Vocabulary And Philosophy

From Twitter:

S: Why can’t I speak English?

T: Daily you need immersion–story, talk shows, native conversation and to stop focusing on grammar.

S: Why?

T: It’s peripheral, map learning, not language–which is intuitive, human.

Here ‘peripheral’ means:

a. wrong

b. extra

c. unimportant

The answer is ‘b’. The meaning of peripheral is actually on or at the limits of, on the edge of or just outside of

What is meant here is not that grammar is unimportant, but that it is a method of setting down or establishing rules for consistency in language. Grammar did not come first–language did. And so it is felt that language is natural and thus can be understood naturally. Indeed, the research of linguists shows that human beings have an innate and evolved ability to comprehend grammar. The point is students may need to understand grammar, but to become fluent they have to know when to depart from grammar and start trusting their brain and their daily use of the language. This is how to develop fluency. Not by turning every corner by looking at the map, but by trusting the instinct and exploring without it.

Who or That?

From Twitter:

The answer is ‘who’.

‘Who’ should be used–not ‘that’–when referring to people.

However, ‘who’ can also be used to refer to nouns such as countries, like this:

The nation whose people respect laws more than ethnicity can be a republic.

And the answer to the question ‘who said “A democracy if you can keep it?”‘ is Benjamin Franklin. The question he was asked, by a crowd which saw him departing from the Constitutional Convention, was ‘what kind of government have you given us?’

Even (Part I.)

From Twitter:

Get ready!


#Astronauts are #resourceful. #BuzzAldrin _______ _______ a #ballpoint pen to start the spaceship engine–instead of a broken start switch… so that he and Neil Armstrong could leave the moon!

(a) even used (b) used even



In this sentence even is an adverb (meaning it is a word modifying, affecting, influencing a verb)–and in this way–even is used for emphasis. We should usually put an adverb or other modifying words before the word or words they modify–before the verb (NOT after). We are stressing how differently Buzz Aldrin used something–in this case a pen; we are not stressing the pen, even though the pen is the unusual tool used in this story. To emphasize that (the pen, itself), we can change our intonation and say pen!

Nearby Neighbors & Neighborhoods

My new _________ lives ________ in my new ___________. He just moved in, as I have.* He is from New York, as I am**–and that’s great in a foreign country–to have a friend from home–to talk to.

A. nearby

B. neighborhood

C. neighborly

D. neighbors

E. neighbor

*”As I have” would usually be expressed, “Like I did,” which is how most people would speak, but the phrasing in the example is correct. “Like I did” actually has a different meaning: technically it says “I moved here in a way similar to how the neighbor moved here,” but in spoken English is understood to mean “I moved here too,” and is technically wrong.

** “As I am” means “I am also from New York.” Most English speakers will say, however, “like I am (from New York)” but this suggests that the two people are from New York in some similar way or quality–and is technically incorrect.


My new _neighbor_ lives _nearby_ in my new _neighborhood_.

E. A. B.

Did You Know

Did you know? We vary the intonation of the 2nd verb if referring twice to the same noun?


1. Please set your mobile phone to silent mode, and refrain from talking on the phone.

2. Please set your mobile phone to silent mode and refrain from talking on the phone.

The answer is number 2, because if we do not emphasize the intonation when uttering the second verb–or action–the two actions mentioned will be expressed in a monotone fashion and the effect will be to unconsciously interpret the instructions as referring to two different nouns or items. The speech of the speaker will also be incredibly robotic and boring.

“Like night ‘n day. “

“Like night and day” means “very different”.

A. Where’re ya from?

B. New York.

A. Ya like Tokyo?

B. It’s OK–too crowded, rushed… noisy?

A. New Yorkers are used to it!

B. I’m from Long Island.

A. But Tokyo and New York are similar.

B. Like night ‘n day.

A. ?

B. We don’t run into each other. We have more space; it’s quiet.

Here, speaker B is expressing an opposite opinion. She probably likes Japan–and Tokyo too–for their own qualities… but like many Americans–and especially New Yorkers–she feels it is best to share her true feelings: She doesn’t think Tokyo and New York are similar (at least in the ways she explains that they are different)–in her opinion. And in her use of the expression, like night and day, she is perhaps being a bit sarcastic (saying the opposite thing-with other words), rather than directly contradicting speaker A and saying “no they are not similar”. The complete unspoken–or suggested comment–would be: “Yes, they are similar–like night and day are similar,” meaning “night and day are similar because they are parts of the day, but one is dark and one is light–so they are not similar at all!”

What’s so Is It Funny?

. From: Twitter

A. What are you ______ at?

B. Nothing.

A. Really? What’s so funny, then?

B. What makes you think I was _______ at you?

A. You were looking right at me.

B. Was I?

A. Yes. So at what then?

B. The spider on your shirt!

A. Aah!

a. thinking

b. laughing

c. looking

d. staring

The answers are

b. laughing for the first and third statements

The reason is clear if we look at the third statement (a question): ”What’s so funny?’

Be careful. When a native-speaker asks “what’s so funny?” be sure to look at his or her face. Does he or she look angry? ‘What’s so funny?’ is not always a light, rhetorical question; it could be a challenge coming from his or her perception that you are laughing at him or her. If you hear, ‘Ill give you something to laugh about’, a fight could be coming.