Joe's Cafe


Personal blog of EnglishClub founder Josef Essberger - see Menu

Everything will be OK

Everything will be OK

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 Read on »


The Prophet ~ Children

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 Read on »


specially or especially?

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 Read on »


cannot or can not?

People often ask me whether they should write cannot (1 word) or can not (2 words). Read on »


Saying of the Day

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. Read on »


How long is a question?

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 circumstances”, “How can I possibly answer that question without more information?” In other words, “You’re asking a pretty stupid question which is impossible to answer.” Here’s the question that someone asked me: “How long is a question?”

Mmmm. Let’s see. Let’s just take two hypothetical questions and measure them: Read on »


The Very Unnaughty Noughties

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 Read on »

End of a decade?

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 10th month (of the ancient Roman year, before they interfered with it). Decimal – no explanation needed. The verb decimate, which popularly means to kill or destroy a large quantity, also has the original meaning: “to kill one person in 10”. And Read on »


Idiom of the Day

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 Read on »


current versus contemporary

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 Read on »


World’s largest English-speaking country?

USA? Think again 🙂


The King is dead. Long live the King!

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 same captain in the second.  Why wouldn’t both be capitalized? Thanks for your help. I have no rule to follow with this problem.”

It’s a good question, with (quite) a simple answer.

In the case of “King Edward” and “Captain Lorca” we are using Read on »


Manners

“It is possible to be born an aristocrat without ever becoming a gentleman.”

(Nicholas Ridley)


Life

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”

(John Lennon)


Divorce

“Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little.”

(Dr Johnson on divorce laws)


The Oxford Secret

“It is a secret in the Oxford sense. You may tell it to only one person at a time.”

(Lord Franks)


Meeting the eye

“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

“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

“I never read a book before reviewing it. It prejudices a man so.”

(Sydney Smith)


Do come again

“You must come again when you have less time.”

(Walter Sickert to Denton Welch)


When words lose their meaning

“When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom”

(Confucius)


The R Word

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 words that people don’t like to say. If they need to express that word, they may use the first letter only, and hope that everyone else understands. It also suggests, and this is done partly in humour, that the word is a bad, “dirty” or otherwise offensive word.

So just what is the R word? Read on »


optimum or optimal?

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 investment would produce a modest return at no risk.

Optimum can also be a noun, while optimal has two derivatives:

  • optimally (adverb)
  • optimality (noun)

The Winepress

grapes

“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 Gruse lived with his wife in an elegant townhouse on Quai Voltaire. He was a likeable man, cultivated of course, with a well deserved reputation as a generous host and an amusing raconteur.

This evening’s guests were all European and all equally convinced that immigration was at the root of Europe’s problems. Charles de Gruse said nothing. He had always concealed his contempt for such ideas. And, in any case, he had never much cared for these particular guests.

The first of the red Bordeaux was being served with the veal, and one of the guests turned to de Gruse. Read on »


practical or practicable?

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 park is not practicable. There is not enough space.

Note that there are a few other meanings for “practical”.



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