April 20, 2014 00:39 UTC

Words and Their Stories: Losing It

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster delivers during the first inning of an opening day baseball
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster delivers during the first inning of an opening day baseball

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
TEXT SIZE - +

I'm Susan Clark with the Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
 

Tom Smith is the best hitter on his company's baseball team. For weeks during the playing season, Tom hit a home run in every game the team played. But then suddenly he stopped hitting home runs. He could not hit the baseball at all.


One day he struck out three times in one game. He said, "I am afraid I am losing it."


Mary Jones bought a dress in a woman's clothing store. She felt very happy about buying the dress until she got home. Then she remembered she had left her credit card at the store when she used it to pay for the dress. It was the third time that month that Mary had forgotten something important.


Mary was angry with herself. She said, "Am I losing it?"


Emma Cleveland was teaching a class in mathematics at a college. She began to explain to the students how to solve a very difficult problem. She undersood it very well. But somehow, at that moment, she could not explain it. Emma said, "I must be losing it."


Americans seem to have a lot of concern about losing it. At least that is what you would think from hearing them talk. They use the expression when they feel they are losing control. It can mean losing emotional control. Or losing the ability to do something. Or losing mental powers.


Word experts differ about how the expression started. Some believe it came from television programs popular in the nineteen eighties. Others believe it began with psychologists and psychiatrists who deal with how people think, feel and act.


One psychologist said, "We Americans have many concerns about controlling our lives. Perhaps we worry too much."


She continued, "In many situations, to say you are losing it eases the tension. It is healthy. And most people who say they are having a problem are not losing it." People may feel more like they are losing it when they are "down in the dumps."


People who are down in the dumps are sad. They are depressed.


Word expert Charles Funk says people have been feeling down in the dumps for more than four-hundred years. Sir Thomas More used the expression in fifteen thirty-four. He wrote, "Our poor family ... has fallen in such dumps."


Word experts do not agree what the word dumps means. One expert, John Ayto, says the word dumps probably comes from the Scandanavian countries. The languages of Denmark and Norway both have similar words. The words mean to fall suddenly.


Americans borrowed this saying. And, over the years, it has become a popular way of expressing sadness.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

LEARNING ENGLISH PROGRAMS

  • Thomas Jefferson

    Audio Belittle

    Thomas Jefferson was the first to use this word to describe Count de Buffon's books on natural history. Efforts to belittle the word "belittle" did not stop people from using the word. | Words and Their Stories More

  • Rescue boats sail around the overturned South Korean passenger ship "Sewol" which sank in the sea off Jindo.

    Hopes Decrease in Search for Survivors of South Korean Ferry

    Almost 270 people, mostly high school students, are still missing after the South Korean ferry disaster. But hopes of finding more survivors are decreasing. | In the News More

Tell us About Our Programs

Learning English on Shortwave

All times and days are
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). 

Frequencies are in kiloHertz (kHz).
 

0030-0100 UTC   1575  7430  9790  12015
                         12150  15290  17820 (Daily)

0130-0200 UTC   9825 (Tuesday through Saturday)

1500-1600 UTC   6140  7540  9400 (Daily)

1600-1700 UTC   11915  13570  17895 (Daily)

1900-2000 UTC   7485 (Daily)

2230-2400 UTC   7460  9570  11840 (Daily)