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Tuesday - February 9, 2016

What’s In A Name?

best-sub-sandwichesIn Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, his family and her family hate each other. But Juliet tells Romeo that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In modern English she might have said, “I don’t care what your family name is; it doesn’t change who you are.”

Names may not change what something is, but names often tell us a lot about the thing we’re talking about. That’s true about sandwich names, which often tell us not only what’s in the sandwich, but also something about its history.

The sandwich – two pieces of bread with meat, cheese, or other foods in between, usually eaten by hand – was named after John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), a nobleman of the historic town of Sandwich in England. Montague loved to gamble (trying to win money by playing games) and once spent 24 hours at the gambling table eating nothing but some pieces of cold beef between two pieces of bread.

In the U.S., the submarine (see photo) is a popular sandwich. Its name comes from the shape of the roll (the bread), which is similar to the shape of a submarine (a ship that travels under water). In a submarine sandwich, the long roll is sliced (cut) the long way and often has a thick crust (skin; outer layer).

Submarine sandwiches probably began among Italian Americans in the northeast part of the country in the early 1900s. The roll was filled with cold cuts (thin pieces of cold meats), cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and a variety of condiments (spices and other things added for flavor). Since 1965, Subway sandwich shops have helped the submarine sandwich, or “sub,” become popular in many other countries.

When you travel around the U.S., you’ll find sandwiches that look like subs but go by (use) different names. In New York and New Jersey, for example, a sub-like sandwich called a “hero” is popular. Heros are similar to the subs described earlier, but you’ll also find them filled with eggplant or chicken with Parmesan cheese or meatballs. It’s uncertain how heros got their name, but some think it’s because they were extra large.

Hoagie” sandwiches come from Philadelphia. Like most sandwich names, we’re not sure how the name hoagie started. It probably comes from the sandwiches eaten by the ship workers on Hog Island near Philadelphia. Their sandwiches, with various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread, became known as Hog Island sandwiches, then hoggies, and finally, since about 1940, hoagies. In 1992, the hoagie was named the official sandwich of Philadelphia.

Subs, heros, and hoagies all have an Italian flavor, but if you go to New Orleans you’ll find a French American sandwich called the “po’ boy” (poor boy). Po’ boys are made on French bread rolls similar to baguettes and can be filled with fried oysters, shrimp, and fish as well as other meats. The sandwiches and the name po’ boy probably appeared sometime around 1930 when the Martin brothers made and sold sandwiches for just a few pennies each at the back door of their restaurant to streetcar workers – called “poor boys” – who had lost their jobs.

These sandwiches are all similar because of their shape. Do you have similarly-shaped sandwiches where you live? What are they called? And what’s in them?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo from Fast Food Menu Prices.


Sunday - February 7, 2016

Podcasts this Week (February 8, 2016)

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 1180 – Price Gouging

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 jack up” and “sound.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Laws Against Price Gouging.”
“Price gouging occurs when a seller quickly increases the price of something or some service when it is ‘in greatest demand’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 541

Topics: Famous Americans – Mae West; Harvey Washington Wiley and The Poison Squad; real versus actual versus true; lunch versus a lunch; to put (one’s) shoulder to the wheel

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Poison Control Centers.”
“In 1953, the United States established the first poison information center in Chicago….” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1181 – Making a Comeback

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 “band” and “backup.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Miracle on Ice.”
“The ‘Miracle on Ice’ refers to an ‘ice hockey’ (a game played by people on ice skates with long sticks who are trying to get a ‘puck’ …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - February 2, 2016

5 Items of Potpourri

Emerged_from_hibernation_in_February,_groundhog_takes_leaves_to_line_the_burrow_nest_or_toilet_chamber_DSCN0900Potpourri is originally a French term that, in English, is now used to refer to a variety of things that are not related to each other. Today’s post is a potpourri of items that are unrelated, but still, I hope, interesting:

1. Groundhog Day – Today is February 2nd, which each year is marked (celebrated) most famously in the United States in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog (see photo) sees its shadow on this day, we will have six more weeks of winter. This year, Punxsutawney’s most famous groundhog, named Phil, did not see his shadow, which means we will have an early spring. That’s good news for those like me who hate cold weather, although living in Los Angeles, I define “cold” as anything less than 60 degrees F (15.5 Celsius).  (I talked about Groundhog Day – ten years ago! – on English Cafe #11, now available to Premium subscribers.)

2. Iowa CaucusesYesterday was the official beginning of the long presidential election season (period of time) in the United States, which will end on the first Tuesday of November with the election of a new president. I have attempted to explain our somewhat crazy process of selecting a president in the U.S. a few times (here and here). This promises to be (is likely to be) one of the stranger presidential elections in my lifetime; I’ll write more about that in the future.

3. Super Bowl 50 – This Sunday, February 7th, is one of the popular sporting events of the year in the U.S., the Super Bowl. If you plan on joining the approximately 120 million people who will be watching on Sunday and aren’t sure about how American football works, I tried to explain it here. A lot of Americans who don’t normally like football watch it anyway, in part for the halftime show, entertainment that takes place in the middle of the game, between the first and second half of play (more on this halftime show here).

Up until this year, the number of the Super Bowl has always been written with Roman numerals (the way the ancient Romans wrote numbers). Last year, for example, the 49th Super Bowl was written as “Super Bowl XLIX.” This year, however, the organizers of the Super Bowl decided to change to “regular” digits, so instead of “Super Bowl L” (L is the Roman numeral for 50), it is “Super Bowl 50.” Why?

Well, one reason is that the letter “L” is associated with the word “loser,” and no one wants to be a loser! Nevertheless, there will still be a loser, since only one team can win (personally, I don’t care who wins or loses). Apparently the change will only affect this year; next year, it will be called “Super Bowl LI” (L = 50, I = 1), using Roman numerals again.

4. Mardi Gras & Lunar New Year– The Christian season of Lent (a period of preparation before Easter) begins a week from tomorrow, and this means that in New Orleans this week will be spent celebrating Mardi Gras. New Orleans is famous in the U.S. for its “Carnival” or Mardi Gras celebrations. You can learn more about New Orleans here and Mardi Gras here and here (note: audio for some of our older Cafes are only available to Premium members).

Next week is also the celebration of the Lunar New Year, which is observed in many Asian American communities in the U.S. as well as in several countries around the world. Southern California has many such celebrations, since there is a large population of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans living here; learn more about it here and here. This year is the Year of the Monkey!

5. Learn English Magazine – Forget about celebrating Mardi Gras, Lunar New Year, and the Super Bowl. Don’t worry about who our next president will be or whether we will have six more weeks of winter. Here’s the really important news of the day: the newest issue of our new, free magazine, Learn English Magazine, is now available to download!

Get the app for iOS or Android devices, and check it out. You can see a magazine-only video explaining the phrase “right on the money,” and read other cool and interesting articles from our team of amazing writers. And there’s even a funny cartoon at the back of this issue.

What are you waiting for? Go here to download the app and get reading!

~Jeff

Image Credit: Wikipedia


Sunday - January 31, 2016

Podcasts this Week (February 1, 2016)

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 1178  Using Profanity

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 swear’ and “rules.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Regulation of Obscenity, Decency, and Profanity.”
“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, an agency or department of the federal (national) government) regulates ‘obscenity, decency, and profanity’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 540

Topics: American Movies – Planet of the Apes; American Presidents – Zachary Taylor; to improve versus to boost versus to enhance; to grow on (someone) and (one’s) bark is worse than (one’s) bite; Script by Dr. Lucy Tse versus Scripted by Dr. Lucy Tse

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Boone and Crockett Club.”
“Former U.S. President and ‘outdoor enthusiast’ (someone who enjoys spending time in nature) Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt ‘founded’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1179 – Reading Food Labels

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 “sugar” and “fiber.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The American Heart Association.”
“The American Heart Association is a well-known ‘nonprofit’ (not intended to make money) organization that was founded by six ‘cardiologists’ …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - January 26, 2016

Warning: TOEFL Ahead

Triangle_warning_sign_(red_and_white)“I need to take the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language). Can you help me?”

I get a lot of emails like that every year, often just before TOEFL scores are due (need to be sent to universities). I frequently have to say “No” because the student has waited too long to do what they need most – to improve their English. That’s why I’m writing this early in the year, hoping that students will read it and begin now to prepare for the TOEFL.

To do well on the TOEFL, nothing is more important than good, strong English. Many students spend a lot of time and money on cram (trying to do a lot in a short time) courses and other questionable activities, hoping they will prepare them for the TOEFL. Unfortunately, most of those activities do very little to improve their English.

The TOEFL is a test of how well you can use English in a classroom – to read and listen, to write and speak. The TOEFL score you need to be accepted by a school is the score they think you need to succeed in their classes. Each school is different. One school I know requires a score of only 62. Another says, “Don’t apply (ask to come) unless your score is more than 109.”

If good, strong English is so important, you may ask, “How good is good enough?” Here’s a little experiment you can try. Read part of this article by Sherry Turkle. And listen to some of this lecture from Dr. Paul Bloom’s Introduction to Psychology, a first-year class. Now think how you would answer these questions:

  • If you walked into class the first day and heard Bloom’s lecture or had to read Turkle’s article, how would you feel? Would you understand them well enough to take notes you could use to study later?
  • Would you be able to easily identify what they were talking about – the subject of the lecture or article – and what some of the main points (ideas) were?
  • What if I asked you to answer my questions in writing? Or by speaking? How well would you do?

If you’re comfortable with the questions I’ve asked, you’re probably ready to begin working on the academic skills – like essay writing – and test-taking skills that you’ll need for the TOEFL. If not, you need to forget about them for a while and spend time working on your English.

There’s only one way to strengthen your English, and that’s by doing a large amount of reading and listening. It’s not difficult:

  1. Find something easy enough to read or listen to without stopping. And so interesting that you don’t want to stop. You may not know all the words, but you will know enough to enjoy the story or learn from the article.
  2. Read and listen as much as possible. One hour a day, more if you can. Every day if possible. In other words, make English a part of your life.

As your English grows, you’ll be able to read and listen to increasingly difficult material. After a while you’ll be able to comfortably read and listen to material similar to Turkle and Bloom and feel that you’re ready.

If you’d like to learn more about preparing for the TOEFL, check out Rethinking the TOEFL and Doing your TOEFL homework on my website.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL/EFL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Warning sign image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Sunday - January 24, 2016

Podcasts this Week (January 25, 2016)

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 1176 – Limits to  Advancement at Work

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 jump ship” and “raise.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Unfair Gender-based Work Practices.”
“Unfair gender-based work practices are not officially ‘condoned’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 539

Topics: Famous Americans – Sally Ride; American Presidents – Millard Fillmore; rational versus rationale; killing it in the cost per wear category; to requite

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Presidential Portraits.”
“For every U.S. president, there is an ‘official’ (recognized by the government) ‘portrait’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1177 – Pedestrian Safety

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 “blind corner” and “flashing.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Pedestrian Rights.”
“Being a pedestrian can be a ‘dangerous proposition’ (something that is difficult, challenging, or dangerous)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - January 19, 2016

Why Jeff is So Funny

Week_z00Humor (being funny or amusing) is sometimes difficult to define and to understand. What you may find funny, I may not and vice versa (the reverse is true). A group of Canadian researchers, however, may have an explanation for why we find some words funny and other words not.

A psychologist (scientist studying the mind and how it works) named Chris Westbury was actually studying a condition called “aphasia,” problems with speech due to brain damage, when he observed something interesting. He found that each time the subjects (research participants) saw the word “snunkoople,” they thought it was funny. “Snunkoople” is not a real word. It is a nonsense word, or a made up (not real) word with no meaning. This got him thinking. Why are some nonsense words funny while others are not?

He and a group of researchers at the University of Alberta set out (planned and began) to find out. They showed people in this new study pairs of nonsense words and asked people which was funnier, the one on the left or the one on the right. Here are a few of these pairs of words:

Quingel or Heashes

Prousup or Mestins

Finglam or Cortsio

Witypro or Octeste

If you’re like the people in the study, you would say that the first word in each pair is funnier. Why? The researchers believe the answer is in something called “entropy,” a term they borrowed from other fields, including physics (the field of science concerned with matter (physical substance) and energy). Entropy, as they define it in this context (situation), relates to how much disorder (confusion) there is in a word. In other words, if a word looks like it could be a real word or is similar to real words, there is less disorder, less entropy. If the words are not similar, not expected, or strange-looking, there is more disorder or entropy and people think they’re funnier.

This is not a new idea. In the 19th century, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer proposed that things are funny to us when expectations (what we think will happen) are violated (failed to meet expectations). That’s why 20 clowns climbing out of a very small car may be funny to us, or you may laugh when Jeff sings like Celine Dion.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the daily applications (usefulness) of research, but not in this case. Not only does this general idea help us understand the brilliance (great talent and intelligence) of Jeff’s humor, but it may also save us some embarrassment. You may not want to name your child “Lnikproop” or your new product “Umhwegeegi.”

~ Lucy

Image Credit:  From Wikipedia


Sunday - January 17, 2016

Podcasts this Week (January 18, 2016)

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 1174 – Describing Video Quality

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 “cut” and “uniform.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Wedding Videography.”
“Wedding ‘videography’ (the process of filming and producing or creating a finished video of an event) is popular…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 538

Topics: Famous Americans – Daniel Boone; Famous Songs – “Somewhere over the Rainbow”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the org “Rainbow/PUSH.”
“Rainbow/PUSH is a ‘not-for-profit’ (not intended to earn money) organization that was created in 1971 as a…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1175 – Getting a Fresh Start

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 move on” and “to swear off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Divorce.”
“There are many types of “divorce” (the official end to a marriage)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - January 12, 2016

The Other “They”

48796188_thumbnailHere’s a short quiz for you: Which pronouns would you use to complete these sentences?

1. Someone left _____ lunch in the office. Would _____ please come get it?
2. When a student wants to study, _____ should try to find a quiet place.

There’s been a lot of discussion and debate (argument) about what to do when the subject of a sentence like “someone” is indefinite (not masculine/male or feminine/female), or when a subject like “students” could be masculine, feminine, or both.

If you look in a grammar book, you’ll find suggestions like these:

1. Someone left [“his or her” or “his/her”] lunch in the office. Would [“he or she”, “he/she”, or “s/he”] please come get it?
2. When a student wants to study, [“he or she”, “he/she”, or “s/he] should try to find a quiet place.

Many famous writers – Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, and others – often ignored (didn’t do) what the grammar books said to do. They used different forms of what we call the “singular they.” If we use the singular they in our two sentences, they look like this:

1. Someone left their lunch in the office. Would they please come get it?
2. When a student wants to study, they should try to find a quiet place.

The singular they has been discussed and debated for a long time. But in 2015, organizations like the Associated Press (a news organization) and the Washington Post newspaper added the singular they to their style guides, books that tell their writers what is okay and what is not. Many dictionaries – including my two favorites for English learners, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English and the New Oxford American English Dictionary – have added the singular they. And just a few days ago, the American Dialect Society (a dialect is the form of a language used in a particular place or by a particular group of people) voted the singular they as their Word of the Year.

The Longman Dictionary says this about the singular they: “You can use they, them, and their to refer to a single person when you do not want to show that the person is male or female [or, I would add, when it’s not important to know whether the person is male or female].”

Let’s look at another example to see how the singular they makes the writer’s and reader’s work easier. First, here is a sentence that uses personal pronouns in two different ways:

1. Everyone agreed that he or she would bring his or her lunch with him or her.
2. Everyone agreed that (s)he would bring his/her lunch with him/her.

Now, here is the same sentence using the singular they:

3. Everyone agreed that they would bring their lunch with them.

I think you’ll agree that the singular they makes both writing and reading easier.

The story of the singular they reminds of us that language changes as people use it in new and different ways. Dictionaries, which describe how a language is being used, will add those changes at some point (time). However, the best way to keep up with changes is to do the same thing you do to improve your fluency (ability to use a language): do a lot of reading. You will acquire (pick up) most new uses automatically, without trying.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL/EFL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo found on the MentalFloss website.


Sunday - January 10, 2016

Podcasts this Week (January 11, 2016)

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 1172 – Booking Space for Business Events

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 hold” and “built-in.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Corporate Events.”
“Many businesses plan events throughout the year. Some of these events are professional and work-related…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 537

Topics: American Authors – Walt Whitman; The Supremes; abbreviated versus concise versus succinct; to withdraw versus to retreat; to stretch

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Dreamgirls.”
Dreamgirls is a Broadway “musical” (a theater production that involves acting, singing, and dancing)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1173 – Flying on a Budget Airline

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 “open seating” and “kicker.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Airline Aggregators.”
“In the past, people worked with “travel agents” (people whose job is to help others plan their trips)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide