The World Series is Here – Play Ball!

Today is the first game of this year’s Major League Baseball World Series. The best two baseball teams of 2017 play to determine the champion (winner) this year. My favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, is in the series for the first time in 29 years.

It should be a national holiday.

There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. They are divided (split; separated) into the American League and the National League, each with 15 teams. The winners of those two leagues play each other in the World Series.

The World Series has the word “world” in it although only teams in the U.S. and Canada are in the Leagues. In fact, there is now only one team from Canada — the Toronto Blue Jays. So that’s a little American hyperbole for you.

Hyperbole refers to exaggerated claims, such as when you say that something is much more or much bigger than it really is. Of course, you should not believe it is literally (actually) true. It isn’t.

For example, I might say, “L.A. traffic is so bad that it takes me years to get home from work.” or “My bald head is so shiny (reflects light so well), it could be used to beam (shine light) messages into space.”

The World Series consists of (has) a maximum of seven games. The team that wins four out of seven games wins the series. We often use the phrase “best out of (number)” — the person or team who/that wins the most out of a number of competitions is the champion. The World Series is a best out of seven competition.

The Dodgers play the Houston (Texas) Astros today here in Los Angeles.

As you can see, I’m ready to root for (support and encourage) my team. Go, Dodgers!

~ Jeff

Posted in Life in the United States | 26 Comments

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Yiddish Words in Daily English

talk-1246935_1280The Yiddish language originated in Central Europe in the 9th century A.D., spoken largely by the Jewish communities there. It spread to other parts of Europe (especially Germany), and was widely spoken in several countries prior to World War II.

Beginning in the 19th century, Yiddish-speaking immigrants started to arrive to the United States, especially to large cities such as New York City. As has been the case with other non-English-speaking waves (sudden large number) of immigration to the U.S., Yiddish has had a noticeable effect on American English.

Many Yiddish words have made their way into the daily conversations of American English speakers. (Some of them are real Yiddish words, but others have been made up (created)). Many of these words begin with the letters “sch(m)” or “sh(m).”

For example, to schlep means to drag (pull an object while it is still partly resting on the ground) a very heavy object, or to carry something on a long, difficult journey: “Maria lives on the fifth floor so every day she has to schlep upstairs with all of her books when she gets home from school.”

Schmuck is a rude word used to refer to a person who is very stupid, foolish, or easily tricked: “Can you believe that schmuck bought that old car for $10,000?” Or, “Some schmuck left the door open and the dog ran away.”

The verb to schmooze means to chat (speak informally) in an intimate or close way with someone who has more power and influence than you do, with the goal of making a good impression on that person and/or to influence them in some way: “Look at David. He’s trying to schmooze with the bosses so he has a better chance of getting a manager job.”

A schnoz or schnozzle is used to talk about a nose, especially a very large nose: “I hope my baby doesn’t grow up to have a schnoz like mine!”

Finally, a shtick is comedy performance or funny routine to make other people laugh that is associated with a particular person: “That comic always uses the same shtick, slipping on a banana peel (outer cover of fruit) to try to make his audience laugh.”

There are many loan words (words adopted from another language) in English and these are just a few of the most common Yiddish ones. Now that you know them, you won’t feel like a schmuck the next time you hear them in conversation.

~ ESLPod Team

P.S. If you’re curious how these words are pronounced, click on the links below to hear pronunciations:

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* This post was adapted from the “Culture Note” from Daily English 701. 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.


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No Room for a Park? Build a Parklet.

Here I am on Saturday afternoon enjoying my coffee. I’m not sitting outside of a cafe. I’m sitting at a parklet in Santa Monica.

You know what a park is: it’s a green space with trees where people can go to enjoy nature, play sports and games, and just relax. But in a place like LA where there isn’t enough room for a lot of parks, some cities are building parklets.

The suffix “-let” is usually used with nouns to mean something smaller than the original. For example, a booklet is a small or thin book with fewer pages than a regular book. A ringlet is a piece of hair made into a small curl, usually on little girls. When used with animals, “-let” means a baby animal: a sow (female pig) has piglets.

These parklets — or small parks — are placed on the street and take the space of one or more parking spaces, next to the sidewalk (walkway along the street).

Here’s another parklet, this one in downtown Los Angeles:

If you don’t mind a little exhaust (gas from cars, trucks, and other vehicles), they’re a nice place to sit, relax, and people-watch (watching people go by when you don’t have anything else to do).

~ Jeff

Photo credit: City of Los Angeles

Posted in Life in the United States | 11 Comments

Cocaine for Babies

I feel bad for parents dealing with teething babies (babies with growing teeth). It seems nothing can soothe (calm and quiet) them when they have a toothache (pain in the tooth).

But if you were a parent in the U.S. in the 1880s, and you went to the pharmacy (store where drugs and medications are sold) for something to help your baby, the pharmacist may have handed you (given you) some Cocaine Toothache Drops (see photo).

Cocaine is a highly-addictive (something your body wants and needs very badly) illegal (against the law) drug. It is usually used in the form of white powder (very small solid pieces, like dust).

Drops are small solid candies that you put in your mouth and suck on while they slowly dissolve (turn from a solid to a liquid).

These cocaine drops promised an instantaneous (immediate) cure (something that will make you healthy again). It’s not clear how much cocaine was in each drop, but I’m pretty sure the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) would not approve it today. The FDA is the government agency that now regulates (makes rules about) drugs sold in the U.S.

I wonder what parents 100 years from now will say about some of the medicines we give children today!

~ Jeff

Image Credit: National Institute of Health
Posted in Life in the United States | 15 Comments

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

*punk: a worthless person; a young and inexperienced person, who believes he or she is very skilled and knowledgeable
–> “Who is that punk? He says he can beat anyone in a game of tennis.”

*to have (got) nothing on (someone): to not be as good as someone (Jeff is saying he’s a better fighter/shooter than Clint Eastwood)
–> “You’re pretty smart, but you’ve got nothing on me.”

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Posted in Language & Terms | 21 Comments

Happy Birthday, Jeff!

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The Darwin Award

The Darwin Award is an honor (award or prize) that is given as a joke to people who have done stupid things to hurt themselves badly or even to kill themselves. It is given out each year.

The “award” was actually started by different people on the Internet. There is no official organization that gives out this award. One of the most well known lists, however, can be found at here.

This award is of course named after Charles Darwin (1809–1882), who is best known for his theories (general principles to explain something) on evolution, or how different forms of life have changed or “evolved” over their long history on Earth.

One idea that came out of Darwin’s theories is often called “survival of the fittest,” which is the concept that the strongest and smartest people survive (stay alive), and the weakest and dumbest do not. As a result, the weakest people do not pass on their genes (genetic material; the characteristics that a person passes onto his or her children) to future generations.

This award is a tongue-in-cheek (not serious) prize for the people each year who have done the stupidest thing to kill themselves or to hurt themselves so that they can no longer have children.

For example, in 1996, the winners included a man who wanted to prove how brave and strong he was by cutting off his own head! In 2000, one of the winners shot himself with his own gun while teaching his wife about gun safety. In 2005, two men who had been drinking alcohol made a bet while standing on an overpass (road or bridge over a freeway). They wanted to know who was strongest. They decided that the winner would be the person who could dangle (hang by their arms) over the freeway the longest. The winner was too tired to climb back up and was killed when he fell.

And with the help of current technology, in 2014, two men tried to take selfies (photos taken of yourself, while operating your own smartphone/camera) with an elephant. The two men were actually touching the elephant’s face when the elephant got angry and trampled (walked on and crushed) them both.

No one is certain why most of the winners have been men.

ESLPod Team

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Image Credit: From Wikipedia
* This post was adapted from “What Insiders Know” from Cultural English 72. 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 Jokes and Humor | 11 Comments

The Stephen King Book You Will (Probably) Never Read

If you went to the movies this past weekend, you may have seen a movie called It. It is a remake (newer version of a film) based on a 1986 novel (book-length story) by Stephen King.  The film is already a big hit (success). In one weekend, it earned over $180 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful films of 2017 so far (up to now) in the U.S.

As you probably know, Stephen King is one of the most famous and successful contemporary (in modern times) American writers. He has published (put in print for sale) 54 novels, 200 short stories, and has had many of his books and short stories adapted (used as the basis to create) into successful films, such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Misery, Stand by Me, Carrie, Cujo, and The Shining.

But there is one novel Stephen King does not want you to read, one that will probably never be made into a film. It’s a book called Rage.

King wrote the novel Rage when he was in high school in 1965. It was later published under the pseudonym (false name an author uses) Richard Bachman in 1977. Rage tells the story of an angry high school student who kills his teacher and then takes the other students hostage (kept prisoner until demands are met). In the years after its publication, several incidents (events) happened that caused King to ask his publisher (company that produces books) to stop printing it.

Between 1988 and 1997, four students in different states — California, Washington, and Kentucky (2) — either killed or held other high school students hostage. All four students either said they were inspired by (got the idea from) the novel or had a copy of the novel in their locker (locked box at school where students keep their books and materials).

After these incidences, King said he believed that the book was a “possible accelerant.” An accelerant is a substance that makes a fire burn more quickly or fiercely (with more force). So in this case, he thought that the book helped those young men put their thoughts into violent (using force to hurt others) action. King thought that the book was hurting people, and that pulling it (removing it so that others can’t buy it) was the responsible thing to do.

Because Rage is no longer in print (produced for sale), it has become one of the most sought-after (looked for and wanted) books by book collectors. If you see one in a used bookstore, you may want to buy it, but even the author himself would recommend that you don’t read it.

~ Lucy

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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Posted in Books and Reading | 9 Comments

How to Cross the Street (in English)

Yes, you already know how to cross the street. You don’t need an English lesson for that. But what about understanding the language on a crosswalk sign?

Watch the short video explanation below. It could save your life someday!


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Posted in Language & Terms | 10 Comments