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Archive for October, 2007

Wednesday - October 31, 2007

Boo! Happy Halloween!

HalloweenToday is Halloween, which most American children celebrate each year. If you aren’t sure about Halloween and how it is celebrated in the U.S., listen to ESL Podcast 73, where I talk about how kids celebrate Halloween. Halloween isn’t an official holiday, but it is very popular.

If you want to scare someone, you can use the expression “Boo!” today (it’s pronounced like “do”). Or, you can just show them my picture.


Tuesday - October 30, 2007

That Trash May be Worth $1 Million

I read a fascinating (very interesting) story in the New York Times last week. A woman who lives in New York City was walking down the street one day when she saw a painting among some garbage bags on the sidewalk in front of a upscale (high class; wealthy) apartment building. It was a very large painting and she lived in a small apartment, but she really liked it and decided to take it home. She didn’t think the painting was worth any money and she kept it for three years before she found out that it was valuable, very valuable.


The painting had been stolen from a family in Houston, Texas, who had bought it for $55,000. For 20 years, no one knew where the painting was and it was considered a missing masterpiece (great piece of art). It is called “Tres Personajes” by famous Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo. The woman who found the painting only discovered it was famous when she did some research about the painter, whose name is on the painting.

The painting is now estimated or valued at $1 million. It was returned to the widow (woman whose husband died) from whom it was stolen and will be auctioned off next month at a public sale where the person who gives the highest price will get it. The woman who found it got a reward from the family and a small fee from the auction company that will be auctioning it off.

So the next time you see a painting in the garbage, think twice before you pass it by. Who knows? It may be another missing masterpiece.

~ Lucy

Friday - October 26, 2007

Finding Your Spot (315 – Going to the Park)

In today’s podcast, we talk about going to the park and finding a nice spot, or small place, to enjoy the scenery and nature. We mention in the “What Else Does it Mean?” section of the Learning Guide that “spot” can have a lot of different meanings, both as a noun and a verb, and in idioms like “to put (someone) on the spot.”

If you ask an average American what they think of when they hear the word “spot,” you may get a surprising answer: a dog. That’s because “Spot” is the name of a dog in a series of readers or short books used in schools with a boy and girl named Dick and Jane. They had a dog named Spot. These readers were used in schools mainly from the 1930s to the 1970s. These books were well known for their repetition, like this:

Dick and Jane 2

These books have been criticized over the years for being too focused on language skills and not on helping children learn to enjoy reading. Teachers and other educators–including Jeff and me–also say that these readers have poor language and uninteresting stories. In fact, some of the language is nonsensical (does not make sense). We do not recommend these readers to people learning English at any level, but they are a part of popular culture in the U.S.

Now when you see a dog or other pet in American movies and TV shows named Spot, you’ll know why, and maybe wonder where Dick and Jane are.

~ Lucy

Thursday - October 25, 2007

ESL Podcast now a Featured Provider on U.S. iTunes!

ESLPod on iTunes

ESL Podcast is among a select group of Featured Providers on the Podcast page of the U.S. verison of iTunes! Only 46 companies are listed as being the most popular providers of podcasts, including the BBC, CNN, and now, ESLPod. The Featured Providers are selected by iTunes to feature (to publicize, to let others know about, to highlight) the best podcasts available.

Each country’s iTunes has a different list of featured providers, so you may not see it on your country’s Podcast page.


Wednesday - October 24, 2007

Karaoke English: Get Your Kicks on Route 66!

English Cafe 108 talks about the famous Route 66, a highway that goes from Chicago to Los Angeles. In the Cafe, I mention a song called “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” originally performed by Nat King Cole.

In searching YouTube, I found an original version (performance) by the great Nat King Cole himself. Cole had one of the most wonderful voices in American pop music of the 20th century. Listen and see if you don’t agree. I’ve put the lyrics below so you can understand him better.

Here are the lyrics:
If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way,
Take the highway that’s the best —
Get your kicks on Route 66.It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66.Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
and Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.
Come on in — get your kicks on Route 66.
Get your kicks on Route 66.

In the first stanza (section) of the song, it says “If you plan to motor west.” To motor is an older expression meaning to drive in a car, to take a trip in a car. The singer is recommending that you take Route 66. “To get your kicks” is explained more in the podcast. Next the song says, “It winds from Chicago to LA.” This is the verb to wind, meaning that that Route 66 isn’t a straight line, but curves as it moves across the country. To wind rhymes with “mind” and “kind.” Don’t confuse this verb with the noun, wind. Wind is what happens when the air blows in a certain direction, and the noun wind rhymes with “sinned” (the “i” short, like the “i” in him).

Saint Looey is slang for Saint Louis, a large city in the state of Missouri. The song mentions several of the cities, big and small, that are on Route 66. Then it says, “Won’t you get hip to this timely tip.” To get hip to is an old expression, popular in the 1940s and 1950s, meaning to become informed about something, to get information about something, to become aware of something. Timely means useful, coming right at the right time, not too late.


Tuesday - October 23, 2007

Wildfires in Southern California

It has been a dangerous few days here in Los Angeles and the larger Southern California area. The Santa Ana winds–a warm, dry wind that comes through Southern California in the the fall and early winter seasons–are causing wildfires (large, uncontrolled fires).

As the Los Angeles Times reports, over 700 homes have been destroyed (damaged completely). Firefighters who are working to put out the fires have told over 500,000 people to evacuate (leave) their homes. One person has died and about 50 people are injured or hurt, including about 20 firefighters.

We’re very fortunately here at ESL Podcast that everyone is safe. Thank you to all of our listeners who have emailed us to express their concern, or thought of us as they read the news.

~ Lucy


Monday - October 22, 2007


I came across a new word this week in the newsmagazine Newsweek:

Googlegänger = another person with your name, whose search results are mixed with yours when you “google” yourself, or search for information about yourself on the Internet.

This new term comes from the German word “doppelgänger,” which is a double or another version of a person.

Question Mark

My googlegänger: A Chinese opera singer in San Francisco!

~ Lucy

Friday - October 19, 2007

David who?

BeckhamAmericans are not the world’s biggest soccer fans, as everyone knows. Soccer is very popular as a sport in school, but the best athletes in the US usually become (American) football, basketball, or baseball players (with a few hockey players as well). So when England’s superstar soccer player David Beckham signed a contract for $250 million dollars with the Los Angeles Galaxy professional soccer team, most Americans asked, “David who?”

Beckham has been in the news here in Los Angeles, not just because of the large contract he received, but because his wife, Victoria, was part of the famous “girl band” the Spice Girls, popular in the 1990s. Soon after Beckham arrived, however, he injured (hurt) himself, and only yesterday returned to the team to play.

Some people (like me) had heard of David Beckham before he came to Los Angeles, mostly from a well-liked movie, Bend it Like Beckham, about a girl from an Indian immigrant family in London who loved to play girl’s soccer. If you haven’t seen this movie, I think you will really like it. This was also the first big movie for the British actress Keira Knightly, although she wasn’t the star of the movie.

~ Jeff

Thursday - October 18, 2007

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

There is an old joke that people at work sometimes say to each other: Are you working hard or hardly working? To work hard means to work with seriousness, to work a great deal, to work a lot. To hardly do something is to barely do something, to do very little of something. Hardly as an adverb means something different than hard as a noun. So the joke is basically: Are you working a lot (working hard) or a little (hardly working)?

I was reminded of this expression when I read a recent article in The Economist. (The Economist is a news magazines from Great Britain. It is published in the US as well.) The article was called “An Idle Proposal” (to be idle means not to work). The story had a chart of how many national public holidays different countries had each year. The country with the highest number was Spain, with 16; the lowest country was Romania, with five. The United States was in the middle: we have ten holidays celebrated by most states. (Each state determines its own public holidays.) Some of our national holidays are shared by other countries – Christmas and New Year’s Day, for example. Most of our holidays are unique to the US: Independence Day (4th of July), Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Washington’s Birthday (also called President’s Day), Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Veteran’s Day, and Columbus Day. In addition, some states have their own holidays. In California, we celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, in honor of a famous Mexican American civil rights hero in the 1960s.

I’m looking forward to another holiday!


Wednesday - October 17, 2007

ESL Podcast on MySpace

ESL Podcast listener Fabio Okipney has started a page for ESL Podcast listeners onmyspace.gif MySpace. MySpace is a social networking site where you can becomes “friends” with other people you know or who have similar interests. If you have a page on MySpace, you can become friends with other ESL Podcast listeners.

MySpace is very popular among many younger people in the United States. Like a blog, it allows people to express their ideas and share information on the web. Many thanks to Fabio for setting up this page!