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Archive for April, 2009

Tuesday - April 28, 2009

Hanky Panky

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QUESTION:
Hyun in Korea wants to know what “hanky panky” means.

ANSWER:
Hanky panky is used in two major ways. First,  “hanky panky” is used to describe a secret sexual relationship that is against the rules or that is not generally acceptable, perhaps because the two people involved are married to other people, or they work in a company that does not allow its employees to be romantically involved.  If you suspect something is going on, you migh say, “I think there is some hanky panky going on between those two.”

A second way it is used is to describe improper or bad behavior, often something that is done secretly so other people, such as those in authority (with power), don’t know about it.  It’s usually something that is bad or wrong, but that is not too major or important.  For example, your mother packs (puts into one container) you a lunch with healthy foods, but you trade (give something in exchange for something else) your carrots for someone else’s candy.  One day, you return home and your mother sees a candy wrapper (paper that candy is packaged in) in your lunchbox.  She may say, “I think there’s some hanky panky going on here.”

There is also a very well known oldie (old, classic song) that mentions “hanky panky.”  I’ll let you decide which meaning the song is referring to.

~ Lucy


My Baby Does the Hanky Panky (1963)

by Tommy James and the Shondells

My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky!

My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky!

I saw her walking on down the line.
You know I saw her for the very first time.
A pretty little girl standing all alone.
Hey baby, can I take you home?
I never saw her, never really saw her.

My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky!

I saw her walking on down the line.
You know I saw her for the very first time.
A pretty little girl standing all alone.
Hey baby, can I take you home?
I never saw her, never really saw her.

My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky!

My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky,
My baby does the hanky panky…

Tuesday - April 21, 2009

Hiring Americans to Head Universities in Other Countries

graduation250.jpgI recently read something surprising: In the past few years, many universities in other countries have hired Americans for top-level jobs. For example, in 2009, a provost (senior administrator) at one of the top universities in the U.S.–Yale–will become the head (director; person in charge) of Oxford University, one of the most prestigious universities in England. Another American academic (university teacher or scholar) at Harvard, perhaps the most well-known American university, will become the new head of the University of St. Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland.

What accounts for (explains) these high-level appointments? The answer is money.

Universities have become big businesses and one of the main duties of a senior university official is fundraising, getting donations and other forms of money for the institution. Apparently, Americans or people exposed to American ways of doing things have good fundraising skills. These skills are a product of (result of) experience and necessity (need).

U.S. universities rely heavily (very much) on philanthropy, which is when someone gives a generous donation of money to build or help an organization or a cause. For example, at Harvard last year, 40% of the total budget came from philanthropy. This is in contrast to (very different from) universities abroad (in other countries): At Cambridge University in England, only 10% came from philanthropy, and at the University of Melbourne in Australia, only 6% did.

In recent months, donations to universities have dropped significantly, making a fundraiser’s job even harder. However, in general, when it comes to separating wealthy (rich) people from their money, I guess an American is the one for the job!

~ Lucy

Thursday - April 16, 2009

It Has Nothing To Do With Me!

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QUESTION:
A listener, Ali, wants to know what it means when someone says, “It has nothing to do with me.”

ANSWER:
The expression “to have nothing to do with (someone/something)” is used in three main ways.

First, we use it when we want to say that something isn’t related to me, it doesn’t concern me, or it does not involve me.
For example:
– “Why are you asking me all of these questions about the new building?  I’m not on the planning committee and it has nothing to do with me.”
You are saying, very strongly, that you are not involved in the planning of the new building and this person should stop asking you questions.

A second way to use this expression is to mean that you are innocent of something.
For example:
– “I’m sorry that your car broke down, but it has nothing to do with me driving it yesterday.”
You are saying that although the car you borrowed from this person broke down today, it is not because of anything you did while you drove it yesterday.  In other words, you are innocent and did nothing wrong.

A third way that this expression is used is to strongly refuse friendship or contact with someone.
For example:
– “I asked her for a date, but after I made a joke about her in front of the whole class, she said she will have nothing to do with me.”
This person is saying that the girl he asked for a date will absolutely not have any contact with him, because of what he did earlier.  This sounds a little old-fashioned these days.  A more common way to say this would be:
– “I asked her for a date, but after I made a joke about her in front of the whole class, she said she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

“To have nothing to do with (someone/something) can mean any of these three things and the context (situation; words used around it) will tell you which one it is.

Thanks for the question, Ali, and I hope this is helpful!

~ Lucy

Tuesday - April 14, 2009

A Unique Shopping Mall Experience

corndog_outside.jpgGuido in Rome, a listener and friend of the podcast, sent us this amusing (funny) video.  This is a musical performance by a group called “Improv Everywhere.”  Improv is short for improvisation, which means to create a performance without preparation.  Clearly these performers have rehearsed (practiced) this performance, but it doesn’t make it any less amusing.

This takes place in a shopping mall food court in Los Angeles.  A food court is an area in a shopping mall with a lot of fast food restaurants and a large common (shared) area with many tables and chairs where people sit to eat.  What these unsuspecting (unaware) shoppers never expected was a musical performance like this!

By the way, the woman who begins the song and who is wearing the funny hat works at a chain of fast food stands/restaurants with locations in many California shopping malls called “Hotdog on a Stick.”  They are well known for their lemonade, a sweet drink made with lemons, and corn dogs, hot dogs wrapped with a type of bread and deep fried (see picture).

~ Lucy

Here are the first lines of the song.

Lemonade spilled across the countertop (a flat surface for working, usually in the kitchen).
There’s ice and lemons everywhere now.
I’ve got to clean it up.

Can I get a napkin, please?
I’m going to need some just like these.
I’ve got three or four, but I might need more.
Can I get a napkin, please?

Ah man!  Can I get a napkin, too, by chance (possibly)?
I have spilled some mustard (a yellow paste people put on their hot dogs and hamburgers) on my pants.
What a pain, it’s a shame, this is probably going to stain (leave a permanent mark),
If I don’t get a napkin…

We both need napkins, that’s a fact.
That’s true.  It’s napkins that we lack (don’t have).
We’re agreed, we’re in need,
On our knees we humbly plead (beg),
Can we get a napkin, please?

Can I get a napkin, please?
I promise that we’re not wasting trees.
I’ll take one from you, and from this hot (attractive) girl, too.
Can I get a napkin, please?

I need a napkin.
I have an infant (baby) in my arms,
And I don’t mean to cause alarm (make others worried or anxious)
She just hurled (vomited) on my pearls, she’s my darling little girl
But, can I get a napkin…?

I’m the janitor (someone whose job is to clean),
The working man you all adore (love)
Sweeping up this dirty floor,
Boy, my left foot sure is sore (hurting).
I just want a chance to show the world that I can dance!

Thursday - April 2, 2009

Could I Be Related to Ben Franklin?

Liberty BellOne of the United States’ most important cities in its early history was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, located in the northeast part of the US.  Philadelphia was the site (location) of the first meetings of the Revolutionary War leaders in the late 1700s.  It was where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, announcing our independence from Great Britain.  It was where our Constitutional Convention took place, and was our nation’s first capital.  There’s a great deal (a lot) of history in Philadelphia, and today it continues to be a popular place for tourists visiting the United States.

Like many popular tourist locations, Philadelphia also has many private tour companies that will take you around to all of the important areas and explain the history behind the city and its historic buildings.  And like all tour companies with talkative (talking a lot) tour guides (people who lead or are in charge of the tours), sometimes not everything they say is 100% accurate.  In fact, sometimes they make things up (invent things, say things that are not true), which can be very confusing for a tourist who does not know the real story.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that some of the tour guides in Philadelphia were telling tourists that one of the early, popular leaders of our country, Benjamin Franklin, had fathered more than 80 illegitimate children!  (An illegitimate child is one who is born to a woman not married, although this term is not used very much today, especially since there is such a high percentage of American children born to unmarried mothers.)  Ben Franklin had the reputation for being, well, a “lady’s man” (a man who is popular with women and tries to have many romantic relationships with them), but there is no evidence he had 80 children.   Another guide said that George Washington, our first president, once had lunch in Philadelphia with Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, which would have been rather (very) difficult, since Washington died 10 years before Lincoln was born.

Because of these distortions (half-truths, false ideas) by some tour guides, the city of Philadelphia decided to institute (begin, start) a mandatory (required, obligatory) history test that all the registered guides had to take and pass to get permission to be a tour guide.  This seems at first like a reasonable idea, but the tour guides disagreed.  They didn’t want to be forced to take an exam, and instead sued (took legal action against) the city to stop the test.  Their reason?  One of the freedoms that Americans are supposed to have is freedom of speech, the freedom to say what you want, whenever you want (with some restrictions, however).  Having to take an exam limited the freedom of speech of the tour guides, they said.  The city of Philadelphia responded by saying that no, they were not required to actually tell people the facts included on the test; they only had to pass the test.  After that, they could say whatever they wanted!

While I understand what the city of Philadelphia was trying to do here, it does seem like a rather difficult task to come up with (create) an “official” history that all guides must follow.  Part of the problem is that historians do not all agree on what the “true” history is of a place.  And I agree with the tour guides that the government cannot be in the business of regulating what someone can say in public, even if it isn’t true.  And if the guides are not required to actually use the information they learn from the test, why bother (why go to the trouble of) giving them a test at all?

But what about the poor tourist, who will get possibly false information?  I think that most tourists know enough not to believe everything they hear from a private tour guide.  I have been on many tours and I always keep in mind (try to remember) that at least some of the things they tell me are probably not true.  I myself was in Philadelphia back in 1976 for the bicentennial (200th anniversary) of the Declaration of Independence (I was a boy of 13 at the time), and while I remember visiting the famous historical sites, I also remember reading my own tour books to get the details on the places I was visiting.  Most Americans study about the Revolutionary War, so (I hope) they at least will know what is true and what is not.  For international tourists, it may be a good idea wherever you travel to read a little on your own rather than relying on your tour guide.

Here’s an interesting idea: Take a tour of your own city and see what the tour guides tell visitors about where you live.  You may be surprised by some of the things they tell you!

~Jeff