October 5, 2017

old-man-jogging-2I usually jog round the lake that is not far from the place where I live. There’s also a high school situated nearby. On my way I overtake other joggers (older than me 🙂 ), I say hello to those who run in my direction, and I zigzag through the dogs being led by their masters for a morning stroll. On my way I may also overhear short phrases uttered by people walking along my track. As a rule, these snaps of conversation flash up my memories too.

Two men are hotly debating something. “…those agreements are good for nothing…,” I hear. Definitely, they are talking about the Minsk agreements that are supposed to do away with the war in the East of Ukraine. The agreements are interpreted differently by different parties and so far are not effective.

…begin standing in line by 7. The bread arrives at 7:30…” Those are two elderly ladies. Every morning, at half past seven, fresh bread at a cheap price is delivered to a kiosk one block away. We call the bread “social bread”. It is sold to the Kyiv pensioners on the presentation of their IDs.

A mother is taking her son to school by hand. The son is no older than a first-grader. In passing, I hear her saying, “When you subtract a number from zero…” Oh my! That’s how Nobel Prize winners are raised!

It’s almost the time when the bell for classes should go in the school. A car is speeding into the schoolyard. It stops abruptly, a teenager with a school bag in his hands gets out and slowly, very slowly goes to the entrance. The mother (a driver) puts her head out of the car window and shouts, “You’re being late!”

Jogging is REALLY interesting. Today it was 14 kilometers (12 laps round the lake) within an hour and a half. Not bad for a 68-year-old. 🙂 … And there were those four conversation pieces I described!



October 2, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder



Compromise (with) (one’s) principles.

Compromise on (something) (with someone).

Reach a compromise.


  1. I never thought he would compromise his principles just to get in business like that.
  2. Jane felt really guilty about compromising with her principles when she didn’t turn her friends into the police after she saw them stealing.
  3. Living in this neighborhood is something I’m unwilling to compromise on.
  4. I intend to compromise on this matter with them.
  5. We were unable to reach a compromise and quit trying.


compromise-3Mr. O’Leary is a political candidate who will compromise in some areas. In others, he’s unwilling to compromise.

  1. When it comes to health care, he sticks to his guns. He will not listen to people who say he is wrong. No matter how much others try to get to see their point of view, once he has formed an opinion, he holds on to it.
  2. In foreign policy matters, he is known for his give-and-take. He feels that to reach an agreement, people have to give up part of what they want.
  3. As for capital punishment, it is all or nothing for him. If he cannot have everything he wants in the way he wants it, he would rather not have it at all.
  4. When it comes to welfare, he tries to find middle ground. He does not like extremes. He is comfortable when he is halfway between the two sides of a discussion.
  5. As for anti-pollution laws, he is a middle-of–the-road He can always see the worth of both sides of the argument. He feels that the best decisions are always between the two opposite points of view.
  6. When it comes to law and order, he will meet his opponent halfway. He feels it is important to make decisions that everybody can accept. He will give up part of what he wants for the sake of reaching an agreement.
  7. Generally, he is willing to go halfway. He feels that if people do not give a little on their position, nothing will ever get done. He does not think that people should be so stubborn that they refuse to change their minds.

agree to disagree: (of two parties) to mutually accept that they simply do not (and will not) share the same view on a particular issue, in the interest of moving past the issue or avoiding further confrontation: <I am sick of arguing with you, so let’s just agree to disagree and move on from this issue>


September 30, 2017


Pete was walking along the beach. He was thinking about his beloved girl. He fancied her, but didn’t get her affection in return. The problem was that despite his being an up-and-coming specialist, he didn’t dare to ask his boss for a salary increase. Probably, Pete has already had his day at the company and didn’t hope for any increase, but the main reason was that he couldn’t say “boo” to a goose, so timid he was. And he wasn’t the one to manage his financial matters by a wangle. That’s why Pete didn’t make money hand over fist, but to create a family, he had to be in a clover.

All of sudden a bottle that lay half-buried in the sand gave him the jitters. “Gold!” he thought. It wasn’t gold: a magical genie popped out and said, “Thanks for letting me out. For your kindness I will grant you one wish.” Pete said, “I want to go to Hawaii, but I’m afraid to fly and ships make me sick. Can you build a highway from here to Hawaii?” The genie replied, “I’m sorry but Hawaii is at the back of beyond. Think of how many pilings are needed and how deep they must go into the ocean bottom. And think of all the cement that would be needed, and how many gas stations and rest stops should be built on the way. I take a very dim view of such a project. Think of another wish.”

“I understand you,” Pete replied. “You shouldn’t make a song about it. Could you, then, help me with the following. Some of my friends laugh up their sleeves and others laugh their heads off seeing that I cannot approach the girl I like. My parents also keep needling me. I have rather a raw deal. It goes without saying, no one is supposed to get a kick out of a situation like that. However, since you suggest I should think of another wish, here it is: I’d like to be able to understand women – what makes them laugh and cry, why they are so temperamental and finicky, why all those carryings-on, why they are so difficult to get along with…you know, what makes them tick…”

The genie thought for a second, then asked, “Do you want that highway with two lanes or four?”


September 26, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder

hard work


  1. Stan works his fingers to the bone. He works hard and seriously.
  2. Sandy burned the midnight oil last night. She was up until 3:00 A.M. because she had an exam the next day.
  3. John does the back-breaking work. She does demanding physical work.
  4. Sharon often falls down on the job. She does not do what is expected of her.
  5. Mark keeps his nose to the grindstone. He never stops working.
  6. Steve works like a dog. He works hard.
  7. Cathy often goofs off at work. She rarely works seriously.
  8. John hit the books when he was a student. He studied a lot.
  9. Sweat Blood
    Extraordinary effort to accomplish a task <they sweat blood to complete the project on time>, <Why do you sweat blood for that crazy manager?>
  10. By The Sweat Of One’s Brow.
    By one’s effort, by one’s hard work <Matthew pulled us out of the situation by the sweat of his brow>, <He bought a car by the sweat of his brow>
  11. Have A Lot On Your Plate
    Have a lot of work and or problems to deal with <I had a lot on my plate and couldn’t get home in time for the holiday>, <Julie couldn’t take the kids to the zoo because she had a lot on her plate>
  12. Have One’s Work Cut Out     
    To have something very difficult to do <We are training a new team, so we’ve got our work cut out for us>, <Have you seen the state of our garden? So she’ll have her work cut out to get it look nice in time for the summer>
  13. Snowed Under
    Overworked, exceptionally busy <Can this wait? He really has been snowed under with work>, <I can’t write the report because I’m snowed under>
  14. Be Swamped
    to be overwhelmed with work and problems <Tom was swamped with work over the Christmas rush>
  15. Busman’s Holiday
    Spend your time doing the same thing you do at work <I hate going to the beach because it feels like a busman’s holiday (a lifeguard’s words)>, <Because I’m a docent, visiting museums on vacation is like a busman’s holiday for me>


September 21, 2017

'It's a GPS for busy teachers. It tells you whether you're going or coming.'Being a smart aleck, the five-year-old Pete was sent to an elite school. The teacher promised that Pete would make headway in a jiffy (“Or I’ll eat my hat,” he said). However, teaching Pete was no easy walk-over. Actually, the boy couldn’t make a go of his studies. He got on famously with his classmates and was pally with senior students, but knowing that “mushrooms are never hit by lightning”, he never stuck his head out at the lessons and was always quiet as a mouse, while the teacher was trying hard to keep the class on their toes. When someone laughed at Pete, he knew what to say. He had a ready tongue and was never at a loss for words. “The time will come, and you’ll laugh on the other side of your face,” he snapped back.

The teacher was not one to be rattled. His motto was “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Speaking to parents he emphasized that children should be persistent. “Persistence is half the battle,” he used to explain.

However, Pete’s parents were in a state. When they asked Pete how he was doing at school, the boy usually gave them a garbled message of the type “Everything’s okay” and darted out of doors. “I could care less,” he thought.

One day, at the tail end of the lesson, the teacher was attempting to teach the names of animals to the class. He held up a picture of a deer, and asked the boy just on the off-chance, “Pete, what is this animal?” Pete didn’t know. “Well, Pete, what does your Mommy call your Daddy?” Little Pete’s face brightened up: the question, or, rather, his answer, could become his finest hour, and he could be back in his smart aleck saddle. But … a confused look came over his face, and he asked, “Mr. Smith, is that really a pig?”!


September 21, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R. Kuder



  1. Jane has a green thumb. Everything grows in her garden. Her tomatoes are always big and juicy. Her peppers look delicious. She has more green beans than she can use.
  2. Mary’s exam was a breeze for her. She knew all the answers and she finished before most of the other students. She got the highest mark in the class. Her teacher is proud of her.
  3. Gene is all thumbs. One night at a party, he spilled his drink all over himself. Another night, he carried a tray of eggs home from the store and broke all of them. Last night, he dropped five plates while doing the dishes.
  4. Ken has a golden touch. He made a million dollars in real estate and then doubled it overnight in the stock market. He’ll never have to worry about the money. Everything he does makes him richer.
  5. Sam has two left feet. No one wants to dance with him. He is always falling down or stepping on someone’s foot. He will never learn to dance.
  6. Sue has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two years ago, she was on the airplane that was hijacked. Last year, she was in a bank during a robbery. And last week, she was stuck in an elevator for ten hours.
  7. For John, learning languages is as easy as pie. At the age of ten he could speak English, French and German. He could speak Spanish well after six month of study. It took him only seven days to start communicating in Portuguese.
  8. Phil is a fisherman who has a nose for knowing where the fish are. His family has fish for dinner every day. Phil always catches something.


September 19, 2017



Most of us, being tired of our routine rat-race, are nostalgic for what Shakespeare called “salad days” – a youthful time accompanied by inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, indiscretion. This nostalgia is often an acid test of what we are as adults.  Personally, I admire children. Their questions are never daft, they often come up with airy-fairy ideas. For me, they are never a pain-in-the-neck, even when they back-chat. They are game for anything if there’s a bit of adventure in it, and they tag themselves on to you the moment they get half chance.

Yes, children can be messy at times, or can make some unearthly noise, but what do you want? Jam on it? Kids are kids all the world over. But if you raise your voice, bringing them to their senses, it’ll never get their backs up and you’ll never be in their black books (they, simply, don’t keep any).

When adults are conversing in the presence of small children, you may get a wrong impression that the children don’t listen. You wish! Their ears are cocked up for everything you say. Little pitchers have long ears!

There is a playground at my house and I’m used to watch mothers and their children there. Very often moms form one group – nattering with each other or talking on their phones, while the kids are left to lark about on their own. If I were another parent among them, I would keep my eyes skinned for any movement of the “little ’uns– so interesting they are to look at! Both boys and girls, being break-necks and daredevils at one moment may become real gentlemen (boys), and madams (girls) at another when they imagine they are doctors or teachers treating or instructing one another in their “hospitals” and “schools.”

I’d like to cap my soliloquy with a story which demonstrates that children always fall on their feet, even when it may seem at first that they put their foot in their mouth. 

Here’s the story:

A certain little girl, when asked her name, would reply, “I’m Mr. Sugarbrown’s daughter.” Her mother told her this was wrong, she must say, “I’m Jane Sugarbrown.” The Vicar spoke to her in Sunday School, and said, “Aren’t you Mr. Sugarbrown’s daughter?” She replied, “I thought I was, but mother says I’m not.” 🙂


September 18, 2017

WeirdalclassicMy American friend recommended that I should listen to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s clip Word Crimes from the singer’s latest album Mandatory Fun (2014). The hit can be watched at and it has already received almost 40 million views. The English lyrics with the Russian translation are at

I agree with Matthew that this parody (and Word Crimes is a spoof on Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines) is far more interesting than the original. Word Crimes is instructive both for speakers and teachers of English, and especially informational it is for teachers of English as a Second Language.

“Weird Al” Yankovic has always presented himself as a “grammar nerd.” Earlier, he used to post photos and videos to social media sites pointing to grammatical mistakes in everyday signs, so Word Crimes has become his opportunity to put this into song form. Incidentally, “Weird Al” Yankovic is also said to have used the idea of Schoolhouse Rock! series for his travesty. I looked though some grammar episodes of these educational videos on YouTube and found them rather helpful for beginners.

Word Crimes mocks users of English for their neglect of proper grammar. The author spoofs those who use numbers instead of letters: “You should never wr1t3 word5 u5in6 num3rs unless you are 7”, or “…unless you are Prince” (reference is to Prince songs with numbers in their title, such as I Would Die 4U) He also lampoons people who use the word “literally” to describe non-literal situations (“That really makes me want to literally/ Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head”), or who over-use emoji in place of verbal expression. The advice is also “to keep in mind that BE, SEE, ARE and YOU are words and not letters B, C, R, U.”

I won’t list all the misuses of Standard English mentioned in this witty spoof and will only remark that with more and more channels of communication ramifying in modern times (films, the Internet, tourism), the number of these misuses on the lips and in texts of English learners is growing. I could also add an intentionally slurred pronunciation of learners who try to imitate “foreigners”. What make matters worse is that very often learners are confident that their improper usage is no abusage at all. In such cases I recommend listening to Queen Elizabeth II’s speeches in the UK Parliament:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons…”

“My government’s priority is…”

“My ministers are committed to…”

“Prince Philip and I look forward to…

I am no fan of the Queen. But I’m a fan of Queen’s English (or, King’s English, in the perspective). And though the monarch’s speeches may sound pompous and old-fashioned, and sometimes even archaic, you can be sure that phonetically, lexically and grammatically they are immaculate. There is something in them to be imitated by a learner of English.


September 16, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R. Kuder



1.The hospital in your hometown is running out of blood. A committee has been formed to organize a blood drive. On Saturday afternoon, volunteers will go to each house and ask the residents to donate blood. You agree to go to the houses on your street. Saturday morning, however, a friend asks you to go to a baseball game. You really want to see the game. So you go. You leave the committee high and dry.

2.You promised your little brother you would take him to the movies. A friend of yours calls, and asks you to a party, so you worm out of taking your brother to the movies.

3.Your boss tells you that your report is late. You are afraid of your boss and point your finger at your secretary saying that she was slow in typing it.

4.You have always been honest with your girlfriend. She wants to know where you were last night. You were out with another girl, and you do not want her to know it. When she asks, you duck the issue.

5.Your brother wants a new bike for his birthday. You want to buy him a bike, but you don’t have enough money. For a while, you think about borrowing money from your father, but finally you face up to the fact that a bike is too expensive, and you buy him a baseball instead.

6.Your English class wants to have a party. Your teacher agrees and asks for someone to organize it. Although everyone wants to have a party, nobody volunteers. Finally, you shoulder the responsibility and agree to help your teacher to organize it.

7.You and your sister are supposed to do the dishes before your parents return. Your sister goes to a movie with a friend. At 10:00 P.M. when your parents get home, the dishes are still not done. When your mother asks you WHY, you pass the buck and say it was your sister’s fault.

Harry S. Truman, former President of the United States, had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here” meaning that, in the long run, it’s President Truman who was responsible for everything that was going on in the country. With some present-day bureaucrats the sign is changed to: “The buck pauses but does not stop here.” 🙂


September 14, 2017

liontamerOnce there was a very brave lion-tamer who was a dab hand (was skillful) at managing these wild beasts. Any moment he was in a cage eye-to-eye with a lion he felt A1 (first-class). He worked hard and never thought of easing up (slowing down). There were attendants galore/ in great abundance (maybe, two thousands odd/ plus) each time he was on the circus arena. Many visitors came to the circus umpteen times (lots of times) to keep tab on (to follow, to remember) man’s tricks with the lion. The tamer was never likely to turn yellow (to be scared) when he rammed (pushed) his head down the animal’s throat. He knew his methods were as safe as houses (very reliable). And when the audience thought there was no way for him to get his head out of the lion’s jaws, the tamer pulled himself away and stood before his fans as large as life (appeared surprisingly). In any season, the tamer’s performances were “in” (special, fashionable) events.

Of course, the tamer and his wife never cadged (begged) from other people – they had money to burn (had lots of money). Nevertheless, the wife was hard to please. She raised her hackles (got angry), nagging (carping at) her husband and keeping on at (annoying) him all the time he stayed at home, and she jabbered (talk quickly, rather loudly, often in a way difficult to understand) only about money – little else came to her mind. She had the face (audacity) to deny that he was a professional lion-tamer. One night, when the husband didn’t come home because of his wife’s pestering, she walked herself off her feet (tired herself out by walking) looking for him, and when she saw him in the circus sleeping in the cage with the lion, a look of contempt came over her face and she snarled, “You, coward!”

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