Not all rodents are cute, but this one is. This is from my childrens collection of

stuffed animals and hand puppets. Im not even certain if this is a mouse or a rat,

but seeing it reminds me of an idiom we have in English, rat race. ‘Rat racerefers

to the daily struggle to be successful at work where theres competition and pressure

to produce. One day after the other you go through this routine hoping to come out on

top. But really, youre one of thousands. ‘Rat racerefers to this whole situation.

Many complain about the rat race and say they hate the rat race. Some think about quitting

the rat race. Others actually leave the rat race behind. They change jobs or they change

their lifestyle. Maybe they retire early, or move out to the country where life is more


Youve just learned a lot of idioms. Challenge to you: come up with a sentence for one of

the idioms you learned in this video and put it in the comments below.

Special thanks to Jennifer for her contribution to this video.

Thats all for now. Thanks for joining Rachel and me for this special lesson. Happy studies

to all.

She has a huge collection of videos here on YouTube where she teachers grammar, vocabulary,

and other skills. You can check out her lessons by clicking here or in the description below.

Be sure to subscribe. Check out the exercises page on her website where she creates interactive

exercises to help solidify what youve learned in the videos. Also, Jennifer teaches on WizIQ.

Click here to see her schedule.

And dont forget to sign up for my mailing list, if you havent already, for free weekly

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Thats it, and thanks so much for using Rachels English.

The Description of Animal Idioms! Conversational American English with JenniferESL