Exploring the Buzz: Two Meanings of the Word "Buzz"

Friday, April 5, 2024

Let's talk about a fun word with two different meanings: buzz. This word might sound simple, but it actually has two distinct uses. Let's explore them together!

The Sound Buzz:

When we talk about the sound "buzz," we mean a low, humming noise, like the sound a bee makes when it flies past your ear. It's a short, sharp sound that repeats quickly. You might hear a buzz from an insect, an electrical appliance, or even from a crowd of people chatting excitedly. For example:

  • I heard a buzz coming from the beehive.
  • The mosquito gave a loud buzz as it flew by my ear.
  • The fluorescent lights in the office made a constant buzz.

Excitement and Activity Buzz:

The second meaning of "buzz" describes a feeling of excitement or energy. When something is buzzing, it means there's a lot of activity and people are excited about it. It's like a lively atmosphere filled with anticipation. For instance:

  • There's a buzz in the air as people wait for the concert to start.
  • The city was buzzing with excitement during the festival.
  • There's been a lot of buzz about the new movie coming out.

So, as you can see, "buzz" can refer to both a sound and a feeling of excitement and activity. It's a versatile word that you can use in many different situations. Keep practicing, and soon you'll be buzzing with confidence using this word in your conversations!

Decoding Fashion Language: Clothes, Apparel, and Garments

Saturday, March 9, 2024


Imagine the popular clothing company, American Apparel, with "apparel" in its name. This name choice suggests something beyond just clothes, so let’s explore the differences between "clothes," "apparel," and “garments.”

Clothes: items worn to cover the body

From shirts and pants to dresses and jackets, “clothes” is a simple way to talk about everything in our closets.

Apparel: more than just clothes

Apparel means more than just clothes. It includes accessories like hats and scarves. When a company like American Apparel uses this word, it wants to say it's about more than just basic clothing—it's about everything you wear to express yourself. 

There are many different categories of apparel for our needs: sports apparel, business apparel, formal apparel, intimate apparel, children’s apparel, men’s apparel, women’s apparel, wedding apparel, etc.

Garment: a single piece of clothing

Garment is a more specific word. It means one piece of clothing, like a shirt or a dress.

Example sentences: 

  • I need to buy new clothes for my upcoming trip.
  • He wore comfortable sports apparel for his morning jog.
  • She carefully hung the newly washed garment in the closet.

The next time you put on your favorite piece of clothing or admire something well-made, remember these simple differences that make fashion words special.

Text Helper -- Make Your Own English Glossary

Tuesday, February 6, 2024


You can make a quick vocabulary list or glossary created from any text with a helpful tool called Text Helper. Test Helper is a feature on the Extensive Reading Central website (https://www.er-central.com/text-helper/) and it works like this: 

When you open Text Helper, you first see a blank box into which you cut & paste your desired text. You then select the language, a level, then click "Get Meanings." 

Text Helper highlights the difficult words in your text on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page is your personally created vocabulary list with definitions for each highlighted word.

You decide the level of word difficulty (beginner, elementary, intermediate, advanced) and the program chooses the words in your text based on that level. Lower level difficulty results in more words (words used at a higher frequency); advanced difficulty words are less frequent because they are probably outside the knowledge of a typical student at that level. 

Text Helper saves a lot of time looking up words in the dictionary and it’s incredibly useful because it automatically creates word lists related to the text you choose.  Below is an example of an advanced level using a sample text from the book, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Sports Balls

Friday, January 5, 2024


I received the following question recently about what a ball is called in certain sports, like baseball, basketball, volleyball, and football: Do you say “baseball ball” when referring to the ball that is used to play baseball? 

This is a logical question and the answer is no, we do not say “baseball ball,” “basketball ball,” “football ball,” etc.  Typically the term "baseball" (for example) is used to refer to the ball used in the game of baseball. Thus, it’s common to simply say "baseball" when referring to the ball, without adding "ball" after it. The same goes for basketball, football, and other ball sports. In the game, it is just called “the ball.”

We use a baseball to play baseball, a basketball to play basketball, and a football to play football. 

The Tom Sawyer Effect

Friday, November 10, 2023


Tom Sawyer is the main character in the 1876 literary classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. It is about a good-hearted but mischievous young boy growing up along the Mississippi River in 1840.

Tom Sawyer is a clever, imaginative young fellow. He has a lot of fun but regularly gets himself and his friends into trouble. He is probably most remembered for convincing his friends to paint his Aunt Polly’s fence by making the task, which for him was unpleasant and boring, seem desirable. He motivated his friends to paint the fence by promoting the unappealing task as fun and attractive. Thus, he avoided the work. 

The name for this phenomenon is called the Tom Sawyer effect, and it highlights the power of intrinsic motivation. We use it to describe situations where individuals are more motivated to engage in an activity when they perceive it as enjoyable or when they have a choice in doing it. 

Yes, Tom Sawyer was a very clever fellow. 

Green Rooms

Friday, October 20, 2023


In the wonderful world of show business, the activities of performers backstage are usually unknown to audiences, but the green room is one place that arouses my curiosity a little bit. 

The green room is a room in a theater or studio in which performers can relax when they are not performing. It is sort of a combination waiting area and lounge. It’s different from a dressing room, where performers change clothes and prepare their make-up, because a green room provides a space for entertainers to mentally prepare and relax before or after a show. 

Even though it is called a green room, it does not have to be green. In the past, green rooms were actually painted green and also had soft lighting to create a calm ambience, but they are not like that anymore.

I believe it’s still called a green room out of respect for theatrical and show business traditions of the past, and I like that. 

Discuss; talk about (not discuss about)

Saturday, September 2, 2023


“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love.” 

This is a beautiful quote by the artist, Claude Monet. It’s also a perfect example of the correct use of discuss in English. 

Discuss and talk about are equal in meaning. In conversations with English learners, I often hear “discuss about,” which is a common mistake. 

Discuss = talk about

You can say this: 

  • Ron will discuss the options with his business partner. 
  • Can we discuss this tomorrow?
  • The lawyer couldn’t discuss his case with reporters. 

….or you can say it this way:

  • Ron will talk about the options with his business partner. 
  • Can we talk about this tomorrow?
  • The lawyer couldn’t talk about his case with reporters.

You can’t say discuss about

  • Ron will discuss about the options with his business partner.  - wrong
  • Can we discuss about this tomorrow? - wrong
  • The lawyer couldn’t discuss about his case with reporters. - wrong

Discuss about is a common mistake to avoid.