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Archive for December, 2008

Tuesday - December 30, 2008

Let’s Ring in the New Year!

cp132002-main_full.jpgThe new year is fast approaching (arriving soon). We use the expression to ring in the new year to mean to welcome or to celebrate the new year. We usually use this expression like this:
- “We’re ringing in the new year with a party at our house.”
- “Let’s ring in the new year with a bottle of champagne (a type of wine with bubbles)!”

Traditionally, people go to parties on new year’s eve (December 31st) to be with friends and other people to ring in the new year. They go to parties at people’s houses or go to one of the many restaurants and bars that have special new year celebrations. Many people dress up, especially women, wearing formal party and evening dresses. When 12:00 a.m. approaches, there is a countdown (10…9…8…7…etc.) to midnight. When the clock strikes 12:00, people drink champagne and kiss their spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date, or maybe even a stranger (someone they don’t know). And the party continues…

How will you ring in the new year?

To all of our listeners, happy new year to you, and we hope that you’ll have a fantastic 2009!

~ Lucy

Thursday - December 25, 2008

Peace on Earth

ESL Podcast wishes you a very happy holiday season from beautiful Los Angeles, California – the “City of Angels.”  In the Christian tradition, the angels greeted (said hello to) the shepherds (those who take care of sheep in the fields) near Bethlehem (the small town where Jesus was born), beginning with the words, “Peace on earth.”

This is our wish for the world, and for you and your families: That we may all have peace in our hearts and homes.

~Jeff

Tuesday - December 23, 2008

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

giftofthemagicover.jpgThis is the time of year when many people are thinking of giving and receiving gifts. A popular short story about gift-giving is “The Gift of the Magi” published in 1906, written by American writer O. Henry (whose real name was William Sydney Porter). It’s a classic story that most Americans know from childhood, and there are many versions of this story today. Here’s a summary of the story:
….

There once was a young married couple named Jim and Della Dellingham. They were very much in love and they were very poor. For Christmas, Della wanted to buy her husband a chain (a long, flexible piece made of many small metal parts connected at one end, one to the next, like a necklace) for this pocket watch (an old-fashioned watch worn in a pocket, not on the arm), a watch that his father had given him and that he cherished (loved very much). The trouble was, Della didn’t have enough money. The only thing she had that was valuable was her beautiful long hair. She decided to cut it off and sell it to a wig-maker (maker of fake hair) to get the money for the watch chain.

Jim Dellingham loved his young wife very much and wanted to give her something special for Christmas. He, too, had little money and certainly not enough money to buy a set of beautiful combs for Della’s long hair, hair that everyone admired. In the end, Jim decided to sell his much-loved pocket watch to buy Della the combs.

As you can imagine, when Christmas day arrived and the gifts were exchanged, Jim and Della were surprised and also disappointed that the gift that each had bought the other was now useless. However, they each realized the self-sacrifice (giving of oneself so another person could benefit) of the other and loved each other all the more.

Why is this story called “The Gift of the Magi”? Here is O. Henry’s explanation from the last paragraph of his story.

“The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe (Jesus Christ in the Christian religion) in the manger (the open box that was the baby’s bed). They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones… And here I have lamely (poorly) related to you the uneventful chronicle (story from beginning to end) of two foolish children in a flat (apartment) who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest (showing the best judgment). Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they (like they do) are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

You can read O. Henry’s entire story here. I hope that your gift-giving experiences this holiday season are full of joy, for you and the ones you love.

~ Lucy

Thursday - December 11, 2008

Fast Food Nation

Fast FoodThe United States is known for its many low-cost (inexpensive, cheap) restaurants called fast food restaurants.  The idea is that you can get your food within a few minutes after you order it.  The most common food is hamburgers at restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King, although tacos are now becoming popular at restaurants such as Taco Bell and others.  Unfortunately, much of this food is unhealthy and is probably one reason why so many Americans are obese (seriously overweight).

Does the average American eat at restaurants more often than people in any other country?   The answer is no.  In the U.S., according to one study that was discussed in the New York Times Magazine recently, the average person living in the U.S. eats at a restaurant about 120 times a year.  That means that one out of every three days the average American eats a meal outside of their home.  This doesn’t necessarily mean they are eating fast food, although that is probably the most popular type of restaurant here.  But the number one country for eating meals at restaurants is Japan, where the typical person eats almost 200 meals every year in a restaurant.  The U.S. is second, followed by Spain, where the average person eats just over a hundred meals per year in a restaurant; Italy, Germany and Great Britain, where the number is around 80 meals per year; followed by France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.  (I’m not sure how many countries the study looked at, however.)

With the declining economy, my guess is that some of these numbers will go down in the United States as people look for less expensive ways of eating.  I would say that I am probably about the same as the average American, perhaps eating out (eating at a restaurant) a little bit more than the average.  I have a good reason, however: I am a terrible cook.

~Jeff

Tuesday - December 2, 2008

Excuse Me, May I Have your Attention, Please?

QUESTION:
Mauro from Italy wants to know how to get the attention of a person or a group of people whom he doesn’t know, in both formal and informal situations.

ANSWER:
The simplest phrase to use is “excuse me” and this can be used with an individual or group and in most situations.

For example, if you want to ask directions from a stranger, you can say, “Excuse me, could you tell me where the university is?” If you are speaking to a group, whether you know them or not, you can say, “excuse me” or “excuse me, everyone.” If you are going to make an announcement to a group, you can say, “Excuse me, may I have your attention, please?” For instance, at the beginning of a play, you may say, “Excuse me, everyone. / Excuse me, may I have your attention, please? Would you all take your seats (sit down)?”

If you want to be very formal or you are speaking to a customer, you can use the terms “sir” for a man and “ma’am” (pronounced “mam”) for a woman; “miss” can be used for a girl or young woman. You can use “gentlemen” for a group of all men or “ladies” for a group of all women.

For example, if you’re waiting for a table in a restaurant, the hostess may say, “Ma’am, your table is ready now” or “Gentlemen, ladies, (or ladies and gentlemen) your table is ready now.” However, she is just as likely to say, “Excuse me, your table is ready now.” This would be perfectly acceptable.

So, using “excuse me” is a safe choice and considered polite in all of the situations I can think of.

I hope this is helpful.

~ Lucy