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?
It’s nearly here. The year 2014 is coming to a close (end) and we’re getting ready to welcome 2015. At parties and get-togethers (informal social events) this week, we’ll be hearing a lot of people ringing in (welcoming) the new year with a toast.
We’re all familiar with toasts. When we’re at a celebration, such as a wedding reception (party after the marriage ceremony), people offer a few words of good wishes, asking the guests to raise (lift up) their glasses in celebration. Most toasts begin with the word “May,” as in “May the newly married couple live a happy and long life together.” “May,” in this case, expresses our wish or hope that something will happen.
It is also common to begin a toast with Here’s to, as in “Here’s to all of the people who helped us make this event a success” or “Here’s to ten more years of our company’s success.” In this case, “Here’s to” means “I’m offering these words or wishes to [something or someone].”
And on New Year’s Eve, the day before the first day of 2015, many people will be offering toasts to each other, wishing good things for their friends and family. Since you are all part of the ESL Podcast family, I thought I’d present a few toasts to you.
May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.
Joey Adams was an American comedian (person whose job is make you laugh) and writer. He was born in 1911 in New York. He wrote for newspapers, published 23 books, and had a long career in comedy.
Your troubles are your problems, the things that bother you or that cause you problems. Resolutions are the promises we make to ourselves to do things differently or better in the future. We all make New Year resolutions, and as Joey Adams points out, we don’t always keep them for very long.
Here’s to being single, drinking doubles, and seeing triple. ~Irish toast
This is a traditional toast from Ireland.
Being single means to not be married and to not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. If an alcoholic drink is a double, it contains more alcohol than a regular drink, which we do not call a “single.” (It’s just called a regular drink.) Sometimes a “double” has twice (two times) the alcohol than in a normal drink, and sometimes it’s just a little more alcohol than usual. It depends on the bar, the place serving the drink.
When we’re under the influence of (have drunk or have taken) alcohol or drugs, our vision or sight is often not very clear. We call this seeing double. This toast mentions “seeing triple,” with triple meaning three times, so this is just a joke meaning that the person offering the toast hopes you’re having so much fun that you see a lot of strange things.
May your troubles be less and your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door.
Finally, this is another traditional toast from Ireland. I won’t say anything about the Irish and drinking, but I think we all know where our favorite Irish American podcaster gets his gift of gab (ability to speak easily and well).
We’ve already talked about “troubles.” Blessings are the exact opposite. “Blessings” are the good things in our lives that we feel grateful for or happy about. Some people may consider their children or good friends a blessing. In some religions, a “blessing” also refers to God’s protection and help, so someone might say, “I hope that our new project has God’s blessing.”
And now my own toast to you:
May you all improve your English faster than you thought possible, speak like native English speakers, and not care if you don’t.
On behalf of (representing) all of us here at ESL Podcast, have a happy New Year and a wonderful 2015!
In 1933, there were not many gifts under Christmas trees in Canton, Ohio. The Great Depression had taken most of the joy and much of the hope out of Christmas. Jobs were hard to find. And the jobs that people found didn’t pay much. Many people in Canton, and other American cities, struggled (tried extremely hard) to survive (continue to live normally).
Eight days before Christmas, an advertisement written like a letter appeared on the front page of the Canton newspaper. Here’s what it said (in my words):
What if I couldn’t find food for my family to eat tomorrow. Would I accept help from a welfare organization (one that helps needy people)? I don’t think so. I would be too embarrassed (worried about what people think). And I know that many of you feel the same way.
If you’re in a situation like that, I would like to help so that your family will be able to spend a merry and joyful Christmas. I don’t want anyone to know my name, and I will never tell yours.
Please send a letter to B. Virdot, General Delivery, Canton, Ohio. Tell me about your situation, and I will send you financial aid (money to help) without delay (as soon as possible).
During the next few days, 150 needy Canton families received checks for $5 – almost $100 in today’s dollars.
No one knew the full story of the mysterious B. Virdot and his anonymous (without a name) gifts until 2008. That’s when Ted Gup’s mother gave him an old suitcase. When he opened it, he found a stack (pile) of letters written just before Christmas in 1933.
In his letter, Harry Stanley, who hadn’t worked for two years, said he hoped to give his five children a good Christmas dinner. Ruby Blythe didn’t want anything for herself. She wanted to help her neighbor whose children didn’t have clothes for school and would have only bread for Christmas dinner. One after another, the letters Gup read described the needs of good people who wanted to care for family, friends, and neighbors but couldn’t because of the Depression.
Gup also found a stack of canceled (used) checks – all for $5 and signed by B. Virdot. And he discovered something else: B. Virdot was his grandfather, Samuel Stone. He had made up the name B. Virdot so no one would know who he was.
Stone was not a wealthy man. His Jewish family had escaped persecution (bad treatment of a group of people) in Romania 30 years earlier and come to America. His secret gifts were his way of saying thank you to the people of Canton and America for accepting their family when they were needy.
Gup, a writer and professor of journalism, spent the next year looking for and sharing the stories of the letters with the families of people who had received his grandfather’s checks. He also wrote a book – A Secret Gift – that tells the stories.
Gup learned that one person who had received a check was still alive. When he asked Helen Palm if she remembered, she replied, “Oh my God! You better believe it!” Palm bought herself a pair of shoes: her old ones had holes in the soles (the bottom of a shoe). And she bought gifts for her brothers and sisters and took her parents out for dinner.
Gup says his grandfather knew that his gifts couldn’t change much. But, he writes, “[my grandfather] had learned from his own hard life that even the most modest (small) of offerings (gifts) can provide the gift of hope and the knowledge that someone cares.”
Sylvia had always dreamed about being a mother. She was 49 years old and thought her dream would never come true when she received a phone call. Would she be willing (say yes), the caller asked, to take care of four children? The children had been neglected (not taken care of) by their mother. As a result, they had been missing school and sleeping on the streets or with other homeless people.
The children had been moving from home to home for more than a year because no one wanted to take care of all four of them together. Sylvia agreed to become a foster parent (someone who takes someone else’s child into their family without becoming their legal parent) for the three girls and one boy. “I went from zero to four overnight,” she said. “It was a big change. But what else could I do? Those children needed me.”
Foster children are minor (younger than 18) children who are taken care of by foster parents. Some are placed in foster care voluntarily (without someone saying they have to) because their parents can’t take care of them. Others are taken from their parents and placed in foster homes because they are in danger of physical or psychological abuse (cruel or violent treatment).
Often grandparents or other relatives (family members) become foster parents for needy children. But frequently people who are not part of the child’s family become the foster parents and take care of these children. Usually children are placed in foster homes by the government or a social-service agency (an organization that helps people with special needs).
Many children are placed in foster care for a while and then adopted (to take someone else’s child into your home and become the child’s legal parent). This process usually takes about four years. More than 100,000 foster children in the U.S. are waiting for a family to adopt them, and about 50,000 are adopted every year.
The idea for foster care in the U.S. began about 150 years ago with Charles Brace in New York City. Brace was concerned about homeless and neglected children who were living in the streets and slums (areas in very bad condition) of New York. From 1853 to about 1890, he found families to take care of more than 120,000 of these children.
For Sylvia, becoming a foster mother wasn’t the end of her story. Last summer, the children’s mother was killed. And a few months later, Sylvia officially adopted Rebecca, Giovanni, Olivia, and Mary as her own children. “This love is different from anything I’ve experienced,” Sylvia said. “I really feel now that my life is complete (as great as it can possibly be).” Her dream of becoming a mother had come true.
“This week, the lame ducks are returning to Congress for their last bit of legislating (making laws). But no one seems too excited to see them.” That was the lede (or lead; the first sentence or paragraph) for a news story in the Washington Post last week.
Other newspapers and websites echoed (repeated) those feelings in their headlines (the title of a news story):
Lamest Lame Duck (Politico)
How Lame Will The Lame Ducks Be? (The Atlantic)
Don’t Let Lame Ducks Spend Your Money (American Spectator)
We all probably know what a duck is. But, a lame duck? If you know the word “lame”, you might say that a lame duck is a duck that can’t walk because its foot or leg is weak (not strong) or injured (hurt) – like the duck in the photo.
You’d be right, but in politics, “lame” means something different. Let me try to explain. In the U.S., our national elections (when we vote) are always early (near the beginning) in November. But the president and Congress – members of the Senate and House of Representatives – don’t take office (begin work) until later, in January. Each session (work year) of Congress begins on January 3rd, and a new president takes office on January 20th.
Do you see the problem?
Between election day and January 3rd or 20th, people who were not reelected (elected again) have to go to work, but they have no real power because their jobs will soon end. In a very short time, someone else will have their job. These people are the lame ducks.
An American newspaper first used the word “lame duck” this way in 1863 during our Civil War. In 1932, Will Rogers – an American cowboy and a very funny man who became a popular performer and writer – suggested his own definition. He wrote that a lame duck Congress is “like where some fellows (men) worked for you and their work wasn’t satisfactory (good enough) and you let ‘em (them) out, but after you fired (told them they had to leave their job) ‘em, you let ‘em stay long enough so they could burn your house down.”
This situation may seem strange to people from countries where politicians begin their terms (time in political office) shortly (very soon) after they are elected. But it’s actually better in the U.S. today than it used to be. Before 1933, the president and Congress began their terms in March. The 20th Amendment (change) to the U.S. Constitution (the highest law of the government) moved the beginning of the terms to January, where they are today.
I guess you could say that we haven’t eliminated (gotten rid of) the lame ducks, but we have shortened their lives.
~ 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.