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Be Careful When You 'Pin Your Hopes on Something!'

    2021-1-23

    And now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

    On this program we explore everyday words and expressions. We give examples on how to use them. And sometimes we give you the origin – where the expression comes from.

    Today we are going to talk about a very small, sharp and useful object: a pin. We use pins when we sew clothes. We also use pins in some art projects. And we use pins to attach things to our clothing. The sharp point easily goes right through most kinds of cloth.

    Pins are sharp and can hurt. Like when you get a pin prick for a blood test. Today we talk about an English expression that uses this sharp but useful object.
    Pins are sharp and can hurt. Like when you get a pin prick for a blood test. Today we talk about an English expression that uses this sharp but useful object.

    And pin gives us our expression for today: To pin your hopes on something.

    If you pin your hopes on something, you hope very much that it will help you succeed. You attach your hopes to it. When we pin our hopes on something, we really want it to happen.

    It can also mean to have expectations connected to the success or performance of a person or thing.

    For example, a friend of mine really wanted to attend a well-known college. But the tuition cost a lot and she did not have much money. So, she pinned her hopes on winning a scholarship.

    When the scholarship fell through, she was pretty upset. On the same day, she got more bad news. A very old and very distant uncle had died. It was sad news, but there was a silver lining. You might ask, “What good could come from that?” Well, this uncle left her a lot of money.

    Some word experts say the expression dates from the 1500s. It may have come from soldiers pinning their leader's insignia on their sleeves. This showed where they belonged and who they supported. By the 1800s, however, it took on its current meaning.

    Here is example. Listen to these two friends talk about saving money for the future.

    So, how much money have you saved so far. You know, for your retirement?

    None. But I play the lottery every day!

    I don’t think it’s a good life plan to pin all your hopes on winning the lottery.

    You’re right. I should have a Plan B. I know I will get on a game show and win a lot of money!

    I think you should talk to an expert.

    There are game show experts??

    No. I mean a financial planner.

    Oh. THAT kind of expert.

    Yeah, it is not a good idea to pin your financial hopes on a lottery. And in life it is probably not a good idea to pin all your hopes and dreams on other people. Instead, pin your hopes on you and what you can do to make things better.

    And that’s all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories.

    Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    origin –n. the rise or beginning from a source

    sew –v. to use a needle and thread to make or repair clothes or cloth objects

    tuition –n. money paid to a school for the right to study there

    scholarship –n. money that is given by a school or group to help pay for a student’s education

    fell through –v. (phrasal) to fail or stop in a sudden way

    distant –adj. not closely related

    silver lining –idiomatic expression something good that can be found in bad situations

    insignia –n. a sign that show a person is a member of a group (especially military) or of a certain rank