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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Birds of a Feather Flock Together



GET READY:

1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. What do you have in common with most of your friends? Do you have any friends with whom you have nothing in common?

READ THIS:

James sees his student, a girl named Lisa, sitting alone in the cafeteria.

James: Hi, Lisa. Where's Betty? Don't you guys usually sit together?
Lisa: Well, we did, but not anymore.
James: What happened? Did you have a fight or something?
Lisa: Not exactly. We just kind of...drifted apart. We were best friends in high school, but when we came here, she kind of found new friends.
James: That's too bad.
Lisa: Yeah, she got into the drama club, and now she spends all her spare time just hanging out with the other actors.
James: Well, you know what they say, "Birds of a feather flock together."
Lisa: Yeah, I guess so, but it still sucks.
James: So, why don't you go find some "birds" of your own? Isn't there a club you could join?
Lisa: I've been thinking about the tennis club.
James: Go for it!

NOTES:

This saying has a rather strange construction in it. "Of a feather" is unusual; it's still found in a few other expressions, like "of a piece" or "of a color"; the idea is "of the same" feather, piece, or color.

In fact, some even say "Birds of the same feather..."

The meaning is simple: we usually spend most of our time with people who are similar to us. This is despite the other well-known saying, "Opposites attract."

Most of the time, these "birds" who are "flocking together" have a positive effect. Other times, though, someone gets left out, as we saw in the dialogue.

More notes:
  • you guys: The plural of "you" is "you." To make it clear that we mean "you plural," we might say "all of you" or "both of you." Here, James uses a common West coast expression (now found elsewhere as well), "you guys." This can be used for men, women, and mixed groups.
  • kind of: Lisa uses softening expression this twice, because she doesn't want to sound like's she's accusing Betty of anything.
  • something sucks: This rather vulgar expression is a strong way to say that it's bad, or distasteful. It's young people's slang, and can't be used in polite circumstances.
  • why don't you: a gentle way to suggest something. James is trying not to intrude too much in Lisa's personal affairs.
  • Go for it!: An expression of encouragement, meaning, "Don't hesitate! Jump right in!"

PRACTICE:

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

1. I hate this song. It __________!
2. Susan! Jane! I haven't see __________ in forever!
3. A: I'm thinking about changing jobs. B: __________! I know you hate the one you have.
4. You look tired. __________ come in and sit for a while?
5. Could you please stop smoking? It's __________ annoying.

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. Have you ever lost a friend because your interests changed? Talk about it.
2. What are your interests? How can you find other people with the same interests as you?
3. Do you belong to any clubs or other social groups based on your interests? What are they?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. sucks; 2. you guys; 3. Go for it; 4. Why don't you; 5. kind of

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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