Brush Up Your English

Level: B1

Activity: Reading For Discussion

The English language has a number of “national” expressions. Many of them are to do with food. A Scotch egg, for example, is a hard-boiled egg, in meal, eaten hot or cold.

Scotch eggs

Scotch broth is thick soup with beef and barley. Irish stew is made from meat, onions and potatoes. Welsh rarebit is melted cheese on hot toast. From across the English Channel, French dressing is salad dressing with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. French fried potatoes or French fries are chips, and long sticks of bread are known as French bread. A Spanish omelette is an omelette containing tomatoes, onions and potatoes. A Swiss roll is a rolled cake filled with jam or cream. Ukrainian salad is salad of cold cooked vegetables made with dressing which has a sharp taste. European tea is with a lemon or milk.

France inspires other national expressions. (French doors and French windows usually have glass panes and open in the middle. They often lead out into a garden. French polish contains shellac and is good for wooden furniture. 

French doors

England’s links with Holland have created numerous Dutch expressions. A Dutch auction is one in which the price is gradually lowered, not increased, while Dutch courage is courage inspired by drinking alcohol! A Dutch uncle is a person who criticizes severely. A Dutch treat is no treat at all, since each person pays for himself and if you go Dutch it means you share the costs. If you talk double-Dutch it means you are totally incomprehensible. Two more expressions from home: Scotch mist is very light rain, also called drizzle and a Welsh dresser is a type of a side board with shelves above and drawers below. 

Three expressions from Turkey suggest luxury. A Turkish bath is a steam-bath followed by a massage; Turkish towels are thick cotton towels and Turkish delight is a special type of sweet.

And an Indian summer? It is a period of dry warm weather in September. Just the weather for a picnic of Scotch eggs, salad, French bread and a slice of a Swiss roll!

Answer the questions on the text:

  1. Do you know any other English national expressions?
  2. Are there any national expressions in your language?
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