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Tuesday - May 24, 2016

Saying “It’s a Thing” Is Now a Thing

Thingaddams6According to one source, “thing” is among the ten most commonly used nouns in English. It’s so common that if you are able to read this blog post, you probably already know what it means. Or do you?

Certainly you know that “thing” can refer to just about any inanimate (not living) object, such as a cup, a car, or a coin.

You can also use “thing” when you’re not sure if the object you’re referring to is living or not. For example, you might say to a waiter in a restaurant, “What’s that thing in my soup?” (Hint: If you have to ask this question, you might not want to eat at that restaurant again.)

“Thing” can also refer to a topic of conversation, as in “I have three things I want to talk to you about today.” Notice that “thing” can be singular or plural when used in these ways.

More recently in U.S. English, “a thing” (always singular) has taken on a new meaning, referring to a newly popular topic, trend, or activity.

For example, eating toast with avocado on top is now “a thing” in many U.S. cities. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon that is especially popular among hipsters.

Saying that you will move to Canada if _________ wins the presidency in November is also a thing among celebrities (fill in the blank with the candidate you hate the most here (Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Attila the Hun, etc.)).

Sometimes the trend is so crazy, you may ask someone, “Is that really a thing?” For example, I might ask my friend, “Are adult coloring books really a thing now?”

The answer to that last question is yes, they are: people are actually spending time coloring paper books like children. Sadly, it is a thing.

~Jeff

Image credit: from Addams Family Wiki

P.S. Oh, here’s one more meaning of “thing” – it was the name of a character on The Addams Family TV show from the 1960s, which is shown in the photo.


Sunday - May 22, 2016

Podcasts this Week (May 23, 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 1210 – Small Town Charm

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 “charming” and “lively.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Most Famous Streets in the U.S.”
“The U.S. has more than one million streets, but some of them have become ‘household names’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 556

Topics: Apollo 11; Famous Americans – Soapy Smith; certainly versus definitely versus surely; to have a crush on (someone) versus to be in love with (someone); out on a limb

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Vigilance Committees and The Ox-Bow Incident.”
The Ox-Bow Incident is a 1940 novel and a 1943 movie about a ‘vigilance committee,’ or a group of ‘private citizens’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1211 – Watching Movie and TV Franchises

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 be turned into” and “spin-off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Movie Merchandizing and Tie-Ins.”
“Movies used to be a form of entertainment, but they are ‘increasingly’ (more and more) viewed as opportunities for…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - May 17, 2016

They Voted Them Out

wordsWords come and go.

Most words come into English – and other languages – rather quietly. One person uses a new word, then two, then a few. And when a large enough number of people use a word often enough in the same way, dictionary makers notice, and add it to their dictionaries. Early in 2015 one dictionary, the Merriam-Webster dictionary published a list of “Words We’re Watching.” One of the words on that list was “athleisure” – casual clothing, like hoodies and yoga pants, for exercising and for doing almost everything else. Athleisure didn’t get into (wasn’t part of) the Merriam-Webster in 2015, but it did in 2016.

You will find many new words labeled (described) as “informal” English or “slang.” Informal English is used in relaxed, friendly situations – like speaking, texting, and writing emails. Athleisure is an informal word.

Slang usually comes and goes. It begins with a particular group of people – like teenagers or surfers – as a kind of “inside” language for the group. Other people may pick up a few slang words and use them, but it is mostly what we might call “group-talk.”

Some informal words eventually (after a period of time) become part of standard English. Standard English is the “main” part of the language, in the sense that it’s understood and used in the same way by most people when speaking and writing. It is used in both formal and informal situations and is acceptable wherever English is used.

Some slang becomes part of informal English. “Grass,” used for marijuana, began as slang with marijuana users and is now used informally by many people. So is “bro,” used for brother or friend. But we probably wouldn’t use either grass or bro in a formal situation.

While some words come into English, others go out. They don’t actually disappear. But when enough people stop using a word very often, or if they stop using a particular meaning of a word, dictionaries label it as “outdated” or “archaic” – meaning old or old-fashioned.

A good example of an outdated word is “buck.” Buck used to refer to a fashionable and daring (new or unusual in a way that might shock people) young man. Today we’d probably call him a hipster. An example of an everyday word with an outdated meaning is “gentle.” It used to mean someone who was a member of the highest social class – the original idea of “gentleman.” Today we use gentle – and gentleman – to describe someone who is kind and careful how they do things and treat people.

The U.S. Congress recently found a new way to get rid of a group of words: it voted them out, or said they couldn’t be used in future government documents. These words, used to identify groups of people that live in the U.S., are considered offensive (insulting, upsetting) and filled with negative feelings or memories for the people they refer to. Many of these words are already labeled both “outdated” and “offensive” in dictionaries.

In the future, federal government documents must use the term African Americans instead of “Negroes,” Asian Americans instead of “Orientals,” Hispanics instead of “Spanish-speakers,” Native Americans instead of “Indians,” and Alaska Natives instead of “Eskimos” or “Aleuts.” They will also use Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

Many – perhaps most – Americans had already been using the new words as a way to show respect for these groups of people. And I know that many government documents have already been changed. But now it’s official (the government says it must be done).

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

Photo edited from an image found at I.ytimg.com.

 


Sunday - May 15, 2016

Podcasts this Week (May 16, 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 1208 – Living on Low Wages

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 “wage” and “jet.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Disparaging Terms Related to American Companies.”
“Some of America’s major employers are often referred to ‘disparagingly’ (in a highly critical and offensive way)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 555

Topics: American Authors – Louisa May Alcott; Classic TV – Gilligan’s Island; up-to-date versus updated; to work out the kinks and to deserve a pat on the back; to seize the moment

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Survival Handbooks.”
“The ‘survival handbook’ ‘genre’ (type of writing, film, music, and more) is popular among people who want to be prepared for any possible situation….” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1209 – Questioning Mental Competency

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 “sharp” and “estate.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Determining Competence to Stand Trial.”
“Often the ‘outcome’ (how something ends) of a court trial depends on the attorney’s ability to determine the mental competence of the “defendant”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - May 10, 2016

What to Say When You Get Unwanted Attention

walking-312087_960_720We recently received a question from Victoria living here in the U.S., in New Jersey, who wants to know how to tell a man to stop bothering (annoying; troubling) her. She wants to know what she can say to him to make him stop or go away.

I’m not sure what kind of unwanted attention Victoria is getting, so I’ll try to cover (address; discuss) a few different scenarios (situations).

A common type of unwanted attention that people get, especially women, is verbal (spoken). For example, sometimes women are shouted at or called out to (spoken to in order to get one’s attention) by groups of men, something called a catcall. Several websites giving women advice on how to deal with this situation give common sense (general understanding that most people have) suggestions: avoid eye contact (looking into another person’s eyes); walk with purpose (quickly and with a clear destination (place to go)); and ignore (don’t show awareness of) these shouted comments. One site suggested shutting down (ending an interaction or conversation) someone by not laughing at his jokes, responding in any way, or showing annoyance or anger. So in these cases, not saying anything in any language is probably the best move (action).

Another type of unwanted attention women get is physical (involving the body). For example, if you’re on a crowded (with many people close together) train or bus, you may have someone stand too close to you or touch a part of your body. If that person is actually holding on to you, the most common thing to say to make them stop is, “Let go (of me).” If that person is simply too close to you, but not actually touching you, use the phrase, “Back off,” which means “Move away so you’re not so close.”

We use “back off” in other circumstances, too, that don’t involve physical closeness. For example, if you think a coworker is involving himself or herself in your work in a way that is not acceptable, you might tell them to “back off“:  “I told James to back off when he tried to talk to my clients.”  Or, “Anna’s father tries to make her decisions for her and she is trying to find a way to tell him to back off without hurting their relationship.”

Finally, if the unwanted attention is someone hitting on you (showing you in a obvious or direct way that he or she is attracted to you romantically or sexually), you can be very direct (clear and frank) by saying, “I’m not interested.” But more commonly, women simply say, “I have a boyfriend” or “I’m in a relationship,” although not everyone agrees that this is the best strategy (plan). However, this usually gets the message across (communicates) that you are not available (not single).

Well, Victoria, I hope I’ve given you a few ways to deal with the unwanted attention you’ve been getting. If any of you reading this have more suggestions that don’t involve causing physical injury (hurting someone), please add them in the comments below.

~ Lucy

P.S. My sincere thanks to those who sent me birthday wishes here and on email. I appreciate the kind thoughts!


Sunday - May 8, 2016

Podcasts this Week (May 9, 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 1206 – Outdoor Vacation Sports and Activities

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 recharge” and “more (one’s) speed.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Adventure Travel.”
“Some people look for ‘R&R’ (rest and relaxation) when they are on vacation, but other people are looking for excitement and adventure….” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 554

Topics: The Manhattan Project; Famous Songs – “Give My Regards to Broadway”; to propose versus to suggest versus to offer; to disclose versus to uncover versus to divulge; to stick it to (someone)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Betsy Ross and the American Flag.”
“Most Americans believe that the U.S. flag was created by a woman named Betsy Ross…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1207 – Gauging the Doneness of Meat

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 “tough” and “raw.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Classic Dishes Made With Ground Beef.”
“Many traditional American ‘dishes’ (prepared foods) are made with ‘ground beef’ (beef that is cut into very small pieces)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - May 3, 2016

Around The World In 7 Years

ps2-1379103247-29Paul Salopek is walking around the world.

He started, in 2013, in central Africa where scientists believe they have found the earliest evidence of humans (people) on Earth. He will finish, most likely (probably) sometime after 2020, at the tip (end) of Chile in South America.

Salopek’s journey will follow the path scientists believe that humankind (human beings as a group) followed as they migrated (went somewhere else to live) from Africa and spread around the world. From Africa his trip will take him north through the Middle East; across central Asia, India, and China; across the Bering Strait to Alaska; and then down across North and South America to Tierra del Fuego, Chile. A few weeks ago he was in Azerbaijan, more than a year later than he had planned.

Paul Salopek is an American journalist (reporter). His project is called the Out of Eden Walk. Eden is the name of the place in the Bible where humankind first lived; it is sometimes used in a general way as “where humankind began.” Why is he doing this?

It’s about “storytelling,” Salopek says. “It’s about communicating in the 21st century, slowing people down.” He says that he’s interested in finding time in today’s world to tell stories, “stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. So if I slow down stories to three miles [5 km] per hour [walking speed], let’s see if people follow along.”

He believes it’s important to slow down so we can absorb (take in) more of what is happening around us. “I don’t think we need more information,” he says. “I think we need more meaning (understanding of what’s important).”

As he walks, Salopek meets people who live along his path. Some walk with him. Some give him lunch or dinner, and others invite him to spend the night. He rarely knows, as he begins each morning, what will happen before his day ends.

He tells the story of staying with 72-year-old Ziaudoin and his wife in Azerbaijan. They had married as teenagers and lived a “tough (difficult) farm life, on the edge, really, of civilization.” They were curious when they first met Salopek, then surprised when he told them that he had hiked (walked along a path) from Africa. They laughed and and told him, “You have got to be crazy.”

Ziaudoin explained through an interpreter (someone who changes words into a different language), “I don’t think he is crazy. I actually thought he was quite enlightened (shows good understanding), because they actually want to walk across the world to see what’s out there. You might not notice a place, but when you walk by on foot, you see it, and appreciate it for what it actually is.”

Salopek says that his “reporting method is observational, quietly watching [and listening to] the world unfold (develop, happen) around me, getting into people’s lives. And for them to admit me in their lives, I have to be quiet. I have to listen. If this becomes too much of a spectacle (big show), I can’t work.”

If you want to follow Salopek’s journey, you can do so on the National Geographic and PBS Newshour websites. Some information in this post came from PBS Newshour interviews with Salopek.

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

Photo courtesy of pulitzercenter.org.

 


Sunday - May 1, 2016

Podcasts this Week (May 2, 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 1204– Controlling Information to the Media

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 “in the dark” and “up front.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Woozle Effect.”
“The “Woozle effect” refers to the way in which ‘urban myths’ (things that many or most people believe, but that are not true, especially when talking about popular culture)..” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 553

Topics: Famous Americans – Lew Wallace; Classic TV – The Brady Bunch; to prevent versus to hinder versus to forbid; integral versus indispensable; to scare off game

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Leave it to Beaver.”
Leave it to Beaver is an American ‘sitcom’ (situation comedy; a series of humorous shows with the same characters in the same, familiar environment each week)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1205 – Bragging About Success With Women

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 “play-by-play” and “to slam.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Classic Dating & Relationship Shows.”
The Dating Game was a popular ‘dating show’ (a television program that shows people dating each other)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - April 26, 2016

Your Guide to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections: Part 4

Icons of politics and American ElectionsHere’s another post in our continuing series on the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. If you missed the first three, go here.

Buzzwords

Every presidential election campaign brings with it (creates or makes popular) certain buzzwords, terms or phrases that are used frequently by politicians and the media (newspapers, magazines, Internet news sites). Today’s buzzword is . . .

YUGE!

“Yuge” is just an alternate pronunciation of the word “huge,” meaning big, important, or very large. It is a favorite word of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has a very distinctive (easy to recognize because it is so different) New York accent, so the letter “h” is pronounced more like the letter “y” as in “you.”

People now use the word as a joke, as in “The movie Batman v Superman is gonna (going to) be YUGE!”

As Seen On Twitter

This is one of the first American elections where Twitter has played a major (YUGE!) role or part. In particular, Donald Trump has used Twitter to communicate to his supporters and to criticize other candidates. Trump’s criticisms are often personal, meaning he doesn’t argue about policies (plans for how government will work) but instead attacks the other candidates for what he sees as their failures of character.

For example, he often refers to Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” – “lyin'” is just an informal way of saying “lying” (not telling the truth). Trump recently started to call Hilary Clinton “Crooked Hilary” – “crooked” refers to a government official or politician who takes bribes (money) in exchange for doing favors for other people.

Perhaps this name calling (criticizing people by insulting them) is one reason why Trump is now among the least popular politicians in recent memory (in the past several years). Yet, among a certain group of people, he is still very popular and continues to win elections. How is this possible?

Remember that Trump is winning elections only among Republican voters (who are less than half of the population), and even among Republicans, most voters don’t like him. But the way our nomination process is set up (arranged; organized), it is possible to win elections with a minority (less than 50%) of the votes (see a more detailed explanation in Part 3 of this series).

Those opposed to Trump are using the #NeverTrump hashtag on Twitter. The #NeverTrump group consists mostly of Republicans and conservatives who say that even if Trump wins the Republican nomination, they will never vote for him in November. (Most #NeverTrump people say they won’t vote for Hilary Clinton, either.)

Questions and Answers

Here are some questions that were asked in the last post in this series:

Can Americans vote for someone other than the Democrat or Republican nominee?

Yes, there are other candidates besides (in addition to) the ones nominated by the Democrats and Republicans. But the truth is they rarely get enough votes to get elected, even for state-level offices. But if the presidential election this year is between Trump and Clinton, two very unpopular candidates, anything is possible!

If one candidate has enough delegates for the first ballot, why even vote at the national convention?

Even if one candidate has enough delegates to win on the first ballot (vote) at the national convention, technically (according to the rules) you still have to have a vote. You cannot just “skip” (not do) the voting part!

If I don’t want to follow the U.S. elections and instead want to watch baseball, can you recommend a team to me?

Yes! The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite team, and everyone in the world should support them (although Warren would disagree).

Have additional questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in a future post.

~Jeff

P.S. If you really want to learn more about the U.S. and its history and politics, check out our Introduction to the United States course.


Sunday - April 24, 2016

Podcasts this Week (April 25, 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 1202 – Describing Student Achievement

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 coast” and “slow.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Educational Tracking.”
“One of the greatest ‘controversies’ (things that people do not agree on, with strong opinions on each side)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 552

Topics: American Presidents – Barack Obama; Famous Songs – “Achors Away”; diffidence versus timidity versus shyness; receipt versus reception; no problem versus not at all versus no big deal

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Navy SEALs.”
“The United States Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Forces, most commonly referred to as the Navy SEALs…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1203 – Completing a Drug-Alcohol Rehabilitation

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 “sober” and “wise.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Open Container Laws.”
“In the United States, ‘open container laws’ ‘prohibit’ (do not allow) people to drive a ‘vehicle’ (automobile; car)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide