Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.
The English language has hundreds of expressions and phrases that include the word “hand.”
But today we will focus on only a handful. Here “handful” means a small amount. But keep listening to find out what else it can mean.
Today’s hand expressions describe situations where you are involved in doing something and that something is bad.
Imagine a kitchen. On the kitchen counter is a cookie jar. You can almost smell the freshly-baked cookies that are inside. Now, imagine a child sneaking into the kitchen, climbing onto the counter and reaching into that closed cookie jar.
The child knows she’s not supposed to eat any sweets before dinner. But she can’t stop herself from taking a cookie. If this child is often sneaky and causes trouble we could call her a handful. Used this way, “handful” means someone or something that is difficult to control.
Okay, now back to the kitchen. You walk in and surprise the child. You catch her with her hand in the cookie jar.
This expression means discovering someone doing something wrong or forbidden. We often use it for stealing … but not just a little sweet. The “cookie” in this expression can mean any resource that someone has secretly and dishonestly taken.
Sometimes we drop the word “caught” and simply say someone “had their hand in the cookie jar.”
We often use this expression when we are making fun of the situation. That doesn’t mean it is not important. It can be very important. But this expression permits us to make a little fun of the person who was caught doing something dishonest.
Let’s hear it used in this example.
Hey, Charlie. I'm going to a press conference at city hall in about an hour. Do you want to come?
What makes you think I would want to go to a press conference with a bunch of politicians? You KNOW I don’t like the mayor.
I know you don’t. I don’t either. That’s why we should go.
Investigators just caught her with her hand in the cookie jar! She was stealing public money to pay for her new summer home. She is resigning! And there are others council members who had their hands in the same cookie jar. They might also be on their way out.
Oh, then I WILL go! What should I wear? What are you wearing? This is a very special event!
But let’s say you do not want to talk about the situation in this way. You do not want cookies to be involved. Well, you can also catch someone with their hand in the till. Here the word “till” means a money drawer in a store or bank.
Both expressions mean the same thing. But using “till” instead of “cookie jar” sounds a bit more serious.
When you actually see someone stealing or doing something else bad with your own eyes, you catch them in the act. A more descriptive expression for this is to catch them red-handed!
Many word experts say that “caught red-handed” comes from a 15th century Scottish expression. Back then, thieves might be caught with actual blood on their hands after a crime, like killing animals on someone else’s land.
But today, we use this expression for just about anything. You don’t have to be stealing rabbits for dinner to be caught red-handed. You could simply be lying or cheating, like in this example.
Hey, did you hear the news? Steve and Britta broke up!
Really? What happened?
He was cheating on her.
Are you sure? He doesn’t seem like the type.
She caught him red-handed! She surprised him at his office and got a surprise of her own – he was kissing his boss!
Ooo! She DID catch him red-handed. You can’t argue with that evidence.
And that’s all the “hand” expressions we have time for on this Words and Their Stories.
But there are more. Lots more! So, until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
Anna Matteo wrote this story for the VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. The song at the end is from the television show Sesame Street and features Cookie Monster, Elmo and Abby singing “Who Stole the Cookie.”
Words in This Story
phrase – n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence
counter – n. a level surface usually higher than a table that is used especially for selling, serving food, displaying things, or working on
forbidden – adj. not permitted or allowed
sneak – v. to move quietly and secretly in order to avoid being noticed
press conference – n. an interview or announcement given by a public figure to the press by appointment
EVERYDAY GRAMMAR TV
Everyday Grammar: Transitive Verbs
6 Minute English
The teenage brain
EPISODE 181213 / 13 DEC 2018
Until recently, it was thought that human brain development was all over by early childhood but research in the last decade has shown that the adolescent brain is still changing into early adulthood. This programme delves inside the teenage brain, hears from an expert and teaches some useful vocabulary along the way to stretch your own brain!
This week's question
There have always been teenagers, but when was the word ‘teenager’ first used to refer to the 13 – 19 age group? Was it:
a) the 1920s
b) the 1930s
c) the 1950s
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
the period in someone’s life when they are developing from a child to an adult
published scientific research
a set of beliefs that are strongly held and which are not challenged
an important part of the brain involved in many complex mental actions like planning and personality
mental activities that we consciously have to think about like making plans and taking decisions
the adjective to describe behaviour of someone who is in adolescence. Also, the noun for someone who is in adolescence
Note: This is not a word for word transcript
Hello. This is 6 Minute English, I'm Neil.
And I'm Rob.
What do you remember of your teenage years?
Oh, I was a nightmare. I was rude to my parents, always stayed out late, never did my homework, hung out with the wrong people and made lots of bad decisions. How about you, Neil?
Well, much the same really. People always say that about teenagers, don’t they? That they go through a period where they are out of control and behave badly. But apparently, it’s not their fault. At least not directly.
So whose fault is it?
Our brains’, apparently. Teenagers’ brains are still developing in areas that control behaviour, which could mean that you can’t blame them for acting the way they do. Before we find out more, let’s have our question. There have always been teenagers, but when was the word ‘teenager’ first used to refer to the 13 – 19 age group? Was it:
a) the 1920s
b) the 1930s
c) the 1950s
Any ideas, Rob?
Well, I think it came along around the time of rock and roll, so that would have made it the 1950s. That’s my guess.
I'll have the answer later in the programme. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from University College London specialises in the workings of the brain, particularly the teenage brain. Recently she was a guest on the BBC Radio programme, The Life Scientific. She explained that the understanding that the brain is still developing during the teenage years is quite new. When does she say the first research came out?
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
The first study showing that the human brain undergoes this very substantial and significant development throughout adolescence and into the twenties; the first paperswere published in the late 90s. Before that, and for example when I was at university, the dogma in the text books was that the vast majority of brain development goes on in the first few years of life and nothing much changes after mid-childhood. That dogma is completely false.
So when did the research into the teenage brain come out?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the late 1990s. This was when she said that the first papers on this subject were published. Papers in this context means the results of scientific research which are published.
And she didn’t actually talk about teenagers, did she?
No, that’s right. She talked about the period of adolescence. This noun, adolescence, is the period when someone is developing from a child into an adult and it more or less is the same as the teenage years.
What I found interesting was that before the 1990s people believed something different about the way our brains develop.
Yes, Professor Blakemore said that the dogma had been that our brains are mostly fully developed in early childhood, long before adolescence. Dogma is a word used to describe a strong belief that people are expected to accept as true.
So our brains are still developing much later than was originally thought. What does this tell us about teenage behaviour? Of particular interest is an important part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. Here is Professor Blakemore again. What excuse can she give for teenagers who don’t get their homework done in time?
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain right at the front, just behind the forehead and it’s involved in a whole range of very high-level cognitive tasks such as decision making and planning - we know that this region is undergoing very very large amounts of development during the adolescent years. And so in terms of the expectations that we place on teenagers to, for example, plan their homework, it might be too much given that we know that the region of the brain that critically involved in planning is not developed yet.
So the prefrontal cortex is important in cognitive tasks. What are those, Rob?
A cognitive task is one that requires conscious thinking and processing, such as making decisions and planning. It doesn’t happen automatically, you have to think about it. So in the adolescent years this part of the brain is not fully developed. Note the adjective form here of the noun we had earlier adolescence.
So this gives a good excuse for not doing your homework!
Ha, ha, I wish I’d known that. I used to say that I’d left my homework on the bus or that the dog had eaten it. Now I could say, "Sorry sir, my brain isn’t developed enough for the cognitive task of planning my homework".
Yes, I’m sure that would work! Before we wrap up, time to get the answer to this week’s question. I asked when was the word ‘teenager’ first used to refer to the 13 – 19 age group? Was it:
a) the 1920s
b) the 1930s
c) the 1950s
Rob, you said?
I guessed c) 1950s
The answer is actually b) the 1930s. Very well done if you knew that. Now a quick review of today’s vocabulary.
Adolescence is the noun for the period of change from child to adult and the adjective is adolescent – this same word is also the noun for someone who is in that teenage period.
So an adolescent might be responsible for adolescent behaviour in his or her adolescence.
Papers is the word for published scientific research.
Dogma is strongly held beliefs that are not challenged.
The prefrontal cortex is an important part of the brain which deals with cognitive tasks.
And cognitive tasks are mental processes that require active thought and consideration, such as planning and making decisions.
Well my decision making skills tell me that it’s time to finish.
Well, your skills are working well Neil. We may be going now but you don't need to – you can listen or watch us again and find lots more learning English materials on our social media platforms. You can also visit our website at bbclearningenglish.com.
See you soon, goodbye.
Sontirat plans renewed push for Napier grass energy plants
By The Nation
He spoke of a plan for Napier grass farming to feed electricity-generating plants, which could provide electricity to nearby villages and also encourage people to take part in energy production. This will help secure energy for people at a lower cost.
“I met with industries who are using Napier grass as a source for electricity. We will cooperate with the businesses to review and improve the power development plan [PDP]. In 2018, the PDP plan de-prioritised Napier grass in the energy crop group. However, I have to hold a session in order to hear from businesses and agriculture experts,” Sontirat said.
The Energy Ministry source said that the review of the Napier grass farming project was looking at two ways:
1 Using the successful business model of UAC Global, which uses Napier grass and corn as sources for biogas electricity production in Chiang Mai.
2 Adjust the pattern from the past to promote biogas by bringing the grass to ferment production of gas to produce electricity. This approach may help to reduce the cost of producing electricity.
“Napier grass electricity plants have to be based near animal farms due to the fermenting process and the need for a large water source. They are still discussing these matters to discover the proper approach,” the source said.
The Napier grass farming plan was proposed in 2013 by the then-energy minister, Pongsak Ruktapongpisal, as part of bioenergy production. However, the plan was abandoned a year later due to lack of a budget. The industrial sector continued with the plan without financial support from the government.
Agriculture deputy minister opens new plant propagation centre
By The Nation
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Praphat Pothisuthon, on Saturday (August 10) attended the opening ceremony of a new plant propagation centre in Suphanburi province.
The centre aims to produce and distribute healthy seeds to farmers in 13 provinces: Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Kanchanaburi, Samut Songkhram, Samut Sakhon, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chai Nat, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya, Ratchaburi, and Uthai Thani.
“Thai farmers could not access good varieties due to the price. Good selection of varieties increases product quality and quantity, which raises the price of the produce for export. High-quality plant propagation takes three months before it is distributed to registered farmers. There are 500 registered farmers who will receive 100 plants per household, with a total of 50,000 plants distributed. For example, Curcuma and Bromeliad are priced at Bt20 each,” Prabhat said.
The deputy minister directed agriculture extension agencies to operate all 10 plant propagation centres and expand the distribution area through cooperative groups for easier access.
August 11, 2019