Fun Easy English Classroom August 3
 
 
 
 

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Learn American
English idioms
letter M
Idioms Letter M

Today in the classroom you are going to learn some idioms beginning with the letter M.
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Idioms: American English Idioms - Letter M

Today learn idioms beginning with the letter M.
BLUE UPPER CASE LETTERS = video and detailed written definition and usage
blue lower case letters = video definition and usage
BLACK UPPER CASE LETTERS = detailed written definition and usage
black lower case letters = brief written definition and usage
Idiom Definition Usage
mad as a hornet very angry He was mad as a hornet when I saw yesterday.
made a hit was popular Her cake made a hit at the party.
make a beeline go directly and quickly She will probably make a beeline to the travel section.
make a bundle make a lot of money He could make a bundle on the stock market this year.
MAKE A CLEAN BREAST OF IT to admit and explain some wrongdoing; to confess something

Compare to: wipe the slate clean; get something off (one’s) chest

Whereas make a clean breast of it concerns a wrongdoing, get something off one’s chest refers more generally to one’s troubles, worries, or concerns.

The expression suggests that guilt is kept in one’s breast (heart) and that by revealing one’s guilt, one cleans one’s breast.
1. The thief admitted to the judge that he was guilty and told him the whole story of his crime. He made a clean breast of it.

2. The children had lied about taking the candy without permission. They eventually went to their father and made a clean breast of it, telling him everything.
make a day of it stay the entire day We decided to make a day of it at the park.
make a dent make progress It seemed like we did not even make a dent towards completing the project.
make a difference change anything It does not seem to make a difference if we talk or not.
make a go of achieve success in He is trying to make a go of the business even though he is losing money.
make a killing make a lot of money You can make a killing in Las Vegas.
make a living make enough money You cannot make a living at your present job.
MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT to summarize; to tell only the main points 1. To make a long story short, I think your idea is terrible.

2. He tried to make a long story short, but she wouldn’t let him finish.
make a mistake make an error Try not to make a mistake on the exam.
MAKE A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLEHILL to exaggerate the importance of something; to react more strongly to a situation than is reasonably called for

A molehill is a very small pile of dirt made by a small animal, a mole, which digs tunnels underground. To think that a molehill is as large as a mountain is to greatly exaggerate.
1. I know you feel hurt because Jean didn’t invite you to her wedding, but it was a very small wedding, with just family members and very close friends. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill if you get upset about it.

2. The clerk gave me the wrong item, then he charged me the wrong price and gave me the wrong change. Should I complain to the manager about him, or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
make a name for oneself become famous She is trying to make a name for herself in the field of literature.
make a pass at someone make romantic advances to him She tried to make a pass at him and lost her job.
make a point of have the intent of You should make a point of doing your homework every night.
make a run for it leave quickly I think that she will make a run for it as soon as the class finished.
make away with leave with The bank robber tried to make away with the money.
make believe a pretend game The children were playing make believe.
make do with substitute You have to make do with milk instead of cream.
MAKE ENDS MEET to manage financially; to have enough money for one’s basic needs

Synonym: get by

Compare to: keep (one’s) head above water

Both keep one’s head above water and make ends meet mean having just enough money but no extra, although the former conveys a feeling of desperation. Keep one’s head above water can also mean survival in situations other than financial, whereas make ends meet is limited to financial survival.
1. We can hardly pay the rent, buy enough food, and keep the children in clothing. We’re barely making ends meet.

2. Roger was unable to support his family on his teacher’s salary. He made ends meet by taking a second job.
MAKE HEADS OR TAILS OF (SOMETHING) to understand something

The head is the top or front of something, while the tail is the bottom or back. In use since the 1600s, the phrase make heads or tails of something means to understand it from beginning to end (top to bottom).

The expression is usually used in the negative or in question form.
1. I can’t hear you clearly because the telephone connection is bad. I can’t make heads or tails of what you’re saying.

2. First Louise turned the book one way, then the other. She couldn’t make heads or tails of the picture she was looking at.
MAKE (ONE’S) BLOOD BOIL to cause someone to become extremely angry

Compare to: hopping mad; hot under the collar; boiling point

The expression suggests that when one is very angry, one’s blood gets so hot that it boils.
1. I had told Fred never to borrow my car without permission again, but he did it anyway. That makes my blood boil.

2. The secretary could hardly believe what one of the office workers had said about her. She was angrier than she could ever remember being before. It made her blood boil.
MAKE (ONE’S) MOUTH WATER to make one salivate in anticipation of something good

The expression is often used in reference to something good to eat (sentence 1), but it can also be used figuratively (sentence 2).
1. The chocolate in the display window looks delicious. It makes my mouth water.

2. Charles had been saving his money, and now he was so close to being able to buy the sports car he wanted, it made his mouth water. He could practically taste it.
MAKE OR BREAK to be the deciding factor in whether something succeeds or fails

Compare to: turning point
1. The Smiths were about to sell their house, but the buyers didn’t like the color. The Smiths decided to give it a new coat of paint at no extra cost, in case painting the house might make or break the deal.

2. Susan decided to study for the test through the night. She knew that her grade on this test would make or break her chances of getting admitted to graduate school.
MAKE (SOMETHING) FROM SCRATCH to make something by putting together the separate basic components, rather than using a mix or kit or buying something pre-made

Compare to: start from scratch

The expression make something from scratch is usually used to describe baked goods (sentence 1). Something made from scratch is considered to be superior to something pre-made, because it is probably made more carefully and with the best ingredients.
1. My mother never buys cake mixes or ready-made cookies at the supermarket. She always buys the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, and makes cakes and cookies from scratch.

2. George didn’t use a kit from a store to build a playhouse for his children. Instead, he designed the playhouse himself, bought all the materials he needed, and made it from scratch.
MAKE THE GRADE to meet standards; to be satisfactory

Synonym: up to snuff

Compare to: cut the mustard

Whereas make the grade and up to snuff can be used to describe both people (sentence 1) and things (sentence 2), cut the mustard is usually used with people.
1. Of the ten semifinalists in the competition, only three made the grade to become finalists.

2. At the end of many manufacturing processes, people check the quality of the goods produced. If the final products don’t make the grade, they have to be thrown out.
MAKE TRACKS to leave, usually quickly

Compare to: beat a hasty retreat
1. We have no reason to stay around, so let’s get going. Let’s make tracks.

2. The boys were playing catch when they accidentally broke one of Mr. Carson’s front windows. You’ve never seen two boys make tracks as fast as they did.
make up your mind  
main drag most important street The best hotels in Las Vegas are located on the main drag.
make waves cause trouble Try not to make waves around the office.
MARK TIME to wait out one’s time by doing the minimum and without progressing

The expression originates from the military command “Mark time!” in which soldiers march in place, i.e., move their feet up and down (go through the motions of marching) without moving forward.
1. Richard isn’t interested in making a career out of the army. He’s just putting in the minimum amount of time, marking time until he can leave.

2. Carol doesn’t particularly care for the job she has now, so she’s decided to mark time until the job she really wants comes along.
maxed out exhausted I am maxed out at my work and need to rest.
means business is serious The boss means business when he says to finish the project.
mellow out relax You need to mellow out and enjoy life.
METHOD TO (ONE’S) MADNESS explanation; forethought or logic

Antonym: rhyme or reason, no
1. There is some method to her madness. It’s just difficult to understand her way of doing things.

2. There is a method to my madness. I like to work on difficult jobs in the morning, when I have the most energy. I save all the simple, boring tasks in the evening, when I need less brain power.
mia  
MIDAS TOUCH the ability to make money or to be successful at everything one becomes involved in

The expression originates from the story of Midas, a mythological king of Phrygia, who was given the power to turn anything he touched into gold.
1. Everything Linda does is a success. She really has the Midas touch.

2. When it comes to investing money and buying stocks, they have the Midas touch. It seems like everything they buy goes up in value.
MILLSTONE AROUND (ONE’S) NECK a burden or handicap, or a source of worry or concern

Synonym: albatross around (one’s) neck

A millstone is a very heavy stone on which one grinds grain in a mill. If a millstone were tied around one’s neck, it would be a great burden.
1. My elderly parents’ house is a millstone around my neck. They are unable to keep it up and I have to do all the repairs myself or pay someone to do them for me. I wish they would sell the house and rent an apartment instead.

2. This year’s taxes have become a millstone around my neck. If I had just gotten them done early, they wouldn’t be stressing me out now.
MIND (ONE’S) OWN BUSINESS to not inquire about, become involved in, or interfere with other people’s affairs

Synonyms: none of (one’s) business!

Antonym: stick (one’s) nose in

The expression mind your own business is a common response of annoyance at a prying or rude inquiry. It is a very direct, even rude, response, and is only used between people of equal social standing.
1. Sarah started to ask them some very personal questions. They told her to mind her own business.

2. They were just sitting on the bus bench, minding their own business, when a stranger approached them and started telling them his life story.
MISS THE BOAT

to miss an opportunity because one is too late
1. I saw the furniture advertised on sale, but I didn’t get to the store in time to buy it. I missed the boat on that one.

2. Daniel plans to apply for college at the last possible moment. If he doesn’t allow himself enough time, he’s going to miss the boat.
miss the point  
mom-and-pop  
MONEY TO BURN extra money; money to spend however one likes

The expression suggests that one has so much extra money that one can afford to burn it.
1. The company managers are taking us all out to an expensive restaurant for lunch. They must have money to burn!

2. I have to be careful how I spend my money. I don’t have money to burn.
MONKEY AROUND to play like a monkey, i.e., climb on or examine things with curiosity

Compare to: monkey business; clown around; horse around; fool around

Monkey around emphasizes curiosity or the climbing aspect of play whereas horse around emphasizes the physical nature of play and clown around means to act silly. Fool around is the most general of these and could substitute for the other three.
1. The children have to play in their bedroom. The living room is not for them to monkey around in.

2. Steve likes to monkey around with old cars to see if he can fix them.
MONKEY BUSINESS suspicious activity (sentence 1) or mischievous activity (sentence 2)

Synonym: hanky-panky Compare to: monkey around
1. The boss wasn’t sure, but he suspected that there was some monkey business going on with the company accounts.

2. The children had become very quiet in the playroom and their mother decided it was time to see what kind of monkey business they were up to.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE some hidden aspect to a situation 1. I can’t see any reason why this man on the telephone is trying to give me a free vacation. There’s more here than meets the eye.

2. When Jerry had received a letter saying that the company was letting him go, the reason the letter gave was a lack of work, but Jerry had been busier than ever these last few months. He thought to himself, “There’s more to this than meets the eye.”
MORE (SOMETHING) THAN (ONE) BARGAINED FOR more than one expected

The expression is often used in a negative sense, i.e., more money, more trouble, more work, etc. than one expected or wanted.
1. I agreed to join a book club because the saleswoman said I didn’t have to buy any book I didn’t want, but I was shocked when I learned I had to spend a certain amount of money every month. It was more of a commitment than I bargained for.

2. I thought you were looking forward to being in the army. Was it more work than you bargained for?
MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CAT, THERE’S there are different ways to accomplish the same thing; there are different possible solutions to a problem 1. There must be some way to raise enough money to buy a car. We’ve put all our savings together but it isn’t enough. Still, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I’ll get a second job!

2. My friends asked me how they could accomplish something that seemed impossible. I told them that they simply hadn’t looked at all the possibilities. I told them there’s always more than one way to skin a cat and that they would eventually find a solution.
MOVE HEAVEN AND EARTH to try very hard to do something

The expression suggests how hard one would have to try if one tried to move things as big as heaven and earth.
1. The young man was accused of a terrible crime. His parents were convinced that he was innocent and swore they would move heaven and earth to get him acquitted.

2. Linda’s daughter is getting married on Friday, the same day Linda gets back from an out-of-town business trip. She will move heaven and earth to get to the wedding on time.
moving target  
muddy the waters  
munch out eat a lot I think that we should munch out at the buffet.
music to my ears  
my two cents  
More Idioms
From YOUR Teacher: Make a Living

The American English idiom "make a living" more specifically means to make enough money to cover monthly expenses.
 
Additional Lessons
About These Lessons

The following classroom lessons are great for students who want additional listening and reading practice. Please post a comment at the bottom of this page in the Facebook Comments window with your thoughts about these lessons.
  • Travel America - Beginner Level. Do you love America and American English? Learn before you travel. Facts and other cool stuff about your favorite U.S. state. Great English reading practice.
Travel America - Oklahoma
(Beginner - Reading)

Learn some interesting facts and read interesting stories about Oklahoma.
Oklahoma

The name Oklahoma comes from two Choctaw Indian words, okla, which means "people," and humma, which means "red." In 1889, Congress opened up 2 million acres for white settlement (it was previously open only to Native Americans who were forced to leave their homelands), and the first of a number of land runs began. Some of the state's settlers were called "Sooners" because they had already staked their land claims before the land was officially opened for settlement. Oklahoma was admitted as the 46th state in 1907. Oklahoma's capital is an easy one to remember--Oklahoma City. The state flower is the mistletoe, a favorite for kissing under during the winter holidays.
Flag of OklahomaOklahoma State Flag


The current state flag of Oklahoma, designed by Louise Fluke, was adopted in 1925 (Oklahoma had 13 previous flags).

The blue field signifies devotion, the shield is a symbol of defensive or protective warfare, but always surmounted by the olive branch and peace pipe which betoken the love of peace by a united people.

Official Salute to the Oklahoma State Flag

"I salute the flag of the State of Oklahoma. Its symbols of peace unite all people."
Source: State Symbols USA
 
The great seal of the state of OklahomaOklahoma State Facts

Picture: state seal of Oklahoma
State Capital Oklahoma City
Nickname Sooner State
Motto Labor Omnia Vincit (Labor Conquers All Things)
Statehood November 16, 1907 (46th)
Origin of Name Based on Choctaw Indian words: "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red."
Largest Cities Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, Lawton, Broken Arrow
Border States Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas
Area 68,679 sq. mi., 19th largest
State Bird Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
State Flower Mistletoe (phoradendron serotinum)
State Tree Redbud (cercis canadensis)
State Song Oklahoma
Map showing the location of OklahomaTravel and tourism site for Oklahoma - This state travel and territorial tourism site provides ideas for your vacations, meetings, and more.
Oklahoma Stories
 
The American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma

Every year in August hundreds of Native American people from all different tribes come to the city of Anadarko, Oklahoma. Named after a Plains Indian tribe, Anadarko is now the home of one of the largest gatherings of Plains Indians in Oklahoma. Because so many Plains Indian populations have lived in Anadarko, it is known as the "Indian Capital of the Nation."

This gathering of Native Americans is called the American Indian Exposition. An exposition is a public exhibition or show. The purpose of this exposition is to show off Native American arts and crafts and help preserve their cultural heritage. The Native Americans who attend sometimes camp out in traditional teepees and they may wear traditional leather clothing, called buckskin. Lots of people who are not Native Americans come to observe Indian culture; they watch the parades or greyhound and horse racing, or they attend one of the many dances or contests that are held.

Several months before the exposition, each tribe selects a tribal princess who will represent them for a year. A tribal princess is smart and strong. She must also possess a fine personality, be self-confident, and have other qualities that make her a leader. During the exposition, the princesses have the honor of leading their tribes in the parades that begin and end the festivities.
 
The Dust Bowl of Oklahoma

Did you know there was once a desert in Oklahoma called the Dust Bowl?

During the great dust storms of the 1930s in Oklahoma, the weather threw up so much dirt that, at times, there was zero visibility and everything was covered in dirt. No matter how tightly Oklahomans sealed their homes, they could not keep the dirt from entering. Dust storms were the result of drought and land that had been overused. Drought first hit the country in 1930. By 1934, it had turned the Great Plains into a desert that came to be known as the Dust Bowl.

In Oklahoma, the Panhandle area was hit hardest by the drought.

The land of the southern plains, including Oklahoma, was originally covered with grasses that held the fine soil in place. Settlers brought their traditional farming techniques with them when they homesteaded the area and they plowed the land deeply. The topsoil was already damaged by the overgrazing of cattle and sheep. The situation was so serious that, by 1935, the government developed conservation programs to improve the Dust Bowl by changing the basic farming methods of the region. Even with these measures, the Dust Bowl lasted about a decade and contributed to the length of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
 
Oklahoma State University Homecoming

What is a homecoming? If you think it refers to returning home, in a way, you would be right.

A homecoming is when a school's alumni (students who have graduated) return for a celebration. Every year, people who attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, are invited to a special event-filled weekend called homecoming. One of the big events that people look forward to is the homecoming parade, because it has many colorful and unusual floats.

Usually a float is built on top of a flatbed trailer used for transporting materials. The trailer is covered with colorful material and fringe so its wheels are hidden and the trailer appears to "float." Then the float can be decorated with just about anything.

Many floats are in the form of animals. Floats are made by bending chicken wire into a shape, perhaps an animal, and then attaching colored paper "flowers" to the wire. Part of the process of building a float involves "pomping" -- the stuffing of crepe paper or other decorations into the wire frame of the float to make it look like whatever it was designed to be.

Can you think of a cool float design?
 
Pawnee, Oklahoma: Where the West Remains

How did someone named Gordon Lillie come to be called Pawnee Bill?

Pawnee Bill was born Gordon Lillie in 1860 and raised in Illinois. When Gordon was 15, he moved to Pawnee, Oklahoma. He became a teacher to the Pawnee Indians who lived there and they gave him the nickname "Pawnee Bill." Because he loved the history of the Old West so much, in 1883, Pawnee Bill left teaching to join the new Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which featured exciting acts such as a bison hunt. (You can learn more about Buffalo Bill in the "Amazing Americans" section of this Web site.)

While Pawnee Bill was performing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, he met a woman named May Manning. Soon after they met, May married Pawnee Bill and became May Manning Lillie. Then the couple started their own Wild West show, with May as one of its star performers. Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show was so popular that today it is still re-created at Pawnee Bill's Buffalo Ranch in the town of Pawnee, Oklahoma, for thousands of people to enjoy.
 
The Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma

Why would a museum be dedicated to a highway? Because Route 66 is no ordinary highway.

Route 66 was built in 1932 and it runs from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, then known as the "Promised Land." That's 2,400 miles of road! It is different from most other highways because it takes a diagonal course instead of going in a straight line. It was designed this way so that small towns would have access to main roads, giving farmers the ability to transport grain and produce. This two-lane road passes through eight states and three time zones.

During the Great Depression, Route 66 was the road from Oklahoma and the Dust Bowl to California and a better life, so it became known as the "road to opportunity." Author John Steinbeck wrote about Route 66 in his classic The Grapes of Wrath, calling it the "Mother Road."

The Route 66 Museum was built in Clinton, Oklahoma, because Route 66 passes through 400 miles of Oklahoma. Dozens of artists have recorded the song "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66." Have you ever heard it?
 
Oklahoma Czech Festival

Have you ever eaten a kolache?

If you go to Yukon, Oklahoma, on the first Saturday in October, you can. Every year, Yukon celebrates its Czech and Slovak ancestors. Yukon is officially known as the Czechoslovak Capital of Oklahoma because so many people from the country of Czechoslovakia, in Eastern Europe, settled there in the late 1800s. (In 1993, the country split into two nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.)

The most popular food from Czechoslovakia is a pastry called a kolache (pronounced koh-lah-chuh). A kolache is a delicious, small bun usually filled with fruit or cheese. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, no wedding feast is complete without them. One woman, Maria Fiala, baked 600 dozen kolache for the festival and was named Kolache Queen.

The Czech Festival is a way for the people in Yukon with Czech and Slovak backgrounds to preserve and share their Czech customs, clothing, and foods. One of the main attractions of the festival is dancing. Lots of dance performances are held, and people of all ages, like these kids in the beautiful costumes, are encouraged to join in. If you aren't Czech or Slovak, the festival is a great way to learn about their customs.
 
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Have you ever heard of the Battle of Washita?

You can learn about this famous battle at the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma. This site is important because it helps us remember the violent conflict between Indians of the Great Plains and the United States Army.

The Great Plains include the land from the Canadian border south to the New Mexico and Texas borders, and from the Missouri River west to the Rocky Mountains. The Indian tribes from this area -- the Plains Indians -- include the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa. The Army fought these tribes because they wanted to gain control over the Great Plains.

For many years before and after the Civil War, the U.S. government tried to move Indians to an Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Some Plains Indians agreed to move to reservations but others, like the Cheyennes, Kiowas, and Comanches, did not. Instead, they continued to live and hunt on traditional lands outside the Indian Territory. After the Civil War, settlers wanted to move into this land, so they attacked.

At dawn on November 27, 1868, Lieutenant Colonel George Custer attacked a sleeping Cheyenne village in the Washita Valley, surprising the Cheyenne's leader, Chief Black Kettle. Many Plains Indians were captured or killed during this battle. Chief Magpie, a teenager at the time who lived in Black Kettle's village, shot a soldier and took his horse, then rode off to safety. He lived to fight Custer again at the famous Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
Source: Library of Congress
National Forests of Oklahoma

The following is a description of national forests in the state of Oklahoma. There are no national parks or monuments in this state. If you plan to visit or live in Oklahoma for awhile then you should definitely plan to visit some of these fantastic places.
 
National Forests
Ouachita

Including the namesake Ouachita Mountains, this forest has nearly 800,000 acres (320,000 ha) of old-growth forest. The forest has two wilderness areas: Black Fork Mountain and Upper Kiamichi River. This national forest is also partially located in the state of Arkansas.
Travel America
Travel America

Do you love America and American English? Learn before you travel. Facts and other cool stuff about your favorite U.S. state. Visit the Fun Easy English Travel America pages. Read about the beautiful National Forests, Parks, and Monuments. Great English reading practice.
Drive America

Planning to drive in America? Learn the rules and regulations. Great English reading practice.
Additional Information
Study Tips
(Beginner - Listening)

Avoid Ineffective Study Methods. An audio lesson to help you study English more effectively. The English is spoken at 75% of normal speed. Great English study tips.
Click here to visit the lesson page with the written script for this audio program.
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