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(2014-09-08) Numbers and their stories - Number one

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

Today I will tell about expressions using numbers. Let us start with the number one. Numbers can be tricky. On the one hand, they are simply numbers. On the other hand, they have meanings. I for one use these expressions a lot.

Many people consider themselves number one, the most important person. They are always looking out for number one and taking care of number one. It is as if they are the one and only person on Earth. Some people however, are not so self-centered. My brother is such a person. It is true – no joke. I am not trying to pull a fast one on you.

First, you have to understand that my brother is one in a million. He is such a nice person. All his friends like him. They consider him one of the boys. Recently, my brother had a bad day at the office. It was just one of those days. Nothing went right. So he stopped at a local bar – a drinking place – after leaving work. My brother planned to have a glass of beer with his friends – a quick one – before he went home. But a quick one turned into one or two, and soon those became one too many.

As my brother was leaving, he ordered a last drink – one for the road. His friends became concerned. One by one, they asked him if he was able to drive home safely.

Now my brother is a wise and calm person. He is at one with himself. He recognizes when he has had too much alcohol to drink. So he accepted an offer for a ride home from a female friend.

At one time in the past, my brother had been in love with this woman. She is a great person – kind, thoughtful and intelligent – all good qualities rolled up into one. But sadly their relationship did not work. He always used to say “One of these days, I am going to marry this girl.” But that never happened.

For one thing, she did not love him as much as he loved her. It was just one of those things. The situation was regrettable and my brother had to accept it. But even now, he considers her the one that got away.

However, they are still friends. And because my brother had been kind to her, she felt that one good turn deserves another. He was good to her and she wanted to help him in return. So she drove him home.

If my brother had driven home from the bar that night, his number would have been up. Something bad would have happened. Thankfully he made it home safely. And, he and the woman are back to square one. They are back to where they started – being friends.


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

number would have been up


back to square one


It's just one of those things




Song: One of those things

the one that got away

The mate from a past relationship or friendship who, in the present reality, seems the ideal match, if it weren't for some force beyond your control, fate or otherwise, keeping you apart.

one good turn deserves another

said when you do a helpful or kind act for someone who has done something good for you

good turn: A good deed; a thoughtful or selfless act.

at one with himself



one of the boys

a man who has been socially accepted into a group of other men

one of these days

One of these days at an uncertain time, usually of the future, rarely of the past; sooner or later

one of those days

a bad day, full of problems

look out for number one

If you look out for number one, you take care of yourself and your interests, rather than those of other people.

这里对number one的解释比较好:

oneself, being considered foremost, as by an egoist (c.f. look out for number one)  

take care of number one

take care of oneself, look out for one's own interests

for one


People often say “for one” when they mean “for one thing”: “I really want to go to the movie. For one, Kevin Spacey is my favorite actor.” (One what?) The only time you should use “for one” by itself to give an example of something is when you have earlier mentioned a class to which the example belongs: “There are a lot of reasons I don’t want your old car. For one, there are squirrels living in the upholstery.” (One reason.)


used to say that you think your opinion or action is right, even if others do not:
The rest of you may disagree, but I, for one, think we should proceed with the plan.

pull a fast one


take unfair advantage by (rapid) action of some sort


one for the road


A final drink taken just before leaving on a journey.

to have a quick one

在前面的链接中解释one for the road的时候提到的:'a quick one' refers to a one taken in haste

to have a drink, usually an alcoholic drink, just before going somewhere:

a quick one



Now my brother is a wise and calm person. He is at one with himself. He recognizes when he has had too much alcohol to drink. So he accepted an offer for a ride home from a female friend.



翻译中用的是过去时态,说的是在那个时刻怎么样,实际上英文中用的都是is,用来描述人的状态。特别是He is at one with himself这一句,完全感觉不到有“冷静下来”的意思。




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