December was the month of the millipede. You may have been distracted.

December 2021. You may have missed its real significance. Perhaps you were distracted by Christmas, a rolling pandemic and a seemingly endless loop that went something like this:  reserve (flights, holidays, tests, Christmas parties), cancel (flights, holidays, tests, Christmas parties) and haggle, plead, beg (reimbursements).

If you had both feet on the ground, you’d know that December 2021 was the month of the millipede (mille-pattes). This was a story that had legs. The right number. Yes, for the first time ever, a bona fide millipede was discovered in Australia. This millipede has 1036 legs, easily overtaking the leggiest millipede weighing in with a paltry 750 limbs.

 

She has been named Eumillipes Persephone. The name means “true thousand feet”.

 

She has been named Eumillipes Persephone. The name means “true thousand feet” with a nod to Persephone, the queen of the underworld in Greek mythology.

We’ve largely ignored or simply squashed millipedes underfoot. They perhaps deserve a bit more compassion and respect. After all, they first appeared about 400 million years before the first mobile telephone. They have enjoyed rude health in the evolutionary stakes, and are now said to number around 13,000 (known) species.

In comparison, our team, the primates, appeared just 70 million years ago. There are about 450 species of living primates.

Speaking of compassion, the closest human analogy to the millipede would be Avalokiteshvara, one of the most popular figures of the Buddhist pantheon of deities. In Tibetan Buddhism he is also known as Chenrezig and is often painted as a figure with 1000 outstretched hands (see below). The Dalai Lamas are believed by Tibetan Buddhists to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet.

 

 

As for centipedes… they have had bad press. The worst. Hollywood has dined out on Human Centipedes, a remarkably horrible series of horror films. Three films have been made, which means only 97 remain in the series. Word of mouth, or anus-to-mouth, is that the films are difficult to digest. Respected film critic, Roger Ebert, refused to assign a star rating, explaining that the depraved effort “occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.”

 

 

In real life, centipedes are quite different to millipedes. Centipedes use venom to kill their prey, mostly insects. The Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede also eats bats.

The millipede is vegetarian. They love nothing more than a plate of decomposing plants.

Once upon a time, they were rather large; and maybe not 100 per cent vegetarian. The fossil of one of the most complete specimens of the giant millipede, Arthropleura, will be on display next month at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. This millipede lived about 326 million years ago. It measured in at around 2.5 metres in length and weighed around 45 kgs.

Respect, as Aretha Franklin sang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradise stripped, ravaged and lost

The third smallest sovereign nation in the world, after the Vatican and Monaco, is the tiny island of Nauru.

This far-flung speck in the Pacific Ocean has a tale to tell about the rapacious nature of the modern human.

 

 

The 21 square kilometre island was once a lush tropical paradise.

For hundreds of thousands of years, long before the first humans arrived, migratory birds used the island as a pit-stop, or restroom, the polite term used by Americans for a toilet. They covered the island in a thick layer of excretion which fossilised over the years. It’s better known in polite circles today as guano, a high-grade phosphate concentrate used to produce fertiliser.

From shit came enormous wealth. It took only 30 years to strip mine (extraction à ciel ouvert) the phosphate and ship it overseas, mostly to Australia. By the 1970s, phosphate mining had transformed Nauru into the Kuwait of the Pacific, one of the “richest” nations, per capita, on the planet.

It also transformed the island into a barren, rocky outcrop where few things can grow. More than three-quarters of the island is now inhabitable, which leaves little leg room for the populations of 11,000. Climate change and disappearing coastline is cramming things even more. Nauru’s people are front-line climate refugees.

Today, the “rich” islanders have the world’s highest rate of obesity. More than 60 per cent of the population are classified as obese. The island also has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes.

The island is sick and its people are sick. Paradise lost.

 

Young men of Nauru in 1914, and young men of Nauru today (below) on a “Health Walk” around the island airport.

The island’s government is examining the option of relocating the island’s population to another island. With rising sea levels, Nauru’s people may earn the double distinction of becoming the planet’s first environmental and climate refugees.

When the last of the guano was scraped away, Nauru tried to reinvent itself as a tax haven and money-laundering hub. According to the Russian central bank, about $70 billion of Russian mafia money vanished into Nauruan accounts in 1998.

Nauru also uses its membership of the UN general assembly as a money-making exercise. It has allegedly received tens of millions of dollars in exchange for “recognising” countries, such as the Russian-backed breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, according to media reports.

It is now dependent on foreign aid mostly from Australia. But there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The Australian Government uses the island as one of its controversial off-shore processing centres for refugees or boat people trying to get to Australian shores. It’s a particularly cynical use of language because the refugees on the island are not processed or resettled. They are basically prisoners hidden away in the middle of the Pacific. Journalists are forbidden entry to the island.

The Australian Border Force Act carries a prison sentence of up to two years for any staff member working in offshore detention who makes an “unauthorised disclosure” – that is, speaks publicly about conditions inside the camps.

Video: The casual brutality of Australia’s offshore detention processing centre in Nauru

Last month the Australia announced the closure of two similar centres in Papua New Guinea. But Nauru will remain open for business.

It’s a costly business. The cost to Australian taxpayers to hold a single refugee on Nauru has escalated tenfold to more than $350,000 every month – or $4.3m a year, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper in November 2021. The report says:

By August 2021, the number of asylum seekers and refugees held on the island had fallen nearly tenfold, but the costs of running the offshore program remained broadly static. In that month, there were 107 refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru at a cost to taxpayers of $464,486 a month for each person, or more than $15,000 a day.

Writer and activist Naomi Klein says it’s a case of the climate change refugees of tomorrow playing prison warden to the war refugees of today.

The nightmare is still unfolding. Nauru’s story transcends the language of exploitation, colonialism, environmental degradation, rampant capitalism and greed. It is a story about the rapacious nature of our species.

More reading: A Pacific Nation is Stripped of Everything – New York Times

More reading: A short History of Nauru, Australia’s dumping ground for refugees

More reading:  Cost of Australia holding each refugee on Nauru balloons to $43 million per year    

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.

Question: What did Groucho Marx and Winston Churchill have in common, apart from their love of cigars?

Answer: They were both brilliant with words and wordplay (jeu de mots) and remain today, the great princes of paraprosdokians.

A paraprosdokian is a wordplay, loved by satirists. It is usually a short phrase that features two ideas.

The first idea is often positive or an expression the listener may identify with, such as this one from Groucho Marx:

She got her good looks from her father… (Elle a eu sa beauté de son père...)

The second part of the phrase has the dramatic effect, a kind of verbal ambush (embuscade) , and forces the listener to reinterpret the complete phrase.

She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon (il est chirurgien plasticien).

 

Groucho Marx

 

Here are some more examples from Groucho Marx:

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.

I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

 

The term paraprosdokian comes from Greek; para meaning against and prosdokian meaning expectation.

Paraprosdokians are not limited to humour, as British philosopher, historian and writer Bertrand Russell observed with this famous line:

War doesn’t determine who is right, only who is left.

 

Winston Churchill

 

Winston Churchill was much more mischievous and literally had them rolling in the aisles of parliament with his famous paraprosdokian putdowns:

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.

If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

 

Here are some other famous paraprosdokians:

They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t – Unknown

If I am reading this graph correctly – I’d be very surprised – US television satirist Stephen Colbert

He was at his best when the going was goodAlistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor

You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything elseWinston Churchill

On his feet he woreblistersAristotle

A modest man, who has much to be modest aboutWinston Churchill on Clement Attlee

If I could just say a few words I’d be a better public speakerHomer Simpson

 

Zsa Zsa Gabore

 

He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the houseZsa Zsa Gabore

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is researchWilson Mizner, American playwright

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with – Unknown

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machineRobert C Gallagher

The only thing standing between greatness and me, is meWoody Allen

 

 

Today is not a good day to be a turkey

The USA starts its craziest long weekend today.

Thanksgiving Day is today, Thursday, followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Of course, there is a story behind each day, that over the years has been shaped to fit to the appetites of modern life, which could be best described as gluttony and consumerism.

Let’s start with gluttony. Thanksgiving is not a good time to be a turkey. About 45 million turkeys will be consumed.

You don’t have to be an animal rights supporter to feel a bit of empathy for the turkey. Unlike the first Europeans, the turkey is no newcomer to this land. It’s a true native. The earliest turkeys can be traced back some 20 million years and were first domesticated by the indigenous people of Mexico about 2000 years ago.

 

 

Thanksgiving, as the name suggests, was a feast of thanks for the first harvest, celebrated by the newly arrived Plymouth colonists, a group of religious refugees known as separatist puritans (big fans of our own Jean Calvin) in 1621. The population was just 50. They were the survivors. Almost half of the original pilgrims of 1620 died during the first Winter. The majority of the guests were in fact the indigenous people; Wampanoag chief Massasoit and 90 of his men are said to have supplied five deer for the feast.

 

In retrospect, today’s Wampanoag people might not view this meal as a feast of thanks

 

The Wampanoag people taught the poorly equipped Europeans how to cultivate the varieties of corn, squash, and beans (known as the Three Sisters) that flourished in New England, as well as how to catch and process fish and collect seafood. They enabled the Pilgrims to survive their first winters.

We have no record of the feast menu, but we do know that fowl was plentiful. They may have eaten duck, geese, swan or turkey. Probably a dozen or two of our feathered friends would have filled the bellies of the settlers and the Wampanoag people, which translates as People of the Dawn.

In retrospect, today’s Wampanoag people might not view this historic meal as a feast of thanks. Sixty years later their population had dropped by 60% after an epidemic, believed to be introduced by the Europeans, decimated the population. In some areas mortality was as high as 90%. In hindsight, the Wampanoag might regret having been so accommodating.

So, today it’s the family feast.

Luckily, we have Adele back again in 2021 to give us the soundtrack. Just like in 2015.

 

 

All the family gathers around, a logistics nightmare, as an estimated 55 million people take to the air, roads and rails.

And let the eating begin. Accounting for appetisers and desserts, the average American will consume over 3,000 calories. A normal dinner is between 600 – 1000 calories. It’s a pre-Christmas warm-up.

The next day is Black Friday. It’s peak consumerism. In 2005, Cyber Monday entered the shopping vocabulary and is now the biggest online shopping day of the year in the States.

Last year, Cyber Monday overtook Black Friday in total sales for the first time. Consumers spent about $9 billion on the Friday and another $10 billion on the Monday.

It’s a busy long weekend.

Who destroyed Mr. Bernstein’s piano?

(Level A2 and above: past simple and past continuous – with stories, exercises, vocabulary, and songs)

Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, The Language House.

 

Mr. Bernstein is a brilliant pianist. Last night, while he was eating in a restaurant with his wife, somebody came into his house and destroyed his very expensive grand piano with a chainsaw (tronçonneuse). The piano was completely demolished, a total mess. The intruder did not take anything from the house. When Mr. Bernstein arrived home, he called the police in a panic.

Detective Bosch suspects the perpetrator has a grudge (rancune) against Mr. Bernstein. She is now interviewing three suspects. The first suspect is Vladimir, a young musician, the second is Mrs. Grant, a music agent, and the third is Mr. Wang, a concert pianist.

 

First interview:

 

Detective Bosch: Are you a professional piano player?

Vladimir: I was. At the moment, I’m learning to be a conductor at the music academy. (1) I worked a lot last year; I played in some concerts as well as with a band.

Detective Bosch: Why are you trying to change profession?

Vladimir: Er, I don’t want to play the piano any more. I have lost interest.

Detective Bosch: You were a student of Mr. Bernstein’s. When (2) did you take piano lessons with him?

Vladimir: I took lessons with him when I was little. That was years ago. I am quite capable now.

Detective Bosch: Did you keep in touch with Mr. Bernstein?

Vladimir: No, I didn’t.

Detective Bosch: What (4) were you doing yesterday between 8 pm and 11 pm?

Vladimir: (3) I was playing darts with some friends at the Red Lion pub. And I was drinking beer too. I went back home at 11:30.

 

*********

 

Past simple and past continuous

 

In this interview, Detective Bosch and Vladimir use the past simple and the past continuous to describe what happened in the past. These two tenses are great for story-telling.

  1. We use the past simple to talk about something that happened in the past and that is now finished. We normally use a time reference with the past simple, such as: last year, in 1990, this morning, when I was in the bath, as she was walking through the park, etc.

We put –ed (or -d or -ied) at the end of the verb, except of course with irregular verbs.

  1. When we ask a question in the past simple, we use the auxiliary “did”. The verb becomes infinitive: Did you see him yesterday?

Same thing for negative sentences: No, I did not (or didn’t) see him.

  1. We use the past continuous to talk about a past action that took place over a period of time, or a repeated / habitual action in the past. It is often used in reference to another event: She was playing the piano when her mother arrived.
  2. In the past continuous, the auxiliaries are “was” and “were” – that is, the verb “to be” conjugated in the past. The verb is always in the –ing form (present participle).

Example: Were you watching a film last night?

No, I was not (or wasn’t), I was playing the piano.

 

*********

All words in bold are in the vocabulary exercise below.

 

Exercise I

Complete the second interview with the verbs in brackets in the correct tense; either past simple or past continuous. Note: there are a few irregular verbs.

 

Second interview:

 

Detective Bosch: Are you Mr. Bernstein’s music agent?

Mrs. Grant: I was. He …….. (fire) me last year.

Detective Bosch: Why ……. he …….. (do) that?

Mrs. Grant: We had a disagreement about the bookings. He ……… (complain) several times that he …….. (do) too many shows abroad. That’s not my fault if he is more popular in Europe than here! Anyway, he …….. (terminate) our contract and I have not seen him since.

Detective Bosch: But you ……… (call) him a lot in the last three months, didn’t you?

Mrs. Grant: Yes, I ……… (try) to start a new contract. I …….. (have) some ideas, new contacts.

Detective Bosch: Apparently, you …….. (lose) all your other clients last year. They all ……… (leave) after Mr. Bernstein ……… (terminate) the contract. Do you feel it is all his fault?

Mrs. Grant: Not at all. It’s just that …….. I …….. (go) through a difficult period in my business.

Detective Bosch: What …….. you …….. (do) last night between 8 pm and 11 pm?

Mrs. Grant: I …….. (watch) television at home.

Detective Bosch: What …….. you ……… (watch)?

Mrs. Grant: Er, a cooking show. I …….. (cook) at the same time. Then I …….. (go) to bed at 10.

 

Check your answers:

 

Detective Bosch: Are you Mr. Bernstein’s music agent?

Mrs. Grant: I was. He fired me last year.

Detective Bosch: Why did he do that?

Mrs. Grant: We had a disagreement about the bookings. He complained several times that he was doing too many shows abroad. That’s not my fault if he is more popular in Europe than here! Anyway, he terminated our contract and I have not seen him since.

Detective Bosch: But you called him a lot in the last three months, didn’t you?

Mrs. Grant: Yes, I was trying to start a new contract. I had some ideas, new contacts.

Detective Bosch: Apparently, you lost all your other clients last year. They all left after Mr. Bernstein terminated the contract. Do you feel it is all his fault?

Mrs. Grant: Not at all. It’s just that… I was going through a difficult period in my business.

Detective Bosch: What were you doing last night between 8 pm and 11 pm?

Mrs. Grant: I was watching television at home.

Detective Bosch: What were you watching?

Mrs. Grant: Er, a cooking show. I was cooking at the same time. Then I went to bed at 10.

 

 

Exercise II

This one is a bit more difficult. Complete the dialogue with a verb in the list using either the past simple or the past continuous.

Some of the verbs are irregular.

 

Prepare       Be (x3)        Do     Threaten      Send      Tell      Have      Not do      Feel     Work

 

Third interview:

 

Detective Bosch: Are you a concert pianist?

Mr. Wang: Yes, I am.

Detective Bosch: Is it true you ……. a very public fight with Mr. Bernstein six months ago?

Mr. Wang: Well, yes, he …….. the press that I …….. not good enough for classical music. And that I should play Elton John music instead.

Detective Bosch: …….. you ……… him threatening messages after that?

Mr. Wang: Yes, but it is because I ……… very angry. That was done in the heat of the moment.

Detective Bosch: I see here that you ……… to destroy his piano.

Mr. Wang: I ……… it! I would never do anything violent. I ……… very angry.

Detective Bosch: What ……… you ………. last night between 8 pm and 11 pm?

Mr. Wang: I ………. for my next concerto. I ………. very hard.

 

Check your answers:

 

Detective Bosch: Are you a concert pianist?

Mr. Wang: Yes, I am.

Detective Bosch: Is it true you had a very public fight with Mr. Bernstein six months ago?

Mr. Wang: Well, yes, he told the press that I was not good enough for classical music. And that I should play Elton John music instead.

Detective Bosch: Did you send him threatening messages after that?

Mr. Wang: Yes, but it is because I was very angry. That was done in the heat of the moment.

Detective Bosch: I see here that you threatened to kill his piano.

Mr. Wang: I didn’t do it! I would never do anything violent. I was feeling very angry.

Detective Bosch: What were you doing last night between 8 pm and 11 pm?

Mr. Wang: I was preparing for my next concerto. I was working very hard.

 

Conclusion

Who killed Mr. Bernstein’s piano? Vladimir suddenly lost interest in playing piano. He probably found he wasn’t such a good pianist, and so he took it out on his teacher. But he has a good alibi. Mrs. Grant has many reasons for resenting Mr. Bernstein. She possibly thinks that losing her clients is all Mr. Bernstein’s fault. And her alibi is weak. As for Mr. Wang, he was very angry at Mr. Bernstein who tried to destroy his reputation. His alibi is not very strong either.  What do you think? Who did it?

 

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Marc Cohn – Walking in Memphis (with lyrics)

 

Check the vocabulary

 

Match the 16 words from the texts with their definition.

 

  1. To lose interest
  2. Proficient
  3. To keep in touch
  4. Dart (n.)
  5. Mess (n.)
  6. Intruder

 

a. To maintain contact with someone

b. very skilful at something that you have learned

c. someone who enters a place where they are not allowed to go especially to commit a crime

d. a situation in which a place is dirty or untidy

e. To not be interested in something anymore, to grow bored with something

f. a small pointed object that you throw at a round board in order to score points in the game of darts

 

Answer key:

1:e – 2:b – 3:a – 4:f – 5:d – 6:c

 

  1. To perpetrate (noun: perpetrator)
  2. To fire
  3. Booking
  4. Abroad
  5. Show (n.)
  6. To threaten

 

g. (in this context) an arrangement made by a performer to perform at a particular place and time in the future

h. to do something that is harmful, illegal, or dishonest

i. a performance, a programme, an exhibition, an event

j. to tell someone that you might or you will cause them harm, especially in order to make them do something

k. (in this context) to make someone leave their job, sometimes as a punishment

l. in or to a foreign country

 

Answer key:

7:g – 8:k – 9:g – 10:l – 11:i – 12:j

 

13. In the heat of the moment (idiom)

14. To steal

15. To take it out on (someone) (idiom)

16. To resent

 

m. To take something that belongs to someone else without permission

n. (informal) to make (another) suffer for one’s own anger, irritation, bad temper, etc. (Just because you’re angry with him you don’t have to take it out on me!)

o. without stopping to think about what you are doing or saying, because you are angry or excited

p. to experience angry unhappy feelings because you think you have been treated unfairly or without enough respect (The girls in the family resented all the attention that Peter was getting.)

 

Answer key:

13:o –  14:m – 15:n – 16:p

 

Sources: macmillandictionary.com; collinsdictionary.com; idioms.thefreedictionary.com

 

Elton John – Rocket Man Live (The Million Dollar Piano)

 

You are reading blog number 100!

(Scroll down and read the English version of this article below)

 

Chers lecteurs et chers abonnés,

On se sent fier aujourd’hui. Vachement content même. Cet article que vous êtes en train de lire est le 100ème à être publié sur notre blog Et Maintenant in English.

C’est une étape importante. Des centaines d’heures d’écriture. Sans parler de toutes ces réflexions au lit à 3h47 du matin. Comme tout écrivain le sait, donner naissance au plus simple des mots en public demande beaucoup de courage, de temps, et cela peut être un peu stressant.

Cela nous a pris un peu plus de trois ans. Ce qui revient à presque trois blogs par mois. Nous avons commencé en septembre 2018 avec un article sur l’expression anglaise populaire, I look forward to hearing from you utilisé en anglais parlé et écrit.

La bonne nouvelle est que nous avons eu de vos nouvelles. Nous comptons désormais 222 abonnés, qui reçoivent automatiquement nos blogs par email à chaque publication. Nous n’avons aucune idée de qui vous êtes, mais nous sommes absolument ravis que vous soyez avec nous. Et nous voulons vraiment dire merci.

N’hésitez pas à les rejoindre. Écrivez simplement votre adresse e-mail sur la case Abonnez-vous sous les photos de ces deux belles personnes sur le côté droit de cette page (oui, c’est nous – vos scribes fidèles). Et répondez à l’e-mail de confirmation.

Nous nous sommes fixé deux objectifs au départ :

Encourager et aider les personnes qui voulaient développer leurs compétences en anglais comme deuxième ou troisième langue, et démystifier certaines des choses qui se passent dans le monde anglophone.

À quelques reprises, nous nous sommes simplement inspirés de l’histoire, comme The history of witches in Switzerland et King Louis XIV’s bottom and how it changed the face or surgery (qui a trouvé sa place sur la liste de lecture académique de certains collèges de chirurgie au Royaume-Uni et aux États-Unis), et par nos héros tels que Nick Cave, Agatha Christie, David Bowie et Doctor Who.

 

 

Yes, we wrote about Louis XIV’s bottom and David Bowie.

Nos 100 conversations commencent leur vie ici au sein du journal suisse Le Temps. Après cela, les canons monstrueux de Monsieur Google prennent le relais, ou dans la plupart des cas, pas. Nous avons eu quelques modestes blogs tromblons.

Notre article le plus populaire intitulé Ms, Mrs or Miss? concerne les titres pour les femmes, en particulier le titre Ms (Mizz).

Nos recherches d’amateurs nous indiquent qu’il est populaire au Japon avec plus de 23 000 vues au total. Le titre et les rôles de genre sont actuellement passés au premier plan culturel, mais aujourd’hui encore, la plupart des non-anglophones ont peu de compréhension du titre par défaut pour les femmes Ms, qui est courant depuis les années 90. Des temps compliqués nous attendent.

Winston Churchill demeure la personnalité britannique la plus populaire, dans et en dehors de l’Angleterre. Cet orateur acclamé avec un terrible problème d’élocution a déclaré : « Un mensonge fait l’autre bout du monde avant que la vérité n’ait une chance de se mettre en place. »

Aujourd’hui, des mensonges (fake news) parcourent le monde en première classe Meta et se répètent tellement de fois que la vérité sautille à moitié nue sur un sol en linoléum froid avec une seule jambe dans son pantalon.

Nous avons apprécié perversement le menteur en chef Donald Trump. Nous avons décidé que la meilleure façon de démystifier l’ancien président américain était la satire.

Il a été trop généreux avec nous, comme la fois où il a dit à la nation américaine que l’injection de détergent dans votre bras pourrait nettoyer le Covid. Nous nous sommes associés à Monsieur Propre pour cette pièce : I followed the president’s advice and injected detergent into my arm.

 

You should not always do what your president suggests.

Et quand le Groenland s’est moqué de l’offre de Trump d’acheter leur pays, nous avons imaginé qu’il pourrait aimer un petit domaine alpin connu sous le nom de la Suisse : Donald trump says he now wants to buy Switzerland.

La pandémie nous a fait réfléchir. Nous sommes assez fiers de notre série sur la pandémie qui comprenait un article bien lu sur stoïcisme et l’histoire fascinante de The Swiss bacteriologist who unmasked the Black Death.

La statistique la plus prometteuse que nous avons réussi à dégager de l’analyse de notre blog concerne peut-être le temps moyen que les gens passent à lire les blogs publiés sur ce site Web. La moyenne globale avant la pandémie était d’environ quatre minutes. Mais sur notre blog, cela a doublé à huit minutes. C’est probablement en raison du fait que notre blog est en anglais et de nombreux articles sur les idiomes, les verbes à particule, l’anglais social, les excuses, les prépositions, les conditionnels, donner son avis, prédire, les expressions sur le temps, incluent des exercices, des clips de musique et parfois des vidéos. Oui, nous vous avons fait travailler.

Donc, si vous avez huit minutes de libre, vous pouvez trouver une liste complète de nos articles ici.

Nous continuerons à écrire. Nous vous informerons lorsque nous atteindrons le 200ème.

Votre travail est de continuer à lire.

Bien à vous,

Garry Littman et Benedicte Gravrand

(Formations d’anglais à Genève et les séjours linguistiques)

Traduit en français par Bénédicte Gravrand

Et maintenant in English:

 

Dear readers and dear subscribers,

We are feeling a little pleased with ourselves today. Chuffed, you might say. This article you are now reading is the 100th to be published on our blog – Et Maintenant in English.

It’s quite a milestone. Hundreds of hours of writing. Not to mention all that pondering, reflecting, and tossing and turning in bed at 3:47 am. As any writer out there knows, giving public birth to even the simplest array of words takes a fair bit of courage, time and can be a little stressful.

It’s taken us just over three years. So that’s almost three blogs a month. We began in September 2018 with an article about the popular English expression I look forward to hearing from you used in both spoken and written English.

The good news is that we did hear from you. We now have 222 subscribers, who automatically receive our blogs by email each time we publish. We have no idea who most of you are, but we are absolutely delighted you are with us. Thank you. And we really mean thank you.

Feel free to join them. Just write your email address on the abonnez-vous box under the photos of those two handsome people on the right side of this page (Yes, that’s us – your trusted scribes).

We set ourselves two aims when we started:

To encourage and help people who wanted to develop their skills in English as a second or third language and to demystify some of the goings-on in the English-speaking world. A few times we just got inspired by history, such as The history of witches in Switzerland and King Louis XIV’s bottom and how it changed the face or surgery (which found its ways onto the academic reading list of some surgery colleges in the UK and the USA), and by our heroes such as Nick Cave, Agatha Christie, David Bowie and Doctor Who.

 

We wrote about the terrible witch hunts in Switzerland.

Our 100 conversations begin their lives here in the Le Temps circle. From here the monstrous cannons of Monsieur Google take over, or in most cases not. We did have a few modest blunderbuss blogs.

Our most popular article titled Ms, Mrs or Miss? is about titles for women, especially the title Ms (Mizz).

Our amateur research tells us it is popular in Japan with over 23,000 views in total. Title and gender roles have today moved into the cultural foreground, but still today most non-English speakers have little understanding of the default title for women Ms which has been in the mainstream since the 90s. Complicated times lie ahead.

Winston Churchill remains the most popular British figure, inside and outside of England. This acclaimed orator with a terrible speech impediment famously said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Today, lies or fake news, travel the world in Meta first-class. They are repeated so many times that truth is left hopping around half-naked on a cold linoleum floor with just one leg in her pants.

We did perversely enjoy the liar-in-chief Donald Trump. We decided the best way to demystify the former US president was through satire.

He was overly generous with us, such as the time he told the US nation that injecting detergent into your arm might clean out Covid. We teamed up with Monsieur Propre for this piece: I followed the president’s advice and injected detergent into my arm.

And when Greenland laughed off Trump’s offer to buy the country, we imagined he might like a little Alpine estate known as Switzerland: Donald trump says he now wants to buy Switzerland.

The pandemic gave us pause to think. We are quite proud of our pandemic series which included a well-read article about Stoicism and the fascinating story of Alexandre Yersin: The Swiss bacteriologist who unmasked the Black Death.

 

 

Perhaps the most promising statistic we managed to gleam from analysis of our blog concerned the average time people spent reading blogs published on this website. The overall pre-Covid average was about four minutes. But on our blog, this doubled to eight minutes probably. This is probabliy due to that fact that it is in English and many articles about idioms, phrasal verbs, social English, apologising, prepositions, conditionals, giving your opinion, predicting, expressions about time, included exercises, video and sometimes music video clips. Yes, we made you work.

So, if you have a spare eight minutes you can find a complete list here of our blogs.

We’ll keep writing. We will let you know when we reach 200.

Your job is to keep reading.

Kind regards

Garry and Benedicte

The Language House, Geneva

(Formations d’anglais à Genève et les séjours linguistiques)

 

 

Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights (phrasal verbs – part one)

(Level A2 and above: 12 common phrasal verbs – with stories, exercises, and songs)

Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, The Language House.

Honeymoon Story

When they found out they had to fill in all these forms, Jill and Peter gave up on the idea that they should get married. After all, they just wanted to look after each other, put on some weight and be happy together for the rest of their lives. They were not looking for an official contract to confirm their love. They decided, however, to still go away and have their honeymoon (voyage de noce) in the Canary Islands, which they had organised a long time ago. Before setting off, they invited a lot of people for a honeymoon party. They closed down their flower shop, turned up the music, took off their shoes, and danced all night. Two days later, they flew to the Canaries, not knowing the volcano in La Palma was about to go off

12 phrasal verbs

There are 12 phrasal verbs in this story. There are thousands of phrasal verbs (verbes à particule) in the English language. Many phrasal verbs have several meanings. They are very commonly used, especially in more informal contexts.

You probably already know many phrasal verbs such as; sit down, stand up, wake up, get up, and call back.

What is a phrasal verb?

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and a particle.

It can be:

  1. a verb and an adverb, such as break down (The car broke down just outside Winchester)
  2. a verb and a preposition, such as see to (You try to get some sleep, I’ll see to the children’s breakfast)
  3. a verb and both, such as look down on (She looks down on anyone who hasn’t had a university education)

Here are the 12 phrasal verbs from the Honeymoon Story (above):

  1. Go off
  • to explode or to stop working (All the lights in the building suddenly went off)
  • to leave a place (Dave’s gone off to the south of France for the summer)
  • to start making a noise (I was just lying in bed waiting for the alarm to go off)
  1. Set off
  • to start a journey (We set off early the next morning)
  • to cause something to operate (Jeff pushed open the front door, which set off the alarm)
  • to cause a situation to happen (He fears that the election could set off mass protests)
  1. Give up
  • to stop doing something that you do regularly (He finally gave up smoking)
  • to stop thinking or believing something (It was a difficult time, but we never gave up hope)
  1. Close down
  • same as close (Their intention is to close down the factory)
  1. Turn up
  • to increase the amount of sound, heat, or light by pressing a button or moving a switch (Don’t turn the TV up – I’m trying to read)
  • to come somewhere, especially unexpectedly (There is no need to book – just turn up on the night)
  • to be found after being lost (The documents finally turned up in an office along the corridor)
  1. Go away
  • to move or travel away from a person or place (If he’s bothering you, tell him to go away)
  • to leave your home for a period of time, especially for a holiday (We’ve decided to go away for a long weekend)
  • verb and particle are never separated
  1. Look for
  • to hope to get something that you want or need (He was looking for work as a builder)
  • to search for someone or something (I’m looking for Jim. Have you seen him?)
  • verb and particle are never separated.
  1. Fill in
  • to add information such as your name or address in the empty spaces on an official document (I spent over two hours filling in the application form)
  • to give someone details about something (Did Sam fill you in about the new project?)
  • to do someone’s job for them while they are away (I’m filling in for the receptionist at the moment)
  1. Find out
  • to discover a fact or piece of information (Her parents found out that she had a boyfriend)
  1. Put on
  • to start wearing something (Peter put on his coat and went out / Melanie was putting on her makeup in front of the mirror)
  • to make a machine or piece of equipment start working, especially by pressing a switch (Can you put the light on, please?)
  • to become fatter (She put a lot of weight on after the children were born)
  1. Take off
  • To remove clothing (I’d better take my shoes off)
  • if an aircraft takes off, it leaves the ground and starts flying (The plane should take off on time)
  • to become successful or popular very fast (Her business has really taken off)
  • to have a particular amount of time away from work (I’m taking Monday off to go to London)
  1. Look after
  • to take care of someone or something (It’s hard work looking after three children all day)
  • to be responsible for something (an organization that looks after the interests of artists)

 

Source: www.macmillandictionary.com

 

Bob Marley – Get up stand up (with lyrics)

 

Gloria Estefan – Go Away

 

 

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Your turn!

Exercise 1

Put in the missing particle in the text. Choose from the list.

off (x3)             in         out       up        away    on        up        after

 

The really anxious guide to home safety

If you want to go …… for your summer holiday, check a few things before you set …… : turn off the gas as you don’t want everything your own to go …… and destroy your house (and your street); have someone fill …..  for you at work while you take time ….. if you don’t want your company to go bankrupt (faire faillite) and close down; look … ..someone to look ….. your plants if you don’t want them to give up the ghost (die); find ….. if you can put ….. a reliable alarm system if you don’t want a visit from the burglars (cambrioleurs) – or just hide your jewellery in a hole under the house; and ask a friend to turn ….. at your house at unexpected times to ensure no one is having a big party or squatting there. I know, this is hard work. But what do you prefer? Home safety or a relaxing holiday?

Answer key:

If you want to go away for your summer holiday, check a few things before you set off: turn off the gas as you don’t want everything you own to go off and destroy your house (and your street); have someone fill in for you at work while you take time off if you don’t want your company to go bankrupt and close down; look for someone to look after your plants if you don’t want them to give up the ghost (die); find out if you can put on a reliable alarm system if you don’t want a visit from the burglars (cambrioleurs) – or just hide your jewellery in a hole under the house; and ask a friend to turn up at your house at unexpected times to ensure no one is having a big party or squatting there. I know, this is hard work. But what would you rather have? Home safety or a relaxing holiday?

 

Exercise 2

(B1+)

This is a more difficult exercise.

Put in the missing phrasal verbs in the gaps. Choose from the list.

Note: sometimes you will have to conjugate the phrasal verb in the past simple.

 

Go off              put on              look for            close down      wake up           take off

Fill in                set off              go away           find out            look after        turn up

Give up

 

Little did I know …

My alarm ….. at 6 a.m. this morning and I ….. for work at 7. Little did I know (je ne savais pas) about my incredible day then.

I arrived at work only to ….. my company had ….. overnight. I checked my phone and saw an email from my company, saying they had serious financial difficulties. I was totally confused and really angry. But I did not ….. hope.  I went to the newsagent and ….. a lottery ticket, thinking, “what’s the worst that could happen?” I went home, ….. my work clothes and ….. my sports clothes because I wanted to ….. for the day and spend it at the gym. I thought: “I am going to ….. my health. That way, I will stay busy and positive. I will look for a new job later. I’m sure it won’t be a problem, now that I have decided to be optimistic.”

In the evening, I ….. my lottery ticket everywhere. I  just could not find it. I didn’t feel very optimistic then, thinking this was just an all-around horrible day. Then, the lottery ticket ….. in the pocket of my work jacket. I immediately checked the results of the lottery and found I had won the jackpot! Little did I know about my incredible day when I ….. that morning.

 

Answer key:

My alarm went off at 6 a.m. this morning and I set off for work at 7. Little did I know about my incredible day then.

I arrived at work only to find out my company had closed down overnight. I checked my phone and saw an email from my company, saying they had to suffered too many financial difficulties. I was totally confused and really angry. But I did not give up hope.  I went to the newsagent and filled in a lottery ticket, thinking, “what’s the worst that could happen?” I went home, took off my work clothes and put on my sports clothes because I wanted to go away for the day and spend it at the gym. I thought: “I am going to look after my health. That way, I will stay busy and positive. I will look for a new job later. I’m sure it won’t be a problem, now that I have decided to be optimistic.”

In the evening, I looked for my lottery ticket everywhere. I  just could not find it. I didn’t feel very optimistic then, thinking this was just an all-around horrible day. Then, the lottery ticket turned up in the pocket of my work jacket. I immediately checked the results of the lottery and found I had won the jackpot! Little did I know about my incredible day when I woke up that morning.

 

Jason Mraz – Look For The Good (with lyrics)

 

Note:

With some phrasal verbs, you can separate the verb and the particle:

They’ve called the meeting off (to call of= to cancel)

Or

They’ve called off the meeting.

 

And with other phrasal verbs, you never separate the verb and the particle:

Look for your keys. Not: Look your keys for.

_________________________________________________

A fish out of water

Level A2 and above

There are lots of expressions in English that involve fish (poisson). They are informal expressions.

But they can be used to make your conversations more colorful and interesting.

 

Like a fish out of water

This expression or metaphor is self-explanatory. Fish are comfortable or “at home” in water, not like humans.

When a fish is “out of water” is cannot survive for very long. This expression means to be uncomfortable (out of your comfort zone) and not knowing what to do or say.

When they all started talking about their bonuses, I felt like a fish out of water. I had never received a bonus in my life.

 At the concert I felt like a fish out of water. Everyone around me was the age of my daughter.

I come from a small village in the Swiss alps. When go to the city, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water

The expression can be traced back to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. He wrote:

…a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless

 

Here’s a fish out of water – BBC David Attenborough:

 

A big fish in a small pond

A person who is important and powerful in a small group of people is a big fish in a small pond.

We often talk about the transition from primary school to high school. In the last year of primary school, pupils are big fish in a small pond. At high school they will be small fish in a bog pond.

She was a big fish in small pond in the small company. That all changed when she joined an international company. Then she was a small fish in a big pond.

 

That smells fishy

Fish have a strong smell. After a few days, it’s a not a very nice smell.

If something smells fishy, there is something strange, suspect or suspicious. Maybe it’s illegal or criminal.

It took some time before people realised there was something very fishy about the investor Madoff.

Read more about Madoff here

The manager smelled something fishy and started an investigation. He discovered that three of the four employees were stealing from the store.

We think the business deal is fishy. We have decided to not go ahead with it.

 

To fish for a compliment

The verb to fish is the activity of fishing and involves using a hook and line to catch fish.

When you fish for a compliment, you try to catch a compliment. You try to get someone to say something nice about you.

When I do a good job, I like to receive positive feedback. My boss never says anything, I always have to fish for compliments.

My boyfriend said nothing about my new haircut. I think he is blind. I always have to fish for a compliment.

 

There’s plenty more fish in the sea

This expression is often used to console or comfort someone, especially at the end of a romantic relationship that has failed or ended badly.

It means that there are other suitable choices and opportunities to be found.

I know you are sad about John leaving you, but there are plenty more fish in the sea.

I really wanted that job. I am so disappointed. I suppose there are plenty more fish in the sea. I must stay positive.

 

Language note:

The word fish is often used for both singular and plural. The word fishes can also be used in the plural form.

At an aquarium: Look at all the colorful fishes or fish.

However, the meat of fish is always unaccountable.

In a restaurant: I think I’ll have the fish.

Humanity… we’ve got your tests back. Not looking so good, I’m afraid.

The Cosmic Medical Centre was busy, but Humanity had to wait just five minutes before the nurse called them.

“Humanity? Earth, isn’t it? This way please.”

The nurse opened the door and there, behind a solid oak desk, the cosmic doctor looked up, peering through his bi-focals.

“Aaah, yes, we’ve been expecting you Humanity. Please sit down. We’ve got all your tests back. Not looking so good, I’m afraid. Sit, sit please…

“Hypertension, anxiety, stress and depression. Middle age and its aches and pains have come quickly to you Humans. Faster than most species.  Millions of years faster. The dinosaurs make your look like amateurs. By the way, your fertility has dropped considerably, probably a result of the above. This current pandemic probably doesn’t help.

“A change of lifestyle would be good, but unfortunately as you know,” he paused, and looked up at the patient, “it’s rather difficult to change your genetic predisposition.”

You have such an odd sense of superiority

 

“Impossible, actually,” the doctor smiled, paused and then continued, “…despite your fantastical efforts. You are blessed and cursed. You are conscious, unlike most of your fellow life forms. But still, more than a touch conceited to imagine that you can shape your own future. You are just current in the drift of genes, just like all the other life forms that come here. You have such an odd sense of superiority. You come in here calling yourself Humanity. Do you think the frogs and the cows have a collective belief that they can take charge of their destiny? There is no such thing as Humanity, nor is there Frogity or Cowity. Just another of your many misguided myths.

 

Do you really think the lottery you call Progress and Science can free you from the life of an animal?

 

“You know you were once animists who shared a common destiny with the other animals and now you think you are in charge, of not only your own destiny, but also that of the Earth. I mean, really, do you think the lottery you call Progress and Science can free you from the life of an animal?”

The doctor raised his hand. “No, I don’t want to hear anything from you. Not yet.”

“You know, we had Earth in last week for a complete examination. There was long list of ailments; excessive gas, heat rashes, breathing difficulties, hot and cold flushes, dry surfaces, artery poisoning and loss of surface vegetation.

“We traced all these disorders back to one cause: you. Yes, you.”

Humanity shifted uneasily in its chair. The doctor raised his hand again.

 

You have infected your host. You have become a pathogenic organism like the cells of a tumour. Or a virus, if you like.

 

“No, it’s my turn to speak. You have infected your host. You have become, for want of a better term, a pathogenic organism like the cells of a tumour. Or a virus, if you like.

“Look here’s the report here: Read the first line. Read it for yourself.”

The doctor thrust the paper in front of Humanity’s eyes. Humanity began to read: “The Earth (solar system B-1873HGFY74) is suffering from a plague of humans.

“Yes, a plague, that’s right,” the doctor said.

“Your population is now around 7.8 billion. It has doubled in less than 50 years. Honestly, it’s not the numbers that are the problems. It’s your predatory and destructive abilities.

“We’ve already got a name for the next geological period – the Eremozoic – the era of solitude when little remains on the earth. Basically, you’ve killed it all. It’s sad, but understandable that you’re all getting rather obsessed with space.

We call it a correction. You might call it Armageddon.

 

“But before that new epoch rolls in, you are most likely going to suffer considerably. We call it a correction. You might call it Armageddon.

“Population spikes don’t rise forever. You just have to look at mice and rabbits. The collapse, when it comes, will occur over a relatively short period of time, but will see your population fall to one or two billion at the most.

“You know you cannot destroy the Earth, but you can easily wreck the environment that sustains you and other life forms.”

Humanity slumped in its chair, then raised its head: “How long have we”…

 

It’s not always about you

 

The doctor cut Humanity off with a deep sigh and hand in the air. “You haven’t been listening, have you? It’s not always about you.”

A silence.

“What can we do then?”

“Not much really,” the doctor replied.

“Perhaps give up the idea that progress will somehow preserve your oblivion. Being idle is not a sin. Try doing nothing sometimes. Stop pining for meaning in life. And stop pining for immortality. Sanity is in the stillness. It’s just life.”

 

—–

 

Many of the ideas expressed in the above article come from the book, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and other Animals, by John Gray. He is an English political philosopher and author with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He retired in 2008 as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

His books include:

False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998)

Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern (2003)

Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007)

The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths (2013)

Put some sugar in your English

(Level A2 and above: Idioms and phrases related to sugar and honey – with songs)

Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, The Language House.

 

Sprinkling (saupoudrer) some sugar on your English is a piece of cake. It can put the icing (glaçage) on the cake. And it’s as easy as pie. For example, you can call your loved ones “honey” or “sweetie” or “sugar”. You can say “isn’t it/he/she sweet?” or, “it was so sweet of you to do that” (sweet: sucré, doux, adorable).

After all, you can catch more flies (mouches) with honey than vinegar.

Do it in your own sweet time. Do it when you want to say something serious: as the proverb says, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine (médicament) go down. But be careful, too much sugar will make you as nutty as a fruitcake. You’ll start believing you are Mary Poppins. And if you do too much sweet talking, people will start to take what you say with a pinch (pincée) of salt. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. That’s a recipe (recette) for disaster.

 

George Harrison: My Sweet Lord

 

 

 

Phrases

  1. A piece of cake – too easy.

The interview was a piece of cake.

  1. The icing on the cake / the frosting on the cake – If something is the icing on the cake, or the frosting on the cake, it makes a good situation or a good result even better.

I’m really happy playing here, and if we win today, that will be the icing on the cake.

  1. Easy as pie – very easy.

Michael understood at once. `Why, that’s easy as pie,’ he said as the rest of us scratched our heads.

  1. “Honey” – pet name. A pet name is an informal friendly name for a friend or member of your family.

Hi, honey, I’m home!

Have you seen the film “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”?

  1. “My sweet” – you can address someone as “sweetie” or “my sweet” if you are very fond of them.

Pass the sugar, sweetie.

Do you know the song “Sweet Home Alabama”?

  1. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar – you are more likely to get the results you want from other people if you treat them with kindness or flattery, rather than being aggressive, demanding.

I think the kids would visit you more if you were nicer to them. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, you know.

  1. In (one’s) own sweet time – At one’s own preferred pace, without consideration for how it will affect others.

He certainly took his own sweet time getting here.

  1. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – something good makes something bad more tolerable.

I’m going to put on some fun music while I work on this boring project because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

 

 

  1. As nutty as a fruitcake – Very strange or completely mad.

The man is a charmer – intense, funny, and nutty as a fruitcake.

  1. Sweet talk – to talk to someone in a very nice way in order to persuade them to do something.

He even tried to sweet-talk the policewoman who arrested him.

  1. Take with a grain of salt / take with a pinch of salt – If you take what someone says with a grain of salt, or with a pinch of salt, you have serious doubts about the truth or accuracy of what they say.

“Listen,” he said, “you must take what Bob says with a grain of salt.”

  1. You can’t have your cake and eat it (too) – it’s impossible to have something both ways, if those two ways conflict.

He wants to stay with his wife but still see his girlfriend – talk about having your cake and eating it!

  1. A recipe for disaster – Something is a recipe for disaster if it’s going to cause trouble or serious problems.

The new parking rule is a recipe for disaster.

 

Sources:

Englishclub.com; idioms.thefreedictionary.com; Collinsdictionary.com; Macmillandictionary.com

 

MORE idioms and expressions (B2+): Idioms are not a piece of cake

 

 

Zaska: In your own sweet time

 

 

 

 

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