Thursday, 12 March 2009

Vocab & Slang: Running, Beer & Potato

Have you ever run a marathon before? Or a half marathon? I have never done that. But in Singapore, I needed to pass a fitness test and everybody had to run 2.4 km within a certain time to pass the exam, my fastest time was 10 mins 19 secs. I think just enough to get an ‘A’. (My good friends could easier finish that less than 9 minutes) The route was not fun as far as I can remember, I hated the part right next to the highway because every breath I took, I felt that I would die a day earlier.


Anyway, one of my students asked me how to cheer others in a running competition. That’s interesting! If it is 100m or 200m, there is not much you can say apart from

“Yay!!!!!” or “Woww!!!!”


If your friend is doing a marathon and you have to cheer, you have more time to do the cheering and so you can try something like,

“Good job! Good job!”

“Way to go, buddy! Way to go!”

“Come on! Guys! Come on!” (to push them harder)

“Move soldiers, move!” (sounding like a soldier)

“Don’t sprint! Keep the pace!” (if you know what you are saying),

“Just another kilometer /mile to go!” (make sure you are certain about the distance)

“Homestretch, keep pushing it! ” (when it is near the end)

“Home is near!” (when it is near the finishing line)

“The trophy is waiting!” (if he is leading)

“Run for your life!” (when he is behind but finishing soon)

“For your fans!” (if he has any waiting at the finishing line)


You can use your creativity, but I found one that interests me and that is,

“Beer and Music at the end!”


It may not be attractive to everyone, but definitely some, especially for some (if not most) foreigners.


I think for most people in Hong Kong, they know the word ‘beer belly/ gut’ (informal) best, due to similar sayings in Cantonese. It is referring to a fat stomach that is caused by prolonged drinking habits. However, not everybody knows that ‘small beer’ (UK informal) actually means something / someone that is relatively unimportant, because local speakers know the US version ‘small potatoes’ better, despite the fact that they mostly use it on something, and seldom someone.

eg.. His salary is small potatoes for his qualification.

The word ‘potato’ is generally used to describing someone or something in a negative way, despite the great taste it is. Apart from the ‘small potatoes’ example,


From Cambridge Online Dictionary,

‘couch potato’ noun [C] (informal)

-- a person who watches a lot of television and does not have an active style of life


From Urbandictionary,

And that has spun off a new slang,

‘mouse potato’ noun [C] (informal)

-- Someone who spends all their time on the computer surfing the net or playing games.


From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,

‘hot potato’ noun [C] (informal)

-- A problem that is so controversial or sensitive that those handling it risk unpleasant consequences: gun control—a political hot potato. 

Combining the dictionaries with my rephrasing,

‘hot potato’ noun [C] (informal)

-- sth / sb undesirable or difficult which is not advisable to be dealt with, similar to the Chinese version of ‘hand-scorching taro’. 

Since these are simple yet commonly-used words, try to apply them today! Make yourself a few examples and you will be able to remember them!