09 May 2020
And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.
When the weather outdoors gets warmer, flowers appear and birds become more active. Spring has sprung!
Sometimes these changes in nature seem to happen overnight. You go to bed, and the next morning you awake to a new world – one that is greener and more colorful.
The same can be said for expressions that use the word "spring." English speakers use them to describe things that happen quickly and without much warning.
Now, one of the fastest growing things in nature is the mushroom. One day mushrooms are nowhere to be found and the next day there is a whole crop of them!
So, when something happens suddenly and often over a large area, we can say it springs up like mushrooms.
Here is one way to use this expression. After videos about making cupcakes became popular online, stores specializing in cupcakes "sprang up like mushrooms" all over town.
Now, some people like mushrooms. And some people don't. Not to worry! You can drop the "mushroom" and simply say, "spring up." For example, when the large company set up shop in the small town, new houses sprang up seemingly overnight.
We often use the term "to spring" to describe anything that happens without warning. So, if I spring something on you, I tell you with no warning.
Many people do not like to have important news sprung on them. They want time to prepare themselves. So, we sometimes use the expression "to spring" as a warning. For example, "You can't just spring something like that on me! We need to talk about it first!"
If someone springs big news on you without warning, the news comes to you from out of the blue. When people break news to you this way, it can leave you speechless at first.
If you have an important announcement or big news, you need to prepare the person. You might say something like, "I have to tell you something" or, "Do you have a minute?" or simply, "I have news!" and then share the information. This is a way of breaking big news with a warning.
Recently, a good friend of mine told me she was getting married. But she did not even tell me that she was in a relationship! She must have realized how surprised I was. So, she apologized for springing her happy news on me out of the blue like that.
Now, her happy news is private. So, she can share it with others or not share it, however she likes. But what if the news involves other people? That is when springing it on someone is a bit more complex.
Let's say two people, Tara and Sam, own a business together. The company is called Tara & Sam's Roof Repair. They had been building their company for a few years and were finally starting to make a profit. Then one day, Tara sprang big news on Sam. She was moving to Alaska ... in a week! She wanted out of the business.
Sam was not prepared for any of this. A few weeks earlier, they had made plans for growing their client base. He asked, "A week? How can you spring this news on me? We are supposed to be partners! I've spent time away from my family to build this business!"
Sam was shocked and angry. But then he saw an opportunity. He asked his son to join the company. They renamed it Sam & Son's Roof Repair and soon their business was doing even better than before. And they were able to spend more time together.
And that brings us to the end of this Words and Their Stories.
The next time you have big news to share, remember not to spring it on someone -- well, unless you want them to be shocked. In that case ... spring away!
Until next time, I'm Anna Matteo!
Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. ------George Grow edited it.
Words in This Story
cupcake – n. a small cake baked in a cup-like mold
set up shop – phrase establish a business
out of the blue – phrase without warning; unexpectedly.
break – v. to make known : to tell
roof – n. the cover of a building
client base – n. a company's primary source of business and revenue
opportunity – n. a good chance for advancement or progress