Take Time to 'Stop and Smell the Roses'

    23 May 2020

    And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

    Are you feeling overworked? Are you so concerned with moving up in your career that you feel stressed and unhappy? If so, maybe it is time for you to stop and smell the roses.

    People who need to stop and smell the roses should stop working so hard. They need to slow down and take time to appreciate the many things that life has to offer. Often this means enjoying the wonders of nature – looking at stars in the night sky, feeling the wind blowing your hair, smelling flowers growing near a busy street.

    But the flowers do not have to be roses.

    While this expression relates to roses, it can be anything rather small or even commonplace. These things may seem small but they can give us great joy.

    These children at Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island, near Seattle, Washington, are playing in a puddle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, 2010)
    These children at Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island, near Seattle, Washington, are playing in a puddle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, 2010)

    The thing that you stop to watch could be an old married couple holding hands, a child jumping in a puddle or a musician performing by your bus stop. These are the things -- simple but beautiful things -- that we often walk by in a hurry to get to our next appointment.

    Very ambitious, highly driven people often need to stop and smell the roses. We sometimes call this kind of person Type A. Such people often do not know when to sit back and stop working. So, they may have a hard time slowing down and doing something as simple as smelling flowers.

    But you know, maybe for a Type A person, the best thing in the world might be working. In that case, stopping to smell the roses may give them no joy at all. Maybe smelling flowers gives them an allergic reaction. Maybe the person has many mouths to feed at home and does not have time to stop and smell the roses.

    People and their situations are complex.

    Now, we turn to about another "rose" expression: Every rose has its thorns.

    Roses come in many colors and many are beautiful. Also, some of the flowers give off a wonderful smell. No one can argue with that. But most roses have something that is not very nice – thorns.

    Thorns stick out from the stem of the plant. They can cut into the skin and make you bleed. They hurt!

    Every rose has its thorns means that everything usually has a bad side – even beautiful things.

    This expression can also mean that a thorn does not take away from a rose's beauty. Are the thorns unpleasant when they cut us? Well, yes. But is the rose still beautiful and worthwhile to have? Again ... yes!

    We need to respect the beauty of roses and the thing that can hurt us – the thorn. Thorns help protect the plant from plant-eating animals. So, they serve a purpose.

    Maybe flowers are as complex as we are.

    Which expression best describes your feelings right now: to stop and smell the roses or every rose has its thorns?

    And that brings us to the end of this Words and Their Stories. Join us again next week as we explore more expressions in American English.

    Until next time ... I'm Anna Matteo!

    "Every rose has its thorns. Just like every night has its dawn. Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song. Every rose has its thorns."

    Anna Matteo wrote this for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

    The song at the end is the rock band Poison singing "Every Rose Has Its Thorns."


    Words in This Story

    stressed – adj. feeling very worried or anxious

    appreciate – v. to understand the worth or importance of something or someone : to admire and value something or someone

    puddle – n. a very small pool of usually dirty or muddy water

    ambitious – adj. having or controlled by ambition : having a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous

    driven – adj. very determined to succeed

    Type A – adj. relating to, characteristic of, having, or being a personality that is marked by impatience, aggressiveness, and competitiveness and that has been implicated by some studies as a factor increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease Type A – n. person with a Type A behavior

    allergic reaction – n. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance known as an allergen.