Blog CTJ

Opening a can of worms

Worms are those little animals with no legs or arms, which I remember using as bait when my father took me fishing. I would not touch them, of course! They look disgusting! When we want to talk about a situation that brings out many other problems, we say it’s like opening a can of worms. […]

All the time or Every time???

Some time ago, in one of my classes, a student was sharing a story about his daily routine in the office and he was doing a great job at that. At one point, he made the following statement: “I use the stapler every time.” To which I responded by correcting him and telling him that […]

When furniture becomes verb

You probably have been through a situation where you had to “put the cards on the table”, or, “come clean about a situation”. A table is a good place to have a meeting and discuss serious issues, too. But did you know you can use “table” as a verb? Americans say you can “table” a proposal when […]

Have something done

It is common to hear things such as “I cut my hair / I washed my car / I repaired my car”. Brazilians might understand what you mean, but probably a native speaker of English would be surprised. Let me tell you why: we only say these things when we actually did them. So, did […]

Knock, knock. Who’s there?

You may have heard one of these jokes in movies or series, they are a “call and response” type of joke. It starts when one person pretends to knock on a door and the other person (supposedly inside the fictional place) has to ask “who is there?” and the fun of it consists in having […]

Tongue twisters

Tongue twisters are challenging phrases that contain many hard to pronounce syllables or alternation of similar but distinct phonemes. They can be a used as a kind of word game because the speakers usually cannot articulate properly the words in a fast and clear manner, causing confusion and good laughs. They are also a good […]

When in Rome (part 2)

Latin is widely used in legal jargon all over the world. It’s not different in the USA. Some of the expressions have gone into mainstream culture. Latin expressions can be used to refer to academic life — when talking about former students, or Alumni; or the University you went to, your Alma Mater. It is […]

The die is cast

Suetonious warned Julius Caesar after he crossed the Rubicon, “The die is cast!” (alea iacta est!). The word “die” in this case means dice. These powerful events gave way to many expressions about dramatic decisions and facts that cannot be changed. There are other ways to say that, and some are very funny, like “The cat’s […]

When in Rome (part 1)

America loves Ancient Rome. You can see them in their country symbols — the eagle — and in the architecture of the nation’s capital. But there are other examples of the connections between Rome and the USA. One of my favorite examples comes from the expression “to cross the Delaware”. By Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 […]

Has the cat got your tongue?

After writing about “dog days”, I started thinking, are there “cat days”? Well, there aren’t, but there are many expressions involving “cats”. We have some which are similar to the ones we have in Portuguese, for example: “all cats are gray by night”, or “has the cat got your tongue?”. Others are just a little […]

Big Brother is watching you!

Cameras everywhere. People being monitored in every single action of their lives. Someone controlling everything everyone does. Does that sound familiar to you? No, this is not about that popular TV show. But it is somewhat related to it. Or should I say the other way around? The reality show got its name from the novel […]

Be prepared

Imagine you are visiting the US and someone offers you ‘a pop’. Would you know what that is? This situation happened to me when I first visited my husband’s host family in Nebraska. My first reaction was to smile. Then, I admitted that I really did not know what that was. A pop is what […]