he would have an albatross around his neck?

English Language Tests, Intermediate level

ESL/EFL Test #301 [color=blue]“English Slang Idioms (23)”, question 2

He knew that if he got caught cheating, he would have an around his neck for the rest of his college career.

(a) ax
(b) ox
(c) albatross
(d) ape

English Language Tests, Intermediate level

ESL/EFL Test #301 [color=blue]“English Slang Idioms (23)”, answer 2

He knew that if he got caught cheating, he would have an albatross around his neck for the rest of his college career.

Correct answer: (c) albatross

Your answer was: [color=green]correct
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…he would have an albatross around his neck for the rest of his college career.

This is a very strange idiom. What does “an albatross around his neck” means in this phrase?
Regards:
Kati Svaby

Hello Kati,

An albatross is considered by sailors to be bad luck, and is often used to mean an encumbrance, or a wearisome burden.

This is an allusion to a famous poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In the poem, an albatross starts to follow a ship, which at that time was considered to be good luck. However, the mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, which is regarded as an act that will curse the ship (which indeed suffers terrible mishaps). To punish him, the other sailors make him wear the dead albatross around his neck indefinitely (until they all die from the curse, as it happens). Thus the albatross can be both an omen of good or bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried (as penance).

Dear BZ,

Thanks for the very interesting story. Now immediately I’ll look for the poem and I am looking forward to reading it.

Have a good day:
Kati

Today is 25th November 2010 22:39 Today for the third time that I did this test. Always my photo was on the score-board. Yesterday I did it but my photo for today disappeared. Why???
Kati