Views and Visions: Colorful idioms Part 2

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

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

  1. venerate / ˈvɛn əˌreɪt / (v.) – to honor, worship, or show great respect toward someone or something

    Cats were venerated in ancient Egypt.

  2. look after / lʊk ˈæftər / (phrasal v.) – to take good care of someone or something

    I was asked to look after my nephew when his parents went on a business trip.

  3. misconduct / mɪsˈkɒn dʌkt / (n.) – wrong or bad behavior, especially by a professional or someone in authority

    The director was fired for misconduct. It was discovered that he used the company’s money for his own personal travel.

  4. solvent / ˈsɒl vənt / (adj.) – having enough money to pay debts

    Mia needs to prove to the bank that her business is solvent before she can borrow more money.

  5. trivial / ˈtrɪv i əl / (adj.) – unimportant, not serious, or of little value

    In my opinion, cheating is not a trivial matter. It deserves serious punishment.


Read the text below.

Continued from Part 1…

White elephants are rare albino elephants that are seen as sacred and venerated in parts of South Asia. White elephants were sometimes kept by kings and queens to show their power and influence. However, they were very expensive to look after, and could be a burden on their owners. In modern usage, a “white elephant” usually refers to an expensive building project that is of little practical use and will be very costly to maintain. “The authorities have spent huge sums of money on facilities for the Olympics and Paralympics, but the minister denied the new stadium will be a white elephant.”

The color gray is often associated with uncertainty. Imagine we have to decide what to do next in a situation, but the rules aren’t clear. We say that the situation is in a “gray area.” The idiom is often used to talk about laws. “It is legal to fire an employee for misconduct; however, what ‘misconduct’ means precisely is a gray area.”

The colors red and black often refer to money. A person or organization is “in the red” if they’re in debt, or “in the black” if they’re financially solvent. In the past, bookmakers used red ink to show debts and losses when writing up accounts. “The company’s had a very bad year and is now ¥100 million in the red.”

Finally, to be “caught red-handed” means you were caught in the middle of doing something bad, like committing a crime. The phrase comes from someone having blood on their hands after a murder. It can also mean a more trivial offense: “I caught my son red-handed with his hands in the cookie jar.” (Rob Horn)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The color gray is often associated with uncertainty. Do you feel it’s okay for things to sometimes be in a gray area, or should everything always be perfectly clear? What gray areas have you recently found (ex. rules at work, Covid-19 policies)? Discuss.
  • To be caught red-handed means you were caught in the middle of doing something bad. Have you ever been caught red-handed (ex. eating dessert before dinner, checking your partner’s phone)? Have you ever caught someone red-handed? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Companies are in the black if they’re financially solvent, so many people believe that companies use Black Friday sales to go from being in the red to being in the black. Are Black Friday sales common in your country? How do you feel about them (ex. a good chance to save money, unnecessary)? Why? Discuss.
  • A white elephant is an expensive building project that is of little practical use and will be very costly to maintain. Why do you think politicians create white elephants (ex. to pass money to their friends, for status reasons)? Can you think of any recent white elephants? Discuss.