Sunday, 12 August 2012


It's the last day of the London Olympics and everyone is talking about athlete Usain Bolt.   But do you know the following expressions which use the word bolt?

First of all, this is what we normally mean by a bolt:


A bolt can also be a flash of lightning and this is what Usain Bolt's famous pose refers to.  We usually say bolt of lightning to make the meaning clear.  We also say thunderbolt when lightning is accompanied by the noise of thunder.


A bolt from [or out of] the blue is a sudden, negative, shock or surprise.

If someone sits bolt upright, they are sitting in a very straight, rigid position.

If someone bolts their food down, they eat very fast and inelegantly.

If someone tells you that you should get down to the nuts and bolts of something, they mean that you should stop wasting timne and examine the important details of a situation or a thing.

The verb to bolt means to move away very suddenly and quickly [like our athlete!].

If you close the stable door after the horse has bolted, you are trying to solve a problem when it is already too late.


In the famous novel The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, there is a character whose nickname is "The Bolter" because she is always running away from one man in order to start a relationship with another!

In my town of Modica in Sicily, everyone is talking about another athlete as well:  He is Giorgio Avola, a Modican fencer who was in the Italian male fencing team that won a gold medal in London.


Fencing is the sport of fighting with swords.  A fence is a barrier that people put around their property to enclose and protect it and the sport derives its English name from the concept of defending or protecting something.


If you fence something off, you build an enclosure around it.

If you sit on the fence, you are being indecisive about something.

If you mend your fences, you are trying to end a disagreement or argument. [This expression is often used in international politics.]

In British slang, a fence is someone who deliberately and illegally buys stolen property in order to sell it again later.

If you fence someone in, you are limiting them in some way so that they don't feel free to act as they wish.

Finally, do you agree with this proverb?

"Good fences make good neighbours."

Now try to complete these sentences with the right expression.  You will need to put the verbs into the correct tenses, too. The answers are below:

1.  I feel _________  by my parents' rule that I must get home before midnight.

2.  Losing my job was a real shock.  It was a ________________ .

3.  "I wish I'd studied harder for the exam!"
     "That's like ________________________ !"

4.  The USA is trying to _________________  with China on this issue.

5.  He ____ his lunch ____  because he was in a hurry.

6.  Some jewellery was stolen from my house but I expect the thieves have sold it to a _____ by now.

7.  She heard a noise during the night and _________________ in bed.

8.  The police have _______________  the crime scene.

9.  Make your mind up! Stop ___________________ !

10. Last night there was thunder and I also saw a ________________ .

To see the answers, highlight the space below:

1. fenced in  2. a bolt from the blue / out of the blue  3. closing the stable door after the horse has bolted
4.  mend its fences  5.  bolted.... down  6.  fence  7.  sat bolt upright  8.  fenced off  9.  sitting on the fence
10.  bolt of lightning.

Now here's a song!

Ray Conniff Singers - Don't Fence Me In

Chorus lyrics

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in.

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