Joe’s Cafe

Personal blog of EnglishClub founder Joe Essberger with Curiosities, Discussion, Poetry, Quotations, Reading, and Vocab on the menu.

PANdemics and Other PANs
Josef Essberger
PANdemic, PANorama, PAN-American and more

The Monkey’s Disgrace
Josef Essberger
Human evolution from a monkey perspective

Get it?
Josef Essberger
get [something] (verb): receive, contract (a disease); understand – and many more meanings

The Queen’s Coronavirus broadcast: ‘We will meet again’
Josef Essberger
In a rare speech, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II delivers a special message to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth during the coronavirus pandemic; and echoes the words of Vera Lynn’s wartime song, ‘We will meet again.’

Stuck at home?
Josef Essberger
Here’s something you could do if you’re stuck at home, in a single room.

To panic, or not to panic? That is the question
Josef Essberger
What do YOU think?^^

Farewell to Holland
Josef Essberger
2020 should lay to rest the qualms of many English-speaking people over the exact name of that European country between Belgium and the North Sea—the one that’s famous for being low and flat (below sea-level in places) and for growing tulips. Is it Holland? Or Netherlands (or maybe “the Netherlands”)? We know they speak Dutch, […]

Santa Comes a Cropper
Josef Essberger
Santa (proper noun): short for Santa Claus; another term for Father Christmas to come a cropper: (informal British idiom) fall heavily; suffer a disaster

Filler Phrases that Give You Time
Josef Essberger
The fact of the matter is that sometimes you need time to think.

English to remain official EU language
Josef Essberger
EU diplomats have decided to keep English as an official and working EU language. So even if the home of English goes, the language of English will stay

A Light-Year is a Measure of Distance, not Time
Josef Essberger
Superb demo by NASA

What’s your New Year’s Resolution 2019?
Josef Essberger
New year, new start. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for the coming year?

Queen’s English
Josef Essberger
How it’s spoken…

Should Facebook control what art you see?
Josef Essberger
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a European artist who lived from 1577 to 1640. He is world-famous for his paintings, many of which include nude and semi-naked people and cherubs. Rubens’ works of nudity are displayed in museums and art galleries all over the world, but one place where you cannot see them is on […]

I am not a number
Josef Essberger
I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered…

Discuss: How would you give away $1,000,000?
Josef Essberger
Imagine this: somebody gives you $1 million on condition that you donate it anonymously to a stranger or to a good cause of your choice. What would you do? How would you dispose of it? (Please leave your ideas in the Comments box below ↓) on condition that (phrase): with the stipulation that donate (verb): […]

Discuss: Where would you go?
Josef Essberger
Let’s suppose you can take a one-month trip anywhere in the world. Money is not a consideration. Where would you go? And what would you do? (Please leave your ideas in the Comments box below ↓) suppose (verb): think or assume that something is true; imagine a trip (noun): a journey; a holiday a consideration (noun): […]

Discuss: Do you believe in ghosts? Would you sleep in a haunted house?
Josef Essberger
Do you believe in ghosts or evil spirits? Would you be prepared to spend a night alone in a remote, allegedly haunted house? (Please leave your ideas in the Comments box below ↓) ghost (noun): the spirit of a dead person, which appears to living people evil spirit (noun): a bad ghost; a ghost with […]

Discuss: Can you give me some money to buy a train ticket—please?
Josef Essberger
You are approached in the street by a well-dressed man who says that he has lost his wallet. He asks politely and apologetically if you could give him $12.85 to buy a train ticket. What do you do? (Please leave your ideas in the Comments box below ↓) approach (verb): come near; walk up to wallet […]

Non-Smoking Flight
Josef Essberger

Superlistening – The BUWOG Affair
Josef Essberger
Here’s a superstory about supercorruption in superclean Europe. Supersound makes for superlistening practice. Great English-language voiceover. I recommend this video for general listening practice. The English is clear, well pronounced and reasonably slow. The video is a graphic novel that explains “the BUWOG Affair”—one of the biggest cases of corruption in Europe. Teachers may like […]

Nothing New in Fake News
Josef Essberger
Fake news has been a weapon of war among other things for millennia.

Emancipated Marionette
Josef Essberger
Picture by my talented Viennese cousin Univ. Prof. Dr. Peter Heilig, who writes: Marionette (from the French meaning little Mary): We all function sometimes like marionettes—under the control of a marionettist. Depicted: emancipated marionette—free from control, free from bondage, free from any influence—just free—on its own… marionette (noun): puppet controlled by strings function (verb): work, operate […]

Your own personal staff. Which will you choose?
Josef Essberger
Imagine that you win a contest and the 1st prize (free for 1 year) is your own personal secretary driver butler cook housekeeper OR masseuse Which will you choose? And why?!! You can tell us your ideas in the comment box below ↓ 🙂

The Laughing English Teacher
Josef Essberger
I’ve got an English teacher, he always takes our class A fat old jolly red-faced man, he gives us all a pass He’s too kind for a teacher, he never has a rule And everybody says he is the happiest man in school. He laughs when giving homework, he laughs and doesn’t teach He laughs […]

Autophagy of a Black Hole
Josef Essberger
Picture by my Viennese cousin Univ. Prof. Dr. Peter Heilig, who writes: “The story goes back to the days, when the experts proclaimed: ‘Nothing escapes from a black hole’. So I put this statement in question. In a thought experiment a blacke hole might engulf itself – like the legendary ourobouros – of course it […]

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor
Josef Essberger
I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor — that’s not my business — I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

What’s the Joke?
Josef Essberger
What’s an ATM? What’s a PIN? What’s a pedant? What’s the joke?

New Mural Celebrates Amazing Leicester City’s Thai Links
Josef Essberger
The surprise winners of the 2015–16 Premier League in the UK were Leicester City Football Club. A surprise, that is, to all except Buddhist monk Phra Prommangkalachan who predicted it, despite Leicester City’s 5000-1 odds of winning at the start of the season. Leicester City’s Thai owner is Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who invited Phra Prommangkalachan — the […]

Trumpxit
Josef Essberger
With the election of Donald Trump as the next US president, the term Trumpxit is added to the Brexit lexicon, sharing as the US election and British referendum do the same misreading of the electorate by an establishment of media personnel, government officials, experts and data-driven pollsters.

Your New Year’s Resolutions for 2016
Josef Essberger
What’s your main New Year’s resolution for 2016?

Colour of the Year 2016
Josef Essberger
Here is the Colour of the Year for 2016 chosen by paint company Benjamin Moore: It’s WHITE 🙂 Which raises two questions: Is white a colour? What’s YOUR colour of the year? Please leave your answers in the comment box below. Thanks!

Change the World
Josef Essberger
What is this advertisement trying to say? It appears to show two different “worlds”, but which should be changing to which? Should they both be changing to something else? Please give your views about the implications of the photograph. Why? What? Where? When? How? extreme (adjective): to the greatest degree; very great; very severe; very […]

Migrants or Refugees?
Josef Essberger
Europe’s politicians don’t seem to know the difference between a migrant and a refugee.

Hiroshima 80000 / Nagasaki 40000
Josef Essberger
A tale of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – one day 80,000 civilians, another day 40,000 civilians—killed

Veni, vidi, vici
Josef Essberger
Watch as Hillary Clinton abuses Julius Caesar’s famous words “Veni, vidi, vici” with her own.

Who would you have dinner with?
Josef Essberger
Imagine that you could have ONE dinner with any ONE person in the world — rich or poor, famous or unknown etc. Who would you choose? Please give your reasons!

Is the world better or worse today?
Josef Essberger
Do you think the world today is better or worse than it was 100 years ago? And will it be better or worse 100 years from now?

What would you take to a desert island?
Josef Essberger
You have to stay alone on an uninhabited desert island for a year. But you can take five things of your choice (no animals). What five things would you choose to take with you and why? uninhabited (adjective): without inhabitants; with nobody living there desert island (noun): a small tropical island in the middle of the […]

Would you choose the Future or Past?
Josef Essberger
Somebody locks you in a time-machine and you have to go forward (the future) or backward (the past). You will never come back to “now”. You can go any length of time, one day, a thousand years, a million years… Which would you choose? Future or past? And why? Please leave your comments below 🙂 […]

Would you like to be famous?
Josef Essberger
Would you like to be famous? And what would you like to be famous for? If achieving fame meant that you would lose all your friends, would you still want to be famous? Please leave your comments below 🙂 famous (adjective): known by many people achieve (verb): successfully get or reach fame (noun): the state of […]

House or home?
Josef Essberger
These two words may seem alike but actually they have rather different meanings. A house is a building that people live in. It stands on its own land (unlike, say, an apartment or flat) and often has a garden. It may be detached (not joined to another house), semi-detached (joined to one other house), or […]

What Are Your New Year Resolutions for 2015?
Josef Essberger
resolve (verb): decide firmly to do or not to do something (for example: He resolved to discuss the matter with his boss.) resolution (noun): a firm decision to do or not to do something (for example: He never regretted his resolution to stop drinking.) 2015 is upon us. Pray tell us. What have you “resolved” to […]

What to call the UK if Scotland independent?
Josef Essberger
On Thursday 18th September 2014, the people of Scotland will hold a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country. Currently, and for more than 300 years, Scotland has formed part of the UK, whose full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain comprises England, Scotland and Wales. […]

Do you have any New Year Resolutions for 2014?
Josef Essberger
For 2013 there were nearly 500 answers to a similar question. Have you kept those resolutions, and what do you plan to do this coming year?

What’s this guy got to do with English?
Josef Essberger
This guy is “Guy Fawkes“, and English was his mother tongue. His death is gruesomely celebrated in England every 5th November when ordinary people mindlessly burn effigies of him on bonfires. What did Guy Fawkes do to deserve such venom? He plotted with others to assassinate the king of England (and of Scotland) by blowing up Parliament […]

Organic or Conventional? WT*?
Josef Essberger
I was intrigued to read about research into what fruit flies think of organic food. Apparently they like it: “By nearly every measure, including fertility, stress resistance and longevity, flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes fared better than those who dined on conventionally raised produce.”

How many “slugs” do you see here?
Josef Essberger
How many uses of the word “slug” do you see above? Can you write one sentence for each in the comment box below? illustration courtesy Andy Singer

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2013?
Josef Essberger
When we “resolve” to do something, we decide firmly to do it. It’s like a promise to ourselves. The verb is “resolve” and the noun is “resolution”. Typically, at the start of each year, people make New Year’s Resolutions such as:

How many ‘scales’ can you see here?
Josef Essberger
How many uses of the word “scale” do you see

How many waves do you know?
Josef Essberger
Can you make one sentence for each of the four

The Chapel
Josef Essberger
She was walking lazily, for the fierce April sun was directly overhead. Her umbrella blocked its rays but nothing blocked the heat – the sort of raw, wild heat that crushes you with its energy. A few buffalo were tethered under coconuts, browsing the parched verges. Occasionally a car went past, leaving its treads in […]

The three rings of marriage
Josef Essberger
“There are three rings involved with marriage. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.” Woody Allen (1935-) American actor, comedian and director Wordchecker ring (noun): a small, round, metal band that you wear on your finger involved with: connected to engagement ring (noun): a ring that a man gives to a woman when they decide to […]

The chain of marriage
Josef Essberger
“Marriage is a chain so heavy that it takes two people to carry it – sometimes three.” Variously attributed to Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) French writer and Alexandre Dumas (son) (1824-1879) French writer Original: Les chaînes du mariage sont si lourdes qu’il faut être deux pour les porter; quelquefois trois. Wordchecker chain (noun): a series of connected metal links […]

Better to have loved and lost?
Josef Essberger
I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all. (By Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809–1892) What do YOU think? Is it better to have loved and lost? Or is it better never to have loved at all? Wordchecker […]

Have you ever seen a ghost?
Josef Essberger
Where? What? When? Who?

If you ruled the world…
Josef Essberger
If YOU were the master of the universe for one week, what would you do?

Who would you like to be today?
Josef Essberger
If you could change for one day and be anybody on earth (present or historical), who would it be? And why?

What do you think you were in your last life?
Josef Essberger
?!

We are all basically selfish
Josef Essberger
What do you think about this statement: “We are all basically selfish“? Is it true? At the end of the day, are we all only interested in ourselves? Or are some people genuinely selfless and altruistic? Wordchecker selfish (adjective): having no consideration for other people; being interested in one’s own personal well-being, profit or pleasure […]

What abbreviations and acronyms do you know?
Josef Essberger
An abbreviation is something like “Dr” or “Dr.” for “Doctor”, or “Ltd” or “Ltd.” for “Limited”. An acronym is made from the First Letters of other words, for example “NASA” for “National Aeronautics and Space Administration”, or “laser” for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. What abbreviations and acronyms do you know?

Alcohol should be illegal
Josef Essberger
“ALCOHOL SHOULD BE ILLEGAL.” ???????????!!!!!!!!!! What do you think about THAT?!

Mobile Phones Dangerous?
Josef Essberger
Some scientists now say that mobile phones are dangerous and may damage our brains or cause cancer. But not all scientists agree. What do you think?

footer versus footnote
Josef Essberger
A reader writes: “Is the word ‘footer’, now used in documents and written on one of your pages, a correct English word? I think it was created by Microsoft, and I believe the word ‘footnote’ would be more appropriate.” Let’s try to clear this up. I’m not sure whether the word “footer” was coined by […]

Everything will be OK
Josef Essberger
Just how much this post-riots message of hope in 21st-century Bangkok draws upon the similarly repetitive 14th-century “All shall be well” by Julian of

The Prophet ~ Children
Josef Essberger
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children. And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not

specially or especially?
Josef Essberger
Many people wonder if there is a difference between the adverbs “specially” and “especially”. Even native speakers aren’t always sure how to use them. In some cases they can actually mean the same thing, especially in informal speech. However, for the sake of simplicity, here are the basic differences

cannot or can not?
Josef Essberger
People often ask me whether they should write cannot (1 word) or can not (2 words).

Saying of the Day
Josef Essberger
A saying is a short, clever expression that usually contains advice or expresses some obvious truth. Many traditional sayings are still in general use today.

How long is a question?
Josef Essberger
Today I was asked a question that at first sight seems very much like the famous “How long is a piece of string?” question. “How long is a piece of string?” is something that people say when asked a question and they want to answer “It depends”, “It depends on the situation”, “It depends on […]

The Very Unnaughty Noughties
Josef Essberger
In previous centuries each decade has generally had a label based on its numerical value: 1950-1959: The Fifties 1960-1969: The Sixties 1970-1979: The Seventies 1980-1989: The Eighties 1990-1999: The Nineties

End of a decade?
Josef Essberger
A decade? You guessed it – something to do with 10. Several words with “dec” relate to 10, coming from the Greek “deka” for “ten”. A decapod is an animal with 10 legs. A decahedron is a solid with 10 surfaces. A decathlon is an athletic contests with 10 events. Even December – it’s the […]

Idiom of the Day
Josef Essberger
An idiom is a group of words in current usage having a meaning that is not deducible from those of the individual words. For example, “to rain cats and dogs” – which means “to rain very heavily” – is an idiom; and “over the moon” – which means

current versus contemporary
Josef Essberger
These two words are very similar some of the time, but can also be very different. current is an adjective that means “belonging to the present time, happening

World’s largest English-speaking country?
Josef Essberger
USA? Think again 🙂

The King is dead. Long live the King!
Josef Essberger
I received the following question from Jeanette about using capitals: “I am a writer and always have problems with the following: ‘The king is dead. Long live King Edward.’ ‘She told me Captain Lorca read the book. The captain could read.’ I am referring to the same king in the first sentence, and to the […]

Manners
Josef Essberger
“It is possible to be born an aristocrat without ever becoming a gentleman.” (Nicholas Ridley)

Life
Josef Essberger
“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” (John Lennon)

Divorce
Josef Essberger
“Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little.” (Dr Johnson on divorce laws)

The Oxford Secret
Josef Essberger
“It is a secret in the Oxford sense. You may tell it to only one person at a time.” (Lord Franks)

Meeting the eye
Josef Essberger
“There is less to him than meets the eye.” (Tallulah Bankhead) The normal expression is “there is more to something/somebody than meets the eye”, meaning that the thing or person is deeper than surface appearances suggest.

Arguing with a woman
Josef Essberger
“Arguing with a woman is like trying to fold the airmail edition of The Times in a high wind.” (Lord Mancroft) The Times is a newspaper. It used to be large format (ie, it had very large pages). The airmail edition was printed on very thin, light-weight paper.

Advice on reviewing books
Josef Essberger
“I never read a book before reviewing it. It prejudices a man so.” (Sydney Smith)

Do come again
Josef Essberger
“You must come again when you have less time.” (Walter Sickert to Denton Welch)

When words lose their meaning
Josef Essberger
“When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom” (Confucius)

The R Word
Josef Essberger
In these times of apparent worldwide economic gloom and despair emanating from the collapse of the USA’s financial system, you may have heard reference on TV or elsewhere to the R word. What on earth is the R word? Sometimes it is difficult for people to accept facts.  At such times, there may be certain […]

optimum or optimal?
Josef Essberger
Is there a difference between optimum and optimal? As adjectives, they have the same meaning: best; most favourable; most conducive to a good result They both come from the Latin optimus, meaning “best”. Look at these examples: What is the optimum/optimal childbearing age? We need to find the optimal/optimum solution. In our case, the optimum/optimal […]

The Winepress
Josef Essberger
“You don’t have to be French to enjoy a decent red wine,” Charles Jousselin de Gruse used to tell his foreign guests whenever he entertained them in Paris. “But you do have to be French to recognize one,” he would add with a laugh. After a lifetime in the French diplomatic corps, the Count de […]

practical or practicable?
Josef Essberger
Let’s try to understand the difference between these two words. practical (adjective): useful and suitable for a particular purpose I love your kitchen. It’s really practical. Everything is in the right place, and at the right height. practicable (adjective):  able to be done; can be put into practice Your idea about making a new car […]

presume or assume?
Josef Essberger
People are often unsure about the difference between these two words. Indeed, they are very close in meaning. to presume something (verb):  to believe something to be true, but without being 100% sure I presume you’ll come to my party. (I’ll be surprised if you don’t come, but I’ll accept your decision.) to assume something […]

“near miss”, “cause”
Josef Essberger
Today we will look at two different terms: “near miss” and “cause”. We will use a short video to understand their meanings. In the video you will see Muntazer al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, throwing both his shoes at the US president, George Bush Jnr. The journalist throws his shoes quite accurately, but the shoes don’t […]

Smiling Moon
Josef Essberger
What can it mean? The Moon is smiling over Thailand. Here are two pictures I took tonight 1st December around 7pm in Bangkok. Have YOU have seen a smiling moon? What do YOU think it means?!

e.g. or i.e. ?
Josef Essberger
People often confuse these two abbreviations. e.g. means “for example”. (It comes from the Latin exempli gratia “for the sake of an example”.) Some foods are good for us to eat (e.g. fruit, fish, vegetables). Other foods are bad, or should be eaten in moderation (e.g. fatty foods, foods with additives, sugary foods). i.e. means […]

nosedive
Josef Essberger
You may have seen those scary headlines in financial papers, or on TV: “Markets nosedive” What does “nosedive” mean? These two pictures should make it clear. The first one shows an aircraft nosediving. The second one is a chart of a stock that opened at $90 at 9am and then nosedived between 3pm and 4pm […]

New dollar bill
Josef Essberger
To support the bailout of AIG, Lehman, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac the US Treasury Department has issued a new one dollar bill…

Another bank, another bailout
Josef Essberger
So the joke going round the financial centres these days is “You’re not a bank unless you’ve had a government bailout.” The UK, Europe, USA, Japan, now South Korea…they’re all bailing out the banks. To the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars for each region, trillions globally. But just what do bail out and […]

So just how big is a trillion anyway?
Josef Essberger
With all these trillions of dollars that banks have misplaced and central banks are throwing around, it’s getting difficult to keep track of the money. We used to talk in terms of millions, and sometimes billions. But these amounts now seem somehow inadequate, paltry almost. The new paradigm is trillion (preferably in pounds, but even […]

Willful panic
Josef Essberger
Watching CNN (or one of the other cable channels endlessly broadcasting the end of the world as capitalism knows it) I heard one of the “expert commentators” describe last Thursday’s sell-off on the London Stock Exchange as “a bloodbath – sheer, unadulterated, willful panic”. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with “willful panic”? Please add […]

College Entrance Exam
Josef Essberger
Time allowed: 1 minute Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll down for the answer… Scroll […]

What is “Wall Street meltdown”?
Josef Essberger
The word “meltdown” is being bandied about a lot in relation to the current Wall Street crisis. What does it mean? Let’s look at melt first. Melt is a verb: to melt. It means to change from solid to liquid, usually because of heat. So if you put an ice-cube outside in the sun it […]

7 of my Favourite Quotations
Josef Essberger
A “quotation” is usually a short text – perhaps one or two sentences – written or spoken by one (usually famous) person and often repeated or at least known by others. Here are 7 of my favourite quotations, arranged (loosely) from humorous to serious. Have a look at them and try to understand them. You […]

How do you use the Internet?
Josef Essberger
How do you use the Internet? What do you do? How often? Why? Do you mainly use the Internet to play games, find friends, learn online, shop online…? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet? Do you have any tips and suggestions you would like to give others?

Morality Test
Josef Essberger
This test only has one question, but it’s a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous. Please scroll down slowly […]

Why do people write 0:00AM? What does it mean?
Josef Essberger
Or sometimes they write 0:00PM. Or even 12:00AM. Or 12:00PM. I mean…what do they mean? Is it midnight or noon? I mean, AM means before noon, right? And PM means

Principle or principal?
Josef Essberger
Here are two more words that sound exactly the same but have different meanings.

Discreet or discrete?
Josef Essberger
These two words sound exactly the same but have different meanings

Some seek knowledge
Josef Essberger
“Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge – and that is curiosity. Some seek knowledge that they may be known to have knowledge – and that is vanity. Some seek knowledge that they may give to others their knowledge – and that is charity.” Bernard of Clairveaux Saint Bernard of Clairveaux was a French […]

I shall not pass this way again
Josef Essberger
I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature,

April Fool’s Day
Josef Essberger
April 1st is called April Fool’s Day in English, and it’s a day when people play jokes on other people. They can be small, personal jokes or tricks, or big “industrial-size” hoaxes by newspapers or television channels like the BBC.

Swiss Spaghetti Harvest Hoax
Josef Essberger
Below is probably the most classic April Fool’s Day hoax of all time. On April 1st, 1957 the BBC ran a short programme about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland, showing spaghetti growing on trees. Many people believed the programme and phoned in to ask how they could grow their own “spaghetti tree”.

I wish I loved the Human Race
Josef Essberger
I wish I loved the Human Race; I wish I loved its silly face;

How many words in Shakespeare?
Josef Essberger
Several sources claim that Shakespeare used nearly 30,000 different words in his works. However, we need to ask what we mean by “different words”. Is it reasonable to count go and going and gone as three different words? If we count go and going and gone as one word (GO), then Shakespeare used fewer than […]

What is it?
Josef Essberger
Riddles are short poems or texts that ask a question that seems difficult to answer. The following famous riddle by Catherine Fanshawe is talking about something, but what is it?

Best holiday
Josef Essberger
Tell us about the best vacation (holiday) you’ve ever taken. Where did you go? Why did you like it?

Perfect age?
Josef Essberger
What do you think is the perfect age? Why?

7 That’s in a row
Josef Essberger
What’s the most times you can repeat the same word consecutively in a sentence and still retain meaning? Here’s a sentence with 7 words in a row.

Next life
Josef Essberger
What would you like to be in your next life? Why?

The Billion Dollar Question
Josef Essberger
So how much is a billion? Answer: 1,000,000,000 (one thousand million) Sub-plot: In American English a billion is 1,000,000,000. In British English a billion used to be, and technically still may be, 1,000,000,000,000 (one million million); but in practical usage British English now treats a billion the same as American English does: 1,000,000,000. Nevertheless, a […]

What do you want to own?
Josef Essberger
If you could own one special thing, what would it be? Why?

Amzanig huh?
Josef Essberger
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid […]

Rainy day
Josef Essberger
What’s your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?

The quick brown fox…
Josef Essberger
What is special about the following sentence? The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. This sentence contains all 26 letters of the English alphabet and is (was?) used by typists to test their keyboards. Such a sentence is called a “pangram”.

Good book
Josef Essberger
Tell us about a book you are reading (or have read). What is its title? Who wrote it? What is it about? Why do you like it?

Around the World in 80 Days
Josef Essberger
If you had 80 days to travel around the world, where would you like to go? Where would you start? Tell us about the places you’d want to visit, how you would travel and who you would like to meet.

Joke
Josef Essberger
We all like to laugh at some time. And we all enjoy a good joke. Tell us a joke that makes you laugh.

New Year’s Resolution
Josef Essberger
At New Year (1st January) many people resolve or decide to do something or not do something. That is called a “New Year’s Resolution”. For example, they might resolve to do more exercise, or to stop smoking, or to work harder. What is your New Year’s Resolution be for 2008? And why?

My Favourite Food
Josef Essberger
Leave a comment to describe your favourite food. When do you eat it? Why do you like it?

Affect or effect?
Josef Essberger
These two words are often confused. They both have several meanings, but today we will look at their basic meaning of change. Affect is a verb, basically meaning: cause to change; make a difference to The cold weather affected my health. If you don’t study it will affect your exam results badly. How you dress […]

You already speak English
Josef Essberger
Here are some words we use in English that are also “international words” – you see and hear them almost everywhere. So even if you are starting to learn English, you already speak it! Like many words in English, some of these words have been “borrowed” from other languages. hello football telephone, phone hotel taxi […]

Quiz: Collective Nouns
Josef Essberger
Can you put each of these collective nouns in the right sentence below? You must use each noun once only. pack | herd | fleet | suite | audience | crowd 1. The farmer moved his __________ of cows to higher ground to avoid the flood. 2. The President and his staff had a __________ […]

The Sick Rose
Josef Essberger
O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm, That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy; And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. William Blake 1757-1827 — So the question is: What is “the invisible worm that flies in the night”?

Advice or advise?
Josef Essberger
Advice is a noun: He did not accept my advice. Advise is a verb: The doctor advised her to stop work.

Stationery or stationary?
Josef Essberger
A stationer sells stationery (writing paper, envelopes and other office materials). You’ll find some envelopes in the stationery cupboard. Stationary is an adjective meaning “not moving”. The car hit a stationary bus.

Practice or practise?
Josef Essberger
In American English “practice” is a verb and a noun: I need more practice before I do the exam. Can I practice my English with you? In British English “practice” is a noun and the verb is “practise”: I need more practice before I do the exam. Can I practise my English with you?

Olympics in China
Josef Essberger
Next year the Olympics will be held in China. I noticed that they will start on 8th August. Then I thought: “Wow! The Chinese are very clever. They’re getting the games in their country on their LUCKY day.” I’m not sure if I’m right but I’m guessing that they engineered the games to start on […]

CAPITAL CRIME
Josef Essberger
WHEN I WAS A BOY, I LEARNED TO READ. BUT FIRST I LEARNED THE ALPHABET. AS YOU KNOW, THE ENGLISH ALPHABET HAS SMALL (abc) AND LARGE (ABC) LETTERS. THE LARGE LETTERS ARE CALLED “CAPITAL LETTERS”. GUESS WHICH LETTERS I LEARNED FIRST AS A YOUNG CHILD. SMALL LETTERS OR CAPITAL LETTERS? AND WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE ANYWAY […]

Consonant Strings
Josef Essberger
Normally, every syllable in English must have at least one vowel (or vowel sound). So it’s quite surprising to think that there are words with 5 or more consonants in a row. Here are a few words with 5-letter consonant strings: BIRTHPLACE, BREASTSTROKE, DOWNSTREAM, EIGHTHS, MATCHSTICK, NIGHTCLOTHES, NIGHTCLUB, NIGHTDRESS, STRENGTHS, THOUSANDTHS Here are two words […]

What is the third word?
Josef Essberger
Here’s a common puzzle: Think of words ending in “-gry”. “Angry” and “hungry” are two of them. There are only three words in the English language. What is the third word? The word is something that everyone uses every day. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is.

Do I write its or it’s?
Josef Essberger
Actually, it’s very easy. It’s is always short for “it is” or “it has”. It is snowing. It’s snowing. It has finished. It’s finished. It has got 6 wheels. It’s got 6 wheels. Its means “belonging to it” and is a possessive pronoun like “his”. Turn the box on its side, Did you see its […]

100 commonest English words
Josef Essberger
Based on evidence from the billion-word Oxford English Corpus, Oxford have identified the hundred commonest English words found in writing globally: 1. the 2. be 3. to 4. of 5. and 6. a 7. in

Longest word in English
Josef Essberger
The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary quote “loccinaucinihilipilification” (29 letters) as the longest genuine word, followed by “antidisestablishmentarianism“ (28 letters). According to Oxford, although there are a few other words that are longer, they are mainly technical words or invented for the purpose. I can now reveal that in fact “smiles” is the longest […]

Anagrams
Josef Essberger
If we take the word DOG and change its letters around we can get GOD. That is an anagram – a word (or phrase) made by mixing up the letters of another word (or phrase). The DOG = GOD example is a very simple anagram. Another example would be CINEMA = ICEMAN. But the cleverest […]

Bimonthly
Josef Essberger
Here’s an economical word 😉 It means two mutually-exclusive thing at once: 1. twice a month 2. once every two months In fact, the meaning of “bimonthly” (and similar words like “biweekly” and “biyearly”) is ambiguous. The best way to be unambiguous is to use alternative expressions such as “twice a month” or “every two […]

World’s shortest poem in English
Josef Essberger
Fleas Adam Had ’em. (Anon.)