|Today we talk
about a time when half the world is waking from the dark, cold winter
months. Spring! We often describe spring as a time of rebirth, renewal
and awakening. Many trees are blossoming and early flowers are pushing
through the earth.
Things are coming to life!
When the weather turns warm, many people suffer from spring fever.
Common “symptoms” of spring fever include not being able to focus on
school or work, taking long walks, or falling in love.
So, are you actually sick when you have spring fever?
Originally, yes. Spring fever used to refer to an actual illness. When
the weather turned warm, some people developed sore throats, headaches,
or stuffy noses.
The definition of “spring fever” slowly changed in the early 1800s.
People came to use the term to mean a sudden increase of romantic
Elvis Presley describes this feeling in the song “Spring Fever.”
“Spring fever, comes to everyone. Spring fever, it's time for fun.
There’s no doubt now, love is everywhere. Get up, get out, spring is
These days, we use “spring fever” to describe a restless feeling after
the long, cold days of winter.
But the word “spring” is not just a season. It is also a verb that means
something happening or appearing quickly.
When you put “spring” and “life” together, you get spring to life. This
expression means something suddenly becomes very active or perhaps seems
more alive! You may spring to life after hearing that a distant friend
will be visiting you. Or maybe your favorite soccer team finally sprang
to life in the second half, played well, and won the match.
But this is just the beginning. There are so many more "spring"
expressions that mean to happen suddenly.
Imagine that you are resting on the couch when suddenly you see a mouse
run across the floor. You spring into action! You jump from the couch
and run after the mouse! But you miss. So, that night you leave some
cheese in a small device that will snap quickly: you want to spring a
trap. And it works! But when you tell your roommate that you caught a
mouse in a trap, tears spring from her eyes. You feel badly, but she
really should have told you about her pet mouse Charlie!
After all, your apartment doesn’t allow pets. And you don’t want to get
in trouble with your landlord. See, your neighborhood is finally turning
into a really nice place to live. There are more places to eat and shop.
In fact, stores, restaurants and cafés seem to have sprung up overnight!
They moved in quickly.
As you can see, American English has so many phrases that use “spring”
to mean "something happens quickly." The ones we have heard are just the
ones that sprang to mind. In other words, they were the first ones I
thought of, without spending much time thinking about it.
But perhaps those examples are confusing. Maybe I should have prepared
you instead of just springing them on you. And, I did it again. If you
spring something on other people, you have surprised them, usually not
in a good way.
Let’s go back to the roommate story. Let’s say one day your roommate,
the one with the pet mouse, says to you, “Oh, by the way, I’m still
really upset about Charlie. So, I’m moving out tomorrow. You’ll have to
find someone else to share the rent.”
You say to her, “You can’t just spring that on me! I’ll need time to
find another roommate!”
But then you think about. Maybe it’s for the best. Every time you see
her you feel guilty about Charlie, her pet mouse.
And anyway, she does something that really annoys you. She always
expects you to buy her things: she wants you to spring for lunch, spring
for movie tickets, and sometimes even spring for groceries.
When you spring for something, you pay for someone else.
This expression can also be an informal invitation. At work you can say
to a colleague, “I have spring fever. Let’s leave early and go to an
outdoor café. I’ll spring for coffee.”
Now, besides being a season and a verb, the noun “spring” refers to a
metal coil that is wound tightly. When the coil unwinds, it often jumps.
So, we often say a person has a spring in his step if he is lively and
active. He might even appear to jump, or bounce, a little when he walks.
There is another way we use “spring” as a description.
In the case of a spring chicken, “spring” means young. Also called a “springer,”
these young chickens have very tender meat. However, “spring chicken” is
also an informal, humorous way to refer to someone who isn’t young at
all. So, we use this expression in the negative form, as in “no spring
For example, let’s say you know an 85-year old man who decides to run a
marathon, even though he has never exercised before. You could say,
“That’s amazing! After all, he’s no spring chicken.”
But be careful when using this expression. It could be a little
disrespectful. Let’s say your boss shows you a picture of his wife, and
you say, “Wow, she’s no spring chicken.” That response would be
disrespectful and a bad career move.