Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. A coquette is “a woman who likes to win the attention or admiration of men but does not have serious feelings for them”; what is the word for her male counterpart?


  1. coq au vin
  2. quahog
  3. cloque
  4. flirt

Coquette and coquet are both from French, and are diminutives for the French word for rooster.

  1. What is the meaning of curtain lecture?


  1. a lecture given by a priest to an engaged couple
  2. a lecture on the selection of proper drapes
  3. a private lecture by a wife to her husband
  4. an early form of sexual education in American public schools

These lectures were often delivered in bed, and took their name from beds of yore often being surrounded with curtains.


  1. What is the definition of lasslorn?


  1. married three times
  2. the male equivalent of a spinster
  3. forsaken by one’s sweetheart
  4. confined to a convent

This word has been in occasional use since at least the early 17th century, when Shakespeare used it in The Tempest: “To make cold nymphs chaste crowns; and thy broom-groves, Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves, being lass-lorn.”


  1. Which word used to mean sweetheartor darling?


  1. drip
  2. bully
  3. creep
  4. philosopher

This sense of bully is currently the earliest recorded one, beginning more than a century before the word began to be used to mean “meanie.”


  1. The word “unlove” means “to cease to love.”


  1. false
  2. true

We have been falling out of love (or at least had a word for it) since the 14th century.


  1. The word dulcineameans “sweetheart” or “mistress.” Which book is it from?


  1. Lord of the Flies_
  2. Romeo and Juliet_
  3. Dante’s _Inferno_
  4. _Don Quixote de la Mancha_

Dulcinea del Toboso was the name of Don Quixote’s beloved.

  1. Which word may be defined as “a marriage with a person of inferior social position”?


  1. rum-bargain
  2. tendresse
  3. mésalliance
  4. thwartage


  1. In Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionary, which word did he define as “the comfort which one hath of his wife”?


  1. predicament
  2. levament
  3. judgment
  4. testament

This word, useful though it might be, is exceedingly rare.


  1. What is the meaning of oscular?


  1. a type of weasel which uses regurgitated flower petals in a courtship ritual
  2. the feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness
  3. of, relating to, or concerned with kissing
  4. in ancient Rome, an official who would mediate lovers quarrels

Oscular comes from the Latin osculum, which means “kiss” or “little mouth.”


  1. Which of the following words has the meaning of “of, relating to, or expressing sexual love”?


  1. amaurotic
  2. professorial
  3. amatorial
  4. philosophical

This word, now fairly obscure, is one of a number of words dealing with love that come from the Latin word amare (“to love”).


  1. Where does the word “sweetheart” come from?


  1. from an Arabic word for _betrothal_
  2. from the Old English words for _sweat_ and _innards_
  3. exactly where you’d think, from mixing _sweet_ and _heart_
  4. no one knows

Sweetheart has been functioning as a noun for more than 700 years, but in the 20th century it took on an addition sense as an adjective, meaning “arranged in private for the benefit of a few at the expense of many,” as in “a sweetheart business deal.”


Answers: 1-4, 2-3, 3-3, 4-2, 5-2, 6-4, 7-3, 8-2, 9-3, 10-3, 11-3

P.S. The original variant “coquet”, which was suggested by Merriam-Webster as the right answer to Question 1 (1-4), has been replaced by “a flirt” after a remark made by a native speaker. Thanks, Matthew!



February 7, 2018

The idea of this column is to help readers avoid errors made in speech (out of ignorance or inadvertently), and – by knowing now what is the right variant – become more confident linguistically.


AMONG-BETWEEN: Fanatical quibblers incorrectly maintain that among is used to compare more than two items, and between is for relations between two things only. But between describes any relation of two or more parties that is individual and distinct <negotiations between the five front-line nations>, <a discussion between two opponents and a supporter>, <between you and me, and the fly on the wall>, while among refers to a more general relationship with an unspecified number of others: <I wanted to be among the French speakers>

IMMORAL-AMORAL-UNMORAL:The adjective immoral means contrary to established moral principles. Immoral actions are corrupt, unethical, sinful, or just wrong. Amoral means (1) neither moral nor immoral, or (2) lacking moral sensibility. So while immoral and amoral might share a little common ground, there is a clear distinction: immoral things are bad, and amoral things are either neutral from a moral perspective or simply removed from moral considerations.

A third adjective, unmoral, means unrelated to moral considerations. The line between amoral and unmoral is blurry as well, but unmoral things (usually animals or objects) are even further removed from moral concerns than amoral things, which merely ignore morality. Unmoral often appears where immoral would make more sense.

Here are a couple of examples from English-language periodicals:

  • There’s little point in a morality tale that turns to be flatly amoral
  • He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral
  • During the Taliban regime, buzkashi was banned, as were most sports, because it was considered immoral
  • Cocky and arrogant, the character thinks he’s got it all under control until a smarter, richer and truly amoral villain enters the frame.
  • After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.



February 7, 2018



The essence of modern approach to foreign language teaching is expressed in the formula: HEAR it – SAY it – READ it – WRITE it. I’m going to use the key words of this methodological motto to dwell on synonyms in several of my next posts. This time, the object of analysis will be the first word – the verb HEAR.

Hear” is a Germanic word, though Webster’s Etymological Dictionary traces it to Greek and Latin roots. The related word in Latin is cavere, which means “to be on guard.”

One of the difference between “hear” and “listen” (which is, probably, the closest in this meaning) is that the component “with attention” is more strongly expressed in the meaning of “hear” than in “listen.” Hence, another synonym of the word “hear”: HEED. The focus on attentive apprehension gave a start to the development of the meaning “to gain information”: (“I heard that…”), which makes the word “hear” synonymic to LEARN, FIND OUT, etc. One of recent developments is the meaning “to entertain the idea” (used in the negative): <I wouldn’t hear of it> The latest meaning that I registered is “to feel (with)”, like in the dialogue:

Man, I’m so tired!  —  I hear you, bud. We worked out pretty hard today!

Roget’s Dictionary gives the following synonymic groups:

Catch // listen // lip-read // listen in, tune in, tune to // overhear, eavesdrop, listen at keyholes, keep one’s ears open // bug, tap // hark, hearken, list // lend an ear, give an ear, bend an ear, be all ears, give audience to, give hearing, attend to, hang on the lips of, lap up // strain one’s ears, prick up one’s ears, listen with both ears // hear it said, hear it on or through the grapevine.

I’d like to draw the readers’ attention to another colloquial synonym: “lap up” (“to hear and accept the information with enthusiasm”): <Of course, they believed it. They just lapped it up>, or <They lapped up the lies without questioning anything>. Nowadays, in the epoch of fake news, one should take any info with a pinch of salt, and not lap it up  🙂




February 6, 2018



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.


February 6, 2018

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

Two men in a canoe rowing against each other.



  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…………………..


  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?



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?


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.


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!


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.


December 12, 2017

as 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>


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