September 05, 2015 16:16 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.


5:54 PM - 5:59 PM September 02, 2015

Feel the Pinch


6:41 PM - 6:46 PM August 28, 2015

Are You Too Smart for Your Own Good?


9:24 PM - 9:29 PM August 21, 2015

More Latin for Your English!


4:18 PM - 4:23 PM August 14, 2015

Improve Your English with Latin!


5:08 PM - 5:09 PM August 10, 2015

Dialogue: Mortgage and Other "Death" Words


8:46 PM - 8:51 PM August 07, 2015

Mortgage and Other "Death" Words


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.

    Audio Are You Too Smart for Your Own Good?

    If you think being smart is always a good thing, think again. Smart has many meanings. Read on to find out what they are and the surprising origin of the term Smart Aleck.

    Video More Latin for Your English!

    In part two of our series on Latin’s influence on American English, we learn more Latin words and phrases. From popular movies to rock songs, Latin is used very frequently in American English.

    Audio Mortgage and Other 'Death' Words

    Unless you pay for a new home in cash, you'll need a mortgage, or "death pledge." On second thought, the word "mortgage" sounds nicer. Find out mortgages and other "deadly" words.

    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!

Learn with The News

  • Video What Does China Want?

    This week, China held a huge military parade to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. More than 12,000 soldiers took part in the event. It included the first public showing of a new missile that reportedly has the ability to destroy an aircraft carrier. | In The News More

  • Video With US Tie, Cubans Have Better Access to Internet

    The United States and Cuba officially re-established diplomatic relations two months ago. The re-establishment of ties had led to better access of the Internet across the island nation. Until recently, it has been difficult for Cubans to connect online with the rest of the world. More

  • Audio Countries Compete for Oil in the Arctic

    Russia, the United States and other countries are hurrying to control Earth’s northernmost territory: the Arctic. Environmentalists have denounced U.S. oil company projects in the Arctic. A former Shell Oil Company official says new kinds of energy can be developed without harming nature. More

  • Audio Weaker Chinese Economy Sends Shockwaves Worldwide

    As markets show weakness, U.S. and Japanese officials have called for talks on China’s economy at the G-20 meeting in Turkey. The U.S. government is urging China to be more open in discussing its policy plans. More

  • Audio Pro-Kurdish Party Could Decide Turkish Election Results

    Turkey will hold its second parliamentary elections this year on November 1. Political observers believe that the pro-Kurdish party HDP could sway the elections. The party won enough votes in June elections to enter parliament for the first time. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Days of Painful Tooth Repair May Be Over

    Nobody likes going to the dentist. This is especially true of children. But new technology may help teeth heal naturally without painful drilling and filling. This article is filled with words that you will need to know to talk about caring for your teeth and your next trip to the dentist. More

  • Audio Tanglewood Music Center Celebrates 75th Anniversary

    The world famous Boston Symphony Orchestra normally performs at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. But its summer home is the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts. The Boston Symphony Orchestra also has a summer program at Tanglewood for young singers and musicians. More

  • Audio Are You Too Smart for Your Own Good?

    If you think being smart is always a good thing, think again. Smart has many meanings. Read on to find out what they are and the surprising origin of the term Smart Aleck. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Fun with Future Tenses

    English has several ways to talk about the future. It's one of the most flexible tenses in English. We visit some popular songs for examples of the future forms. Read and listen as the Everyday Grammar team shows you six ways to express an event in the future. You will not regret it! More

  • Video A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce

    Carter Druse lived in Virginia, a southern state during the American Civil War. He had a tough decision to make - should he join the Confederate Army or the Union Army? Read this classic American Story to find out what decision he makes, and what it means to his father and fellow soldiers. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs