Archive for September, 2013


September 29, 2013

2013-09-29DSC03857My wife is now visiting our relatives in another town and I’m staying “home alone.” That involves some additional duties about the house for me, like shopping, washing, ironing, etc. However, I’m not complaining. I know how to cope: a “soldier’s life” – that’s what I call it. Besides, before her departure my wife filled the fridge with all kinds of victuals for her “dear hubby”, so I’m sure to get through the hard times. No problem with my survival.

Tonight, while drinking tea, I remembered that in the pantry there were some canned cherries which could go well with the tea (home canning is traditional in our family). I went to the pantry, picked up a jar with what I guessed were the cherries and brought the booty into the kitchen. On the lid of the jar, in my wife’s hand, there was written: “Cherries without stones – for rohalyks.” (a “rohalyk” is a small horn-like bun, similar to a French croissant, or an Italian cornetto).2013-09-29DSC03856

I took the jar with “stone-less” cherries back to the pantry and returned to the kitchen table to continue drinking unsweetened tea, and thinking about how far-sighted women can be.

PREDICTIONS FROM THE PAST: the BBC launches English by Radio in 1943

September 18, 2013

The BBC Learning English staff are trying to see the present-day methodology through the eyes of a teacher who started teaching English by Radio in 1943


September 16, 2013

2013-09-16elephant-in-the-courtroomToday the BBC World Service reported about a Muslim woman who, being charged with intimidating a witness, refused to reveal her face in a court in London ( She was wearing a niqab, which makes only her eyes visible. The judge was rather cautious about insisting that the 22-year old woman should remove the veil, but said that the jury must be able to see the defendant to evaluate her evidence.  As a compromise he said he was ready to offer her a screen to protect her from public view, though her face must be seen by him, the jury and the lawyers. The woman’s defence argued that her human right to express her faith through her attire would be breached if she was made to remove her veil.

Judge Murphy admitted that the case was delicate: many judges weren’t sure how to deal with such issues. He said: “The niqab has become the elephant in the courtroom.”

The case continues what I was writing about the political correctness and about the word stories (see my two previous blogs). However, an additional issue is arising too. For some inexplicable reason the number of elephants is much smaller when courts start considering the human right of Christians to express their faith: in most such cases judges pull no punches and the Christians are openly discriminated against.


September 15, 2013

1-To jog or not to jog...One other reason why people love Sunday is that on this day they may be free. This Sunday morning I hoped to be free at least for two things: jogging and blogging. But when I popped my head out of the window into the twilight of the day, jogging seemed problematic: the rain, which had begun on the eve, was drizzling uninterruptedly and the football field where I usually do my laps was one big puddle. Puddles are usually small, but this one was big. Should it happen some other morning, I would not scruple to go back to bed (a shirker’s red-letter day!), but I have not blogged for quite some time and jogging was supposed to give me some stuff to write about. So, with my hoody and waterproof 2-The Joggertrainers on, I was in the lift in no time. Half way down, the lift stopped and… another jogger came in. Shall I say THE Jogger – with a capital J? Once I mentioned him in my blog (entry July 19, 2008). With today’s entry in mind, I asked him a few questions. Ivan Svyrydovych is 96 years old! In the past he was a military and served in the railway corps, which was rather dangerous in the war time because railways were the prime target for the enemy bombing. He left the service in the rank of a colonel. I’m posting a picture of him which I made earlier last spring. It looks like the tenants of the building may build a monument to Ivan Svyrydovych when he goes way of all flesh (first I wrote “we, the tenants of the house”, but then removed “we” being not sure which of us two will depart first 🙂 )

3- collage made by rainOn my way to the stadium I enjoyed the billboard which had been made into a piece of abstract art by the weather (see the picture). No less informative than Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, eh?

Regardless of how stimulating Ivan Svyrydovych’s example was, I turned out to be a weakling because the rain got heavier and drove me back home, while the older guard (I.S.) kept ploughing through the streams of water. I decided to make a selfie before escaping into the comfortable dryness of my flat: the suffering of a loser must have a meaning too!

5-there is life in the old dog yet

After a shower and the breakfast I looked through my language notes. Some forty years ago, when I was only starting teaching, I used to listen to the program Words and Their Stories which was broadcast on the Voice of America at that time. I would register those words in the back of the Oxford English Dictionary – there was a special section there to write in missing words. Even though the words were in the dictionary, I filled in the blank pages with the “word stories” I heard. So, why not restore the tradition? Here’s a story I picked up on the Internet the other day:6-words and their stories













An important and obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn’t discussed, as such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable.


The expression is of US origin, although the precise source isn’t known. The meaning, if not the exact wording, dates from at least the 1950s and is possibly some years older than that. The first reference to the phrase that I have found is in The Charleston Gazette, July 1952:

“Chicago, that’s an old Indian word meaning get that elephant out of your room.”

It isn’t clear quite what the author of that intended, but we can be sure he was being ironic. Chicago is a word coined by the people that now prefer to call themselves Native Americans. Their original meaning for the word isn’t known, but we can be sure it wasn’t anything to do with elephants.

The first known citation that uses the phrase with the clear intention of conveying our current understanding of the phrase is the title of Typpo and Hastings’ book An elephant in the living room: a leader’s guide for helping children of alcoholics, 1984.

The number of times that a variety of authors have called on the expression in recent years, whenever a topic that they thought was important and deserved more attention, has caused it to become clichéd. One commonly discussed such topic in the 1980s was used to be called ‘the Northern Ireland question’ or, more colloquially, the Troubles. The film director Alan Clarke made a documentary called Elephant in 1989. The film’s screenplay was written by Bernard MacLaverty, who is reported as previously describing the Troubles as “the elephant in our living room”.

More recently, in September 2006, the British artist Banksy set the phrase in visual form with an exhibit of a painted elephant in a room in the Barely Legal exhibition in Los Angeles. The theme of the exhibition was global poverty. By painting the elephant in the same bold pattern as the room’s wallpaper, Banksy emphasized the phrase’s meaning, by both making the elephant even more obvious and by giving those who chose to ignore it (like the woman in the tableau) an opportunity to pretend that it had blended into the wallpaper background.


Jogging…learning…blogging… That makes me tick… I know that if I am tired of those things, I’ll be tired of life.



September 1, 2013

2013-09-01Some time ago, while writing in English, I would scrupulously seek substitutes for generic (masculine gender) nouns and pronouns thinking that I should follow the latest tendencies in the language development and apply the norms of “inclusive language.”  The norms were suggested by the National Council of Teachers of English (an American professional organization founded in 1911 and dedicated to “improving the teaching and learning of English at all levels of education) and sanctified by the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary which permitted the use of the third person plural personal pronouns, “they,” “their,” or “them,” to refer back to an indefinite singular antecedent, such as “a child”, “a pedestrian”, “everybody”, etc. – e.g. “Everybody should be aware of their (another variant: “of his or her”) responsibility…” In Dickens’ times English speakers would rather say “his responsibility”.

Of late, I have started to be less fastidious about gender neutrality and more plain-talking. I can even (profanely!) say that Mrs. (not Ms.!) so-and-so “was the chairman”; I’d rather say “Indian” instead of “Native American” (also called “First Nation”), or “Black” instead of  “African American”. I would not hesitate to use the attributes “deaf” and “blind” applying them to physically disabled people, who are now respectively named “hearing impaired” and “visually impaired”, and I would certainly use the word “Christmas” for Christmas – not the “Holiday season.”

I tried to explain to myself why I am returning to “basics.” I thought that my case could be best interpreted through a talk I once had with an American mother. She came from Midwest in the U.S. and she was rather conservative in her views. When I remarked that her son (I knew her son too) was liberal-minded, unlike the rest of the family, she smiled: “Let him get older: he’ll become one of the family too.”

Isn’t it that with time we are getting more “politically incorrect”? The secular mainstream may disagree, but I, for one, know that the Bible is all true (you should only be able to read it the way it should). I think it’s wrong for terrorists to deny the existence of Israel and to use their wives and children as a shield in their warfare. I disagree that the Ukrainians and the Russians are “fraternal” nations. On the part of gypsies (it’s quite a good word – I don’t see why the word “Roma” should be better) it’s a gross violation of the norms of community life to make a mess in the centre of Paris or any other European city. I do not understand why the diversity of sexuality-based cultures should be a part of high school curricula…

I am getting older… And more “politically incorrect.”


%d bloggers like this: