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A bucket list – what is it?

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The term bucket list has been extremely popular recently. Everybody makes bucket lists, posts them on social media, shows off with what they have already managed to cross out or adds more items to it.

What exactly is it?

For a non-native English speaker, who is a learner of the English language, and is yet not very advanced, the term might be a bit confusing. It is an idiomatic expression i.e. it will not make much sense if translated literally, word by word. Idioms can be both a nightmare or a challenge for a translator or an interpreter.

One cannot understand a particular idiom without knowing a linguistic and cultural background and it is always best to learn it in the appropriate context or situation. The expression derived from another colloquial English expression “kick the bucketwhich simply means: to die.

“Our postman kicked the bucket last week so don’t expect any deliveries until they find a replacement.”

There are many theories as to where this idiom comes from, but the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) discusses the following:

  • A person standing on a pail or bucket with their head in a slip noose would kick the bucket to commit suicide. The OED, however, says this is mainly speculative;
  • The OED describes as more plausible the archaic use of “bucket” as a beam from which a pig  is hung by its feet prior to being slaughtered. To kick the bucket, then, originally signified the pig’s death throes.

Bucket List is a noun and it defines a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. It is simply a list of things we would love to achieve and it frequently features a list of places one would love to visit and explore before they pass away. As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with a bucket as we know it, unless you want to do something with this utensil specifically 😉

Making a bucket list very often coincides with the beginning of a new year and making resolutions as it is something people normally do while realising the clock is ticking, time flies and there is very little of it left. Bucket list ideas are endless and they can be grouped into categories featuring personal and love life, travelling, career, health and diet, sports, personality, new skills and many more.

What are the most common activities people include in their bucket lists?

bucket list - A bucket list - what is it?
Bucket List
  1. See the Northern Lights.
  2. Find the love of my life.
  3. Take an African safari.
  4. Write a book and get it published.
  5. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  6. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  7. Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef.
  8. Skydive / parachute.
  9. Start a family.
  10. See the Pyramids of Giza
  11. Learn another language.
  12. Ride a Venetian Gondola with the loved one.
  13. Do a road trip across America.
  14. Climb the Eiffel Tower.
  15. Travel to Space.
  16. Run a marathon.
  17. See the concert of the favorite band.
  18. Go glamping.
  19. Meet a celebrity / someone famous.
  20. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (or another big mountain of your choice)

A bucket list can be also associated with a 2007 comedy-drama film of the same title, starring Jack Nicholson (Edward Cole) and Morgan Freeman (Carter Chambers) which follows two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.” Each of them is diagnosed with cancer and they have more or less one year left to live. Even though they are total opposites and in the beginning very hard to get on with each other, during their time on the ward, they eventually find common ground. The two patients begin their globetrotting last vacation and they manage to go skydiving, drive a Shelby Mustang, fly over the North Pole, eat dinner at Chevre d’or in France, visit and praise the Taj Mahal, ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, attend a lion safari in Tanzania, “visit” Mt. Everest in Nepal and climb the  Great Pyramid of Giza.

After reconciliation with his own daughter, Cole is introduced to his granddaughter he never knew he had. After greeting the little girl with a kiss on the cheek, Edward crosses “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world” off his bucket list… It is probably one of the most heart-melting scenes in the film.

And what is your number one bucket list resolution?

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