On this program, we explore everyday expressions that we use in conversation. Americans often use the first saying we will talk about today. But many people likely do not know where it comes from.
To keep something at bay means being unable to move closer while attacking or moving toward someone or something. If you keep something at bay, you appear to be in control of the situation. English speakers say either "keep at bay" or "hold at bay."
To keep something at bay意思是在袭击或向某人或某物移动时无法再继续靠近。如果说You keep something at bay，意思是你好像控制了局面。英语人士要么说keep at bay，要么说hold at bay。
For example, when protecting their village, the villagers kept the armed attackers at bay through the night. The villagers did not let them come closer.
However, bad people can also hold something at bay. The armed robber held police at bay for about 9 hours before they caught him. So, the robber did not let police get anywhere near him. They didn't catch him until 9 hours later.
In these examples, the things being kept at bay -- the attackers and the police -- are real. You can physically touch them. But you can also use this expression about more intangible things -- ones you can't see or touch.
For example, if you move to a new city you can keep loneliness at bay by joining a club, playing a group sport or taking a class. You can also invite your old friends to come and explore your new city with you. All these things will keep loneliness away from you, or at bay.
You can keep illness at bay by eating healthy food and getting enough sleep and exercise. And I can hold my desire for chocolate at bay by not buying it and keeping it in my house!
English learners and native speakers alike may think the term "at bay" has to do with water, perhaps involving a ship unable to reach the shore. After all, one of the many definitions of "bay" is a large area of water that is partly surrounded by land.
But language experts will stop them right there. To find out the origin of this expression, let's talk about another definition of "bay." It also means to bark with long, drawn-out sounds, as when a dog cries out at the moon.
Those hounds are baying.
In the 14th century, barking hounds were said to be "at bay." When dogs are kept at bay, they are kept from attacking. The Phrase Finder website says the first recorded usage of "at bay" is in an English story from the year 1330.
在十四世纪，吠叫的猎犬被称之为at bay。当狗在吠叫时，它们就无法攻击。Phrase Finder网站说，at bay首次有记录的用法是在1330年的一个英文故事中。
Back to modern times, "at bay" is a common expression. You can use it with friends and strangers.
Now, let's hear this expression used at work. Let's say you are the head of a small company that makes toys. Part of your job is to keep open lines of communication between the owner and company employees. Well, when the owner suddenly makes changes to work rules, the employees get angry. And you hear about it. The owner's solution is to throw a party for the employees. You tell her that a party will not keep their anger at bay. The only thing that will improve the situation is fair treatment.
Now, there are other ways to keep something from getting worse. You can also ward off something or stave off something.
还有其它办法可以防止事态恶化。你也可以避开（ward off）或阻止（stave off）某些事情。
To ward off a danger or illness means to prevent it from affecting you or harming you. We often use "ward off" when talking about mental health, disease or, strangely enough, evil spirits.
避开（To ward off）危险或疾病意思是防止它们影响或伤害到你。我们经常在讨论精神健康、疾病或是妖魔鬼怪时用到ward off。
For example, she knew that, for her, the best way to ward off a bad mood was to see a happy movie. You eat chicken soup to ward off the common cold. And some people say that you can use garlic to ward off vampires and keep them from sucking your blood.
Staving off something sounds much more official. We use "stave off" in fairly serious situations, such as ship-wrecked survivors who staved off starvation by eating coconuts for eight months. Here's another example, "The single mother staved off poverty by working three jobs."
Staving off something听上去更为正式。我们在相当严重的情况下使用stave off，例如失事船只上的幸存者吃了八个月的椰子来摆脱饥饿。以下是另一个例子，这名单亲母亲通过打三份工来摆脱贫困。
Now, what if you simply want to keep your distance from a person. You don't want to be near them. In this case, you wouldn't use "ward off" or "stave off" or even "at bay." What can you use? Well, we have a great expression for keeping distance.
如果你只是简单地想要和某人保持距离该怎么办呢？你不想靠近他们。在这种情况下，你不会使用ward off或stave off。你可以用什么来表示保持距离呢？我们有一种很棒的表达。
To keep someone at arm's length means you don't want to be close to that person. Imagine that you are holding your arm straight out in front of you. A person can't get close. And that's the point.
To keep someone at arm's length（和某人保持一定距离）意思是你不喜欢接近那个人。想像一下你把手臂直接伸到你前面，别人就无法靠近。这就是关键所在。
Let's say, you meet someone. You don't know her very well, but she seems nice -- seems is the important word here. Slowly over time, you learn more about the woman. And you don't like what you see. She is strange and not in a good way. You catch her in some lies. And she appears to be a trouble-maker. So, you decide to keep her at arm's length. When you don't answer her calls and ignore her emails, she will know you are keeping her at arm's length.
In this case, you could say you kept her friendship at bay. But you were never friends in the first place. So it sounds more natural to say that you kept her at arm's length.
在这种情况下，你可以说，你疏远了她。但是你们从来不是朋友。所以用kept her at arm's length这种说法听上去更为自然。
We here at Learning English have no desire to keep you at bay or at arm's length. And we certainly don't want to ward or stave you off! You're our audience Without you, well, we wouldn't be here!
I'm Bryan Lynn.
And I'm Anna Matteo.