On today’s show, Mark and Jill discuss how they spent their weekend. They also answer some vocabulary questions that were posted on LingQ’s Ask Your Tutor forum.
Mark: Mark Kaufmann here again for the EnglishLingQ Podcast with Jill Soles, Jill?
Mark: What’s new today?
Jill: I hate that question.
Mark: You should be prepared, you know something’s coming.
Jill: But there’s really not a lot new, what can I say?
Mark: Over the weekend; nothing?
Jill: Not really anything. I mean I did some things on the weekend, but…
Mark: More Christmas shopping?
Jill: A little bit, but I’m mostly done.
No, I went to a production of Beauty and the Beast at one of the theaters in Vancouver.
Mark: Oh yeah.
Jill: I took my little nieces there and that was good; that was fun.
It was a long, so even for a 6 and 8 year old they were pretty fidgety and bouncing around in their chairs a lot by the last hour.
Mark: When I go to productions, I’m like that too.
Mark: Yes, I have that problem like at a show, right?
Jill: Ants in your pants?
Mark: Yeah, it’s tough; knees start to hurt.
Mark: I don’t have that problem at movies so much, but I’m just not a big production, live theater fan, so I can sympathize…
Jill: Yeah, well it was good though.
Mark: …with your nieces.
Jill: Yeah, but they’re 6 and 8; you should be able to control yourself.
Mark: I have to stand up; go to the bathroom.
Jill: Well there was an intermission, but it was quite long, I have to say.
I mean I was ready to leave when it was done too, but that was good.
And just got together with my family one night and had a big dinner with all my siblings and niece and nephew and mom and then last night got together with some good friends for dinner at a new French restaurant in Vancouver and that was very good.
Yeah, that’s about it.
Mark: That sounds pretty good.
Jill: It was a good weekend.
Mark: Myself, we didn’t get up to much. The kids had their sports events.
Jill: Are they on all week? Is there a break for Christmas at some point?
Mark: Yeah, yeah, although Kyle’s hockey seems to be on this week.
The soccer is done as of this past weekend, but he’s got a game on the 23rd, which is crazy.
Jill: That’s on Sunday.
Mark: I know. It’s like, what?
Jill: Oh wow.
Mark: I know, so they were trying to reschedule it, but apparently they didn’t, so Sunday at like 8 in the morning.
Jill: Well, I guess you get it over with so if you do still have lots of things to get ready for you’ve got the rest of the day.
Mark: Yeah, for sure.
Jill: It’s not at noon or something.
Mark: No, I know, I know.
I mean that’s the thing, at that time of year you’ve got events to go to and you’ve got to prepare for Christmas and shopping and, you know, whatever food you’ve got to buy for Christmas dinners and…
Mark: I do most of that stuff at home, that’s the thing, so I’m going to be busy.
Mark: Still, even for me it’s not ideal timing, but anyway he’ll be happy.
Jill: Yeah, he loves it, so.
Mark: For sure.
Other than that I didn’t get up to much.
I went snowshoeing with my dad yesterday, which was fun, up on the mountain.
Took our dog; he was quite excited in the snow.
Jill: I can imagine.
Mark: Quite the workout for him if he got off the trail where the snow is quite deep.
I mean he’s got four legs, but he’s working hard.
Mark: It’s kind of funny. Yeah, other than that…
Jill: You took it easy.
Mark: Took it easy, yeah.
Jill: Well that’s good too this time of year if you can actually manage to take it easy on a weekend and have downtime.
That’s a rare thing I think this time of year.
Mark: It is. What’s nice is — as the kids’ events stop happening — yeah, it’s funny how all of a sudden you’ve got lots of time on the weekend because usually we’re running around.
Jill: Yeah, from soccer to hockey to dancing.
Mark: It’s amazing; it’s amazing.
Other than that I thought today we could maybe pull a few examples off the forum; questions that our members have been asking on the Ask Your Tutor Forum and expand on them a little bit.
Jill: Good idea.
Mark: And so the first question was asked by Rosie.
She was asking about starting a sentence with “but”, which is a question that actually comes up fairly often because a lot of English teachers…and I know when I was a kid you were always told never begin a sentence with “but”.
Jill: And or but.
Mark: And or but.
Jill: Yeah, that’s right.
Mark: I’d get that wrong. You’d get that wrong, right? No, you can’t start a sentence with “and” or “but”.
Mark: But, you see that now.
Jill: You do, all over; writers, authors, people begin sentences with “and” or “but” all the time.
Mark: And the question is, why are you not allowed to start a sentence with “and” or “but”?
Somewhere along the line someone decided that was a rule.
But, you know, really, a lot of the time the first sentence really has ended and at least when you’re speaking you are starting a second sentence with “but” and really, what’s wrong with that?
Jill: Yeah, I’m not sure how it evolved, but I remember one English teacher in particular in high school hated it.
He hated “and” and “but” and he would say use, you know, “however”, “on the contrary”, “nevertheless”.
There are all these other transitional words you can use that are so much better than “and” or “but” and maybe just because they’re bigger words, I don’t know.
They sound more sophisticated and that’s fine.
It is good to use those words, but you can overdo it.
If you use those words constantly in one paragraph it sounds ridiculous too.
It’s totally redundant and it just doesn’t sound good to use them too often either.
And a lot of the time “and” or “but” is just fine, although for the rest of our conversation I’m going to try to use “nevertheless” as much as possible.
Jill: “On the other hand”; “however”.
So yeah, what I told Rosie is that now it is perfectly acceptable.
I know that some of our writing correctors will still correct that, will change it, if you do that in your writing.
Jill: That’s because they’ve been taught that way.
Mark: And, technically, maybe…I don’t know even what to say.
Technically, is it still wrong?
Jill: I don’t know.
Mark: I don’t know. You see it a lot. I mean the thing is language…
Mark: That’s right. It’s not fixed, so what’s for sure is you didn’t used to see “and” or “but” starting sentences at all 20 years ago.
Mark: You just didn’t see that and you see it now more and more.
Jill: I see it all the time.
Mark: All the time and it’s not going to go back the other way again.
Mark: Basically, that’s becoming…
Jill: …the norm.
Mark: And so, you may get that wrong in your corrections sometimes from some of our tutors; you may not.
I guess what we’re saying is don’t worry about it.
If you want to start your sentences with “and” or “but” go ahead.
Jill: Again, like with any of the other words, you shouldn’t use the same words over and over and over again, so if you have a paragraph that’s five sentences don’t begin three of them with “and” and “but”.
Jill: You know, try to have a variety in there, but I think it’s fine to start a sentence.
Mark: As I think about how I use “and or “but” or if I use them to start sentences, I probably try not to use them to start sentences that often, but if there’s a situation where I have to do that I have no problem doing it.
Mark: And so, I mean, maybe that’s a good rule of thumb.
Don’t make a habit of starting all your sentences with “and” or “but”.
Try to keep them…
Jill: …to a minimum, maybe…
Mark: …but if you have to it’s certainly not something to worry about.
Jill: Yeah, I agree.
Mark: With that, why don’t we move on to the next question and that was “the powers that be.” That was Serge asking about that phrase.
Jill: It’s quite interesting because I can understand why he would be confused and why anybody would not understand what that means; it’s kind of abstract.
I think it’s fairly useful.
It’s maybe not really common, but it’s still useful to know.
Mark: For sure.
It’s one of those phrases that you can’t understand just by understanding its constituent parts, individual words.
For whatever reason, those words put together mean a certain thing.
“The powers that be” refers to the people that are in charge; the people running things; the powers that be.
Jill: The people that are controlling everything.
It’s a fairly common expression and one that’s probably worth knowing anyway.
You don’t have to use it, but you want to understand it when you hear it.
Mark: Yeah, that’s basically all there is to it.
There’s no real explanation as to how it came to be or why it means what it does, but it refers to those in charge.
Jill: I think it was Rosie again.
Mark: Was it Rosie again?
Jill: I believe so.
Mark: That was asking about…
Jill: …sticking needles in your eyes?
Mark: Yes. I think on one of our previous podcasts you said “I think I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.” Not that you would rather stick needles in your eyes than be in a podcast with me.
Jill: Right, no.
Mark: It was referring to something else.
Jill: Rather than playing football in the snow; that’s what it was referring to.
And, I mean, of course too, like I said, I was being dramatic and I didn’t mean I would actually physically take needles and put them in my eyes; stick them in my eyes.
Mark: But it’s a nice image there to get your message across.
It was that you really don’t want to play football in the snow.
Jill: And I’d pretty much rather do anything else, even stick needles in my eyes.
Mark: That’s right.
Now having said that, I think probably you would be in the majority there.
The majority of people would rather not play football in the snow, but you’re all missing out.
Jill: I’ll take your word for it.
Mark: Yeah; yeah so.
Jill: There are so many different things you could say to mean the same thing that are very dramatic and you’re exaggerating.
My aunt…I have this aunt who’s very, very, funny and she’s quite witty.
One time she said to me and I mean it sounds kind of horrible, actually, and I can’t remember what we were talking about, but she said “Oh, I’d rather set myself on fire”, so it was the same idea.
Mark: Right and I think those kinds of expressions…or people say the same kinds of things I would assume in all languages just to make your point.
Very often you can understand what they mean even if you haven’t heard that expression before.
Jill: Right, the context.
Mark: Obviously, you’re not really going to stick needles in your eyes and light yourself on fire, but you’re trying to make a point.
Jill: That you really, really, don’t want to do something.
Mark: That’s right.
Jill: So yeah, and, actually, playing football in the snow would not be the worse thing in the world.
I mean I enjoy the snow and I love being in the fresh air, but with a bunch of men where I’m probably going to get maimed…
Mark: Not so many girls would really want to do that, no, no.
Mark: I wouldn’t expect it, yeah.
Jill: I’m glad you understand.
Mark: Yeah, that’s right.
Do we have time for one more?
I think we can probably wrap it up.
Should we just see what else?
We can see what else we’ve got…
Jill: … on the forum.
Mark: Yeah, “the nuts and bolts.”
Jill: Oh, that was something people asked about on The Linguist as well.
Mark: ‘Newalb’ is their user name.
I don’t know who that is, but asked a question about the expression “the nuts and bolts” of how to learn languages.
Jill: The basics.
I mean the “nuts and bolts” when you’re putting something together, a table or I don’t know, whatever, they’re the smallest part, right?
Jill: And they’re your building blocks. You start with the nuts and the bolts.
Jill: And you have to have to have those to actually put whatever furniture together you’re putting together.
Mark: So, it just refers to starting with the smallest pieces and sort of building from there.
Mark: In this case it refers to learning languages, but you hear that expression used in many different contexts.
Alright, well we’ll end there today and we will talk to you again…
Jill: …on Friday.