Things That Stick Out

“Stick out” is an interesting little expression.

It describes something that is easy to see, or is noticeable, because it comes out farther than the rest. For example, “He’s so tall that he sticks out in a crowd (large group of people).” Or, “His legs stick out when he’s working under his car.”

If you studied geography in school, you learned about the countries, oceans, rivers, mountains, cities, etc. of the world. And you probably learned about peninsulas, those “almost islands” that stick out into a large body of water. In the U.S., the state of Florida is a good example. Like a large finger, it sticks out of the larger part of the U.S. into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

If you had studied geography in the U.S., you might have studied something else that sticks out, called a panhandle (in other countries, they might be called a salient).

The word comes from the kitchen. Pans are what you cook food in. One pan – the frying pan that you might might use to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast – has a long narrow handle to use to pick it up.

In geography, a panhandle is a long narrow piece of land that sticks out from a larger area, like a state, into another. Ten U.S. states have panhandles, and some of them are well known.

The Alaska, Oklahoma, Florida, and Maryland (you need a larger map to see it) panhandles look like what you’d expect – long and narrow handles attached to one side of the state; Nebraska’s panhandle is where you’d expect it to be, but it’s short and fat. Idaho’s looks like a finger pointing up at Canada; the Texas panhandle is also at the top and, like Nebraska’s, it’s short and fat. West Virginia has two panhandles and Connecticut’s, at the bottom of the state, points at (to show with your finger) New York City.

Why talk about panhandles? Robert Reid recently wrote on the National Geographic website that some of the U.S. panhandles are interesting enough that people should think about visiting them. Here are his three favorites:

1. Alaska’s panhandle is already a popular place to visit. You can cruise (travel on a boat) among the islands along the panhandle to see snow-covered mountains, glaciers (large sheets of ice), small villages, and bears and other animals. You can visit Sitka, an old historic village or Juneau, Alaska’s capital.

2. When you think about Florida’s panhandle, think about 200 miles (320 km) of beautiful white-sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, sunshine, and . . . tourists.

3. I wrote about Nebraska’s sandhills in Where Buffalo Used To Roam. The Nebraska panhandle is mostly sandhills, but they are broken up (interrupted) by 800 foot (~240 m) high rocks that have been carved (cut into shape) by years of wind and rain. Early Americans traveled through this rough but beautiful area on their way to the West.

If you’d like to learn more about America’s panhandles, take a few minutes to look at Reid’s article on the National Geographic website.

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

Map photo from National Geographic.

 

 

Posted in Language & Terms, Life in the United States | 8 Comments

English is a Four-Letter Word

conversation-545621_1280When someone in the U.S. uses the term “four-letter word,” they are referring to those words in English that are considered “obscene” or “vulgar”  – that is, bad language that you would not say in front of your mother, your teacher, or your boss. We call these “four-letter words” even though some of them have more or less than four letters.

We do this because many of the obscene words in English are one syllable, and many of them have four letters, including perhaps the most famous one which begins with the letter “f,” which we call the “f-word.” Some of the less vulgar ones are “hell,” which refers the very unpleasant place that some people believe bad people will go when they die (sometimes capitalized – “Hell”), or “damn,” something you would say to curse someone or if something bad happens to you.

From our common use of four-letter words comes the popular expression: “________ is a four-letter word.” This phrase means that this thing, whatever it is, is unpleasant, very bad, or causes you terrible problems and you want to express how much you dislike it or how much trouble it has caused you.

Some popular phrases are:
– “Love is a four-letter word.”
– “Work is a four-letter word.”
In these two examples, “love” and “work” actually have four letters.

But, we can also use this expressions with longer or shorter words, such as:
– “Trust is a four-letter word.” Trust is the belief in the reliability or truth of something or someone.
– “Rejection is a four-letter word.” Rejection, when used it to talk about love and relationships, refers to someone refusing the love and affection they are offered.
Of course, “trust” and “rejection” have more than four-letters, but the idea (and the joke) is that these things have the same meaning as four-letter words — they are bad and they make you want to curse them.

If you’ve been trying to improve your English for a long time, you might say: “English is four-letter word!”

~ ESLPod Team

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*This post was adapted from “What Insiders Know” from Cultural English 54. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Language & Terms | 3 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – March 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

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

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

DAILY ENGLISH 1296 – Taking a Buyout

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 “tight” and “rat race.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Buyouts.”
“Companies may have several types of buyouts. The type of buyout described in this lesson happens when…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 599
Topics: A Fraudulent Auction; term versus semester; to go to church/mosque versus to go to the church/mosque; to coin a phrase

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Famous Auction Houses.”
“People who are selling ‘valuable’ (with a high worth; able to be sold for a lot of money)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1297 – Types of Neighborhoods

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 “planned community” and “new lease on life.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Famous Urban Renewal Projects.”
“The United States has many famous ‘urban renewal projects’ that have improved the ‘atmosphere’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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The Hello Project

Few of my students had trouble with the first part of the assignment (work given to students):

Identify a kind of person you don’t like or makes you uncomfortable and describe what it is that you don’t like or makes you uncomfortable.

Everyone had trouble with part two:

Find someone like that. Spend some time with them – take them to lunch or have coffee with them – and talk to them for at least 20-30 minutes. Learn as much as you can about them.

The third part was always the best:

Look at your answer to part one, then write about what, if anything, changed.

Something always did. And when we talked about it in class, we discovered quickly that talking – and more importantly, listening – to someone can change ideas about other people that we had believed, often for many years.

During last year’s election campaign (political activity before a vote), reporter Yvonne Leow felt that too few people were talking – or listening – to each other. She believed that many people forgot that “we’re all humans at the end of the day trying to understand each other” and did nothing about it. That’s why she started the Hello Project.

Leow is a second-generation American – her mother was born in Cambodia – and the two of them have often had trouble understanding each other. Their relationship began to improve when they sat down to talk about themselves – Leow calls it storytelling. Her mother grew up in Cambodia, she in the U.S. They had had different experiences while growing up and, as a result, looked at life differently.

Leow wanted the Hello Project to help people connect with each other and to share their stories, like she and her mother had. In her invitation she wrote, “We know our country is divided, and we want to see if individual conversations can help” make a difference. We want to encourage “understanding, not necessarily agreement and . . . learn from each other.”

More than 100 people signed up to talk. One of them, a reporter from Washington, D.C., talked to a retired school teacher in Phoenix, AZ. Their backgrounds, their lives, and their hopes and fears were very different. But after they finished talking, they shared their email address and agreed to become pen pals (people who write each other). Others had similar experiences.

Leow is hoping to continue the Hello Project. She writes that we as people and the world we live in are complex (difficult to understand) and asks if we can accept and respect each other for that. The Hello Project’s answer seems to be, “Yes!” Especially if we continue to talk to each other.

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

Photo by Steve Garfield used under Creative Commons license

Posted in Life in the United States | 7 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – March 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

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

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

DAILY ENGLISH 1294 – Chaperoning a Field Trip

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 out of hand” and “signed.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Types of Field Trip Destinations.”
“Most schoolchildren ‘look forward to’ (are excited and eager to do something) going on field trips…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 598
Topics: Popular Idioms – “Mexican Standoff” and “Young Turks”; paranormal versus abnormal; tough, tuff, and tough guy; even

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.”
“‘Cinco de Mayo,’ which is a Spanish phrase that simply means ‘May 5th,’ is an ‘unofficial’ (not recognized by the federal government) but…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1295 – Buying a Watch

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 “face” and “hand.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Specialty Watches.”
“A simple watch ‘merely’ (only; just) tells the time, but ‘specialty watches’ have additional ‘features’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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It’s Spring – Let’s Party!

Spring is here, and in the next few weeks U.S. students will be getting one week of vacation from elementary (kindergarten to 5th grade) and secondary schools (middle school/junior high school and high school), and from colleges and universities.

For students, especially college students, spring break is a time to go on vacation with friends and to go to a lot of parties. Whether you’re partying for spring break, attending a friend’s birthday party, or going to a more formal gathering (social meeting), you might find these terms useful to talk about parties and the people who attend them.

Americans have many terms to talk about party-goers (people who go to parties). A guest of honor is the person for whom a party is held (organized and hosted). For example, at a birthday party, the person who is celebrating a birthday is the guest of honor. At a graduation party, the person who has completed his or her studies is the guest of honor. Often there are VIPs (an acronym for “very important people”) at a party. If your boss comes to a party, then he or she might be a VIP even if he or she isn’t the guest of honor.

Sometimes people come to a party without an invitation (a request to attend or go to an event). These people are called party crashers. In American movies, you sometimes see parties on college campuses (the buildings and land belonging to a college/university,) which are ruined by party crashers who drink too much alcohol and damage the home where the party is being held.

A party pooper is an informal term for a person who isn’t very much fun at a party–or any social event. A party pooper is someone who is sad or depressed and makes it difficult or impossible for other people to have fun. Often a party pooper is a person who doesn’t want to do what everyone else wants to do.

The opposite of a party pooper is a party animal or the life of the party. The term party animal isn’t used very often today, but you still hear people use it jokingly to refer to a person who really enjoys going to parties and has a lot of fun, often getting too wild (out of control). The life of the party is simply someone who makes the party more fun and is often the center of attention (the person other people notice because he or she is interesting).

Finally, some people who go to parties are known as wallflowers. A wallflower is a very quiet and shy person who doesn’t enjoy talking to other people and sits quietly somewhere and is not noticed. This is especially true at dances, where wallflowers sit and watch everyone else dance, but are too timid (shy) to dance themselves.

So the next time you throw (have) a party, let’s hope you don’t get any party crashers or party animals attending the party and upsetting the VIPs or the guest of honor (but don’t forget to invite me!).

~ Jeff

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* This post was adapted from “Culture Note” from Daily English 338. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Life in the United States | 10 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – March 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

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

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

DAILY ENGLISH 1292 – Being a Victim of Extortion

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 pay up” and “to lay off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Cyberextortion.”
“‘Cyberextortion’ is a type of extortion in which the ‘criminal’ (the person who is breaking the law) uses the Internet to force other people…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 597
Topics: The Bald Eagle and the Great Seal of the United States; to sleep in versus to oversleep; to be (once, twice, etc.) removed; wantonness

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Success Stories of Animals Once Endangered.”
“The Endangered Species Act tries to prevent ‘extinction’ (when a type of plant or animal can no longer be found)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1293 – Types of Body Noises

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 back on one’s feet” and “constantly.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Famous A Cappella Pop Artists.”
“‘A capella’ music refers to singing without ‘accompaniment,’ or without instruments that are playing at the same time…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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The Railroad That Wasn’t

Imagine, if you can, a railroad that had most of the things that railroads have . . .

  • passengers or freight (packages),
  • stations (where trains stop so people can get on and off),
  • conductors (people who check tickets and help passengers),
  • routes (a way to get from one place to another)

. . . but no trains and no tracks (the metal strips that trains ride on).

February is Black, or African-American, History Month – when we celebrate important people and events in black history in the U.S. and Canada. One of the fascinating chapters in that history is the story of the railroad that wasn’t – the Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad wasn’t a real railroad. And it wasn’t underground (beneath or below the earth). It was a network (system) of people who worked together to help slaves who had escaped from their owners to move from the southern U.S. to the northern states and Canada where they could be free. It was called “underground” because everything they did had to be secret. They used railroad language so that if anyone heard them talking, they wouldn’t know what they were talking about.

The Underground Railroad was made up of meeting places and safe houses – “stations” – that connected different different routes and different parts of each route. Slaves, who were sometimes referred to as “freight,” walked or rode in farm wagons about 10-20 miles (16-32 km) from one station to the next in small groups, usually at night. During the day, they rested in farm buildings, church basements (under the floor), or caves (large holes in the ground).

Conductors – free blacks, people who used to be slaves, and friendly white people – helped lead each group of escaped slaves from station to station along the railroad.

Traveling along the Underground Railroad was dangerous, even after the slaves crossed into the northern states. Bounty hunters, people who tried to find and catch slaves for money, were active, even in the North. If slaves were caught, the laws didn’t protect them very well, and many of those who were caught were taken back to their owners in the South.

Even though it was difficult and dangerous, about 100,000 slaves traveled the Underground Railroad to freedom in the northern U.S. and Canada before the Civil War.

This year the New York Times published an interesting set of articles about the Underground Railroad. The first, “Harriet Tubman’s Path to Freedom,” tells the story of Tubman, the most famous conductor. After she escaped slavery, she made 13 more trips along the railroad to help other slaves make their way to freedom.

The first article includes a map that changes as you read to show the places the article is talking about. At the end of the article you will find links to the other articles. Now that you know a little about the Underground Railroad and some of the words used to talk about it, you will find it easier to understand this important chapter of U.S. history when you read them.

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

Photo of The Underground Railroad Memorial courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Posted in Life in the United States | 9 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – February 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

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

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

………

DAILY ENGLISH 1290 – Describing Car Speed and Power

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 “performance” and “in the shop.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Demolition Derbies.”
“Some people like to go to the ‘racetrack’ (an oval path used for competitions of speed)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 596
Topics: Popular Idioms – “Dutch courage,” “Dutch treat/To go dutch,” and “Dutch uncle”; antique versus vintage; necessary versus needed; to make (one’s) case

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Double Dutch”
“Many children love ‘playing jump rope’ where they hold the ends of a ‘rope’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1291 – Types of Metal

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 “silver” and “to stock”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Debate Over Whether to Eliminate the Penny.”
“In the United States, a “penny” is the lowest-value ‘coin’ (circular, flat, metal money) and is worth only one ‘cent’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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And The Award For Worst Movie of the Year Goes to . . .

golden_raspberry_awardThe Academy Awards (also called simply “the Oscars“) are here again. This Sunday, February 26th, the Academy Awards will be given out (distributed) honoring (recognizing and celebrating) the best films of 2016.

Most people have heard of the Academy Awards, considered the most prestigious (respected) award a movie can receive in the United States. But do you know that there are also awards for the worst movies of the year?

Let me introduce you to the Razzies.

In 1980, a new set of awards was created called The Golden Raspberry Awards, commonly called “the Razzies.” These awards honor a completely different type of film: the movies from the past year that were absolutely terrible.

Why are they called the “Golden Raspberry” awards? A raspberry is a type of red fruit, but the name of the award is referring to “blowing a raspberry,” which is when you put your tongue between your lips and blow out air, making a noise that sounds like a fart or flatulence (gas coming out of the rear or bottom of your body). Blowing a raspberry is a (not very nice) way to show that you do not like something or that you feel that something is silly or ridiculous.

Nominations (proposing someone or something for an award) for the Golden Raspberry Awards are announced one day before the Academy Award nominations, and the awards are presented one day before the Academy Awards are given out.

In addition to the categories of awards that you might expect—such as Worst Actor, Worst Picture (film), and Worst Director—Razzies are also given out for things like the “Worst Screen Couple” to two people who are romantically involved in a film.

Another Razzie given out each year is the Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. A prequel is a movie that occurs in time before another film that has already been made, giving the background or early story of the same characters. A sequel is a movie that occurs in time after another film that has already been made, telling the story of what happened after the first film ended. A remake is a modern version of an older film. A rip-off is an inferior (worse or lower quality) version of something, taking important parts of the original without giving it credit (saying where it came from).

The Razzies are given out tongue in cheek (as a joke) and are not taken seriously. Most people do not go to the award ceremony to receive the award. However, a few celebrities, such as Hale Berry and Sandra Bullock, both winning for Worst Actress, have done so to show that they have a sense of humor (ability to appreciate a joke).

Since there are more bad movies than good ones each year, in a way it is much harder (more difficulty) to win a Razzie than an Oscar.  There’s so much competition!

What are some of the worst movies you’ve seen that you think should get a Razzie this year?

~ Jeff

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Image Credit:  From Wikipedia
* This post was adapted from “What Insiders Know” from Cultural English 209. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Television and Movies | 16 Comments