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Some People's Names Have Special Meanings in American Expressions


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Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

A person's name is very important. Some names also have special meanings in popular American expressions.  To better understand what I mean, sit back and listen.  You might even want to get a cup of Joe, I mean, a cup of coffee.

One day, an average Joe was walking down the street.  An average Joe is a common person – either male or female.  This average Joe was lost.  He did not know Jack about where he was going.  By this, I mean he did not know anything about where to find things in the city.

So average Joe asked John Q. Public for directions to the nearest bank.  John Q. Public is also a common person – male or female.

"Jeez Louise," said John Q. Public.  This is an expression of surprise.  "Jeez Louise, don't you know that all banks are closed today?  It is Saturday."

"For Pete's sake," said average Joe.  This is also an expression used to show a feeling like surprise or disappointment.

"For Pete's sake.  I do not believe you," said average Joe.  He was being a doubting Thomas, someone who does not believe anything he is told.

At that moment, Joe Blow was walking down the street with a woman.  Joe Blow is also an expression for a common man. Now this Joe Blow was NOT walking next to a plain Jane.  A plain Jane is a woman who is neither ugly nor pretty.  She is simply plain.  No, the woman with Joe Blow was a real Sheila – a beautiful woman.  

Average Joe asked the woman if all banks were closed on Saturday.  "No way, Jose," she answered.  This is a way of saying "no."  "No way, Jose.  Many banks are open on Saturdays."

Average Joe did not know either of these two people from Adam.  That is, he did not know them at all.  But he followed their directions to the nearest bank. 

When he arrived, he walked to the desk of the chief bank employee.  Now this man was a true Jack of all trades.  He knew how to do everything.

"I am here to withdraw some money so I can pay my taxes to Uncle Sam," said average Joe.  Uncle Sam represents the United States government.  The banker produced some papers and told average Joe to sign his John Hancock at the bottom.  A John Hancock is a person's signed name – a signature.  Historically, John Hancock was one of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence.  Hancock had a beautiful signature and signed his name larger than all the others.

As average Joe left the bank he began to sing.  But sadly, average Joe was not a good singer.  He was a Johnny One Note.  He could only sing one note.


This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Jill Moss.  I'm Faith Lapidus.


Words and Their Stories in VOA Special English
www.manythings.org/voa/words

Source: What Does the Average Joe Think?
TEXT = http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/archive/2008-10/2008-10-25-voa2.cfm?renderforprint=1
MP3 = http://www.voanews.com/mediaassets/specialenglish/2008_10/Audio/mp3/voa-se-ws-names-25oct08.mp3.Mp3