August 05, 2015 12:28 UTC

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.


4:32 PM - 4:37 PM July 30, 2015

Let’s Go on a Space Trip!


4:05 PM - 4:10 PM July 23, 2015

"You're Giving Me the Creeps!"


7:18 PM - 7:23 PM July 16, 2015

Okay. A Common Word of Mysterious Origin.


7:45 PM - 7:50 PM July 09, 2015

What Is That Thing Called?


8:19 PM - 8:25 PM July 02, 2015

Independence Day


4:34 PM - 4:39 PM June 26, 2015

Don't Be Caught With Your Pants Down


7:19 PM - 7:24 PM June 19, 2015

Celebrate Fathers!


8:38 PM - 8:43 PM June 12, 2015

Let the Sun Shine In


5:16 PM - 5:21 PM June 04, 2015

Maverick, A Truly American Word


12:40 AM - 12:45 AM May 31, 2015

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.


9:45 PM - 9:50 PM May 29, 2015

Words That Are Their Own Opposites


12:40 AM - 12:45 AM May 24, 2015

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.


7:11 PM - 7:17 PM May 21, 2015

Hold Your Horses!


12:40 AM - 12:45 AM May 17, 2015

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.


9:36 PM - 9:41 PM May 15, 2015

Common French Words in American English


12:40 AM - 12:45 AM May 10, 2015

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.


7:13 PM - 7:18 PM May 08, 2015

Not All Mother Expressions Are As Nice As Mom


12:40 AM - 12:45 AM May 03, 2015

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.


5:32 PM - 5:37 PM April 30, 2015

S.O.S. – In Other Words, Help!


12:40 AM - 12:45 AM April 26, 2015

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories each week explains idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand.

    Audio Let’s Go on a Space Trip!

    You do not need to spend $50 million on a ticket to the moon. Just close your eyes and come with us to a trip into outer space! Learn idioms that will help you navigate the world of space.

    'You're Giving Me the Creeps!'

    "You're giving me the ...!" The jitters, the creeps, the willies, the heebie-jeebies, goose bumps, butterflies, and a heart attack ... you can give all these things to other people. Are they good or bad? Read on to find out!

    Audio OK, Okay, Okey-Dokey Are A-Okay

    Okay, on Words and Their Stories this week we look at one of the most commonly used words in the English language and maybe around the world. But language experts still have no idea where the word "okay" comes from. And that's okay.

    Audio What Is That Thing Called?

    We all forget the names of things. Well, don't worry! Read on to learn words for the words you've forgotten! American English has many interesting words for for those times when you just don't know the exact name of something, including ... wait ... what is it called again?

    Audio Independence Day

    Independence Day is a huge celebration in the United States. People celebrate by having parades and picnics and usually end the day with fireworks. So what do some of these words mean?

    Audio Don't Be Caught With Your Pants Down

    Are you too big for your boots? Do you often fly by the seat of your pants? Learn what these clothing expressions mean and so many others. You may be excited to get started but keep your shirt on! Be patient. All you have to do is click on this episode of Words and Their Stories.

    Audio Celebrating Fathers!

    On the third Sunday in June, Americans take time to recognize and thank a special person in the family – fathers! Father's Day celebrates the importance of fathers, young and old, and the men thought of as father figures. “Like father, like son” is probably the most common father expression.

    Audio Let the Sun Shine In

    We wouldn't last long without our sun. So, it's only natural that we have many expressions that use the word "sun." And many songs are about the sun. Read to learn a couple.

    Video Maverick, A Truly American Word

    There are mavericks in sports, politics, movies ... just about everywhere. But who are mavericks? Learn what the word “maverick” means and the very cool story explaining its origin in American English. Also, see a scene from the very popular movie “Top Gun" to see Maverick in action.

    Audio Words That Are Their Own Opposites

    Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, learn words seem to fight themselves -- they are their own opposites! Well, depending on the context. Context is important when learning a language; but with these words, context is everything. Learn more about these Janus words and why they are called Janus words.

    Audio Hold Your Horses!

    Horses are part of the history and romance of the Old American West. These days, they are popular for sport and entertainment. So, it is easy to understand why we Americans use so many horse expressions. Learn some of the most common and try to answer our horse riddle!

    Audio Common French Words in American English

    English is loaded with French words. Even if they mean something bad they sound so good. So read on to learn how to say them properly. Pictured here, French Actress Michele Morgan poses in a bathing suit at the 1st Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France in 1946.

    Audio Not All Mother Expressions Are As Nice As Mom

    In the United States, Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May. It was back in 1908 when a woman named Anna Jarvis created this unofficial holiday to honor mothers. However, Ms. Jarvis would later criticize Mother’s Day. She said it had become too commercial -- too much about spending money.

    Video S.O.S. – In Other Words, Help!

    Language, as we know, is always changing. New words are often created, officially and unofficially, without anyone knowing about them. Read on to learn a word that many Americans do not know. Here is a clue: S.O.S. is one.

    Audio When It Comes to Money, Black Is Better Than Red

    Colors come to the rescue when you want to describe a business that is making money or losing money. Judging from Jack Ma's smile at Alibaba's IPO at the New York Stock Exchange, he's making a lot of money. Also learn other useful banking terms.

    Audio Early American Railroads Shape Modern Language

    This week, we look at some train and railroad expressions commonly used in American English. This is only part one. There are many idioms and expressions relating to trains. So ... all aboard! Make sure you have your ticket because this train is leaving the station!

    Audio American Expressions at Home

    Some people enjoy spending a lot of time in their homes to make them nice places to live. This is called nesting or cocooning. From couch potatoes to cabin fever -- learn some great idioms that have to do with the home.

    Audio Expressions From the World of Bugs

    We have many expressions about bees and bugs in American English. Have you ever had a bee in your bonnet? Are you as busy as a bee? Read on to find out what these expression mean and how to use them.

    Audio Don't Panic!

    Actually ... seeing a Great White shark this close would be a great time to panic. Read on to learn about the Greek myth behind the work "panic" and some idioms. There is also a shortened section from "The Sea Wolf" by writer Jack London. He wrote one of the greatest panic attacks in literature.

    Audio Green Means Spring and Other Things

    Spring in the U.S. means the landscape is turning green. So, it's only appropriate that we teach some green idioms and expressions! Some may surprise you. Have you ever met a "green-eyed monster?" Is having a "green thumb" a good thing or something that needs a doctor's care? Read on to find out.

Learn with The News

  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talk to reporters after their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., United States Aug. 4, 2015.

    Audio UN Chief Praises Obama's Climate Plan

    Also in the news, Ukraine grants citizenship to the daughter of a former Russian prime minister and a well-known Russian journalist; Sec. of State Kerry welcomes progress toward Pacific nations trade deal; Pro-government forces recapture Yemeni base. More

  • Audio First US Presidential Debate: What Will They Say Next?

    On August 6, the 10 candidates with the most public support will argue issues and politics in front of a live audience. The event will be broadcast on television as it happens. It will be the first of 11 debates planned through next March. Experts say most people will watch to see Donald Trump. More

  • Audio Second American Accused of Illegally Killing Lion in Zimbabwe

    Officials in Zimbabwe have accused a second American of killing a lion illegally. Last week, Zimbabwe’s government asked the United States to extradite American Walter Palmer. They say he illegally killed a rare, black-maned lion. The killing of the lions has launched a debate over trophy-hunting. More

  • Thai military and volunteers work to repair a leak in a dike on the canal in On Nut, Bangkok. The flooding was 300 meters away from Bangkok's main thoroughfare Sukhumvit, October 31, 2011. (VOA)

    Video Bangkok Could Soon Be Underwater

    The Italian city of Venice and the American city of New Orleans, Louisiana are slowly sinking. So is Bangkok, home to about 10 million people. Officials in the city and scientists say they do not know how long people will be able to continue living in the Thai capital. More

  • Audio Digital Solution Helps Shield Online Activists

    The National Democratic Institute, a non-profit group, says a “live” operating system calls “Tails” is helping pro-democracy activists and others hide their online communications and activities from hostile governments. “Tails” is an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Let’s Go on a Space Trip!

    You do not need to spend $50 million on a ticket to the moon. Just close your eyes and come with us to a trip into outer space! Learn idioms that will help you navigate the world of space. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: May, Might, and Must

    May, Might and Must are modal verbs that cause confusion for some learners. The Everyday Grammar team is on the job, explaining how to use these modals to express how certain, or sure, you are of something. You can also use one of them to tell about your wishes for the future. More

  • Video Feathertop by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    This classic American story features a scarecrow that comes to life. Find out what adventures he has as he looks for love and admiration. His only problem is that he has to keep puffing on the pipe the witch gave him. If he stops - something terrible may happen! More

  • Audio Study Shows How Poverty Could Limit Learning

    Studies have shown that children from poor families have more difficulty in school than other boys and girls. Children with higher socioeconomic roots seem better prepared and perform better on school tests. Now, American researchers may have found a biological reason for that difference. More

  • Audio Study: Smoking May Increase Risk of Schizophrenia

    Researchers reviewed 61 studies from around the world; they discovered cigarette smoking is three times more common among those with schizophrenia who were receiving medical care for the illness for the first time compared to people who did not have the mental disorder. More

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