Apr 272012

This TV program is big. People of all ages watch it. I’ve watched it.  But do we really have such a thing as an American idol? Do we want to? 

What is an idol, anyway?

An idol is something that is a representation of a god, and it is also worshiped.  People bow to idols, as if bowing to honor a god.

Then there is the word “idol” as in Hollywood.  Many stars of stage and screen are called “idols.” People look up to them as representing something virtuous. They idolize them.

Do we look up to the American idol singing stars this way?  Do you?

Personally, I think the word is a bit too strong for what the musicians and artists are representing.   They may sing well but that doesn’t mean that they are more virtuous as people or that we should bow down to them as if they were deities.

What do you think?

Dec 072011

Baseball seems simple but on the surface it is very complicated. Many of the baseball rules are very subtle. But there are some basics:

Nine innings.

Each team comes up to bat once, beginning with the visiting team.

Each team is at bat until there are three outs.

The team that is ahead after nine complete innings is the winner.

If the score is equal after nine innings, the game goes into extra innings.

In extra innings, a complete inning is played. If there is a team that is ahead at the end of the extra inning, that team is declared the winner of the game. Otherwise, another inning is played until there is a winner at the end of that complete inning.

The fewest number of “at bats” in any one game would, therefore, be 27: Nine innings, 3 batters per inning.

When a pitcher is pitching against a team and there are 27 up and 27 down, he has pitched a  “perfect game“.

The scorecard for Lee Richmond’s Perfect Game

Another special type of game is called a “no no“. This refers to a game in which there are no hits and no runs.  If there are no hits and no runs, then why isn’t it a perfect game?  In a “no no”, a batter can be walked*, in which case he will reach first base and ruin an otherwise perfect game.

In American Major League baseball history, by the current definition of “a perfect game”, there have been 20 official perfect games.  There have been several unofficial ones.

It is thrilling to watch a perfect game – and my baseball timing has been incredible on several occasions:  I saw Dave Cone’s perfect game in 1999.  I also saw John Lester’s no hitter (a “no no”) in 2008, which was also thrilling.

Click here to see video highlights of David Cone’s perfect game.


*In another blog post, we will discuss the ways in which a batter is declared to be out.

Nov 282011

Heard on American Idol:  “”It’s been a year since me and Lauren Alaina have tried out now,” McCreery said. “Me and her have been together since day one and we’re gonna stay together.”

Even some of our favorite singers, such as the quote above from Scotty McCreery, Season 11 American Idol winner, are saying this.  But is it correct? Scotty’s a wonderful singer, but is his grammar correct?

The correct grammar would be “It’s been a year since Lauren Alaina and I have tried out now.  She and I have been together since day one and we’re going to stay together.”

In a list of people that includes the speaker, grammatical etiquette has the speaker always mentioned last.  This means we say(subject pronouns) she and I, he and I, and (object pronouns) to him and to me, to her and to me, and so on.

Now go enjoy Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina!

Nov 212011

When people move and emigrate to a new land, they often lose track of their ancestry.  Records are lost, memories are lost.  When the older generation dies, there is often nobody left to tell the story of their ancestry to the younger generation.

In the United States, websites abound that specialize in doing ancestral searches.   One of the biggest websites is ancestry.com.  Americans can’t get enough of searching for their ancestors. They want to do their family tree. They want to know who their long-lost relatives are. Sometimes they’ll have a family reunion and meet, for the first time, long-l0st relatives.

Who are my ancestors? Where did my ancestors come from? Do I have living relatives who I don’t know exist?

These are some of the questions that Americans ask themselves.

Americans whose ancestors arrived in the United States between 1892 and 1924  use sites such as Ellisisland.org to help them identify their ancestors and to learn about their backgrounds. Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892 as a port of migration for millions, and closed as a port of mass migration in 1924, when the government began to heavily restrict immigration into the United States.

What do you know about your ancestors?  Are you interested in doing an ancestral search?  Are you interested in learning more about your family tree?

How, and why, have memories gotten lost?


For an additional reading comprehension activity about Ellis Island, click on this link.

Nov 162011

Native Americans.

Thanksgiving is coming, but do these turkeys care?

And who said that turkeys can’t fly?

In our neighborhood, in our city, wild turkeys roam the streets in flocks of eight to twelve turkeys. They walk slowly, and stop at each home and peck the ground to see if they can find food.

They abound in the autumn, but we see them also in the summer and even in the spring. They live in the woods nearby, and come out during the day.

When they open their wings to fly up or to fly back down, they are powerful flyers.

In our neighborhood, turkeys are a protected species and are native to North America.  People who are driving  their cars slow down to watch, or to let them pass.

wild turkey on my gate

Happy Thanksgiving!!Happy Thanksgiving!

Feb 102011

Is the name of the holiday President’s Day or Presidents’ Day? Or is it Presidents’ Day?

One of the most misunderstood aspects of proper English grammar is the use of the apostrophe for plural possessives.

Let’s explore this in regards to the holiday that honors America’s Presidents – and that we celebrate each year on the 3rd Monday of February.

First, many people celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, February 14, although it was never a Federal holiday.

George Washington’s Birthday, which is officially on February 22nd, became a Federal holiday. However, the Federal holiday “Washington’s Birthday” takes place a little earlier, on the 3rd Monday in February.

Soon a decision was made to combine the birthday celebrations for our Presidents, so an unofficial holiday developed.

Since the holiday is not official, there is no official name for the day.  Sometimes it is written as the plural possessive Presidents’ Day and sometimes it is written as a plural noun, Presidents Day. Most of the time, however, it is written as the plural possessive Presidents’ Day – the Day belonging to the Presidents. I personally prefer this latter name.

To create the plural possessive, we do the following:

First, we add ~s to the noun (President –>Presidents). This makes it plural.

Then we add the apostrophe to that:  Presidents –> Presidents’

Then we add the noun “Day”.

On the unofficial holiday of Presidents’ Day, we remember the Father of Our Country, George Washington, and our 14th President, Abraham Lincoln, who established the unity of the United State of America, and the right of all men to be free.

Jan 162011

First of all, the holiday is “Martin Luther King Day” but the person we honor isn’t Martin Luther King but his son, Martin Luther King, Jr.

What does the “Jr.” after somebody’s name mean? What does it stand for? The “Jr.” stands for the word “Junior”, which is the appellation used when a son takes on his father’s name.

So who was Martin Luther King, Jr. (Junior)?

I grew up when racial segregation was still legal in many parts of the United States.  Though it wasn’t a part of the culture in the state where I grew up, it was a big part of the culture in many other states, particularly in the southern states.

In the 1960’s I started hearing about integration, referring to racial integration. We learned that in many states there were many public places where blacks could not enter, or if they could enter they had to sit separately from whites.  We learned that there were schools and colleges where blacks could not attend.  We learned of laws in many states where a black person and a white person could not marry.  We learned that many blacks were not allowed to vote in municipal, statewide or federal elections.

When we look around us now, in the United States, we see a very different country.  And much of that is due to the efforts and inspiration of one man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a politician; he was not an elected official. But he was a strong person, and he had strong ideals, and he was able to influence politicians and to gain the confidence of blacks and whites of all ages who believed in racial equality and equal opportunity for people of all races and who were willing to stand up for those ideals in a peaceful manner. He was able to bring people together and elevate a nation.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we celebrate those ideals and the power of one person to change a nation for the better.

Oct 242010

An interesting debate took place among English faculty at the college where I used to teach.  We faculty were looking at one of the students’ essays in my Easy Writer software and the following sentence created a stir among us:

There is just one day in a person’s life when he celebrates with a big wedding.”

We faculty looked at this sentence and each one had a different idea about how to edit it.

One faculty member, me, wanted to keep it as is.

Another suggested the following:

There is just one day in a person’s life when he or she celebrates with a big wedding.”

Another person suggested this:

There is just one day in a person’s life when they celebrate with a big wedding.

Somebody asked whether it was a male or female writing this essay; if it was a female, then the sentence should read as follows:

There is just one day in a person’s life when she celebrates with a big wedding.

But in my opinion this is incorrect because it implies that all people are female, and that only women get married!

There has been a debate in English circles about what pronoun reference (he? she? they? he or she?) to use with the noun “a person” or the pronoun “everybody“. Some English teachers will become very upset when the general pronoun “he” is used.  Now and then you’ll notice a writer has avoided choosing a gender (the male “he” or the female “she“) by choosing the plural pronoun “they“.  But we know that the pronoun must agree in “number” with its noun or pronoun antecedent, and that because “a person” is singular and “everybody” is singular, the plural pronoun “they is incorrect.

I’ve seen some students write “he/she”, which is even worse and you will never find this in professional writing.

Call me sexist, call me conservative, call me old-fashioned, but our language has used “he” as a pronoun reference for “a person” and for “everybody” for ages, and frankly what’s more important to me is how people are treated, not what pronoun reference we use in writing. As long as English used “he” as a general reference and people were not confused about it, I don’t see why we should start becoming confused now!

Besides, now we can argue about which gender, male or female, should be listed first:  Should you write “he or she” or “she or he”?

So what should you use when writing? I’m recommending that you use the good old “neutral pronoun “he” in an essay – unless you have a professor who really objects.

And what about our Easy Writer software? Well, it will accept “he or she” and it will also accept “he”.   It’s very accepting!

Oct 192010

Is it difficult for you to find your way around the computer keyboard in English?

This blog post is Part Two of our look at the English language keyboard used here in the United States. Today we’ll look at the right side of the main cluster of keys. (Click here for Part 1.)

First on the top row we have the backspace key.

The backspace key deletes what you’ve typed, one keystroke at a time.
one stroke at a time
one stroke at a tim
one stroke at a ti
one stroke at a t

and so on.

Next we have the back slash ( \ ) key. You use this key when you are designating file locations on your computer: c:\myeslblog\thekeyboard.doc  or c:\myeslblog\thekeyboard.pdf.

Beneath the backslash key, you have the Enter key. When you use the Enter key alone, it returns you two lines down (i.e. double space).

like this.

and this.

When you use the Enter key and the Shift key at the same time, it returns you one line down.
like this.
or this.

On the bottom row you have the Shift key, again, just like on the right side of the keyboard.  The shift key, again, creates CAPITAL LETTERS or, in terms of the top row of the keyboard, &)&&((#$@%^%&+_), the symbols on the tops of the keys.

Below is a review of the vocabulary used in this blog post:

Now I’ll list our vocabulary:

(to) backspace, the backspace key

backslash      \

(to) enter/to hit the enter key

(to) shift/(to) hit the shift key

(to) return

(to) hit the shift key

So that’s PART TWO of today’s lesson, Navigating the Computer Keyboard in English!

We will complete the keyboard in subsequent lessons. Continue reading »

Oct 122010

Are you having trouble expressing your computer-literate self in English?  One summer my husband and I traveled to Spain and found our hotel internet to be down.  So we went to some of the public internet sites that abound.  I had so much difficulty knowing how to navigate my way around the keyboard. The language on the keys was different.  Even the keyboard was different from the American keyboard: keys were in different places than I was accustomed to!

So let’s take a look at the English language keyboard used here in the United States and let’s learn what everything is.  We’ll begin with the left side of the keyboard.

The top left key that says “Esc” is for “ESCAPE“. You use this key to escape from any bad situations. Be careful, because this might close any programs that you have running. We use this word “escape” as a noun (he planned his escape), as an adjective (the escape route), and as a verb (he escaped).

On the left, you have the “Tab” key. The “tab” key moves a certain number of predetermined spaces to the right each time you hit, or click, it. We use this as a verb (to tab over to a certain point).

Beneath that, you have the “Caps Lock” key. “Caps” stands for “capitals” and it locks the capital letters into place.

Beneath that, you have the “Shift” key.  Pressing this alternates your letters between small letters and capital letters (small letters and “caps”) and alternates the number row between the numerals and the symbols (such as the numeral 2 and the symbol @, or the numeral 8 and the symbol *). “Shift” is also a verb: You shift between capital letters and small letters.

Beneath the “Shift” key you have the “Control” key. You use the Control key together with another key to perform some function that you desire. For example, if you select some text or an image, then press the Control key and the “C” key together, you will COPY the text you have selected onto your notepad, which you can then paste onto something else.

Below is a review of the vocabulary used in this blog post:

Now I’ll list our vocabulary:

(to be) down
(to) escape
(to) close a program
(to) run/(to) have running
(to) tab/(to) tab over to…
(to) lock
caps/capital letters
(to) shift
(to) alternate

So that’s PART 1 of today’s lesson, Navigating the Computer Keyboard in English!

We will complete the keyboard in subsequent lessons.