Word Wonders: Idioms from animals Part 2

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

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

  1. shuck / ʃʌk / (v.) – to open, move, or take away the outer covering from foods like corn, clam, etc.

    Meg doesn’t like eating crabs. She finds it difficult to shuck them.

  2. emphasize / ˈɛm fəˌsaɪz / (v.) – to give special attention to something to let someone know that it’s important

    I colored all important details in red to emphasize them.

  3. encounter / ɛnˈkaʊn tər / (v.) – to meet someone unexpectedly

    The thief failed to escape after he encountered a policeman on his way to his hiding place.

  4. interrogation / ɪnˌtɛr əˈgeɪ ʃən / (n.) – the act of asking a lot of questions for a long time until one gets information, sometimes while also using violent or harmful actions

    The interrogation of the man took three hours, but he still didn’t give a lot of useful information.

  5. confrontation / ˌkɒn frənˈteɪ ʃən / (n.) – a fight

    Greg is a quiet person who always does his best to avoid confrontation.


Read the text below.

Continued from Part 1…

It’s difficult to shuck an oyster — that means to open an oyster shell — but your reward might be a beautiful pearl. That gives us the phrase “The world is my oyster.” It comes from Shakespeare’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor. When someone says this, they mean that they have many opportunities to make a profit or gain an advantage. People often say this phrase to young people to emphasize that they have many choices that can lead them to wealth or happiness. “I don’t know what to do with my life.” “You have just finished university and you’re still young — the world is your oyster!”

Another seafood-related expression is the phrasal verb “to clam up.” When a clam encounters a predator it may close its shells together to protect itself. If someone is refusing to talk or to give up information, they are often described as “clamming up.” “The thief clammed up during the police interrogation and didn’t say a word.” Like a clam protecting itself from a confrontation, the phrase suggests that someone doesn’t want to look at other people in the eye and instead looks down at the ground. “My son always clams up when he is guilty of something.” (Rob Horn)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • People often say the phrase “the world is your oyster” to young people to emphasize that they have many choices that can lead them to wealth or happiness. Do you think young people have more opportunities now than before? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Someone is described to be “clamming up” if he/she refuses to give any information to avoid confrontation. Do you think people who often clam up are less trustworthy? Why or why not? What do you think is the best way to convince people who clam up to tell you something (ex. gain their trust)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • PETA, an organization that promotes the proper care and treatment of animals, says that some idioms aren’t animal-friendly because they might make students believe that it’s okay to treat animals badly (ex. walk on eggshells=to be careful with one’s words/actions; kill two birds with one stone=to accomplish two things through one action). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • PETA is asking people to stop using anti-animal idioms. In your opinion, should people stop using all expressions that mention animals or just a few of them (ex. only violent ones)? Why? Discuss.