Sunday, August 16, 2009

Self Study: Idioms and Homonyms

"Friendship" by Pablo Picasso



1. Self Study Idiom Quizzes
2. A very good list of idioms with explanations and examples.
3. Self Study Homonym Quizes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Pulling a Fast One" from VOA


Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

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Today I will tell about expressions using numbers. Let us start with the number one. Numbers can be tricky. On the one hand, they are simply numbers. On the other hand, they have meanings. I for one use these expressions a lot.

Many people consider themselves number one, the most important person. They are always looking out for number one and taking care of number one. It is as if they are the one and only person on Earth. Some people however, are not so self-centered. My brother is such a person. It is true – no joke. I am not trying to pull a fast one on you.

First, you have to understand that my brother is one in a million. He is such a nice person. All his friends like him. They consider him one of the boys. Recently, my brother had a bad day at the office. It was just one of those days. Nothing went right. So he stopped at a local bar -- a drinking place -- after leaving work. My brother planned to have a glass of beer with his friends -- a quick one – before he went home. But a quick one turned into one or two, and soon those became one too many.

As my brother was leaving, he ordered a last drink -- one for the road. His friends became concerned. One by one, they asked him if he was able to drive home safely.

Now my brother is a wise and calm person. He is at one with himself. He recognizes when he has had too much alcohol to drink. So he accepted an offer for a ride home from a female friend.

At one time in the past, my brother had been in love with this woman. She is a great person -- kind, thoughtful and intelligent -- all good qualities rolled up into one. But sadly their relationship did not work. He always used to say "One of these days, I am going to marry this girl." But that never happened.

For one thing, she did not love him as much as he loved her. It was just one of those things. The situation was regrettable and my brother had to accept it. But even now, he considers her the one that got away.

However, they are still friends. And because my brother had been kind to her, she felt that one good turn deserves another. He was good to her and she wanted to help him in return. So she drove him home.

If my brother had driven home from the bar that night, his number would have been up. Something bad would have happened. Thankfully he made it home safely. And, he and the woman are back to square one. They are back to where they started – being friends.

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This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Jill Moss. I’m Faith Lapidus.

State Nicknames, Part One


Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

A nickname is a shortened form of a person's name. A nickname can also be a descriptive name for a person, place or thing.

America's fifty states have some of the most historically interesting nicknames.

Alabama is known as the Heart of Dixie because it is in the very middle of a group of states in the Deep South. Dixie itself is a nickname for the American South. It started when Louisiana printed notes with the French word for "ten" on them. "Deece," or D-I-X, led to "Dixie."

Way up north, Alaska is called the Last Frontier for understandable reasons. Near the Arctic Circle, it was the final part of the nation to be explored and settled.

Arizona is the Grand Canyon State because of the famous winding canyon carved by the Colorado River. The southern state of Arkansas is the Land of Opportunity. The state legislature chose this nickname. Arkansas is rich in natural resources and has become a favorite place for older people to retire.

In a popular Spanish book, a fictional island called "California" was filled with gold. Sure enough, plenty of it was discovered in the real California, in eighteen forty-eight. This started a gold rush unlike any other in American history in the Golden State.

You would think Colorado would be known as the Rocky Mountain State. But its nickname is the Centennial State. That is because it became a state in eighteen seventy-six, exactly one hundred years after the nation declared its independence.

Connecticut is called the Nutmeg State after a spice. Connecticut Yankees, as people in this northeast state are called, are known to be smart in business. So smart that it was said they could sell wooden, meaning false, nutmegs to strangers.

Little Delaware is called the First State because it was the first state -- the first to approve the new United States Constitution.

The southern state of Florida likes to tell about its sunny days and fine beaches. So Florida is the Sunshine State. Florida's neighbor to the north grows some of the sweetest fruit in America. So Georgia is the Peach State.

Hawaii, far out in the Pacific Ocean, is the Aloha State. That is the friendly greeting that means both "hello" and "goodbye" in the native Hawaiian language. So, aloha for now. Next week we will tell you about the nicknames of more American states.

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This VOA Special English program was written by Ted Landphair. I'm Barbara Klein. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at voaspecialenglish.com.

State Nicknames, Part Two

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

As we told you last week, every American state has a nickname. Here are some more of them.

Idaho is known as the Gem State. This is not because it has diamonds but because it believes it is the jewel of the western Rocky Mountains. Illinois is the Land of Lincoln. It is named for Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president who led the nation through the Civil War in the eighteen sixties. The Midwestern state of Indiana is called the Hoosier State, but nobody is quite sure why.

One story is that the word was used to mean poor farmers or uneducated people. No wonder the state legislature instead calls Indiana the Crossroads of America. Iowa's nickname, the Hawkeye State, is in honor of Black Hawk, an Indian chief who spent most of his life in neighboring Illinois!

Kansas also has a "hawkish" nickname: the Jayhawk State. Jayhawkers were free-state guerrilla fighters opposed to the pro-slavery fighters in the years before the Civil War.

Kentucky is the Bluegrass State. Bluegrass is really bright green but looks bluish from a distance. Louisiana is the Bayou State. A bayou is a slow-moving stream. Hundreds of them flow through this southern state, and many are full of alligators!

Maine, in the nation's northeast, is the Pine Tree State because it is covered in evergreen woods. And directly across the country, on the Pacific Coast, is the state of Washington. It also has lots of evergreen trees so, not surprisingly, it is the Evergreen State.

The eastern state of Massachusetts is the Bay State. This body of water separates most of the state from famous Cape Cod.

Six state nicknames are taken from native animals. Michigan is the Wolverine State. A wolverine is a small, fierce mammal. The badger is a similar and equally fierce creature and Wisconsin is the Badger State.

Neighboring Minnesota, the Gopher State, is named for a much nicer animal that builds hills and tunnels. However, the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes is written on Minnesota's vehicle license plates.

North Dakota gets its nickname, the Flickertail State not from some bird, but from a little squirrel. South Dakota takes its nickname, the Coyote State, from an animal that thinks flickertails are good to eat!

And Oregon, the Beaver State, borrows its nickname from the large, flat-tailed rodent that uses trees to build dams.

Next week, we will tell you about more state nicknames, including one that is about people's feet!

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This VOA Special English program was written by Ted Landphair. I'm Barbara Klein. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at voaspecialenglish.com.