Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories. This program explores the history and usage of common expressions in American English.
Today, we talk about a time when half the world is waking from the dark, cold winter months.
We often describe spring as a time of rebirth, renewal and awakening. Many trees are blossoming and early flowers are pushing through the earth.
Things are coming to life!
When the weather turns warm, many people suffer from spring fever. Common “symptoms” of spring fever include not being able to focus on school or work, taking long walks, or falling in love.
So, are you actually sick when you have spring fever?
Originally, yes. Spring fever used to refer to an actual illness. When the weather turned warm, some people developed sore throats, headaches, or stuffy noses.
The definition of “spring fever” slowly changed in the early 1800s.
People came to use the term to mean a sudden increase of romantic feelings.
Elvis Presley describes this feeling in his song “Spring Fever.”
“Spring fever, it comes to everyone. Spring fever, it's time for fun. There’s no doubt now, love is in the air. Get up, get out, spring is everywhere”
These days, we use “spring fever” to describe a restless feeling after the long, cold days of winter.
But the word “spring” is not just a season. It is also a verb that means something happened or appeared quickly.
When you put “spring” and “life” together, you get spring to life. This expression means something suddenly becomes very active or perhaps seems more alive! You may spring to life after hearing that a distant friend will be visiting you. Or maybe your favorite soccer team finally sprang to life in the second half, played well and won the match.
But this is just the beginning. There are so many more "spring" expressions that mean to happen suddenly.
As you can see, American English has so many phrases that use “spring” to mean "something happens quickly." The ones we have heard are just the ones that sprang to mind. In other words, they were the first ones I thought of, without spending much time thinking about it.
But perhaps those examples are confusing. Maybe I should have prepared you instead of just springing them on you. And, I did it again. If you spring something on other people, you have surprised them, usually not in a good way.
We end this Words and Their Stories back on the season spring.
Here is a short poem by Oliver Herford titled “I Heard a Bird Sing.” It tells how a simple bird song brings a longing for spring during the month of December.
I Heard a Bird Sing
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
I’m Anna Matteo.
Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. (This story was first published on March 19, 2017.)
Words in This Story
rebirth – n. a period of new life, growth, or activity
renewal – n. the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again : the state of being renewed
symptom – n. a change in the body or mind which indicates that a disease is present
imagine – v. to think of or create (something that is not real) in your mind
annoy – v. to disturb or irritate especially by repeated acts
coil – n. a long thin piece of material (such as a wire, string, or piece of hair) that is wound into circles
bounce – v. to move with a lot of energy and excitement
marathon – n. a footrace run on an open course usually of 26 miles 385 yards (42.2 kilometers); broadly : a long-distance race