Now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.
From birth to death, the word “kick” has an important part in the human experience. In the very beginning, a happy mother-to-be feels the first signs of life “kicking” inside her.
And near the end of life, some people may use the idiom “to kick the bucket” when someone dies. Although I would be careful using it. “Kicked the bucket” is a very informal slang expression. And it is a bit, well, cold or unfeeling.
That’s right. But, in addition to those two sayings, American English has many other “kick” expressions.
For example, we kick with our feet. So it should come as no surprise that kicks is a term for shoes. We always use this slang expression in its plural form. Younger people, under the age of 30, use the term kicks more than older people. And they usually use it when talking about a pair of sports shoes … as we will hear in this dialogue.
Now, people of any age kick up their heels when they want to have fun. If you kick up their heels you have forgotten about all of your cares and are having a good time.
Kicking up your heels is fun. But getting kicked around is not. That is when people treat you badly. They do not hurt you physically . But they do not treat you with respect or kindness.
But pay attention when you hear this expression. “Kicking around” has other meanings.
It can describe someone who has moved around a lot. People who have kicked around for most of their lives have spent their lives moving from one place to another. If a man spent his 20s and early 30s kicking around from place to place, that means he moved a lot.
Besides kicking around from place to place, you can also kick around an idea. This means to have an idea and then think about it in many different ways. You want to know if the idea will work. At an office meeting, workers kicked around ideas on how to improve their delivery process.
So, you can kick around an idea. But you can also kick other things … like yourself! To kick yourself means you feel badly about something you did. Usually this mistake or bad choice made you miss an opportunity. And that is why you are angry and willing to kick yourself.
As you can see, “kick” is one of those English words that has many different meanings depending on the words used with it. For example, if you combine “kick” with the word “off,” it means to start something.
Yes, sometimes singers kick off a world tour with one special concert. Or a new store may kick off a grand opening with a great sale event.
You can also kick-start something, like your career. It means to get it going. This term comes from motorcycles. On a motorcycle you must kick down on a metal bar to start the engine.
That is where the fundraiser organization Kickstarter took its name. With Kickstarter, people give money to kick-start a cause or project.
But without the words “off” and “start,” the verb, “kick” means to stop doing something. When you kick something, you stop doing something harmful, like smoking. You can also kick the sugar habit or kick a gossiping habit. We usually say “kick the habit” together.
And now, let’s change the preposition from “off” to “out.” When you kick someone out of a place or group, you ask them to leave. For example, some students are kicked out of school for behaving badly over and over again.
That might be true. But, getting a kick out of something is a good thing. This means you really enjoyed it. For example, some people get a kick out of seeing their old friends from high school.
And I can say, I always get a kick out of watching fireworks. I really enjoy them! Some people get their kicks in other ways. Maybe they get their kicks playing a sport or driving fast cars.
Okay, that is a lot of kick expressions! It is such a useful word in the English language.
But now, let’s hear how to use them in this short dialogue between two friends.
Do you want to know what we get a kick out of? Reading your comments. So write to us!
Let us know what you get a kick out of. Or maybe you kicked a bad habit.
Use any of the “kick” expressions you heard hear in the Comments Section.
Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.
And I’m Bryan Lynn.
I get no kick from champagne,
It doesn't move me at all,
So tell me, why should it be true,
That I get a kick out of you.
(Frank Sinatra singing “I Get a Kick Out of You.”)
Words in This Story
idiom – n. an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own
informal – adj. of language : relaxed in tone : not suited for serious or official speech and writing
slang – n. words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language and that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people
plural – adj. grammar : relating to a form of a word that refers to more than one person or thing
dialogue – n. a conversation between two or more persons
pretty penny – idiomatic expression
hoops – n. basketball —usually used in plural
styling – n. the way in which something is designed
opportunity – n. chance for greater success
concert – n. a public performance (as of music or dancing)