And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.
If you live in a part of the world that is experiencing winter right now, it might be snowing.
But even if you do not live in a snowy climate, try to image cold, snowy weather. Imagine having a snowball fight with your friends. A snowball is, of course, a ball of snow. But not all snow makes good snowballs. If the snow is too light and dry, it will not hold together. It is powdery. Wetter snow makes for great snowballs. You can pack it into a tight ball, which is great for throwing.
A snowball might hurt a bit, but it would not cause a lot of damage. But imagine that snowball rolling down a hill. As it rolls, it picks up more and more snow. It gets bigger and bigger until it crashes into something and causes damage!
And that gives us “snowball” as a verb.
Dictionary.com defines the verb “snowball” as becoming “larger, greater, more intense…” very quickly.
If something like a project, campaign, or business snowballs, its progress rapidly increases and grows. For example, after a photographer posted a picture on Instagram of a monkey protecting a human baby, her followers snowballed to over 1 million within a week!
However, when we use this expression the ending results are usually not good. Something that snowballs in a bad way goes downhill quickly. For example, when we do not take care of small problems, they can snowball into bigger ones.
Now, let’s hear an example using the verb “snowball.”
A: I have a friend who lied about knowing sign language on her resume. She thought no one would ask her to actually prove she knew sign language. But her boss asked her to. In fact, he set up a big meeting with the deaf community and assigned her to act as translator. She lied about why she could not attend the event. But her boss surprised her with an unplanned meeting. That is when he found out that she did not know how to sign. Her lie on her resume quickly snowballed into a workplace drama that got her fired from her job.
Next, let’s talk about the expression snowball effect.
A snowball effect is a situation where one action or event causes many other similar actions or events. And these actions or events grow and grow bigger and more problematic – just like a snowball rolling down a hill.
A snowball effect is similar to a chain of events. However, with a chain of events, one thing leads to another. But these events do not necessarily intensify or grow bigger.
And that’s the end of this Words and Their Stories. Hopefully, using resources on VOA Learning English is having a snowball effect on your English studies … in a good way!
Until next time, I’m Anna Matteo.
Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
climate – n. a region with specified weather conditions
powdery – adj. resembling or consisting of matter in a finely divided state
intense – adj. existing in an extreme degree
resume – n. a short account of one's career and qualifications
translator – n. to turn into one's own or another language
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