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Archive for December, 2007

Friday - December 28, 2007

DWI: Driving While Intelligent?

DriversThe intials DWI usually mean Driving While Intoxicated. To be intoxicated means to have drunk too much alcohol.  As in most places, it is illegal in the U.S. to drive when you have drunk a large quantity of beer, wine, or other liquor. (This is also now called DUI = Driving Under the Influence. To be under the influence means the same as being intoxicated or having taken too much of another drug.)

Now there’s a new DWI: Driving While Intelligent. A recent study by an insurance company in the U.S. found that 18% of drivers would fail the written exam that you need to take to get your license if they were to take it again.  You only have to take a driver’s examination once in most states – when you get your first license. But many people forget what the correct rules are for driving, and would probably not pass the exam later on.  So I think we need to encourage this new DWI, especially here in Los Angeles, where there are so many crazy drivers!

~Jeff

Wednesday - December 26, 2007

What Will They Think of Next?

This is the time of year that newspapers and magazines compile year-end lists. One list that caught my eye (got my attention) was in the New York Times Magazine a couple of weeks ago.

This is a list of patents (registered ideas or inventions with the government) that Americans received in 2007. Some of these are clear from their name, but others are not so clear. Some may be good ideas and some are just…strange.

  • Chewableimages2.jpeg (something you can bite and eat) toothbrush
  • Refrigerator with television
  • Inflatable (filled with air) umbrella
  • Automatic celebrity-face-matching-and-attractiveness-rating machine
  • Instant snowman
  • Reverse sitting commode (toilet)
  • Folding coffee maker
  • Cremation urn (a container for the ashes of your body after you die and your body is burned) convertible (changeable) into a birdhouse
  • Combined toy rabbit and hat
  • Inter-toe (between toes) towel

What do you think? Would you have use for any of these?

~ Lucy

Monday - December 24, 2007

Best Wishes for the Holidays from ESL Podcast!

HollyWe at ESL Podcast want to wish all of you a peaceful and joyful holiday season. Although you, our listeners, are in more than 80 countries and speak dozens of different languages, we are all united in our common humanity, no matter what language we speak. For us, the greatest gift is being able to influence in some small way the lives of others for the better.

Thank you for giving us that opportunity, and for your loyal support this past year!

~Lucy, Jeff, and the ESL Podcast Team

Thursday - December 20, 2007

ESL Podcast in Diario Financiero (Chile)

There was a nice article today in the Spanish-language financial newspaper, Diario Financiero, published in Santiago, Chile, about learning languages on the Internet. ESL Podcast is mentioned in the second part of the article, which talks about ways of learning different languages on the web. If you can read Spanish, you may be interested in it.

~Jeff

Tuesday - December 18, 2007

Heal the Bay

SewerFor the past 25 years or so, many people living in Los Angeles have tried to protect the area of water near the city called Santa Monica Bay. One such organization is Heal the Bay. To heal is normally a word we use when talking about people who are sick and then get better. But here it is used to mean improve and clean up the water in the bay near the beaches of Los Angeles.

One way of helping this is to ask people not to dump (get rid of, dispose of) water that is not clean down the sewer drains. Sewers are the pipes that take water and waste away from homes and streets. Streets have drains or openings in the pipes where rain water can go. To drain also means to take liquid out of something, such as the water out of a bath (the little hole where the water goes down in a sink or bathtub is also called a drain).

On many sewer drains close to the ocean, there are signs telling people not to put dirty water (oil, soapy water, etc.) into this sewer drain: “No Dumping – This Drains to Ocean.” (Normally, we would say “drains into the ocean,” but they didn’t have a lot of room on the sign!) Notice the picture of the fish, reminding people to be careful to protect the fish and animals.

Many thanks to Matteo Mescalchin of Digital Movie, a professional photographer who took this picture on his recent trip to Los Angeles.

~Jeff

Monday - December 17, 2007

Last Minute Holiday Gift Idea? Give the Gift of English!

SantaAre you wondering what to buy that special someone you know for the holidays? How about giving them the “gift” of English with an ESL Podcast Basic or Premium Membership? It’s much better than candy or a video game; it tastes sweeter and is much more fun than either of those things!

You can purchase a 6 or 12 month membership on our ESL Podcast Store. After you purchase the membership (either Basic or Premium), email us and we’ll email you a coupon code that you can then give to the person you’re giving the membership to.

How about some nice business or personal English courses for your loved ones?  We currently have 5 different courses, including English for Business MeetingsInterview Questions Answered, A Day in the Life of Jeff, A Day in the Life of Lucy, and our English Though Stories’ mystery, Deadly Letters.  You can buy a gift certificate for one of these courses right on our ESL Podcast Store.

~Jeff (also known as “Santa Claus”)

Monday - December 17, 2007

The Clothes Off Their Backs

Right now, the U.S. dollar is very low in value, which means that visitors from other countries can buy more and spend less. Canadians know this and are coming across the border (line between two countries or areas) to shop in American stores. One catch or difficulty is that shoppers have to pay duty (a government fee for taking something into the country) of around 6% when they reenter Canada.

shopping-mall.jpg

What to do? Some Canadians are leaving their old clothes behind in dressing rooms (a room in a store where you try on clothes) and garbage cans, and wearing their new clothes back home. This is, of course, illegal and if the shopper is caught, he or she will have to pay a fine that is much more than the duty.

Shopping malls are now finding a way to handle these left-behind items. One mall in New York has set up charity bins (containers) outside the stores to collect the old clothes. From this one shopping mall, the charities (organizations that help the poor and the needy) picks up about 20 bins of clothes each week!

I guess our Canadian neighbors are helping more than our economy. They’re helping our poor, too!

~ Lucy

Thursday - December 13, 2007

Hollywood Presidents

OprahThe U.S. will select a new president next year, and the candidates (people trying to win the position) have been campaigning (asking people for their votes) for almost a year now. The first election to select the candidates is in a few weeks.

One recent tradition in U.S. politics is celebrity endorsements, when famous people (actors, comedians, singers) show their support for a candidate by saying, “I’m going to vote for this person.” All politicians have celebrities who support them, some more than others. Barak Obama, a senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic party’s nomination (selection) to run for president, has recently received the endorsement of one of America’s most well-known talk-show hosts, Oprah Winfrey. I talked about Oprah almost two years ago on one of our first English Cafes, English Cafe #5. Oprah (as she is popularly known) has one of American’s most successful television shows (named – are you ready? – “Oprah”!), and is one of the richest and most successful celebrities in the U.S., popular especially among women.

Will her endorsement help Obama’s candidacy? No one knows for sure. Some people will probably be influenced by her endorsement. The other candidates will have their celebrities, too. In U.S. politics, Hollywood and Washington, D.C., have been moving closer and closer together for many years.

The Voice of America has a recent article about these celebrity endorsements, entitled “U.S. Presidential Contenders Enlist Celebrity Support to Push Ahead.” A contender is someone who may win a race or contest, in this case the same as a candidate. To enlist means to ask for support, usually when you have a difficult task or conflict. To push ahead means to continue forward, to become the leader in a competition. So presidential candidates are asking celebrities for their help so that they can win the nomination.

ESL Podcast will not be endorsing anyone for president. (Of course, no one asked us to, either!)

~Jeff

Wednesday - December 12, 2007

Battle Royal (English Cafe 115)

In today’s English Cafe 115, Jeff talked about professional wrestling on American television. Sometimes, professional wrestlers will participate in a battle royals, where a large group of fighters enter the ring and the last person standing is the winner.

Here is an example of a battle royal. Remember that this is for entertainment and that all of it is staged (rehearsed; planned), and the wrestlers are not supposed to really get hurt.

The announcers say that it’s every man for himself in the ring, which means each person is trying to help him or herself, and is not concerned about anyone else. In other words, each fighter is fighting alone, without any help from anyone else.

Do you find professional wrestling convincing? Do you find it entertaining?

~ Lucy

Monday - December 10, 2007

What’s an American Last Name?

DNAMany students of English choose an “English” name for themselves when they begin to study English. These names are often used in professional settings as well. As far as I know, no one has actually studied how people go about choosing their names, and what reasons they may give. Have you chosen an English-sounding first name? If so, how did you chose it and why?

I was reminded of this issue when I read a recent article in the New York Times, “In U.S. Name Count, Garcias Catching up with the Jones.” It gave the most popular last names in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (the U.S. government office which counts people and studies the demographics or characteristics of people in the U.S.). The U.S. is often called a “country of immigrants,” and the last names we have are in some ways related to our immigration history. As immigration changes, the popularity of certain last names shift (change in position) over time.

Here are top ten most popular last names in the U.S. as of (at the time, at this point) 2000, in order:

  • Smith
  • Johnson
  • Williams
  • Brown
  • Jones
  • Miller
  • Davis
  • Garcia
  • Rodriguez
  • Wilson

Most of these names have been popular for a century or more in the U.S., and reflect our British heritage (history). But notice that Garcia is #8, and Rodriguez #9. These are popular last names in many Spanish-speaking countries. The U.S. has seen a dramatic (large) increase in Latino Americans, people from countries such as Mexico. The names increasing in popularity the most are Latino/Hispanic names, which reflects our changing population.

If you want to know if your last name is among the 5,000 most popular names in the U.S., go to the New York Times website and search for your last name. Unfortunately, neither McQuillan nor Tse are among the Top 5,000. Maybe next year!

The title of this article a little joke related to a popular expression in English, “keeping up with the Joneses.” To keep up with means to stay in the same position, not to fall behind or get behind in rank or importance as someone else. If you have one student who walks very slowly, the teacher may tell her to “keep up with” the rest of the class. Because Jones has always been such a popular name in the U.S., it is used here to mean your neighbor or someone you know who may have more money or possessions than you (a bigger house, a better car, etc.). Some people worry about trying to be as rich or as powerful as the people around them. The headline, then, says that the (name) Garcia is “catching up” (approaching in popularity) or keeping up with the (name) Jones in terms of popular last names.

~Jeff