February 06, 2016 09:05 UTC

Words and Their Stories

Down to Earth

My friend Jane is so "down to earth"
My friend Jane is so "down to earth"

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Down to Earth
Down to Earthi
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Now, the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.

Every week at this time, we tell about popular American words and expressions. Some of these are very old. Some are new. Together, they form the living speech of the American people.

Today we tell about the expression "down to earth." Down to earth means being open and honest. It is easy to deal with someone who is down to earth.

A person who is down to earth is a pleasure to find. He or she accepts other people as equals. A down to earth person is the opposite of someone who acts important or proud.

Down to earth people could be important members of society. But they do not consider themselves to be better than others who are less important. They do not let their importance go to their heads. Someone who lets something go to his head feels he is better than others. He has a big head.

A person who is filled with his own importance and pride is said to have his nose in the air. Often the person who has a big head and his nose in the air has no reason to feel better than others. He surely is the opposite of someone who is down to earth.

Americans use another expression that is similar in some ways to down to earth. The expression is both feet on the ground. Someone with both feet on the ground is a person with a good understanding of reality. She has what is called common sense. She may have dreams. But she does not allow them to block her understanding of what is real.

The opposite kind of person is one who has his head in the clouds. Someone with his head in the clouds is a person whose mind is not on what is happening in real life. Such a person may be called a daydreamer.

Sometimes a person with his head in the clouds can be brought back to reality.  Sharp words from a teacher, for example, can usually get a daydreaming student to put both feet on the ground.

The person who is down to earth usually has both feet on the ground. But the opposite is not always true. Someone with both feet on the ground may not be as open and easy to deal with as someone who is down to earth.

When we have both our feet firmly on the ground, and when we are down to earth we do not have our noses in the air. We act honestly and openly to others. Our lives are like the ground below us -- solid and strong.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
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by: Moacir da Silva Meireles from: Curitiba
03/17/2015 11:10 PM
Nice teaching VOA, congratulations.


by: Anh Mong from: Hanoi, Vietnam
03/17/2015 4:29 PM
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. " : ) - Imagine - John Lennon


by: Kim Phuong from: Viet Nam
03/14/2015 5:16 AM
Nice !!! Thank you, VOA


by: sadegh hajalizadeh from: iran
03/06/2015 11:40 AM
hi, i had and have many dream in my mind. but i try to have a good relationship with other people in the our ground, so i think i should put my feet on the earth and notice to my ground. thank you of voa for this story.

In Response

by: yeudys silfa from: dominican republic
03/09/2015 12:54 PM
l have a good relationship with other people in the our ground, so i think i should put my feet on the earth and notice to my ground. thank you of voa for this story.

In Response

by: sadegh from: iran
03/10/2015 2:53 AM
thanks for comment, i like to talk you


by: Toan Nguyen from: California, US
03/05/2015 5:52 PM
Great section! It is nice to learn more than one idiom at the same time with similar and opposite words. I though it is easy for me to remember new idioms as the way how voa explains them. Thanks


by: Lucy from: Canada
03/05/2015 2:50 PM
I am down to earth, and have both my feet firmly on the ground. Sometime I have my head in the clouds.I do not like people who have big heads and have their noses in the air.

In Response

by: Dr. Jill Robbins from: Washington, DC
03/05/2015 3:39 PM
Dear Lucy,
Thanks for your comment. You correctly used a lot of the idioms about body parts!
Have a great day!
Dr. Jill


by: Hussein from: Baghdad
03/03/2015 6:54 PM
I like down to earth people much, and really like to deal with them


by: Anonymous from: Catalonia
03/02/2015 6:01 PM
This expression 'both feet on the ground' is very similar as a Catalan one 'tocar de peus a terra'.

In Response

by: kika from: spain
03/13/2015 7:19 AM
what a coincidence! Through the rest of Spain the expression means the same!

In Response

by: Javi from: Barcelona
03/03/2015 5:25 PM
Exactly, and there are other expressions commonly used among us, like, "down to earth" or "to have the head on the clouds". Regards, Bona tarda.


by: Tham from: Vietnam
03/02/2015 2:22 PM
So interesting! Love all, from content to your voice. Thanks so much!


by: Angela from: Taipei, Taiwan
03/02/2015 8:44 AM
Several years ago, I realized that I had my noses in the air, and I don't have my feet on the ground. I tried to change myself. I hope that I could be down to earth right now.

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The Day in Photos

Protesters wear monkey masks during a rally at the Chinese Consulate in the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, to protest China's actions in the South China Sea. This year is the Year of Monkey.

Protesters wear monkey masks during a rally at the Chinese Consulate in the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, to protest China's actions in the South China Sea. This year is the Year of Monkey.

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