In this grammar lesson, Alan talks about the second group of English modal verbs, that related to Ability. Learn about the variations in meaning with these expressions: can, can't, could, couldn't, probably able, should be able, may be able, and more!
Would you know what I meant if I said “oops!”? What about “uh-oh!”? Sometimes, Americans use words that aren’t really words to communicate basic thoughts. Today’s video teaches you seven non-verbal expressions that you will hear from your neighbors and co-workers on a regular basis.
Did you know there are three ways to pronounce "h" in American English?
If you’ve lived or worked around Americans, you know their English is full of shortened ways to say things. You might believe this is because Americans are consumed with saving time. But in fact, all languages have shorter, more efficient ways of saying things when they want to. Because human minds work more quickly than their tongues, speakers are always looking for ways to get out more information with fewer syllables.
Three ways of doing this in English are abbreviations, initialisms, and acronyms. Because these three types are often confused, let’s do a quick review.
Abbreviations are a shortened form of the entire expression.
• TV – television
• op-ed – opinion-editorial
• Cal Tech – California Technological University
Initialisms are pronounced one letter at a time. Note that the names of the letters tend to link together as they’re pronounced, with stress falling on the last letter.
• USA – United States of America
• TGIF – Thank God It’s Friday
• m.p.h. – miles per hour
Acronyms are said as one word.
• NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization
• scuba – self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
• NASA – National Space & Aeronautics Administration
For my international friends, you should know that many Americans don’t recognize the distinction. They often call all three “abbreviations” when the expressions may be acronyms or initialisms. If that happens, don’t worry; just consider yourself smarter now than most of your American friends and co-workers.
Can you guess how many languages there are in the world?
d. over 6,900
If you guessed d., you’re right. World linguists estimate there are close to 7,000 languages spoken across the globe. However, approximately half of these tongues could become extinct by the next century.
There are many reasons that a language dies out. Migration, globalization, and internet contact all move people out of their original locations, through either physical movement or communication. Extinction also comes about through social and political oppression and injustice.
Should we care if another language dies? What does it mean to speakers of Chinese, English, or Spanish (the world’s three largest languages)? Perhaps to them, the death of a small, “obscure” language is no big deal.
However, there are stories and knowledge wrapped up in the languages of all humans. And when we lose that, we lose the insights of one more lens on life.
The Endangered Languages Project is looking to document as many languages as possible so that these cultures’ traditions and experiences are not lost forever. This project has created a website for people to find and share comprehensive information about the over 3,000 endangered languages of the world.
Here is a short video of the Endangered Languages Project.
Every language has a word for hard work. In English, we sometimes call it “energy” or “effort.” We have another expression representing hard work, but it isn’t a real word. The expression is “oomph.” “Oomph” is what we say when we’re lifting a heavy sofa, for example. Or maybe trying to loosen a stubborn lug-nut when changing a flat tire.
You might hear someone say, “You need to put a little ‘oomph’ into it.” That means you need to try harder. Exert yourself.
I was reminded of this expression when someone sent me this graphic the other day.
Now, Americans often say that just “trying” alone isn’t usually enough for success. You have to work hard to succeed. And that’s the meaning behind this message.
I like it when expressions sound like what they mean. Remember that the next time you’re working hard but not quite succeeding. Maybe you just need to put a little more oomph into it!
As with many world languages, English uses a playful form of repeated sounds and rhyming sounds to express certain concepts in a creative, emphatic, or fun-loving way. Linguists call this repetition “reduplication.”
There are three kinds of reduplication: 1) exact repetition, 2) rhyming, and 3) internal substitution.
1. An example of exact repetition is blah-blah-blah (which means lots of talking without much meaning or content). A number of these forms are seen in children’s language (for example: go pee-pee) and have a kind of simple, friendly rhythm—encouraging children to learn verbal communication. Other repetitions serve to intensify the meaning, as in “He’s a real dum-dum.”
2. An example of rhyming is hub-bub (which means busy, noisy activity); in rhyming, the end sound stays the same and the first part of the word changes.
3. An example of internal substitution is topsy-turvy (which means upside down or all mixed up); the first and last sounds stay the same and part of the middle is changed. These expressions often appear to show a kind of back-and-forth movement, first this way, then that way. When the second word is a repetition of the first, with only a change in vowel, this is technically called Ablaut (from the German word for vowel: Laut).
People’s names are sometimes reduplications. Here are some better-known examples.
· Sirhan Sirhan (the man who assassinated Robert Kennedy)
· John-John Kennedy (boyhood name for John F. Kennedy’s son)
· Chi-Chi Rodriguez (a professional golfer)
· Ling-Ling (a panda bear)
· Boutros Boutros Ghali (former Secretary General of the United Nations)
· Yo-Yo Ma (famous cellist)
· Dee Dee Myers (former press secretary to Bill Clinton)
Write the number of these 10 English reduplications in the blanks with their meanings. (A longer list follows below.)
1. wishy-washy ____ something you shouldn’t do
2. nitty-gritty ____ a totally polite person with no bad habits
3. goody-goody ____ the small, difficult details
4. dilly-dally ____ somewhat artistic but trite
5. no-no ____ unable to make a definite decision or commitment
6. hanky-panky ____ play equipment pushing one child up and one down
7. teeter-totter ____ to say something is not important
8. bling-bling ____ a secret romantic relationship (“fooling around”)
9. pooh-pooh ____ to waste time on a job or errand, not be focused
10. artsy-fartsy ____ expensive and showy jewelry
*Note: “You can say that again!” is an expression of affirmation. It means “Amen! I agree!” It is used above with an intentional double meaning.
1. Exact reduplications:
pooh-pooh (verb) rah-rah
(A number of these are children’s language.* )
2. Here are more rhyme-reduplications:
artsy-fartsy (arty-farty) boogie-woogie
Slim Jim super-duper
3. Here are more ablaut or internal substitution reduplications:
tit for tat topsy-turvy
Every citizen knows the President—along with state Governors—have the right to grant pardons to citizens who have committed a crime. With one stroke of a pen, they can overturn convictions of people they think deserve a second chance. And those convicted persons can go free.
This pardon procedure apparently applies to dinner birds as well. Ever since George H.W. Bush in 1989, the U.S. President has given pardons to large turkeys just days before Thanksgiving, the holiday where Americans consume 45 million turkeys.
The story goes that this turkey pardoning actually started in the Lincoln administration when the President’s son begged his dad to let the holiday bird go, claiming it had as much right to live as anyone else. The kind Mr. Lincoln gave in, and the bird was spared.
However, do you know what happens to the birds whose lives are “spared” by the Leader of the Free World? You can read more about last year’s Presidential turkey pardon here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/presidential-turkey-pardon_n_2160129.html. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t turn out so well for the turkeys.
Have a good holiday, everyone. And remember not to gobble down your food at the Thanksgiving table!
There’s news on the human nature front – a new scientific breakthrough that has to do with how we understand human prejudice.
Scientists have shown that the brain responds differently to accents they are not used to. It seems that we feel more at ease with people who sound just like us, because processing those sounds is easier for us - a phenomenon called “cognitive fluency.”
Not surprisingly, we listeners tend to assign negative judgments to an accented speaker, even when the speaker is quite knowledgeable.
On the positive side, studies show there may be benefits to wrestling with language that is difficult to process. According to the research, making your brain work harder can make you smarter and help you remember information better.
So, give unfamiliar accents another chance! It’s good for you!
For more details on this study, go here.