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Sunday, May 6, 2012

All's Well That Ends Well



GET READY:

1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. Are you an "optimist" or a "pessimist"?

READ THIS:

In today's dialogue, James sees his friend Thomas, a man who works as a sales representative.

James: Hey, Tommy, been sellin' anything?
Thomas: Ugh! Don't ask! My job has been a nightmare lately.
James: What gives?
Thomas: Well, I was just about to close a huge sale, when the customer decided to start changing all the terms of the contract. I thought we'd never finish!
James: But did you?
Thomas: Well, yeah, but it was a heck of a lot of work.
James: Anyway, "All's well that ends well."
Thomas: Yeah, but why couldn't it be "well" from the beginning?
James: What planet are you from?
Thomas: Ha ha.

NOTES:

This proverb comes from the name of a play by William Shakespeare. In the play, Helena is a woman in love with a lord named Bertram. But he rejects her. Nevertheless, after many troubles, she wins his love and--you guessed it--"All is well that ends well."

The expression means that no matter how much trouble you have (like Helena had with Bertram), as long as you win in the end everything is OK.

More notes:

  • Tommy: This is a very familiar nickname for "Thomas." It shows that James is a very close friend of Thomas's. More common is the nickname "Tom."
  • been sellin' anything?: Since Thomas is a salesman, James is asking if business is good.
  • Don't ask: This is a joking way to say that this is an uncomfortable subject, and Thomas would rather not talk about it.
  • a nightmare: literally, a bad dream. But here, it means something terrible, like a bad dream.
  • What gives?: This is a very informal way to say, "Tell me more." It can be compared to "What's up?" or "What's happening?" It often gives the feeling that something bad may be happening: "Hey, where's my wallet? What gives?"
  • a heck of a lot: This a way to make "a lot" stronger. A less polite form is "a hell of a lot."
  • What planet are you from?: If Thomas thinks that life is easy, James is saying, then he must be from a different planet. This expression is meant to be humorous.
  • Ha ha: This is a sarcastic laugh. It means that Thomas knows James has tried to be funny, but Thomas doesn't think it's funny.

PRACTICE:

Here is some vocabulary from the story. Match it to its meaning.

1. A heck of a lot.
2. Been sellin' anything?
3. Don't ask.
4. What gives?
5. What planet are you from?

a. How's business?
b. Tell me more.
c. I think what you said is strange.
d. Very much.
e. I don't want to talk about it.

Now try to use the phrases in a sentence.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

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

1. Many of these expressions (Been sellin' anything?; Don't ask; What planet are you from?) are examples of indirect language, not saying exactly what we mean. Why do you think we speak this way? Can you give examples from your language?
2. What is wrong with Thomas's question ("why couldn't it be 'well' from the beginning?")? Why does James make fun of it?
3. Have you ever been in a situation that could be described as "a nightmare"? Talk about it.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. d; 2. a; 3. e; 4. b; 5. c

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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