What Not To Do When Watching Your Holiday Movies

Most Americans get a vacation over the holidays (Christmas and Hanukah), anywhere from a few days to two weeks. So with extra time on their hands (extra time with nothing to do), many of us go to the movie theaters to watch the latest releases (the most recent movies).

Sometimes the behavior (the way that one acts) of other people can ruin (make something not as good) the experience of going to see a movie in a movie theater.

In the United States, most people expect certain etiquette (polite ways of behaving and interacting with other people) to be followed in a movie theater. Of course, many of these “rules” are the same in other countries.

In general, it is rude (not polite or nice) to talk loudly while a movie is playing, because this might distract other people or make it difficult for them to concentrate on the movie.

It is also rude to crinkle (move something in one’s hands so that it makes a loud noise) food wrappers (the paper and plastic that food is packaged in) so that other people can’t hear the movie.

Cell phones should be turned off for the same reason.

It is also rude to block (not let something be seen) other people’s view. For example, movie watchers generally avoid wearing tall hats!

If the theater isn’t full and there are many empty seats, it would be rude to sit directly in front of another person. It is always better to sit slightly to the side in the next row (a group of seats in one straight line).

Movie theater etiquette requires that people do not stand up and move around the theater more than necessary.

If a moviegoer (someone in a theater to watch a movie) has to get up to go to the bathroom, they should stand up, hunch over (slightly bend one’s knees, back, and neck so that one is not as tall as usual) and quietly say “Excuse me!” while waiting for other people in the row to stand up.

When that person returns to the row, it’s best to wait for a dull (unexciting) moment in the movie before going back to his or her seat. Otherwise (if you don’t), everyone could miss the exciting action!

~Jeff

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Overspending for the Holidays

When Americans say “the holidays,” they are usually referring to mid- to late-December, when the religious holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated. It’s a happy time of year for most people.

But the holidays are also a dangerous time for some. Some of us overeat (eat too much), and others of us overspend (spend too much).

Consequently (as a result), some have a lot of debt (money you owe other people).

For most people, this debt is manageable, meaning that they can make their payments. But other people get in over their heads (are in a very difficult situation with many problems that they cannot solve).

People with too much debt sometimes turn to (look for a solution in) credit counseling.

Credit counseling is education that helps people avoid getting into too much debt. For people who are already deep in debt (with a lot of debt), credit counseling can help them reach agreements with their creditors (the people they owe money to) to pay off (end; pay back) debts over time.

Credit counselors (people who give others advice and help) might help people make a budget (a plan for spending money) and to prioritize (decide what is most important) their purchases.

Often credit counselors advise (suggest) people in deep debt to cut up (destroy with a scissors) their credit cards so that they won’t be tempted (won’t have the desire to do something they shouldn’t do) to spend money that they don’t really have.

But not all credit counselors are really trying to help people. There are some who give people partial (incomplete) or incorrect information, and don’t really help them get out of debt (pay all their debts).

These organizations, which are sometimes paid for by the credit card companies, offer to consolidate their debts (put all their debts on one single credit card or account). Making a single payment is easier, but the account often has a much higher interest rate, so the person ends up paying much more money over time.

If you need credit counseling, it’s always best to find an organization that isn’t connected to a credit card company or bank. Otherwise (if you don’t), you may end up being in even MORE debt!

~Jeff

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Why Are There Letters in English You Don’t Pronounce?

Okay, this one is for those language geeks (people who are too interested and excited about something) out there who, like me, like to know how language works and why it is the way it is.

Silent letters. Those are the letters in a written word that we don’t pronounce. Words like “plumber” (pronounced “PLUMmer”) and “muscle” (pronounced “MUSsle”) make learning to spell in English even harder.

You might ask: Why are there silent letters in English in the first place (to begin with; at all)?

There are two reasons: “The Great Vowel Shift” and the printing press.

In the English language’s early history – say (for example), around 600 AD – the language was largely (mostly) phonetic — written the way it’s pronounced.

By the 1400s, however, English began to lose its phonetic spelling due to something called “The Great Vowel Shift.”

What caused this great “shift” or change?

The answer is that English speakers came in contact with (met; knew) speakers of other languages.

In particular (especially important), the French conquered (defeated and took over) England in 1066, and there was also a lot of trading (buying and selling) with many different countries.

This contact influenced (changed) pronunciation and spelling, especially the pronunciation of certain vowels (a, e, i, o, u).

The change was gradual (little by little), but significant (big; major).

You can listen to some of these changes here.

Also during the early 1400s, the printing press (machine for making books) was invented (created) by the German Johannes Gutenberg.

Before the printing press, as English pronunciation changed, spelling changed with it. But once printed books and materials became widely available (many people had them), spelling became fixed (not changing).

This doesn’t mean that changes in spelling don’t continue today. It just happens at a much slower pace (rate; speed).

And that’s why we have silent letters in English: pronunciation continued to change, but spelling didn’t!

Unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t help you to become a better English speller.

What WILL help, however, is doing a lot of reading.

For example, you can read our Learning Guides that come with each our lessons.

Or you can read magazines, books, and other materials that you can mostly understand and find interesting.

People who are good spellers in English are usually people who read a lot.

Reading will also help you with vocabulary and grammar, so you get three things (spelling, grammar, vocabulary) for the price of one!

~Jeff

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Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Your Two Months of Free English

This week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, a day of giving thanks for all that has been given to us, and for all the good things in our lives.

On the day after Thanksgiving, many Americans take part in Black Friday, the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year, with lots of bargains (good prices) and discounts. (It’s “black” because stores make a lot of money and are therefore “in the black” or profitable.)

We here at ESLPod.com wanted to join in on the Black Friday savings as a way of saying “thank you” to all of you who have listened to us and supported us.

So we now offer a discounted (lower priced) yearly Unlimited English Membership.

If you become a member, you’ll get access to (ability to use) 1800+ lessons on daily and cultural English. That’s more than 450 hours of English.

If you sign up for our one-year Unlimited English Membership, you’ll pay for only 10 months.

That’s two months free for being an annual member!

This deal (bargain; discount) is available right now on our website here:
https://tv.eslpod.com

Why not give yourself or someone you love the gift of English? Our Unlimited English Membership is the great choice.

As always, thanks from me, Lucy, and the ESLPod.com Team!

~Jeff

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My Father, Gertrude Stein, and a Mysterious Meeting in World War II

Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, in which so many men and women lost their lives. In the United States, we honor (remember with respect) this day as “Veteran’s Day.” A veteran is a person who has been part of a country’s military.

I don’t think any of my close relatives were part of World War I. But my father, Patrick McQuillan, did serve in (was a member of) the U.S. Army during World War II, fighting in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany from 1942 to 1945.

He was just 19 years old when he was sent off to Europe to fight.

As was true for many soldiers (members of the military), World War II was one of the most important events in my father’s life. He would often talk about it, and more importantly, he wrote about it in his memoirs (a history of your life; autobiography).

I thought I’d share with you a short part of his (unpublished) book, Seven Come Eleven, a part that I myself only discovered yesterday.

In this passage (part of the text), he describes how he and his buddy (friend) were part of the liberation (freeing) of a small town in southern France, and how they met with two American women there.

“August 20, 1944

We made it to Meyrargues [France], a nice little hamlet (small town) on the Durance River. It was a picture-postcard (very beautiful) town twenty miles from the beach.

This is where I met a world-famous person and did not even know why she was famous.

This lady and her companion (someone with you) came out of this little house as we had stopped near this town. We were the first American troops they had seen, and they wished to welcome us with champagne.

The one elderly lady was Gertrude Stein, an American. The other lady was Alice Toklas, her companion. They had been in France for many years and refused to leave because of the Germans.

After we drank the champagne and left, John Polski [another solder] said, ‘Don’t you I know who they are?’ I said I did not, showing my ignorance.

He told us they were famous writers and famous lovers.

Every town we would go through we were the conquering (taking control by force) heroes, as the population would greet us with cheers (yells of happiness) and wine and champagne. (Those who do the least, get the most credit (public praise) for it.)” (pp. 97-98)

Gertrude Stein herself wrote her memoirs of this period soon after the war (The Wars I Have Seen). But her account (telling) does not match that of my father, who wrote about it long after the events took place.

So what really did happen?

According to Stein, she and Toklas were living farther north in August of 1944, near the French city of Belley. And they met their first American troops on the first of September, not in late August.

But my father’s unit (group of soldiers) also went through that area the following week, so it is still possible that the meeting took place, but that he was confused about the location and the exact date.

It is also possible that Stein, writing in her 70s and possibly ill with cancer, remembered it wrong. Certainly the event would have been more memorable (difficult to forget) for my father than for Stein.

The important part of my story, of course, is not whether he met a famous writer or not. He fought for his country, and for the liberation of Europe. For this I honor him, and all those who bravely (with courage) served their country.

~Jeff

P.S. For more information about Gertrude Stein, see our Cultural English episode here: https://secure3.eslpod.com/podcast/cultural-english-567/

Learn more about Veteran’s Day here:
https://www.eslpod.com/eslpod_blog/2015/11/11/when-they-moved-veterans-day-then-moved-it-back-again/

Image: Wikipedia Commons

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Goat Yoga Is a Thing

There are a lot of crazy, hilariously bad (so terrible they are funny) ideas that have their origin (begin) in California.

I’m not sure if goat yoga (see photo) actually began here (this article says it started in Michigan), but I know it is popular in the neighborhood where I live here in LA.

Yes, I said GOAT yoga. You read that right.

How do you do yoga with an animal? Very carefully, I would think.

Actually, you just do yoga in the same place where there are goats, such as in a barn (a building for animals).

People say that goats make people relax, forgot about their troubles, and be less stressed.

Now, I have not spent a lot of time around goats. Maybe they really do relax you. I don’t know. Perhaps this is the greatest idea of the 21st century, right up there with (close to in importance with) selfie sticks (a pole you put your phone on so you can take a better picture of yourself).

Whatever you think, goat yoga is definitely now a thing.

When I say it is “a thing,” I mean it is real, it is actually something people are doing even though you may not think it is true.

We use this pattern in informal English now to describe something that is perhaps a little strange but that is popular now, like, well, goat yoga.

For example, “Keeping a rabbit instead of a dog or cat is now a thing” or “The boys used to wear long hair, but that is not a thing anymore.”

You can also ask, “Is that a thing?” meaning “Is that something people actually do?” or “Is that something that is now popular?”

I’m thinking of starting a new kind of exercise called “Throw the Cat.” Basically, you work on your arm muscles by picking up cats and throwing them as far are you can.

You wait: Soon cat throwing will be a thing.

~Jeff

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How to Use “I’m Good!” in English

The Official Jeff McQuillan Halloween Costume

When most Americans say, “I’m good,” they’re not praising (saying something positive about) themselves. They’re not saying they’re not bad.

“I’m good” is actually a casual and common way to say, “No, thank you.”

You can use this idiom in many situations.

You can use it to refuse (say no) an offer politely (nicely), often when you’ve had enough of something already or just don’t need it:

A:  “Do you want another beer?”

B:  “I’m good, thanks.”

———

A:  “Can I help you carry your luggage up the stairs?”

B:  “No thanks, I’m good.”

———

A: “Is there something you’re looking for in our store?”

B: “No, I’m good.”

You can also use it sarcastically (jokingly) to refuse an offer:

A:  “You need a better hairstyle. Let’s dye (change the color of) your hair green!”

B:  “No, I’m good.”

———

A:  “Do you want to try my new dish—eggs with peanuts and fish?

B:  “Nah, I’m good.”

You can say, “I’m good,” “No, I’m good,” “No thanks, I’m good,” or a similar combination to mean the same thing, adding the “thanks” to be more polite.

In casual situations, you can say, “Nah, I’m good.”  Nah is an informal way to say “no.” (We don’t usually use “nah” in formal writing; it’s just the way Americans say it.)

So if someone offers you something you don’t want or don’t need – like maybe a Halloween costume (clothing) of Jeff McQuillan (see photo) –  you can smile and just say, “Nah, I’m good.”

~Jeff

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Sounding Like Shakespeare (Part 2)

Last week I mentioned a few common English phrases that we got from Shakespeare’s plays.

Here are few others. Do you notice a theme (common subject)?

1. Green-eyed monster – From Othello, Act III, Scene III

A monster is a big, ugly, imaginary (not real) creature. The green-eyed monster refers to or represents jealousy, or the feeling of wanting something that someone else has or when you suspect (believe) that your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend is being unfaithful (having a sexual relationship with another person).
– You might say, “Be careful of the green-eyed monster. It might ruin (spoil) your marriage!”

2. Cruel to be kind – From Hamlet, Act III, Scene IV

You can use this when you are doing something that will upset or hurt someone now, but that will actually help them in the future.
– If I wanted to quit my job to become a professional singer, I hope my wife will be cruel to be kind by telling me I’m an idiot.

3. Love is blind – From The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VI

This is a proverb (a wise saying). It means that when you’re in love, you don’t see the faults or the unattractive or bad parts of a person’s character or personality. You are blind to  (unable to see) those negative things.
– If your daughter decides she wants to marry someone with no manners (common politeness), no sense of humor, no job, and lies all the time, you might say, “Love is blind.”

We also use it sometimes to talk about an unlikely romantic couple, two people we wouldn’t normally expect to fall in love.
– People look at a beautiful woman with an unattractive man and say, “Love is blind” or “This is Los Angeles.”

Fun fact: “Cruel to Be Kind” is also a really terrible song from Nick Lowe that was popular when I was in high school. If Shakespeare heard it, he’d almost certainly die (again) from the pain of hearing it.

~Jeff

Image: “Othello’s Lamentation” by William Salter

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You, Too, Can Sound Like Shakespeare (Part 1)

If you speak English, you know Shakespeare.

That’s because many of the most well-known sayings in English come from Shakespeare’s plays.

Here are a few very common phrases Americans use:

1. Good riddance – From Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene I

We use this phrase when we want to show relief at no longer having to deal with something or someone who is troublesome or that brings us problems.
– If your girlfriend breaks up or ends her relationship with you and you are happy because she has brought all kinds of trouble into your life, then you might say, “Good riddance!”

2. To lie low – From Much Ado About Nothing, Act V, Scene 1

We use this phrasal verb when we are hiding or doing something to not bring attention to ourselves, usually because we have committed (done) a crime or we expect trouble if we’re found.
– If you made a big mistake at work, you might tell your coworker: “I’m lying low until the boss is stops being angry.”

3. Seen better days – From As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

We use this phrase to mean that something is no longer new. It is old, worn, and/or in poor condition.
– I bought my first used car from my uncle for $100. It was 20 years old, and needed a muffler (device on a car that makes it less loud) and a lot of other repairs. That car had seen better days!

That last example is true. My first car really was very old and purchased (bought) from my uncle for $100.

~Jeff

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Columbus Day Controversies

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The United States celebrates (recognizes and honors) Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492 with an official holiday each year. It is celebrated on the second Monday each October.

Columbus Day became a federal (national) holiday in 1937, although Americans have been recognizing Columbus’ voyage (long journey by sea or in space) long before that year.

For example, New York City and other U.S. cities celebrated the 300th anniversary (a date on which an event took place in previous years) of Columbus’ arrival in 1792.

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison encouraged Americans to celebrate the 400th anniversary.

However, not everyone believes Christopher Columbus should be honored in this way.

Some activists (people who take actions to try to cause political or social change) oppose (are against) Columbus Day because of Columbus’ and other Europeans’ actions against the indigenous (original peoples) in America.

Native American groups have led the movement for the elimination (removal) of Columbus Day as a holiday, but the idea has not received widespread (among many people) acceptance.

There are two states that do not officially recognize Columbus Day: Hawaii and South Dakota. Instead, these states recognize another holiday on that date.

Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, which commemorates (remembers and honors) the Polynesians’ discovery of Hawaii.

And in South Dakota, residents (people who live in an area) celebrate Native American Day instead of Columbus Day.

~Jeff

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