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Want to Know a Secret? Maybe You'll 'Get Wind of It'


    07 November 2020

    Now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

    Wind is a powerful force in nature. High wind speeds from tornadoes, hurricanes and other violent storms can cause great destruction.

    But wind can also be a force for good.

    It can turn machinery that produces energy.

    The blades of wind turbines catch the breeze at the Saddleback Ridge wind farm in Carthage, Maine, March 19, 2019.
    The blades of wind turbines catch the breeze at the Saddleback Ridge wind farm in Carthage, Maine, March 19, 2019.

    It can help boats sail great distances. In the wild, wind can provide life-saving information to some animals. And it doesn't need to be a strong wind. For example, a scent or smell carried by a light breeze can tell a deer about the presence of a hunter just a few meters away.

    The wind can provide useful information to people, too!

    When we "get wind of something," we hear some news or information that has been kept private. Naturally, this air of secrecy makes it even more interesting.

    When using this expression, remember this: When we get wind of something, we become aware of the information through indirect means. In other words, we learn of it second-hand or through the grapevine. We do not hear it straight from the source.

    The wind might give others information that we want to keep quiet. For example, the leaders of the company were worried about investors getting wind of the factory fire. If the investors knew, they would probably withdraw their money and invest elsewhere.

    Here is another example: The filmmakers did not want the media to get wind of the actor's latest arrest. After all, she is playing a police officer in the movie.

    At times, the information or news sent by the wind is bad, just gossip or talk, and not really helpful at all. For example, if someone asks me, "Did you hear that so-and-so lost his job?" I can answer, "Yeah, I got wind of that yesterday."

    But sometimes the news or information is not bad. It is just something you want to keep secret.

    Like the time I tried to plan a surprise party for my best friend. I did not want him to get wind of it. That would ruin the surprise.

    But it is so difficult keeping anything from him. He is nosy and asks a lot of questions, such as: "Why are you calling all my friends?" Why are you buying so much food and drinks?" "Are you planning a party for me?"

    So much for that surprise party.

    Now this expression is not always about learning private information or keeping secrets. The wind can send us information that we need to make good decisions.

    For example, I was just about to buy tickets to a big three-day, outdoor music event. But then I got wind that my favorite performer (and the only reason I was going) had cancelled. Thank goodness a friend of a friend of a friend told me or I would not have known!

    That is all the time we have for Words and Their Stories. I will have a new story for you next week. But if I get wind of a change in plans, I'll make sure to let you know!

    Until next time, I'm Anna Matteo.

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

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    Words in This Story

    breeze – n. a light gentle wind

    aware – adj. knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

    indirect – adj. not going straight from one point to another : not said or done in a clear and direct way

    secondhand – adj. not original : taken from someone who was not directly involved

    through the grapevine – idiomatic expression to learn something through an informal means of communication, especially gossip

    source – n. a cause or starting point

    gossip – n. information about the behavior and personal lives of other people

    nosy – adj. informal + disapproving : wanting to know about other people's lives, problems, etc.

    ticket – n. a piece of paper that allows you to see a show, participate in an event, travel on a vehicle, etc.

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