Phrase of the day: forewarned is forearmed

I’ve spent the last few days working with some wonderful Russian teachers in the city of Saratov, which is on the mighty Volga River, about 850 kilometres south-east of Moscow. The day before I was due to fly out last week, I exchanged a flurry of emails with Tatyana, who had been instrumental in organising the whole event. In one, she told me that there wouldn’t be a beamer in one of the rooms I’d be using on the first day. Now, this meant I wouldn’t be able to use the Powerpoint I’d been planning to use that day, but having been warned about this potential problem in advance, I was able to come up with a different plan and work round the problem. In response to her initial email that broke the bad news to me, I replied: No worries. Thanks for the heads-up. (= thank you for the advance warning). I’m sure I’ll be able to live without one. Forewarned is forearmed.

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This is a phrase that’s often used when you want to say that knowing about something that could be bad before it happens allows you to prepare for it; it gives you time to think of different ways of approaching things.The phrase could possibly be military in origin as it suggests that if you have advance warning of something that your enemy is planning, you can arm yourself – get weapons ready and prepare for battle. Nowadays, though, we use the phrase simply to mean it’s good to know about potential problems before they happen.

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As such, when someone tells you they’re reading 1984 by George Orwell, they might add that forewarned is forearmed – to suggest that the novel’s depiction of life under totalitarian rule bears a disturbing resemblance to the world many of us are living in today, and that if we have a clear idea of the worst that can happen, we may be better able to fight back! In the same way, public service adverts aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of climate change and encouraging senior citizens to avoid extreme heat or cold may state in their advertisements that forewarned is forearmed, meaning that now everyone knows about these risks, they can take action to reduce them.

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In the end, by the way, Tatyana managed to dig up a beamer from somewhere and I used the Powerpoint I’d originally prepared for the session! The important thing is, though, that I had a decent plan B up my sleeve just in case!

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  • Can you think of a time when you were glad to have been forewarned? How did it help you prepare?
  • Can you think of three different situations in which being forewarned would allow you to be forearmed?
  • Have you ever read 1984? What did you think of it? Do you think the world it depicts bears any resemblance to our world?
  • Can you think of any public service advertising campaigns? What were they trying to raise awareness of? Do you think they were effective?
  • Are you good at coming up with decent plan Bs and working round problems?
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2 Responses

  1. Ovsanna Storozhik-Arakelyan says:

    Being a teacher I always have to be good at using Plan B during my lessons))) e.g. there came only three students to the lesson instead of 12, or you were planning to use a smart board but you come to the office and you find out it’s out of order)))

    As for being forewarned I always check up the weather forecast, especially if I need to go to another city…I’d better be forearmed)))

    • Lexicallab says:

      Hi Ovsanna –
      Yeah, teachers always need a plan B – and always need to be ready to implement it, if they have to. We are get very good at making on-the-spot decisions and changing things accordingly.

      As for checking the weather, I’m off to Norilsk at the end of the week, and having just checked the weather there, I see I’ll need a decent coat. Forewarned is forearmed!

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