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WORDS AND THEIR STORIES - 'Spoon-feeding' Not Just for Babies

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Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.

Today, we talk about eating and comfort food – those delicious favorites that make you feel good inside. Comfort foods provide a sense of well-being and are usually the foods that you enjoyed as a child.

Most cultures have one type of comfort food -- soup! Whether hot or cold, meat or vegetable, thick or thin, homemade soup is one of those dishes that can make you feel comforted and happy.

Pho Bo, Beef Noodle Soup is seen in this Sunday, May 18, 2008 photo. Packed with noodles, beef and vegetables this Pho Bo, Beef Noodle Soup, is thought to have it's origins in northern Vietnam. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
Pho Bo, Beef Noodle Soup is seen in this Sunday, May 18, 2008 photo. Packed with noodles, beef and vegetables this Pho Bo, Beef Noodle Soup, is thought to have it's origins in northern Vietnam. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

In most cases, you need a spoon to eat soup. Eating it with a knife and fork would not work as well. In fact, when a way of doing something does not work, we can say it is like eating soup with a fork. In other words, it is the wrong tool for the job.

Spoons are the best tool for eating soups and other treats, like ice cream. That is, unless you are very young. Babies cannot hold a spoon by themselves. They are spoon-fed by parents or care-givers.

When we spoon-feed babies, we give them food. But, we do not just push the food into their mouths and down their throats. Babies should be fed slowly and carefully. We don't want them to choke or hurt themselves from eating too quickly. You may also have to spoon-feed others who cannot feed themselves.

However, food is not the only thing we spoon-feed. We can also spoon-feed information. Usually that information is very detailed or hard to understand. So, we must explain it carefully. When explaining something complex or detailed to others, you may have to spoon-feed the information.

But never tell them that! Nobody wants to be spoon-fed.

This term is a little insulting. It means that they are unable to understand the information by themselves. It must be given to them in small amounts like a baby eating food.

There is another way to use this expression. When you spoon-feed someone you can also give them so many ideas or opinions that they do not need to think for themselves. So, it's not that the person does not understand. It is that you are spoon-feeding them the information you want them to have.

There is yet another meaning of the word "spoon-feed." It can also mean to "baby" or "spoil" someone by doing too much for them. If someone is always spoon-fed, they will not learn how to take care of themselves.

Now, let's hear how to use the expression "spoon-fed."

The two people in this short conversation are city planners. They have designed a new library. But before they build, they must get the approval from the local government, the city council. And that is where they run into a problem.

Students Sean Aitchison, left, and Alex Aguilar study in a library at Cal State Northridge campus in Los Angeles, 2016.
Students Sean Aitchison, left, and Alex Aguilar study in a library at Cal State Northridge campus in Los Angeles, 2016.

Hey, I'm back from the meeting.

So, how did it go? Did the city council approve our plans for the new library?

I don't know.

What do you mean? You went to the meeting, right?

Yes.

And you explained our plans?

Well, yes. But they didn't seem to understand … any of it. So, they postponed their vote.

Postponed? We don't have time for another postponement. Did you go through all the details of the plan?

Yes.

Did you show them our budget? Our numbers show that it will be cheaper to fix up the old, historic building rather than building a new one. Did you explain how our library will better serve the community?

Stop already! I spoon-fed every detail of our plan to them. But they still decided to postpone their decision.

I will set up private meetings with each council member and personally spoon-feed each detail to them… again. Maybe then they will understand.

Um, I doubt it.

And that's all the time we have for Words and Their Stories. Until next time … I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

delicious adj. very pleasant to taste

dish n. food that is prepared in a particular way

conversation n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people : the act of talking in an informal way

libraryn. a place where books, magazines, and other materials (such as videos and musical recordings) are available for people to use or borrow

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