Helicopter Dads and Snowplow Moms

Raising children (helping them grow up) isn’t easy. It’s even harder if you’re a helicopter or snowplow parent.

Let me explain.

Lately (recently), Americans have been talking about different ways of parenting (bringing up or raising children) that’s very different from the way I grew up.

Helicopters are a type of aircraft that flies using long blades that rotate (go in a circle) at very high speeds. They are usually used for short trips and they can hover (remain flying) just above the ground.

That’s what helicopter parents do: They hover over their children.

Helicopter parents want to protect their children from any bad influences and experiences. They watch them carefully, worrying about everything they do, eat, see, touch, and feel.

They worry a lot about their child’s well being (comfort, health, and happiness) and try to control as many aspects or parts of their child’s life as they can.

Snowplow parents are similar. A snowplow is a type of truck used to move snow off roads. It pushes the snow so that cars can drive on the street.

Snowplow parents do all the things helicopter parents do, but their main concern is to remove any obstacles (anything that slows or stops progress) to their child’s success.

Sometimes snowplow parents go to extremes (doing something beyond what is expected or acceptable). They insist on their child getting first place (winning) and sometimes blame the school or teachers if they don’t achieve it.

Several snowplow parents  – a few of them Hollywood celebrities – were recently found to have lied on their child’s college applications, and even bribed people at the university to get their children admitted (accepted to study there).

Nobody would fault (say it is wrong for) parents for trying to do the best for their children. Some people say, though, that helicopter and snowplow parents go too far and are doing a disservice (something harmful) to their children.

Many think that you should allow children to make their own mistakes. They need to learn how to overcome (deal with) some of their own obstacles. It’s all part of handling disappointments in life.

In this view, kids with helicopter and snowplow parents won’t learn to be resilient (become able to recover from disappointments and defeats).

This is, of course, very different from how I grew up. I’m the youngest of 11 children and my parents didn’t have time to be helicopters or snowplows.

But even in smaller families, parents did not try to control every aspect (part) of their children’s lives.

I think that was a good thing. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes!

Jeff

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Posted in Language & Terms, Life in the United States | Comments Off on Helicopter Dads and Snowplow Moms

A Visit to Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

Last week I had the chance to visit one of the most beautiful national parks in California, Joshua Tree. Watch this short video and learn a little about this amazing place.

It’s like going on vacation with me, but without the long car drive and listening to me sing the whole way there.

And if you enjoy the trip, learn more about Joshua Tree in our Cultural English #289 episode.

~Jeff

P.S. There’s a slight error in one of the captions – “buy” should be “by.”

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Posted in Life in the United States | Comments Off on A Visit to Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

The Oxford Comma

This is a comma: “,”.

It’s a very useful punctuation mark (things like periods (.), quotation marks (“), and explanation points (!)) in English and in many other languages, but it can also be a source of confusion.

The Oxford comma – also called the “serial comma” – is the comma placed right before the “and” or “or” when you have a list of three or more things.

For example:

1) “You can buy a car painted red, white, blue, and green.”

2) “We invited football players, Chris Hemsworth, and Madonna.”

The use of the Oxford comma is optional. Some people use it and some don’t. Most people will consider the sentence correct either way.

However, not using the Oxford comma can sometimes be confusing.

Written without the Oxford comma, sentence #1 has two meanings:

1) “You can buy a car painted red, white, blue and green.”

Meaning 1: You can buy a car in four colors: red or white or blue or green

Meaning 2:  You can buy a car in three colors: red or white or blue AND green (part of the car painted blue and part painted green)

Without the Oxford comma, the meaning is ambiguous (not clear).

There’s even more confusion with the second sentence without the Oxford comma.

2) “We invited football players, Chris Hemsworth and Madonna.”

Meaning 1: Three sets of people are invited: football players + Chris Hemsworth + Madonna

Meaning 2: Two football players are invited and their names are Chris Hemsworth and Madonna.

In other words, you are first describing the type of people who were invited (football players) and then naming the players invited (Chris Hemsworth and Madonna).

Without the Oxford comma, things can get pretty confusing. Yes, we have a choice, but I always use the Oxford comma because I think English is confusing enough.

We don’t need more doubt!

Jeff

P.S. In case you’re wondering why it’s call the Oxford comma, it’s because this use of the comma has appeared in the Oxford University Press style manual, the written guide that gives rules on language for publishing. This manual has been used by a lot of organizations and publications.

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on The Oxford Comma

You’re a Nut!

If someone calls you a “nut,” is that an insult (a disrespectful thing to say)?

Probably.

A nut is a type of food that has a hard outer shell or covering that you remove to eat what is inside. Peanuts (see photo) are one kind of nut, but there are many different kinds.

But we also use “nut” to describe someone who is crazy or who behaves in a way that is strange or irrational (not reasonable or logical).

“I don’t want to go out on a date with Julie. She’s a nut.”

You can also add an “s” to “nut” and use it as an adjective:

“My uncle is nuts. He goes fishing in his boat in a T-shirt and shorts in the middle of winter!”

“Our dog went nuts in the middle of the night when some burglars tried to get into our house.”

Another way we use “nut” is to describe someone who is too interested and enthusiastic about something, someone who spends a lot of time doing or thinking about this thing.

The two most common terms are “sports nut” and “health nut.”

“Jaime is a sports nut and plays basketball after work and on weekends all year round.”

“I like watching football, basketball, hockey, and baseball whenever it’s on TV. I guess I’m a sports nut.”

“Linda is a health nut and exercises at the gym for two hours a day, six days a week.”

“Karl has a special diet and won’t eat anything that’s been cooked in animal fat. He’s a health nut.”

(Learn more about “health nuts” in Daily English 390.)

Since a nut, by definition, is someone who is TOO interested in something, it’s usually bad to be a nut about anything.

But it’s not uncommon for people to describe themselves as a health nut or sports nut to show their enthusiasm (eager interest).

So if someone calls you a nut, it’s probably not a compliment (a nice thing to say about somebody)!

(Learn about another meaning of “nut” in Cultural English 330.)

Jeff

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on You’re a Nut!

A Visit to the Nixon Library

Presidential libraries are places where many of the documents and possessions of American presidents are kept after they leave office (stop being president).

These libraries usually have museums that tell you the story of that president and what he did.

I visited the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library a few weeks ago, located right here in Southern California. It was much more interesting than I thought it would be.

In fact, I had planned on spending one hour there and spent three instead!

Before telling you more about the library, let me share some of my photos of it.

In the first photo (above), you see me in what is an exact replica (copy) of the president’s Oval Office in the White House. The Oval Office has a large desk and a place for small meetings. Good coffee, too.

The second photo shows me standing next to Marine One. Marine One is the official helicopter that the president uses. This was one of the ones used by Nixon in the 1970s.

I asked if I could fly it and they said no. Weird.

The third picture shows me inside a special booth (room) that was used by the astronauts that returned from the first trip to the Moon in 1969.

Notice that President Nixon is there with me. Considering he’s been dead for more than 20 years, that was very nice of him.

The final picture shows me in front of a large photography of Nixon in his typical or characteristic pose (position): two arms held out with a “V” for “victory” sign.

The tradition of starting a library/museum for each president came relatively late in our history. The first presidential library was for Herbert Hoover, who was the 31st president (1929 to 1933).

Money to build these museums usually comes from universities or private organizations. The United States government helps run (operate; manage) these libraries.

Here in Southern California, we have two presidential libraries: one for Richard Nixon (1969 – 1974) and one for Ronald Reagan (1981 to 1989).

The library/museum is located on the site where Nixon was born, in a small farm house. The main museum contains the history of his presidency.

Now, you may know that Nixon resigned from the presidency in disgrace (with a bad reputation; after having done something wrong). (Get more information on his time in office in Cultural English 280).

He illegally tried to cover up (prevent others from knowing about) crimes he and his staff had committed. Congress started to remove him from office using a process called “impeachment,” but he resigned before that could happen.

The museum does not sugar coat (make it seem “sweeter” or nicer than it is) this history. It tells a balanced, well-documented story that gives you all the facts, both good and bad.

The museum is not located in the city of Los Angeles, but in a suburb about 30-45 minutes south of downtown. If you have any interest in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, I can definitely recommend you visit it if you come to L.A.

You can also visit 13 other presidential libraries around the United States. They are usually located in the “home” state of the president, either where he was born or where he lived.

~Jeff

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Life in the United States | Comments Off on A Visit to the Nixon Library

You Got Under My Skin

Here’s another strange idiom in English: You (or someone/something) got under my skin.

There are two ways we use this idiom.

The first way is to indicate that someone or thing is irritating you, bothering you, doing something that you think is annoying.

“My roommate likes to listen to music early in the morning. I’m trying not to let it get under my skin.”

“Don’t let your boss’s criticism get under your skin.”

It is also possible to say, “You get under my skin,” as in “You get under my skin every time you slam the door (close it loudly and with force)!”

Or you could even say, “Your constant tapping (making a small noise with your finger or pen) is getting under my skin. Please stop!”

A second way we use this idiom is when someone is on your mind all the time. You think about them constantly, and they affect you a lot emotionally, usually in a good way. This often happens slowly and perhaps unexpectedly.

“Tomas and Julia never wanted to have children of their own. But after spending a lot of time around kids, the idea got under their skin and they changed their minds.”

“The new woman in his department at work really got under his skin. He couldn’t stop thinking about her.”

It’s this second way of using this idiom that Frank Sinatra sings about in the famous old song, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

This song was written in 1936. Later, in the 1940s and 1960s, Frank Sinatra sang and recorded it and it became one of his most famous songs.

The first verse (group of lines) are:

I’ve got you under my skin
I have got you, deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart that you’re really a part of me
I’ve got you under my skin

Maybe this blog post has got under your skin, but only you know if it’s in a good way or a bad one.

~ Jeff

P.S. That’s me in the photo. You’re not actually seeing under my skin, but rather a thermal image showing temperature (hot and cold) taken at the California Science Center. Pretty scary, I know.

P.P.S. Like this short English lesson? Then you’ll love our Unlimited English membership: https://tv.eslpod.com

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on You Got Under My Skin

Are You Woke?

Over the past year, one of the most popular buzzwords, or fashionable words, used in the media (news, TV shows, etc.) is “woke.”

You probably know the word woke as the past tense of the verb “to wake” (to stop sleeping): “He woke up this morning at 7:00 am.”

But the term is being used these days to refer to a person who has become aware of, understands, and pays attention to some type of injustice.

Injustice is when a person or group is treated unfairly, often because of their sex (being male or female, or due to their sexual preferences), race (the color of their skin), class (what social or economic group they’re born into, or how much money they have), or something else.

“Woke,” used in this way, is an adjective. A few examples:

“We say we’re woke, but we still have different rules for men and women.”

“The management at my workplace finally got woke. They’re now listening to more of the complaints of our workers in other countries.”

I can’t say this is my favorite buzzword, but you will hear it a lot these days.

Don’t get me wrong (don’t misunderstand). I don’t want anyone or any group to be treated unfairly!

But it’s the people who tell us they’re “woke” — like our politicians — who often seem the most tone-deaf (people who are the least sensitive to and aware of public opinions and feelings; literally, people who can’t tell the differences among tones in music).

I find it especially annoying (bothersome; making me angry) when it is used as a form of virtue signaling.

Virtue signaling means indicating to other people how moral or good you are because you hold the right (correct) opinion about some political or social issue.

In those cases of “wokeness,” I’d rather be asleep.

~Jeff

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Language & Terms, Life in the United States | Comments Off on Are You Woke?

Psst! It’s Someone’s Birthday Today . . .

When we try to get someone’s attention but we don’t want anyone else to know what we’re doing, we make a sound that is usually spelled in English “psst!”

Well, I’m getting your attention to tell you that today is the birthday of a certain host of ESLPod.com’s lessons – Jeff, of course.

Join me in wishing him a very happy birthday today!

But don’t tell him I told you . . .

Lucy

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Psst! It’s Someone’s Birthday Today . . .

What Does “Carry Out” Mean?*

Learn the different meanings of “carry out” in this quick video.

*NOTE: As a noun, we usually spell “carryout” as a single word, or hyphenate it (carry-out). The video caption has it as two words, but that’s usually just for its use as a verb.

~Jeff

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on What Does “Carry Out” Mean?*

More Listening and Reading Will Help You Speak English Better: A True Story

If you’ve been a fan of ESLPod.com, you know that we’re always telling you to read and listen to as much English as you can.

Reading and listening is the key (most important thing) to improving speaking and writing.

There’s really no other way of improving. If you want to speak English better, you need to listen to and read more English.

And you don’t need to travel to the United States to do this!

If you have any doubt about this (not sure you believe it), read this email I got a few weeks ago from Premysl from the Czech Republic. Notice how he improved his English not in the U.S., but back in his own country.

+++++++

Dear Jeff,

First of all, I’d like to wholeheartedly (completely; thoroughly) thank you for all episodes of the English Cafe [now called “Cultural English” lessons]. I really enjoyed them.

Within one year of regular listening, I’ve made tremendous (a large amount of) progress in my English. It all started with a summer job on Block Island, Rhode Island (a state on the east coast of the U.S.).

As an undergraduate (college student), I decided to work there for a summer job. After many years of traditional English teaching, I was quite surprised that I couldn’t understand anyone in English!

And even though I “knew” all of the words, I still could not understand them when I listened.

The coming (next) year in the Czech Republic, I listened ever day to ESLPod.com lessons, and I learned more than in all previous years in school!!!

My friends on Block Island couldn’t believe it when they heard me speak English the next year at another summer job.

Thanks to ESLPod.com, I can now listen to any English program.

Once again, many thanks!

Regards,
Premysl
Czech Republic

++++++

We get emails like Premysl’s every week here. Perhaps our lessons could work for you, too?

Get a FREE sample lesson (no money needed) – SIGN UP BELOW!

Or just become an Unlimited English member today here: https://tv.eslpod.com

~Jeff

Just fill out the form below and we’ll send a FREE lesson to try!

We hate spam, too! We will never sell, rent, or give your information to anyone – ever!

What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on More Listening and Reading Will Help You Speak English Better: A True Story