31 Oct


Who taught: Jessy and Ashka



Hey there! How have you been? I really wish all of you are doing well. Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast of the U.S. and a lot of people are without power now. Hope my friends are fine there.

I live in Pittsburgh, PA. A few weeks ago, Jessy and I were taking a walk and we talked about things we are missing, living in a small city. So, Pittsburgh is still a city with around 300,000 people. But, to me, that is nothing. Why? it is because I am from one of the cities near Seoul, Korea and my previous work was in Seoul.

The population of Seoul itself is around 11 million and if we consider the metropolitan area, the population is around 25 million. It is a huge city. To give you an idea about how big it is, it is bigger than New York City. There are a lot of things we used to enjoy, especially at night. Don’t get me wrong. We do like Pittsburgh a lot.

So, the thing we talked about is that it is very different living in Pittsburgh from living in Seoul. When we used to live in Seoul, we call people from small cities or towns “Chon-Nom(촌놈)” in Korean. “What is Chon-Nom in English? What people call people from rural areas in the U.S.?”

Jessy and I did some researches and found this word, “hillbilly.” Let me guess its etymology! I think this is referring to a person whose name is bill (one of the most common names just like Joe) and who lives on a hill. How perfect is it? Hope my guess is correct.

Anyway, after that conversation, I thought I would remember it. But, I forgot.

Luckily, Ashka posted the picture that you see here on her facebook timeline. Wow! Wow! It was a moment of eureka for me. Thank you, Ashka, for posting this because this totally refreshed my memory. And, of course, I do need to thank Hillary and Bill Clinton. Than you guys! Because of you guys, now I feel pretty confident that I will remember this word.

What do you think? Actually, if you yourself are a hillbilly, then you should totally know this word. Hey, after all, I could consider myself as a hillbilly too. Pittsburgh is a small city. One may argue this but at least to me this is true. 🙂

11 Oct

rediscovering a word series 5: draft

Who taught: Jessy and Rachel

menu (source: http://moosetoothgrill.com)


When you go to a restaurant in the U.S., you should really pay attention to its menu. One big difference between Korea and the U.S. is that there is always a few sentences to describe foods served in a restaurant in the U.S. In Korea, you would hardly find those descriptions and no one really ask anything about foods when they order. People simply order and get whatever a restaurant gives in Korea. I know… sounds no fun at all. But, that is why Jessy and I had a hard time ordering foods in the U.S. when we first got here. A lot of choices we need to make, ordering a food.

Also, under drinks section, they do have beers for which there are two major categories: One is bottle and the other is draft.

I would think most people understand what draft means here.

Denoting beer or other drink that is kept in and served from a barrel or tank rather than from a bottle or can

That’s easy, right? Also, most people use draft to mean “a preliminary version of a piece of writing.” You know, when you write a document, you start with its draft version and modify and refine it a few times.

So far, things are easy. But, there is another definition you would need to know.

It’s getting cold in Pittsburgh. A few days ago, Jessy and I were talking a walk and felt pretty cold air outside. Then, Jessy said she is happy our house does not have cold air coming from the outside.” Well, she said it in Korean and she used a Korean word, “우풍 (Woo-Poong).” It means a current of air in a house coming from outside, normally cold air in winter. Hmm… what is an English word for that?

I said, “There must be one but what is it?” Jessy suddenly remembered that Rachel used a word, draft, to mean that.

When Jessy told me that Rachel used “draft” to mean a current of air in a house, I could not believe it. “What? Really? Draft?”

It’s like a moment of eureka to me. Wow…. What a surprise!

Here is a tip for you to remember this word better. Next time you are in a restaurant, looking at the menu, check out drinks section and find out “draft beer list.” Then, think about not only kind of beer but also a current of air in the restaurant. Hope the air in your restaurant is not that cold for you.

06 Sep

rediscovering a word series 4: waffle

Who taught: Andrew



There have been a lot of changes in my life for the last 6 and half years.

1. I not only speak English but also think in English. Thinking in English was one of the goals I used to have to become better at speaking English.

2. I got to learn a lot of different cultures, not just American but Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern too. For example, I am now safe to say that I feel very comfortable paying tips at restaurants. When I first got here, that was not that easy to do. I felt like I was being robbed.

3. Most of all, there has been a big change in what I eat everyday. For example, I did not eat pancakes or waffles when I was in Korea. I mean I could but there were not that many places to serve those and I was not really interested in. Now? We even have a waffle maker at home. Jessy from time to time make waffles for breakfast or brunch.

Have you eaten waffles? It’s delicious especially with fruits, syrup, butter and whipped cream. So, basically, waffle is a food and literally it is everywhere in the United States.

Two days ago, I was hanging out with my brother from another mother, Andrew. I love hanging out with him. He is an inspiration. He is smart, energetic and most of all so motivated to learn and take on challenges. What an awesome guy! I am sure you would hear his name sometime in the future. Who knows? He can become the next Steve Jobs. I am very happy that I met him and became close friends with him.

As he was talking, he said “……he was waffling……..” Well, I was not sure whether I got that. So, I showed my sort of puzzled face to him. Within a second, he said, “Oh.. Do you know what waffling means? …. Let’s see. I do not even know why people started to use this word but it means basically indecisive.”

Wow…. I was surprised. Really? That means indecisive? Based on my research, this word also means “to move in a side-to-side motion before landing.”

For example, we can say, “The geese waffled as they got close to the water.”

So, from this, you can conjecture that we can use this word to mean someone being indecisive. When Jessy asks me some questions, I sometimes waffle because I am not sure what she wants me to say. You know what I mean. 🙂

Here is a task for you! Next time you eat waffle, think about this word and try to use it to mean being indecisive.

27 Mar

stop a clock

Who taught: Amber, Patty and Tami

Ugly face would stop a clock

Stop a clock (source: http://aarontodd.wordpress.com/)

Do you know what day is on Mar 17? It is St. Patrick’s Day which of course commemorates Saint Patrick who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. It is a huge day for Irish people. In many countries including the U.S., there are parades on St. Patrick’s Day. I was in San Francisco with Amber, Patty and Tami this year and we all went out to see the parade.

The parade started at 11 am. So, we decided to walk to the Civic Center to see people and preparations for festivals. Oh boy! As we got closer to the San Francisco City Hall, we saw so many homeless people. After buying some souvenirs, we decided to walk back up Market St to see the start of the parade.

On the way up, I stopped by a restroom (nature’s call). As soon as I came out, Tami and Amber told me a new expression that Amber just used.

Amber said, “I just saw a face that would stop a clock.”

My first impression was that she must see someone very handsome or beautiful. In Korea, if someone is amazingly beautiful like Jessy, people say that she would stop a clock. You know what I mean? It’s like you saw someone so beautiful and all of a sudden time stands still for a while because your focus were solely on her and the whole world started to run around you and her.

Very very surprisingly, the meaning of the expression, stop a clock, in the U.S. is the opposite. If you saw someone whose face would stop a clock, that means his or her face is so ugly. It was hard for me to find its etymology. But, my guess is that even a clock cannot function properly because of someone’s face is so ugly and it is shocked by that.

What do you think, my friends?

My non-native English speaking friends, this is a good lesson for you. Be careful! Do not try to literally translate expressions that you used to use in your own countries! That can cause a huge trouble. 🙂


19 Dec

slice and dice

Who taught: Jessy and Today show

Slice and dice (source: http://csassignment3.wordpress.com/)

Two days a week, Jessy gives me a ride to my work. Today was one of those days. On our way to my work today, Jessy asked me a question, “Hey! Do you know what ‘slice and dice’ means?”

Having a career in the information technology area, I have known the expression for a while. So, I was able to answer, telling Jessy the definition of the expression.

However, the way I remember this expression has nothing to do with my career. I think of this expression, imagining myself slicing and dicing a cucumber for salad so that I can eat the pieces of the cucumber easily.

Jessy said, “I heard that expression this Morning, watching the Today show. On the show, a reporter said,’When it comes to checking a return policy, slicing and dicing is better.'”

You know that this does not mean that you are physically cutting the return policy horizontally and vertically. That would not be a good idea. You would lose your receipt.

Oh.. Whenever I think of this expression, another word comes to my mind. It is “scrutinize.” What do you think? Pretty close, right? When you slice and dice a return policy, that means basically you are scrutinizing it so that you can keep yourself from being caught in a bad situation.

Now, I have always thought this expression has a negative connotation. Slicing and dicing is like being too picky about things. What do you think? Am I right? Enlighten me, my friends!