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A Leopard Doesn't Change Its Spots

In this Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, photo, an endangered snow leopard cub explores it's enclosure the Los Angeles Zoo, in California. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
In this Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, photo, an endangered snow leopard cub explores it's enclosure the Los Angeles Zoo, in California. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
A Leopard Doesn't Change Its Spots
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And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

Today we talk about change. The world changes. Situations change. But what about people? Do we ever really change?

To answer this, we turn to the animal world to describe changes in personality and behavior.

A common expression states that as we get older it gets harder to change and harder to learn new behavior. That expression is: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

This expression does not mean that it is impossible for an older person to learn something new. Anyone can learn a new skill later in life -- from speaking a new language to playing an instrument.

But sometimes as a person gets older, they get used to doing things in a certain way. It is more difficult for them to learn a new way of doing things.

Some people, this expression claims, get very set in their ways. They do not like to change. They like to wake up at the same time, eat the same thing for lunch, and watch the same news program. People who fit this description take comfort in routines.

Of course, this is not true for everyone. Many older people adapt and change very easily to new situations. But perhaps they were always like that, even when they were younger. They are just staying true to their nature.

And that brings us to our next expression: A leopard doesn’t change its spots

This expression means that a person will stay true to their nature. They are who they are and cannot change -- even if that person claims otherwise.

We often use this expression when talking about someone who says they have changed their ways. They no longer do something bad that they used to do.

Here is a very short story using these expressions. Listen for other expressions that relate to a person not changing.

Years ago, I lived in a beautiful apartment. But it was too big for me. So, to save some money, I invited a woman to move in. She was a friend of a friend of a friend. So, I did not know her. But I was told she would be a very good roommate.

And at first, she was. Then her “true colors” came out.

First, she was messy. She left her stuff everywhere. When I told her to pick up after herself, she just laughed and said. “I was messy as a little girl, and I’m still messy. You know what they say, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’”

Well, I didn't think that was very funny. Besides she was too young to be an “old dog” stuck in her ways.

Then she starting doing other things – worse things. She would take my stuff and lie about it. She would eat all of my food and not buy any food herself. Finally, she started throwing loud, all-night parties and inviting all kinds of strange people to the apartment.

That was the last straw! I had had enough. I told her she had to find a new place to live.

Well, after only a week of looking she said she could not find one. This I found hard to believe. There were always “apartment for rent” signs around town. But we had a serious talk and she promised me that she would change her ways. She would turn over a new leaf. She would clean up her act, so to speak.

So, I let her stay. That was a mistake. She soon fell back into her old ways. It turns out the old saying is true: A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

In the end, I found her another place to live. She is now living with that friend of a friend of a friend. Problem solved!

And that’s all the time we have for this Words and their Stories. Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this lesson or VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

personality – n. he qualities (as moods or habits) that make one human being different from others

comfort – n. a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings caused by pain, heat, cold, etc.

routine – n. a regular way of doing things in a particular order

adapt – v. to change your behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation

apartment – n. a usually rented room or set of rooms that is part of a building and is used as a place to live

roommate – n. one of two or more persons sharing the same room or living quarters

messy – adj. not clean or tidy

last straw – expression the last of a series (as of events or insults) that brings one beyond the point of endurance

turn over a new leaf – expression turn over a new leaf