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Archive for April, 2011

Thursday - April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ella!

It’s hard to imagine that a song could have a better friend than Ella Fitzgerald! Ella – who died in 1996 – would have celebrated her 94th birthday on Monday, April 25th.

Ella, an American jazz singer, is known as the “First Lady (the leading woman in an art or profession) of Song.” She had a remarkable (impressive) career that “spanned (extended across a period of time) 59 years, garnered (collected) 15 Grammys (an important award for musicians) and forever changed the face of (sound or appearance of) jazz,” according to the Brain Pickings website.

Many believe that Ella had the best voice in the history of jazz or, perhaps, any kind of music. And they believe that her ability to interpret (perform in a way to show feeling and meaning) many different kinds of songs is without peer. In other words, no other singer has had the same ability she had. She’s certainly one of the foremost (best or most important) interpreters of the Great American Songbook – the best and most important American songs from the 20th century, especially from the 1920s to 1960. These are songs that will probably remain (continue to be) popular and be performed by jazz musicians for many years. Sometimes these songs are called “jazz standards.” She received the National Medal of Art from President Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the first President Bush.

Ella was born in 1917 and began her singing career in 1934, when she was 17 years old. She sang with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and most of the other important bands (groups of instrumental musicians), but she may be best known for her frequent performances with Louis Armstrong, one of the greatest male jazz singers and trumpet players and my childhood hero (someone you admire). There always seemed to be a little special magic in the air when they performed together.

Ella is also considered (thought) to be one of the greatest scat singers in jazz history. Scat singing is when the singer uses the sound of his or her voice like an instrument, without words. Scat singing is almost always improvised. Improvised music isn’t written; it’s created, or made up, while performing.

Ready to party with Ella? I’ve found several great examples of her music, some of them rare (not often seen or heard):

  • One Note Samba – a great example of scat singing from 1969. When she introduces the song, she calls it impromptu, which means not practiced or planned.
  • Dream a Little Dream of Me – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. This recording, the best I could find online, includes a humorous animation (like a cartoon) in which a bird and a cat act out the lyrics (words) of the song. Great music! Funny animation!
  • First Lady of Song is a series of short podcasts about Ella Fitzgerald. You’ll hear her sing and listen to modern jazz musicians talk about and perform some of her music.
  • Sound to Grow On is a series of American music programs from the Smithsonian Institution on iTunes U. They are hosted (introduced) by Michael Ash. Ash’s father Moses recorded many popular musicians from 1948 until 1986. The program called Jazz is one hour long, and you’ll find a song by Ella – from 1939 – at 37:45 (37 minutes, 45 seconds) into (from the beginning of) the program. I hope you listen to the whole program. You’ll learn a lot about American jazz. It’s especially interesting to me to hear the musicians discuss how they plan to perform some of the songs you’ll hear.

I hope you enjoy Ella as much as I do. I celebrated her birthday on Monday by listening to her music all day while I worked; I loved every minute of it!

~ Warren Ediger – English coach/tutor and creator of Successful English where you can learn how to use audio books to improve your speaking.

Photo of young Ella from the Wikipedia Commons is in the public domain.

 

 

 

 

Monday - April 25, 2011

Podcasts This Week (April 25, 2011)

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 680 – Recognizing an Unsung Hero

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to fool” and “to be sunk.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Employee Recognition Programs.”
“Companies often try to improve employee “morale” (the way a group of people feel) and “motivate” (encourage someone to do something) them by having employee recognition programs for employees who are doing their job very well…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 291

Topics:  Ask an American: Artists as ambassadors; log versus timber versus lumber; tag questions; to bump into (someone/something)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Shepard Fairey and the Hope Poster Controversy.”
“In 2008, an artist named Shepard Fairey created a “poster” (a large piece of paper with images and/or words hung on a wall) with an image of “then-presidential candidate” (a person who was running for election as president at that time) Barack Obama…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 681 – Disagreeing about Religion

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to bait (someone” and “faith.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Religions in the United States.”
“The United States was the first country to not have an official “state-sponsored” (supported by the state) religion. The First “Amendment” (official change) to the U.S. “Constitution” (the most powerful law in the country) is part of the…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Monday - April 18, 2011

Podcasts This Week (April 18, 2011)

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 678 – Reporting Damaged Luggage

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “handle” and “to blow off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Damaged or Lost Luggage.”
“If your luggage or the “contents” (the things that were kept inside) are damaged by an airline, it is important to “notify” (officially let someone know) the airline right away…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 290

Topics:  Charles Manson and the Tate murders; air marshals; to reach versus to arrive; to go off; to be out of (one’s) league

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Criminal Justice System.”
“Would you like to work as an air marshal or a police officer?  If you do, you could be working in important parts of the criminal justice system. The term “criminal justice” refers to all parts of the system that ‘ensures'”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 679 – Getting a Makeover

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to let (oneself) go” and “look.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Makeover Shows.”
“Many people are “fascinated” (very interested in) by makeover TV shows where they can see before and after “shots” (photographs) or “footage”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - April 14, 2011

FYI and LOL in OED? OMG!

This month the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added FYI, LOL, and OMG to their online edition. Previously (before now), OED had added IMHO, TMI, BFF, and others to the online dictionary.

These expressions are examples of initialisms, abbreviations that are made up of the first letters of a name or expression. For those of you who may not be familiar with them, here’s how the OED defines them:

  • OMG – “Oh my God” (or sometimes “gosh,” “goodness,” etc.)
  • LOL – “Laughing out loud”
  • FYI – “For your information”
  • IMHO – “In my humble opinion,” sometimes only IMO – “In my opinion”
  • TMI – “Too much information”
  • BFF – “Best friends forever”

When we pronounce (say) initialisms, we say the letters: for example, O-M-G or C-E-O (Chief Executive Officer, the top manager of a large company) or F-B-I (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

When we pronounce an initialism as a word, we call it an acronym. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) are familiar acronyms.

In making the announcement, the OED noted (mentioned something interesting or important) that the intention (goal or purpose) of an initialism is usually to signal (show or express) a very casual (informal) mood or feeling. They have become popular because they are short and easy to type in an e-mail, tweet, or text message. The OED says that these initialisms are used sometimes to parody the way people act and write online. Parody means to copy (repeat) someone or something in a way that makes people laugh. A good example of parody on television is Saturday Night Live, where the actors parody politicians and popular entertainers to make the audience laugh. Sometimes we call this “making fun of” someone or something.

During the process of approving these initialisms, the OED discovered (found) that all three of them have been used for many years, long before the beginning of the Internet. OMG was first used in 1917, during World War I, in a personal letter. FYI originated (began) in 1941, during World War II. And LOL started in 1960, but then it stood for (meant) “little old lady,” an elderly (older) woman!

This brings up an interesting point, one that may surprise you. The editors (people who decide what goes into a book) of a dictionary don’t determine (decide) the meanings of words. Rather, they report (describe) how the speakers and writers of a language use words. The editors’ job is, first, to collect examples of different word uses or meanings and, then, to decide whether or not a word meaning is used often enough to be included in the dictionary. So we could say that a dictionary is a collection of descriptions of how the words of a language are used.

If you are a more advanced reader, you might enjoy the story of how the OED started. It’s in a book with the curious (strange or unusual) title The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and coach and creator of Successful English, where English learners find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by emdot used under Creative Commons license.

Tuesday - April 12, 2011

612,000

Today is the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the first Battle of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, which marked (indicated) the beginning of the American Civil War.  From 1861 to 1865, approximately 612,000 men, women, and children died as a result of the bloody war between the North and the South (the northern U.S. states and the southern ones).

The Civil War helped end slavery (the use of human beings as property) in the U.S. and preserved (saved; kept) the country intact (as one unit; together).  The cost of the war was high, and its consequences (results) run deep (affect in a serious, profound way) in the history of the United States, even to the present day (today).

It is a sad fact that civil war often produces the worst kind of violence and bloodshed (killing), as many of you in other countries can attest (can give truthful evidence of) in your own histories.  Today, we honor (remember with respect) those who died so that, as President Abraham Lincoln famously said,  “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish (disappear) from the earth.”

~Jeff

Photo Credit: 1861 photograph of Fort Sumter, Wikipedia Public Domain

Monday - April 11, 2011

Podcasts This Week (April 11, 2011)

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If you enjoy our podcasts and want to support us, please consider becoming a Basic or Premium Member!
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 676 – Selecting a Health Insurance Plan

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to switch” and “network.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Insurance Other than Basic Health Insurance.”
“Many health plans cover medical, dental, and vision care. But “disability insurance” and “long-term care plans” are other types of health plans that provide “financial assistance”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 289

Topics: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Joshua Tree National Park; to the extent that versus in light of versus in the face of; I’m going versus I’m going to; adverb placement – accidentally

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the popular Internet movie rating website “Rotten Tomatoes.”
“In the old days, if members of an audience were unhappy with a “live” (not recorded) performance, they would throw “rotten” (not fresh; food that is bad and cannot be eaten) fruit, vegetables, or eggs at the performers on stage…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 677 – Feeding a Picky Eater

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “course” and “to whip up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Ways that American Parents Get Children to Eat Health Foods.”
“Many “toddlers” (children ages 1-2) and “preschoolers” (children ages 3-4) are picky eaters. Some eat food only of a certain color, while others “refuse” (won’t do) to eat food that touches other types of food…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - April 5, 2011

Headline English: Going Hungry for the Hungry

Today I’m going to try another “Headline English” post. First I’ll give the background (the overall story or context of the headline), then we’ll talk about the specific words in the headline.

Headline: Anti-Hunger Advocates Fast to Protest U.S. Budget Cuts (from Voice of America).

Background:  The United States Congress (our elected national representatives; the House of Representatives and Senate) in Washington, D.C. has been trying to lower (make less) the amount the government spends each year, since the U.S. currently (now) has a very large budget deficit.  A budget is a description of how much you make (income) and how much you spend (expenses). A deficit is when you spend more than you make – usually not a good idea! But in order to reduce the deficit, Congress has to cut (eliminate) some popular programs.  Among the programs being considered for reduction or elimination are those that provide emergency food aid (help; assistance) for victims (people who are hurt by something or someone) of disasters (a bad event which affects many people, such as an earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes).  Some organizations want to stop Congress from making these cuts for people who are hungry.

Behind the Headline: The prefix “anti-” before a word means against or the opposite.  Anti-Hunger means you are against (don’t like, don’t want) hunger (the condition of being hungry, without enough food to eat).  An advocate is a person who is trying to defend some idea or organization, or who wants to change the political approach to an issue.  To fast means not to eat food on purpose (by choice; voluntarily).  This is sometimes done for religious reasons (Christians, Muslims, and Jews all fast for various occasions), sometimes for health reasons.  But it has also become a way of publicizing (making people know about) some political problem.  To protest means to fight against something in order to change it.  Budget cuts are reductions in the amount of money an organization (like the government) spends.

So anti-hunger groups are trying to stop Congress from reducing the amount the U.S. government spends on helping those who are in need of food during an emergency.

If you live outside the United States, is your government facing (having to deal with; take care of) similar problems of budget deficits?

~Jeff

 

Photo Credit: Voice of America (Public Domain)

 

 

Monday - April 4, 2011

Podcasts This Week (April 4, 2011)

Get the Learning Guide and help ESL Podcast continue producing podcasts by becoming a Basic or Premium Member.

Thank you for your support!
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 674 – Threatening Other Countries

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “border” and “to strike.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Longest Border in the World.”
“The border between the United States and Canada is the longest border in the world. Including the part between Canada and Alaska, the “terrestrial” (land-based, not water-based) border…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 288

Topics: Prohibition; Famous Americans: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.; I’m sorry versus I apologize; green thumb; elbow grease; to be screwed

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Famous Teetotaler President Robert B. Hayes.”
“There have been many famous teetotalers in American history.  One of the most famous is President Rutherford B. Hayes, who was the 19th American president, and who served from 1877 to 1881…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 675 – Having Furniture Delivered

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “window” and “to be at (someone’s) mercy.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Store Sales Policies.”
“Sellers in the United States often “stipulate” (say that something must happen; establish) “conditions of sale” (terms; things that the buyer and seller must agree to).  These conditions of sale can be very “lenient” (not tolerant) or very strict… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide