It's Time to 'See the Light'

    02 December 2023

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

    In many places, the holiday season in December can be a magical time. During this month, many cultures celebrate with festivals of lights. From Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Sydney, Australia; from Lyon, France to many cities in Japan -- lights are used to lift the spirits and to celebrate.

    So, today we will talk about a few expressions that use the word "light."

    Light Up festival in Ashburn, Virginia (Photo by Iacopo Luzi/VOA)
    Light Up festival in Ashburn, Virginia (Photo by Iacopo Luzi/VOA)

    The first is to be a beacon of light. A beacon of light gives hope and happiness to others. If you have ever been called a beacon of light, take it as a big compliment. A person who is a beacon of light makes things better for everyone around them. A beacon of light can be a person who helps guide others to safety, much like a lighthouse does for ships and boats.

    These people can even cast light on the darkness in our lives. When we cast light on something, we make it better. The expression can also mean that we explain something more fully or expose some unknown parts of an issue or problem. Some people like to say, "Let me cast a little light on the subject," before they explain something.

    After someone casts light on a complex or difficult issue, you might begin to see the light. If you see the light, you understand something. Often, you have realized a difficult truth. For example, years ago my friend refused to believe that her boyfriend had a drinking problem. But when he was arrested for drunk driving, she began to see the light. She got him help and now he has been alcohol-free for many years. So, he saw the light, too.

    This expression is very different from seeing the light of day --although they sound similar.

    When something sees the light of day, it is made available to others. For example, some people write stories and poems. But these works never see the light of day. They stay hidden in a desk drawer or notebook.

    To see the light of day can also mean to be born or to come into existence. Let's say you worked on a big project for many months or even years. You will probably feel very excited when it finally sees the light of day.

    Now, let's talk about "bad light."

    Bad lighting can make even the most beautiful person look bad in a picture or video. So, it is not surprising that seeing something in a bad light means to form a bad opinion of something or someone.

    Sometimes our habits and attitudes can be seen in a bad light. For example, a scientist was seen in a bad light by her coworkers. They said she was not a team player.

    Now, let's hear these some of these expressions used in a discussion between two friends.

    A: Wow, you look awful. Are you sick?

    B: No. I haven't slept in a week.

    A: Why? What's wrong?

    B: My roommate started playing the bag pipes. They are SO loud. And she plays late at night!

    A: The bag pipes?! Oh, that's too bad. Well, have you told her to stop?

    B: No. She's a really nice person. So, I don't want her to see me in a bad light. I mean, we all do annoying things, right?

    A: Yes. But, we all don't play the bag pipes late at night. Look, you need to do something. You need your sleep! You could hide her bag pipes. Hide them somewhere so they will never see the light of day again!

    B: You are so mean! But you are also right. I'm beginning to see the light. I'll say something later. But for now (yawn) can I crash on your couch. I'm beat!

    And that's the end of this Words and Their Stories. Until next time ... I'm Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    beacon –n. a very bright light such as a light on a lighthouse

    compliment –n. a comment on how good something is or an expression of praise

    expose –v. to show something that was unknown or covered up earlier

    habit –n. a regular behavior

    attitude –n. a way of feeling or thinking that affects a person's behavior

    crash –v. (informal idiom) to go to sleep after being very tired

    beat –adj. (informal) very tired