The Word Of The Year Is . . .

the_persistence_of_memory. . . is surreal.

In the early 1800s, Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary to show how American English is different than British English. His dictionary, now called Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is probably the most-used American English dictionary. Most of us grew up on it (used it in school from the time we were young).

Today Merriam-Webster tracks (records) the words that people look up on their website and apps. And at the end of the year, they identify the words of the year, words that were looked up (searched for) more than others. There are two kinds: first, what we might call everyday words – words that are looked up frequently all year, every year.

The second kind are words that people looked up because of events in the news. After something happens – in politics, popular culture (music, television, movies, etc.), or sports – the number of times people look up these words spikes (goes up suddenly). A short time later, the number drops. When we look at these words, they often tell us what people think or how they feel about those events. Surreal belongs to this second group.

Surreal describes something that is very strange, unreal, or difficult to understand, like something from a dream. It comes from the world of art. Surreal art – like the photo of Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Time – shows usual objects in unusual ways. Watches are usual. Hanging watches over tree branches and other objects are unusual. Common synonyms for surreal include unbelievable, fantastic (from fantasy; imagined but not real), unreal, and unusual.

Surreal spiked several times in 2016. The first was in March after the terror attack in Brussels, Belgium. It appeared twice in July – after the coup attempt (attempt to take control of the government) in Turkey and after the terror attack in Nice, France. The last and largest spike came after the U.S. presidential election. All of these were events that people had trouble understanding, describing, and thinking about.

Some other words had significant spikes during 2016. The musician Prince’s death last year sent many people to the dictionary to look up icon – someone many people know about and consider an important person. The Revenant, the movie that Leonardo DiCapro starred in and won an Academy Award for, caused many to look up the word revenant – a ghost or someone who has come back from being dead.

Did any events from 2016 send you to the dictionary? What did you look up?

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

This post was based on information from the Merriam-Webster website.
Photo of Persistence of Memory courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Posted in Language & Terms, Life in the United States | 12 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – January 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for January 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!

………

Daily English 1278 – Applying to a Selective School

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 “private” and “interview.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Charter Schools.”
“‘Charter schools’ are schools that receive ‘public funding’ (money from the government) but operate outside…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Cultural English 590
Topics: The Amana Colonies; resolution versus promise; fate versus destiny; saying “oh” or “zero” when reading numbers aloud

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The German Belt.”
“The ‘German Belt’ ‘refers to’ (talks about; means) a ‘band’ (horizontal area) across the United States that ‘stretches’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Daily English 1279 – Baking for People with Dietary Restrictions

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 “baked goods” and “peanut.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Advent and Popularity of Cake Mixes.”
“A ‘cake mix’ is a boxed item sold at stores that contains mixtures of ingredients that ‘simplify’ (make easier) the process…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Posted in Announcements | 6 Comments

Mail by Mule

JuancitoAmericans love to complain about the United States Postal Service (USPS), which we more commonly call the “post office.” They are blamed for lost or late mail, even for the amount of junk mail (unwanted mail, including advertisements) we receive. But if we step back and look at the extraordinary lengths (efforts) the USPS goes to to deliver mail, we might appreciate the post office a little more.

The Grand Canyon (see English Cafe 245) is the 277 mile (440 km) long and 6,000 foot (1,800 meter) deep gorge (low area between two mountains) in Arizona. It’s a place of wonder (causing awe and admiration) and natural beauty.

At the bottom of the Canyon, but outside of the national park the Canyon is located in, lives a Native American tribe called the Havasupai. They live on the Havasupai Reservation, land officially set aside by the U.S. government for their use.

Most of the Havasupai live in the village of Supai. Both the reservation and the village are in a remote (difficult to get to) place, but it is very beautiful, with four blue-green waterfalls. There are no roads. To get there, you will need to walk, ride a horse or other animal, row a boat, or travel by helicopter.

Even so, the people on the reservation get their mail six days a week. How does it get there? It arrives by mule (see photo).

The U.S. Postal Service uses contractors (people who are hired for a service by agreement) for this service. A contractor picks up the mail from the nearby town of Peach Springs, Arizona, and travels by car for about an hour to the top of the canyon. From there, the owner of the mule team (group of animals working together) who has done this job for over 25 years, loads up the mail onto the mules, each mule carrying up to 200 pounds. The mule team then travel the eight miles down into the canyon, usually taking three hours down and five hours back up.

Most of the “mail” that makes this trip isn’t mail at all — it’s supplies (necessary things for one to live or work). So without mail service, the village could not survive. The mail service delivers basic items, such as soap and medicine, but also modern amenities (useful and desirable things), such as packaged food (food in bags, boxes, or containers), small appliances (machines used in the home), and even orders from Amazon.com!

If spending time in this remote place sounds good to you, then you can visit the village of Supai. In addition to hiking, horseback riding, or picnicking (eating a meal outdoors) in this beautiful place, you can visit the village store and cafe, and there is even a museum for tourists. If you’d like to stay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you can rent a room at Phantom Ranch. Interestingly, if someone sends you mail while you’re staying there, your letter or package will have a stamp (official mark in ink) on it that reads, “Mailed by Mule.” In fact, Supai is the last official mail-by-mule route in the United States.

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: From Wikipedia

Posted in Life in the United States | 2 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – January 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for January 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!

………

Daily English 1276 – Using an On-site Daycare

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 pop over” and “to keep it short.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Things to Consider When Considering a Daycare Facility.”
“Many new parents are ‘nervous’ (anxious and worried) about leaving their children in a daycare facility…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Cultural English 589
Topics: Famous Americans – Kenny Rogers; Elements of Style; over time; pronouncing “rushing” versus “Russian”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Gamblers Anonymous.”
“People who have a ‘gambling’ addiction are ‘driven to’ (feel that they must act in a particular way) risk large amounts…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Daily English 1277 – Inconsiderate Subway-Train Passengers

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 hog” and “pole.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Subway Rules and Prohibitions.”
“Many large ‘metropolitan’ (city) areas have subways, but ‘commuters’ (people who travel to and from work) have to agree to follow rules…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Posted in Announcements | 13 Comments

When Good People Do Good Things

When I see them, I often save articles that describe good people doing good things. Here are two of my favorites from 2016.

At rest with honor. Andrew Moore died last year the way he had lived most of his life . . . alone.

When Moore was young, he was placed in an orphanage, a home for children without parents. When he was a teenager, he ran away.

He had no family. He never married. And when he died, he was living alone in a small apartment in an apartment building in Washington, D.C., for people with little money.

Moore might have been alone, but he was not lonely. He made friends easily and knew most of the people who lived and worked in the apartment building. They say he made their lives brighter.

Because Moore had no money, no family, and no will (instructions for after you die), he would have been buried by the city of Washington and forgotten. But two of his friends from the apartment building had a different idea: they wanted him buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery is a place to honor men and women who have served (worked for) the U.S., especially those who had served in the military. Many veterans (people who have fought in a war) are buried there. So are important leaders, like John F. Kennedy, scientists, astronauts, and important American musicians.

Moore’s friends knew he had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was qualified (met the requirements) to be buried at Arlington. They completed all the paperwork that was required and collected money from others who lived in the apartment building to help with the expenses. It was difficult and took a lot of time.

Finally, on a cold, windy Friday morning last spring, Moore was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in a full military ceremony, along with more than 14,000 others who, like him, had served their country.

Her father’s heart. Ten years ago, Jeni Stepien’s father was shot and killed during a robbery. While he lay in the hospital, dying, his family decided to donate (give) his organs (heart and other body parts) to an organization that finds people who need them and makes it possible for the families to stay in touch with each other after the transplant (moving an organ from one person to another).

Stepien’s father’s heart went to another father, Arthur Thomas, who had congestive heart failure (when the heart stops working properly). He would have died in just a few days without the new heart. After the transplant, Stepien’s and Thomas’s families became friends through phone calls, letters, and emails.

When Stepien planned her wedding last year, she wanted to remember her father in a special way. After talking to her family, she invited Thomas to walk her from the back of the church to the front, like her father would have done. Thomas agreed to do it.

At the wedding, Stepien and Thomas walked to the front of the church, then stopped and looked at each other. Thomas took her hand and briefly held it over his – her father’s – heart so she could feel the heartbeat. Her father was there.

Happy New Year!

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

This post was adapted from articles in the New York Times and Washington Post.
Photo of Arlington National Cemetery courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 

Posted in Life in the United States | 17 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – January 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for January 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!

………

Daily English 1274 – Childish Fighting and Misbehavior

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 slam” and “to bite.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Congressional Ethics.”
“Since 2008, the Office of Congressional Ethics has reviewed ‘allegations’ (claims or statements that someone has done something wrong)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Cultural English 588
Topics: The Women Airforce Service Pilots; technically versus typically versus basically; apology versus apologies; to approve versus to approve of

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Pilot Bessie Coleman.”
“Bessie Coleman was a ‘notable’ (worth noticing; impressive and interesting) American ‘aviator’ (pilot)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Daily English 1275 – Working as a Musician

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 “dream” and “big break.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Songwriting Contests.”
“‘Songwriting contests’ give ‘aspiring’ (wanting to have, do, or be something) songwriters an opportunity to compete against each other to see…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Posted in Announcements | 7 Comments

Headline English: December 31, 2016

In case you missed it, here’s short video posted on Facebook.

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Posted in News and Current Events | Comments Off on Headline English: December 31, 2016

Welcome, 2017!

It’s hard to believe it’s already the end of 2016 and time to ring in the new year (celebrate the arrival of the new year)!

Here are a few words we associate (connect) with the anticipation (waiting to happen) and celebration of the new year. You may know some of these already.

new-1872736_1280

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But just in case you don’t…

Confetti are small pieces of colored paper that people throw at celebrations, especially at weddings and New Year celebrations. It comes from Italian and in English, it is always spelled the same whether it is singular or plural.

A resolution is a promise you make to yourself to do something or not do something, usually related to bad habits, such a smoking or singing Celine Dion songs.

Glitter is a term we use for the very small pieces of shiny (reflecting light) material that is used to decorate things, such as greeting cards.

And do you know these as well?

Bubbly: Bubbly can mean something with bubbles (round shapes filled with air or gas), but is commonly used as another word for champagne (white wine with bubbles).
– “The wedding guests drank bubbly and ate cake.”

Party favors: Small gifts or toys related to the theme of a party or celebration, such as party hats, noisemakers, and headbands (piece of thin plastic worn around the head as decoration, usually by women), usually worn or used at the event.
– “Each child at the birthday party will get a set of party favors, which include a hat, a plastic toy, and a pair of funny glasses.”

To overindulge: This means to eat or drink too much of something, especially alcohol.
– “Monica wants to have a good time but is careful not to overindulge at dinner.”

Merrymaking: The process of enjoying yourself, often with laughter, dancing, and drinking.
– “There will be plenty of merrymaking at the festival!”

Boisterous: Something or someone who is noisy and cheerful, with a lot of energy.
– “The bar usually has a boisterous crowd on Friday and Saturday nights.”

We wish you a New Year’s Eve celebration full of boisterous merrymaking with bubbly and fun party favors, and only a little overindulging.

Happy New Year!

Jeff, Lucy, + ESLPod.com Team

Posted in Life in the United States | 6 Comments

NEW Lessons this Week (December 26, 2016)

icon_51812To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member!

………

ON MONDAY
Daily English 1272 – Returning and Exchanging Merchandise

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 exchange”and “as-is.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Return-policy Terms.”
“When ‘making a purchase’ (buying something), buyers should know a store’s ‘return policy,’ or the conditions…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
Cultural English 587

Topics: The Mayflower and the Mayflower Compact; to encompass versus to comprise; edge versus margin; do me right

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Mayflower Doctrine.”
“In 1941, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the ‘Mayflower Doctrine,’ which ‘prohibited’ (did not allow)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
Daily English 1273 – Improving School Security

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 light of” and “time.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of School Drills and Safety Procedures.”
“Most schools have ‘drills’ (actions that are practiced and repeated many times) and safety procedures ‘designed’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Posted in Announcements | 24 Comments

Happy Holidays to You All!

We wish you and your family a
very happy holiday season! 

christmas-1826009_1280

From all of us here at ESLPod.com

Posted in Announcements | 8 Comments