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.

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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.

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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.

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