Headline English: Tit-for-Tat

Today’s Headline English comes from a recent editorial (opinion article) in the Los Angeles Times newspaper:

Trump’s tit-for-tat trade war with China escalates again.

If you’ve been following (reading or watching) the news, you know that the United States is currently involved in a “trade war” with China.

Trade is the business of buying and selling.

International trade is trade between two or more countries.

So we are talking about what is allowed to be imported (brought into to sell) and exported (sent elsewhere to sell) and under what conditions.

A trade war isn’t a physical attack or conflict. It is when two countries decided to “punish” each other with what are called tariffs.

Tariffs are taxes, or amounts of money paid to the government, that an importer needs to pay to bring goods (items for sale) into a country.

Sometimes countries use tariffs to protect their own country’s companies from competition.

However, importers who have to pay tariffs for goods from China will just increase the price of those items when they sell them here in the U.S.

In other words (to put it in another way), consumers (those who buy things from companies) are the ones who really pay for these tariffs.

A country may also use tariffs to punish another country for some political or economic action it doesn’t like, even if it has nothing to do with trade.

Now back to the headline: “Trump’s tit-for-tat trade war with China escalates again.”

Tit-for-tat means to harm or hurt someone because her or she has done something to harm or hurt you.*

For example, if your office mate (person you work with) takes your coffee cup one day because she forgot her own at home, you might decide to take her pens from her desk in response to “punish” her for what she did to you.

That’s a tit-for-tat situation: You do something bad to me, and I’ll do something bad to you.

Another word for tit-for-tat is retaliation. To retaliate means to hurt someone else who has already hurt you.

If something escalates, it means that it increases or becomes worse or more serious, very quickly.

Let’s say your neighbor criticizes your new car. You are angry, so you respond (answer back) by saying that you think his wife is ugly.

Your neighbor then punches you in the face. The two of you fight. The police come and arrest you both (take you both to jail).

The situation started as a simple insult, something not very serious, but quickly escalated to both of you landing in (being put into) jail.

In this headline, the writer is saying that in the trade war between the U.S. and China, each side has taken actions to retaliate against the other’s actions.

Who knows how this trade war will be resolved (ended)?

Let’s just hope everyone comes to their senses (begins to think sensibly again) before things get out of hand (become out of control) and escalate further.

~Jeff

*The words “tit” and “tat” used in the expression “tit-for-tat” refer to types of blows (hits) in a fight. The expression has nothing to do with modern meanings of these words.

Tat in modern British English refers to junk or things that aren’t worth very much money. Tit in American English is a vulgar (dirty) term referring to a woman’s breast.

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Pizza Party in the U.S.A.

Americans love pizza.

We love it so much that there are actually TWO pizza museums in the U.S. One is in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and is part of a pizza restaurant.

The other is in Chicago (Illinois), opened by man who says he’s obsessed (thinking about something all the time) with pizza.

The founder (creator) of the Pizza Museum in Chicago is a man named Peter Regas. He has a life-long love of pizza and is a collector of pizza memorabilia (items people collect because they have historical importance).

He also wanted to write a book about the history of pizza. One of the things he wanted to find out was how pizza arrived in the United States.

The long-established (believed for a long time) story was that a man named Gennaro Lombardi started the first pizza restaurant in the U.S. in New York City in 1905. Regas searched archive records (documents from history) for over 10 years and found out that this was not true.

According to Regas, the man who brought pizza to the U.S. was instead named Filippo Milone.

Milone came to New York in the late 1800’s from Naples, Italy. He first opened two pizzerias (pizza restaurants). Both pizzerias are still in business today under different names. One of them is called Lombardi’s.

In 1905, when Gennaro Lombardi was supposed to have opened the first pizza restaurant in the U.S.A., he was only 18 years old and probably worked at the restaurant, not owned it.

We can get at the truth by looking at how Filippo Milone did business (operated).

He used to open pizzerias and then turn them over (gave responsibility for them or sold them) to other people. He then found a new location and opened more pizzerias.

He did this across Manhattan and Brooklyn, two large boroughs (sections) of New York City. So it’s likely that Lombardi eventually took over (became responsible for or bought) Milone’s restaurant, changing the name to Lombardi’s.

That’s the story of how pizza came to this country from Italy.

Grazie, Signore Milone!

~Jeff

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How to Say “No”

There are several commonly-used ways to say “no” in conversation when responding to a suggestion, request, invitation, or something similar.

Each is used a little differently depending on how firm or forceful you want to be. I’ve listed a few below.

These are, of course, not all of the possible ways to say “no,” but just some of the most useful ones.

I’ve listed them in the order of forcefulness (strength; emphasis). with the first being the weakest (least forceful).

However, it all depend on how you say it!

You can make “uh-uh” and “nah” just as strong as “no way” with the right tone of voice and emphasis (stress).

“Uh-uh”
(also pronounced “nuh-uh”) –
A: Do you feel like going to see a movie tonight?
B: Uh-uh. I’m tired. Let’s stay home.

“Nah”
A: Do you want to go with us for drinks after work today?
B: Nah, I’m working late tonight.

“No”
This is the most versatile and can be used for whatever occasion, of course.
A: Let’s take a vacation to Greece this year.
B: No, I’d rather go to Brazil.

“Nope”
This is informal and a curt (short) way to say “no.” It can sound impolite (rude) if refusing a request.
A: I have a date tomorrow night. Can I borrow your car?
B: Nope, never again after what happened last time.

“No way!”
This is very forceful and is used when there is no chance of the speaker changing his or her mind.
A: Why don’t I move in with you and we can be roommates.
B: No way, dude! You are too messy for me.

In a joking manner, we sometimes say “No way, José!” because the Spanish name José is pronounced “ho-say” and that rhymes with “way.”

“Not on your life!” / “Not in a million years!”
A: Will you write this report for me? I have so much other work to do.
B: Not on your life! / Not in a million years! I asked you for help last week and you said you were “too busy,” remember?

~Jeff

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Your English Challenge

“She told him that she loved him.”

This seems like an easy sentence in English. But is it?

What if I told you that you can make this sentence mean seven different things by adding just ONE word?

Weird, I know, but keep reading . . .

The one word you add is “only.”

Here’s the key: You add “only” in front of each word of the sentence.

When you do that, you get a new meaning each time!

Okay, first read the sentences and see if you can you figure out what they mean:

1. ONLY she told him that she loved him.

2. She ONLY told him that she loved him.

3. She told ONLY him that she loved him.

4. She told him ONLY that she loved him.

5. She told him that ONLY she loved him.

6. She told him that she ONLY loved him.

7. She told him that she loved ONLY him.

Now, some of these sentences have more than one meaning, but I’ve given you what I think is the most common meaning below.

1. ONLY she told him that she loved him.

She told him about her love for him. No one else told him that she loved him. She was the only one.

2. She ONLY told him that she loved him.

She did only one thing: tell him that she loved him. But she didn’t do anything else. (Sorry, no kiss!)

3. She told ONLY him that she loved him.

She has told no other person that she loves him. She only said it to him.

4. She told him ONLY that she loved him.

She didn’t tell him anything else, only that she loved him. This is admittedly very similar to #2. The difference, if there is one, is a matter of emphasis: #2 is emphasizing (making you pay attention to; stressing) that no other action was taken, while #4 is emphasizing what she did or did not actually say to him.

5. She told him that ONLY she loved him.

She is the only person who loves him. No one else loves him, not even his mother (okay, maybe his mother, too).

6. She told him that she ONLY loved him.

She loves him, but that’s all. She might not have other feelings for him. She might not even *like* him and might not be ready to do anything else, like marry him.

7. She told him that she loved ONLY him

He is the only person she loves. There’s no other person she loves. Notice this is not the same as #5. In #5, she is saying that no other woman loves him. But in #7, she’s saying that she doesn’t love any other man, only him.

Of course, all this is from the perspective (viewpoint; opinion of) the woman. What does the man think?

Maybe he doesn’t even know her. Maybe she was some crazy woman who came up to him on the street and started talking about loving him. Who knows?

Only he knows!

~Jeff

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A Fairy Tale for a Princess Not Named Megan

A fairy tale is a story for children about something magical. It always has a happy ending, and many times is about royalty (queens, kings, princesses, etc.).

Some say that the marriage of American actress Megan Markle to Prince Harry of England was a “fairy tale,” a story that now includes the birth of a baby boy.

American children, including I’m sure Markle, grow up hearing fairy tales from their parents and seeing them in movies.

One of the most famous fairy tales is Sleeping Beauty, originally written by the French author Charles Perrault.

But Americans are most familiar with the Disney movie version of the same name.

Sleeping Beauty is a classic (well known; traditional) fairy tale. In the story, three good fairies (magical creatures that can fly) come to bless (say something so that good things will happen) the baby Princess Aurora.

But an evil (bad) fairy curses (says something so that bad things will happen to) the baby.

Her curse is that when she turns 16, the princess will prick (have a small cut on) her finger on a spinning wheel (a machine used to turn sheep hair into yarn) and die (see illustration/drawing).

One of the good fairies uses her blessing to change the curse, so that the young princess will only fall into a deep sleep (very heavy sleep that is hard to wake up from).

The king demands that all spinning wheels be burned and the fairies take the baby away for 16 years.

But it is of no use: On her birthday, Princess Aurora pricks her finger on a spinning wheel anyway and falls into a deep sleep.

However, on that same day, she saw a prince and they fell in love!

When the fairies realize this, they work to bring the prince to Aurora. The prince has to fight against the bad fairy, who turns herself into a dragon (a large animal that breathes fire).

With the good fairies’ help, the prince kills the dragon and the bad fairy and then he goes to Princess Aurora.

As she sleeps, he kisses her. This breaks (ends) the curse.

Princess Aurora wakes up, and everyone lives “happily ever after” (a phrase used to end most fairy tales, meaning that everyone is happy from that time on).

We wish the Duchess of Sussex (Megan’s official title in Great Britain) and her family an equally happy future.

~Jeff

P.S. Much of this post is taken from one of our Daily English Culture Notes. These are part of the 15,000+ pages of English reading available in our Unlimited English Membership. Check it out here.

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Is Disneyland Really the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

Last weekend I was in the city of Anaheim, California, about an hour from where I live in Los Angeles.

Anaheim is home to Disneyland, which advertises itself as “the happiest place on Earth.”

But according to a new poll (survey; questionnaire) released (published; made available) yesterday, that’s probably not true.

Gallup, a polling organization, asked 150,000 people in 142 countries some questions about both “positive” and “negative” things that they experienced in the past 24 hours.

Negative experiences included being stressed, worried, or angry.

About 30% of people surveyed said they had some of these negative experiences.

Where are people the saddest?

People in the African country of Chad had the most negative experiences, followed closely by Niger, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and Iran.

But it’s not just people living in countries suffering from war and poverty who have had negative experiences.

When asked about experiencing stress, the top countries where people answered “yes” were Greece (59%), Philippines (58%), Tanzania (57%), and . . . the United States (55%).

Living in the Land of Disneyland doesn’t make you more relaxed, it seems.

But it’s not all bad news. Overall, people’s “positive experiences” are much stronger than negative ones.

Positive experiences included if they smiled or laughed, did something for fun, learned something new or interesting, and felt enjoyment.

Where are people the happiest?

Not in the richest countries of Western Europe and North America.

No, the happiest place on Earth is Latin America, places like Paraguay (85%), Panama (85%), Guatemala (84%), and Mexico (84%).

In fact, nine of the top 10 countries in “positive experiences” are in Latin America (Indonesia also made the list (was on the list)).

Looking to feel more positively about your life? Perhaps you could try moving to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay.

~Jeff

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Shakespeare’s Theater versus Shakespeare’s Theatre

Today is the birthday of the English language’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. So it is a good time to talk a bit more about British versus American English.

Spelling can be a major problem for people learning English, and it doesn’t help that British and American English each have different spellings for the same word.

A case in point (example) is the word theater.

In the U.S., most of the time, we use the word theater to mean the place where we go to see movies, plays, and other performances.

In British English, people use a different spelling, switching “e” and “r” at the end of the word to get “theatre.”

However, just to make it more complicated (not simple), sometimes Americans use the British spelling “theatre” as well!

According to some people, in the U.S. “theater” should refer to the building where a play or performance is held, and “theatre” to the play or show itself.

Personally, I have never written “theatre” or made a distinction in spelling between the building and the play itself. But I guess some people do.

The question is why some Americans use British spellings.

One reason is that British English has a high level of status (level of respect) in the U.S. When many Americans hear British English, they think of things or people who are educated, high class, formal, and sophisticated.

Also, since the British spellings of words were a large part of this country’s early history, we sometimes use the British English spellings to associate ourselves with those British roots (beginnings; origins).

Finally, some British spellings are used by Americans to sound old-fashioned (out-of-date) or stately (having a respectable or dignified appearance).

Some playhouses (theaters) use the spelling of “theatre” for their building or group, perhaps to make us think of those positive British associations (connections).

For example, in Los Angeles alone (only), you can see performances at The El Rey Theatre, the Pantages Theatre, and the Orpheum Theatre, among others.

When using this word, I suggest you follow this rule of thumb (general rule): If you are in the U.S. or communicating with Americans, assume that the spelling is theater. You’ll be right most all of the time!

~Jeff

P.S. This blog post originally appeared in Daily English #155, “Good Review of a Play.” For more cool language and culture lessons, check out our Unlimited English program here: https://tv.eslpod.com.

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To Paris, With Love

By now you have heard the news of the huge (large) fire in Notre-Dame, the Catholic cathedral (main church) of Paris, and one of the finest (best) pieces of architecture in the world.

Like millions around the world, I watched the falling spire (tower) and scorching (very hot) flames with deep sadness.

I visited Notre-Dame many years ago, but I can still remember stepping into the great church and being awed (amazed) at the sight.

To Parisians (people who live in Paris) and to the entire French people, the pain of the fire is the greatest.

But all of us have lost something in this tragedy.

Notre-Dame represents one of the highest achievements of humans in art, and for Catholics, one of their great expressions of spiritual joy.

For many reasons, then, the loss is universal (affecting everyone), just as much as if the Taj Mahal had been destroyed, or the pyramids of Egypt fallen.

Fortunately, the brave firefighters were able to extinguish (put out; end) the fire so that the building itself survived.

Most of the great works of art and precious (important) religious objects were removed safely.

And President Macron of France has promised to rebuild the damaged parts of the building.

So there is hope in this sad tale (story).

Perhaps this will encourage all of us to appreciate the beauty in our own countries and cities a bit more.

~Jeff

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Pushback

If you read American newspapers, you might see the word “pushback.” Here’s a recent headline (title of newspaper story) from the website Politico:

Trump cranks up (increases) his pushback against Dems (Democrats) demanding his tax returns

The noun pushback refers to a negative reaction to a policy, idea, or rule.

Pushback can also mean people doing something to try to stop whatever policy, idea, or rule they don’t like.

In other words, pushback is resistance or a fight against a new change that has been proposed. It’s usually the people who are or will be affected who do the pushing back.

If the government wants to raise taxes, they will probably get a lot of pushback from people like you and me. You might read the headline:

Pushback from homeowners ended the city’s plans to raise property taxes. (Property taxes are the taxes you pay to the government if you own a home.)

If the principal (leader of a school) wants to add an extra hour to the school day, there might be pushback from the students: “Plans to start school an hour earlier each day resulted in a lot of pushback from parents and students.”

If I tell my wife I plan to buy at new TV with a screen the size of our house, I’ll probably get some pushback…maybe some pushing back right out the door!

The opposite of a pushback is “support.”

I might get support from my buddies (friends) who would like to watch the baseball game on my house-size TV.

There’s another definition of “pushback” you might find at an airport.

When an airplane moves backwards (in reverse) from the terminal (where passengers get on the plane) in order to get to the runway where it takes off (leaves the ground), that action of making the plane go backwards is also called “pushback.”

On a plane, you might hear an announcement such as “Before we can begin our pushback, all passengers must be seated.”

You can also express this idea of pushback as a verb, to push back. (Notice the verb is two words and the noun is one word.)

When someone “pushes” you (tries to move you from your position), you can push back, that is, “push” or react to that person’s actions.

~Jeff

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3 Business Buzzwords for 2019

A buzzword is a word or phrase that has become very popular in a certain field or area.

There are buzzwords in science, politics, business, and just about every type of work.

Some buzzwords replace more common (and often simpler) expressions that communicate the same idea or message.

At times, people use buzzwords to “sound like” someone who knows what he or she is talking about.

One popular buzzword nowadays (at this time) is moving forward.

To move forward in a car means that you drive straight ahead. It is the opposite of “to go in reverse” or backwards.

But in modern business and political American English, “moving forward” usually means “from now on.”

This idea is often associated with change, meaning that we did things this way in the past, but now we’re going to do them differently.

For example, let’s say you and your coworkers always start work at 8:00 AM. One day, your boss tells you that he wants you to come in at 7:30 AM.

He might write an email saying, “We’ve always started work at 8:00 AM. Moving forward, we will come in at 7:30 AM.” This means “From now on we will come in at 7:30 AM.”

Here are a few more of these popular buzzwords or expressions:

In terms of  –  This means regarding or concerning a specific topic or issue. It is often used when you are talking about more than one aspect or part of an idea or project, and want to make sure the person listening to you understands which part you’re talking about.

Example: “In terms of company email, I think we should check it only once per day.” This means the same as “I think we should check company email only once per day,” but using “in terms of” makes it sound more “business-like.”

At the end of the day – This is used to express a conclusion or to say what’s really the most important point of something. The idea is the same as “considering everything” or “all things considered.”

For example, if a married couple is talking about problems in their relationship, one person may say, “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we love each other.”

This means that loving each other is more important than the problems you and your spouse may have.

In terms of moving forward, that sounds like a good idea to me.

~Jeff

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