In time, these lessons and "stubs" will be migrated to the Buzzwords site.
Until then, consider them historical.

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy


1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. How do you "take a break" when you're busy?


In today's dialogue, James meets Linda the businesswoman again, a few weeks later.

James: So, how's the overtime problem?
Linda: I'm still dealing with it. You know, I have a hard time juggling family and business.
James: But don't forget to make a little "me time" too.
Linda: What do you mean?
James: Well, besides your work and family, you should do some things just for yourself, too. We have a saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Linda: Who's Jack?
James: [laughs] Oh, that's just a typical name for an English boy. But do you get the proverb's meaning?
Linda: Like, if I only work, I'll become bored?
James: Yeah, and boring! The most interesting people are the ones with well-rounded lives. Your customers and employees will see a difference.
Linda: I'm sure you're right. Thanks for the pep-talk!


This proverb is so well known that sometimes we only say half of it, just "All work and no play…" It means everybody needs a break sometimes.

More notes:
  • dealing with it: To "deal with" something is to take care of it, or to eliminate a problem.
  • juggling family and business: "Juggling" is the art of keeping several balls or other items in the air at once. To "juggle family and business" means to take care of both of them equally well.
  • a typical name: Every culture has common names for its people. In the U.S., for example, "John Smith" or "John Doe" is used to name a man whose name is not known.
  • Like: We use "like" for many reasons. Sometimes it's just a thinking sound, like "um" or "uh." Here, Linda is using it to introduce an example of the proverb's meaning. As a complete thought, she might say, "'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' is like 'if I only work, I'll become bored.'"
  • bored and boring: Linda says that "dull" means "bored." James says it also means "boring." Remember, "bored" describes an effect ("I was bored by the movie") and "boring" describes a cause ("The movie was boring.") However, James is saying that a bored person is also a boring person!
  • well-rounded lives: "Well-rounded" means having many sides or aspects. A person who is only interested in business is "one-sided"; one who also has hobbies, a family life, and other interests is more "well-rounded."


Use the adjective given with either an "-ed" or an "-ing" ending, as appropriate.

1. My friend thought the Jim Carrey movie was __________. (amuse)
2. Math can sometimes be very __________. (challenge)
3. We were very __________ by the show. (entertain)
4. It was __________ to see the circus. (excite)
5. My dad was __________ after the long drive. (exhaust)
6. When I read a __________ book, I can't put it down. (fascinate)
7. Are you __________ in history? (interest)
8. There was a very __________ tribute to our heroes on TV last night. (move)
9. We were __________ by the rides at Disneyland. (thrill)
10. I heard some __________ news yesterday. (trouble)


If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Have you (or anyone you know) ever juggled family and business? Talk about it.
2. What are some "typical names" in your culture?
3. What do you think it means to be "well-rounded"? Give some examples.


1. amusing; 2. challenging; 3. entertained; 4. exciting; 5. exhausted; 6. fascinating; 7. interested; 8. moving; 9. thrilled; 10. troubling;

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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