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'No Smoke Without Fire'

In Texas, race car driver Alexis DeJoria suffers an engine fire after winning her first-round matchup during the Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex. She was uninjured in the fiery incident, Oct 18, 2020. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)
'No Smoke Without Fire'
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And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English. On this program we explore words and sayings in American English a little deeper.

Today we talk about fire. Any kind of fire – from a campfire to a lit match – gives off smoke. This fact about fire relates to today’s idiom: There is no smoke without fire.

Before we continue, let’s talk about two words often used to explain this idiom: rumor and gossip.

Rumors and gossip are stories or pieces of information that are passed from person to person but have not been proven to be true. They are often about something bad.

One meaning of “there’s no smoke without fire” is that rumors and gossip often have some truth behind them.

If the word on the street is that something is really bad, it just might be. Or if you hear unpleasant things about someone or something from many different people, there may be some truth to it. Maybe.

Here’s an example:

I think we should start looking for another job. I’ve heard that this bank is going under. It could just be gossip. But usually there’s no smoke without fire.

In other words, there must be at least some truth to all the talk. The logic is this: If many people are saying that something bad is happening, it could be partly true.

We say this idiom several ways. You can say, “there’s no smoke without fire.” Or you can say, “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” You can even simply say, “where there’s smoke…” without finishing the rest of the sentence. People will definitely understand your meaning.

Here is another example.

Hey, I hear you’re going out with that new guy at work.

We went for a long walk together. That’s about it.

Well, be careful. Rumor has it that he is bad news.

What kind of bad news?

Well, he’s been married before.

So. There’s no crime against having a marriage that didn’t work out.

Right. But he’s been married four times. My cousin knows a former wife of his. She says the guy owes money all over town.

This is all just gossip.

Look, I’m just saying be careful. Where there’s smoke … yeah, you know.

And that brings us to the end of this week’s Words and Their Stories.

Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo!

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


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

rumor – n. information or a story that is passed from person to person but has not been proven to be true

gossip – n. casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

word on the street - idiom what people are saying

going under – v. to be overwhelmed, destroyed, or defeated

logic – n. a proper or reasonable way of thinking about something : sound reasoning

rumor has it - idiom the information or story that is going around is