Thursday, July 12, 2007

"He Tooted His Own Horn" Idiom

One of the examples used to teach past tense pronunciation in Azar's Understanding and Using English Grammar is "He tooted his horn." I've found very, very few ESL students who know what this means. Of course, native English speakers know that this means that someone "honked" the horn of a vehicle, such as a car. Right here we have a vocabulary learning opportunity.

And then, another learning opportunity comes along. What happens if I add "own" to the sentence? "He tooted his own horn." Now the meaning has totally changed and we are using an idiom. I often explain that this means for someone to "brag" about himself. Very few English language learners are familiar with the word "brag." Another learning opportunity.

Of course, there has to be a balance between sticking to the original intention of the lesson and not getting too sidetracked. Fortunately, as a private ESL tutor, I'm able to monitor and keep track of this balance a little easier than I would be able to in a classroom.


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