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Culture Center

When you come to America, there are lots of cultural differences to experience. Read what our students have noticed about the differences and similarities between countries, cultures, people, and more.

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Idioms & Phrases

  • A cash cow.
    Something – a product, service – that makes a lot of money

    For example:
    The ESL program is a real cash cow for the college!

  • The big cheese
    An important person / a leader

    For example:
    Tiger Woods is the big cheese in professional golf.

  • To bring home the bacon.
    To earn a living for the family.

    For example:
    He felt it was his responsibility to bring home the bacon.

  • The bottom line.
    The total, the final figure on a balance sheet / the most important feature of something.

    For example:
    For General Motors and many other companies, the bottom line was terrible this year.

  • To break even.
    Expenses = profits (you don’t lose any money; you don’t gain any money)

    For example:
    The company broke even after two years.

  • All in a day's work
    Nothing special, part of the routine

    For example:
    Cleaning up after the children, making dinner, walking the dog, and running a business are all in a day’s work.

  • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    You need to have fun in order to be a happy, healthy person

    For example:
    John studies all day and all night.  He even studies on weekends. I am worried about him because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

  • Dirty Work
    Necessary, but uninteresting, or difficult work

    For example:
    Cleaning the house is the worst part of being a woman.  I especially hate doing the dishes, vacuuming, and washing the clothes. It might be dirty work, but someone has to do it!

  • Get down to work
    Stop relaxing, focus on important task

    For example:
    When the students met to do their homework together, they talked about their lives, their families, and their boyfriends. After about an hour, they finally got down to work and did their assignments.

  • Get worked up over something
    Become angry or annoyed or anxious about something

    For example:
    When Maria saw her boyfriend talking to another woman, she got all worked up and hit him on the head with her bag.

  • Work like a horse
    Work a lot, work very hard

    For example:
    Mike got an A in class because he worked like a horse all semester.

  • Get worked up over something
    Become angry or annoyed or anxious about something

    For example:
    When Maria saw her boyfriend talking to another woman, she got all worked up and hit him on the head with her bag.

  • Work out for the best
    Eventually finish well

    For example:
    When John and Mary got divorced, everyone said it was terrible. Now both John and Mary are much happier and have become friends again. I guess the divorce worked out for the best.

  • Work something off
    Definition: lose weight

    For example:
    I'm going to the gym to work off the extra food I ate over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • Throw a monkey wrench in the works
    Cause problems for someone or something

    For example:
    I hate to throw a monkey wrench in the works, but don't you think we should look at the weather forecast before we plan this outdoor party.

  • Crack the Whip
    To make people work harder usually by threatening them.

    For example:
    I finished my essay for class because the teacher cracked the whip.