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Joe's Cafe

Personal blog of EnglishClub founder Josef Essberger - see Menu

A Light-Year is a Measure of Distance, not Time

NASA demonstrate in 1 minute 46 seconds just how far a light year is. Pretty far…

What’s your New Year’s Resolution 2019?

new year's resolution
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.)

New year, new start. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for the coming year? What have you resolved to do – or NOT to do? Did you keep your promises last year? 😇

  • Do you have a Goal?
  • Have you made a Plan?
  • Have you taken Action?

Please leave your ideas in the comments below!

Queen’s English

The Queen’s Speech at The Netherlands State Banquet held on 23 October 2018 at Buckingham Palace, London. A transcript of the speech is shown below.

Your Majesty,

Prince Charles and I are delighted to welcome you and Queen Máxima to Buckingham Palace this evening.

Through this State visit, we celebrate the enduring friendship which has enabled our two nations to prosper and grow, side by side, as trading partners, and as North Sea neighbours.  This visit also provides the opportunity for great happiness, and to welcome old friends to my home. Read on »

Should Facebook control what art you see?

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 Facebook where they are censored.

In the above video the social media police protect visitors to a Rubens art gallery from seeing paintings depicting nudity.

Do you agree with Facebook’s social media police?

Please leave your views about this important issue in the comments below!

I am not a number

I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.

For official purposes everyone has a number. Yours is number six.

I am not a number. I am a person.

Six of one, half-a-dozen of another.

Is this, is this what they did to you? Is this how they tried to break you…till they got what they were after? In your head must still be the remnants of a brain. In your heart must still be the desire to be a human being again.

This is the most serious breach of etiquette.

The Prisoner

file (verb): place in document box or folder in a special order
stamp (verb): impress with a rubber stamp (like a visa in a passport etc)
index (verb): make a list of names, subjects etc
brief (verb): instruct or inform (someone)
debrief (verb): question (someone, for example a soldier or spy) about a finished mission
half-a-dozen (noun): a dozen is 12, so half-a-dozen is 6
till (conjunction): until; up to the time that
remnants (noun): remains; residue; bits that remain
breach (noun): contravention; violation; failure to observe
etiquette (noun): code of behaviour

Are you a number?

Discuss: How would you give away $1,000,000?

EnglishClub Discussion Point

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): give (money or goods) to somebody in need or to a charity; give away
anonymously (adverb): in a way that nobody will know it came from you
stranger (noun): a person you do not know
a good cause (noun): a charity

Discuss: Where would you go?

EnglishClub Discussion Point

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): something you have to consider; a potential problem

Discuss: Do you believe in ghosts? Would you sleep in a haunted house?

EnglishClub Discussion Point

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 bad intentions
be prepared to (verb): be willing to; be ready to
remote (adjective): distant; situated far from houses and people
allegedly (adverb): supposedly; it’s what people say but there is no proof
haunted (adjective): lived in or occupied by a ghost or ghosts

Discuss: Can you give me some money to buy a train ticket—please?

EnglishClub Discussion Point

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 (noun): small case for money and credit cards
politely (adverb): with good manners
apologetically (adverb): in a way that shows somebody is sorry

Non-Smoking Flight

Non-Smoking Flight

Superlistening – The BUWOG Affair

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 to use it in class or for homework. If you create any worksheets to go with it, please let me know!

Please share your opinions in the comments below.

voiceover (noun): a piece of speaking in a film, without an image of the speaker
graphic novel (noun): a novel in comic-strip format, applied here to video
affair (noun): a situation that causes strong public feeling, usually of moral disapproval
corruption (noun): dishonest or fraudulent behaviour by people in power

Nothing New in Fake News

Fake Newsfake news (noun): false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting

Thus does dictionary publisher Collins define the term fake news, which they have named as Word of the Year for 2017.

Popularized more by President Donald Trump of the USA than by anyone else, fake news has been used 365% more in 2017 according to Collins. And indeed President Trump has made commenting about Fake News on Twitter something of a hobby.

Trump on Fake News - Twitter Read on »

Emancipated Marionette

emancipated marionette

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
marionettist (noun): a puppeteer who controls a marionette
emancipate (verb): set free
emancipated (adjective): free from legal, social or political restrictions; liberated
bondage (noun): the state of being a slave; the state of no freedom
influence (noun): the power to change someone’s character or behaviour

Your own personal staff. Which will you choose?

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 ↓ 🙂

butler Jeeves

The Laughing English Teacher

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 at everybody when they struggle with their speech
He never can stop laughing, he says he’s never tried
But once he did expel a guy, and laughed until he cried

His jolly face it wrinkled and then he shut his eyes
He opened his great mouth, it was a wondrous size
He said “I must expel you”, but he didn’t know what for
And then he started laughing until he hurt his jaw

So, if you chance to meet him, when walking round the school
Just shake him by his fat old hand and tell him he’s so cool
His eyes will beam and sparkle, he’ll gurgle with delight
And then you’ll start his laughing with all his blessed might.

Adapted from The Laughing Policeman, a 1920s song by Charles Jolly

Autophagy of a Black Hole

Autophagy of a Black Hole by Univ. Prof. Dr. Peter Heilig

Autophagy of a Black Hole by Univ. Prof. Dr. Peter Heilig

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 can not hold the %&$§’.. My experts – (CERN, Astronomy, Physics) had their fun. The drawing was dedicated to Felicitas Pauss (Austrian expert at CERN). Latin: Autophagia foraminis nigris”

Wierd! Or is it Weird? What do you make of that?!!

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor

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. Read on »

What’s the Joke?


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

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.

Buddhist monk mural celebrating football team Leicester City's Premier League title triumph

Buddhist monk mural in Leicester, UK, celebrating football team Leicester City’s Premier League title triumph. Did Phra Prommangkalachan’s blessings play a role in Leicester’s shock victory?

Leicester City’s Thai owner is Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who invited Phra Prommangkalachan — the prior at Wat Traimit Withayaram Woraviharn (Golden Buddha) Temple in Bangkok’s Chinatown district — to offer spiritual support.

mural (noun): a painting on a wall
predict (verb): say in advance; foretell; prophesy
5000-1 odds: chances of winning (in betting, with a bet of £1 you would win £5000 if you bet right)
prior (noun): assistant abbott


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

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.)

New year, new start. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for the coming year? What have you resolved to do – or not to do? Did you keep your promises last year?

Colour of the Year 2016

Here is the Colour of the Year for 2016 chosen by paint company Benjamin Moore:

It’s WHITE 🙂

Which raises two questions:

  1. Is white a colour?
  2. What’s YOUR colour of the year?

Please leave your answers in the comment box below. Thanks!

Change the World

Change the World
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 serious
poverty (noun): the state of being very, very poor; the state of being extremely poor
inequality (noun): difference in size or amount
combat (verb): fight
do your part (phrase): participate; help
implication (noun): a conclusion that you can draw from something even though it is not actually stated

Ad links to: Shown here as “fair use” for educational purposes.

Migrants or Refugees?

As thousands of people from the war-torn regions of the Middle-East (Syria, Iraq…) and North Africa (Libya…) cross the Mediterranean Sea to seek safety in Europe, the European media and politicians struggle to avoid using the term refugees and instead label them migrants. But what’s the difference?

migrants or refugees?


Birds migrate. The verb migrate simply means to move from one region to another. In the case of birds it is to find a suitable habitat (living space) according to the season. In the case of humans, it is usually to find Read on »

Hiroshima 80000 / Nagasaki 40000

A Tale of Two Cities

Today, the Japanese city of Hiroshima commemorates the moment 70 years ago that the USA dropped a nuclear bomb on the city, directly killing some 80,000 people. In three days’ time, another Japanese city, Nagasaki, will commemorate the killing of another 40,000 civilians when the USA dropped a second bomb.

Audio, video and quick quiz for learners:

This Week in History: USA Drops Nuclear Bombs On Japan