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Source: Voice of America


Now, the VOA Special English program "Words and their stories".


A person’s nose is important for breathing and smelling. The nose is also used in many popular expressions.

nose: nariz; for breathing and smelling: para respirar y oler;


Some people are able to lead other people by the nose. For example, if a wife leads her husband by the nose, she makes him do whatever she wants him to do.

lead other people by the nose: llevar a otros por la nariz (tener la habilidad de que otros hagan lo que uno quiere; controlarlos); whatever: cualquier cosa;


Some people are said to be hard-nosed. They will not change their opinions or positions on anything. If someone is hard-nosed, chances are he will never pay through the nose, or pay too much money, for an object or service.

hard-nosed: duros, inflexibles; on anything: por nada; chances are: es muy posible que; pay through the nose: pagar un ojo de la cara (pagar un dineral, un precio exorbitante);


It is always helpful when people keep their nose out of other people’s business. They do not interfere. The opposite of this is someone who noses around all the time. This kind of person is interested in other people’s private matters. He is considered nosy.

helpful: útil; keep their nose out of other people's business: meter las narices en los asuntos de otras personas (fisgonear); nose around: meter las narices (entrometerse); kind of: clase de, tipo de; matters: asuntos; nosy: curioso;


Someone who keeps his nose to the grindstone works very hard. This can help a worker keep his nose clean or stay out of trouble.

keep one's nose to the grindstone: realizar un trabajo monótono (no quitar la nariz de la piedra de afilar); keep one's nose clean: mantenerse alejado de los problemas;


One unusual expression is that is no skin off my nose. This means that a situation does not affect or concern me. We also say that sometimes a person cuts off his nose to spite his face. That is, he makes a situation worse for himself by doing something foolish because he is angry.

that is no skin off my nose: eso me tiene sin cuidado; does not concern me: no me concierne; cut off one's nose to spite one's face: no escupas al cielo porque te caerá en la cara (cortarse la nariz para hacerle daño a la cara); makes ... worse: empeora; foolish: tonto, torpe; angry: enfadado;


More problems can develop if a person looks down his nose at someone or something. The person acts like something is unimportant or worthless. This person might also turn up his nose at something that he considers not good enough. This person thinks he is better than everyone else. He has his nose in the air.

develop: surgir; looks down his nose: mira con desprecio; acts like: actúa como si; worthless: sin ningún valor; despreciable; might also: también podría; turn up one's nose at: mirar con despecio a (algo o alguien);  than: mejor que; to have one's nose in the air: actuar como un arrogante o engreído;


In school, some students thumb their nose at their teacher. They refuse to obey orders or do any work. Maybe these students do not know the correct answers. My mother always told me, if you study hard, the answers should be right under your nose or easily seen.

thumb one's nose at someone: despreciar a alguien; refuse to obey: se niegan a obedecer; right under your nose: delante de tus narices;


I think we have explained the nose expressions. What about ears? Well, I hope you are all ears or very interested in hearing more expressions. We might even put a bug in your ear or give you an idea about something. We also advise you to keep your ear to the ground. This means to be interested in what is happening around you and what people are thinking.

to be all ears: ser todo oídos (estar atento al audio); put a bug in your ear: despertar tu interés (poner un  bichito en tu oído); advise you: te aconsejamos; keep your ear to the ground: mantente siempre atento (mantén tu oído adherido al suelo); is happening around: está sucediendo a tu alrededor;


If you are a good person, you will lend an ear to your friends. You will listen to them when they have a problem they need to talk about. Our last expression is to play it by ear. This has two meanings. One is to play a song on a musical instrument by remembering the tune and not by reading the music. Play it by ear also means to decide what to do at the last minute instead of making detailed plans.

lend an ear to: poner atención a (prestar el oído a); they need to talk about: sobre el cual necesitan conversar; play it by ear: tocar de oído (una canción o improvisar algo a último momento sin haberse preparado).


This VOA Special English program, "Words and their stories", was written by Jill Moss. I’m Faith Lapidus.