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Joe's Cafe

Joe's Cafe


Personal blog of EnglishClub founder Josef Essberger - see Menu

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”.


presume or assume?

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 (verb):  to take something for granted, to believe it without question

  • I assume you’ll come to my party. (I expect to see you at my party. I will want to know why if you don’t come.)

“near miss”, “cause”

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 hit Mr Bush. They “miss” him, but only just. In fact, Read on »


Smiling Moon

What can it mean? The Moon is smiling over Thailand. Here are two pictures I took tonight 1st December around 7pm in Bangkok.

Smiling Moon over Bangkok

Smiling Moon

Have YOU have seen a smiling moon? What do YOU think it means?!


e.g. or i.e. ?

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 “that is”. (It comes from the Latin id est “that is”.)

  • Not surprisingly, the closest planet to the sun (i.e. Mercury)  has the most extreme temperature variations in the solar system.

When we use e.g. we simply offer some examples or suggestions among many. When we use i.e. we say exactly what we are talking about.

Note that you will often see them written without full stops or periods, thus: eg and ie

Also note that “that is to say” means the same as “that is”.


nosedive

nosedive

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 to finish at $30.

nosedive


New dollar bill

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

New dollar bill


Another bank, another bailout

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 bailout mean?

bail someone/something out (phrasal verb): to free someone or something from a difficulty or problem. If you owe a friend $1000 that you cannot pay, and your dad comes along and pays the money for you—then you’ve just been bailed out, your dad bailed you out.

bailout (noun):  financial assistance given to a failing business (or a failing country) to save it from collapse

Right now, governments of the world are taking tax-payers’ money and giving it to banks to bail them out because without the bailout—so the argument goes—the banks would collapse and the whole financial system of the world would come crashing down around our ears.

NB: these are not the only meanings for bail and bail out, but they’re the only ones that matter in the days of Armageddon 🙂


So just how big is a trillion anyway?

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 dollars will do).

What is a trillion? The modern* trillion is a million million (1,000,000,000,000 or 10 to the power of 12).

Just to recap:

  • million: one thousand thousand (1,000,000) [pathetic!]
  • billion: one thousand million (1,000,000,000) [so 20th-century]
  • trillion: one million million (1,000,000,000,000) [a sensible figure to lose]

but wait for it…

  • quadrillion: one thousand trillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) [you’ll need this soon for the hyperinflation that’s coming]

* the “modern” trillion is American English and now used in British English. In old British English a trillion was a million million million (1,000,000,000,000,000,000)—a truly handsome figure that even Hank hasn’t managed to get his sticky fingers around yet.


Willful panic

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 your answers and comments.

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