Who’s the Head Honcho Here?

The term head honcho is sometimes used to describe the leader, president, or most powerful person in an organization or company.

The word head here means “top” or “best.” In some schools in England, for example, there is a “head boy” or “head girl” who is chosen to be the leader of the students, and is often one of the best students in the school.

The headquarters of a company is the main or “leading” location for that business. On a car, the headlights are in the front position.

The word honcho is an unusual one, and you will typically only find it in the expression, “head honcho,” although it can be used by itself. The word is thought by some to come from the Japanese word hancho, which was a leader of a group.

One story is that American soldiers returning from World Word II brought the word back with them and popularized it in American English.

Sadly, I am not really the head honcho of ESLPod.com (or anything else), but I did find this nameplate (see photo) at a store last weekend I may put on my desk.

~Jeff

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What Does “To Be Short For” Mean?

Here’s a 90-second video explaining the use of the common English expression to be short for.

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What Does “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen” Mean?

We see in this cartoon a group of people sitting around a conference table, most of them with chef’s hats on, the tall hats sometimes worn by the main cook or “chef” in a restaurant.

The man leading (running) the meeting announces that they have “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

This cartoon is related to an old expression in English, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” To spoil something means to ruin it, to make it so bad you can’t use it. Broth is a liquid usually used in making soups.

The original expression, then, says that if you have too many cooks in a kitchen, the result will be bad food.

The more general idea is that you can’t have more than one boss, one leader, in any project. If you do have too many “leaders,” things won’t turn out well (have a good result).

~Jeff

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60-Second English: What Does “To Rule Something Out” Mean? (Video)

Learn what the popular phrasal verb “to rule something out” means in this quick video lesson.

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“To Make the Grade” versus “To Make the Cut”

Watch this short video to learn the differences between “make the grade” and “make the cut.”

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3 Rules for Email (and Why You Should Follow Them)

The Wall Street Journal recently ran (published) an article on how you can use your email better. They cite (talk about; mention) a lot of recent scientific studies on using email.

Let’s talk about three of them, and learn some useful English along the way (as we do it).

1. “Don’t answer too quickly – or after hours.”

Some people think they should answer emails as soon as they arrive in their inboxes. But studies say that this actually makes people “less productive, more stressed, . . . and more reactive.”

What do those three terms mean?

To be productive means to get things done efficiently, using the least amount of time. Answering email immediately makes people LESS productive – they get less done.

This may be due to (because of) the brain being unable to switch (change) easily back and forth between tasks (things to do). Each time we change our focus (what we’re thinking about), there is a cost (negative impact) to our concentration (ability to work on one thing with focus).

To be stressed means to feel under pressure, to be anxious over the amount of work you have or some negative situation you’re experiencing.

Reactive means you are simply doing the things that other people want you to do. You are letting other people control your agenda (your tasks; what you want to get done). The opposite of reactive is proactive.

Some researchers also suggest not answering emails after hours. After hours means after your normal workday has ended (at night, on weekends). The reason has to do in part with the need for you to “take a break” from your work in order to be able to focus properly during the day.

Answering emails after hours also means that the people you are responding to may answer you back. Now you have to respond back to them again – it never ends!

2. Send email in the morning, early in the week.

Take a look at your inbox. Regardless (No matter) what software you use, it is very likely that the most recent emails are on the top of your inbox. You see those first.

If you want people to pay attention to your email quickly, then, you want to send it to them close to the time they are checking their email. That way, your email will be near the top of their list of emails.

And when do most people check their email? That’s right: between 8AM and noon (12PM).

That’s why mornings are best for email.

People are also more likely to respond to emails sent early in the week – that is, Monday and Tuesday. We all feel like we should “get things done” when the workweek (usually Monday through Friday) begins.

Monday morning is a good time to send someone an email, then.

3. Use ALL CAPS and emoticons/emojis ( 🙂 ) wisely.

All caps means all capital or “large” letters, LIKE THIS. Some people say you should never use all caps, because it conveys (communicates) anger or shouting.

But sometimes it’s okay to use all caps, especially when you are trying to emphasize something that people might misread or misunderstand.

For example, I might tell you in an email that you should NOT spend time trying to memorize vocabulary words. Many people waste their time this way, so I put the “not” in all caps to make sure they notice it.

(I like to bold words for emphasis also in emails.)

Emoticons or emojis are new additions to our written communication. They are of course things like 🙂 or 🙁 or small pictures.

Should you use emojis with friends?

Yes, according to (say) some researchers, who think that people feel more emotionally connected and positive when emails (or text messages) contain emojis.

Should you use emojis at work or with strangers (people you do not know)?

No. Some studies have found that using emojis in a business email, or with people you don’t know, can cause the person reading your email to think you are, well, perhaps not very competent (good at your job) or intelligent.

It’s too informal and therefore considered inappropriate (not correct for the situation).

Okay, I’m writing this in the morning, so I have to go check my email!

~Jeff

 

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What Do “To Throw Shade” and “To Dis” Mean?

My mother used to tell us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Not many of our public officials or politicians follow (take; accept) this advice. Not a week goes by (there is no week that passes) without someone publicly saying bad or negative things about someone else.

An informal term that I’ve heard recently for saying bad things about another person is to throw shade.

The word “shade” normally refers to the dark, cool area that appears when something gets between an object and direct sunlight. (Take a look at Cultural English 64 for an explanation of the difference between “shade” and “shadow”).

But more recently, “shade” has come to be used informally to mean “criticism,” saying or doing something to show your disapproval.

You may “throw shade” because you think something has faults (bad or unattractive parts), or because someone has made a mistake. We use the preposition “at” when we are mentioning a specific person: “He was throwing shade at his girlfriend last night.”

To throw shade, then, means to criticize someone or to put them down. (A piece of criticism is called a “put-down.”) It can be something you say, but it might also be something that you do, like an eye roll (moving your eyes in a circle, usually to show that you don’t believe someone or don’t approve of them).

Another term that is also informal and more widely used is to dis (sometimes spelled “diss”). To dis also means to criticize or to show disrespect. It can mean strong criticism or mild (not strong) insults.

Note we do not use a preposition after “dis”: “He was dissing his family.”

If you’re not happy with your job, you might dis your boss: “My boss is a jerk. He’s rude and incompetent (not having the skills he needs to do his job).”

When my brothers and I get together, we might joke around by dissing each other, making mildly insulting comments about each other. Friends sometimes do this as well  – at least, men do this to other men – but it is always done in a joking way.

I still think what my mother said is the best advice. But throwing shade and dissing other people makes for better television and sells more newspapers.

~Jeff

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Honking in Los Angeles

Every city has particular characteristics that shape (change) the people who live there. It may be the size of the city, the culture of the city, the geography (where things are) of the city, the history of the city – all these can change the way people live and act.

Someone who lives in Los Angeles is called an Angeleno. In Los Angeles, we Angelenos have our own personality and sometimes particular characteristics. The one I want to talk about today is feeling entitled.

To feel entitled means to feel like you deserve whatever you get, that, in a sense, the world owes you something. To feel entitled means to think that you’re number one, you’re important, and that whatever you get, you deserve.

In other words, you’re so good, you’re so wonderful, that the world should treat you like a King or Queen!

This is, of course, a very negative way to describe someone’s personality, but I think it really is true in the city where I live.

One of the places you see this sense of entitlement in Angeleno culture is on the freeways.

Here in Los Angeles, we spend a lot of time in our cars, and for that reason, we have some of the worst traffic in the United States. We have too many cars for too small of a space, and we don’t have a good public transportation system.

Logically, when you have a lot of people spending a lot of time in their cars and those same people feel like they’re entitled, well, that leads to (can cause) certain problems.

The biggest problem we have here in Los Angeles is when people drive, they think that they are somehow the owners of the road, that everyone should look out for (take care of) them, to do what is best for them.

Because of this, there is a lot of honking in Los Angeles. To honk means to make a loud noise with your car by using your car horn. We also use the verb “to beep your horn.”

Beeping your horn usually means you are making noise with your horn but for a short time.

Honking your horn means that you make noise for a longer time, especially when you’re angry.

When you feel entitled, you feel that everyone else should just get out of your way. This means that there are a lot of impatient drivers in LA. And they honk a lot.

This is very different in other parts of the United States. Back in Minnesota, where I’m from, people honk, of course, but it’s not considered a very nice thing to do. You don’t do it very often, and if you can avoid honking, you do.

The size of the city certainly makes a difference. Los Angeles, like New York or Chicago, is such a big city that you think, “Well, I’m never going to see these people again anyway, and so I don’t really have to care about them.”

In a smaller city or town, you may actually know the person you’re honking at, or at least see them again.

I think the size of the city is part of the reason you hear a lot of honking on Los Angeles freeways. But it’s only part it.

Another part of it, I think, is because I live in a city where being famous and being recognized is something that people value (think is very important), and that leads to a certain sense of entitlement.

Unhappily, even people who are not famous (like me) act this way. So if you ever come to Los Angeles, and you hear me honking at you, don’t take it personally – but do get out of my way!

~Jeff

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100% Organic English Lessons Now Available!

We at ESLPod.com are always looking to improve our lessons. So we thought we try to make them even better by making all lessons 100% organic, gluten-free, fair trade, non-GMO, with 0 trans fatall natural with no preservatives!

See our new advertisement (ad) above!

Here are the meanings of all of these terms on our new ad. These are words and expressions that you often see in grocery stores (where you buy food) nowadays:

organic – grown naturally without any chemicals

gluten-free – food made without a certain type of substance that is found in wheat, oatmeal, and other grains

trans fat – a type of artificial (not natural) food that is bad for people, made by heating and changing vegetable oils

fair trade – buying and selling, with fair prices paid to the people who produce the product in developing countries (poorer countries trying to improve their economies)

non-GMO – non-Genetically Modified Organism; food that has not been produced using genetically engineered (changed at the most basic structural level) living things

all natural – contains artificial (not natural) ingredients or preservatives (chemicals used to keep something fresher longer)

Get yours today by checking out our new Unlimited English Membership, or one of our new Learn English TV travel English courses!

~ ESLPod.com Team

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How to Win a Gold Medal in Speaking English

Have you been watching the Olympics?

It’s fun to see such amazing performances by athletes.

How do they get to be so good?

The obvious answer is “practice.”

They spend thousands of hours working hard, improving a little bit everyday.

Will “practice” help you improve your English? Will spending time everyday at it make a difference for you?

Maybe yes. Maybe no!

It depends on what you mean by “practice.”

Let’s take the example of Chloe Kim, the American snowboarder who won a gold medal in her sport.

I’m sure Chloe practices by going down mountains of snow hundreds of times each week. That sort of “practice” helps her.

But if she “practiced” for snowboarding by eating a pound of potato chips every day, that would obviously NOT help.

You have to do the right kind of practice.

What is “practice” for improving your English?

Many people – teachers, students, random people on the Internet – think that “practice” means actually speaking English or writing emails or talking to themselves in the mirror or repeating what other people are saying (“shadowing”).

In applied linguistics, we call this sort of “practice” output. Output is what, well, comes “out” of something.

Language comes “out” of your brain – through your mouth (speaking) or your keyboard (writing).

There may be some benefits (good things) about a certain amount of output, but in fact the MAIN way of improving your language skills is not through output.

What really helps you is the opposite of output: input.

Input is what goes “in” your brain.

Getting more input is the RIGHT kind of practice for improving your speaking – even though you are not actually speaking!

What exactly do I mean by “input”?

It’s simple: LISTENING and READING.

What goes in your ears (listening) or eyes (reading) is much more important than any kind of output.

In other words, we get better at speaking not by speaking, but by listening and reading.

Think of it this way: your brain has to “get” language before it can “give” language. If you don’t focus on “getting” more input, you have nothing to “output”!

You have to put money INTO in your bank account before you can take money OUT of your bank account.

Reading and listening are like money you put in your brain’s “language bank account.”

When we study people who become really good at second languages, we find that ALL of them have “practiced” the language thousands of hours by doing these two things: lots of listening and (especially) lots of reading.

So if you’re looking for a gold medal in English speaking, you really do need to “practice” it everyday – even 15 minutes a day will help you.

But don’t sit on the couch (sofa) eating potato chips!

That’s the wrong kind of practice.

Instead, get lots of and lots of INPUT – listen and read as much as you can.*

That’s the way to “winning” better English.

~Jeff

*The input you read or listen to has to be something you can UNDERSTAND, however. It is no good listening or reading things that are too hard for you. That’s also a waste of time.

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