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Sheep in the English Language!

Hi everyone!

I usually listen to music in the morning on my way to work but this morning I left my headphones at home (don’t you hate it when that happens?!) However, it made me realise how much I’m missing when I can’t hear other people’s conversations – I know, I know, you think I’m a horrible person now for eavesdropping (listening to other people’s private conversations) but when someone is talking very loudly on a crowded train, it’s impossible not to listen!

This morning I overheard a funny conversation. It went something like this:

Boy: “You look really nice today. What’s different?”
Girl: “Ummm nothing. Don’t I always look nice?”
Boy: “Yeah of course. Haha. Hey, why are you looking so sheepish?”
Girl: “You think I look like a SHEEP! That’s so rude!! I thought you said I look nice!”
Boy: “What are you talking about? OHHH, sheepish doesn’t mean you look like a sheep! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA”
Girl: “Oh, what does it mean?”
Boy: “Haha… It means…haha…that you look embarrassed or ashamed about something.”
Girl: “Oh” (now the girl looked really sheepish!)
Boy: “So what is it, why do you look sheepish?”
Girl: “I haven’t washed my hair for a week. I was really embarrassed when you said I looked nice!”

It was really difficult for me not to laugh when I heard this conversation! I’m definitely going to leave my headphones at home more often now!

There are loads of expressions using ‘sheep’ in English. For example, if someone calls you a “sheep”, it’s unlikely they mean that you are a fluffy white animal; they are probably trying to tell you to stop copying someone else. It is not a very nice way of saying that you follow someone around and do everything they do. (“I’m getting really annoyed with Julie – I went to Starbucks yesterday and she followed me there, then I got a haircut and she had hers cut in the same style the following week and then she bought the same shoes as me! She’s such a sheep!”)

Have you heard of the expression ‘counting sheep’? If you can’t get to sleep, some people suggest counting sheep. This literally means picturing sheep jumping over a fence in your mind over and over again and counting them until you fall asleep. Have you ever tried this and did it work? Do you have a similar expression in your language?

Some other expressions with ‘sheep’ are:

  1. Black sheep of the family
    Meaning: The worst person in the family.

    Example: “Tom is the black sheep of our family. He never studies and keeps failing all his exams. He will never be a doctor like me and my sister.”
  2. Separate the sheep from the goats
    Meaning: To separate people or things of high quality from those of lower quality.

    Example: “Yesterday I looked through all the job application forms and separated the sheep from the goats.”
  3. Wolf in sheep’s clothing
    Meaning: Someone who pretends to be good but is actually very bad.

    Example: “I really thought that my new boss was kind and honest but he turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We just found out he was stealing from the company!”
  4. I might as well be hanged/hung for a sheep as a lamb
    Meaning: You know you will be punished for doing something bad so you decide to do something even worse because you know the punishment will not be worse.

    Example: “I’m going to buy the expensive motorbike instead of the cheaper one. My wife will be so angry with me for spending so much money, so I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb!”
  5. Make sheep’s eyes at somebody (old-fashioned)
    Meaning: To look shyly and lovingly at someone.
    Example: “Stop making sheep’s eyes at Paul and just go and tell him that you like him!”

One last thing about sheep. Have you seen this amazing advert where a group of Welsh sheep farmers managed to herd their sheep into incredible animated shapes? If not, you really have to see it!


Have fun with English

Can you complete the idioms below with the correct animal? Ask your English teacher for the meanings or check in a dictionary.

1.    “Stop all your ‘…………. business’ and do some work!”
        a. monkey     b. dog     c. rabbit     d. hyena

2.   “Come on, hold the spider! Don’t be such a ‘scaredy-……….’”
        a. mouse     b. lamb     c. cat     d. frog

3.    “She’s definitely pregnant. I heard it ‘straight from the ………… mouth’”
        a. monkey’s     b. sheep’s     c. dog’s     d. horse’s

4.    “I decided to move to the countryside to get away from the ‘……… race’ in the city.”
        a. shark     b. rat     c. cat     d. fish

5.    “’A little ……….. told me’ that you are writing a book.”
        a. bird     b. mouse     c. fish     d. pig

Last week’s answers

Tea quiz

1. In which century did tea replace beer and gin as Britain’s most popular drink?  c. 18th century
2. What percentage of people have sugar with their tea in Britain?  b. 30%
3. What is the most popular type of tea in the world?  a. black tea
4. Why were tea bags invented in 1953?  a. To send out small samples of tea
5. On average, how many cups of tea do we drink every day in the UK?  d. 165 million

Have a good week everyone!!

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