American Idioms Handbook

For many years I’ve enjoyed the regular visits, comments and support of a loyal reader living in Fort Worth, Texas.  He knows who he is.  Recently he had a relative visiting his family from Panama, and on the way back, she brought back a surprise from my loyal reader.  The surprise was a wonderful reference book dubbed, “Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook”.  It is the most comprehensive reference for understanding and applying American idioms.

If you are studying English as your second language, you already know that the real key to mastering any language, beyond having a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary is knowing how to use idioms and idiomatic expressions.  The difficulty lies in the fact that the wording of the idiom doesn’t has anything to do with its meaning.  You have to know the meaning and the context in which they are used.  There are different idioms in different parts of the United States.  If you haven’t lived in the country, the learning curve can be really steep and nightmarish.  Been there.  Done that.

After returning home, I started leafing through the book and found it to be a linguistic treasure, perfect to place it under our Christmas tree in December.  I’m so happy with this present, that I’m walking two feet off the ground.

The above idiom is used to express a state of mind of being very happy, blissfully happy, ecstatic.  Almost all the idioms that express great happiness and joy allude to being off the ground, up in the air.  You may also hear people say “walking 6 to 10 feet off the ground instead of just two feet”.

Thank  you Jim and Nena for this magnificent gift which I will put to work even as we speak.  The earlier idiom was extracted from the aforementioned book.  I also want to thank María de los Ángeles for meeting me in Panama City and delivering the idiomatic surprise.  I couldn’t resist the temptation of taking her picture and capturing the event.  This is the person who provided the transportation of the reference book to Panama.  Here we go.


Snapshot of María de los Angeles, posing for the camera at the entrance of El 99 Supermarket in the neighborhood of San Francisco de la Caleta in Panama City, Panama. I’m sure my English will enter into a new era. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.



4 thoughts on “American Idioms Handbook”

  1. Hola Omar,
    We are glad you like the book and hope that we haven’t overloaded you with information! haha Now, if I could just find a book to explain how to get out of this camisa de once varas, I would be fine. (See, Spanish has its hidden meanings as well). 🙂

    Saludos a Aura y los Twisters,
    jim and nena

  2. Hola Jim y Nena:

    Gracias por el libro. Vas a ver en el blog la introducción de varias frases idiomáticas extraidas de tu libro. Nosotros también tenemos en Español nuestro cúmulo de frases idiomáticas como la que tu mencionas, “camisa de once varas”.

    Nena te puede ayudar con muchas otras que se usan en Chiriquí. Una muy común por estos lares es, “creo que me dieron borriguero por iguana.” Te la dejo de tarea.


    Omar y Aura.-

  3. I have to admit it, Omar. When I first read the title of your post in my email, I thought it said, “American Idiots Handbook”! Now, there’s a handbook that would be truly useful!

    What a wonderful gift that is.I tried to think of the walking off the ground idiom, and I do believe I grew up hearing it “ten feet off the ground.” A similar expression that’s common in Texas is walking in tall or high cotton. To be in high cotton is to have an excellent crop, and the expectation of good profit — hence, to be happy. In fact, I once had a customer who named his boat High Cotton.

  4. Yes Linda, there are many national and regional idioms. Not all of them are understood by everybody. It happens in Latin America and in Spain as well. But they are a crucial part of the living language, the one that breathes and grows like a living organism. How can you not love to study this fascinating language?

    There is so much to learn, and so little time.



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