The Language Fix

A blog for sharing language and learning information


July 2017

Some Language Therapy Ideas – Idioms

Watch a television show clip. These can be downloaded from the internet or recorded directly. Identify and write down all the idioms heard. Discuss how they were used.
Talk about famous song titles or lyrics to famous songs with idioms. A type of “famous song titles” or “famous song lyrics” on an internet search engine such as Google can provide a good start.
Use comic section of the Sunday paper. Look for and discuss idioms found. Look for idioms in other sections of the paper, such as sports or arts and entertainment.
Look for idioms in popular fiction books or books required for classroom reading. Discuss meaning. Discuss why the idioms are used more in fiction versus nonfiction writing.
Discuss idioms used in sports. Use a recorded telecast, sports page from a newspaper, sports book from the library, or other sports items of interest.
Look for idioms in commercials, announcements, ads, or anywhere!

Finish It!

Discuss fifteen or twenty idioms prior to activity. Then, state that you’re going to read the idioms in sentences one at a time, leaving out one word. Any student that knows the missing word must raise his or her hand, and takes a guess. If the answer is incorrect, the other students get another chance after hearing the sentence again. Correct answers get one point. An extra point can be earned by telling what the idiom means. The following is an example of two turns of play:

Instructor: “Get ready to raise your hands if you know the missing word. Remember that if you’re wrong, you have to let the others guess after hearing the idiom again. Toward the end of the race, the out of shape man ran out of blank.” Joe raises his hand. “Joe.”

Joe: “Steam. Run out of steam means he got tired.”

Instructor: “Yes! Joe gets two points. Okay. Here comes the next one. Go ahead and tell me the bad news. Don’t blank around the bush.“ Sarah raises her hand. “Sarah.”

Sarah: “Beat. Don’t beat around the bush means don’t take a long time.”

Instructor: “Correct! Two points for Sarah!”


  • The football player felt (out of place/ wrapped up) at the ballet.
  • My little brother likes to (make believe/ never mind) that he’s a superhero.
  • The sergeant was (tired out of/in charge of) the squadron.
  • We need to be at the appointment at five (on the dot/ make it up).
  • It’s (wait a minute/ up to you) how much success you will achieve in life.
  • After being picked on by the bully for weeks, the little boy finally decided that it was time to (rub it in/ put his foot down).
  • She couldn’t (pass up/ back out of) the extra piece of chocolate cake.
  • The serious injury caused all the basketball player’s future dreams to go (like a needle in a haystack/ down the drain).
  • My sister has (a different tune/ a soft spot) for small puppies.
  • It should (go without saying/ do the trick) that practice makes perfect.
  • We had to brainstorm for hours before our plans for the science fair could even (get off the ground/ go through the motions).

Wrong Time, Wrong Place!

Read various idioms and a person whom the idiom is being used with. The person should be an inappropriate target audience for that idiom. The student should explain why the target person is inappropriate.

For example,

  • A student tells a teacher, “I want your eyes on the board.”
  • A teenager asks his grandmother, “What’s up?”
  • A father tells his two year old daughter, “That goes without saying.”
  • A marathon runner tells another runner, “Let’s try to get out of shape.”
  • A coach tells his team, “We’re winning. Let’s wave the white flag.”
  • An employee tells her boss, “You drive me crazy every day.”
  • A job applicant says to an interviewer, “I like to let my hair down.”
  • A teacher tells her students to answer every test question with the first
    answer off the top of their heads.
  • A five year old tells his baby sister to “Take it easy.”


Should Batman kill the Joker? While there is no objectively definitive answer, like there is say for “What is the capital of Australia?” the two main possibilities just so happen to be the two main opposing forms of moral philosophy: utilitarianism vs. deontology.

  • Utilitarianism advocates judging actions by their consequences. The consequences of killing the Joker would be to save the lives of everyone the Joker will kill in the future.
  • Utilitarianism contrasts with deontological ethical systems, such as Kant’s and Christian ethics, in that in those systems, certain duties apply regarding how we should act, regardless of the consequences of our actions. In this theory, no one should kill people ever, not even the Joker. (Note that even in deontological systems, rules can, and are often bent, such as the Christian prescription not to kill ever; well, except in cases of perceived self defense and war.)
  • There are two types of utilitarianism – act and rule. Act utilitarianism specifies that we should do actions with the best consequences, and rule utilitarianism specifies that we should adhere to rules that will lead us to the best consequences.
  • Act utilitarianism is basically the old-school form, that because it ran into problems in specific instances, came to be replaced in popularity by rule utilitarianism. For example, if you’re selling a lemon of a car because you need the money, act utilitarianism might prescribe that it’s okay if you need the money more than the person to whom the car is being sold, while under rule utilitarianism nobody would want to live in a world in which only car salesmen get to make these decisions.
  • Rule utilitarianism has the practical benefit that you don’t have to perform a complicated calculation every time you make a moral decision. For tricky moral situations, you simply ask yourself, “Would most people want to live in a world in which most people did this action in this situation?” And, one can’t take a single action, and ask if it is right or wrong, without taking the context into account.
  • Philosophy, in it’s seemingly perpetual mission to confuse, often uses the terms “utilitarianism” and “consequentialism” interchangeably.
  • One way of arguing for rule utilitarianism starts from a commitment to consequentialist assessment, and then argues that assessing acts indirectly, e.g. by focusing on the consequences of communal acceptance of decisions, will in fact produce better consequences than assessing acts directly in terms of their own consequences.

So, you can have rules, such as “don’t physically attack others,” “don’t steal,” “don’t break promises,” and “be generally helpful to others,” with the acknowledgment that sometimes in life’s myriads of situations, there will be times when the rules must be made

batman 2
The Joker would root for Batman to be deontological instead of utilitarian

more specific. Almost everyone all of the time can live under the rule “don’t kill,” just fine. But just in case you’re ever given superhero powers, and the realization that you can stop a lot of future evil by breaking this rule just this once, under rule utilitarianism, you can make your decision by asking yourself, “Do most people want to live in a world in which Batmans let Jokers live?”

Hume’s Best – Philosophy’s Best Bits

The Self

  • Hume subtracted anything supernaturally special from the concept of the self, arguing that there is no coherent self or “I.” Instead, each of us is nothing but a bundle of perceptions. “When I enter most intimately into what I call myself,” he wrote, “I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.” This subtraction may seem initially disheartening. Further reflection, however, reveals its many benefits.
An idealized version of David Hume’s self in his hometown of Edinburgh
  • Who we are depends on how we think, what causes our actions, and how we choose to live.  Who we are is what we construct, not what we discover.

How to Think

  • There is no such thing as chance in the world, yet nothing is more free than the imagination of man.
  • Reason requires the existence of a motivating desire, but reason also informs and corrects the passions.
  • “There is just one phenomenon which may prove that it is not absolutely impossible for ideas to arise independent of impressions. Suppose a person, enjoying good sight, be presented with all the shades of blue from the deepest to the lightest, except a single one. Even if he has never had the fortune to meet with the missing shade, it will be possible for him to imagine it.”
  • Hume beguiled many later philosophers with his problem of induction – a large number of something doesn’t prove conclusions based on that large number. That all observed swans were white didn’t mean that all future swans would be white, which was proven upon the later discovery of black swans.
  • He divided the mind’s contents into impressions and ideas. Impressions are our immediate perceptions, and ideas are our concepts and thoughts that we are able to form of the things we are no longer experiencing.  The point was to insist that there is nothing in the mind – even the most abstract thought – that is not simply sensation transformed.
  • If an idea can’t be traced back to its original impressions, then it can not be an idea based in reality, but rather imagination.  Hume used this notion to skeptically critique the ideas of a devine occupier, the self, and causation.


  • There are always causes, even if the power behind them is hidden from us, as with medicines or clouds.
  • We associate ideas because of their resemblance (we see a painting and think of the original), their contiguity (resemblance in time and place), or their perceived cause and effect (think of a wound and we can not avoid thinking of pain).
  • He wrote that, “If you tell me that any person is in love, I easily understand your meaning, but can never mistake that conception for the real passion, for even the colors of poetry can never paint natural objects.”
  • We assume that certain things are connected just because they commonly occur together, but a genuine knowledge of any connection is mere habit of thought.

How to Live

  • Hume’s Law is generally put as “It is never possible to deduce evaluative conclusions from factual premises.” This is also known as the is/ought problem. Basically, being judgmental belongs more in the realm of emotions than facts. You can say, “You should be “blankety blank,” because that would make me feel better,” but not because of anything factual about “blankety blank.”
  • Hume held that people can exhibit qualities that give happiness to themselves as well as being useful to others. These qualities were justice, faithfulness, and politeness, in addition to benevolence, which he regarded as the highest general quality a person can have.
  • Virtues, such as justice, faithfulness, politeness, and benevolence, are qualities that a person can develop. In this sense, overall altruism toward others is a sign of personal development.
  • To ascertain our obligation, we naturally place our sentiments into the public arena for scrutiny to see if others concur.
  • We should not let philosophy interfere too much with real life. Be a philosopher, but amidst all of your philosophy, be still a man. This was Hume’s response to the inclination of taking his skepticism too far (Many observations of white swans does actually make it very likely your next swan will also be white).

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