American English idiomatic expressions in 52 weeks

American English idiomatic expressions in 52 weeks: An easy way to understand English expressions and improve speaking. By John Holleman. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2006. Pp. 500. ISBN 9789629962814. $29.

Reviewed by Omaima M. Ayoub, Richard J. Daley College

This book provides English as a second language (ESL) students a week-by-week calendar to study English idiomatic expressions and improve conversational proficiency. Consisting of 3,243 different English idioms, this book presents an accessible plan that will enable ESL students to systematically understand and use English in a variety of settings such as classroom discussions, business meetings, and casual conversations with native English speakers.

Each week includes sixty to sixty-five idioms divided into functional categories that include: bad/negative, consequence, disagree, end, error, failure, health, importance, money, movement, ownership, personal description, quantity, relationship, satisfaction, similar, superior, time, and work. Each idiom is supported with a concise definition and an example to facilitate usage. In addition to the massive number of idiomatic expressions illustrated in the book, there is also a thorough index for easy reference.

‘Week one’ includes the functional category of achievement, which contains expressions such as at the top of his/her game—defined as ‘performing at the highest level. [With the usage] As one of the top athletes in the city, he is at the top of his game’ (1). Under communication, there are idioms such as all eyes—defined as ‘watching very closely. [With the usage] Horace was all eyes when the beautiful lady walked into the room with her drink’ (2); add fuel to the fire—defined as ‘increasing the tension of a problem situation. [With the usage] When John argued he didn’t believe in punishing the children and he didn’t support his wife, he realized he was adding fuel to the fire’ (2); and actions speak louder than words—defined as ‘a person’s behavior communicates more than words spoken. [With the usage] The father’s care shown to the child demonstrated his actions spoke more than words’ (2).

In ‘Week twenty-five’, the category of agree/approval includes the idiomatic expression live up to—defined as ‘act according to. [With the usage] Peter is trying very hard to live up to his reputation as a smart businessman’ (185). The category of plan/prepare includes inside out—defined as ‘knowing something very well. [With the usage] As an expert in the dynasties of China, William knew the history of the Henan Province inside out’ (190); jam on the brakes—defined as ‘quickly put brakes on to stop car. [With the usage] John jammed on the brakes to avoid an accident on the crowded city street’ (190); and just so—defined as ‘with great care and preparation. [With the usage] Caroline worked on styling her hair so that it looked just so for the evening reception. She looked fabulous!’ (190).

‘Week fifty-one’ includes the category of emotion, which encompasses idiomatic expressions such as walk on air—defined as ‘feel happy and excited. [With the usage] Since Kelly found out she performed well on her examination, she’s been walking on air’ (399); warm one’s blood/heart—defined as ‘make one feel warm or excited. [With the usage] The sight of the sister hugging her little brother after he was rescued warmed the heart of all the people’ (399); and watered—defined as ‘to feel sad; hurt; low. [With the usage] He’s pretty much watered right now because of the news of his uncle’s death’ (399).

This book will prove invaluable to ESL learners when used on a self-study basis or as part of a college-level course.