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Source: Voice of America


Now, the VOA Special English program "Words And Their Stories".


Americans use many expressions about fish and fishing. For example, if something sounds fishy, it may not be true. Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water when I go to a party and everyone but me is doing the latest dance. When I ask my friend if she likes my new dress, I would like her to say something nice. In other words, I am fishing for a compliment. You might tell someone to fish or cut bait if he repeatedly attempts to do something he is unable to do.

fishy: sospechoso, que da mala espina; it may not be true: puede que no sea verdad; like a fish out of water: como pez fuera del agua; everyone but me: todos menos yo; doing the latest dance: bailando el paso de moda; fishing for a compliment: tratando de atraer elogios; you might tell: podrías decirle; to fish or cut bait: que se decida de una buena vez [bait = cebo, carnada]; repeteadly: continuamente; attempts to do something: intenta hacer algo (que); he is unable to do: es incapaz de hacer;


Sometimes a lawyer will ask a witness many questions in an effort to discover the facts of a court case. This is called going on a fishing expedition.

lawyer: abogado; witness: testigo; in an effort to: en un intento de; the facts: los hechos; court case: juicio, caso legal; going on a fishing expedition: lanzarse a interrogar desconociendo la relevancia probatoria (utilizado en abogacía);


Some expressions involve different kinds of fish. Information that is used to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation is called a red herring. If you want to express a feeling of surprise, you might cry "holy mackerel!" although we do not know why a mackerel is holy.

involve: incluyen; kinds of fish: tipos o variedades de pescado; to draw attention away: para distraer la atención; red herring: pista falsa, algo que distrae del tema que se discute (red herring es un arenque y esta frase proviene de la antigua práctica en la que se arrastraba un arenque ahumado a través de la pista para enseñarle a los perros recogedores a que no se dejaran distraer por otros olores); you might cry: se podría gritar; holy mackerel!: ¡Ay caramba! (mackerel = caballa); why a mackerel is holy: por qué una caballa es sagrada o bendita;


Once I went to a county fair and tried my luck with a game of chance. It was so easy; it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Then I went on the fastest, highest and most frightening ride: the roller coaster. At the end of the ride, I did not feel so well. A friend said I looked green around the gills.

county fair: feria local; tried my luck: probé mi suerte; game of chance: juego de azar; like shooting fish in a barrel: un juego fácil, sin desafíos (como matar peces en un barril); the most frightening ride: la más aterradora atracción mecánica; roller coaster: montaña rusa; so well: nada bien; I looked: que yo parecía como; green around the gills: con náuseas o mareado/a [gills = agallas del pez];


I grew up in a small town where everybody knew about my life. There were times when I thought I was living in a fishbowl. So I moved to Washington, where things were different.

I grew up: me crié; about my life: sobre mi vida; there were times when: había momentos en los que; living in a fishbowl: viviendo sin privacidad (como en una pecera, a la vista de todos); I moved to: me mudé a;


Now I take the train to work every day during rush hour when many other people travel to their jobs. Sometimes the train is so crowded that we are packed in like sardines. Sardines are tiny fish that lie close to each other in cans.

during rush hour: durante las horas pico (de mayor concentración de gente); so crowded: tan repleto de gente; packed in like sardines: apretados como sardinas en lata; tiny fish: diminutos pescados; that lie close to each other: que se encuentran uno al lado del otro; in cans: en latas;


One man who works in my office is a cold fish. He is unfriendly and does not like to join us at office parties. Another man in my office likes to enjoy alcoholic drinks at parties. In fact, you might say he drinks like a fish. We need to help him stop drinking.

a cold fish: tipo desabrido, que no muestra sus sentimientos; unfriendly: antisocial, huraño; to join us at: participar con nosotros de las; likes to enjoy: le encanta disfrutar; you might say: podría decirse que; drinks like a fish: bebe como una esponja; stop drinking: dejar de beber;


Last week, my sister's car broke down as we were driving to a friend's marriage ceremony. "This is a fine kettle of fish," I said. "Now we will be late."

broke down: se averió, se descompuso; marriage ceremony: boda, ceremonia del matrimonio; this is a fine kettle of fish: en bonito lío nos hemos metido; esta es una situación embarazosa; we will be late: llegaremos tarde;


My sister attends a small college where she is one of the smartest students. She always wants to be a big fish in a small pond. Recently, my sister broke up with her boyfriend. I told her not to worry, she will find another one because there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

attends: asiste a; the smartest: los más listos, avispados; wants to be a big fish in a small pond: le gusta ser primera entre pequeños o humildes (que última entre los grandes o poderosos); broke up with: rompió relaciones con; there are plenty of other fish in the sea: el mundo está lleno de posibles novios (o novias).


This VOA Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Faith Lapidus.