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Opening a can of worms

Worms are those little animals with no legs or arms, which I remember using as bait when my father took me fishing. I would not touch them, of course! They look disgusting! When we want to talk about a situation that brings out many other problems, we say it’s like opening a can of worms. […]

Knock, knock. Who’s there?

You may have heard one of these jokes in movies or series, they are a “call and response” type of joke. It starts when one person pretends to knock on a door and the other person (supposedly inside the fictional place) has to ask “who is there?” and the fun of it consists in having […]

Tongue twisters

Tongue twisters are challenging phrases that contain many hard to pronounce syllables or alternation of similar but distinct phonemes. They can be a used as a kind of word game because the speakers usually cannot articulate properly the words in a fast and clear manner, causing confusion and good laughs. They are also a good […]

When in Rome (part 2)

Latin is widely used in legal jargon all over the world. It’s not different in the USA. Some of the expressions have gone into mainstream culture. Latin expressions can be used to refer to academic life — when talking about former students, or Alumni; or the University you went to, your Alma Mater. It is […]

The die is cast

Suetonious warned Julius Caesar after he crossed the Rubicon, “The die is cast!” (alea iacta est!). The word “die” in this case means dice. These powerful events gave way to many expressions about dramatic decisions and facts that cannot be changed. There are other ways to say that, and some are very funny, like “The cat’s […]

When in Rome (part 1)

America loves Ancient Rome. You can see them in their country symbols — the eagle — and in the architecture of the nation’s capital. But there are other examples of the connections between Rome and the USA. One of my favorite examples comes from the expression “to cross the Delaware”. By Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 […]

Has the cat got your tongue?

After writing about “dog days”, I started thinking, are there “cat days”? Well, there aren’t, but there are many expressions involving “cats”. We have some which are similar to the ones we have in Portuguese, for example: “all cats are gray by night”, or “has the cat got your tongue?”. Others are just a little […]

Big Brother is watching you!

Cameras everywhere. People being monitored in every single action of their lives. Someone controlling everything everyone does. Does that sound familiar to you? No, this is not about that popular TV show. But it is somewhat related to it. Or should I say the other way around? The reality show got its name from the novel […]

Be prepared

Imagine you are visiting the US and someone offers you ‘a pop’. Would you know what that is? This situation happened to me when I first visited my husband’s host family in Nebraska. My first reaction was to smile. Then, I admitted that I really did not know what that was. A pop is what […]

Wedding Traditions – Part I

Wedding traditions vary all over the world. From Paris to Timbuktu, it is possible to learn a lot about some cultures just by knowing some of their wedding customs. Even though there are some common elements throughout the Western World, each country still preserves some specific customs. In the US, they don’t have “madrinhas” or […]

Wedding Vocabulary

Talking about weddings is also talking about new words that are used only in this context. Here are some very common vocabulary when we talk about it. First of all, when the man asks a woman to marry him, he can either “propose” or “pop the question“. After the “yes”, they become engaged or they […]

1337 sp34k

h3y, h4v3 y0u 3v3r 533n 50m30n3 7yp1n6 l1k3 7h15?   Could you read that sentence? That is called 1337 sp34k – leet speak. It originated back in the 1980’s Internet bulletin boards and became really popular in the end of the 1990’s and the beginning of the 2000’s. It was created by hackers to cryptograph […]

A grain of salt

Nowadays, salt has been made a villain by health specialists. Indeed, too much salt can be bad for your health, but the word has been part of our lives for millennia. For example, the origin of the word “salary” comes from the Latin word for “salt”. Roman soldiers were paid the equivalent of a certain […]

April is poetry month

This year, Americans and Canadians are celebrating their 20th and 18th anniversary of National Poetry Month, respectively. It is a initiative from the Academy of American Poets and the League of Canadian poets to increase awareness and nurture appreciation of poetry in their countries, but everyone is invited. It involves poets, publishers, booksellers, libraries and […]

The dog days are over

The other day I was listening to  Florence + The Machine’s catchy “The Dog Days are over” again. It’s such a great song to listen to when trying to get my mood up! It’s a real energy boost. But what does it mean? As an English learner, it’s usual to get curious about the meaning […]

It’s Easter time!

Easter is considered one of Christianity’s most important holidays. Eggs are possibly one of the most popular symbols associated with Easter. But why? First of all, eggs are said to symbolize fertility and renewal. For many years, eggs have been used to represent rebirth and new life. Another correlation made is that eating eggs – […]

Carnival & Stereotypes

February! Time for Brazilian people put on their shiniest carnival costumes and dance samba all week long, right? Right. For some of us. Stereotype is the result of believing that everybody in a particular group share the same characteristic/habit. This is such common practice that we do it without even noticing. Stereotypes have become a […]

Make your own word using prefixes – “over-“

When I first think of the word “over”, I remember Brazilian fashion experts talking about an outfit that is a little too extravagant. An American teenager might use the word to say that they are “done” with something, that they can’t take it anymore – “I’m so over high school!” But the most interesting thing about […]

Weddings, Marriage and Anniversaries

There is an important event coming up for me, my anniversary. Anniversary isn’t to commemorate the day I was born. That word is ‘birthday’. My anniversary is celebrating the day I got married. Many years ago, I met a woman. We started to date. While we were dating, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and in […]

Make your own word using portmanteaus

Do you know anyone who is just ‘adorkable’? The word has just been included in the Collins English Dictionary. A combination of “adorable” and “dork”, this word is a good example of the rise of the portmanteau.  Portmanteau is “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog)” (according […]

Not only for lovers

When I was growing up, my mother would always tell me that Valentine’s day was one of the scariest days for her in elementary school. She went to school in the US and she was usually the only Brazilian in her classroom. Why was it scary, you might think? Well, her teacher would ask every kid to […]

Learn English through songs!

Is it possible to improve your English skills through songs? Are songs effective language learning tools? The answer is YES! There is considerable scientific evidence that demonstrates how music can help learners improve grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Also, if you are constantly listening to music, this is going to be a win-win situation. Through songs, […]

A bit of Brazil everywhere in the English speaking world

There are Brazilian immigrants  everywhere throughout the world, it seems. If you go to London, for example, you may find a “churrascaria” and even a restaurant that sells “bife com batata frita”. But what I believe is the most interesting and comforting thing is being able to see similar traditions and habits across different cultures. For example, […]

Peppa Pig Can Help your English

This is a suggestion from a student of mine, and I think it’s great. If you have a young kid, you know that they love Peppa pig. They can watch it non-stop, and it never gets old to them. They just love it! Maybe you are not so fond of Peppa pig as your kids […]

Musical Instruments

One of my passions is music, especially classical music, and so I thought, “Why not share a bit of that with my readers, and at the same time introduce them to new vocabulary?” I would then like to introduce you to the world of musical instruments, specifically those that are used by a symphonic orchestra. […]

All Varieties of English Are Welcome

Picking up from where we left off, many students worry about their accent when speaking English. Some would like to have one closer to Americans; other would rather go towards British English. There are even those who think if you don’t make up your mind between which one to follow, you’ll end up not speaking […]

The World Cup in Brazil

Never has Brazil felt a World Cup so weirdly. In fact, the mix of a presidential election and the World Cup isn’t good. People in the country are in between being apathetic to necessarily happy. For example, putting a Brazilian flag on the car has become a demonstration of vote in the government. In addition, […]