To come in handy

If something "comes in handy," it is especially useful.

Today's story: Premium economy
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To come in handy

Today’s expression is “to come in handy.” In the first part of today’s episode, you heard that the premium economy seats include a footrest. I thought it was a gimmick. I thought, I don’t need a footrest to rest my feet. But when I wanted to fall asleep, the footrest came in handy. I didn’t think it would come in handy—I didn’t think it would be useful—but it did.

When you use “to come in handy,” you’re typically talking about something useful, but not essential. For example, I would not say that my microphone comes in handy for recording this program. No. The microphone is essential. It’s a basic, essential part of this activity. But I found a stand to hold my tablet, which includes the transcript. That shows the transcript at eye level, and I can use my hands to control the sound effects and gesticulate as I’m talking. The stand for my tablet comes in handy for recording the program.

One of the most popular gifts at my company’s Christmas party was a Yeti thermos. In fact, I gave JR a Yeti thermos for Christmas, since I was so inspired by that gift. These mugs can either keep hot beverages hot or cold beverages cold. They come in handy when you’re on a long car trip. They can come in handy on a trip to the beach, to keep your iced tea cold. That’s when they’re most useful. They come in handy on those occasions because they’re most useful then.

I have an app on my phone from VidaLingua, and it’s a great Spanish-English dictionary. I don’t use it a whole lot, but it comes in handy when I need to use a technical word and I just forget what it is. The dictionary comes in handy then.

You might have noticed that you always specify a time or a circumstance that applies to “come in handy.” Let me give you an example. This new hot plate comes in handy. [Pause.] Yeah? You’re waiting. It comes in handy…when? You need to say when and why. This new hot plate comes in handy when I have guests over and I need to warm something up, but I don’t have any more space in the oven. Oh, I see. That’s when that hot plate is useful.

I don’t love cooking with frozen vegetables. Especially broccoli. I like my broccoli fresh. But I have started keeping some frozen peas and carrots in my freezer. It comes in handy when I have a main course, like a piece of chicken, but no fresh veggies. See? You state what is useful, and you specify when and why it’s useful.

JR’s song of the week

For the song of the week, JR has selected “Unchained Melody,” most famously by the Righteous Brothers. The most popular version was released in 1965, an old, old song. But it was written ten years earlier for a little-known movie called, simply, “Unchained,” which is how it got its name. It wasn’t until the Righteous Brothers version, though, that it became a standard in jukeboxes and on the radio. The song became so popular that over 670 artists have recorded a version of this song.

It’s funny how it started. The producers of the movie asked a music writer Alex North to write the music for the song, and he asked another writer Hy Zaret to write the lyrics. Originally, Zaret said he couldn’t write the lyrics to that song; he was too busy painting his house. But eventually, Alex North convinced him to write the lyrics, and it became one of the most famous songs of its time.

Could you imagine, you’re up on a ladder, painting your house, and someone asks you to write the lyrics to the song in a movie. And you say, no, I’m too busy painting to write the music for movie.


Okay, on that note, we will close out today’s program; thanks again for joining us. If you are painting your house, you can listen to Plain English as you do it. So I don’t want any of you to say, I’m too busy to listen because I’m painting my house. Just bring a Bluetooth speaker out there, maybe cover it with a sheet or a towel, and turn the volume up.

Thanks for sticking with us in 2020. I can’t believe we’re already into the 2020s. Remember when that seemed so far away? Me too. We’ll be back with another episode on Thursday. See you all then!

If you can understand this program, then you might be ready to speed things up a little, with Plain English Plus+. As a member of Plain English Plus+, you can listen to a fast version of this very program. A lot of members listen to both—they listen to the slow version first to understand the topic; then they listen to the fast version to see how it sounds at full speed. I know some of you speed up this program on your podcast player, but if you’re really serious about improving your listening, there’s no substitute for the full-speed version. And of course, you have the transcript available—and the Plus+ transcripts include our instant translations into seven languages. So what are you waiting for? If you’d like to speed things up, come join us at PlainEnglish.com/Plus.

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Story: Premium economy