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Sunday - March 27, 2016

Podcasts this Week (March 28, 2016)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll 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 1194 – Using a Map Program

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 type in” and “run-down.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Google Map Controversies.”
“Many Americans ‘turn to’ (decide to use) Google Maps when they need to ‘pinpoint’ (specify)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 548

Topics: American Authors – Edith Wharton; American Songs – “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”; to matriculate versus to enroll versus to register; to bid versus to tender; period versus dot

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Radio Mystery Shows.”
“During the ‘Golden Age of Radio’ (the period of time when radio was the main form of entertainment at home)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1195 – Types of Allergies

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 “rash” and “bite.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Avoiding Allergens.”
“‘Allergy sufferers’ (people who have allergies) have many tools and strategies to help them avoid ‘allergens’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - March 22, 2016

A New Job For A Familiar Prefix

02COV1-master675“Co-” is a prefix (a group of letters at the beginning of a word that makes a new word) that adds the idea of “together with” to the words it begins, words like “cooperate” and “coworker.” Recently “co-” has taken on a new job – changing the way we think and talk about working and living.

Two new words – coworking and coliving – are quickly becoming part of the vocabulary used by many millennials (young adults under the age of 30) and others. You’ll hear them most often in cities where there are a lot of startups (new businesses), especially startups that use technology in new ways.

Coworking, the older of the two ideas, describes a workspace that is shared by a group of people who usually work independently (by themselves) or remotely (away from the office). Workers rent and share office and meeting space and equipment and services, such as copiers and copying. For many, community building – getting to know other people, sharing ideas, and working together with them – is an important part of coworking.

Coliving is a newer idea. It extends (adds) the use of “co-” to living arrangements. The Coliving website describes coliving as shared housing and as a kind of life that values (makes something important) openness, sharing, and collaboration (working together). Building personal and business relationships is often an important part of coliving.

One way to think about the housing part of coliving is to imagine renting a hotel room or suite (a larger hotel room that includes a couch or comfortable chairs, a desk or table, and sometimes a small kitchen). In addition to your room, you share living, dining, and meeting rooms, a kitchen, and other rooms with the people who live in the same house or building.

Coliving is often more cost effective (good results without high cost) than renting or buying, especially in large cities like San Francisco, New York, or Boston, where there are a lot of startups. The service OpenDoor charges tenants (people who rent) $1,000 to $1,200 a month, depending on the room and the house. Another coliving company charges $1,500 to $2,200 a month, which includes everything you would find in a hotel room plus a well-supplied kitchen for everyone to use.

OpenDoor operates several coliving locations in California. In a recent interview, one of the owners said that they see themselves as more than landlords (some who owns and rents property). They work hard to maintain a family-like environment in their locations. Applicants (someone who wants to live at one of their locations) are asked what they could contribute to the house, what kind of environment they’re looking for, and other questions to make sure they fit into the group of people who already live there.

What about where you live? Have you seen examples of coworking or coliving?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo by Brian Harkin for the New York Times.

 


Sunday - March 20, 2016

Podcasts this Week (March 21, 2016)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. 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 1192 – Using a Property Management Company

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 show” and “on call.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Eviction Process.”
“An ‘eviction’ occurs when a renter is forced to leave the home or apartment that he or she had been renting,…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 547

Topics: Famous Americans – Thomas Paine; Classic TV – The Twilight Zone; responsibility versus accountability versus liability; to go haywire versus to go crazy; pronouncing whole, hole, role, and holy

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Twilight Series.”
“American author Stephenie Meyers has written an extremely popular ‘series’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1193 – Reducing Food Waste

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 fish out” and “beyond.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Food Businesses’ Efforts to Reduce Waste.”
“The food industry, which includes restaurants, grocery stores, and ‘produce’ (fruit and vegetable)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - March 15, 2016

The All-Time Most Important Blog Post in History Ever

writing-1170146_960_720You may not have heard the term “pleonasm” before, but we’ve all encountered (seen or heard) many pleonasms in our lives.

Pleonasms — pronounced “PLEE – e – naz – ums” — are terms that use more words than are necessary to convey or give a clear meaning. They are sometimes used for emphasis, or to give more or extra attention to something, but more often than not (usually), they are not needed and serve no purpose (have no reason for being there).

People who teach writing often say that to improve a piece of writing, it’s a good idea to remove redundancies (two or more things that have the same function), including pleonasms.

Here are a few examples of commonly-used pleonasms. They aren’t incorrect, but just unnecessary.

– “I asked Jeff what his future plans are for his neighbor’s cats.”
Explanation: “Plans” are decisions we make about what to do in the future, so including “future” in this sentence is redundant.

– “The little girl’s father told her not to speak to complete strangers.”
Explanation: “Strangers” are people we do not know, so “complete” here — meaning absolute or total — is not necessary. Someone you know even a little would not be called a stranger, but most likely an “acquaintance.”

– “If current trends continue, we will get more snow this year than any other year in history.”
Explanation: A “trend” describes the general direction that something is occurring or developing right now, so “current” — meaning what exists now — is superfluous (unnecessary).

It may be easy for us to spot (identify) pleonasms in the sentences above, but Americans use them all the time in speech and in writing. It probably isn’t possible to eliminate them all in American English even if we wanted to, since they are so common that many have become a part of how we naturally communicate.

However, a comedian (person who tells jokes to make people laugh) named George Carlin wrote a 2004 book based on his funny observations (things he noticed) about his fellow Americans (Americans like him). Carlin was famous for pointing out (giving attention to) funny things American say, and in this book, he talked about the many pleonasms found in everyday English.

Here’s a short excerpt (section taken from a longer text) from his book. See if you can spot the pleonasms. I’ve included the same paragraph at the bottom of this blog post with the pleonasms in red, but try to find them yourself before looking.

~~~~~

“I needed a new beginning, so I decided to pay a social visit to a personal friend with whom I share the same mutual objectives…The end result was an unexpected surprise. When I reiterated again to her the fact that I needed a fresh start, she said I was exactly right; and, as an added plus, she came up with a final solution that was absolutely perfect.”

~~~~~

[Answers below. Try not to peek (look before you’re finished).]

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

~~~~~

“I needed a (new beginning)*, so I decided to pay a (social) visit to a (personal) friend with whom I share the same (mutual) objectives…The (end) result was (an unexpected) a surprise. When I reiterated (again) to her the fact that I needed a fresh start, she said I was (exactly) right; and, as (an added) a plus, she came up with a (final) solution that was (absolutely) perfect.”

* “new beginning”: All “beginnings” are “new,” so it’s better to say “new job, life, goal, focus,” or something else specific, although “new beginning” is commonly used.

~~~~~

The paragraph above would be simpler and clearer if we eliminated the words in parentheses ( ). Are any of them unclear or confusing? Did you find them all? You get bonus (extra) points for finding the ones in the title of this post.

~ Lucy


Sunday - March 13, 2016

Podcasts this Week (March 14, 2016)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, 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 1190 – Dealing With Foot  Problems

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 “corn” and “clubfoot.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Specialty Shoes.”
“Some people have foot conditions that require using ‘specialty shoes’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 546

Topics: Paul Bunyan; American Songs – “You’re the Top”; big versus huge versus massive; at all and show off; to be beside (oneself)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Fearsome Critters.”
“Lumberjacks work to ‘fell’ (cut down trees so that they fall over) trees and ‘transport’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1191 – Living on the Fringes of Society

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 set (oneself) apart” and “to prove (one’s) point.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Nonsense Terms.”
“Sometimes people use ‘nonsense’ (silly; without meaning) ‘terms’ (words and phrases) as a ‘placeholder’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - March 8, 2016

It’s Bumper Sticker Time!

US_Senator_Richard_Burr_car,_rear;_Washington,_DC;_2013-10-06It’s politics time in the U.S. And that usually means cars with bumper stickers (small signs with messages) like those in the photo.

Political bumper stickers first appeared in 1952. That’s when former World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Republican candidate (someone competing for public office) for president and former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson the Democratic candidate.

Bumper stickers probably don’t convince (make someone believe or do something) people to vote for one candidate or the other. But they help create awareness (knowledge about something). And they allow people to express (show) their support for candidates and ideas.

Most political bumper stickers are simple. Some have only the candidate’s name. Others say “Vote for Obama” or “Romney for President”.

Some bumper stickers – like “Democracy is not a spectator (for watching) sport”, “Ignore (don’t pay attention to) your rights (freedoms) and they’ll go away”, and “If you don’t vote, don’t complain” – remind people that voting is important.

Bumper stickers even appear after elections. Someone whose party (Republicans or Democrats) won may put “I voted Republican” or “I voted for Obama” on their car. If their party or candidate didn’t win, they may put something like “Next time … think before you vote!” or “Don’t blame me. I voted for the other guy.”

Since bumper stickers are so small, it’s difficult to say much about important ideas. Occasionally, however, someone tries. This one – “Taxed Enough Already” – accomplishes two things. First, it complains about too many taxes. Second, it identifies with (shows relationship to) the Tea Party, a group of conservative (usually, someone who doesn’t like change) Republicans who take their name from the time early American patriots (someone who loves their country and is willing to defend it) threw British tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes. In history books it’s called the “Boston Tea Party.”

Some of the best, in my opinion, are those that mix humor and political talk. “Confuse a conservative. Use logic and facts” does that. So does “I’d vote Republican, but I’m allergic to (get sick if you eat or touch something) nuts (food/crazy people).”

One driver, who may not think much of (like) politicians, had a bumper sticker that used a popular line from American writer and humorist (someone who tells funny stories) Mark Twain – “Politicians, like diapers (soft cloths put on babies to keep them dry and clean), should be changed often. And for the same reason.” Another, apparently from a Republican who doesn’t like the choices he has, says “Republicans for Voldemort.” Voldemort, as you may remember, is known as the Dark Lord in the Harry Potter books and is Harry’s enemy (someone who wants to hurt you).

The number of bumper stickers seems to have declined (gotten smaller), probably because of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. I hope they never disappear; if they did, what would I have to read while waiting for the stoplight to turn green?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach and tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Sunday - March 6, 2016

Podcasts this Week (March 7, 2016)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll 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 1188 – Advertising to Children

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 go after” and “grand.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Children’s Advertising Review Unit.”
“The Council of Better Business Bureaus created the Children’s Advertising Review Unit in 1974…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 545

Topics: Famous Americans – Mel Blanc; American Presidents – William McKinley; to fill in versus to complete; telephone phrases used to tell someone you can’t talk now; so long

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Eisenhower Executive Office Building.”
“The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which was previously known as the Old Executive Office Building…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1189 – Sentencing a Criminal

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 “sentencing” and “juicy.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Courtroom Reality Shows.”
“‘Reality TV’ (shows filming real people in real life, not actors with a script) is very popular in the United States…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - March 1, 2016

Super (Crazy) Tuesday

Icons of politics and American ElectionsThis year’s election of the next president of the United States has been one of the strangest – perhaps “craziest” is a better word – in the past 100 years.

Today is called Super Tuesday, a day when several state elections take place that will help determine who will eventually be our next president. (If you want to understand more about how we elect our president, I strongly suggest you read my explanation from the 2008 election here and listen to English Cafe #118.)

Instead of trying to explain this year’s race (competition; election) in detail, I’ll attempt to define a few key phrases or terms you might read in articles about the election in American newspapers and websites.

Exit Polls – These are opinion polls (questions; surveys) that are given to people on the day of an election. Many newspapers and TV channels try to find out who people voted for (and why) after they have actually voted (and therefore when they are “exiting” or leaving the place of voting). This allows them to declare (announce; tell people) the winner before the official (actual) votes have all been counted, and to understand the reasons people voted the way they did.

Super PACs – These are large (“super”) political action committees, which are independent groups that run (pay for) political advertisements on behalf of (for the advantage of) some political candidate or cause (idea). Super PACs can spend much more money on advertising than most political candidates can themselves, often millions and millions of dollars.

Some people think these organizations have too much money and too much power. Others think that they don’t really matter very much this year, since some candidates whom the Super PACs have supported have done very poorly (such as Jeb Bush), while other candidates who have received almost no support from Super PACs have done very well (such as Bernie Sanders).

Firewall – Normally, a firewall is wall or section of a building that is built to prevent fire from moving from one part of the building to another. In this election cycle (period of elections), it has been used to describe a state or set of states in which a candidate thinks he or she has very strong support and therefore will not lose.

For example, Hillary Clinton has received a lot of support from African American (black) voters, so states in which there are many such voters (such as South Carolina and others in the Deep South) are part of her “firewall” that will protect her from “’burning” (Bern-ing?) down – that is, losing the election.

The Establishment – These are the (usually paid) leaders and organizers of the Republican and Democratic parties, along with other political “professionals” who run and control the party organizations. Most work and live in Washington, D.C.

Many people believe that the success of some of the candidates this year, especially Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, is because people want someone “outside” of the Establishment. They want someone who will “blow up” or destroy the normal way of doing politics in the U.S. and try something different.

The Base – These are the most loyal voters for each political party, the ones who will usually give the most time or money to the party to ensure (make sure) it will win. In the Democratic Party, these are those who are mostly on the political Left; in the Republican Party, those most on the political Right. In order to win the nomination (the right to represent the party in the main or “general” election in November), a candidate has to win the base of his or her party first, since they are the ones who normally vote in the elections that decide who represents the party (that is, the elections going on right now, called the primaries).

Front-runner – This is the person who is currently the most popular candidate. Right now, Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republicans. However, all of that could change in the next few months, and of course the Americans who do not support either Clinton or Trump hope it will.

~Jeff


Sunday - February 28, 2016

Podcasts this Week (February 29, 2016)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. 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 1186 – Being in a Severe Storm

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 get (something) straight” and “eye.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “SKYWARN.”
“Almost 290,000 ‘volunteers’ (people who work without receiving payment) serve as severe storm ‘spotters’ …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 544

Topics:  The Boston Tea Party; American Authors – Edna St. Vincent Millay; biological parent versus birth parent versus real parent; existing versus existent; That’s going to do it for today

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Sergeant Stubby.”
“Sergeant Stubby was a dog, either a ‘Boston Terrier’ (a type of small dog, often black and white in color)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1187 – Visiting Churches, Mosques, and Temples

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 cover up” and “to give (someone) the boot.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Significant Mosques in the United States.”
“The United States has been called a ‘melting pot’ (a country made of people from many different countries)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - February 23, 2016

100 Years Later

24984166005_8e152632f3_bAlbert Einstein was right. Again. But it took scientists more than 100 years to find the first evidence (facts to show something is true) that a prediction (to say that something will be true) he made in 1915 is correct.

To try to wrap our heads around (understand) what has happened, let’s start with something we know: throwing rocks into a pond (small lake). When you throw a rock into a pond, it creates a circle of small waves in the water. As the circle expands (grows), the waves get smaller and smaller until they seem to disappear.

Waves explain the nature (what something is like) of many of the things we experience every day. Take sound as an example. If a tree falls down in a forest, why do we hear it? We hear it because when it hits the ground, it causes waves to move through the air that our ears hear as the sound of a tree hitting the ground.

Einstein believed that something similar happens in space. Gravity is the invisible (can’t be seen) force that causes an apple to fall from a tree to the ground. There are large invisible places in space, called black holes, where the gravity is so strong that not even light can get out of them. Einstein believed that a large event – like two black holes coming together to make a new, larger black hole – would create a gravitational (adjective for gravity) wave that travels billions of miles across space.

There was one problem. The event Einstein had in mind (was thinking about) was so far away that the waves would be too small to measure – about 1,000 times smaller than the center of an atom – by the time they got to earth. And that is the problem that scientists have solved, 100 years after Einstein made his prediction.

To solve the problem, scientists made a measuring device, called LIGO, shaped like an “L”. Both arms of the “L” were exactly the same length – about 2.5 miles (4 km) – and had mirrors at the ends. The scientists shined a line of light at the two mirrors, half of it at one mirror and half at the other, and measured how long it took the light to return from the mirrors. If Einstein was right, gravitational waves would cause one line of light to return to the starting point a very small time later than the other. And that’s what happened.

There are many things to be impressed with in this story. Einstein, first of all, for his ability to think about and predict something like gravitational waves. The scientists for their ability to think of a way to measure the waves and to design and make the equipment to do it.

I’m also impressed with the patience (ability to keep working on something for a long time) of the scientists who worked on this project. They – helped by many assistants and graduate students – spent 40 years looking for, finding, and creating a way to measure the tiny waves of gravity that told them that Einstein was right. They were young men when they started. Today, one of the lead scientists is in his mid-70s, the second is in his early 80s, and the third is 85. I wonder how many people in today’s world would be willing to work that long and that hard on a project that could have easily failed (not worked).

If you’re interested in this topic, I think you’ll enjoy these videos from MIT and the New York Times.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL/EFL coach and tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo by Charly W. Karl used under Creative Commons license.