April 28, 2008

#01-103: Jiminy Speak - Part I: Praise and Surprise

a cheerful cartoon bug (Disney's "Jiminy Cricket") tips his hat
Disney's Jiminy Cricket

Note: Let's learn some "hip" expressions of approval, and others of surprise (or even anger), from a little green cricket named Jiminy.

Get Ready: Do you have any expressions you often use when you see something you like? I say, "Cool!" or "Awesome!" How about you?

I used to show my students the Walt Disney movie Pinocchio. One of the key characters is Jiminy Cricket, who plays Pinocchio' conscience. The film was made in 1940, and Jiminy speaks like a "hipster," someone who enjoyed listening to jazz and being "cool."

Some of his expressions might be a little outdated and sound funny, but all of them are still being used today. I've selected a few for discussion.

Here are four expressions Jiminy used when praising Pinocchio's house:

  1. pretty as a picture: This is a commonly used simile. I guess it assumes that the picture is "pretty," not ugly. "The beach we went to was (as) pretty as a picture."

  2. Well, sir, you never saw such a place: Whenever we see something unusual - maybe because it's beautiful, or funny, or just strange, - we can use this expression. It could mean that the thing described is really, really good--or really, really bad. It's good for more than places, too. "My friend just got a dog. You never saw such a mutt!"

  3. the most fantastic clocks you ever laid your eyes on: To "lay eyes on" something is to see it; "(most) fantastic" can be changed for any superlative. So "the funniest face you ever laid eyes on," "the most exotic place I've ever laid eyes on," etc.

  4. This is my idea of comfort: Jiminy says this as he lies down; it indicates strong approval. Any noun can be used at the end, so, at a restaurant: "This is my idea of food"; in a club: "This is my idea of music"; etc.

Here are three expressions of surprise Jiminy used:

  1. As I live and breathe: A general expression of surprise, it's usually used when you see someone you haven't seen for a while: "As I live and breathe! My old English teacher!" To be honest, the expression is outdated, so it will sound humorous when you use it.

  2. Hey, what the...: The "..." indicates that another word might go here. Often, it's an impolite word (a nicer one might be, "What the hell?") But you can just leave the final word off, as Jiminy did, and still get the same effect. It often expresses not just surprise, but anger as well.

  3. Well, I'll be!: Like "What the..." this is actually an unfinished expression, and again the last word might be impolite. (A milder one: "I'll be damned.") It could, however, also be a more positive word, and can even be expanded by the use of a noun: "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle," or "Well, I'll be a ring-tailed cat," etc. The final words can be nonsense and still have the same impact: "Well, I'll be a ding-dang dandy!".

We'll look at more of Jiminy's expressions in Lesson #01-104.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiminy_Cricket

Practice: Use one of the above expressions in each of the following sentences, changing words to suit the situation. Be sure to use the correct form.

  1. I saw a comedy film yesterday, and couldn't stop laughing. It was the __________.
  2. . __________? Who stepped on my foot?!
  3. My friends got married yesterday wearing clown costumes. You __________.
  4. Bob's office mates had a surprise party for him. When they all jumped up and yelled "SURPRISE"! he said, "__________!"
  5. I can't believe the food was delivered so quickly! This __________.
  6. Mike saw his former classmate and said, "Well, my old school buddy! __________!"
  7. The scenery in the national park was __________.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 28, 2008

This lesson received 219 visits on my old site between March, 2012, and July, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice:
    1. c: It was the funniest movie you ever laid your eyes on;
    2. f: Hey, what the...?;
    3. b: You never saw such a wedding;
    4. g: Well, I'll be!;
    5. d: This is my idea of service (or "fast," or "delivery," or...;
    6. e: As I live and breathe!;
    7. a: pretty as a picture.