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Tuesday - September 2, 2014

Learn From George, Not Pinocchio

800px-George_Washington's_birthplace_(1856_engraving)Did you break this lamp? No.

Who ate these cookies? Not me.

Where is your homework? My dog ate it.

We all want our children to be truthful (honest; not telling lies). Let George Washington, not Pinocchio, be your teaching tool.

You have probably heard the story of George Washington and the cherry tree (see English Cafe 275). When George was a boy, he used his hatchet (sharp tool with a handle) to cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father asked him if he had done it, he said, “I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.” Most historians don’t believe this actually happened, but it is a story many American children are told to show the virtues (benefits of having a high moral standard) of honesty (telling the truth).

The story of Pinocchio is probably even more well known. Pinocchio is a character from an Italian children’s novel (book), and the story is known in many countries. Pinocchio is a puppet (toy moved by strings) made by a man named Geppetto. Each time Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose gets longer. This story is often told to children to show the negative consequences (results) of telling lies.

In a recent study, researchers who have spent years studying children and honesty set up a situation where it would be easy for children to lie: namely (specifically), a chance for children to peek (look when they are not supposed to) to get the right answer to a question when the researcher leaves the room. Before asking the children, ages 3 to 7, if they had peeked, the researchers told them a story. The children heard one of three stories: the story about George Washington, the one about Pinocchio, or an unrelated story. After hearing the story, the children were asked if they had peeked.

Nearly all of the children peeked, and about 65% of the them lied about it. But those who had heard the George Washington story lied significantly less. The researchers interpreted this to mean (believed it meant) that children responded better to being told the benefits of telling the truth than the negative consequences of lying.

Maybe there’s a lesson here for handling our politicians? Maybe Washington, D.C. (our national government) should have enforced (required) story time (when an adult reads aloud to groups of children).

Lucy

Image Credit: From Wikipedia


Sunday - August 31, 2014

Podcasts This Week (September 1, 2014)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1030 - Adopting a Pet

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.

In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “breed” and “stray.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Organizations Protecting Animals.”
“In the United States, many organizations have formed to protect animals…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 466

Topics: Ask an American – Being a twin; to revoke versus to nullify versus to rescind; waste; bon voyage

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Olsen Twins.”
“The Olsen twins are ‘arguably’ (many, but not all people, believe it is true) the most-recognized twins…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1031 – Following a High-Profile Court Case

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to crack down” and “at the expense of.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The People’s Court.”
“The People’s Court is an American ‘reality TV show’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 26, 2014

Attack of the Killer Cabbages?*

AKStateFairAlaska is known for many things: cold weather, beautiful scenery, and, of course, giant cabbages.

Giant cabbages?!  That’s right.

If you want to find a 130-pound (59-kilogram) cabbage, visit Alaska. If you’re in the mood for (feel like eating) some cantaloupe, A LOT of cantaloupe, you can find a 65-pound (30-kilogram) one at the Alaska State Fair.

Summer and fall are common times for fairs that feature agricultural (farming) contests, from livestock (farm animals) to crops (plants grown for food or to produce useful products). At the Alaska State Fair each year, you will see some things that you will not see at any other fairs: giant fruit and vegetables.

The secret is the Alaska summer. It’s not uncommon in Alaska during the summer to have 20 hours of sunshine per day because of the state’s northern latitude (location measured by distance to the equator). These extra hours of sunlight give crops extra time for photosynthesis (the process of green plants using sunlight to get food), allowing plants to grow faster and bigger. More sunlight also produces sweeter produce. It’s not surprising, then, that some of the world records (official list of the best) for largest fruits and vegetables belong to growers in Alaska.

Some growers painstakingly (very carefully) cultivate (encourage to grow) large crops, spending years experimenting with different seeds (the part of the plant that allows new growth), soil (dirt used for growing things), fertilizers (substance put on soil to encourage growth), and amount of sunlight. Some even sleep outdoors to protect their crops from foragers (people or animals who travel across a land to find food). For others, these giants (very large things) grow on their own without special effort, surprising their growers.

The Alaska State Fair is going on now until September 1st, so it’s not too late to see these freaks of nature (something with abnormal or unusual growth) for yourself. The pumpkins are certainly worth seeing, but the main attraction (most interesting for an audience) are the cabbages.

My wife often makes a cabbage casserole (dish with a mix of ingredients cooked in the oven) for dinner. I wonder how many she can make with a 130-pound cabbage. Perhaps enough for all of the ESL Podcast listeners?

- Jeff

Photo Credit: Alaska State Fair from Wikipedia

* The title of this post is a play on (another version of) the title of a 1978 film called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.


Sunday - August 24, 2014

Podcasts This Week (August 25, 2014)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1028 - Describing Order and Sequence

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “digit” and “to embrace.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Dewey Decimal System.”
“The ‘Dewey Decimal System’ is a ‘classification system’ (a way of organizing materials or information)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 465

Topics: Famous Songs – “If I Had a Hammer”; How to Become a Social Worker; to dismantle versus to disassemble; guilt versus blame; to cross the great divide

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.”
“One of the most famous characters in popular American writing is Mike Hammer…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1029 – Types of Vandalism

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to egg” and “to go after.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Killroy Was Here.”
“The phrase ‘Killroy was here’ is an ‘expression’ (something that is said commonly by many people)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - August 21, 2014

Digital Detox*

404896_10150450222869272_235187681_nDo you suffer from (have, like a disease) FOMO? Many people do.

FOMO is an acronym (a word made up of the first letters of several words) for Fear Of Missing Out. To miss out on something is to not have the opportunity to do or experience it – for example, I missed out on the party because I had to work.

People who suffer from FOMO have a constant (all the time) desire or need to to be plugged in (connected to the Internet). Even when they’re with other people, they keep their phones or tablets close at hand (nearby). They feel the need to connect with their friends on Facebook. Check their email. See what’s happening on their Twitter feed. If they can’t or don’t, they get anxious (feel nervous, worried).

Being connected digitally (using the Internet) can be a good thing. But for people who suffer from FOMO, the need to be constantly connected can have a downside (negative or undesirable effect). It can easily hurt their mental health and relationships with other people.

Several years ago someone came up with an idea, called Digital Detox, to help people who feel the need to be constantly connected. More than 300 million people have tried it.

The idea behind Digital Detox is very simple – set aside (schedule) a specific time to turn off your phone, tablet, or computer to do things that will contribute to (add to) your mental health and relationships with other people. It’s a way to help you free up time for activities and people that are truly (in fact) important.

A writer in Forbes has several suggestions for a successful Digital Detox:

  1. Schedule a specific time and put it on your calendar. Try starting with one day – 24 hours.
  2. Make specific plans. Spend time with friends and family. Go for a bike ride or take a hike (a long walk in the mountains or countryside). Volunteer (do something without expecting to be paid) your time to a person or organization that needs help. Find a quiet place to read a book.
  3. When the day comes, turn off your phone, tablet, and computer. Begin immediately to do what you planned for the day. Don’t turn your devices back on until the end of the day.
  4. Enjoy the activities you planned and the people you wanted to spend time with. Relax. Take your time (don’t hurry).
  5. Do it again! Don’t do a Digital Detox only once. Do it every week or every month. Make it a habit (something you do regularly).

What do you think? Is it time for you to try a Digital Detox?

* Detox; also detoxification – medical treatment for an addiction (not being able to stop doing or taking something that is bad for you).

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site, where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Tell IT Media.

 


Monday - August 18, 2014

The Turban Makes the Man*

800px-Segregation_1938bIf you lived in the American South in the 1940s and you were African American, you would likely be very aware of the Jim Crow laws (see “What Insiders Know” in the Learning Guide of English Cafe 197). These laws segregated (separated into different groups) white and black Americans, preventing African Americans from going to the same places, using the same services, or having the same rights.

For many people at that time, the issue was black and white (very clear) — literally — and only focused on whether someone was white or black. This meant that there was some ambiguity (uncertainly; not clear distinctions) for people who were neither of European or African descent (origin; background). This ambiguity help some people avoid the harsh (tough; rough) treatment of Jim Crow laws. Take, for example, the Reverend Jesse Wayman Routté. When he visited the American South for the second time, he wore a disguise (clothing and accessories that prevented others from knowing one’s true identity).

The Reverend Routté was a minister (church leader; priest) of a Lutheran church in New York. On a 1943 trip to Alabama to officiate (perform a ceremony, usually a wedding) at his brother’s wedding, he was treated very poorly, like any other African American would expect at that time. Being from the North, Routté wasn’t accustomed to (used to) this treatment and was dismayed (upset). So when he was invited to return to Alabama to visit his brother in 1947, he decided, on the advice of colleagues (coworkers), to wear a turban, a few yards of material wrapped and tied around his head. This, they said, would make things a lot easier.   

The turban is worn by many cultures in many different countries, but was not common in the U.S. at that time. If the Reverend Routté was considered foreign – not African American — would his treatment change? That’s what he wanted to find out. Instead of just wearing a simple turban, however, Reverend Routté decided to go all out (do the maximum). He went to a costume (clothing and accessories worn to appear as someone or something else) shop and rented a tall, purple, sparkling (reflecting a lot of light) turban. And when his train was about to arrive in Alabama, he put on the turban and a long robe (a long, loosely-fitting piece of clothing, similar to a coat). 

He stepped off the train in his new costume and wore it for nearly the entire week of his visit. He not only saw his family, but wanted to get wider reaction. Although Routté never said he was a visitor from abroad (another country), he was treated like foreign royalty (king, queen, or another member of the royal family) or a foreign dignitary (important representative of a country). He ate in fancy restaurants where African Americans were not allowed to enter, he visited a segregated school and was given a tour, and he even visited a police station, where he was treated deferentially (with respect) and given a tour by the police chief (leader of the police). He also visited important business owners and many other places Africans Americans were not allowed to go. Everywhere he went, he was treated with respect.

Within days of Routté returning to New York, an article appeared in the newspaper recounting (describing) his “experiment” and the story spread across the country. Routté later treated the entire experience as a joke and laughed about it, but other people were not so amused (entertained), including the leaders of his own Lutheran church and important civil rights figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt.

Routté was not the only person who used the turban to avoid problems in the American South at this time, but his experience was one of the most talked about. To find out more about Routté, you can read an article about him here, and to learn about others who also used this “turban trick,” see this National Public Radio story (where you’ll also see a picture of Routté in his turban).

- Lucy

* There is a popular expression, “Clothes makes the man,” which means that people judge others by how they dress and the clothes they wear.

Photo Credit: Segregation 1936 from Wikipedia
(The term “colored” was used to refer to African Americans at that time, but is now considered offensive.)


Sunday - August 17, 2014

Podcasts This Week (August 18, 2014)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1026 - Marrying Young

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to pose” and “to lean on.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Non-Traditional Students in College.”
“Traditionally, students attend college ‘straight out of’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 464

Topics: The Roaring Twenties; The Empire State Building; Indians (Asians) versus Indians (indigenous peoples); to blow up versus to explode; staging ground

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Boxer Jack Dempsey.”
“William Harrison ‘Jack’ Dempsey was a famous American professional ‘boxer’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1027 – Adding Condiments to Food

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to miss out.” and “a dab of.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Development of Ketchup.”
“Ketchup has a long ‘culinary’ (related to food and cooking) history…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

 


Tuesday - August 12, 2014

Headline English: Private Equity’s Latest Fix

icon_59030Here’s a headline from a recent Wall Street Journal article:

Private Equity’s Latest Fix: Auto-Body Repair

A lot of newspaper headlines (titles of articles) are based on a “double meaning” of one of the words, where one word has two different meanings. Here the key word is fix.

The verb to fix means to repair, to take something that is broken (such as part of a car) and make it so that it works again, or looks the same as it did before.

But “fix” can also be a noun to describe something that you are addicted to, usually an illegal drug like cocaine or heroin. (To be addicted means you feel you MUST have something, even if it is causing you harm or injury.)

This headline is using both meanings of “fix.”

Let’s go back to the beginning of the headline: private is used here to refer to what does not belong to the government. (Things run by or owned by the government are called public.) Equity refers to money that people want to invest in something. (Remember to invest means to give money to someone in the hopes of getting even more money back.)

So private equity refers to people and companies whose main job is to invest money. This headline is telling us about one of the latest or most recent interests of these investment companies.

In the original article (paid subscription required), we read about equity firms (companies) buying auto-body repair places. An auto is a car (from “automobile”). The body of an auto is the outside of it (not including the engine or the wheels, for example).

If someone hits you with his car, you need to get your car’s body repaired or fixed. Private equity companies are buying these repair “shops.” In fact, they are buying lots of them, almost as if they were addicted, as if they needed their “fix” of them. That’s the double meaning of “fix” in this headline.

The word shop doesn’t appear in the headline, but usually we refer to businesses that do auto body repair as repair shops. A shop can be a place you buy something, but another meaning of “shop” is a place where you get something fixed. We even sometimes say, “My car is in the shop” when we mean our car is being fixed by a mechanic at an auto repair shop.

So, to summarize: Some investment managers are interested in buying lots of small auto-body repair shops and combining them to form a large company with the hopes of making more money.

I just hope no one hits my car so I don’t have to use one.

-Jeff

Image Credit: Car Accident designed by Hadi Davodpour from the Noun Project


Sunday - August 10, 2014

Podcasts This Week (August 11, 2014)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1024 - Dealing with Crises

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to put out fires” and “to long for.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Smokey the Bear.”
“‘Smokey Bear,’ often called ‘Smokey the Bear,’ is a ‘mascot’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 463

Topics: American Presidents – George H. W. Bush; “architects let rip with a wave of ambitious and beautifully crafted buildings”; to keep (someone) out of (one’s) hair; pronouncing dead versus debt

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Famous Presidential Quotes – Theodore Roosevelt.”
“There have been many speeches that have ‘made their mark’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1025 – Maintaining Internet Privacy

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “post” and “to take down.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Internet- and Technology-Related Crimes.”
“The ‘advent’ (creation, adoption, and use) of technology and the Internet has allowed people to communicate with each other…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - August 7, 2014

They Came, and They Continue To Come

FieldofDreamsMay06Twenty-five years ago, in the movie Field* of Dreams, a mysterious (difficult to explain or understand) voice told Ray Kinsella, “If you build it, he will come.”

Ray,  a young Iowa farmer, was not sure who “he” was, but he got the idea that he was supposed to build a baseball field in a cornfield on his farm in rural (in the countryside, not the city) Iowa. His wife hesitated (was nervous, not sure) at first. His brother-in-law opposed (disagreed with) the idea. And his neighbors laughed at him. But Ray built the field.

When he was alive, Ray’s father loved baseball, especially one player – Shoeless Joe Jackson – and the Chicago White Sox team. After the baseball field was finished, the ghost (the spirit of a dead person that people can see) of Shoeless Joe and other players from the past walked out of the cornfield one by one, onto the baseball field, and began to play.

Near the end of the movie, the players began to walk back into the cornfield. Before he went, Shoeless Joe glanced (looked quickly) at the one player who was still on the field, turned to Ray and told him one more time, “If you build it, HE will come.” Ray looked at the other player again, and when he did, he recognized his father as a young man.

Terrence Mann, a character in the movie, predicted (said that something will happen before it does) that “People will come, Ray. They will come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom (understand). They’ll turn up (arrive) at your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door … longing for (wanting, wishing for) the past.”

Mann was right. Every year, as many as 70,000 people make their way (travel) to Dyersville, Iowa, drive out of town on the gravel (small stones) road, park near the white farmhouse, and walk onto the field, which is still surrounded (to be all around something) by cornfields. And they dream.

Bill Plaschke, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, visited the Field of Dreams this summer and met some of those people.

One of them, Frank, was sitting on a bench near the field, crying softly, when Plaschke found him. He and his son, who has a birth condition that makes it difficult to walk normally, had been on the field playing catch (throwing a baseball back and forth). “To connect with my son in a place like this,” Frank told Plaschke, “there are no words for it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like we’re supposed to be here, we’re supposed to share this.”

Plaschke writes, “They come to play a first catch with a toddler (young child), or a final catch with a dying relative. They hold family reunions (a gathering after being separated for a long time) with giant games of catch. They hold impromptu (without planning) weddings after quick games of catch. They have even discreetly (carefully to avoid upsetting anyone) spread loved ones’ ashes (what remains when a dead person’s body has been cremated (burned)) when they have finished playing catch.”

They came. And they continue to come.

* A field is an area of open land, especially one planted with crops, like corn. A field can also be a piece of land, like a baseball field, used for a specific purpose.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.