Phrases that course books don’t teach you

Miriam Herud

YouTube video

English course books teach you tons of important stuff – grammar, vocabulary related to various topics, phrasal verbs and whatnot. What none of them teaches you though are phrases from everyday life that are inherent in spoken language. In this video I’m gonna teach you three such phrases I’ve picked out for you. 

Phrase no.1. Imagine this situation: You’ve been invited to your friends’ wedding. It’s a fancy wedding, as well, so you decide to splurge a bit – you go clothes and shoe shopping, you go to a beauty shop to have your hair and make-up done and finally you arrive at the wedding venue and your friends (other guests, I mean) come to you and they’re all like: “Oh my god! Look at you! You look stunning! Wow!” And you’re a tad embarrassed because of all the compliments they’re throwing at you, so you wave your hand and say …… (fill in the gap). 

If what you’ve guessed was this phrase (“pish-posh”), you were right! “Pish posh” is an expression that can be used in situations like this one when someone gives you a compliment and you feel a bit embarrassed, in a more positive than negative way, of course. So you say “pish posh”. Or, you redecorated your office and your colleague tells you: “I love what you did to your office!” and you say: “Aw, pish posh!” 

Phrase no.2. Situation: You’re chatting with your friends about a guy who married a much younger woman and you say: “Yeah, I think he’s like 25 years older than her.” And your friend corrects you: “No, he’s 23 years older.” And you roll your eyes and say ……. (again, fill in the blank) – by this phrase you wanna point out that it’s really the same thing, that the difference between the two is so unimportant that it’s not worth mentioning it. Here it is (“potato-potato”). 

I know – written down it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s rather crucial how you pronounce it – “po-tay-to – po-tah-to”. So, “he’s not 25, but 23 years older”, “aw, potayto-potahto!”, meaning “it doesn’t matter, it’s an unimportant difference”. “Potato-potato” actually comes from “tomato-tomato”. This word (“TOMATO”) can actually be pronounced in two ways: „to-mah-to“ or „to-may-to“ and both are standard and completely correct. “To-mah-to” is generally considered British pronunciation and “to-may-to” American. Anyway, whether you say “to-may-to” or “to-mah-to”, “po-tay-to” or “po-tah-to”, you’re talking about the same thing. That’s why the phrase means, it doesn’t matter, it’s a petty difference. So when I tell you: “Let’s try that new Italian bistro tonight” and you say: “You mean the Italian fast food restaurant”, I respond: “Yeah, yeah, potato-potato.” 

And finally let’s get to the third phrase. Although it’s an adverb rather than a phrase. Let’s say your colleague is waiting for you to finish work in the afternoon so you can carpool home together and he pops into your office and asks you: “Ready to go?” And you wanna say “yes, sort of, kind of”. How do you respond informally? (“Ish”)

“Ish”. Using these 3 letters only, you’re making a phrase more vague, less specific. You’re saying “kind of, something like that”. So your colleague’s question: “Ready to go?” – your response: “Ish. I just need to send one more email and I’m done.” Or a question: “Are you hungry?” – “Ish.”, meaning I could eat. Or “Are you tired?” – “Ish.”, by that I mean I'm sort of tired and I wouldn’t probably say “no” to bed

Or someone asks you: “How did it go yesterday?” and you can say: “Fine –ish”. So, you see, you can use the word separately like in the previous examples or you can add it onto the end of a word, and still, the meaning will be “sort of, kind of”. So when you say “it went fine –ish”, you mean it went OK, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it was sort of fine. Or “How are you feeling today?” – “I’m okay –ish .”, meaning I’ve been better, but it’s not so bad, so I’m sort of okay… 

And you can also apply “-ish” when referring to numbers or to time. Your friend asks you: “What time are we meeting tonight?” And you say: “Let’s say at seven-ish.” By that you mean, give or take, plus or minus 15 minutes. So as you can see, the use of “ish” is pretty liberal. And that basically concludes today’s video on phrases that books don’t teach you.