An Idiom for Election Week: a dead heat

The expression “dead heat” is all over the headlines. Here are some fun facts about this idiom, and some other related words you can teach your students this week.
ESL FlashcardsCNN National Poll: Dead Heat Between Obama and Romney
Poll: Romney, Obama in Dead Heat at 49-49
Statistical Dead Heat But Obama Has Slight Advantage
Obama-Romney Race Still a Dead Heat

Origin

ESL FlashcardsThe term dead heat was originally used in horse racing. When two horses raced against each other and tied, the heat was called “dead” and did not count. The winner was undecided. This term is still used in horse racing, but is also used in political races. When two candidates are so close (according to the polls) that you can’t guess who will be declared the winner, it is considered “a dead heat”.

Related Words and Expressions

What is the opposite of a dead heat?  When a candidate wins by a large margin it is considered a landslide victory. Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972 with a landslide victory. (Watch for the NEW Nixon lesson plan coming to our American Presidents section next month.) This term is also used in sports. My brother sent me a text yesterday to inform me of the results of my nephew’s hockey game. The text said: “It was an ugly win.” In other words, my nephew’s team won by a landslide. You could also say they won hands down.  The term “hands down” also came from horse racing. Jockeys who were way ahead of their opponents could loosen the reins, and win without putting in a lot of effort.

The candidates will likely be battling down to the wire (the finish line in horse racing). Do you think this election will require a recount? Your students can learn about the historic Bush vs Gore recount in our new George W. Bush lesson plan.

Teaching About American Presidents

We already have a lesson plan on Barack Obama in the ESL-Library. Do you think we’ll need to add one on Mitt Romney? Obama and Romney may have our attention this week, but mid-month all eyes will be on Abraham Lincoln! The new Daniel Day Lewis film “Lincoln” comes out November 16th. Introduce your students to this historic political figure before the big release.
Lesson Plans on American Presidents

Related

When Do We Capitalize President?
Podcast: Barack Obama
2012 Presidential Debates: What’s a Zinger?

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