For today's expression, I want you to pretend you're trying to walk around, but you have a fifty-pound bag of sand resting on your shoulders. Ouch! That's not fun: it's going to be hard to walk around, hard to keep your balance, and very uncomfortable.
That's the image I want you to have in mind when we talk about the expression, "weight on your shoulders." To have weight on your shoulders is to be dealing with a stressful situation. Conversely, to take weight off your shoulders—or, more commonly, to take weight off the shoulders of another person, is to relieve stress. To make a stressful situation less bad.
Businesses with a physical presence have a stressful situation: they need to follow all the COVID social distancing rules. How many people can be in at a time? Is everyone wearing masks? What time do we have to close? How far apart do the tables have to be? What are the rules for fitting rooms in clothing shops? Are we disinfecting surfaces enough? What a weight on their shoulders. Is there any way to take some of that weight off their shoulders? Some business owners think a vaccine passport system would take some of the weight off their shoulders. Instead of having to follow ten rules, they would just have to follow one: show your vaccine passport at the door. That wouldn’t solve all the world's problems, but it would certainly take a lot of weight off the shoulders of your local bar or clothing shop.
Imagine your colleague calls you at 9:30 in the morning and says, "I'm so sorry! I slept through this morning's team meeting. I don't know what happened to me." How might you respond? "That's okay. I know you have a lot of weight on your shoulders." That means you understand that she has a lot of stress, she's dealing with a lot. It's understandable that she might miss a meeting with all that weight on her shoulders.
If you're working with colleagues and you notice one team member has a lot of work—more work and stress than everyone else—you might offer to take some weight off his shoulders. How would you take some weight off his shoulders? You might offer to take some of the work yourself.
Now imagine a difficult situation is resolved. You might say, "That is such a weight off my shoulders." Have you ever had to sell a house? I never have. But I hear it's stressful. When you're selling a house, you have to make sure everything is clean all the time. You have to make sure there are no problems with the roof, windows, appliances or anything. You're worried because you want to get a good price. And living with the uncertainty is stressful. But on the day the buyer signs on the dotted line—the day you actually sell the house—wow! What a weight off your shoulders. That's what you would say: "I'm so glad the house sold. It's such a weight off my shoulders." That means, you finally get some relief from a stressful situation.
Parents in Chicago had a weight taken off their shoulders last month: their kids are finally starting to go back to school. After having to juggle child care and remote learning—not to mention managing their own jobs—parents in Chicago are finally sending their kids back to school, at least a few days a week. I imagine that is quite a weight off their shoulders.
JR's song of the week
Today's song of the week is "Lifted Up (1985)" by Passion Pit. Contrary to the title, it didn't come out in 1985; it came out in 2015. The lyrics say "1985 was a good year"…the songwriter's wife was born in that year. It's kind of an indie electronic song. Nice choice, it's got an upbeat sound to it. "Lifted Up (1985)" by Passion Pit.
See you next time!
That's all today. You made it to the end of another Plain English lesson, what a weight off your shoulders! Whew! No more Plain English for another three or four days, not until Monday, at least.
Now the weight's on my shoulders: I need to figure out what to talk about next week. That's a weight I'll carry any time. I always like thinking up new topics.
Well if you like the topics, then you can get even more out of each lesson as a Plain English Plus+ member. We have community forums where we can all share opinions and thoughts about the lessons. And Plus+ members also have access to personalized feedback on what they're learning.
So today, right below the transcript, is a section just for Plus+ members to practice "weight on your shoulders" and I read every example and give personal feedback. It's a popular new feature we introduced a few weeks back, and a lot of members are really taking advantage of that. If you've ever wanted to practice the expressions, but had nobody to check your work—then consider joining us at Plain English Plus+. To join, just visit PlainEnglish.com/Plus .