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Archive for September, 2012

Thursday - September 27, 2012

Camping For Non-Campers

I think that the world is divided into two types of people: campers and non-campers. Campers like to sleep outdoors, cook their food over a campfire (outdoor fire), and commune (feeling in close spiritual contact) with nature. Non-campers are people who like a soft mattress, room service (food served in your hotel room), and a view of nature.

How can we reconcile (make it so that it is possible to live together) a camper and a non-camper?  The solution may be “glamping.”

Glamping is short of “glamorous camping” and combines the comfort of a home or hotel experience with the experience of sleeping outdoors.  More and more, hotels and tour companies are offering glamping options.  If you choose glamping, you don’t need to find a camp space, erect tents (put up a temporary shelter to sleep in), carry your gear (supplies and equipment), and cook your own food.  Instead, you’ll sleep in a real bed in a safari tent (tall tent, about he size of a small room), tent cabins (small, rough houses), or even tree houses (houses in trees, of course!).

On the low end (inexpensive end), glamping gives you a place to sleep and perhaps a wood-burning stove (appliance used for cooking) and you’re on your own.  On the high end (expensive end), you could have a butler (male servant), personal chef (professional cook), a plush (thick and soft) bed, electricity, and a bathtub.  You can find glamping in more and more U.S. locations known for its beautiful outdoors, such as Yellowstone Natural Park (discussed in English Cafe 88).

Are you a camper or a non-camper?  Would you consider glamping for any of your trips?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Grand canyon of yellowstone.jpg from Wikipedia

Tuesday - September 25, 2012

Misheard Lyrics: I Get No Sprouts

I got an email from a listener the other day (recently; a few days ago) about listening to song lyrics (words) in English. His question was why, even after listening to English for many years, he was still having problems understanding the words of popular American songs.

This is a common question among language learners. The best answer I have is this: I am a native speaker of English and I, too, have difficulty understanding lyrics sometimes!

I remember teaching a university language class back in 1992 or 1993, and telling my students one day about one of my favorite songs then playing on the radio. I didn’t know the name of the song, but I told them that the first few lines (phrases or sentences) went something like “I get no sprouts/But I get up again.” (Sprouts, commonly called Brussels sprouts, is a green vegetable used in salads.)

My students got a big kick out of that (found it funny; laughed at it), because, you see, the actual words to the song are “I get knocked down/But I get up again.” (To get knocked down means to be pushed down to the ground, usually by being hit by another person.) I had misheard (heard incorrectly or wrongly) the lyrics. (The song is by the British group, Chumbawamba, entitled (with the name) “I Get Knocked Down.”)

Lyrics are difficult to understand because they often have weird or unusual pronunciations, especially when singers are singing quickly. For that reason alone, you should never judge your English based on whether or not you can understand song lyrics.

Mishearing lyrics is so common that there are websites devoted to (focused on) funny examples of them.  Here are a few:

  • The Beatles, “I Saw Her Standing There”:
    Original: And the way she looked was way beyond compare (something you could not compare anything else with).
    Misheard: And the way she shook (moved quickly) her wavy (not straight) armpit (hair under your arm) hair.
  • Michael Jackson, “Beat It”:
    Original: Just beat it (beat it), beat it (beat it)/No one wants to be defeated (lose).
    Misheard: Just beat it (beat it), beat it (beat it)/No one wants to be deleted (eliminate or remove something).
  • Elton John, “Candle in the Wind”:
    Original: You lived your life like a candle in the wind.
    Misheard: You lived your life like a sandal (type of shoe) in a bin (large bucket or container).

As you can see, even native speakers have problems understanding the words to a song!

~Jeff

P.S. THANK YOU to all who gave me their warm birthday greetings here on the blog and via (by) email! It’s great to be 29 again…and again…and again.

Photo credit: The Beatles, Wikipedia PD

Monday - September 24, 2012

Podcasts This Week (September 24, 2012)

We are grateful to our Basic and Premium members, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 828 – Important Business Contacts

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 “contact” and “to get the word out.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Business Social Media Websites.”
“Many “social media websites” (websites that help people connect and develop relationships online) have business…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 365

Topics:  Movies — King Kong; Famous Americans — Lance Armstrong; its sounds versus it sounds as if; acting versus pretending; gobbledygook

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the legal fight between “Donkey Kong and Universal Studios.”
“Donkey Kong, a large, angry ape, is one of the most well known video game characters in the world, along with his…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 829 – Having a Barbecue

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 flip” and “to grill.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Holidays for Barbecuing.”
“As soon as the weather gets warmer, Americans like to “head” (go) outside to start barbecuing, filling the air with…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - September 20, 2012

Where Are The Self-made Men?

What does it take to be successful? Michelle Obama commented (said something) about that recently. So did the president of Harvard University and Michael Lewis, who wrote the book Moneyball, which became a very successful movie. But let me start with what we call The American Dream and Frederick Douglass.

The American Dream isn’t the kind of dream you have at night while you’re sleeping. It’s an unwritten expression (a way to show how you feel, what you think) of American values (ideas about what’s right and wrong or important). Everyone’s American Dream is probably a little different. But at the core (the center) there are some values that most people agree about.

Much of the American Dream grows out of (comes from) the Declaration of Independence, which says that “all men are created equal” and have been given certain rights (something you are allowed to do or have). These rights include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit (to try to get or achieve) of Happiness.” According to the American Dream, these rights make it possible for someone to succeed, become prosperous (rich and successful), and move up in society by working hard.

Many years ago, in 1859, Frederick Douglass described the secret of success in a speech he called “Self-made Men”. According to Douglass, self-made people (people who are responsible for their own success) succeed in only one way: they work hard. Success doesn’t come from being born into the right family, knowing the right people, having social or economic status (position in society), receiving money from your parents, going to the right school, or any of the things we often believe to be necessary for success.

Douglass should know: he lived the American Dream; he was a self-made person. He was an African American who escaped from slavery and became a famous public speaker, writer, statesman (national leader, especially one who is wise), and early leader in the anti-slavery movement.

Even though Douglass stressed (emphasized) the importance of hard work, he acknowledged (say that something is true) that other people contribute to (add to; help) our success. He said that nothing can make someone totally independent of the people who came before (lived earlier). In other words, even hard-working, successful, self-made people need other people.

Michelle Obama’s recent Democratic National Convention speech has received a lot of well-deserved (appropriate) attention. In her speech, she told about the people who contributed to her and President Obama’s early success. She said, “We learned about gratitude (being thankful) and humility (not thinking you’re too important); that so many people had a hand in (contributed to) our success, from the teachers who inspired (encouraged) us to the janitors who kept our school clean; and we were taught to value (to consider important) everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”

Earlier this summer, President Drew Faust reminded Harvard graduates (someone who has completed a university degree) that they were “extremely lucky” to be graduating from Harvard. She reminded them that even if they had worked hard to overcome (fight and win) many obstacles (something that makes a situation difficult), their success was partly due to good fortune, to events they couldn’t control.

Michael Lewis told Princeton graduates the same thing. And he illustrated (showed) what he meant by telling the story of his life. For example, he got his first job because he sat next to the wife of a company executive at a dinner. After the dinner, she told her husband about Lewis and insisted that he give him a job. Lewis would say that he was lucky, or fortunate, to get that job. He got it because of a situation he didn’t create or couldn’t control.

In addition to recognizing the importance of other people and good fortune, Lewis challenged (strongly encouraged) the graduates to remember people who aren’t so lucky, or fortunate. He told them that success creates an obligation (responsibility) to help people who aren’t so fortunate. In other words, successful people need to help people who aren’t as successful as they.

What do you think it takes to become successful? Are there any people we can truly call self-made? Do you agree that success brings obligations to help other people?

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

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tuesday - September 18, 2012

If the Gloves Don’t Fit, You Must Acquit!

Our Cafe for this week talks about one of the most famous murder cases in the history of my fair (beautiful; nice) city, the O.J. Simpson trial. During the trial, Simpson’s charismatic (charming; appealing; attractive) lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, used every rhetorical (related to the use of language) trick in the book (that has ever existed) to convince the jury that O.J. was innocent. One of those tricks was one of the simplest but most effective strategies in communication: rhymes.

A rhyme is when one word sounds like another word, such as “luck” and “truck” or “leaf” and “grief” (sadness). In the Simpson case, the police had found gloves (what you wear on your hands) with blood on them. Cochran told the jury that the gloves didn’t even fit (were not the right size) for Simpson, and therefore he could not have been the murderer. He told the jury, “If gloves don’t fit, you must acquit!” (To acquit means to decide that he is innocent (not guilty) of the crime.)

Simpson was found not guilty.

Several studies have found that not only do rhymes help us remember things, but that we actually believe statements (things people say or write) that rhyme more than ones that don’t. For example, researchers (investigators; scientists) found that people were more likely to believe this rhyming statement:

What sobriety (not being drunk) conceals (hides), alcohol reveals (shows you).

than this non-rhyming expression that means the same:

What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks (reveals).

One theory is that the brain likes information that is easy to “process” or understand, and rhymes make a statement easier (and faster) to process.

Perhaps this is why so many proverbs (traditional sayings or expressions) in different languages tend to (usually; often) rhyme, such as “Birds of a feather (similar birds) flock (group themselves) together,” where “feather” rhymes with “together.”

Are there rhyming expressions in your own language?

~Jeff

Photo credit: Boxing gloves in Minoan painting on Knossos, around 1500 B.C. Wikipedia CC

Monday - September 17, 2012

Podcasts This Week (September 17, 2012)

Join with other listeners who have already become members to get the most out of each podcast. Join and you’ll get the Learning Guide with each new episode!

We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 826 – Shopping for a Used Car

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 “certified” and “to go up in smoke.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Certified Pre-owned Cars.”
“Buying a used car can be a “gamble” (something that is risky and may or may not be successful), as the buyer never knows…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 364

Topics:  The O.J. Simpson Trial; to major versus to graduate; to pry; technically versus practically

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Heisman Trophy.”
“The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award,” better known simply as “The Heisman Trophy,” is given to the most “outstanding” (very best) college…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 827 – Fad Dieting

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 “perfectly” and “pound.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Surgical Weight Loss Options.”
“As people in the United States become “increasingly” (more and more) overweight, “drastic measures” (actions that have a major effect; extreme actions) are…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - September 13, 2012

The Strange Effects of Jeff’s Voice

In the emails we get from listeners, people often tell us when and where they listen to the podcast. Many tell us that they listen to the podcast while they commute, traveling between home and work or school.  Others tell us that we keep them company (are with them) when they exercise or run errands (do things like going to the store or post office).  Some people listen to the podcast when they do housework or other chores (routine tasks, usually related to the home).

In addition to telling us how and where they listen to the podcast, some people have told us about the effects of the podcast. A number of (several; many) parents have told us that their babies and young children like to listen to Jeff’s voice. I should tell you that I have been out in public with Jeff, and I have seen how babies react to him.  They love him.  I don’t know if he just has a friendly face or if, because of his bald (without hair) head, babies think he is one of them?  I’m not sure. But parents have written to tell us that babies love listening to Jeff’s voice, often being lulled (made to feel sleepy in a calming way) to sleep.

Do you have babies? Have they fallen under the spell of (felt the magical effects of) Jeff’s voice?

I guess babies aren’t the only ones.  Many people have told us that they listen to Jeff in bed, right before going to sleep.  They tell us that Jeff’s voice has a calming effect on them, helping them fall asleep. We know that Jeff isn’t boring, so what is the secret to Jeff’s soothing (gently calming) powers?  Perhaps Jeff has hypnotic (when people are awake but very sleepy and does whatever someone tells them to do) powers that he doesn’t even know about.

How and where do you listen to the podcast?  Have you had or observed any special effects of Jeff’s voice? Do you think Jeff’s voice has other strange powers we don’t know about?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Foucault Pendulum from Wikipedia

Tuesday - September 11, 2012

Who Wants a Dull and Boring Relationship?

Dull and boring are synonyms (words with a similar meaning). They both mean uninteresting, not very exciting, or not entertaining. You can use them together in a sentence: “He was a dull, boring speaker who put me to sleep.” As of June of this year, however, dull and boring have an entirely (completely) new relationship.

Dull, you see, is not just an adjective in English. It’s also the name of a village (very small town) in Scotland. And Elizabeth Leighton, who is from Dull, was here in the United States not too long ago (recently), bicycling through the state of Oregon, located just north of California. As she was riding her bike, she came across (discovered without looking for it) another town with a similar name: Boring, Oregon. And then it hit her (suddenly she had a great idea or realized something important): Dull and Boring should be sister cities!

Sister cities are when two different towns or cities in different countries decide form a “relationship,” usually sending gifts or representatives to the other city (we talked about sister cities in English Cafe #234). Los Angeles has 25 different sister cities, including Beirut (Lebanon), Berlin (Germany), and Nagoya (Japan).

Dull and Boring wanted to be sister cities, too, but there was a problem: Dull is too small to be an “official” sister city for Boring. That fact didn’t stop the residents (people who live in) Dull and Boring, however. The citizens of Dull voted to “pair” (associate, put together) the two cities anyway. So now, when you drive into Dull, you will see a sign that says the two towns are paired.

If you ever visit Dull or Boring, be sure to let us know.  I’m sure you’ll have a real exciting time there.

~Jeff

Photo credit: Boring, Oregon sign, Wikipedia CC

Monday - September 10, 2012

Podcasts This Week (September 10, 2012)

Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 824 – Grooming a Successor

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 groom” and “to let (someone) down.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Corporate Succession.”
“Many companies “engage in” (are involved in) “succession planning,” trying to identify “new talent” (people who are good in a particular field or in a particular type of job) and groom…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 363

Topics:  Cigarette advertising and cigarette icons; how local government works; to assist in versus to assist with; calf versus cub; to hold forth

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Limits on Alcohol Advertising.”
“The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, and anyone under this age is not legally allowed to drink alcoholic beverages. To help…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 825 – Political Advertising

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 “out of hand” and “fed up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Push Polling.”
” Some political campaigns use “questionable” (in doubt; controversial; not fully accepted) “tactics” (ways to do something) to…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - September 6, 2012

Trash or Treasure?

“I don’t know an awful lot about it,” said Ted shaking (moving back and forth) his head, “except that it was given to the foster father (a foster parent is someone who takes care of someone else’s child) of my grandmother. It’s been lying on the back of a chair [in our house].”

“And do you know who made this weaving* (blanket)?” asked the appraiser (someone who tells the value of something). “Do you know what kind of blanket it is?

“It’s probably a Navajo (a group of Native Americans), but that’s all I know.”

“So you haven’t had anybody look at it or…?”

“Nobody’s ever looked at it that I’m aware of,” replied Ted.

“Well, Ted,” the appraiser hesitated (paused, waited) a moment, “did you notice that when you showed this to me that I kind of stopped breathing a little bit?”

“Yeah, you did!

“I’m still having trouble breathing here, Ted.”

“It took me by surprise because I didn’t think much about it,” said Ted. “It’s probably a chief’s (leader of a Native American tribe) blanket, but….”

“Exactly,” the appraiser interrupted, “and it’s not just a chief’s blanket….”

I remember this conversation. I heard it about eight years ago on the Antiques Roadshow. And even though it wasn’t a long conversation, you could feel the excitement grow moment by moment.

The Antiques Roadshow describes itself as part adventure, part history lesson, and part treasure hunt (where you try to find valuable things that are hidden). It’s the most popular weekly television program on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and it’s been nominated (officially suggested) for many awards during its 16 years.

Every week people like Ted bring heirlooms (valuable objects owned by a family for many years), yard sale bargains (something you buy for less than it originally cost), and items found in attics (the space below a roof) and basements (the space under a house) to the Antiques Roadshow to be appraised (tell the value of). And every week, almost 10-million television viewers watch while professionals from large auction houses (where objects are sold to the people who offer the most money), like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and independent dealers (someone who buys and sells a particular product) from across the U.S. reveal (make known) fascinating facts about these items and estimate (say approximately) their value.

I’m fascinated by the history lesson part of the Roadshow. A table that was given to someone’s grandmother as a wedding gift more than 100 years ago, that traveled with the family across the country through good years and bad, and has been handed down from one generation (all people of about the same age) to another until it reaches the present owner tells a unique story. We learn a lot about groups of people and society from these stories. And they help us understand the lives and experiences of ordinary people in a special way.

Let’s return to the conversation between Ted and the appraiser.

“It’s the first type of chief’s blanket made,” explained the appraiser. “These were made in 1840 to 1860. It’s a Ute (Native American tribe) wearing blanket. It’s Navajo-made. They were made for Ute chiefs. This is Navajo weaving in its purest form. This is the beginning of Navajo weaving.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Ted.

“And not only that,” continued the appraiser, “the condition of this is unbelievable. [And] an interesting thing: this is almost like silk. It’s made from hand-woven wool, but it’s so finely done, it’s like silk. Do you have a sense (an idea) at all of what you’re looking here in terms of value?”

“I haven’t a clue (idea).”

“Well, sir,” the appraiser paused as he looked for the right words, “I have to tell you, on a really bad day this textile (piece of fabric) would be worth $350,000. On a good day it’s about half a million dollars. You have a national treasure!”

“I can’t believe this!” Ted exclaimed.

Not every Roadshow story ends this way. Sometimes the appraiser begins with “Unfortunately” or “I’m sorry, but…” before he or she gives the bad news. Even then, in spite of the owner’s disappointment, a little more history is revealed.

Notes:

  • *The word weaving is used here as a synonym for blanket. Later in the conversation it is used to describe a method of making fabric, or cloth.
  • The conversation between Ted and the appraiser was adapted (modified for this post) from the transcript found on the Antiques Roadshow web site. You can read and listen to this conversation and conversations about other great finds (discoveries) on their site.

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

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.