American Culture: Native American Glass Gem Corn

Wednesday, October 6, 2021


I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw an image of glass gem corn. It’s a rainbow-colored heirloom corn with a jewel appearance, and it’s stunning!

This ancestral variety of corn was rediscovered in 2012 by an Oklahoma farmer named Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, who was half Cherokee. In a quest to connect with his Cherokee roots, he found seeds that matched up with traditional corns that had been lost to various Native tribes, and he began growing the older, traditional varieties. (The Native American culture places great importance on seeds, planting ceremonies, harvesting, and honoring seeds.)

Barnes isolated different types of corn and replanted those from particularly colorful cobs. A mix of Cherokee, Osage, and Pawnee varieties produced the first multicolored rainbow cobs. 

Carl Barnes, who died in 2016, made it possible for many Native tribes to recover and reunite with their sacred seeds, which helped in the reclaiming of their cultural and spiritual identities. 

Hard Copy

Wednesday, September 8, 2021


In this age of computers, smart phones, and tablets, it’s easier and more efficient to retain files, documents, receipts, even books, in their digital forms. Quite a space saver! In the tech world, those are referred to as soft copies.

So what do you call something printed on paper? A hard copy, of course. Hard copies don’t require an electronic interface, like computers or mobiles phones, to read and display because they are a printed version on paper of data held in a computer. A hard copy is also known as a printout

Ex: I prefer email receipts but today I needed a “hard copy” for a rebate request. 

Throw at / throw to

Wednesday, August 11, 2021


“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it.” 

This quote from entertainer Danny Kaye inspires, in addition to being a perfect example of the phrasal verb “throw at.”

Another phrasal verb “throw to” may seem similar to “throw at” but it is not: 

"Throw at" means to throw something with the intention of hitting something. You throw to hit a target.


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo threw the ball at the basket. 
  • After a snowfall, children have fun throwing snowballs at each other. 

When “throwing to,” you give something to someone by tossing or hurling it. If I throw something to you, you're probably expecting it. 


  • Margaret prefers that Frank hand her the car keys instead of throwing them to her from across the room. 
  • Aaron Rogers threw the football to one of his receivers. 

Use the correct preposition for "throw at" and "throw to" and be a better English speaker. 

American Culture: Shotgun Houses

Friday, July 16, 2021


Does the name “shotgun house” scare you? Fear not, because a shotgun house is a typical small Southern style home of New Orleans, and it’s charming and cute. Even though tiny homes are a big trend now, shotgun houses could be considered the original tiny home because they were very popular in the late 1800s.

Shotgun houses are tiny but long, with one room leading into the next without hallways. This style of home is affordable and particularly well-suited for hot climates because all of the doors line up and, when open, a refreshing breeze flows through the entire house. 

Why is it called a shotgun house? Perhaps it’s because of the architectural design, where rooms are connected without hallways so a bullet fired from the front door could pass through the house without hitting anything and exit through the back door. Other evidence suggests that this name actually derives from the word “shogon.” In West Africa, “shogon” means “God’s House.”

Say NO to "ain’t"

Sunday, June 20, 2021

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a popular expression that means don’t try to change something that is working well.  It has the word ain’t in it. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is the corrected version of this sentence. 

Ain’t is often heard in music, movies, TV, and in conversations (two famous song examples are “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations, and “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers), but there is much disagreement on its use in the English language. 

Ain't is a contraction for am not, is not, are not, has not, and have not but it’s strictly slang. I never say it and I don’t recommend that you say it. It’s considered by many to be incorrect or "bad" English although it is common in the speech of some people. The use of ain’t is generally viewed negatively as a sign of low education or low economic status. 

Perhaps this funny little poem will encourage you to never say ain’t

Don't say 'ain't'.
Your mother will faint.
Your father will fall
In a bucket of paint.
Your sister will cry.
Your brother will sigh.
The cat and dog will say good-bye.

USA: Iconic Roads and Their Famous Nicknames

Sunday, April 4, 2021


There is no greater pleasure than taking a drive just for the fun of it. There are many classic roads in the USA that will definitely add some excitement and glamour to any excursion: the Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Lombard Street in San Francisco, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys.

These are just some examples but there are a few other roads that are so iconic that they have special nicknames. 

Are you familiar with The Great White Way? You may know it as Broadway in New York City. The Great White Way was inspired by all the white lights on theatre signs and marquees that illuminated the area. In the early 1900s, when gas lamps were replaced with electric lights, the landscape was completely dark except for the dazzling strip known as Broadway.

Speaking of radiant strips, Las Vegas Boulevard is fondly called The Strip. It’s where all the most glamorous hotels and casinos are located, and it’s a wonderland for brilliant neon signs and inducements. 

If you ever find yourself in Chicago, make sure to take a drive or a stroll down The Magnificent Mile: Michigan Avenue. Steps away from Lake Michigan, this cosmopolitan street is dotted with upscale shops, fine dining, and famous historical landmarks (Chicago Water Tower, the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building skyscraper and the 100-story John Hancock Center). 

I finish with The Mother Road: Route 66. Popular in films, music, and books, Route 66 stretches 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. According to, “The legendary highway was known far and wide for its variety of ‘mom and pop’ motels, neon lights, drive-ins, quirky roadside attractions, flat tires, cars with no air conditioning, dangerous curves, steep hills, and narrow lanes.”

Route 66 has been a popular thoroughfare and road trip adventure since its construction in 1926. It is also recognized by the US government as “a symbol of the American people’s heritage of travel and their legacy of seeking a better life.” The Mother Road attracts many people who plan journeys on this famous highway. Even former Beatle, Paul McCartney, was spotted along different points of Route 66 in August 2008. 

Hopefully you’ll be inspired to take a drive through this beautiful country along some of its legendary roads. 

The Best Quality Words

Tuesday, March 2, 2021


“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” 

This is a quote by Benjamin Franklin, an American statesman, inventor, and scientist. It means that low price is usually associated with low quality, which will often leave you disappointed.  

Why surround yourself with inferior things when you can live life by making high quality choices? If so, let’s use some adjectives associated with high, excellent and superior quality: 

  • Top drawer
  • Top shelf
  • Top-notch


  • A team of top-drawer architects and engineers was assembled for the high-profile project.  
  • The summer jazz festival featured many top-shelf performers
  • The Royal Hawaiian is a top-notch hotel on Waikiki Beach. 

Although the origin of top notch is unknown, there are unofficial explanations for the other two terms. For top drawer, usually the more valuable or useful items are kept in the top drawer of a dresser or chest of drawers so it’s easier to access them.

Top shelf refers to where wine or liquor is kept in a bar or liquor store. The highest quality — and therefore most expensive — bottles are located literally on the top shelf as opposed to the cheaper liquor, which is kept within reach.

These aren’t the most exciting stories of word origins, but at least they offer some explanation for why they became synonymous with quality.