“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”, – English idioms with Alice

“Every adventure requires a first step”

My students are always keen on learning new expressions and idioms. However, recently they’ve been complaining that it’s difficult to find at least 2-3 different idioms in one place: you have to navigate through a lot of distinct websites, sooner or later you get distracted and forget what you were looking for and just go and have a nice cup of tea instead. Well, what do you know learning a new expression isn’t a piece of cake.

Nevertheless, I decided to make this process significantly easier by compiling a text where everyone could find a variety of useful, interesting and up to date words, phrases and idioms without jumping all over the net. The text is about L.Carroll’s tale “Alice in Wonderland”, it inspires me to be creative. Enjoy!

“My reality is just different from yours"

The older I get, the more sense does “Alice in Wonderland” make. When I was a kid, I saw it just as a flamboyant inexplicable blur that I couldn’t put my finger on no matter how many times I watched the doorknob at the bottom of the rabbit hole say: “Follow the directions and you will be directly directed into the right direction”. “Haha, yeah, when the hell freezes over”, I used to think. Afterwards, I would inevitably rewind the tape to “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty” or “The Little Mermaid” a totally different ball game. They seemed logical, clear and sensical to my little girl’s mind. Now, when I am a grown woman, it all turned upside down: those three make no sense whatsoever and “Alice” appears to make all the sense in the world. When did I realise that there is more to it than meets the eye? Probably when I started to “wonder if I've been changed in the night. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different”.

The only thing that is undoubtedly clear about the tale is that Lewis Carroll always knew that at some point we were going to see its true colours shining through. After all, he wrote a story for adults and disguised it in the most bizarre way for a reason. Only a silver-tongued devil like he could have gotten away with it so easily. What an eye-opener! Even though the story has always been within our reach, “Alice” didn't reach out to us. Only years and years later, after having discarded the story for good, we realise that we might have been too hasty. And then it comes upon us: Lewis Carroll is a genius! A bona fide genius. Without further ado, we get down to discerning the fine wisdom and intricate brilliance in seemingly preposterous sentences like: “I'm afraid I can't explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?” or “It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then”.

In a nutshell, the bottom line is:

"Dear Lewis,

Your insane “Alice in Wonderland” is our last shred of sanity in this tangled and twisted reality with no Cheshire Cat to tell us “which way we ought to go from here”.

You might have felt “entirely bonkers” yourself when you wrote it.

So what?

I'll tell you a secret, all the best people are."

“Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense”

keen on very interested, eager or wanting to do something very much: My students are always keen on learning new expressions and idioms.

well, what do you know something you say when you are surprised by a piece of information. This phrase is often used humorously to mean the opposite: Well, what do you know learning a new expression isn’t a piece of cake.

a piece of cake something that is very easy to do: Learning a new expression isn’t a piece of cake after all.

up to date modern, recent or containing the latest information: Useful, interesting and up to date words, phrases and idioms.

flamboyant – brightly coloured and easily noticed: I saw it just as a flamboyant inexplicable blur.

put a finger on – to discover the exact reason why a situation is a way it is, especially when something is wrong: I saw it just as a flamboyant inexplicable blur that I couldn’t put my finger on.

when the hell freezes over If you say that something will happen when hell freezes over, you mean that it will never happen: “Haha, yeah, when the hell freezes over”, — I used to think.

a totally different ball game – something completely different: “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty” or “The Little Mermaid” - a totally different ball game.

turn upside down – 1) to change smth completely; 2) put in disorder, mess up: Now, when I am a grown woman, it all turned upside down.

make no sense (whatsoever) – 1) not clear or easy to understand => someone who makes sense is reasonable or shows good judgment: David's last argument makes no sense whatsoever; Those three movies make no sense whatsoever

to make all the sense in the world – to be understandable, reasonable, practical, wise: “Alice” appears to make all the sense in the world.

more to it than meets the eye – it is more difficult to understand or involves more things than you thought at the beginning: When did I realise that there is more to it than meets the eye?

true colours – what something truly is rather than what it appears to be: Lewis Carroll always knew that at some point we were going to see its true colours shining through.

to disguise – to give a new appearance to a person or a thing, especially in order to hide its true form: Afterall, he wrote a story for adults and disguised it in the most bizarre way.

bizarre – very strange and unusual: Afterall, he wrote a story for adults and disguised it in the most bizarre way.

a silver-tongued devil – 1) an eloquent person; 2) a person who is very skillful at persuading others to believe him/her and to do what s/he says: Only a silver-tongued devil like he could have gotten away with it so easily.

to get away with something – 1) to succeed in avoiding punishment or responsibility for something; 2) to do smth successfully although it is not the best way of doing it: Only a silver-tongued devil like he could have gotten away with it so easily.

an eye-opener something that surprises you and teaches you new facts about life, people, etc.: What an eye-opener!

to be within your reach – 1) almost in the possession of someone; 2) close enough to be grasped: Even though the story has always been within our reach, “Alice” still couldn't reach out to us.

reach out to sb 1) to try to communicate with a person or a group of people, usually in order to help or involve them; 2) to offer help and support to someone: Even though the story has always been within our reach, “Alice” still couldn't reach out to us.

discard - get rid of (someone or something) as no longer useful or desirable: Only years and years later, after having discarded the story…

for good - forever; definitively: Only years and years later, after having discarded the story for good...

hasty - done with excessive speed or urgency; hurried: Only years and years later, after having discarded the story for good, we realise that we might have been too hasty.

comes upon someone - if a thought or feeling comes upon you, you have it: And then it comes upon us: Lewis Carroll is a genius!

bona fidereal, not false: A bona fide genius.

without further ado - without any fuss or delay; immediately: Without further ado, we get down to discerning the fine wisdom

get down to - begin to do or give serious attention to: We get down to discerning the fine wisdom.

to discern to see, recognize or understand something that is not clear: We get down to discerning the fine wisdom fine wisdom.

intricate having a lot of small parts or details that are arranged in a complicated way and are therefore difficult to understand, solve or produce: intricate brilliance.

preposterous very silly or stupid: preposterous sentences.

in a nutshell - in the fewest possible words: In a nutshell, the bottom line is...

the bottom line the most important fact in a situation: The bottom line is you’re a genius, Lewis.

tangled complicated and confused; chaotic: Your insane “Alice in Wonderland” is our last shred of sanity in this tangled and twisted reality.

bonkers mad, crazy: You might have felt “entirely bonkers” yourself when you were writing it.

“She generally gave herself very good advice, though she very seldom followed it”

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