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It's OK to 'Take a Page from Someone Else's Book'


An elderly man reads a book in a bookshop in Bab Doukkala in the city of Marrakech, Morocco, May 13, 2017. (REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)
It's Okay to 'Take a Page From Someone Else's Book'
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And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

On today's program, we talk about expressions related to books.

Books are simple. They are made up of two main parts. The cover is on the outside, and the pages are on the inside.

You may have heard this saying: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That means you cannot judge a person by the way they look.

While that idea may be good, people in the book industry may not agree. These days, much time, thought, creative energy and money are spent on some book covers. And book cover reveals are big events for the writer, the artist or designer and the publisher.

But today, we are not talking about the cover of the book. We are going to talk about its content – the pages.

Our expression today is: “to take a page from someone else’s book.” This means to do the same thing that someone else has done. You do what they did.

For example, let’s say there is a young man who really wants to play on a college basketball team. But his skills are not as good as many of the others trying out. So, he works hard day and night to get better. Even when he misses basket after basket, even when he is so tired he could barely walk -- he never gives up. Finally, all his work pays off and he makes the team! We could all take a page from his book and not give up either.

Here is a great word that means almost the same thing – emulate. If you emulate someone, you copy them. You imitate their good behavior or methods.

Now, sometimes we use the expression "take a page from someone's book" as advice. We advise others to copy someone because they are good at something.

For example, let’s say you are taking a class with Tessa. She is a very good student. She studies hard, is organized and prepares for every class well ahead of time. If you want to do well in the class, you might want to take a page from her book.

You can also say borrow a page from someone’s book. And sometimes we say tear a page from someone’s book. The verb may change – take, borrow, tear. But the meaning stays the same.

In my circle of friends, I am known for bringing my famous chocolate cake to parties. Now, Rebecca, a new friend in the group, secretly copies my recipe. Then she starts bringing chocolate cake – my chocolate cake – to parties too. I can say she tore a page right from my book. Not cool, Rebecca. Not cool.

Sometimes we use the expression as a warning. By simply adding “not,” you can warn someone not to behave like someone else.

Listen to this example.

A: Do you have a minute? I need to talk about something.

B: Sure. What’s up?

A: Well, I’m new but I really want to do well at this job. Do you have any advice for me?

B: Sure. Show up on time, do good work, and be pleasant to work with.

A: I know all that stuff. I mean, anything else specific to this company?

B: Well, whatever you do, don’t take a page from Julian’s book.

A: Who’s Julian?

B: Julian was vice president of the company.

A: Vice president? He seems like a good person to copy.

B: Well, last year he got caught stealing money from the company and is currently in jail.

A: Oh. Right. In that case, I won’t be taking a page from Julian’s book or anything else from him for that matter.

Sometimes people say, take a page from someone’s playbook. This version of the expression comes from sports. A playbook contains the plays, or specialized instructions, for certain team sports.

But, if you are not a sports-minded person, you can simply say "book."

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 for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

page –n. a piece of paper in a book, magazine or similar published material

reveal –n. the act or event of showing something that was not known before or that was hidden

admire –v. to feel respect or approval of someone

emulate –v. to try to be like someone or something

imitate –v. to do in the same way as someone else; to copy someone’s behavior, appearance or sound

recipe –n. a set of instructions for making food; a way of doing something that will produce a certain result

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