The Darwin Awards

Sunday, April 19, 2020



Story: A lawyer from Canada bragged that the windows in his Toronto office were bullet-proof and unbreakable. One day he decided to demonstrate this by running into one of the windows at full speed. His clients watched in shock as he crashed through the "unbreakable" window, landing on the pavement 24 floors below.

This unfortunate lawyer is an excellent candidate for a Darwin Award, which is a fictional honor given out each year for the most stupid death. The name originates from Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution (survival of the fittest). Since recipients of the Darwin award are too reckless and idiotic, they are not expected to survive on this earth very long, so they actually improve humanity's gene pool by removing themselves from it.

Intelligence, education, and social status can’t save everyone: philosophers, scientists and postgraduate students have all received this dubious honor.

If you’re interested in reading about recent “winners,” check out darwinawards.com and be thankful that you were never nominated.

Prefixes Over and Under: Too Much and Not Enough

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


These eggs have been cooked too long. They are overcooked.

Attaching prefixes to words can help you express yourself more directly and concisely. For example, by adding the word “over” before certain words, you communicate that something is excessive. In other words, “too much.”




Let’s look at some adjectives:
  • Overconfident = excessively or unreasonably confident
  • Overpaid = paid too highly
  • Overweight = too much weight
  • Overcrowded = too many people

Now some verbs:
  • Oversleep = to sleep to much
  • Overeat =  to eat too much
  • Overact = act a role in an exaggerated way
  • Overdress = dress too formally

The opposite is expressed by adding the prefix “under” (meaning “not enough”) to certain words:
  • Underpaid = not paid enough
  • Undercooked = not cooked enough
  • Underweight = doesn’t weigh enough
  • Undernourished = having insufficient food for good health 

There are lists of words that have the prefixes over and under. Try to learn some of them for increased fluency and greater versatility. I prefer that you know "too much" instead of "not enough."

Keeping Score

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


What does “score” mean in the following quote by Abraham Lincoln?

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and this is the first line from his famous Gettysburg Address speech in 1863. A score means a group or set of twenty, so in his speech Lincoln is talking about years, four score and seven years, which is a more sophisticated way of saying 87 years.

Example: A score of citizens attended the townhall meeting. (Note that the plural of score is also score.)

Don’t confuse this with scores (of), which means a large amount of something.

Example: Michelle sends scores of Christmas cards to family and friends every December.

Break a Leg!

Sunday, January 5, 2020


So far in my life I have broken my foot, my wrist, and my rib (at different times) and all have been unpleasant experiences. 

There is one area where wishing for someone to break a bone (a leg, specifically) is good: in the theater. 

The expression "break a leg" is positive encouragement, said to actors and actresses for good luck before they go on stage, especially in live theater productions.


This entertainment idiom has various unverified origins, however.  One theory is that performers in show business tend to be superstitious, so saying, “good luck” is believed to bring bad luck, By opting for a cheery “break a leg” instead, it is expected that this negative expression will bring good luck. 

Red Kettles and the Salvation Army

Thursday, December 12, 2019



You know it’s the holiday season in many cities all over the world when you see the Salvation Army’s red kettles and bell ringers. 

The Salvation Army is a well known charity that has been helping the needy throughout the world over the last 150 years. The financial contributions they collect help fund their programs, but how did the kettle collection get started? 

In San Francisco, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee needed to raise money to provide a Christmas meal for 1000 of the city’s poorest residents. Recalling his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England, he remembered seeing a large, iron kettle called Simpson's Pot at the port, into which people who passed tossed coins for the poor. He adopted this idea by placing a pot at the ferry port in a popular location of San Francisco and was able to collect enough money for the Christmas meal. 

This kettle collection idea sparked an inspiring tradition that continues every year all over the world, and the funds raised allow the Salvation Army to fulfill their mission throughout the year. Do you see red kettles and volunteer bell ringers in your city this time of year? 

Snowbirds and Sunbirds

Sunday, November 10, 2019

There is a Japanese proverb that says, "One kind word can warm three winter months,” but I think three winter months in Hawaii would have a more satisfying effect.

Are there certain times of year that you dread because you don’t like the weather? Maybe you dislike frigid cold temperatures, or you suffer from the stifling heat. Do you ever wish you could escape those uncomfortable temperatures for a couple of months? If so, then you're either a snowbird or a sunbird.

Snowbird is an infomral North American term for a northerner (usually one who is retired) who moves to a warmer state in the winter. On the other hand, a sunbird is a person who travels from a warm climate to a colder one in the summer. I’m not a fan of cold weather and my dream is to one day become a snowbird. What about you?
















*Photo by Luke McKeown 

Used to + noun

Monday, October 7, 2019



If you are used to doing something, it is familiar to you because you have often done it before and it seems normal or usual. 


  • I am “used to” taking the train to work. 
  • I quickly got “used to” the mild winters in Arizona after living in Chicago for many years. 
  • Bakers are “used to” waking up early in the morning. 
  • The puppy needs to get “used to” its new home.


In each of these sentences, a noun or gerund (verb that functions as a noun) follows “used to.”  
Why? Because “to” is a preposition, and nouns always follow prepositions. 


If you think you understand this rule, then why is “used to” followed by a verb in these sentences?

  • Martin used to exercise at the gym after work. 
  • I used to ride my bike every day to school. 
  • Nat’s dog used to hide every time it heard thunder. 

The answer: In these sentences, the word "to" is not a preposition. It is part of the infinitive ("to smoke,” "to ride,” “to hide”). 

Be careful not to make this mistake when talking about things that are familiar.