Green is Not Just for the Irish

Last Sunday (March 17th) was Saint Patrick’s Day, which millions of Irish and those of Irish descent (came originally from Ireland) celebrated. The color most often associated with (linked to; connected to) Ireland is green.

It is customary (common) for people to wear green on St. (Saint) Patrick’s Day.

But there are a lot of English expressions that mention the color green that have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day.

An example is the expressions “being green.” Being green means being inexperienced, new to doing something or performing a job.

It probably refers to vegetables and fruits that are the color green until they become “ripe” (when fruits and vegetables to be ready to eat or used).

We can use this expression this way:
– “The medical student is too green to perform this procedure without help.”
– “The new manager will seem a little green until she learns the job.”

Another common expression is “green with envy,” which means that someone feels a lot of jealousy toward another person, very much wanting what that other person has.

For example, if your neighbor buys a new car, the same car that you’d love to own and drive, you may feel green with envy.

If a co-worker gets extra days of vacation time over the Christmas season, the other employees may be green with envy.

We also use “green” now to refer to things that are not harmful to the environment. Companies or governments talk about being “green,” meaning they use products and procedures that don’t harm the environment.

Some examples:
– “We’re turning this into a green house by buying energy-efficient appliances (refrigerator, stove, etc.) and planting vegetables instead of grass.
– “By buying hybrid cars (cars that use gasoline and electricity) for our salespeople, our company is taking the first step toward going green.”

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P.S. This post first appeared as a Culture Note in our Unlimited English program for improving your English (Daily English 24). If you’ve learned something today, why not try our special sample English course for only $1? Go here for more information:
https://tv.eslpod.com/p/unlimited-english-7-day-trial/

P.P.S. Learn more about St. Patrick’s Day on our blog here.

~Jeff

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Los Angeles is #1, Baby!

So this happened:*

Los Angeles has recently been found to have the MOST “aggressive” drivers in the United States.

I always knew my city was #1 in something. We’re number one in idiot drivers!

To be aggressive means to act in a hostile (being someone’s enemy) and often rude (unkind) or selfish (thinking only of yourself) way.

An aggressive person is one who is more likely to attack or confront another person (tell someone he or she is wrong).

A driving app company looked at drivers in 30 U.S. cities and examined driver habits (what people do usually or repeatedly).

They found that drivers in my fair (nice; beautiful) city are more likely to drive fast, brake hard (suddenly slow or stop your car to avoid an accident), and accelerate (go from slow to fast) often.

I’m not surprised. Anyone who has driven in my car knows that I, like most Angelenos (people living in LA), drive aggressively.

I really shouldn’t drive that way, of course. It is more dangerous and stressful.

But we drive like we see other people driving. That’s my excuse, anyway.

So if Los Angeles has the most aggressive drivers, which city has the least aggressive, the “nicest” drivers?

The answer of course is my home city of Saint Paul, Minnesota (actually, the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis). The Twin Cities was ranked (placed in order) 30th out of 30 cities in aggressive drivers.

If you’re looking for a nice, quiet, relaxing driving experience, you should go to Minnesota.

If you want the opposite, welcome to LA, baby**!

~Jeff

*This expression is now informally used, especially on social media, to introduce a topic that is surprising or strange in some way.

**Baby can refer to a young child, but it is sometimes used informally to brag about (be proud of) something, usually in a joking way. It could be replaced by “my friend.”

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The Elephant in the Room

What does it mean when we talk about the “elephant in the room”? Find out in this English With Your Coffee episode:

~Jeff

P.S. A small error in the captioning at the end of the video: It should say “my friend’s” (with an apostrophe) and not “my friends.”

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This is the Army, Mr. (and Ms.?) Jones

My father served in (was a member of) the U.S. Army during World War II, fighting in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. Like millions of other young men his age (he was 18 in 1941, when the U.S. entered the war), my father was drafted.

When we’re talking about the military, the verb to draft or to be drafted means that the government tells you – forces you – to be part of the Army or other military service.

As was the case for most men at that time, however, my dad was very willing to participate and fight. Sometimes he would sing us a song that was very popular during the war, which went like this:

“This is the Army, Mister Jones!
No private rooms or telephones.
You had your breakfast in bed before.
But you won’t have it there any more.”

(Hear the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLgAbgEjMG0 )

The idea of the song, written by the great songwriter Irving Berlin, is that the military wasn’t going to be fun or easy.

Right now, the United States does not have a draft or any sort of compulsory military service (when you must be in the military for a certain number of years). However, teenage boys at age 18 are required by law to register with (give his name and address) the Selective Service System.

The Selective Service System is the U.S. government’s way of keeping information about men who are eligible for (meet the requirements for) the draft.

Men who are between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register with the Selective Service System, and those turning (becoming) 18 years old are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

If they don’t, the government will not give them any money for college, and could arrest them and put them in prison (although I don’t think that happens very often, if at all).

I was one of the first people who had to register with the new Selective Service when I turned 18 (back when Ronald Reagan was president). But it would be unlikely the Army would want me anymore – I’m too old!

Only men are currently required to register for a possible draft. But just last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled that it was unconstitutional for only men to be required to register. A law that is unconstitutional is one that violates (breaks) the basic rules and requirements of our founding document, the Constitution.

Both men AND women must register, according to this judge. Will this actually happen?

No one knows for now.

You see, there are different levels of judges in the U.S., and this was a judge at one of the “lower” levels. The U.S. government will almost certainly appeal the decision by the judge, meaning they will ask a “higher” court to overturn or cancel the decision by the lower court judge. (This happens often.)

The highest court in the U.S. is our Supreme Court, and it is very possible that the case (the legal matter) may reach it someday. But that process could take years.

The idea of drafting women is popular with men (61% want it), but very unpopular with the women themselves (only 38% want it), at least according to a poll back in 2016.

For now, “Ms. Jones” – that is, a woman over the age of 18 – doesn’t need to worry about going to war. In the future . . .?

~Jeff

P.S. I should note that women do currently serve in the U.S. military alongside (with; next to) men, but both men and women are volunteers (doing it by their own choice).

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Saying “I Do”

George Carlin (1937-2008) was an American comedian, a person whose job is to tell jokes or funny stories. He was a stand-up comic, someone who told jokes in front of an audience, and he was very successful.

Carlin was often very good at observational comedy, which are jokes about everyday life used to point out or show the funny things people do.

And he often made fun of the English language. Here’s one of his better jokes:

“‘I am’ is reportedly (said to be by many people) the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that ‘I do’ is the longest sentence?”

“I do” is one of the things we say when we get married, when saying “yes” to being another person’s husband or wife.

A: “Do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully-wedded husband/wife?” (Lawfully-wedded means married according to the law.)

B: “I do.”

You know what a sentence is when we’re talking about language. But the word sentence is also defined as the length of time a person must remain in jail (prison) as a result of being convicted of (found legally responsible for) of a crime: “The bank robber received a 10-year sentence.”

So now you know George Carlin’s view of marriage: Once you say “I do,” you’ll be in prison for a very, very long time!

Carlin also made fun of human foibles, those small weaknesses or funny or strange things people do. 

This is one of my favorites:

“Anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.”

An idiot is a fool or a very stupid person, and a maniac is a crazy person who is out of control and shows wild and dangerous behavior. 

Carlin is good at showing how self-centered we are. Don’t we all believe that the world revolves (moves in a circle around a fixed or fixed point) around us? 

Jeff

P.S. Some of you may be asking: Is “I am” really the shortest sentence in English? Well, that depends on how you define a sentence. Normally, a sentence requires a subject and a predicate. However, the subject can be understood (without it being stated), so that “Go!” and “Eat!” are also considered sentences. But we won’t go into all of that. It’s just a joke, after all.

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As the Crow Files

If you ask an Angeleno (a person living in Los Angeles) the distance between two places, you’re more likely to get an answer in minutes, not miles.

That’s because there’s one thing all Angelenos have to contend with (deal with; handle): traffic.

It’s common to sit in a traffic jam (where cars move very slowly) to travel just a few miles.

Knowing this and knowing the usual traffic patterns (normal times when there are too many cars on the roads), Angelenos will figure that in (include that in the calculation; make that part of the counting) when giving you an answer.

A typical conversation would be:

Me: How far is the shopping mall from here?
My wife: It’s only 30 minutes.

If an Angeleno wants to tell you the distance without figuring in traffic, they’ll always add “without traffic” as in: “It’s only 10 minutes to my office, without traffic.”

But there is one other way we talk about distance.

If I want to tell you the distance between two points without figuring in traffic OR the route (path) of roads, we can use a very common phrase: “as the crow flies.” A crow is a black bird (see photo).

As the crow flies means directly, as though you’re measuring the distance on a map, in a straight line from Place A to Place B.

Me: How far is the shopping mall from here?
My wife: As the crow flies, it’s only 10 miles.

So if any Angeleno asks you to take them somewhere and tells you it’s only a “few” miles, make sure you get that distance in minutes.

You might be spending the next hour in gridlock (with a lot of traffic on many connecting streets)!

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Headline English Video: Brokering a Deal

Learn how we use “broker,” “deal,” and “trade” in English in this quick video:

~Jeff

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Call Me JFF

A.E.I.O.U.

You know these are the vowels in the English language, but you may not know that they are under assault (being attacked).

OK, it’s not quite that dramatic (serious), but if you look at popular culture today, vowels are M.I.A. (missing in action; not there).

You will find vowels missing in the names of popular websites, such as Tumblr (pronounced “tumbler,” a type of glass with straight sides and no handle) and Flickr (pronounced “flicker,” which is what a light does when it goes on and off unexpectedly, like during a storm).

Vowels are missing in rock band names, too, such as the Canadian singer The Weeknd (pronounced “weekend”).

And vowels are missing in fashion brands, such as Srsly (pronounced “seriously” — seriously!?!).

This isn’t surprising considering how people communicate these days, especially the youngest generations (groups of people around the same age).

In texts and online, we use more and more abbreviations (shortened forms of a word), emoticons (pictures with a facial expression, like a smile), and acronyms (using first letters of words to represent a name or phrase).

If the current trend continues, my future posts will just look like this: THSBLGPSTSBTRLLYCLTPCBCNTTLLYWHTTS.

~Jeff

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Who Says It Never Snows in L.A.?

When I moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota, I thought I was saying good-bye to snow for good (forever) because it never snows in L.A., right?

Well, not quite. Although it’s true that it hasn’t snowed since I moved here in the early 1990s, it has snowed several times in L.A. in recorded history (since records have been kept).

The city of Los Angeles is huge (very big), covering over 465 square miles (1204 square kilometers). It’s topography (hills and valleys; high and low places) varies (differs) from sea level all the way up to mountains at over 5,000 feet (1524 meters).

But if we’re talking about the downtown Los Angeles area, and the places where most Angelenos (people in Los Angeles) live, then the last time it snowed here was 1962. That’s before I was born!

But that snowfall was nothing compared to the biggest snowstorm in L.A. history. That happened on January 10-11, 1949. Over a two-day period, one-third (1/3) of an inch of snow fell on the city.

Yes, a whole 1/3 of an inch!

You may laugh if you’re in a place like Minnesota, that gets lots of snow, but for Angelenos, that was a big deal (important event).

One Los Angeles Times columnist (writer of opinion or human interest articles), Lee Shippey, wrote: “When they (his neighbors) awoke Thursday, and saw all the world turned white it seemed like a miracle.”

A miracle is a very surprising and extraordinary event.

Palm trees were covered in snow and people didn’t know what to do about the ice on their cars!

Fortunately for me, this isn’t a common occurrence (doesn’t happen often). But if it does snow again in L.A., I’ll ready for the one thing I think snow is good for: sledding!

~Jeff

Image credit: Los Angeles Public Library

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Smokey & Me

We had a lot of deadly (killing someone) forest fires in California in the past few months, so it’s a good time to talk about Smokey the Bear.

“Smokey Bear,” often called “Smokey the Bear,” is a mascot (a cartoon animal or other character that represents a team or organization) for the United States Forest Service, the federal agency that protects America’s forests (areas with many trees).

Smokey the Bear first appeared in an advertising campaign in 1944 with the slogan (a saying used in marketing and advertising) of “Smokey says care will prevent nine out of 10 forest fires.”

Today, most people associate Smokey the Bear with a different slogan: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Smokey the Bear was created to encourage people to be more cautious (careful) in order to prevent forest fires, especially by selecting appropriate sites (places) for campfires (fires burned for cooking, heat, and entertainment while outdoors) away from tree branches.

People were also encouraged to douse (pour water over) campfires before leaving them unattended (without someone nearby and watching something).

Smokey the Bear is depicted (shown) as a drawing of a brown bear wearing jeans and a large hat with his name in red letters, holding a shovel (tool with a long handle used for digging and moving dirt) (see photo).

Smokey can be found in television ads, promotional materials distributed at national parks and in schools, and even as a walking mascot at national parks.

A large advertising organization reports that 95% of adults and 77% of American children recognize Smokey the Bear and his message.

But some people argue that the campaign has been too successful in vilifying (making something seem bad or evil) wildfires. People have been taught that all forest fires are bad.

In reality, some forest fires are necessary to maintain forest health.

In the photo, you can see me standing next to Smokey the Bear at a local museum here in Los Angeles. I’m holding an imaginary shovel to help him, but he doesn’t look too happy to see me.

~Jeff

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