09.11.2017 |

Episode #9 of the course English idioms (B2) by Kasia Sielicka, PhD


Knock knock.

Alice knocked on the door of the ship’s kitchen.

The door opened and a big man wearing a chef’s clothes asked: “Yes?”

“Hi, we’re looking for a job,” said Alice directly.

“But you’re passengers,” said the chef, surprised.

“So?” continued Alice. “We’re at a loose end. Why can’t we help out a bit?”

“Well,” said the chef, thinking, “as a matter of fact, we have been very busy, and our kitchen assistant has been burning the candle at both ends recently. I’ll send him on vacation and you both can stand in for him.”

“Great!” exclaimed Alice. “When can we start?”

“Wait, wait,” said the chef. “Let me make it clear, ladies. It’s a dead-end job. No promotion prospects. No climbing the career ladder. No nothing. You’re stuck washing the dishes for the rest of your…cruise.”

“That’s fine by us,” confirmed Alice, and repeated, “When can we start?”

“Well,” answered the chef, “Today, it’s been one thing after another, so you can start…right now! Wash these dishes,” he ordered, showing them a huge pile of dishes piled in the corner of the kitchen—from the floor to the ceiling.

“I have to admit something,” said Susan, going red in the face. “I’ve never washed dishes by hand. Like…never ever. I use a dishwasher. So, you’ll have to show me the ropes, I guess…”

The chef made a facepalm gesture and said, pointing at Alice:

“You! Show your friend how to wash the dishes. I have enough on my plate.”

And he left the girls alone.

Susan stood there, looking at the pile of dishes and twiddling her thumbs.

“Why don’t they simply have a dishwasher?” she wondered aloud. “I’ll have to suggest that to the chef.”

“Oh no,” opposed Alice. “We aren’t here to rock the boat. We’re here to earn some cash. Now, get moving!”


Idioms Explained

When you’re at a loose end, you have nothing special to do.

When you burn the candle at both ends, you’re working too hard in addition to doing other things, so you have too little time for sleep and are tired.

If you stand in for someone, you do their job until they come back to work. This is often because the other worker is on sick leave or vacation.

Promotion prospects are the chances to get a better job after some time. This is how you climb the career ladder: by getting promoted until you reach the top.

If you say it is (or has been) one thing after another, you’re angry because you have a lot of problems to deal with.

When someone shows you the ropes, they teach you how to do a job when you’re new. This idiom comes from the area of sailing: On a ship, there are many ropes, and a beginner sailor needs to learn how to use all of them.

If you have enough on your plate, you have enough things to worry about, and you don’t need any more.

When you twiddle your thumbs, you do nothing and feel impatient because you’re waiting for something to happen. Twiddling your thumbs doesn’t help, of course.

When you rock the boat, you want to change a situation that others think is okay, and in this way, you cause problems.


Will the girls be successful in their new job? Find out tomorrow in the last episode!


Recommended book

Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang by Jonathan Bernstein


Share with friends