Idioms – On the ball

“Lucy is really on the ball, she already finished all her essays for this term.”

“Samsung is really on the ball with their new smartphone, it addresses user needs perfectly.”

“On the ball” is an idiom with a positive meaning. It means that someone is competent and attentive, able to do a good job because of their focus. It can also mean that someone is knowledgeable and alert, able to pay attention to new trends and ideas.

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The origin is believed to be from sports. Coaches would tell players “Keep your eye on the ball telling them to look at and pay attention to the ball, and not get distracted. We use it now for people that exhibit good focus or for people that are successful in something because of competent actions.
“Lucy is really on the ball, she already finished all her essays for this term.” = Lucy has used her focus and hard work to be successful in completing her work quickly.
“Samsung is really on the ball, with their new smartphone, it addresses user needs perfectly.” = The Samsung company is really aware of current trends and needs, and uses that knowledge to make a successful smartphone.

Idioms- A dime a dozen

“Great meals are a dime a dozen in Bangkok.”

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“Beautiful women are a dime a dozen in Seoul.”

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“A dime a dozen” is a common phrase that means something is either very cheap or very plentiful. “A dime” is a ten cent coin, worth one-tenth of a dollar. “A dozen” means twelve.
Expanded it would be(it costs) a dime (to buy) a dozen (of those things)


So the literal meaning is to buy 12 of something for 10 cents.

Traditionally some foods, like eggs and donuts, were sold in 12-packs. So a long time ago you would see sales that advertised cheap prices, like buying a dozen eggs for a dime.

We use it for things that are cheap, plentiful, or easy to get.
“Great meals are a dime a dozen in Bangkok.” = Great meals are very cheap in Bangkok. Not literally ten cents, but inexpensive enough to not cause a burden.

“Beautiful women are a dime a dozen in Seoul. = There are so many beautiful women that the value of being a beautiful woman isn’t high.

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Expressions: “Shotgun”

Sometimes in tv shows or movies, or if you visit an English speaking country you might hear the phrase:

“I call shotgun.”

This means that the speaker wants to sit in the passenger seat of the car (beside the driver).  This is used when there are several passengers and the person doesn’t want to get stuck sitting in the back seat.

This idiom comes from the days of cowboys when a guard holding a shotgun used to ride beside the driver of a stagecoach (horse drawn carriage) to offer protection.

Since “shotgun” is usually a comfortable seat, the game of “calling shotgun” can get very competitive.

There are two rules:

  1. You must say “shotgun” loud enough for other people to hear you.
  2. The car must be within sight.

Some comedians make jokes about this game:


In this tweet the comedian called shotgun and got the privilege of riding in the passenger seat, but since it was a limo that actually wasn’t a good seat.


And sometimes comedians take a more literal definition of the word:

In this one the friend is disappointed that the man called shotgun and won the front seat “Oh but you had it on the way here.” and then the two friends are both surprised to see it is a real shotgun.

Abbreviations Part 2



This phrase is often seen on invitations to house parties, it means Bring Your Own Booze (booze is a slang term for alcoholic drinks).  This means that the host of the party might be providing food or snacks, but that guests should bring their own drinks. It is often spoken too:

“I’m having a party at my place, it’s byob but I’ll be ordering a few pizzas so don’t worry about food.



This is a common expression that means “For Your Information”, and is used to point out some information the speaker thinks would be helpful to the listener.

We usually use it for something that the speaker thinks is important, but isn’t sure if the listener is interested or not:

“My coworker is really pretty, and FYI she’s single.” (This implies the listener might want to ask the coworker out on a date)

Or we use it angrily sometimes to challenge someone with new information:

“Yeah I don’t have a smartphone, but FYI: your phone was made by poor sweatshop workers and you should be ashamed.”



This is another very common one that means “By the way…” and is used to give some additional information to someone that either isn’t very important:

“By the way, I wanted to ask if I could borrow your powerdrill sometime?”

or something a bit off topic:

“Yeah I saw that movie too. By the way, did you know that director used to be a doctor?”

It is never spoken as BTW, and is always said in full.




This expression means Best Friends Forever (e.g. “Oh yeah I love Sandy, we are BFFs”), or Best Friend Forever (e.g. “Have you met Sandy? She is my BFF.”) The term “Best Friend” is used somewhat lightly in English, so this phrase was invented to show a stronger relationship. But now it is being used very commonly too, so maybe we will need a stronger phrase soon?



This means “Boyfriend”, and is usually only written, never spoken. It’s a pretty simple one, but I’ve seen some English learners write things like “I had dinner with my BF” and think that it means “Best Friend.” Just be aware that BFF and BF have completely different meanings


Abbreviations Part 1

Here are some basic abbreviations in English:



RSVP means “répondez s’il vous plaît” which is a French phrase that means “Please respond”.  You’ll see this on invitations to parties and events. People can speak this one too, even as a verb:

“I invited my brother to my wedding but he hasn’t RSVPed yet and I’m getting worried he won’t show.”




ASAP means “as soon as possible” and is both written and spoken. “I need the sales report soon, get it back to me A.S.A.P.”

It is so common that some people even pronounce it like a word: “I’ll get back to you ASAP.”



N/A is an abbreviation that is not said aloud. It stands for “Not applicable” and is seen on tables or reports. When I am filling out an application form for something and it has a spot for me to list my home phone number I would write “N/A”, since I don’t have a landline only a cell phone. That question or condition does not apply to me.



This one means “Too much information” and is usually said in response to someone telling you something that should be private information (oversharing).

“Your mom and I kissed on our first date.”

“Woah Dad, TMI. I don’t want to hear that stuff.”




This one means “Point of View” , and talks about seeing the world from someone else’s eyes. This one is usually only written:

“I was angry at my sister, but when I thought about it from her POV I understood,” the boy said to his friend.

But when talking about video games or movies people can speak it:

“This entire game is from the zombie’s POV”


Sometimes, despite all your study and practice, you might have trouble understanding someone when in a conversation with a native speaker. There are several ways to ask for clarification.
On the very casual end you can use phrases like:


What was that?”,

Excuse me?”.

But you have to be careful with these phrases as they imply that the speaker wasn’t clear. These can sound rude in the wrong situation.

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“Excuse me, where is the library?”

For listener problems it’s best to use more polite phrases that make it clear that the speaker isn’t making the error.

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“Pardon?” Is ok, but doesn’t identify your own problem.
Start with an apology, identify your problem and make a polite request.

I’m sorry, you spoke too fast for me, could you please repeat that?

“I’m sorry, you spoke too fast for me, could you please repeat that?”


Note: “I’m sorry, you spoke too fast, could you repeat that?” is bad because you are saying they made the mistake.
Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you say it again?

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you say it again?”

Is more casual but acceptable.


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Pet Peeve

What is your Pet Peeve? What is the thing that annoys you but doesn’t annoy other people? Something that bothers you even if you know that it’s really not that important in the grand scheme of things.
My pet peeve is people being late. Like always late. Like they have a chronic disease and lateness is the symptom.


If I’m going to meet someone and they waltz up ten minutes late without a word of apology then that gets under my skin (“get under one’s skin” means to deeply annoy or bother).

Other pet peeves I have?

People who don’t cover their mouths when coughing.


People who check their phones while in conversation with you.


People who park poorly in parking lots.

I wouldn’t say I ‘hate’ this stuff, that’s too strong a word. Sure all of these things seem to annoy everyone to some degree, but they are more of a personal annoyance to me.

Like a pet. A very annoying pet.


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