Sunday, January 22, 2017

Slang Words and Expressions: Gobsmacked

Slang Word or Expression: gobsmacked (adjective)
Meaning: astounded 

Jeff was gobsmacked when he learned his fiancĂ©e was an alien. 

Celebrity quote
“I'm just gobsmacked.”

- 13-year-old dancer Perry Kiely on winning Britain’s Got Talent 

This week, I tried to trace what I’d always thought was an obvious linguistic connection, and discovered it was not. But sometimes, a wrong turn is just as interesting as a right one.

I’ve been watching Britain’s Got Talent from my Boston apartment via the internet, and I noticed the word gobsmacked come up a lot in connection with the show, especially from contestants amazed at their own success. Back in April, audience favorite Susan Boyle told reporters, “I am truly gobsmacked. The reaction to my audition has been amazing.” 13-year-old Perry Kiely (above), also gobsmacked, is a member Diversity, a street dance group that beat out Boyle for the top place. 

Gobsmacked is British slang that dates from the 1980s and while people who are gobsmacked are often rendered speechless, its literal meaning is “hit in the mouth.” Gob is British slang for mouth—even if you are American, you probably remember that from the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstoppers were giant hard candies that kept your mouth busy. 

Though it is chiefly used in the UK and by no means common in the United States, I had thought it was known to at least some of us. Godsmack is the name of a popular American alternative band, and I’d always assumed it was a play on gobsmack (the verb form). 

However, Godsmack got its name indirectly from another slang word. Though vocalist Sully Erna claims the name came from a joke about a bandmate’s cold sore, he admits that he was familiar with a song called God Smack by Seattle grunge band Alice in Chains. In fact, Godsmack often played cover versions of Alice in Chains songs during their early career. 

The song God Smack is not related to surprise, but rather about drug addiction. The lyrics describe the anguish of the singer as he realizes he's lost a relationship with someone close to him: “For the horse you've grown much fonder than for me.” Both smack and horse are slang for heroin.

Ed Note: You don’t have to use slang words but sometimes it is good to know about them in case you read them in a book or magazine or hear them on TV.

Monday, January 16, 2017

How to Help Your Students to Do Better on Tests

There are many issues surrounding the idea of teaching to the test. On the one hand, many feel that teaching makes it more difficult to test student's knowledge because the focus is on the particular test at hand, not on holistic learning. Once learned, students can discard test-based knowledge and then begin to study for the next test. 

Obviously, this approach doesn't encourage language recycling, which is essential to acquisition. On the other hand, students who are thrown into a test without knowing 'exactly' what's on the test might not know what to study. This presents a conundrum for many teachers: Do I pragmatically meet objectives or do I allow organic learning to take place? 

For the English teacher, luckily, exam results won't lead to success or failure in life as is the case with the SAT, GSAT or other big examinations. For the most part, we can concentrate on producing and measuring the relative success or failure of each student.

For example, I find giving students grades based on project work to be a highly accurate means of testing. 

Unfortunately, many modern students have become accustomed to a test-based mode of study. In some cases, students expect us to give them clearly-defined tests. This is especially true when teaching grammar classes. 

However, at times, students don't do very well on these tests. This in part is due to the fact that students are often not familiar with the importance of directions. Students are already nervous about their English and jump right into an exercise without clearly following the directions. Of course, understanding directions in English is part of the language acquisition process. However, it sometimes gets in the way. 
For this reason, when giving any kind of standard assessment test, I like to "teach to the test" by providing a quick mock test in a review session leading up to a test. Especially at lower levels, this type of review will help students focus on their true abilities because they'll understand what's expected of them. 

Example Review Quiz to Help Teach to the Test

Here is an example review quiz before a big grammar final. The test focuses on the present perfect, as well as difference in usage between past simple and the present perfect. You'll find notes and tips listed below the example quiz. 

Part 1 – Circle the correct helping verb.
1.    Have / has he had lunch yet?
2.    Have / has they played soccer today?
3.    Have / has you eaten sushi?

Part 2 – Fill in the blank with the PRESENT PERFECT verb.
1.    Fred (play / +) __________________ tennis many times.
2.    She (have / -) __________________ breakfast this morning.
3.    Peter and I (eat / +) _______________ fish this week. 

Part 3 – Make a present perfect QUESTION with this answer.
1. Q ______________________________________________
A: No, I haven’t seen Tom today.
2. Q _______________________________________________
A: Yes, they have flown to Chicago.
3. Q ________________________________________________
A: Yes, she’s worked for Google. 

Part 4 – Write the correct V3 (past participle) in the blank.

played        quit        driven        bought
1.    I haven’t ___________ a Lamborghini in my life.
2.    She has _________ smoking cigarettes to be healthier.
3.    They’ve ____________ soccer two times this week.
4.    I have _______________ three books today. 

Part 5 – Verb forms: Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verb. 
Verb 1    Verb 2    Verb 3

Part 6 – Write ‘for’ or ‘since’ to complete the sentences. 

1.    I have lived in Portland _____ twenty years.
2.    She’s studied piano _________ 2004.
3.    They’ve cooked Italian food _______ they were teenagers.
4.    My friends have worked in that company _________ a long, long time.

Part 7 – Answer each question with a complete sentence.

1. How long have you spoken English?
A: _______________________ for _________.

2. How long have you played soccer?
A: _______________________ since ___________.

3. How long have you known him?
A: ____________________________ for ___________. 

Part 8 – Write the correct form of the verb. Choose simple past or present perfect. 
1.    She ___________(go) to New York three years ago.
2.    I __________________ (smoke) cigarettes for ten years.
3.    He _______________ (enjoy / -) the movie yesterday.
4.    _________ you __________ (eat) sushi before? 

Part 9. Circle the correct answer.
1. Fred _________ cake yesterday afternoon.

a. has eaten
b. eated
c. ate
d. was ate

2. I __________ at PELA for two months.

a. study
b. am studying
c. have study
d. have studied 

Part 10 – Fill in the blanks in these conversations. Use present perfect or simple past. 
Peter: Have you ever ________ (buy) a car?
Susan: Yes, I have.
Peter: Cool! What car ___________ you _________ (buy)
Susan: I _________ (buy) a Mercedes last year. 

Teaching to the Test Tips

  • Project each section onto a whiteboard to make sure that each student actually sees what's expected.
  • Ask students to come up and complete individual sections of the quiz. Have other students state whether they have completed the exercise correctly or not. 
  • On the whiteboard, circle keywords in directions to make sure that students take notice of specific instructions.
  • For the first question in each exercise, ask a student to complete the question on the whiteboard. Ask the student to explain why they answered in that manner. 
  • Pay special attention to time expressions. Students tend to forget how important these are. For example, in exercise six students need to decide whether 'for' or 'since' should be used. Ask each student why they chose 'for' or 'since'. 
  • On multiple choice questions, ask students why each incorrect answer is incorrect. 
  • Don't worry about making a review quiz the same length as the actual test. Keep it short as the focus is on understanding 'how' to take the test. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Meanings and Variations of “Father”

Father derives from the Old English term faeder, which is cognate with the Latin and Greek word pater. (From the Latin term such words as paternal and paternity are derived.) The term refers not only to a male parent but also to an older man who serves as a mentor; it was also long employed as a respectful term of address for an elderly man, though this use is almost obsolete.

A stepfather is a man who marries one’s mother, and a father-in-law is the father of one’s spouse.

 Fatherly describes paternal behavior, and fatherlike alludes to a resemblance to the qualities of a father. Fatherhood and the less common fathership describe the quality or state of being a father. A father figure is an older man one looks up to as to a father, whereas “father image” pertains to an idealization of someone in that role.

Figuratively, the term father may pertain to one who originated or was significantly responsible for the development of something (such as a founder of a movement or as in the epithet “Father of our Country” for George Washington) or to a leading man of a community, or, impersonally, to a source or prototype. In religious contexts, it is a title for a priest or, capitalized, for God. (A father confessor is a clergyman who hears confessions or, by extension, any man a person trusts with secrets.)

The verb father pertains to the act of contributing to biological or figurative birth. Fatherland describes one’s home country, although the term is tainted by its association with Nazi-era Germany. 
Father Time is the personification of time as an elderly man.

Idioms referring to the word include the proverbs “The child is father to the man,” which expresses that a person’s personality forms in childhood, “Like father, like son,” alluding to a resemblance in behavior or qualities between a man and his son, and “The wish is father to the thought,” with a figurative meaning that beliefs often become perceived as facts because someone desires them to be so.

Expressions that use the term include the stock phrase “Not your father’s,” followed by the name of a product or other object, to communicate that something is not to be associated with an outdated counterpart, and “when (one) was a twinkle in (his or her) father’s eye,” referring to a period when a man had a notion of being a father but the child had not yet been conceived or born.

Source: Daily Writing Tips

Friday, January 13, 2017

Vocabulary Quiz: Confusing Words

How good is your English? Here are 5 sets of words that are often confused.

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.)

1. He runs the _________ from slapstick comedian to arch satirist.
a) gamut
b) gauntlet

2. We went to see her perform in a musical _______.
a) revue
b) review

3. To what _______ are you willing to go to prevent that from happening?
a) extant
b) extent

4. The major ________ of the religion are listed below.
a) tenants
b) tenets

5. The place has a certain _______ to it.
a) cache
b) cachet
Answers and Explanations

1. He runs the gamut from slapstick comedian to arch satirist.
Gamut means “an entire range or series,” and a gauntlet is a protective glove, a trial or ordeal, or, in idiomatic use, a literal or figurative challenge to another to engage in combat.

2. We went to see her perform in a musical revue.
A revue is a performance of loosely related songs, dances, and skits; a review is an analysis, critique, summary, or survey (though the word is sometimes used interchangeably with revue).

3. To what extent are you willing to go to prevent that from happening?
Extent means “magnitude,” “range,” or “scope,” while extant means “existing.”

4. The major tenets of the religion are listed below.
A tenet is a belief, doctrine, or principle, generally one shared by a group of people; a tenant is a person who rents property from another.

5. The place has a certain cachet to it.
Cachet refers to prestige or a feature or quality associated with prestige (as well as other meanings); a cache is a location for hiding or storing something, or a short-term computer memory. (The words are pronounced “cashay” and “cash,” respectively.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

30 English Words Borrowed from Dutch

As a teacher, I have always been interested in word origins. English grew from many languages and cultures and we have also borrowed many words from other languages. Here are 30 English words we have adopted from Dutch.

During much of the 1600s, the Netherlands was a world power, especially at sea, and this influence contributed to the English language in the form of borrowings from Dutch into English of various nautically and aquatically themed words. Here’s a list of many of these terms (a few of which were adopted from, or may derive from cognates in, other languages) and their definitions and their Dutch origins. 

1. avast (“stop”): from hou vast, meaning “hold fast”
2. bow (“front of a ship”): from boeg (or from Old German or Old Norse)
3. brackish (“salty”): from brac (or a Low German cognate), meaning “salty”
4. buoy (“marker” or, as a verb, “mark with a buoy” or “keep afloat”): from buoy, ultimately from the Latin word boia, meaning “shackle”
5. caboose (“the last car on a freight train, used for the accommodation for the train’s crew”): from kabuis or kombuis, meaning “galley,” or “ship’s kitchen”
6. commodore (“senior captain” or “naval officer above a captain in rank”): probably from kommandeur, ultimately from the Old French word comandeor, meaning “commander”
7. cruiser (“warship larger than a destroyer but smaller than a battleship,” or “pleasure motorboat”): from kruisen (related to kruis, meaning “cross”), meaning “sail across or go through”
8. deck (“any of various floors of a ship”): from dek, meaning “covering”
9. dock (“mooring structure for vessels” or, as a verb “tie up at a dock”): from docke, meaning “pier”
10. dredge (“riverbed or seabed scoop” or, as a verb, “drag” or “scoop”): perhaps based on dregghe, meaning “dragnet”
11. freebooter (“pirate”): from vrijbuiter, meaning “robber”; the second half of the word is related to booty, also derived from Dutch
12. freight (“shipped goods” or, as a verb, “ship goods”): from a word variously spelled fraght, vracht, and vrecht and meaning “water transport”; the Dutch word is also the source of fraught, meaning “heavy” or “weighed down”
13. filibuster (“obstructive act” or, as a verb, “obstruct”): from vrijbuiter by way of the Spanish word filibuster (see freebooter above), which in turn comes from the French word flibustier
14. hoist (“lift” as a noun or a verb): from hijsen
15. jib (“spar”): from gijben, meaning “boom”
16. keel (“spine or structure projecting from a hull”): from kiel
17. keelhaul (“punish by dragging over the keel”): from kielhalen, meaning “keel hauling”
18. kill (“riverbed”): from kil
19. maelstrom (“whirlpool” or, by extension, “confused situation”): from maalstroom, meaning “grinding current” or “strong current” (the second element of the word is cognate with stream); possibly based on an Old Norse word
20. morass (“boggy or muddy ground” or, by extension, “complicated or confused situation”): from marasch, meaning “swamp,” partly based on the Old French word marais, meaning “marsh”
21. plug (“stopper” or, as a verb, “stop (a hole)”): from plugge, meaning “stopper”
22. school (“large group of fish,” unrelated to the term for an educational institution): from schole
23. scow (“small, wide sailboat” or “flat-bottomed boat”): from schouw
24. shoal (“large group of fish”; unrelated to the same word meaning “area of shallow water”): cognate with schole
25. skipper (“captain of a ship”): from schipper, meaning “someone who ships”
26. sloop (“sailboat,” either a small modern boat or a specific type of warship): from sloep, either ultimately from slupen, meaning “to glide,” or from the Old French term chalupe
27. smack (“small sailboat”): possibly from smak, meaning “sailboat,” perhaps from the sound made by flapping sails
28. smuggler (“illegal trader”): smokkelen or the Low German word smukkelen, meaning “transport (goods) illegally”)
29. stockfish (“cod or similar fish prepared by drying”): from stokvis, meaning “stick fish”
30. yacht (“small, light pirate-hunting naval vessel” or “pleasure motorboat or sailboat”): from jacht, meaning “hunt” and short for jachtschip