Phrase of the day: the straight and narrow

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I’m not a huge fan of Twitter, but one of the real pleasures of the service is Very British Problems, who – in their own words – tweet about how the inhabitants of these isles make “life awkward for ourselves, one rainy day at a time”! Their tweets are very dry, very funny observations on the peculiarities of British life and they’ve also put out a couple of books containing the best of the tweets. Yesterday I met an old friend for a pint and was reminded of one of my favourite tweets from the end of last year. You can read it below:

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If you cram something in, you do a lot of a particular activity in a short period of time, so if you go away to another city for a few days, you might try and cram in as much as you can while you’re there – visit as many places as you can and do as much as you can. Or if you’re a keen surfer, you might manage a day by the beach at the weekend and cram in as much surfing as you can in the time that you’re there. The idea that Brits spend the Christmas holidays eating and drinking too much in the deluded belief that they’ll stop all this behaviour in January, when they’ll make their New Year’s Resolutions and this time stick to them, isn’t far from the truth in many cases. It’s a well-known fact, for instance, that gym membership rockets at the start of each year, and yet most new members never manage to go more than once or twice!

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Anyway, as I was saying, I was reminded of all this when I met my friend Alan, as he is the exception to the rule outlined above! Yesterday was his first drink for a month as he has just completed Dry January. Like an increasing number of people every year, he’d decided not to drink any alcohol at all for the first month of the year, and by sticking to this, he’d raised over £400 for charity. We chatted about the experience and he commented that he’d often found it hard to stick to the straight and narrow. In other words, it had been difficult for him to always do the proper, honest and morally correct thing.

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The phrase the straight and narrow comes from the Bible, and it’s often used (even by non-religious people like myself!) to talk about the best way forward or the best path that could be taken, so for example when criminals are released from prison, they may try hard to stay on the straight and narrow; when a company has been through a rough time, the boss may be desperate to get things back on the straight and narrow; and couples who’ve been together for years may say that their partners help to keep them on the straight and narrow!

Personally, though, I don’t think I’ll be trying Dry January any time soon. The problem with the straight and narrow is that it’s so straight and so narrow!

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  • Do you ever find it hard to stay on the straight and narrow? In what way?
  • When was the last time you tried to cram a lot into a short period of time? What did you do?
  • Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? Have you managed to stick to them so far?
  • Do you know anyone who’s raised money for charity recently? How did they do it?
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3 Responses

  1. Наталья Иеговская-Шишкина says:

    Yes, I sometimes find it really hard, especially when I have to do something that requires a lot of mental efforts. I think the main reason for this is that people of my psychotype need someone else’s moral support to stay motivated.
    Though I’m not that energetic, I quite often try to cram a lot into a short period of time. The last time I did it was in December, when I was getting ready to present some grammar and vocabulary games for the teachers of our local teacher training department, whent on teaching at school and taking care of my family, all at the same time.
    There’s a nice tradition in our school that helps us to raise certain sums of money for charity. The senior students organise charity fairs at which pieces of handicraft made by junior pupils are sold. The money raised usually go to the severely ill children at our Central city hospital.
    Thanks for sharing such a lot of interesting phrases:)

    • Hugh Dellar says:

      Hi there.
      Thanks for taking the time to respond.

      Great to hear about your school and the wonderful charity work you do. I as doing a talk at a school here called EC yesterday and they also do amazing things – helping the homeless in central London, funding a school in rural Cambodia and so on. Hats off!

    • Lexicallab says:

      Hi there.
      Thanks for taking the time to respond.
      Great to hear about your school and the wonderful charity work you
      do. I as doing a talk at a school here called EC yesterday and they also do amazing things – helping the homeless in central London, funding a school in rural Cambodia and so on.

      Hats off!

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