By Anna Matteo
14 July, 2018

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

On this program we explore common expressions in American English. Today we are going to talk about a favorite physical activity.

Swimming!

People swim during hot summer weather in the Limmat river in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2018.
People swim during hot summer weather in the Limmat river in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2018.

Whether outdoors or indoors, swimming is a fun way to stay in shape. And one of the great things about swimming is diving. For a very short time, a diver flies through the air like a bird. Then they land in the cool water below, usually with their hands and head leading the way.

But jumping into a body of water headfirst is just one meaning of the word "dive."

"To dive into something" can also mean to start working on a project with lots of energy but not, perhaps, a lot of planning.

Let's say two friends are really excited to dive into a new business together. They are so excited that they open their business without a clear idea of how to market their company or even who will buy their product. So, it was not a big surprise when the company went under a few months later. Friends told them that they had a good idea, but they simply dove in too quickly.

Adding the word "headfirst" adds importance. If you dive into something headfirst, you are even more excited and even less prepared!

For example, a man I know really wanted to learn basic home repair. He was very excited to begin on a home project. So, he dove in headfirst, knocking down walls and tearing out the floors. Unfortunately, he didn't know enough to rebuild his house. He ended up hiring a construction team for that.

"To dive into something" can also mean you are simply really excited to do it. Planning is not an issue or problem. And sometimes we add the word "right." This makes it sound more conversational.

For example, the children must have been very hungry after swimming all day. They dove right into the pizza the minute it was served!

But now, let's go back to the diving that relates to swimming. Sometimes divers dive off a mountain cliff. They are called cliff divers.

Some dive off the side of a pool. Others dive off a diving board. Diving boards are springy. They are made of a material that can bend. Diving boards are a kind of springboard. They are a board that springs you into the air!

In addition to diving, a springboard is useful in other situations. A springboard can be something that helps you start an activity or process. We can also call this a jumping off point, just as when you jump off a diving board.

For example, when preparing for this program, I often take note of the expressions my friends use. So, for me, these conversations are often springboards to new stories for this show.

The term "springboard" can also mean a point of departure.

Let's hear two co-workers use it this way.

A: Boy, Emanuel did not stay long at his job here, did he?

B: No. But I'm not surprised. I knew he'd move quickly from this job to the next.

A: How did you know that?

B: On his first day, he told me that this job was only a springboard to a better position.

A: I see. Well, at least he was honest.

Okay. So, besides cliff diving and diving off a diving board, there is another kind of diving -- scuba diving.

Scuba diving is an underwater activity. You swim underwater while wearing special equipment, including a tank, or container, filled with compressed air. Scuba is an acronym. It is short for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

With tanks of air on their backs, scuba divers are able to dive deep into the sea. On a deep sea dive, you might see some very strange sea creatures!

On land, a deep dive is when you explore an issue in great detail. Oftentimes, the media coverage of some issues is too shallow, meaning it doesn't explain enough. But sometimes a news agency is able to do a deep dive on issues that people really care about.

You could say that on Words and Their Stories we dive deeper into the English language. Hopefully, this program will make you want to dive right into your English studies!

I'm Anna Matteo.

What would like to dive into? Let us know in the Comments Section.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. The song at the end is Donovan singing "Atlantis."

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Words in This Story

appetite n. a physical desire for food

conversational adj. an informal way of talking involving two people or a small group of people : the act of talking in an informal way

cliff n. a high, steep surface of rock, earth, or ice

springy adj. returning to an original shape when pressed down, twisted, stretched, etc.

self-contained adj. not requiring help or support from anyone or anything else

apparatus n. a tool or piece of equipment used for specific activities

departure n. a new or different way of doing something : the act of leaving a job, an organization, etc.

shallow adj. having a small distance to the bottom from the surface or highest point