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100 MOST FREQUENT WORDS: USAGE NOTES-5

February 6, 2018

good-better-best

GOOD

According to statistics, the most frequent adjective in English is “good.” This Indo-European word has historical “relatives” (officially termed  “cognates”) in many other tongues, among them – in Slavonic languages. In Czech “hod” means “feast, banquet,”  in Sorbian “hody” is “Christmas.” In Ukrainian there are words «годитися»  (to be good for), «негодящий» (poor in health),  “негідник», (evil person), «негода» (bad weather). The word “good” in English developed its meanings from Proto-Germanic *godaz “fitting, suitable” (source also of Old Norse goðr, Dutch goed, Old High German guot, German gut, Gothic goþs) through the senses ”kind, benevolent”  and also “skilled, expert” (late Old English). The modern phrase “to be good AT…” had the form “to be good OF …” or “to be good TO …”in late Old English. In Early New English the meanings “well-behaved” (e.g. “a good child) and “great, long” (about time and distance, like “a good mile” or “a good three years” ) appeared.

In Modern English there developed such meanings as “reliable”, “able”, and  also “effective, operative” : <a good Republican/Democrat>, <Is she good for the money that you lent her? = Can she return the debt?>, <Being very tired, he was still good for a laugh>, <a driver’s license is still good>. “Good” as an intensifier is functioning in modern colloquial English: <I’ll do it when I’m good and ready>. Compare: <good and angry/ good and mad>,  <Good heavens!>. The word “goodish” (= pretty much) was formed through suffixation and “the good” (= decent people) is a result of substantivization.

The point of instability is the usage of “good” (an adjective) and “well” (an adverb) after the link verbs be, seem, appear, smell, taste, look, feel. Classical grammars categorically say that only “good” must be used after these verbs, whereas “well” should be used after all other verbs (“The dress looks good”, but “The cars run well” – not “…good”).  However, some other linguists admit that both “good” and “well” can be used in such cases with a slight difference: “good” after “look” or “feel” may refer both to SPIRITS and HEALTH. “Well” after “feel”, “look” and other linking words refers mostly to HEALTH: <You are looking well; we missed you when you were at hospital>.

As for the verb “do”, the word “good” is common after it only in informal speech <He did good on the test>. In formal speech or in edited writing the word “well” is used instead: <He did well on the test>.

Finally, here are some set expressions with “good” which I like:

  1. “Good” is good, but “better” carries it” (similar to “Best” is the enemy of “good”), 2. “To be in good with other people” (to have good relationship), 3. “All in good time” (= in due course but without haste). And also: “Good broth may be made in an old pot”. This last proverb may be applied to a situation when you use an old textbook like that of Hornby or Eckersley to learn/teach English as a Second Language. Yes, topics worked on in these manuals may be outdated and exercises not so “playful”, but the general methodology is excellent for attaining the basics.
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ATTITUDES THROUGH IDIOMS-10

February 6, 2018

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

Two men in a canoe rowing against each other.

COOPERATION

WHAT IT MEANS…

  1. If Mary joins forces with Paul, it means she works with him so that they both achieve what they want.
  2. If Dick is a loner, it means that he avoids company of others and prefers to work by himself.
  3. If Jan brainstorms with Al, it means she confers with him to solve a problem.
  4. If Randy wants to go it alone, it means he wants to do something by himself.
  5. If Dave lends Tom a hand, it means he helps him.
  6. If Karen pools her resources with others, it means she combines her strengths with them.
  7. If Kathy pitches in, it means she helps someone with something.
  8. If Ken and Gene put their heads together, it means they work as a team to solve a problem.
  9. If Larry strikes off on his own, it means he leaves others in order to do something by himself.
  10. If Barb works with Jean because two heads are better than one, it means that by working together they can achieve more than if they work separately.

Exercises for ESL teaching :

Using lists A and B, write appropriate endings of the following sentences:

  1. Is a loner/ lent a hand/ two heads are better than one /put their heads together/ to go it alone
  2. Sandy and Alice decided to study together because…………………………………….
  3. Sue saw that Ann was having trouble carrying her heavy suitcase, so she…………………..
  4. Mark does not have any friends and he spends most of his time by himself because he ………
  5. Joe often works with others, but this time he decided ……………………………………………..
  6. Neither Bob nor John could do their algebra homework alone, but they had better luck when they ………………………………………….
  7. Pitched in/ pooled their resources/ strike off on her own/ joins forces with someone/ brainstorm with each other
  8. Sally sometimes would work by herself, so no one was surprised when she said she wanted to…
  9. Ken has been working for an hour on a physics problem and he does not think he will ever find the answer unless he…………………..
  10. Steve has the money and Mary has the business experience. Together they could open a restaurant if they ……………………………
  11. Karen figured it would take three hours for her to clean up the house, but it would take only thirty minutes if her roommates…………………………
  12. Ben and Phil are sure they will have a better chance of passing the exam if they…………………..

Discussion:

  1. In addition to meaning “help someone,” pitch in also means “throw in.” On many trash cans across the United States, PITCH IN is written. Explain why both definitions are appropriate.
  2. United we stand; divided we fall” was said by Americans fighting for their independence from England. The Americans knew that if they didn’t cooperate with each other, they would not win the war. The expression has survived to the present day and is used in many contexts. Give your example of when this expression could be used.
  3. Are there times when you like to GO IT ALONE, that is, to do something by yourself? When are they?

 

PETE’S IDIOMS-10

February 6, 2018

flat-tire (1)

On the eve of their finals, four sophomores made a quick getaway (= escaped) from the campus to an off-the-map (= remote) place for a picnic. They enjoyed their time: they ate, danced, drank, cooked roast turkey and all etceteras (= and many other similar things). They weren’t top students. When they applied for admission a year before, the university was scraping the barrel with (= using something of extremely poor quality) applicants, and those four were the best the admission board could get. During seminars the students’ work was scarcely up to scratch (= not up to the required standard): they were rather happy-go-lucky (= took nothing seriously), but they reckoned themselves (= thought high of themselves) and were even kind of uppish ((=conceited): they were sure they would prepare for the finals in next-to-no time.“(= very quickly). It doesn’t take much doing,” (= it’s not difficult at all) they said. However, the rich meal and drinks took it out of them (made them exhausted) and they had to stay at the dorm to hang-over the first day of the finals.

The next day they made it to (= to appear, to turn up) the examination and explained they hadn’t been able to come the previous day because they had gone from town with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

Professor Peterson wasn’t “all dead from neck up.” (= he wasn’t altogether stupid). In his time he was a student too, so he was “all there.” (he understood which was which). But while a student, he (unlike these sophomores) had made the most of his time (used the time effectively) at university. Measuring present-day students by the standards of his younger years, he was willing to give a deserving person a leg-up (= to give support), but practiced a zero tolerance policy against laziness (completely ruled it out).

Still, having no proof that the sophomores were lying, Mr. Peterson didn’t want to take it out on the students (= to punish someone because one is angry) openly and agreed that they could make the final exam. He placed them in separate rooms and handed them a test booklet, and told them to begin. The first problem was worth 5 points, something simple from the course. “Cool,” the students thought. This is going to be easy. No wash-out. (we won’t fail)” Each finished the problem and then turned the page.

On the second page was written (For 95 points): Which tire was flat?

“EXCUSE MY FRENCH…ANGLO-SAXON, I MEAN”

January 12, 2018

Excuse my FrenchWhile speaking about developing countries from which most immigrants come to the U.S.A. nowadays, Mr. Trump used a word that was not in accordance with accepted standards of what is right or proper in polite society. Reportedly, Mr. Trump asked lawmakers, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was apparently referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. Leaving aside the hotly debated question of the American President’s views, I found it linguistically interesting to trace how the “serious” media across the world translated the improper word into their respective languages. The Ukrainian e-papers translate the word as “dirty holes” giving the original English invariant in brackets. In French, headlines featured “pays de merde”, using the expletive to refer to the countries but without the word “hole.” In Spanish, “países de mierda” was used, similar to the French, as well as “países de porquería”, which means “trash countries.” In German, “Drecksloch,” which literally means “dirt hole” but like the word used by Mr. Trump is considered vulgar. In Dutch, one newspaper used “achterlijk” (“backward, or mentally deranged”) as its headline. In Japanese, a word that translates as “outdoor toilet” was used. In Portuguese, one outlet used a word that translates as ‘pigsty’, while others translated the quote literally. Mr. Trump’s slur was translated into Japanese as “restroom-like countries,” ”unsanitary nations,” “countries not fit to be fertilizer.’ The Chinese (Taiwan and mainland China) preferred “softer” words: “trash countries,” “broken place,” “haunted spot.” Only once a ‘stronger’ expression “manure kingdom” was used.

The whole world is attempting to correct Mr. Trump’s speech manners. And I thought about giants. About George Washington who formulated the articles of the U.S. Constitution, about Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted Gettysburg Address in which he spoke about his country that was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” about J.F. Kennedy addressing his fellow Americans with “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” or Winston Churchill’s “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” or Charles de Gaulle’s “The leader must aim high, see big, judge widely, thus setting himself apart form the ordinary people who debate in narrow confines.” I thought about uplifting words that give wings.

EQUILIBRISTIC LINGUISTICS

January 10, 2018

equilibrist-2While rummaging through my archives. I have discovered a joke which is a perfect specimen of Englishmen’s love for their language.

A man is trapped in a room with no windows, no doors and no cracks. How did he get out?

ANSWER: He banged his head on the wall until it was sore, then he used the saw to cut the table in halves, whereupon he put the two halves together to make the whole. He crawled through the hole and started to shout until he was hoarse. Then, he jumped upon the horse and escaped. Voilà!

THIS UNREAL REAL VILLAGE OF AMBRIDGE

January 1, 2018

2018-01-01blg-West MidlandsMy first day of the year 2018 began with the thing I enjoy most – a plunge into English. This time it was listening to The Archers. Since I’m going to post a few entries about The Archers  within the next month or two, I will just mention some major aspects of the programme which make it attractive for me.

First, it’s the language, of course. The actors speak dynamic British English with a huge variety of phonetic modulations and a rich palette of vocabulary and colloquial structures. All in all, there are about sixty actors involved, and each week you may hear 20-30 of them. The voices represent all strata of the middle class: the old and the young, the educated and those who are less educated, business people and farmers, Northerners and Southerners speaking their particular variants of English.

This BBC Radio 4 soap opera (and this is a soap opera) is only a year younger than I am 🙂  : it was launched in 1950 and is the world’s longest-running show. Originally it had some financial support of the British Ministry of Agriculture which aimed at enhancing the agricultural competence of the rural population. Later, the demand for food grown at British farms lessened, and The Archers was gradually transformed from a show about (and for) the country folk to just a “drama in rural settings.” Events take place on the date of broadcast, which makes it possible to include quite a number of topical subjects. For example, one of the themes discussed nowadays — not politically, but on everyday level, is Brexit: a disadvantage may be, some farmers say, that there will be no European grants for agricultural development, but on the other hand, the inner market for British farmers may become larger. Earlier, the highlights were the World Trade Centre attacks, the 7 July 2005 London bombings, etc.

However, the main charm is that the serial makes much of everyday small concerns of the English family. It’s like a window into an English home. Many of today’s values and agendas (education, migration, job-seeking, environmental problems, the generation gap, feminism, the future of the family, etc) are scintillating in daily 13-minute dialogues.

2018-01-01blgThe locale of The Archers is the fictional village of Ambridge. The village is situated on the fictional river of Am in the fictional county of Borsetshire. The main county newspaper is The Borchester Echo, the cheese brand produced in the county is called Borsetshire Blue. There’s a cathedral city Felpersham in Borsetshire with a local university. When the inhabitants of Ambridge travel beyond Borsetshire, they say “It’s on the other side of Felpersham!” But there are real things too: the West Midlands where Ambridge is, the city of Birmingham to the North (the Ambridgers go shopping there), the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire bordering on Borsetshire (in reality Worcestershire and Warwickshire are contiguous) and the Malvern Hills on the horizon observed on a clear day.

DSC06920aIt’s no easy task for a foreign student of English to start with The Archers. It took me about half a year to grow into regular listening of the serial. I had had to study (and to remember!) the ramified genealogical trees of the families who live there. Besides the Archers, there are the Aldridges, the Pargetters, the Grundys, the Carters, and other families there. There are many storylines which are suspended and which crop up again later. I had to ask my son who is living in England at the moment and also my wife, who traveled to England a few times, to bring me a few books with the background information (I am posting the book covers right in this blog entry). Besides, I subscribed to some Archer blogs run by Archer fans. Of course, I listen to the show in a different way than those old ladies who sit in front of the radio and shed tears over accidental deaths, suicides and extramarital pregnancies in the serial. However, I know that if, according to official figures, some 5-7 million listeners follow The Archers, there is something in the programme that appeals to the English psyche – the mind and soul that I want to comprehend.

STUMBLING BLOCKS AS STEPPING STONES-4

December 12, 2017

as though

ALTHOUGH and THOUGH

Very often, both of these words can be used in the same way <They’re a nice family, (al)though I don’t like young Sandra very much>

There are a couple of differences:

  1. THOUGH is more common in informal speech or writing. ALTHOUGH can be used in all styles. Compare: <Although the murder of the Archduke was the immediate cause of the First World War, the real reasons for the conflict were very much complicated>, <I’d quite like to go out, (al)though it is a bit late>
  2. THOUGH is often used with EVEN to give emphasis <Even though I didn’t understand a word, I kept smiling> WRONG: *<Even although…..>
  3. THOUGH (but not ALTHOUGH) can be put at the end of a sentence, with the meaning of “however” <It was a quiet party. I had a good time, though>

In longer sentences, THOUGH can also come in other positions: <The strongest argument, though, is Britain’s economic and political dependence on the United States>

In cases like these, THOUGH is an adverb. ALTHOUGH can only be used as a conjunction.

In a formal style, AS can be used (with a special word-order) to mean ALTHOUGH. THOUGH is also possible. The following construction suggests a very emphatic contrast <Cold as it was, we went out. (= although it was very cold, we went out.)>, <Tired as I was, I went on working. (=Although I was very tired…)> <Bravely though they fought, they had no chance of winning.>

THOUGH is used in combination with AS: AS THOUGH (= as if). Past tenses with a present meaning are used after this expression to emphasize that a comparison is unreal <You look as though you’d seen a ghost>, <You look as if you know each other>, <Why is she looking at me as though she knew me?>. WAS is also possible in such sentences instead of WERE (WAS is more common in an informal style) <He looked at me as though I were/was mad>. In a very informal style (especially in American English), LIKE is often used instead of AS THOUGH/AS IF <He sat there smiling like it was his birthday>, <She started kissing me like we were on our honeymoon>

 

SYNONYMS-4

December 11, 2017

'We are all accountable, but some are more accountable than others.'

ACCOUNTABLE/ LIABLE/ RESPONSIBLE

Whether one is accountable, liable, or responsible, one is in charge and should be able to explain what happened. Accountable implies the possibility of some sort of punishment <If something goes wrong, you’ll be held accountable>. Being liable means there is probably going to be some sort of legal punishment <No jury would find you liable after you’ve been through>. Being responsible implies that one holds an office, or acts like one who does <Being the president makes me responsible for their lack of expertise>.

AFFECT/ EFFECT

Keep in mind that often, but not always, affect is used as a verb and effect as a noun. Affect is the right choice in the senses “to put on, to make a pretense of, to tend toward” <She affected the style of Jackie O> <He affected grave concern although he couldn’t care less> or “to influence, move, persuade, or sway” <A Shakespearean drama will affect a crowd like no other play>. Effect is, on the other hand, used for the meanings “result” <When you take part in such ventures, bankruptcy is often the effect>, “influence” <Do you think playing computer games can have such an effect on the minds of young people?>, or “impression” <All those piled-up magazines give the effect of an intellectual atmosphere>, as well as “personal belongings” when used in the plural <She left some fascinating effects when she died>. There are, however, cases where effect is used as a verb meaning “to cause or bring about” <How could the president effect a treaty with those swine?>. There’s also the little-used sense of affect as a noun in psychology meaning “something that arouses emotions; an affective state”< Positive affects broaden, whereas negative affects narrow cognative scopeIn general, though, it’s best to keep in mind that something that affects you will undoubtedly have an effect upon you.

ALLUDE/ REFER

To allude to something is “to mention indirectly” <In resigning, she alluded to her “past indiscretions,” but no one knew what they were>. To refer is to “mention directly” <She referred to her past indiscretions, defending each as a result of her illness>

100 MOST FREQUENT WORDS: USAGE NOTES-4

December 9, 2017

'This is the kind of grade up with which my dad won't put.'

TO / FOR/ WITH

The lexical unit “to” as a preposition, an adverb and a particle (also as an element of set expressions like in “to and fro”) is usually learnt by foreign speakers in a few meanings, most common of which are the direction, contact (“with his forehead pressed to the window”), position (“to the right/left of…”), time relations (“from three to eight…”), etc. However, there are some interesting points of its usage which, being not so frequent, are a must with a professional linguist.

  1. The English word “to” is related to the German “zu” and may be used in the function reminding you of German verbs with detached prefixes (“trennbare Verben”): <Pull the door to! = Close the door!> <The door blew to = the door swung/clicked shut> <He put the horses to = he harnessed the horses>
  2. “TO” used as an adverb can mean a return to the state of activity of activeness: <The patient came to = The patient regained his consciousness>, <He sat down to lunch and fell to = … and started eating with great relish>
  3. In the dialect usage: <Where’s he to?—He’s to town/to home>
  4. <His hat is on the wrong side to = he has put on his hat with the back side forward>
  5. A special nautical usage “to/into the wind” = in the direction from which the wind is blowing <Keep her to! = Orient the ship against the wind> <The gale having gone over, we came to>

Less “exotic” examples are: <eight apples to the kilo>, <twenty-seven hryvnia to the dollar>, <a scale of one centimeter to 50 kilometers>, <thirty miles to the gallon>, <three to the fourth equals eighty-one= …three to the power of four…>, <the key to the door>, <a solution to the problem>, <exceptions to the rule>, <the British ambassador to Ukraine>

  1. While the both phrases “He did it FOR him” and He did it TO him” are grammatically correct, FOR implies something positive and TO something negative.
  2. Compare WITH or compare TO?

In general terms, either preposition is correct, but the choice depends partly on meaning and partly on grammar. In addition, American English generally prefers to when there is a choice, whereas in British English the two different constructions are more evenly spread.

Let’s look first at the meaning of each phrase. To compare can be defined broadly as ‘to estimate the similarity or difference between things’. For example:

Individual schools compared their facilities with those of others in the area.

It is difficult to compare our results to studies conducted in the United States.

In this meaning, either preposition can be used.

However, when compare is used to say that one thing resembles another, or to make an analogy between two different things, to is obligatory:

Her novel was compared to the work of Daniel Defoe.

He compared children to young trees, both still growing and able to be shaped.

Intransitive uses

British English prefers with when compare is used intransitively, because similarities are being evaluated:

His achievements do not compare with those of A. J. Ayer.

No other English painter can compare with Sutherland in the subtlety of his vision.

In American English, however, compare to is possible and slightly more frequent:

None of those birds compare to L.A. pigeons.

No, today’s calamities don’t compare to the Great Depression or even to the agricultural troubles of the 1980s.

Compared to…

When the past participle  compared introduces a subordinate  or phrase, the preposition is either to or with, although here usage is moving in favour of to:

This was a modest sum compared to what other people spent.

Compared to physics and astronomy, cosmology is a young science.

However, compared with the USA and Japan, Europe contains a group of separate nation states.

Comparable, comparison

Comparable is used with to or with in line with the previous information, with a marked preference in current usage for to:

We find ourselves in a situation comparable to mediaeval times.

Social mobility is, in fact, comparable with most countries in Europe.

 

Comparison as the noun equivalent of compare can be followed by either with or to:

Poussin’s approach bears closest comparison to Michelangelo’s.

Prices for real estate in Tbilisi cannot stand comparison with Western capitals or indeed Moscow.

The phrase in comparison to is more often used than in comparison with, but by comparison with is more frequent than by comparison to

 

ATTITUDES THROUGH IDIOMS-9

December 4, 2017

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

"Experience is the wonderful knowledge that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."

EXPERIENCE

A person has had experience:

  • Kepling is an old hand at carpentry. He builds very good cabinets// Ann has been repairing bicycles for years. She is an old hand at it.
  • Barb has driven to New York so many times that she knows the way like the back of her hand// Mr. Riley knows the way to the supermarket like the back of his hand, he never gets lost going there and he goes there every day.
  • Harry has been working here for a long time. He will show you round. He knows the ropes// Miss Harper knows the ropes. She is used to fixing up old houses and she paints rooms very well.
  • You do not have to worry about Frank getting lost. He can take care of himself. Frank was not born yesterday// Mrs. Harrison was not born yesterday. She is far from being naïve and she understands what life is all about.
  • Mark, an insurance salesman, never went to college, but he knows all there is to know about selling insurance. He went to the school of hard knocks// Mrs. Pierson went to the school of hard knocks. She never received a university degree, but she knows everything about the field she is working in.
  • Barry repairs cell phones. He takes a live-and-learn approach in his work. That is why he is good. Every day he knows more about repairing these devices// Ms. Cramer said, “Live and learn.” When she washed all her clothes together, the white ones came out red. She will never make the same mistake the next time.

A person has no or little experience

  • This is the first time Sue has gone skiing. She will need some help because she is wet behind the ears// Mr. Samuelson is wet behind the ears. He is a new member of the club.
  • Yesterday was only Jenny’s second time horseback riding. That is why she fell off. She is still green// Dr. Davidson is green. He has just graduated from medical school, and he has performed only a few operations.
  • Yesterday Martha started a new job. She is just getting her feet wet// Mr. Anderson is getting his feet wet. He is learning how to repair his car. He has never done it before.

experienceYour friend Bill has invited you to go camping with you to the mountains. You want to go, and although you know Bill is an experienced camper, you are a little scared because you have never camped out before. Bill is trying to reassure you:

Look, don’t worry. I am an old hand at camping. I know you are wet behind the ears, but I know the ropes. We won’t get lost. I know the trail like the back of my hand. When it comes to camping, I was not born yesterday. After you get your feet wet, you’ll love it. It’s really lots of fun.


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