Friday, November 12, 2010

Misspelled Word. Can You Fix It?

"Two Women Under a Lamp" Eduord Vuillard, 1892

I think the women in the picture are working on their homework. Probably, their teacher has corrected their compositions. Their spelling mistakes have been underlined with red pencil. Can you help them to correct their mistakes?











































The following crossword puzzles are good for vocabulary. When you're finished with the puzzle, click "next", and you'll get another puzzle:
Crossword Puzzles - Opposites

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vocabulary Exercises for VOA Special English

"Concert" Pieter de Hooch, 1680
1. Vocabulary Practice - Verbs
2. Vocabulary Practice - Nouns
3. Vocabulary Practice - Adjectives and Adverbs
4. Vocabulary Practice - All Words
5. Matching Vocabulary Quiz - Nouns
6. Matching Vocabulary Quiz - Verbs
7. Matching Vocabulary Quiz - Adjectives and Adverbs
8. Matching Vocabulary Quiz - Nouns, Adjectives, Adverbs

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Down to Earth" Idioms from VOA

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

Every week at this time, we tell about popular American words and expressions. Some of these are very old. Some are new. Together, they form the living speech of the American people.

Today we tell about the expression "down to earth." Down to earth means being open and honest. It is easy to deal with someone who is down to earth.

A person who is down to earth is a pleasure to find. He or she accepts other people as equals. A down to earth person is the opposite of someone who acts important or proud.

Down to earth people could be important members of society. But they do not consider themselves to be better than others who are less important. They do not let their importance "go to their heads." Someone who lets something go to his head feels he is better than others. He has a "big head."

A person who is filled with his own importance and pride is said to have "his nose in the air." Often the person who has a big head and his nose in the air has no reason to feel better than others. He surely is the opposite of someone who is down to earth.

Americans use another expression that is similar in some ways to down to earth. The expression is "both feet on the ground." Some one with both feet on the ground is a person with a good understanding of reality. She has what is called "common sense." She may have dreams. But she does not allow them to block her understanding of what is real.

The opposite kind of person is one who has his "head in the clouds." Someone with his head in the clouds is a person whose mind is not on what is happening in real life. Such a person may be called a "daydreamer."

Sometimes a person with his head in the clouds can be brought back to reality. Sharp words from a teacher, for example, can usually get a daydreaming student to put "both feet on the ground."

The person who is down to earth usually has both feet on the ground. But the opposite is not always true. Someone with both feet on the ground may not be as open and easy to deal with as someone who is down to earth.

When we have both our feet firmly on the ground, and when we are down to earth we do not have our noses in the air. We act honestly and openly to others. Our lives are like the ground below us – solid and strong.


This Special English program was written by David Jarmul. I'm Warren Scheer. Listen again next week at this time for another WORDS AND THEIR STORIES program on the Voice of America.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spelling Practice.

Complete the word in the blank in order to spell it correctly. You can check the hint first. Then, after you write the whole word, check the answer.

1. Your homework is not only very good, it's ____________ .

2. I'm smart but my brother is more _______________ than me.

3. In the 1960s, the Beatles were very ________________ .

4. In this class, a pencil and notebook are _________________ .

5. You should put very _______________ papers in a safe place.

6. A: Here is your coffee and your toast. B: ______________ .

7. English isn't an easy language, it's very _____________ .

8. It's not very ______________ when you have to wait for the bus.

9. I'm _____________ about moving to New York.

10. She's a good mother because she's a ___________ person.

11. ________________ for next semester will be at the end of July.

12. You can buy clothing at Macy's, but it's ______________ there.

13. Don't drive too fast. It's very ______________ .

14. You can borrow books at the public _______________ .

15. I hope the class will be _________________ for you, not boring.

16. She uses time well and gets a lot done. She's very ________________ .

17. I'm looking _______________ to your party next weekend.

18. I have to work on Saturday, but I'll be getting ___________ pay.

19. I saw a ___________________ movie yesterday.

20. I'm not sure if I'm ______________ for this job or not.

21. What exactly are the _______________________ for this job?

22. My father is an elderly man but he's still very _______________ .

23. They ____________ have dinner around 7:00 pm .

24. Mary has studied ballet for a long time. That's why she dances very ________________ .

25. I went to Reno last weekend, but _______________ I lost 200 dollars.

26. Don't run a marathon without adequate ________________, or you'll get injured.

27. I didn't like the movie because there was too much _____________ .

28. I prefer love stories. I guess I'm basically a _______________ person.

29. Newcomers to the United States should know something about _______________ law.

30. I took an exam last week, but I haven't received the ___________ yet.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ESL Vocabulary Game Arcade - from ManyThings

The following links come from a wonderful website for learning ESL. It is

There, you'll find a lot of activities to help you with grammar, reading, listening, and pronunciation.

This link is for vocabulary. It's enjoyable because it's in the form of games for matching, jigsaw, and speed spelling.

Try these homonym games:
jigsaw game for homonyms #1
jigsaw game for homonyms #2
jigsaw game for homonyms #3

In the next game, you're going to work with adjectives and opposites.

jigsaw game for adjective opposites

A matching game for present tense/past tense Click "Start" to play.

A quick spell game for irregular plurals Click "Start" to play.

hint: the plural of "ox" is "oxen".

Here is the index for all the games:

Vocabulary Games

Spelling Game:

1. Your homework is not only very good, it's ____________ .

2. I'm smart but my brother is more _______________ than me.

3. In the 1960s, the Beatles were very ________________ .

4. In this class, a pencil and notebook are _________________ .

5. You should put very _______________ papers in a safe place.

6. A: Here is your coffee and your toast. B: ______________ .

Enjoy yourself, but remember, games are somewhat addictive, so
take some time away from the arcade if you feel like you're getting
too involved.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Words about Clothes" from VOA

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

Have you ever considered all the English expressions that include words about clothes? Let’s see if I can name a few off the cuff, or without any preparation.

People wear pants to cover the lower part of their bodies. We sometimes say that people who are restless or nervous have ants in their pants. They might also fly by the seat of their pants. They use their natural sense to do something instead of their learned knowledge. Sometimes, people may get caught with their pants down. They are found doing something they should not be doing. And, in every family, one person takes control. Sometimes a wife tells her husband what to do. Then we say she wears the pants in the family.

Pants usually have pockets to hold things. Money that is likely to be spent quickly can burn a hole in your pocket. Sometimes you need a belt to hold up your pants. If you have less money than usual, you may have to tighten your belt. You may have to live on less money and spend your money carefully. But once you have succeeded in budgeting your money, you will have that skill under your belt.

I always praise people who can save their money and not spend too much. I really take my hat off to them. Yet, when it comes to my own money, I spend it at the drop of a hat – immediately, without waiting. And sadly, you cannot pull money out of a hat. You cannot get money by inventing or imagining it.

Boots are a heavy or strong kind of shoes. People who are too big for their boots think they are more important than they really are. I dislike such people. I really do. You can bet your boots on that. Yet, truly important people are hard to replace. Rarely can you fill their shoes or replace them with someone equally effective.

My father is an important person. He runs a big company. He wears a suit and tie, and a shirt with sleeves that cover his arms. Some people who do not know him well think he is too firm and severe. They think he is a real stuffed shirt. But I know that my father wears his heart on his sleeve. He shows his feelings openly. And, he knows how to keep his shirt on. He stays calm and never gets angry or too excited.

Also, my father has never lost his shirt in a business deal. He is too smart to lose all or most of his money. This is because my father rolls up his sleeves and prepares to work hard. He often has a special plan or answer to a problem that he can use if he needs it. He is like a person who does magic tricks. We say he has a card up his sleeve.


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

Monday, April 12, 2010

"The Language of Fire-fighters" from Voice of America


That is the sound of a wild fire. Although late September and early October usually signal the end of forest fire season in North America, 2006 has been far worse than usual in terms of the number of fires reported, and the extent of the damage they have caused. In the western United States, where the most severe fires are, it is common to have anywhere from five hundred to a thousand firefighters and other personnel working on a blaze.

Not surprisingly, firefighters have developed their own special ways of describing the fires they fight and the techniques they use.

For example, says Dan Buckley, a fire specialist at the National Park Service in Boise, Idaho, firefighters often speak of the large, out-of-control blazes called GOBBLERS.

DAN BUCKLEY: "We call it a gobbler because it's gobbling up hectares. Another one would be 'the fire is blowing and going,' or the fire is 'misbehaving.' That means the fire behavior is so extreme that it is impossible to predict where it might go."

Buckley says that firefighters will often speak of fire as if it had a personality, or feelings.

DAN BUCKLEY: "Yeah. You find people who try to apply human or animal descriptions [to fire]. They call it the DRAGON, the BEAST. There are a lot of different terms that folks use."

Wildfires certainly behave in strange and dangerous ways. Often, a low-grade fire is said to be SKUNKING AROUND, that is, burning low, keeping to weeds and other ground-level vegetation. But firefighters who drop their guard against such a fire can risk injury or death. According to Jeb Voskamp, a medical expert at the Rattlesnake River fire in central Idaho, SKUNKERS can become BURNOVERS in mere minutes.

JEB VOSKAMP: "Burnovers are when a fire overruns a crew or a location so you can have a burnover of a camp or a burnover of a structure or you can have a burnover of a crew. It means the fire moved onto them too fast for them to retreat. In that case, they take shelter in a safety zone or a fire shelter."

That's when it's an excellent idea for fighters to pull out their portable SHAKE and BAKEs, quickly! Shake and Bake is actually the brand name of flour and seasoning-filled bag for coating meats before cooking. Dan Buckley explains what firefighters mean by the term:

DAN BUCKLEY: "Shake and bake is a nickname you might hear someone call a fire shelter, an aluminum pup tent that is used as a last resort by fire fighters if all their escape routes and safety zones away from the fire zone are compromised, they will use the fire shelters to give themselves a little bit of a chance to survive a burnover."

Firefighters use many techniques to contain fires they cannot put out right away. One of these is called a BURNOUT, which can help prevent the spread of fires that could damage local logging operations or recreational areas. Merrill Saleen, the Incident Commander at Rattlesnake River, explains.

MERRILL SALEEN: "A burnout is where we back off to a road or some kind of natural barrier from the fire edge to close the gap between the fire and the natural barrier that we want to use as the control line."


A lot of fire suppression activity is done by flame retardants using aircraft like this giant Hercules C-130 transport plane. After stopping to load up on fuel in what aviators call the PITS, the aircrafts' loading bays are filled with the red powdery retardant chemical, called MUD, thanks to hardworking ground crews called MUD DOGS.

Still, most firefighting is done by humans, on the ground, close enough to feel the heat. Dale Jablonski, a fire behavior specialist from Utah, says there are several names for the "fire behaviors" one typically encounters.

DALE JABLONSKI: "A CROWN FIRE is where it's burning actively through the crowns. GROUP TORCHING is a clump of trees that will burn up like a candle. TORCHING is one tree. 'Group torching' is maybe two or three trees."

Jablonski adds that there are several ways a fire crew can attack a fire, depending both on local conditions and overall strategy. One can HOTSPOT, that is, concentrate one's forces on the most intense portions of the fire itself. Or one can PUT UP A SCRATCH LINE - surround a fire with just enough water with a fire hose to check its advance. And there is SNAGGING.

DALE JABLONSKI: "Snagging is a term we use where we are taking out dead trees that pose a threat to firefighters taking out a fire line. If you're STINGING the fire - you can't fully suppress it, but you want to KNOCK IT BACK [retard it], you'll go ahead and knock it with some water or some dirt and 'sting' it."

Whatever the firefighters might call the fires they fight and the gear they fight them with, one words truly says it all: HOT! At the Rattlesnake River fire complex in south central Idaho, I'm Adam Phillips reporting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Couch Potato" and "Cabin Fever" from VOA.

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

Some unusual words describe how a person spends his or her time. For example, someone who likes to spend a lot of time sitting or lying down while watching television is sometimes called a couch potato. A couch is a piece of furniture that people sit on while watching television.

Robert Armstrong, an artist from California, developed the term couch potato in nineteen seventy-six. Several years later, he listed the term as a trademark with the United States government. Mister Armstrong also helped write a funny book about life as a full-time television watcher. It is called the “Official Couch Potato Handbook.”

Couch potatoes enjoy watching television just as mouse potatoes enjoy working on computers. A computer mouse is the device that moves the pointer, or cursor, on a computer screen. The description of mouse potato became popular in nineteen ninety-three. American writer Alice Kahn is said to have invented the term to describe young people who spend a lot of time using computers.

Too much time inside the house using a computer or watching television can cause someone to get cabin fever. A cabin is a simple house usually built far away from the city. People go to a cabin to relax and enjoy quiet time.

Cabin fever is not really a disease. However, people can experience boredom and restlessness if they spend too much time inside their homes. This is especially true during the winter when it is too cold or snowy to do things outside. Often children get cabin fever if they cannot go outside to play. So do their parents. This happens when there is so much snow that schools and even offices and stores are closed.

Some people enjoy spending a lot of time in their homes to make them nice places to live. This is called nesting or cocooning. Birds build nests out of sticks to hold their eggs and baby birds. Some insects build cocoons around themselves for protection while they grow and change. Nests and cocoons provide security for wildlife. So people like the idea of nests and cocoons, too.

The terms cocooning and nesting became popular more than twenty years ago. They describe people buying their first homes and filling them with many things. These people then had children.

Now these children are grown and have left the nest. They are in college. Or they are married and starting families of their own far away. Now these parents are living alone without children in their empty nest. They have become empty nesters.


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

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Two Heads Are Better Than One", from Voice of America

"Painter and Model" by Henri Rousseau

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


Last week, I told about the number one. Today, I will tell about expressions using other numbers.

Some problems are difficult to solve. But there are a lot of number expressions that can help. For example, if we put two and two together, we might come up with the right answer. We know that two heads are better than one. It is always better to work with another person to solve a problem.

Sometimes there are no two ways about it. Some problems have only one solution. You cannot be of two minds over this.

But with any luck, we could solve the problem in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. We could have our answers quickly and easily.

Sometimes we can kill two birds with one stone. That is, we can complete two goals with only one effort or action. But we must remember that two wrongs don’t make a right. If someone does something bad to you, you should not do the same to him.

If you are going out with your girlfriend, or boyfriend, you do not want another friend to go along on your date. You can just say to your friend: two’s company, three’s a crowd.

When I was a young child in school, I had to learn the three R’s. These important skills are reading, writing and arithmetic. These three words do not all start with the letter “R.” But they have the sound of “R.” My teachers used to give three cheers when I did well in math. They gave praise and approval for a job well done.

Some of my friends were confused and did not understand their schoolwork. They were at sixes and sevens. In fact, they did not care if they finished high school. They saw little difference between the two choices. Six of one, half a dozen the other – that was their position. But they were really happy when they completed their studies and graduated from high school. They were in seventh heaven. They were on cloud nine.

Nine times out of ten, students who do well in school find good jobs. Some work in an office doing the same things every day at nine-to-five jobs. You do not have to dress to the nines, or wear your best clothes, for this kind of work.

Last year, one of my friends applied for a better job at her office. I did not think she would get it. I thought she had a hundred to one shot at the job. Other people at her office thought her chances were a million to one. One reason was that she had been caught catching forty winks at the office. She slept at her desk for short periods during the day. But her supervisor appointed her to the new job at the eleventh hour -- at the very last minute. I guess her lucky number came up.


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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Where did OK come from?" Voice of America.

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

Millions of people all over the world use the word OK. In fact, some people say the word is used more often than any other word in the world. OK means all right or acceptable. It expresses agreement or approval. You might ask your brother, "Is it okay if I borrow your car?” Or if someone asks you to do something, you might say, “Okay, I will.” Still, language experts do not agree about where the word came from.

Some people say it came from the Native American Indian tribe known as the Choctaw. The Choctaw word okeh means the same as the American word okay. Experts say early explorers in the American West spoke the Choctaw language in the nineteenth century. The language spread across the country.

But many people dispute this. Language expert Allen Walker Read wrote about the word OK in reports published in the nineteen sixties. He said the word began being used in the eighteen thirties. It was a short way of writing a different spelling of the words “all correct.” Some foreign-born people wrote “all correct” as “o-l-l k-o-r-r-e-c-t,” and used the letters O.K. Other people say a railroad worker named Obadiah Kelly invented the word long ago. They said he put the first letters of his names -- O and K -- on each object people gave him to send on the train.

Still others say a political organization invented the word. The organization supported Martin Van Buren for president in eighteen forty. They called their group, the O.K. Club. The letters were taken from the name of the town where Martin Van Buren was born — Old Kinderhook, New York.

Not everyone agrees with this explanation, either. But experts do agree that the word is purely American. And it has spread to almost every country on Earth.

Then there is the expression A-OK. This means everything is fine. A-OK is a space-age expression. It was used in nineteen sixty-one during the flight of astronaut Alan Shepard. He was the first American to be launched into space. His flight ended when his spacecraft landed in the ocean, as planned. Shepard reported: "Everything is A-OK.”

However, some experts say the expression did not begin with the space age. One story says it was first used during the early days of the telephone to tell an operator that a message had been received.

There are also funny ways to say okay. Some people say okey-dokey or okey-doke. These expressions were first used in the nineteen thirties. Today, a character on the American television series, “The Simpsons,” says it another way. He says okely-dokely.


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Faith Lapidus. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at our Web site,

Check Out "OK" in Wikipedia.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Words and Their Stories, "The Fall Guy," from Voice of America.

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

Every week at this time, the Voice of America tells about popular words and expressions used in the United States. Some expressions have made a jump from sports events to everyday life. One such expression is fall guy. A fall guy is the person who someone decides will be the loser or victim.

The first fall guys were men who wrestled for money. At the end of the nineteenth century, wrestling was a very popular sport in the United States. Wrestling competitions were held not only in big cities, but also at country fairs and traveling shows. As the sport became more popular, it became less and less of a sport. Many of the matches were fixed. The wrestlers knew -- before the match -- which one of them would be the winner.

The goal in wrestling is to hold your opponent's shoulders down against the floor. This is called a fall. Sometimes, one of the wrestlers would be paid before the match to take the fall. He would agree to be the loser...the fall guy.

Today, a fall guy is anyone who is tricked into taking the blame for the crime or wrongdoing of someone else. There are fall guys in many situations -- people who publicly take the blame when something goes wrong.

A fall guy takes the rap for something wrong or illegal. He accepts responsibility and punishment for what someone else did. The fall guy may have been involved in the situation, but was not the person who should be blamed.

The word rap has meant blame for several hundred years. The expression to take the rap first was used about one hundred years ago.

Another similar expression is bum rap. A person receives a bum rap if he is found guilty of a crime...but is really innocent.

Sometimes, a fall guy may not realize he is the fall guy until he is the victim of a bum rap. In that case, he may feel that he has been framed. To frame someone is to create false evidence to make an innocent person seem guilty.

Some word experts say the expression to frame someone comes from the way wood must be fitted closely around a painting or photograph to frame it. In the same way, evidence must be designed perfectly if it is to frame an innocent person to make him or her seem guilty.


This VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano. This is Warren Scheer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Words and Their Stories: Farm Expressions; English expressions related to agriculture.

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

In the early days of human history, people survived by hunting wild animals, or gathering wild grains and plants for food. Then, some people learned to grow crops and raise animals for food. They were the first farmers.

Since the sixteenth century, the word farm has meant agricultural land. But a much older meaning of the word farm is linked to economics. The word farm comes from the Latin word, firma, which means an unchanging payment.

Experts say the earliest meaning of the English word farm was a yearly payment made as a tax or rent.

Farmers in early England did not own their land. They paid every year to use agricultural lands.

In England, farmers used hawthorn trees along the edges of property. They called this row of hawthorns a hedge.

Hedging fields was how careful farmers marked and protected them.

Soon, people began to use the word hedging to describe steps that could be taken to protect against financial loss.

Hedging is common among gamblers who make large bets. A gambler bets a lot of money on one team. But, to be on the safe side, he also places a smaller bet on the other team, to reduce a possible loss.

You might say that someone is hedging his bet when he invests in several different kinds of businesses. One business may fail, but likely not all.

Farmers know that it is necessary to make hay while the sun shines.

Hay has to be cut and gathered when it is dry. So a wise farmer never postpones gathering his hay when the sun is shining. Rain may soon appear.

A wise person copies the farmer. He works when conditions are right.

A new mother, for example, quickly learns to try to sleep when her baby is quiet, even in the middle of the day. If the mother delays, she may lose her chance to sleep. So, the mother learns to make hay while the sun shines.

Beans are a popular farm crop. But beans are used to describe something of very little value in the expression, not worth a hill of beans. The expression is often used today.

You could say, for example, that a bad idea is not worth a hill of beans.

Language expert Charles Earle Funk said the expression was first used almost seven hundred years ago. He said Robert of Gloucester described a message from the King of Germany to King John of England as altogether not worth a bean.


This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano. Maurice Joyce was the narrator. I'm Shirley Griffith.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Words and Their Stories: A Chip on Your Shoulder. From Voice of America.

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


Every week at this time we tell the story of words and expressions used in American English. Some of them are old. Some are new. Together, they form the living speech of the American people.

Some popular expressions are a mystery. No one is sure how they developed. One of these is the expression, carry a chip on your shoulder. A person with a chip on his shoulder is a problem for anybody who must deal with him. He seems to be expecting trouble. Sometimes he seems to be saying, “I’m not happy about anything, but what are you going to do about it?”

A chip is a small piece of something, like a chip of wood. How did this chip get on a person’s shoulder? Well, experts say the expression appears to have been first used in the United States more than one hundred years ago.

One writer believes that the expression might have come from an old saying. The saying warns against striking too high, or a chip might fall into your eye. That could be good advice. If you strike high up on a tree with an axe, the chip of wood that is cut off will fall into your eye. The saying becomes a warning about the dangers of attacking people who are in more important positions than you are.

Later, in the United States, some people would put a real chip on their shoulder as a test. They wanted to start a fight. They would wait for someone to be brave enough to try to hit it off.

The word chip appears in a number of special American expressions. Another is chip off the old block. This means that a child is exactly like a parent.

This expression goes back at least to the early sixteen hundreds. The British writer of plays, George Colman, wrote these lines in seventeen sixty-two. “You’ll find him his father’s own son, I believe. A chip off the old block, I promise you!”

The word chip can also be used in a threatening way to someone who is suspected of wrongdoing. An investigator may say, “We’re going to let the chips fall where they may.” This means the investigation is going to be complete and honest. It is also a warning that no one will be protected from being found guilty.

Chips are often used in card games. They represent money. A poker player may, at any time, decide to leave the game. He will turn in his chips in exchange for money or cash.

This lead to another meaning. A person who finished or died was said to have cashed in his chips. Which is a way of saying it is time for me to finish this program.


You have been listening to the VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories. I’m Warren Scheer.