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

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts


1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. Do you feel that when most people give gifts, they expect something in return? Or do you think most people give gifts freely?


In today's dialogue, James will play a bit with this expression. He sees his friend, a woman named Dorothy, sitting at Starbucks.

James: Hi, Dot! What's up!
Dorothy: Oh, hi, James. I don't know. I'm just waiting for this guy...
James: Oh, a new boyfriend?
Dorothy: No, just a guy from work. But I think he thinks he's my boyfriend.
James: Why's that?
Dorothy: Well, he's always sending me gifts. Flowers for Valentine's Day, chocolates last week. It's kind of creepy.
James: Yeah, I guess you should "Beware of geeks bearing gifts."
Dorothy: "Geeks"? It's "Greeks," isn't it?
James: Yeah, but, I made a little joke. The expression was originally about the Trojan Horse, but I turned it into something about the creepy guy from work.
Dorothy: Aaanyyywaaaay, he asked me for coffee, and he's been so nice, I couldn't say no. But since you're here, will you stay and have coffee or something? I'd rather not meet this guy alone.
James: Sure! No problem. Let me just go get some tea.
Dorothy: OK, but hurry, please! He'll be here any minute.


The story of the Trojan Horse is well known. The Greeks had been fighting the men of Troy. Unable to beat them by fair means, they hid some men in a large wooden statue of a horse and, leaving it as a gift at the gates of Troy, seemingly departed. When the statue was taken inside the gates, the men came out at night and let the attacking Greeks in.

So today a "Trojan horse" is a kind of virus that hides in your computer, and the proverb "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" has become popular.

More notes:
  • Dot: a nickname for "Dorothy," as is "Dotty." All of these names are somewhat old-fashioned.
  • sighs: Dorothy lets out a lot of air to show she's blue. The phrase "I don't know" gives the same feeling.
  • creepy: weird, or making someone uncomfortable
  • geeks: this is a word that's used of make fun of people with poor social skills. "Nerds" and "wonks" might be synonyms.
  • Aaanyyywaaaay: This drawn-out pronunciation of "anyway" is used after a bad joke to say, "I'm not going to laugh; let's continue the conversation."
  • coffee or something: Dorothy realizes that not everyone drinks coffee; she adds "or something" to make her suggestion less specific.
  • any minute: at any time, meaning "soon, but I'm not sure when."


Use the above terms in one of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. I don't mind if you call me a __________; at least it means I'm smart!
2. Would you like a cookie __________?
3. What's wrong? Why are you __________?
4. I have to go; my bus will be here __________.
5. That __________ guy in the office makes me uncomfortable.
6. A: Do you know why 9 was afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9! B: __________, seen any good movies lately?


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

1. Have you ever felt pressured by someone who gave you gifts? Talk about it.
2. If you can, tell the story of The Trojan Horse. If you don't know it, look it up (even in your language), then tell it in English.
3. James made a corny joke. Do you know any corny jokes, either in English or in your own language? Tell some.


1. geek; 2. or something; 3. sighing; 4. any minute; 5. creepy; 6. Aaanyyywaaaay

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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