'don't look a gift horse in the mouth'

In the village of Vosava, Belarus, men prepare a horse & a sleigh khổng lồ celebrate the New Year on January 13 according to the Julian calendar, 2017.
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Now, the VOA Learning English program Words & Their Stories.

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On this show, we explore the origins and usage of comtháng expressions in American English. Sometimes we tie the show to lớn an event or special time of the year. This show could be tied khổng lồ any time of the year that features a holiday.

Holidays are a wonderful time of the year! They are a time when people slow down và take a break from their daily lives.

While holidays are celebrated in different ways, many have sầu something in comtháng -- gift-giving!

And who doesn"t like lớn get a present. Covered in pretty paper, maybe tied with a bow or ribbon, a wrapped gift is a surprise. It could be anything!

"Oh, you really shouldn"t have!" is a common response when someone hands you a gift. We say this even when we are thinking to lớn ourselves, “Yay! I got a present!”

Sometimes the gift is perfect.

"It"s just what I have always wanted!" you might say.

Sometimes it"s not.

We have all been there. You happily tear open a gift, wondering what is inside. But then you see it and you are ... disappointed. But you must not show it. And you absolutely must not criticize the gift and make comments about why you don"t lượt thích it.

In other words, don"t look a gift horse in the mouth.

This idiom is really old.

Way back in 1546, a man named John Heywood supposedly used this phrase in some Middle English text. ("No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth.”)

However, some word experts say the idiom is much older than that. However old it is, people must have used it when gifting a horse was a comtháng thing.

To understvà this idiom, we must underst& a bit about horse"s teeth. They grow over time. So, checking the length of the teeth is a way of knowing the horse"s age. Although I have sầu never given or received a horse, I"m guessing a young horse makes a better gift than an old one.

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However, checking the horse"s mouth would be a sign of mistrust towards the gift giver. This would be bad manners. And it might make the giver feel embarrassed or even angry!

The polite thing to vày is simply to say "thank you" and accept the gift horse graciously.

These days, horses are not comtháng gifts. But we commonly use this idiom.

Today "don’t (or never) look a gift horse in the mouth" means don"t find fault with something that has been received as a gift or favor. Don’t be ungrateful when you receive a present, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted. If you complain about a gift someone has given you or a favor someone has done for you, you could be accused of looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Besides gifts, you can use this idiom for other things, such as a favor.

Let"s say you ask a friend khổng lồ help cook a dish for a party you are throwing for a group of senior citizens in your neighborhood.

She comes khổng lồ the dinner, smiling from ear khổng lồ ear, & hands you the dish she has cooked. It is very burnt và it smells ... odd. But you don"t want lớn look a gift horse in the mouth. You thank her for her dish & the time she took to lớn make it. Then you put it on the table ... in the bachồng ... where people hopefully won’t see it.

So, next time you get a gift that is less than perfect, rethành viên that it is not nice khổng lồ look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, it’s the thought that counts. This means that it"s the thought of gift-giving and not the gift itself that is important.

And don’t worry. If you get something as a gift that you really don"t lượt thích, you can always pass it along lớn someone else who may actually like it.

In other words, you can always re-gift it!

And that"s the kết thúc of this Word và Their Stories!

I"m Anmãng cầu Matteo.

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Peace on Earth, goodwill to men is the greathử nghiệm gift of all.

Peace on Earth, goodwill lớn men is the greatest gift of all.

Have sầu you ever received a gift that you didn’t like? Use the expressions you heard here to lớn tell us about it in the Comments Section!

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. The tuy nhiên at the over is Kenny Rogers và Dolly Parton singing "The Greatest Gift of All."

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Words in This Story

bow n. a knot made with one or more loops ("Tie the ribbon in a bow.")

ribbon n. a flat or tubular narrow closely woven fabric (as of silk or rayon) used for trimmings or knitting : a narrow fabric used for tying packages

disappointed v. feeling sad, unhappy, or displeased because something was not as good as expected or because something you hoped for or expected did not happen

idiom n. an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

supposedly adv. claimed khổng lồ be true or real

manners n. behavior while with other people

embarrassed v. khổng lồ make (a person, group, government, etc.) look foolish in public