Word Wonders: The language of the body Part 1

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. adjective / ˈædʒ ɪk tɪv / (n) – a word that describes or gives information about a noun or pronoun

    At my interview, they asked me to describe myself with three adjectives, so I said, “Hardworking, creative, and friendly.”

  2. vivid / ˈvɪv ɪd / (adj) – very clear or detailed

    I had a really vivid dream about going on a trip to Hawaii.

  3. curious / ˈkyʊər i əs / (adj) – interested to learn more about someone or something

    My niece is very curious; she’s always asking questions.

  4. kneecap / ˈniˌkæp / (n) – the round bone at the front of the knee

    I injured my kneecap while skateboarding.

  5. reconsider / ˌri kənˈsɪd ər / (v) – to carefully think about something again, especially for the purpose of possibly changing one’s previous decision

    Amy is reconsidering her decision to quit school, so she hasn’t stopped going to classes yet.


Read the text below.

Some adjectives and phrases in English come from parts of the body. They can be very vivid and expressive.

The word “nosy” originally meant to have a large nose. In today’s English, a nosy person is someone who is overly curious and asks impolite questions. If a colleague asks you a private question you don’t like, you might complain to a friend: “I wish he would stop being nosy about my personal life.”

As in Japanese, you can “lend your ear” to someone, meaning you listen or pay attention to them. The phrase may have originated from a famous speech by Mark Antony to the ancient Romans in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Have you ever eaten butterflies? It’s a strange question, I know. But in English if you feel nervous before doing something important, we often call this “having butterflies in your stomach.” You might say: “I always get butterflies in my stomach before a job interview.”

In English, a “jerk” is a quick, sudden movement of the body. Your knee may jerk if you strike it under the kneecap. From this, a “knee-jerk reaction” describes what happens when you respond to a question or situation without thinking properly. For example, your colleague makes a proposal, and you immediately say, “Absolutely not, that’s a terrible idea.” Later, when you realize you were wrong, you say to her: “I’ve reconsidered your proposal and I think it’s a good idea, after all. I’m sorry for my earlier reply, it was a knee-jerk reaction.” (Rob Horn)

To be continued…

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • In your opinion, is it ever okay to be nosy? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you ever lend your ear to people giving speeches on the street (ex. politicians, activists)? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In what situations do you get butterflies in your stomach? Why? Discuss.
  • Do you often have knee-jerk reactions, or do you try to think before you speak? Why? Discuss.