Kosova English Teachers' Network
Hi everybody. This will be my final English lesson this summer, as I’ll soon need to flap my wings and rejoin my colleagues at Kosovo’s Land and Sky University. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the lessons that I’ve shared with you. I’ve enjoyed presenting them and perhaps they’ve been beneficial to you. The theme of my last lesson will pertain to an article of human clothing whose importance has always mystified me—“pants.”
Personally, I don’t wear them, nor do I understand why male humans do. Wearing pants is still in fashion, though, so I thought it might be useful to think about some of the idioms that pertain to them. The British, of course, prefer to use the word “trousers,” but to Americans the word pants is more familiar. Here are several idioms that contain the word pants. Can you match them to the meanings show below? (If you want to share these with your students, you might ask them to guess at the meaning of each one before giving them the list of possible meanings.)
1. You have ants in your pants.
2. You were caught with your pants down.
3. You wear the pants in this house.
4. You need a kick in the pants.
5. Keep your pants on!
A. Don’t be so eager. Just wait a minute.
B. You are the boss.
C. You are lazy and need motivation.
D. You are nervous, excited, or agitated.
E. You were found in an embarrassing situation.
The answers to this exercise are shown below.
PRODUCT NAMES – SNICKERS AND HEAD AND SHOULDERS
Have you ever wondered how certain products got their name? Here’s an explanation about two products that can be found in many stores, Snickers, a candy bar, and Head and Shoulders, a shampoo.
Snickers is a funny name. People often confuse it with “sneakers,” a term that is synonymous with athletic shoes. But there’s no relation between the two, and even the sound of the middle vowel, the short i, not the long i, is different.
There is a verb, “snicker.” It means to laugh slyly or snidely. The poet T. S. Eliot wrote:
“I have seen the Eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker.”
But the real origin? Snickers is made by the Mars company, a huge corporation that is owned by the Mars family. They once had a horse called “Snickers” so they named the candy bar after the horse. Interesting, huh?
HEAD AND SHOULDERS
This shampoo fights dandruff (little white flakes in your hair) and I guess the name suggests that if we use this product our heads and shoulders will be clean of dandruff.
But there's also an idiom that refers to these body parts. To "be head and shoulders above" someone else or others, is to be far superior to them. E.g., "I'm voting for Professor Eagle. He's head and shoulders above the other candidates for mayor."
A CLASS ACTIVITY
For teachers, you can make an activity out of the Snickers and Head and Shoulders origins.
Don't tell the students the real origins. Break them into groups and ask them to invent origins for the names Snickers and Head and Shoulders. Ask them to think about why the makers of these products gave them those names.
Each group should give brief explanations for their imaginary origins, and students can then vote, if you wish, to see which origins they think are mostly likely to be true.
But here's the really fun part.
Ask another teacher or some students from the corridor to come in and listen to all the origins. Your students will tell theirs a second time (good practice), and this time you will ask a couple of students to reveal the true origin too.
ANSWERS TO PANTS IDIOMS
1D, 2E, 3B, 4C, and 5A.
1. If you have ants in your pants, you are nervous, excited, or agitated.
2. If you were caught with your pants down, you were found in an embarrassing and revealing situation.
3. If you wear the pants in the house, you were found in an embarrassing and revealing situation.
4. If you need a kick in the pants, you are lazy and need some motivation.
5. If you are told to keep your pants on, you shouldn’t be so eager. You should be more patient and wait a while.