01 Apr

rediscovering a word series 6: rug

Who taught: Audrey

toupee rug

toupee rug

I just sent an email to my coworker, Amber, and made a dummy mistake. When I meant to say, “Thank you very much, Amber! – Terry,” I wrote, “Thank you very much, Terry!”

These two mean so different. How dummy does it sound? I was thanking myself. Arghhh….

Luckily, I realized my mistake very quickly and sent another email to her to clarify. She understood and gave me an example where a comma can make a big difference.

“Let’s eat, Grandma!” vs. “Let’s eat Grandma!” The only difference is a comma here but they man very different, right, like my mistake?

English…. English…. How can I not love you?

Anyway, today, I want to continue the series of rediscovering a word. Today’s word is “rug.”

 

So, what is a rug?

A rug is a floor covering of shaggy or woven material, typically not extending over the entire floor. It’s similar to carpet but there is a difference. You want to read this post to understand the difference.

Great… Well…. Let me ask again! What is a rug? I know.. I already told you what it is. But, there is another definition.

I am a man. When a bold man wants to cover his bold head, they would wear a thing. That is “toupee.”

Well, when you are in front of those men, you want to be careful about saying “rug” because rug also means toupee. A few days ago, I was watching an episode of a TV show, Rules of Engagement. Audrey in the show used this word to mean “toupee” that another guy was wearing but I had a hard time to understand why it was supposed to be funny because she and her husband did talk about a rug for their apartment a few seconds ago.

You may think you can speak English? But, until you live here in the U.S., you do not know how hard English can be.

16 Mar

Under the bus and scapegoat

Who taught : Ellen and Sheldon

throw under the bus

throw under the bus (source: http://www.projectmanager.com/)

It’s been a while. I am so sorry that I have not been able to update you with new expressions. In my defense, I have been extremely busy during the last few months. Still sounds like a lame excuse, I know…

I will try to do my best to not slack any more. Anyway, that does not mean there have been no new English expressions for me. In fact, there have been a lot.

As I mentioned before, one of the things I regularly do to improve my English is to watch diverse TV shows, at least one or two hours a day.

Sometimes, I get to hear the same expression over and over for a short period of time. And, there was one recently.

That’s “throw someone under the bus.”

First I heard it from watching Ellen Show and later heard again in Big Bang Theory.

If we take it literally, we would think that it should mean something like “murder someone” because that is exactly what would happen if we throw or push someone under the bus.

But, living in the United States, I have gotten better at catching the context. In both Ellen Show and Big Bang Theory, it was definitely not used to mean “murder someone.”

Instead, I felt that the expression should mean something like, “I do something that would hurt my friend to save myself from a bad situation.” Do you guys know “make a scapegoat of someone?” That was the feeling I had and fortunately I was right.

But, then I asked to myself this question, “why?” Who started to use this expression? According to my research, here is the best origin of the expression.

In Septuagenarian Stew (The Life of a Bum), published in 1990, the Charles Bukowski character Harry pushed his friend Monk in front of a bus, and then stole Monk’s wallet while Monk lay unconscious and probably dying in the street. After taking the wallet, Harry went directly to a bar and, using Monk’s money, bought himself two double whiskeys. Later, Harry went to the Groton Steak House and, again using Monk’s money, bought two beers and two Porterhouse steaks with fries (“go easy on the grease”).

What do you think? This origin really makes me feel the expression perfectly.

So, don’t throw your friend or someone close to you under the bus. Whatever bus it is, that would hurt them. You yourself would not want to be a scapegoat for anything, would you?

04 Oct

low blow

Who taught: Huffington Post and NBC

low blow

low blow

Every time I think about learning something new, I also think about learning a skill, not simply acquiring knowledge, like learning a new language. It takes a lot of effort to be able to get better at any language.

It will need hundreds or thousands of pages to talk about learning a new language and by no means I am not an expert in that area.

But what I can do is to speak from my experience. A lot of non-native English speakers, including me, have experienced “blank” moments when native English speakers speak English, especially when it is fast.

It needs a lot of practices. What kind of practices? Well, here is what I do.

Watch TV shows for two or three hours a day.

What do I watch? I do watch news shows. Almost every day, I watch NBC nightly news at 6:30 pm and CBS Evening News at 7 pm. Those are very good because their anchors’ pronunciation is so clear and slow to follow. As I watch, I do my best to speak aloud what Brian and Scott say. In fact, my strategy is almost like impersonating them.

But, you would hardly hear people speaking that slowly with that kind of almost perfect pronunciation. To overcome this, there is my next step.

Watch comedy TV shows!

Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Man are the ones I enjoy watching. In doing so, you would hear a lot of expressions and jargons you would never get to hear from news shows.

So, the point is that you do need to be very specific and have a plan to hear English around you as much time as you can. That’s the starting point. Think about it! What could you even say if you cannot understand what other people are talking about?

From today, set a specific goal, make a plan, and act on it!

Yesterday Morning, I was watching NBC Today show and one story caught my attention. There is a TV anchor in a local broadcasting company and she got an email that criticizes her look. And, she reacted, pointing out that it is a perfect example of bullying. She was on NBC to talk more about the situation and during her interview this is what she said;

That email was a low blow.

At that moment, I remembered a Huffington Post article about Samsung’s advertisement, mocking Apple fanboys.

When it posted the article to its facebook page, it said, “Samsung’s new ad bashes the iPhone 5. Is it a low blow?” What is your feeling or the first impression when you hear this expression? One thing I really like about this one is that it really rhymes. “low” and “blow

You know what I think? I think of pain because of ….. hmm (a little embarrassing)…. a kick to my genitalia. That would totally hurt me. I mean, that is so cruel. Don’t you agree? I gave you an example of physical attack but there is also a verbal attack. That’s what that anchor meant when she said, “That email was a low blow.”

As a side note, you would find a lot of English expressions that rhymes. My recommendation is to try to speak aloud when you hear any new expression to see whether it rhymes or not. Chances are it will.

If your friends say something cruel to you, you can say, “Dude. That’s a low blow.” I just hope no one really kick you to have you experience a physical low blow.

 

27 Jun

fair game

Who taught: Supernatural

supernatural TV show

About a month ago, Jessie and I went through a few seasons of a TV show, Supernatural. I would not strongly recommend it. It is fun to watch but you get to dream about those demons in the show. And, I did not like it. So, we stopped watching the show.

Anyway, basically, the show is about two brothers fighting against demons to save the world. Before I came to the U.S., I thought the only demon in the U.S. is Zombies. Well, if you watch, there are a lot more. Another advantage (?) of watching the show is that you get to hear a whole lot of different English words you would never hear in your daily life.

I would not share those with you, my friends. But, there was one phrase I learned that I think it is very useful for you.

One demon told Dean, the older brother, “Sam is fair game to me.” (Sam is the younger brother in the show.)

When I first heard, it wasn’t clear to me. I was thinking, “what could that mean?” We all know what “fair” and “game” mean, right? Then, it should be easy to understand but not really.

So, I thought the demon was saying that he and Sam are equally powerful so that their fight would be fair when they have mano-a-mano.

My first guess was not that far off, I guess. Here is what fair game means.

A person or thing that is considered a reasonable target for criticism, exploitation, or attack.

So, it has pretty bad connotation. If someone says that your are fair game, that is not good. You should tell him that you are not right away.

Let’s have sometime to tell the truth. Who was your fair game? Your high school teachers? I hope not. How about your sister? 🙂

20 Jun

sweet pea

Who taught: Issac

Hello, my friends! Have you ever seen this video? This is amazing and so sweet. A few weeks ago, this beautiful proposal story was all over the place. It was even on national TV news.

I will let you watch this video for a while………….

 

OK, how is it? Don’t you love it? Now, can you remember the last sentence that was shown in the video?

And to my sweet pea… Thanks for saying “yes”.

Yes, that was it. I am 100% sure that you know who “sweet pea” is referring to here. It is the prospective bride. Sweet pea itself is a flowering plant. Everybody has different opinions about how beautiful different flowers are. But, in my opinion, sweet pea is beautiful.

So, I guess I can say it is pretty obvious that sweet pea would mean a beautiful woman. What do you think? Would you agree? Well, when I first heard, I did not think about flowers at all. Instead, I thought of peas that are sweet. It would taste good, of course. That can also kind of lead us to think that sweet pea can be a beautiful woman. Either way, it makes sense, right?

Urban dictionary’s definition also supports our conclusion.

Now, the question is what about other flowers like rose or lilies? Can I say my rose or my lilies to mean my wife or girl friend? I am not sure. But, one thing for sure “sweet pea” does have “sweet” in it. Nevertheless, I guess I can call my wife whatever I want as long as it is something beautiful.