Monthly Archives: October 2013

Trick or Treat

Halloween

You can’t be in the US without celebrating Halloween it seems, one way or another. Whether it’s going to a Halloween party with friends or sitting on your doorstep handing out candy to the kids who come by, Halloween is a pretty big deal for adults as well as children. There’s dressing up for the adults and trick-or-treating for the kids.

When you’re a kid, it’s fun to dress up and there’s a point that you can really believe that the spaghetti you’re putting your hands into is really human intestines, that the peeled grapes are human eyeballs. That haunted house really was scary at some point! (and maybe it still is…)

haunted house

And you know what was really scary? Taking a night time hayride and having crazy men jump out of the woods at you, screaming and brandishing chainsaws. Yes, that’s what we did in Texas. Terrifying.

Here is some vital vocabulary for talking about Halloween:

1. Pumpkins

As an adult, I would prefer to eat them rather than carve them and watch them rot, but still. Carving pumpkins was fun as a kid. Carved pumpkins, or jack-o-lanterns are lit from the inside with a small candle and can be put in your window or outside your front door. It makes for a nice effect on the street, especially when the carvings aren’t too scary.

pumpkin1

pumpkin2

2. Dressing up

Who doesn’t love to dress up? You’ve got to admit, babies are especially cute in their little pumpkin costumes.  You can do something crazy or just go for a traditional toned-down witch costume, like this one:

english lessons utrecht

3. Trick-or-treating

You basically go from door-to-door and ask people for candy, except that the magic word is no longer “please” but “if you don’t give me candy, I’ll play a (practical) joke on you/I’ll trick you.” And that’s what “Trick or Treat” means. It’s not very nice stuff, is it?

trick or treat

You can even sing:

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

Give me something good to eat!

Happy Halloween!

If you like this post and are interested in getting free English tips in your inbox, you might want to sign up for the newsletter!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Language Learning

Stylish writing in English: entertain

You can entertain in a lot of contexts outside of the entertainment industry. In academia, “entertain” is commonly used in the negative, as in “Late submissions will not be entertained.”

Entertain also means
a. To consider; contemplate: entertain an idea.
b. To hold in mind; harbor: He entertained few illusions.
english courses utrecht

You can entertain a thought or an idea.

Actually, you can entertain anything that you can choose to dedicate mental energy towards.

This is commonly used in the negative in academic or professional contexts, for example:

Late submissions will not be entertained.

Further complaints will not be entertained

Telephone inquiries will not be entertained.

This gives the feeling of “I will not deign to look at your late submissions, so don’t bother.”

If you found this post entertaining (or even just helpful) , you might want to sign up for the newsletter and get free English tips in your inbox!

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing in English

Real English: Let’s simplify legal jargon!

This TED video makes the case for intelligible writing in the legal industry AND in business. He addresses “how to mandate simplicity” “how to make it a national priority” and states, “there’s no way we should do business with companies that have agreements with stealth provisions and that are unintelligible.”

Tax forms, credit agreements, healthcare legislation: They’re crammed with gobbledygook, says Alan Siegel, and incomprehensibly long. He calls for a simple, sensible redesign — and plain English — to make legal paperwork intelligible to the rest of us.

A branding expert and one of the leading authorities on business communication, Alan Siegel wants to put plain English into legal documents for government and business.

Leave a comment

October 14, 2013 · 12:00 pm

Tricky words in English: Sure

One of my favorite dictionary blogs, Macmillan, posted about the meaning of sure:

I’m sure: the most usual way of saying that you are sure about something

via Macmillan Language Tip of the Week

You can be/feel sure of something: you’re certain, you know for sure.

However,

they didn’t address one of the meanings of sure that English language learners rarely learn, and one of the more common sources of confusion between native and non-native speakers.

english lessons utrecht

“I’m sure” only means “I’m certain” when you say it with conviction. “Sure” by itself doesn’t mean yes. When someone asks you a question and you answer “sure” without any inflection, you are actually saying “Whatever– I don’t know and I don’t care.” “Sure” is also frequently used sarcastically.

1. When used flat, without any inflection, “sure” is not an answer to a question, it is neither yes nor no. It says “I am totally uninterested.”

-Do you want to go to the Art Fair in Amsterdam?

-Sure.

-Well, you don’t have to go if you’re not interested.

2. When used sarcastically, it says “yeah, right, I don’t believe you.”

-I won the race last Sunday.

-Sure you did.

Urban dictionary defines sure as “the quickest way to answer a question when not paying attention that usually doesn’t include any thinking whatsoever,” “to show sarcasm, lack of interest,” among others.

As you can see, “sure” can mean much more than just certainty, and if you use it with the wrong tone of voice, you might be implying something you don’t necessarily mean.

If you like this post, you might want to sign up for the newsletter and get free English tips in your inbox!

Leave a comment

Filed under Language Learning