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

The Bigger They Come, the Harder They Fall


1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. Do you like big challenges?


James sees his student, a boy named Daniel, pacing nervously by the bus stop.

James: Oh Danny Boy! What's wrong?
Daniel: Oh, James. I'm really nervous. I have a humongous interview this afternoon; I'm just on my way there now.
James: Really? What's so special about this one?
Daniel: It's Microsoft! If I land this one, I'll be set for life.
James: Yeah? Well, don't worry. You've got what it takes.
Daniel: I know, but did you hear me? IT'S MICROSOFT!
James: Relax. You know, "The bigger they come, the harder they fall."
Daniel: What's that supposed to mean?
James: Uh...It's something people say before a fight. You know about David and Goliath?
Daniel: Oh, where the kid has just a sling and five rocks, and kills a giant?
James: Right. So in situations like that, we can say, "The bigger they are..."
Daniel: OK, I get it. But I don't want them to fall! I just want them to hire me!
James: Relax. You'll knock 'em dead!


This is one of those proverbs that seems to go against common sense. One wise guy said, "The bigger they come, the harder they hit"!

While it's true that something big will "fall harder" than something small, it's also true that it's harder to make a big thing fall!

In fact, the original meaning may have been exactly that: The bigger they are, the harder they are to make fall. But now we use the opposite meaning.

More notes:
  • Danny Boy: a beautiful old Irish song; James uses the title here as a familiar way to address Daniel. "Dan" and "Danny" are both common nicknames for "Daniel."
  • humongous: a slang term for "huge" or in this case "very important." Remember that "big" can mean "important." If you're meeting Bill Gates tomorrow, you might say "I have a big meeting" even though there may only be two people there!
  • to land something: to get something, like landing a fish when it's on one's line. Here, Daniel means "get this job." Boxers talk about "landing a punch," meaning hitting their target, too.
  • to be set for life: to not have to worry about money ever again
  • to have what it takes: to be qualified for something, to have the right qualities or skills.
  • knock 'em dead: often used in show business, this means to impress someone. We also say "to knock [someone's] socks off."


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

1. A: I have an audition for a play tomorrow. B: __________!
2. Mike wants to be an NBA star, but he isn't sure he __________.
3. The salesman was pleased when he __________ a new account.
4. His name is Daniel, but I call him "__________."
5. If I can write a bestseller I'll be __________.
6. We ate at a fancy restaurant last night. The bill was __________!


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

1. Have you ever had a "big interview"? If so, what happened? If not, how about ANY interview?
2. What company would you like to interview with? Why?
3. How could Daniel deal with being nervous?


1. Knock 'em dead; 2. has what it takes; 3. landed; 4. Danny Boy; 5. set for life; 6. humongous

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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