Spring Is in the Air!

19/03/2017

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  • Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.
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  • This program explores the history and usage of common expressions in American English.
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  • Today we talk about a time when half the world is waking from the dark, cold winter months.
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  • Spring! We often describe spring as a time of rebirth, renewal and awakening.
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  • Many trees are blossoming and early flowers are pushing through the earth.
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  • Things are coming to life!
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  • When the weather turns warm, many people suffer from spring fever.
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  • Common “symptoms” of spring fever include not being able to focus on school or work, taking long walks, or falling in love.
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  • So, are you actually sick when you have spring fever?
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  • Originally, yes. Spring fever used to refer to an actual illness.
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  • When the weather turned warm, some people developed sore throats, headaches, or stuffy noses.
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  • The definition of “spring fever” slowly changed in the early 1800s.
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  • People came to use the term to mean a sudden increase of romantic feelings.
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  • Elvis Presley describes this feeling in the song “Spring Fever.”
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  • “Spring fever, comes to everyone. Spring fever, it's time for fun. There’s no doubt now, love is everywhere. Get up, get out, spring is everywhere”
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  • These days, we use “spring fever” to describe a restless feeling after the long, cold days of winter.
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  • But the word “spring” is not just a season.
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  • It is also a verb that means something happening or appearing quickly.
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  • When you put “spring” and “life” together, you get spring to life.
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  • This expression means something suddenly becomes very active or perhaps seems more alive!
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  • You may spring to life after hearing that a distant friend will be visiting you.
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  • Or maybe your favorite soccer team finally sprang to life in the second half, played well, and won the match.
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  • But this is just the beginning.
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  • There are so many more "spring" expressions that mean to happen suddenly.
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  • Imagine that you are resting on the couch when suddenly you see a mouse run across the floor.
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  • You spring into action! You jump from the couch and run after the mouse! But you miss.
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  • So, that night you leave some cheese in a small device that will snap quickly: you want to spring a trap.
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  • And it works!
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  • But when you tell your roommate that you caught a mouse in a trap, tears spring from her eyes.
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  • You feel badly, but she really should have told you about her pet mouse Charlie!
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  • After all, your apartment doesn’t allow pets.
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  • And you don’t want to get in trouble with your landlord.
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  • See, your neighborhood is finally turning into a really nice place to live.
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  • There are more places to eat and shop.
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  • In fact, stores, restaurants and cafés seem to have sprung up overnight!
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  • They moved in quickly.
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  • As you can see, American English has so many phrases that use “spring” to mean "something happens quickly."
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  • The ones we have heard are just the ones that sprang to mind.
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  • In other words, they were the first ones I thought of, without spending much time thinking about it.
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  • But perhaps those examples are confusing.
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  • Maybe I should have prepared you instead of just springing them on you.
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  • And, I did it again.
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  • If you spring something on other people, you have surprised them, usually not in a good way.
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  • Let’s go back to the roommate story.
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  • Let’s say one day your roommate, the one with the pet mouse, says to you, “Oh, by the way, I’m still really upset about Charlie.
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  • So, I’m moving out tomorrow. You’ll have to find someone else to share the rent.”
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  • You say to her, “You can’t just spring that on me! I’ll need time to find another roommate!”
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  • But then you think about.
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  • Maybe it’s for the best.
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  • Every time you see her you feel guilty about Charlie, her pet mouse.
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  • And anyway, she does something that really annoys you.
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  • She always expects you to buy her things: she wants you to spring for lunch, spring for movie tickets, and sometimes even spring for groceries.
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  • When you spring for something, you pay for someone else.
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  • This expression can also be an informal invitation.
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  • At work you can say to a colleague, “I have spring fever. Let’s leave early and go to an outdoor café. I’ll spring for coffee.”
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  • Now, besides being a season and a verb, the noun “spring” refers to a metal coil that is wound tightly.
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  • When the coil unwinds, it often jumps.
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  • So, we often say a person has a spring in his step if he is lively and active.
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  • He might even appear to jump, or bounce, a little when he walks.
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  • There is another way we use “spring” as a description.
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  • In the case of a spring chicken, “spring” means young.
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  • Also called a “springer,” these young chickens have very tender meat.
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  • However, “spring chicken” is also an informal, humorous way to refer to someone who isn’t young at all.
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  • So, we use this expression in the negative form, as in “no spring chicken.”
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  • For example, let’s say you know an 85-year old man who decides to run a marathon, even though he has never exercised before.
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  • You could say, “That’s amazing! After all, he’s no spring chicken.”
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  • But be careful when using this expression.
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  • It could be a little disrespectful.
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  • Let’s say your boss shows you a picture of his wife, and you say, “Wow, she’s no spring chicken.”
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  • That response would be disrespectful and a bad career move.
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  • We end this Words and Their Stories back on the season spring.
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  • Here is a short poem by Oliver Herford titled “I Heard a Bird Sing.”
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  • It tells how a simple bird song brings a longing for spring during the month of December.
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  • I heard a bird sing
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  • In the dark of December
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  • A magical thing
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  • And sweet to remember.
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  • “We are nearer to Spring
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  • Than we were in September,”
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  • I heard a bird sing
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  • In the dark of December.
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  • I’m Anna Matteo.
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