AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER: If you're looking for a break from all the U.S. election news, we've got the answer. We're back with "Slangman" David Burke to finish reading through a letter filled to the breaking point with examples of the many ways Americans use the word "break."
DAVID BURKE: "'I didn't mean to break his heart, but give me a break -- he's so rude! I know I should be breaking out the Champagne now, now that I broke it off. But I feel guilty and my voice breaks every time I talk about it. Do you think I did the right thing?'
"OK, 'I didn't mean to break his heart.' Now, again, in a relationship, hopefully you'll never hear this, and you'll never have to do it, to break someone's heart. It means to disappoint somebody so much that they become so, so terribly sad, to break someone's heart.
"And if someone says to you give me a break, now this is a really common expression. We hear it a lot. Give me a break. If somebody says something to you that's absolutely ridiculous, you say 'Give me a break.' It means stop talking such nonsense. Give me a break. That's impossible, that never happened. Give me a break. That is really common.
"I would say that anybody who comes to America is probably going to hear 'Give me a break' within the first hour. It's pretty popular. And if someone says that to you, that means they don't believe you.
"So then she goes on to say 'He's just so rude. I know I should be breaking out the champagne.' Champagne is such an event. We don't just say to 'take out' the champagne. We say to break out the champagne. That's really a big celebration. So on New Year's Eve everyone breaks out the Champagne.
"So she says 'I know I should be breaking out the Champagne, now that I broke it off.' So when you break it off, 'it' means the relationship. I broke off the relationship, I broke it off. And then she says 'But I'm feeling guilty and my voice breaks every time I talk about it.' So when your voice breaks, it starts to shake and you don't usually get to finish the last syllable of your word because your voice is breaking.
"And then she says, of course, 'Did I do the right thing?' Well, yes, definitely. As you broke it down, I would say, yes, you did the right thing in breaking it off or breaking up with this person.
"There are many other expressions using break. If you're sick, your fever can break, too, by the way. We hope your fever breaks. If you ever have a fever, you want the fever to break. It just means it comes down.
"To take a break, that's another thing you'll hear probably, certainly in the first hour of working in the United States. 'It's time for a break. It's break time.'"
AA: "Maybe not the first hour. After a few hours of hard work. Then."
DAVID BURKE: "Then you get to take the break. But don't people usually talk about 'Oh, I can't wait for the break. In another hour, break time soon.' [Laughter] See you just made me break into laughter with that comment.
"And breaking into a bank, to break in, breaking and entering -- that's something we hear sometimes on the news. To break in means to enter with force, to break in. So, you know, it's interesting, as I was going through the verb 'to break,' there must be probably thirty different ways that we use break every day. And what's interesting to an American is that we have no idea just how many times we use these expressions. But these phrasal verbs, we use all the time.
"And we use phrasal verbs that also have slang meanings within the verb itself, like with break, to break down, to be broke. So break is a really, really wonderful verb to attach all sorts of prepositions to and create our own new meanings, which again are two- and three-part phrasal verbs."
AA: "David, let me break in here for one second and ask you, the temperatures were so hot in L.A. recently, did you break out into a sweat."
DAVID BURKE: "Nice! Yes. I thought I had broken a fever. [Laughter]"
AA: David "Slangman" Burke in Los Angeles is the author of more than 60 language books. You can learn more popular slang and idioms that Americans use every day at Slangman.com.
And you can find the first part of our conversation along with previous Slangman segments on our website, voanews.com/wordmaster. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.