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Wordsmith.org Today's Word - 9 min 9 sec ago
A figure of speech in which two words joined by a conjunction are used to convey a single idea instead of using a word and its modifier. Example: "pleasant and warm" instead of "pleasantly warm".

From the Archive #6: Swine Flu Cartoon (2009)

The English Blog - 1 hour 17 min ago

Back in April 2009, Gordon Brown was the UK Prime Minister and we were in the middle of a swine flu pandemic. It all seems so long ago (except that we've not got Ebola, of course). By now, cartoons had become a regular feature on The English Blog, and I often use cartoons with my students in the classroom (shown on PowerPoint) as discussion starters or to illustrate certain language points. In fact, I would have to say that explaining and commenting on editorial cartoons is the thing I enjoy most about doing The English Blog. 

Every cloud

This cartoon by Peter Brookes at TimesOnline shows Gordon Brown (top left) and members of his government wearing masks (to protect them from swine flu). They are trying to speak but can only utter unrecognizable sounds because of the masks. A pig in the final panel comments "Every cloud ... !" 
To understand this cartoon, you need to know the proverb "Every cloud has a silver lining". This means that there is something good even in an unpleasant situation. • As the trip's been cancelled I'll be able to go to the match this Saturday. Every cloud has a silver lining. The pig only has to say the first two words because most native English speakers would be familiar with the adage. (See here and here for more on this saying.) The cartoonist jokes that one of the positive points of the swine flu outbreak is that we won't have to listen to what the members of the government are saying. 

1,047 - Having Breathing Problems

Every breath you take, every move you make, we’ll be watching you. Find out why in this episode.

Slow dialog: 1:28
Explanations: 3:11
Fast dialog: 14:25

Russ: Why are you wheezing like that?

Cheryl: I’m not wheezing. I’m just a little short of breath. My lungs feel like they’ve closed up.

Russ: Maybe you should get that checked out. You could have asthma.

Cheryl: Do you really think so? My nasal passages have been stopped up, so I just thought I had a bad cold. My sinuses hurt, too.

Russ: I’m not a doctor, but you may have something more serious, maybe bronchitis or pneumonia. You need a chest x-ray or something.

Cheryl: Wow, so this could be something really serious?

Russ: Why do you sound hopeful that you have a serious condition?

Cheryl: I’m not. That would be stupid.

Russ: And yet, you sounded positively giddy that you might be laid up for a couple of weeks. Does this have anything to do with your upcoming business trip to Abrahamville?

Cheryl: If you had to go to Abrahamville, wouldn’t you wish for an out, too – any out?

Script by Dr. Lucy Tse

Cartoon: Scary Halloween Monster

The English Blog - 4 hours 54 min ago

Mac Halloween cartoon

Tonight is Halloween, and this cartoon by Mac from the Daily Mail illustrates two important Halloween traditions: dressing up in scary costumes and trick or treating.

A group of children dressed as a witch, a skeleton and a ghost are approaching a house. Since it's Halloween, we can assume that they are trick or treating. This is when children in costumes travel from house to house in order to ask for treats such as candy (or, in some cultures, money) with the phrase "Trick or treat!". The "trick" is a (usually idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given to them. 

In Mac's cartoon, however, the children are in for a nasty surprise. The homeowner has dressed up as a scary monster (we can tell it's only a costume by the zip on the back). His wife tells him, "Oh for heaven's sake, Donald. They're hoping to scare you!" (I think you have to stress the 'you').

For heaven's sake is an expression used for emphasizing that you are annoyed or impatient with someone. • Oh, for heaven's sake! Anyone would think this was difficult!

For more Halloween cartoons see The Cagle Post or Google Images.

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Newsy Video: Apple CEO Tim Cook Says He's 'Proud To Be Gay'

The English Blog - 5 hours 12 min ago

One of the most powerful men in the tech and U.S. business industry Tim Cook has announced he's gay.

In a 10-paragraph op-ed for Businessweek published early Thursday morning, the Apple CEO wrote, "While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

The reveal is hugely significant, evidenced if nothing else by the apparent crash of Businessweek's website and the article only minutes after it was posted. Full transcript >>

Words in the News: Fuel

The English Blog - 5 hours 18 min ago


The billions Britain pours into foreign aid are actually doing harm by making corruption worse in many parts of the world, a damning report reveals. It says projects funded by UK cash are increasing opportunities for bribery. In some areas, they are even pushing poor people ‘towards corrupt practices’. After we spent millions on a scheme to tackle police bribery in Nigeria, locals said they were even more likely to have to pay backhanders, the report found. Full story >>

To fuel means to to make something increase or become worse, especially something unpleasant. • Graf's back problem fuelled speculation that she might soon retire. • People's fear of crime is fuelled by sensationalist reports.

Related articles APC Dares President Jonathan to Speak on $1.1billion Malabu Fraud The Aid Transparency Index Exporters fail on pledge to curb bribery - watchdog Malabu oil scam: Take action now, APC charges Jonathan


OALD Word Of The Day - 10 hours 43 min ago
Halloween: the night of 31st October when it was believed...


Spotlight - 12 hours 29 min ago
"I had to brake suddenly when an animal crossed the road."

Iraqi Kurdish Fighters Enter Kobani

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 10:31pm
Syrian activists say the first group of Iraqi Kurdish fighters has arrived in the Syrian town of Kobani. They are to help Syrian Kurds in their battle against Islamic State militants. A British human rights group said Thursday that about 10 of the fighters from Iraq’s Kurdistan area crossed into Kobani from Turkey. Around 150 fighters in all spent Wednesday traveling across Turkey toward Syria. The Turkish government agreed earlier to let them pass through.   Burkina Faso...

From the Archive #5: The English Blog tops language blog list! (2008)

The English Blog - 30 October 2014 - 8:51pm

2008 was a pivotal year for The English Blog. There were no posts at all from January to May, and I remember being tempted to give up completely. In the end, I went the other way and decided to take the project more seriously, resolving to post at least one article a day. I must have got a bit carried away though, since there are 281 entries in the December 2008 archive! Still, someone must have been taking notice ...


Great news! Lexiophiles have chosen The English Blog as the number one language and education blog in their Top 100 List. Here's how they made the list:

We sifted through some 300 blogs relating to language and learning. Each blog was looked over and ranked with a number of points. No system is perfect, but we based our ranking on objective values, which were assigned according to the blog’s content and features.

They're now asking people to vote for their favourite blogs. So if you enjoy reading The English Blog, head on over to the polling page and vote for us! And why not check out some of the other blogs on the list while you're at it?


While it's always nice to get some (any!) sort of recognition, I must admit that I no longer even bother to look at any of these 'Best Blog' polls. They're often just an excuse for self-promotion, and far too easy to manipulate (e.g. by asking all one's students to vote).

The Boy on Graves-End Road by Caty Weaver

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 8:01pm
  Now, the VOA Special English program American Stories. I'm Pat Bodnar. October thirty-first is Halloween. In the spirit of this ancient holiday, we present a story written by Special English reporter and producer Caty Weaver. It's called "The Boy on Graves-End Road." Kelly Ryan was making dinner. Her ten-year-old son Benjamin was watching television in the living room. Or at least she thought he was. KELLY: "Benny-boy, do you want black beans or...

Ghana's Bamboo Bikes Hit the Streets

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 8:00pm
  Bicycle frames are usually made out of materials like carbon fiber, steel or aluminum. But in rural Ghana, a businessman has developed another way to make bicycles from a natural product -- bamboo.  Bamboo does not get much respect in Ghana. Farmers think of bamboo as an unwanted plant that needs to be cleared from their land. Construction workers use it to support buildings while they are being built. But Kwabena Danso thinks bamboo is much more valuable. He...

Singapore Film Ban Raises Free Speech Issue

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 8:00pm
  The documentary film, “To Singapore, with Love” tells about political dissidents from Singapore. The official website says the film explores the stories of nine people who left Singapore between the 1960s and the 1980s. It says they fled to escape persecution by the government -- first, from Singapore’s British colonial rulers and, later, by the Singapore government.     The 70-minute-long film has been shown at public events in Britain, India and...

Halloween Is Big with Kids and Business

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 7:37pm
October 31st is Halloween. On that night, children around the United States will wear special clothing and make up their faces to look like frightening creatures. These little vampires, ghosts and witches will walk around their neighborhoods, knocking on doors and yelling “trick or treat.” If the people in the homes do not give them a sweet treat, candy, the children may play a trick on them. Many homes are also dressed up for Halloween. People hang toy spiders, skeletons and other...

A Halloween Special: The Devil is Everywhere ...

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 7:30pm
  Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories. Many expressions in American English come from the world of religion. Some common idioms are based on high, religious ideals. But today we look at the bad or evil side of religion. The Devil is the most powerful spirit of evil in Christianity, Islam and other religions. The devil is clearly at work in these idioms and expressions. Speaking of the devil, to speak of the devil means to talk about...

South Defeats North Again at Manassas

VOA Special English - 30 October 2014 - 4:00pm
  From VOA Learning English, this is The Making of a Nation. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly. And I’m Christopher Cruise.  The American Civil War started in the spring of 1861. By the summer of 1862, Union forces had not yet won a major battle against the Confederate South in the state of Virginia.     So President Abraham Lincoln and his chief general created a new northern force called the Army of Virginia. They wanted to join the Army of Virginia with the...


Wordsmith.org Today's Word - 30 October 2014 - 11:42am
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated after intervening text. For example: "The king is dead, long live the king!"

Language: British vs US English

Spotlight - 30 October 2014 - 11:07am

In our podcast for 30 October 2014, hear about three important differences in the pronunciation of British and American English.

'Sexist' Subway Halloween Commercial

The English Blog - 30 October 2014 - 8:37am

This Halloween ad from sandwich chain Subway was criticized by TIME and Jezebel for being sexist and promoting 'thinness', among other things. What do you think?

GIRL 1: You guys are eating burgers?
GIRL 2: Hey, summer's over.
GIRL 1: Halloween's coming. You gotta stayin in shape for all the costumes.
MAN: What's that?
GIRL 2: You know, like attractive nurse, spicy Red Riding Hood, Viking princess warrior, hot devil, sassy teacher, and foxy fullback. Touchdown.
MAN: Could we go over the Viking lady again?
VOICEOVER: Whatever you're staying fit for, start at Subway. With loads of delicious low-fat sandwiches like tender turkey piled with any of your favourite veggies. Subway. Eat fresh. 

You can find more Halloween commercials here.

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Cartoon: Hot Halloween

The English Blog - 30 October 2014 - 8:12am

Halloween cartoon

Britain is gearing up for a warm Halloween with a blast of hot air from the Continent bringing an unusual end to the month.The mercury is expected to start rising today (Thursday) before reaching 71F (21C) on Friday in the south making it the hottest October 31 on record. Supermarkets say instead of stocking up with soups and hot drinks they are gearing up for a run on barbecue foods this weekend instead. Tesco is expecting to shift 80,000 packs of barbecue pork ribs, 450,000 packs of party food snacks and six million bottles of beer. Read more >>

The cartoon by Paul Thomas from the Daily Express shows a park in London (you can tell it's London from the familiar skyline). In the sky, in place of the sun, there's a giant pumpkin. A father tells his child, who is dressed as a witch, "Looks like Halloween's going to be hot."

Halloween 2014 (Cagle Post cartoon collection)
Halloween Crossword (English Blog)


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