Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR
Expressions about water are almost as common as water
itself. But many of the expressions
using water have unpleasant meanings.
The expression "to be in hot water" is one of them. It
is a very old expression. "Hot water"
was used five hundred years ago to mean being in trouble. One story says it got that meaning from the
custom of throwing extremely hot water down on enemies attacking a castle.
That no longer happens.
But we still get in "hot water."
When we are in "hot water," we are in trouble. It can be any kind of trouble -- serious or
not so serious. A person who breaks a
law can be in hot water with the police.
A young boy can be in hot water with his mother, if he walks in the
house with dirty shoes.
in "deep water" is almost the same as being in hot water. When you are in deep water, you are in a
difficult position. Imagine a person who
cannot swim being thrown in water over his head.
are in deep water when you are facing a problem that you do not have the
ability to solve. You can be in deep water, for
example, if you invest in stocks without knowing anything about the stock
keep your head above water" is a colorful expression that means staying out of
debt. A company seeks to keep its head
above water during economic hard times.
A man who loses his job tries to keep his head above water until he
finds a new job.
"Water over the
dam" is another expression about a past event.
It is something that is finished.
It cannot be changed. The
expression comes from the idea that water that has flowed over a dam cannot be
brought back again.
a friend is troubled by a mistake she has made, you might tell her to forget
about it. You say it is water over the
common expression, "to hold water," is about the strength or weakness of an
idea or opinion that you may be arguing about.
It probably comes from a way of testing the condition of a container. If it can hold water, it is strong and has no
holes in it.
your argument can hold water, it is strong and does not have any holes. If it does not hold water, then it is weak
and not worth debating.
"Throwing cold water" also is an expression
that deals with ideas or proposals. It
means to not like an idea. For example,
you want to buy a new car because the old one has some problems. But your wife "throws cold water" on the idea,
because she says a new car costs too much.
VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Marilyn
Christiano. I'm Rich Kleinfeldt.