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4 min2017 NOV 6
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Today we are going to talk about fear (恐惧).

You know, Halloween (万圣节) is coming up, and I’ll talk more about that later this month, but for now let’s just talk about fear in general.

Who here hasn’t been afraid?

If you raised your hand, I’m afraid you didn’t understand the question or just not telling the truth because truth be told, we’ve all been afraid of something, at one point or another in our lives.

In fact, fear is what keeps us alive. Have you ever heard of the fight or flight instinct (战斗或逃跑本能) in animals?

It means that we either fight back against what we are afraid of, or we run away from it so that we can live to fight another day.

So it seems that sometimes it’s right to fight, and sometimes it’s better to take ourselves out of dangerous situations.

“The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

That phrase was made famous in 1932 by Franklin D. Roosevelt (富兰克林·罗斯福) during his first speech at President of the United States.

It means that we should not be afraid of anything except fear, since that fear will make us unable to move, unable to change.

So, in order to overcome fear, take action.

Do something, anything, and you may find that just trying to take care of a problem can help to make you less afraid.

So, what are you afraid of? Spiders, snakes, high places?

There are some special words that all use the same ending, phobia (恐怖症), which means fear.

So, for example, the fear of heights is called acrophobia (恐高症).

The first part of the word is from the Greek word which means, “the highest place”, and it’s used in another English word, acrobat (杂技演员).

Acrobats are the people who do dangerous things from high places, like in a circus performance.

By the way, some of the most famous acrobat groups in the world come from China.

They are pretty brave, and are definitely not afraid of heights, but if you are, you have acrophobia.

Phrases related to fear:


Cats are easily scared and run away at the slightest noise, or sudden movement.

A person who is often easily scared can be called a scaredy-cat.

afraid of your own shadow

Your shadow is not really something that can hurt you but sometimes it may look like someone is following you.

If it is just your shadow that you are afraid of, then you are really too easily scared.

scared stiff

Sometimes when people are scared, they cannot move, and thus, are stiff. If you are scared stiff, that means you are really, really scared.

scared out of your wits

This means pretty much the same thing as “scared stiff”. It means really, really scared.

Wits are our intelligence, our awareness. So if you are scared out of your wits, then that means you are so scared that you have lost your ability to think.

fools rush in where angels fear to tread

Originally written by Alexander Pope in 1711, the idiom means that people who don’t know any better will do things that more experienced people know they should avoid.

If even angels are afraid of going somewhere, then it must be pretty scary. 

Alright everybody, that’s our program for today. Keep an ear out for our next one about Halloween coming up soon.

Thanks for listening to Meiguo Shushu Shuo Yingyu (美国叔叔说英语) and we’ll see you next time, zai jian, bye bye.