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Hang: Don't Get Excited, Just Hang Loose

Expressions that will have you hanging on every word. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Now, the Special English program, Words and Their Stories.


Hang is a simple word. But there are many meanings for hang. Especially when it is used with other words. Two often-heard expressions are to hang tight and to hang loose.

When a friend says to hang tight, he is advising you to wait a little longer, not to give up. He might say, for example, "Hang tight. Keep studying. You can still pass the course."

But if that same friend tells you to hang loose, he is telling you to take it easy, not to get excited. He could say, "Hang loose. You probably passed the English test."

Hang around is an expression with several meanings. Usually, it means to spend your time doing nothing. You may need time to just hang around if you have been working too hard. Hang around also can mean spending time with friends. You hang around with your friends, for example, because you share a common interest in sports.

Hanging out is similar to hanging around. You may hang out with the same group of friends and always do things together.

A similar-sounding expression, however, has a very different meaning. The expression is let it all hang out. Well, when you let it all hang out, you are being completely open and honest. You do not keep your opinions hidden, even if they may cause you trouble.

Sometimes, a person may suffer from a hang-up. Well, a hang-up is an emotional difficulty that causes a problem for a person. You may know someone, for example, whose hang-up is shyness. They have a problem talking with people they do not know well.

A hangover can be a very painful condition. A hangover is the headache, upset stomach and other disorders that result from drinking too much alcohol.

Another common expression is to get the hang of something. It means to understand how a device works or how to do a job. An office worker might say that she cannot get the hang of using a computer. But after a few days, she may tell you that she finally got the hang of it.

One of the early heroes of the American republic, Benjamin Franklin, gave a warning to the other signers of the Declaration of Independence. The warning contained two different meanings of the word hang.

"We must all hang together," Franklin said, "or surely, we shall all hang separately."

The other signers took Fanklin's advice. They hung together, remained united. As a result, the American colonies won their independence. And none of the signers of the declaration was hanged as a revolutionary by the king of England.


This VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories, was written by Marilyn Christiano. Maurice Joyce was the narrator. I'm Shirley Griffith.