The Bad Side of Roses

    14 October 2023

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

    On today's program, let's talk about flowers; but not just any flowers -- roses.

    Who doesn't love a beautiful, sweet-smelling rose? The ancient Greeks and Romans connected roses with Aphrodite and Venus, the goddess of love. In modern times, you give a red rose to your true love and a yellow one to your true friend.

    FILE - Paola Orsero of Alassio, Italy smells a rose at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show in London, Britain May 19, 2015. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
    FILE - Paola Orsero of Alassio, Italy smells a rose at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show in London, Britain May 19, 2015. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)

    But roses also have a bad side -- thorns.

    A thorn is the very sharp part of some woody plants, like blackberry bushes and roses. A prick from a thorn is painful and can cause you to bleed. So, a rose has both beauty and pain.

    That is where the saying every rose has its thorns comes from. It means that rarely is something completely good. Even a very pleasant thing, event, or situation can have a bad or unpleasant side. You also could say, there's no rose without a thorn.

    Actually, there are some kinds of roses without thorns. But let's not go down that garden path and just stay with our expression for today.

    Now, here is an example of how to use the expression, every rose has its thorns.

    Let's say you were on a game show and won a new car and a trip to Mexico. You are very excited but then find out that you must pay taxes on all the winnings. As you get ready to pay the big tax bill, you could say: "Well, every rose has its thorns."

    "Thorn" has another meaning. It can also be something or someone that bothers you. A thorn in your side is a small problem, not a serious one. After all, thorns cause pain, but they are not going to kill you.

    A friend who always borrows money from you could become a thorn in your side. She is annoying but not a serious problem. But what if her money troubles led to bigger problems for her?

    Let's say she cannot pay her bills, and she is in danger of losing her home. In that situation, we can say she has made for herself a bed of thorns. This expression describes a painful, difficult, or unpleasant situation.

    On the other hand, if she finds a way to make a lot of money, and she can pay off her debt, we can say she is now sleeping in a bed of roses. That is a really pleasant place to be.

    Sometimes though, we use a bed of roses in a negative form to describe an unpleasant situation, like in this example:

    A: Hey, how's everything going? A couple of months ago you told me you were struggling to pay your bills.

    B: I was totally broke. I had no money at all.

    A: That sounds really stressful.

    A: It was no bed of roses; I can tell you that! I can't tell you how happy I am to be out of debt!

    And that's all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories. We hope that your English studies have not become a thorn in your side. Until next time ... I'm Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    prick – v. to pierce slightly with a sharp point

    go down that garden path - idiom to cause (someone) to go, think, or proceed wrongly

    annoying – v. causing irritation

    debt – v. something owed

    negative – v. marked by denial, prohibition, or refusal

    broke – v. having no money