When you walk into the Blind Barber, you’ll find what you expect in a barbershop (a place for cutting men’s hair). You’ll see a barber and his customers. You’ll hear “the buzzing (sound) of the shavers (electrical tools for cutting hair) and the snips (sound) of the scissors.” But if you walk through the barbershop and through the door in the back you’ll find something completely different – a bar (a place where drinks are served) where you can order drinks and sandwiches. That is the real Blind Barber.
To get into Dirty Laundry, you have to walk down a dark alley (a narrow street behind buildings) until you see a black-dressed man sitting at the top of a dark stairway and say to him, “I’m looking for Dirty Laundry.” He’ll tell you, “You’ve come to the right place.” Behind the door at the bottom of the stairs, you’ll find a bar, a small room with tables, and another room where musicians perform.
When you arrive at Lock and Key, you’ll find a wall covered with old door knobs (handles you turn to open a door). If you choose the right one, a door will open and you can walk in. If you choose the wrong one, nothing happens unless the doorman helps you find the right one.
The Blind Barber, Dirty Laundry, and Lock and Key are popular modern speakeasies here in Los Angeles. They are a throw-back (similar to something in the past) to the 1920s. Let me tell you the story.
From 1920 to 1933, there was a ban (official order against something) – called Prohibition – against making, selling, and transporting (moving from one location to another) alcoholic drinks in the U.S.
The goal of Prohibition was to reduce social problems, such as crime and corruption (dishonest and illegal (against the law) behavior by powerful people in government and business) and to help increase production (the amount of work done) in factories by making sure that workers stayed sober (not drunk). Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well.
During Prohibition, one of the few places you could find alcoholic drinks was in speakeasies, underground (secret and illegal) businesses where people ate, drank, gambled, and enjoyed music, especially jazz.
Many speakeasies were started during Prohibition. Police tried to shut them down (stop or close them), but as fast as they found and closed one, another would take its place. To try to keep police from finding them, bartenders (people who fix drinks) and waiters (people who serve food) would tell their customers to “speak easy,” to be quiet while inside a speakeasy and to not say anything about them outside.
Today’s speakeasies are legal. And they may be more fad (popular for a short time) than trend (something that will continue). But they are one way to relive (experience again) a small piece of American history.
If you mention the term “tighty whities” to any American, they’ll know you’re talking about close-fitting underwear that men wear (see photo) that is most often found in the color white. The term “tighty whities” is an informal term for these briefs. While today men’s underwear is available in many shapes, lengths, and fits, tighty whities are considered classics and continue to be very popular. (Note that we always use this term in the plural — “one pair of tighty whities,” just like we would say “one pair of pants.”)
In the U.S., tighty whities or briefs are a fairly recent invention (new creation). Before they came along (were created), men wore tight-fitting underwear that reached down to their knees in a soft warm material called “flannel,” and they were often called “flannels” or “drawers.” (There were also other types of men’s underwear, usually worn for warmth called union suits or long johns. While we still use the term “long johns” for warm underwear for men and women that reach down to the wrists and ankles, we don’t use the term “union suit” anymore.)
In 1935, a clothing designer and company executive (person with a high-level position in a company) named Arthur Kneibler received a postcard from a friend. Kneibler’s company made socks and underwear. The postcard he received was sent from a friend vacationing on the French Riviera, a popular place to visit with beautiful beaches. The postcard showed a man in a bathing suit popular in France at the time (see photo here). The tight-fitting lower section of the bathing suit inspired (caused someone to have an idea) Kneibler to invent the underwear you see above. The new underwear did not have legs — as drawers, long johns, and union suits had — but instead had a “Y”-shaped front for the fly, or the opening in the front of a man’s pants or underwear. This new brief gave men support, but was also comfortable.
The company called these new briefs “Jockeys” because of their resemblance to (appearance similar to) a jock strap. The new Jockeys went on sale on January 19, 1935 in a Chicago department store called Marshall Fields. The new underwear was displayed on a mannequin (life-size figure used to display clothes). It was a very cold and windy day and the store didn’t expect many customers. However, all 600 pairs of this new underwear were sold in just one day! Within three months, more than 30,000 pairs of briefs were being sold all over the country. And, as they say (as is popularly said), the rest is history (everyone knows what happened next).
It’s not clear when people started using “tighty whities” as a nickname for white briefs, but it’s almost always used jokingly. For this reason, you wouldn’t, for example, ask the salesperson at the store where you can find the tighty whities, but rather you would ask for “men’s briefs” or “men’s jockeys.” (You’ll want to specify men’s because we also describe women’s underwear with the terms “briefs” and “jockeys.”)
Now why am I talking about men’s underwear? Well, why not? Maybe Jeff or Warren will write a post about pantyhose one of these days.
The traffic on the 101 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles is so heavy (a large amount), that it’s difficult and dangerous to look around while you drive. But if you had been driving on the 101 recently, you might have seen artist Willie Herron up on a metal platform (something to stand on) pointing a high-pressure stream (continuous flow) of hot water at a gray-colored concrete freeway wall.
And if you had stopped to watch, you would have seen the gray paint on the freeway wall slowly disappear. In place of the paint, you would have seen Herron’s mural (a painting on a wall) Luchas del Mundo (Struggles of the World) slowly re-emerge (appear again) – by the way, that’s the mural in the photo.
Los Angeles is home to more than 1,500 murals. Each one tells you something about the history, experiences, values, and dreams of the people who live nearby. Mural-painting was probably introduced to the U.S. by artists of the Mexican Revolution, like Diego Rivera. In Los Angeles, the first mural was painted by Mexican artist David Siqueiros in 1932.
As part of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, ten murals were painted along LA’s freeways, where they would be seen by people driving to and from the Olympic venues (places where an activities takes place). The murals are as different as the artists who painted them. John Wehrle created an outer-space fantasy. Glenna Avila’s Freeway Kids shows a group of happy children running and jumping at the side of the freeway. Herron’s mural includes Olympic symbols (pictures or shapes with particular meaning), competing (participating in a sport) wrestlers, and a helicopter hovering (staying in one place up in the air) over La Placita, a historic Los Angeles church.
Murals are difficult to maintain (take care of; protect), especially along busy freeways. As a result, the Olympic murals slowly deteriorated (became worse) and some were painted over. To make things worse, the city of Los Angeles passed a ban (an official order that prevents something from being done) on public murals. So, for a number of years, nothing was done to protect most of LA’s murals.
In 2013, however, the public mural ban was lifted (removed) and the Los Angeles Mural Conservancy (a organization to protect murals) began to try to restore (return something to its original condition) many Los Angeles murals, beginning with the Olympic murals. Herron’s Luchas del Mundo is the last of the Olympic murals to be restored. “It’s been a long time coming (it’s taken a long time for this to happen),” he told the Los Angeles Times recently. “I don’t know how I’ll feel when it’s all uncovered, but it’s emotional.”
I can’t say that I have never, never, never listened to a song by Taylor Swift, but I can say that I’m not exactly (I’m not really) a fan of her music. Ms. Swift is, however, extremely popular in the United States and internationally, known for her catchy (easy to remember) tunes (music) and lyrics (words to a song).
But if you’re not careful, Swift may just decide to sue you (take you to court and demand money from you for something you did wrong). Here’s why: Swift has trademarked (legally protected) some of the most popular phrases from her songs, claiming (saying) that these phrases are her intellectual property (things you create that belong to you). And if you use them without her permission, she will take you to court (sue you).
What phrases are we talking about here? None that you or I will probably ever use, to be honest. But just to be safe, here’s a list of some of the phrases that you should avoid using without young Taylor’s permission (and if you do, you should put the official trademark symbol – ™ – on them):
This Sick Beat™ – The adjective sick is now used as a slang term meaning excellent or great. The beat refers to the rhythm of a song.
Party Like It’s 1989™ – To party means to have a good time, often by dancing and drinking. This expression is actually a rip-off (something stolen from) another song lyric by Prince, “Party like it’s 1999.” Perhaps Prince should sue Swift for stealing his lyrics? By the way, I have no idea what the difference is between partying like it’s 1989 and 1999, except I personally probably did more in ’89 (before marriage) than in ’99 (after marriage).
Cause We Never Go Out of Style™ – Cause is a short form of “because.” To go out of style means to no longer be popular or fashionable. For example, you could say, “Black dresses never go out of style,” meaning they will always be popular.
Could Show You Incredible Things™ - To show someone something is to give them the experience of it, or to let them look at it. Incredible here means amazing, wonderful, or – dare I say it? (should I actually say it?) – sick.
Nice to Meet You, Where Have You Been?™ – Nice to meet you is a popular expression to say when you areintroduced (meet) someone for the first time. Where have you been? would be something you would ask of someone you already know but haven’t seen for a long time or have been waiting for. I guess the idea of the phrase (having not listened to the original song) is that you are meeting someone for the first time that you wish you had met earlier, perhaps because you find the person attractive.
The reason behind Swift’s trademarking of these phrases is not just meglomania (the desire to dominate everyone around you, to have great power). Some say she has a legitimate (logical, legal, and/or defensible) reason to be concerned about other people taking her phrases and using them to make money, by putting them on things such as T-shirts or handbags (purses).
You might be wondering about whether we here at ESL Podcast have trademarked anything. The answer is yes: ESLPod™ is a registered trademark. But if Swift wants to use it in one of her songs, she has my permission, cuz (because) we hope never to go out of style.
A glass of milk, and as many Oreo cookies as her mother would let her eat. That’s what my wife had for a snack (a small amount of food eaten between meals) after school almost every day when she was young. Oreos were her favorite.
Oreos, if you’re not familiar with them, are like a sandwich – two round chocolate wafers (a thin, flat, sweet cookie) with a white, sweet, creamy (soft, smooth) filling (something that you put inside of a pie, etc., or in inside a sandwich), called a creme filling. Sometimes Oreos are called “Chocolate Sandwich Cookies.”
Oreos have been around for a long time – more than 100 years. The first Oreos appeared in 1912, the year the Titanic sank, and the year that the first explorers made it to the South Pole in Antarctica. And, as our title suggests, they’ve been on a roll every since.
Oreos have always been popular. Last year, in 2014, people around the world bought more than three billion dollars’ worth of Oreos. That’s three times more than the next most popular kind of cookie. People love Oreos!
Today there are many kinds of Oreos. The Double Stuf Oreo has twice (two times) as much white creme filling as the regular Oreo. Big Stuf Oreos are much larger than normal Oreos. The Mini Oreo is bite-sized, small enough to eat in one bite. And the Mega Stuf Oreo, introduced two years ago, are similar to the Double Stuf Oreos, but with even more white creme filling.
There are many ways to eat Oreos. You can, of course, eat them the way they come out of the package. Or, if you’re like my wife, you can dunk them in milk – put them into the milk until they get soft – and take them out again to eat them. Some people like to “twist and lick” – turn the outer parts of the Oreo in a circle so that it comes apart, then use their tongue to lick off the sweet, creamy filling before eating the chocolate wafers. Still others like to break the Oreos into small pieces and sprinkle (scatter small pieces onto something) them onto ice cream. One of my favorite kinds of ice cream, Cookies and Cream, is a mixture of ice cream and pieces of Oreo cookies.
What kinds of snacks do you enjoy? Have you ever had Oreos? Did you like them?
* The title is a pun, and is supposed to make you smile or laugh. The pun in the title comes from two different ways of using the word “roll.” A roll is a small, often round, piece of bread for one person; sweet rolls are usually filled with or covered by something sweet. To be on a roll could mean to be on top of a roll or, as I’m using it here, to be having success with whatever you are doing.
~Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.
A few weeks ago, I was planning to spend an afternoon and evening with a visiting Russian student. He asked me to suggest what to do, so I gave him two choices: we could stay along the coast (where the land meets the ocean) or we could go to downtown Los Angeles. “What,” he asked, “and where is downtown Los Angeles?”
Good question. Usually, when we talk about downtown, we’re referring to the center or main business part of a city. In contrast, the suburbs are areas away from the center of a city where people live.
When you’re talking about Los Angeles, though, the downtown/suburb contrast doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, downtown isn’t in the center of the city.
Many years ago, someone described Los Angeles as “…72 suburbs in search of (looking for) a city.” The reason is that much of the area that we now know as Los Angeles was made up of many smaller towns in the past. Those towns grew until they connected with other towns around them and, eventually (after a time), with Los Angeles to become the large city we have today. Hollywood, for example, was once a small community (an area where people live) that merged with (became part of) Los Angeles in 1910.
Today, most people agree that downtown Los Angeles includes a small area framed (surrounded) by the 101, 10, and 110 freeways (a wide road designed for fast travel). And that’s where my student and I decided to go.
If you’d like to see some of the highlights (most important or interesting parts) of our time downtown, you can do that by going to the Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour web site and click on the maps to move from one place to another. We visited parts of the New Downtown (ND) and the Historic Core (HC). Here are the highlights:
Pershing Square (HC)
The Biltmore Hotel (ND). This was the largest hotel in LA when it was built in 1923.
The Central Library (ND), across Grand Avenue from the Biltmore, a historic building with modern touches (details or additions).
The Bunker Hill Steps (ND) take you to the top of the hill and the historic center of the old financial district.
The California Plaza (ND)
Angel Flight (ND)
The Grand Central Market (HC) and Bradbury Building (HC). The Bradbury, built in 1893, is one of the oldest buildings in downtown LA.
The Westin Bonaventure (ND) hotel, a good place to go after the sun goes down for lattes (strong coffee drink with steamed milk) in the revolving (turning in a circle) lounge (place to sit and relax) at the top of the hotel.
Hope you enjoyed downtown Los Angeles as much as we did! And I hope you can experience it for yourself sometime soon.
Every city has its particular characteristics that, for whatever reason – the culture of the city, the geography (the physical area) of the city, the history of the city – help shape (change) the people who live there. People adapt (take on) certain attitudes, certain characteristics, certain behaviors.
Someone who lives in Los Angeles is called an Angelino (Angelino). In Los Angeles, we Angelinos have our own personality and characteristics. The one I want to talk about today is feeling entitled.
To feel entitled means to feel like you deserve whatever you get, that, in a sense, the world owes you something. To be entitled means to feel that you’re number one, you’re important, and that whatever good things you get, you get because of who you are or what you did. In other words, you’re so good, you’re so wonderful, that the world should treat you like a king or queen.
This is, of course, is a very negative way to describe someone’s personality, but I think it really is true in the city where I live. One of the places you see this sense of entitlement in Angelino culture is on the freeways.
We spend a lot of time in our cars in L.A., and for that reason, we have some of the worst traffic (too many cars on the road) in the United States. We have too many cars for too small of a space, and we don’t have a good public transportation system.
Logically, when you have a lot of people spending a lot of time in their cars and those same people feel entitled, well, that leads to certain problems.
On the freeways, it leads to (results in) a lot of honking. To honk means to make a loud noise with your car by using your car horn. We also use the verb “to beep” your horn. Beeping your horn usually means you are making noise with your horn but for a short time. Honking your horn means that you make noise for a longer time, especially when you’re angry.
When you feel entitled, you feel that everyone else should just get out of your way! This means that there are a lot of impatient drivers in LA. And they honk. A lot.
The situation is very different in other parts of the United States. Back in Minnesota, where I’m from, people honk, of course, but it’s not considered a very nice thing to do. You don’t do it very often, and if you can avoid honking, you do.
The size of the city certainly makes a difference. Los Angeles, like New York or Chicago, is such a big city that you think, “Well, I’m never going to see these people again anyway, and so I don’t really have to care about them.” In a smaller city or town, you may actually know the person you’re honking at, or at least see them again.
So if you ever come to Los Angeles, and you hear me honking at you, don’t take it personally – but do get out of my way!
Remember your first job? I do. And I remember learning something very important from it.
I got my first “real” job when I left home after high school to go to college. My parents couldn’t afford (didn’t have enough money) to help me, so I worked my way through college (paid for my education by working).
I went to class in the morning and, occasionally, in the evening. Every afternoon I went to work in a small manufacturing company where I was responsible for the mail room.
I did the things you might expect. I went around to all the offices, picked up the day’s outgoing (being sent) mail, and made sure it was ready to be picked up by the mail truck. After the incoming (received) mail was delivered, I distributed (took it around) it to each of the offices.
Most of my time, however, was spent preparing the day’s promotional (advertising) mail. Each salesman scheduled multiple (more than one) mailings to each of their customers. For example, they would send one promotional piece the first month, a different one the second month, and so on.
Every day I would take the envelopes for that day from a large file cabinet. I put the appropriate promotional pieces into the envelopes, put postage (money charged for sending a letter) on them, sorted (organized in groups) them according to their destinations (where they were going), and put them into large mailbags.
The flow (smooth steady movement) of mail was important to the company. And I was responsible to see that the flow was not interrupted (stopped).
Several weeks before Christmas, I went to see the office manager, to tell him that I would be gone for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We didn’t have school during the holidays, and I planned to spend them with my family.
George invited me to come into his office and sit down across the desk from him. He listened attentively (thoughtfully) to what I had to say. When I finished, he was quiet for a short time and then asked, “Where do you plan to work when you return after the holidays?”
I must have looked puzzled (confused), so George explained. “You may get time off during the holidays, but we don’t. Our work continues. If you leave, I’ll have to hire someone to take your place. I can’t do that and then ask him or her to leave when you come back. So you need to decide if you want to continue to work here.”
Happily, George and I were able to work out a compromise (a different way to solve the problem). I worked until the day before Christmas, took the train home so I could enjoy Christmas with my family, and returned to work a day or two after Christmas.
George taught me an important lesson: when you are given a job, you are responsible to do that job. You’re a part of a team, and when the team works, you work. You can’t come and go whenever you want to.
Who is the best? Or, at the end of the year or end of the season (the time of the year that a particular activity takes place), who was the best?
Sports commentators (someone who knows a lot about something and writes about it or discusses it) spend hours answering these questions every year. And so do the fans, the people who follow the sports.
I enjoy sports, but in general (usually), I don’t care who is or was the best. However, there is one honor (a special title given to someone who accomplishes something) – the Triple Crown – that always catches my attention because it’s a way of saying that someone was the best of the best.
Triple Crown is a term (word or expression with a particular meaning) for winning or completing the three most difficult or important events of something, such as a sport. The idea first appeared in the 19th century (1800s) England in the sport of horse racing. Since then it has spread to other countries and other sports and activities.
In the U.S., we have three well-known Triple Crowns. The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is a series of races for three-year-old horses. A thoroughbred is a horse breed (kind) used in racing.
The first race, the Kentucky Derby, is run on the first Saturday in May in the state of Kentucky. Two weeks later the Preakness Stakes is run in Maryland. And three weeks after that, the Belmont Stakes is run in New York. Three races in five weeks and travel in between!
More than 4,000 horses have run in the three Triple Crown races. Fifty-two have won two of the three races. But only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, and no horse has won it since 1978. Thanks to the 2010 movie about him, Secretariat is probably the most famous Triple Crown winner.
Major league baseball (the teams that make up the highest level of American professional baseball) has two Triple Crowns. One is given to a batter (player who hits the ball) if he is the best in three categories (areas):
Batting average – He hits the baseball a higher percentage (%) of the time than any other player.
Home runs – He hits the baseball out of the park (over the fence) more than any other player.
RBIs, or runs batted in – the number of times players score a run (point) when he hits the ball.
The first batting Triple Crown was won in 1878. Since then only 16 other players have won the award, most recently in 2012.
The second baseball Triple Crown is awarded (given as a result of winning) to a pitcher (players who throw the ball to batters). To win the pitching Triple Crown, a pitcher must:
Win the most games.
Strike out the most batters (keep them from hitting the ball).
Allow the fewest runs (scores or points) per game.
Thirty-eight players have won the pitching Triple Crown, including eight since 1997. Clayton Kershaw, a player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, won it in 2011.
I’m curious: do you have any Triple Crowns in your country? Some Triple Crowns, like in cycling (bicycle racing), are international.
In the U.S., you start to hear Christmas music played on the radio after the late November holiday of Thanksgiving, and you continue to hear it all the way through the month of December. By New Year’s Day, the radio stations stop playing Christmas music. For most people, Christmas is “over,” finished. Time to get back to work!
But traditionally (and still in other countries around the world), the celebration of Christmas begins on December 25th, and doesn’t end until January 6th. January 6th is celebrated under different names depending on the culture and particular Christian group you’re in, but most people who know about it in the U.S. associate it with the “Three Kings” or “Three Wise Men” or “Epiphany” (for the story, see here).
There’s a popular song called the “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which some Americans think refers to the 12 days before Christmas, when in fact it refers to the 12 days after Christmas – that is, from Christmas to the celebration of the Epiphany. The song is about gifts that your “true love” (your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse (husband or wife)) gives to you. Each day you get a different gift, starting with one of something, then two of something, then three of something, and so forth.
Most people (including me) can remember the first five verses (sections) of the song, corresponding to (relating to) the first five days of Christmas, but can’t remember the rest of the verses. So below are the “gifts” for all 12 days and an explanation of them.
If you are not familiar with the song, you’ll want to watch a video of it also (see below).
Here then are the 12 gifts (look at the image above also to help you):
A partridge in a pear tree – a partridge is a kind of bird, and a pear is a type of fruit
Three French hens – also called Faverolles, they’re a type of chicken
Four calling birds – also called a songbird for the noise they make
Five golden rings – a ring is what you wear on your finger as jewelry
Six geese a-laying – geese are (of course) birds, and “a-laying” is another way of saying that they are producing eggs (the “a” in front of the gerund “laying” is an Old English way of indicating the present progressive, so “a-laying” would be “is/are laying”)
Seven swans a-swimming – swans are beautiful birds related to ducks and geese
Eight maids a-milking – a milkmaid is a girl or woman who works getting milk (white liquid) from a cow (maid is an old word for a young, usually unmarried woman)
Nine ladies dancing – a lady can refer to a woman, but an older use of the word refers especially to a woman of authority, power, and wealth (lots of money) (I’m pretty sure my wife would never give this gift to me.)
Ten lords a-leaping – a lord is an older term for a man of power and wealth, often the owner of a large house and a lot of land; to leap means to jump
Eleven pipers piping – a piper is someone who plays a musical instrument such as a bagpipe; to pipe is the verb used to refer to playing a bagpipe or other similar instrument
Twelve drummers drumming – a drummer plays a drum, a musical instrument that requires that you hit it to make a sound; to drum refers to playing that instrument.
To really appreciate the song, you have to listen to it. Here is a video with the music and images of the different gifts.
Do you have this song in your language (or a similar version)? Has anyone ever given you seven swans a-swimming or ten lords a-leaping?