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Archive for July, 2008

Thursday - July 31, 2008

What Are “Cooties”?

QUESTION:
Brian in the U.S. asked: What are “cooties”? I watch “Arthur,” the cartoon (show with animation (drawings)), every morning, and the characters often say, “You have cooties!” but I do not understand! Please help!

ANSWER:
Cooties are imaginary (not real) germs. Germs are the very, very small living things that we can’t see, but that can cause disease or illness.  To insult (to treat with disrespect) someone, you could say that they have cooties. Children like to say this to people they don’t like.  Like the word “germs,” we nearly always use “cooties” as a plural noun, almost never as a singular noun. Adults don’t usually use the word “cooties” unless they were trying to be funny.

~ Lucy

Monday - July 28, 2008

Poll: Which Superpower Would You Want?

super_friends.jpgIt’s summertime and the movie theaters are full of blockbusters (very successful; earning a lot of money) movies. The number 1 movie in the U.S. this week is The Dark Knight, a movie about Batman. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve read good reviews.

This got me thinking about when I was younger and how I wished I had superpowers, or powers and abilities that would allow me to do great things.

Here’s a poll question: If you could any superpower, which superpower would you want? If it’s not listed in the options, submit a comment and tell us what that power would be.

~ Lucy

[Poll=4]

Wednesday - July 23, 2008

Is iTunes U for You?

iTunes UAs some of you probably know already, iTunes has a special section for university lectures and classes.  Different universities, including some of the best in the United States, provide free lectures and demonstrations on a variety of topics from some of their best professors.  You can find the free courses by clicking on iTunes U in the menu of the iTunes Store.

These videos audio lectures are especially good for those of you studying for the TOEFL or IELTS exams, since you will get a lot of native speaker speech on topics similar to those found on the tests.  Of course, you want to start with a subject you know something about, and (with luck) a professor who speaks clearly.

For some useful advice on how to use iTunes U, take a look at Warren Ediger’s Successful English website where he has a special section on the TOEFL.

~Jeff

Monday - July 21, 2008

“Summertime” by George Gershwin

We’re in the middle of summer and it has brought to mind (made me remember) the song “Summertime.” This is a song that was part of a well-known musical (show or movies with singing) called Porgy and Bess, and was written in 1935 by the famous composer (someone who writes music) George Gershwin. This song is now a standard, which is song that most people recognize and is played and performed a lot.

George Gershwin wrote this song to sound like a spiritual. A spiritual is a style of song that was originally developed by African American slaves (people owned by other people and forced to work without pay) to express religious feelings and later, as a part of their protest (expressing disagreement) against slavery. Today, you’ll hear spirituals in churches and other places of religious worship.

This version of “Summertime” is performed by two jazz legends (extremely famous people): Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

~ Lucy

“Summertime”
written by George Gershwin
performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

Summertime,
And the living is easy
Fish are jumping
And the cotton is high

Oh, your daddy’s rich
And your ma’s good looking
So hush (be quiet) little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up (to wake up in the morning) singing
Yes, you’ll spread (open to its fullest) your wings
And you’ll take to (go to) the sky

But (un)til that morning
There’s nothing can harm (hurt) you
Yes, with daddy and mommy standing by (nearby and watching or waiting)

Summertime,
And the living is easy
Fish are jumping
And the cotton is high

Oh, your daddy’s rich
And your ma is good looking
So hush little baby
Baby, don’t you cry

Thursday - July 17, 2008

Home Away from Home

home.jpgThe expression home away from home means that the place you are describing is as comfortable as your own house, somewhere you can feel “at home,” and it is usually where you spend a lot of your time.

You could say, “I spend so much time in this hotel for my work, it’s my home away from home.”

Do you have a home away from home?  If so, where is it?

~Jeff

Tuesday - July 15, 2008

What a Font Says About You

A font is the size and style of printed letters and words, like these:

frame_fonts21.gif

The latest trend (fashion; something new that many people are doing) for important people or celebrities is to commission (hire someone to make or create something) someone to create your own custom (specially made; not standard) font.

* Did you know that Barack Obama, who is running for (wanting to be elected to the job of) U.S. president, has his own font?

* Did you know that singers/celebrities, like Beyonce and Bjork, do too?

An article I read reported (gave information) that last year, a movie called Helvetica (the name of a font) became very popular. Helvetica is a documentary (movie based on true events) about the history of this font–yes, an entire movie about one font! In the cities where it played (was shown), there were sold out (all the tickets sold; every seat was filled) audiences.

Typographers, people who arrange or design letters/words for printing, say that fonts can send important and subtle (not bold; not very easy to see or understand) ways, communicating or changing a mood (emotion; how you feel) or a tone (quality; character; feeling). Business and advertisers know this. They use thick fonts to convey (communicate) boldness (having courage and confidence) for products like cigarettes, and they use thiner and lighter fonts for fashion (clothes and other things people wear).

The two fonts I see the most in daily correspondence such as letters and emails in the U.S., both personal and professional (in business), are Arial and Times Roman (see above).

Do you select a special font for your correspondence? What do you think it says about you?

I usually use Arial. It’s simple, so I guess I’m simple*, too.

~ Lucy

* simple = 1) plain, not fancy, 2) easy to understand, or 3) dumb, stupid, not intelligent, when describing a person

Thursday - July 10, 2008

Urban Dictionary

We often get questions about slang words listeners see in the newspaper or (more likely) hear in movies, TV programs, and songs. The problem with slang is that it keeps changing. Words that were slang five years ago may no longer be used. Slang tends to be very short-term, although some expressions do have a longer life.

In general, I don’t recommend second language speakers use slang words, especially “new” slang, unless they really understand how it should be used and in what contexts. This is often difficult for a non-native to figure out. It is best, in most cases, just to speak in “normal” English, and avoid using slang that you don’t completely understand.

One place to look for definitions of slang is the Urban Dictionary. This is a Wikipedia-type of website, where readers submit definitions and sample sentences. This is a good place for slang that comes from recent songs or movies.

Note: There is also a lot of vulgar or “bad words” on the website, so use it carefully. Also, remember that because this is a site where anyone can submit definitions, not all of the definitions are correct. Look for words/phrases that have at least five or ten definitions to make sure you are getting the right idea. And don’t think that because it appears in Urban Dictionary, it is a common phrase. Most of these words are not common – again, look for words that have lots of definitions to get an idea of just how common it is (or Google the word or phrase and see how many websites have it).

~Jeff

Tuesday - July 8, 2008

ESL Podcast in Malaysian Newspaper The Sun

Thanks to Bill from the University of Malaya for mentioning ESL Podcast in a recent article that appeared in the daily national newspaper, The Sun, in Malaysia.  We always appreciate our listeners and supporters mentioning ESL Podcast to their friends, family, newspaper reporters, dentists, hair dressers – well, anyone you think may be interested!

You can find the article (in English) here.

~Jeff

Monday - July 7, 2008

Shoe Store and Bakery?!

We’ve all seen places where two business are run out of the same storefront (outside view or entrance to a store). There are a lot of strange combinations and sometimes it is difficult to see how the two business complement (go well together with) each other.

Here’s an example:

274626e.jpg

A laundromat is a place where people go to wash their dirty clothes. Tanning beds are machines that use light to help people get a tan (darker color to their skin, normally from being out in the sun). I suppose you could tan while your clothes are in the washer (machine to wash clothes) or dryer (machine to dry clothes). I don’t recommend tanning, of course, but this would be an efficient (doing the most with the least amount of time) use of time.

Here’s another one:

ad77d554-11b5-4ddd-afd6-8bdcb9855e3e1.jpg

When people go fishing, they use bait to catch fish. Live means living, so “live bait” means worms, the small, long animals that live in the dirt, that are still living, not dead. A gameroom is a place where you go…well…to play games, such as pool, pinball, and videogames. If you can think of a way that these two business go together, you have a better imagination than I do.

Have you seen any strange or unusual business combinations in your town or on your travels?

~ Lucy

Thursday - July 3, 2008

How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Last week we published an episode called Mending a Broken Heart about someone who is sad because their boyfriend or girlfriend has left them.  Most of us have experienced this at some time in our lives (and some of us, many times!).  It is one of those common human experiences that everyone understands.

While I don’t normally publish writings that are submitted (send to us) by listeners, I got a note from Kaz in Poland who said that he, too, had his heart broken recently.  He wrote a short poem about it after listening to this episode.  I put the poem below.  The English is easy to understand, I think, as well as the sentiment (emotion) behind it.  If you enjoy poetry, you may want to read it.

Good luck to Kaz!

~Jeff

——————————–

Have I fallen in love?
They say love is suffering.
I didn’t believe, I didn’t understand.
“Love is a delight, a joy,” I thought.
And I’ve been waiting for love, all my life …
Finally, when I lost hope, I saw her …
The Princess Ag … I recognized her from glamour,
From a glow which highlighted the scene.
At first I covered my eyes. But then we started to talk …
When our souls in two months got close, she disappeared.
Heavy grief has fallen on my heart.
Did I say something wrong?
The last of my words were: “We have no debts.”
Did she understand by this, “We are through?”
I meant only I didn’t expect mail she had forgotten to send …
My heart is broken. It’s more than hankering,
That’s simply suction, day and night.
I haven’t known such a feeling yet.
Is that love?

——————————–
glamour = an exciting quality that makes people appear special
glow = a soft light that comes from a light bulb, a candle, or other source
highlighted = to light or to put special attention on
grief = extreme sadness
hankering = a strong desire to do something