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Speak English Like an American Lesson 20 Idioms and Expressions MCQ Test

Speak English Like an American Lesson 20 Idioms and Expressions MCQ Test

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LESSON 20 – Bob Gets an Angry Call from Carol


Carol calls Bob to tell him that a customer found a hair in her cookie. Bob wants Carol to forget about this, but Carol thinks it’s very serious. She refuses to buy any more cookies from Bob.

Carol: Bob, a lady came into the Village Market today ranting and raving.

Bob: Oh yeah? What happened?

Carol: She found a blue hair in her chocolate chip cookie!

Bob: Aha. I can see how she’d be taken aback.

Carol: Does anybody in your family have blue hair?

Bob: As a matter of fact, my son’s girlfriend Amber has blue hair.

Carol: Bob, I can’t sell your cookies anymore.

Bob: Aren’t you blowing things out of proportion?

Carol: The health department would throw the book at me if they found out about this.

Bob: Couldn’t we just sweep this under the rug?

Carol: No. This is too serious.

Bob: But I was just getting a handle on the cookie business. Now what will I do? I don’t have any other way of making a living!

Carol: My heart goes out to you, Bob, but you need to get your act together. I want to sell chocolate chip cookies, not hair cookies!

Bob: I guess I just knocked myself out for the past week for nothing.

Carol: Clearly!


  • as a matter of fact

 in fact; actually

EXAMPLE 1: We need more milk? As a matter of fact, I was just going to ask you to go shopping.

EXAMPLE 2: This isn’t the first time Andy has gotten in trouble at school. As a matter of fact, just last month he was suspended for an entire week.

  • (to) blow things out of proportion

 to exaggerate; to make more of something than one should

EXAMPLE 1: They sent a 12 year-old boy to jail for biting his babysitter? Don’t you think they’re blowing things out of proportion?

EXAMPLE 2: Sally called the police when her neighbor’s party got too loud. I think that was blowing things out of proportion.

SYNONYM: To make a mountain out of a molehill

  • (to) find out

 to learn; to discover

EXAMPLE 1: Al is calling the theater to find out what time the movie starts.

EXAMPLE 2: David had a big party at his house while his parents were away on vacation. Fortunately for him, they never found out.

  • (to) get a handle on

 to gain an understanding of

EXAMPLE 1: This new computer program is very difficult. I still haven’t gotten a handle on it.

EXAMPLE 2: Once you get a handle on how the game works, please explain it to everybody else.

  • (to) get one’s act together

 to get organized; to start operating more effectively

EXAMPLE 1: If Ted gets his act together now, he might be able to get into a good college.

EXAMPLE 2: We’d better get our act together. Otherwise, we’re going to miss our flight.

  • (to) knock oneself out

 to work very hard at something (sometimes too hard)

EXAMPLE 1: Ted knocked himself out getting votes for Nicole, and she didn’t even say thank you.

EXAMPLE 2: I really knocked myself out getting these free concert tickets for you and your girlfriend. I hope you appreciate it.

NOTE: “Don’t knock yourself out!” means don’t work too hard at something or for someone; it’s not worth it. Example: Don’t knock yourself out for Jeremy — he won’t appreciate it anyway!

  • (to) make a living

 to earn enough money to support oneself

EXAMPLE 1: Many people laugh at him, but Bill actually makes a living selling gourmet dog food.

EXAMPLE 2: Danny makes some money playing his guitar on street corners, but not enough to make a living.

  • one’s heart goes out to (someone)

 to feel sorry for someone

EXAMPLE 1: My heart goes out to the Richardsons. Their home was destroyed in a fire.

EXAMPLE 2: Naomi’s heart went out to all the people who lost their jobs when the auto plant shut down.

  • (to) rant and rave

 to talk loudly, often in anger

EXAMPLE 1: A customer in the video rental store was ranting and raving that the DVD he rented was broken.

EXAMPLE 2: Please stop ranting and raving! Let’s discuss this issue in a calm manner.

  • (to) sweep (something) under the rug

 to hide something, often a scandal

EXAMPLE 1: “Senator, don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Everybody knows about your affair with the intern.”

EXAMPLE 2: Let’s just sweep this incident under the rug and move on.

  • taken aback

 surprised (almost always in a negative sense)

EXAMPLE 1: Nicole was taken aback when her friend Rosa told her she no longer wanted to hang out with her.

EXAMPLE 2: I was taken aback when my friend asked me if she could borrow my toothbrush because she forgot hers at home.

  • (to) throw the book at someone

 to punish or chide severely

EXAMPLE 1: When Ted failed his chemistry test the second time, his teacher really threw the book at him.

EXAMPLE 2: The judge threw the book at Matt for stealing a football from the store. He’ll be going to jail for six months.

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