Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Cougar is not only a cat!

In this mini English lesson I would like to talk about the phrase Cougar.

A few days ago I was driving through London and I noticed billboard for a new American TV show.
The name of the show is Cougar Town, and I thought it might be a good idea explain what is the meaning of Cougar in this context.

If you look up the standard dictionary you will find that Cougar is a wild American Mountain Lion.

However in the urban dictionary and in the title of show Cougar, is used to describe a woman who is over 40 years old who likes to date younger men, normally a man who is 32 years old or younger.

In return a man who dates a Cougar can be called either a cub or a toy boy.

The urban dictionary also tells us that an older man who dates a younger woman is normally called a Sugar Daddy, while a younger woman who dates an older man could be called either a sugar baby or a Chihuahua.

We at Smart Language Solutions, would not recommend you use any of these terms in your writing or speaking as they may be considered offensive, however we would ask you to be aware of the them so you can recognise them when you see or hear them used by others.

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Friday, 19 March 2010

Urban Slang - muppet

In the late 1950's puppet master Jim Henson created some puppet characters and called them the Muppets.
Since the 1950's the Muppets have been entertaining children and adults alike with their silly antics.

However in Brittan, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, the word muppet has become a mild term of abuse.

When using muppet as a mild term of abuse the first thing to notice is the difference in spelling, the puppets created by Jim Henson and now owed by the Disney Corporation are spelt with a capital "M", as in The Muppets, and when we call someone a muppet we spell it with a lowercase "m".

When you call someone a muppet (lower case) you are suggesting that they stupid or silly.

For example: "John its six o'clock, you were supposed to be here an hour ago, you muppet!"

Calling someone a muppet should not cause them offensive, and has even been used in street advertising, however as a learner of English, remember if you are going to call someone a muppet, be sure that they have a good sense of humour.

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Business English - Churn Rate

In business English there are many phrases that you simple just don't find in normal everyday English.
In this lesson I would like to explain the phrase, churn rate.

As more an more people work in the service sector, the higher the chance that they will come across the phrase, churn rate.

This phrase is used to describe situations related to customers and employees.

When we use churn rate in connection to customers, we are describing the percentage of contracted customers who leave a company over a given period of time.

For example: "I work in the call centre of a mobile phone company and the churn rate of our customers is really big"

In this example the speaker is telling us that the mobile phone company they work for has a large percentage of customers leaving the company at the end of their contract.

When we use churn rate in connection to employees, then we are describing the high turnover rate of employees in a company.

For example: "When I worked in the fast food restaurant, there was a high rate of employee churn"

In this example the speaker is describing their time working in a fast food restaurant, and how they noticed that most employees did not stay long in the job.

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To make a horlicks.

The health care company GalxoSmithKiine, make a malt milk drink called Horlicks, which is marketed in the UK, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Jamaica.

Traditionally in the UK Horlicks is taken at night just before going to sleep, in the same way as British people take coco or hot chocolate.

However in the English language Horlicks can also be used to describe a minor disaster or shambles, it is normally combined with the verb "To Make"

For example, "Oh my, did you see the football game last night, our team made a horlicks of the defence!"

In this example the speaker is suggesting that the team the speaker supports had a disastrous game, especially in defence.

Using horlicks in this manner is not considered offensive, and was in fact used in 2003 by the UK's then Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, to describe the way a document for public release had been badly prepared.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

If you pay peanuts.

In this blog I would like to explain the phrase

"If you pay peanuts you get monkeys."

The phrase is attributed to the Anglo French businessman James Goldsmith, and it is used to describe the quality of service offered by people in business.

It is a negative phrase and is used to describe the situation where the speaker feels that if an employer pays low wages then the staff working for them will be bad.

For example:

Speaker A: "Every time I call that company I can't get the service I want"

Speaker B: "Well if you pay peanuts you get monkeys"

In this example the first speaker is describing a situation where they feel that the service they are getting from the company is very bad, the second speakers is expressing their feeling that because the company pays their staff so little money, this is the reason for the bad service.

The phrase can also used to describe the situation where a person who pays too little for a service should not expect the quality of the service
to be any good.

For Example:

Speaker A: "Juan is trying to learn English online and pays only $1 for an hour's one to one lesson, but I have to say his English is getting worse"

Speaker B: ""Well maybe someone should teach Juan the expression, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys"

In this example the first speaker is saying that they are shocked at how bad Juan's English is.

The second speaker, suggests that because Juan pays so little money for his lessons, his teacher is not a professional.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

To call time

The other day I was teaching a class and while reading an article we came across the following phrase:

"To call time"

It was a phrase that no student had hear of before, so I felt it would be a good idea to explain it to you here in this blog.

The phrase "to call time" has its history in English and Irish bars/pub.
By law English and Irish bars/pubs must close by a certain time in the evening. When the closing time comes the bar person must shout "TIME" so that everyone in the bar knows it is time to close the bar.
The act of shouting "TIME" to tell everyone that it is now time to close the bar is know as, "to call time".

However the phrase, to call time, is now used in English to describe the moment when someone decides that something has come to an end.

For example:

"John Smith, the footballer, has called time on his career"

This means that John Smith has decided to finish playing football.


"Ladies and gentlemen, I must call time on this meeting"

This means that the speaker, perhaps the chairman of the meeting, has decided that it is time to finish the meeting.

To call time = to end or to finish.

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Packed in like Sardines

The other night I was teaching a client in Moscow and he asked me to explain the phrase, "packed in like sardines" which he had heard was a good way to describe rush hour on the Moscow Metro, however he was a little unsure if it was an offensive phrase or not.

The phrase is not offensive and in fact comes from the business of food processing.
Sardines, as you know are a type of fish, and we normally buy our sardines in small tins. When we open a tin of sardines, its normal that there are a lot fish in the tin and there no free space.

Therefore the phrase packed in like sardines is used to describe a situation where people are in an area or space with little room to move.

So it is not offensive and in fact a very good way to describe the Moscow Metro during rush hour.

"Every morning I take the Metro to work, it is always full and there is no room to move because everyone is packed in like sardines."

Packed in Like sardines = No space to move

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Using Will to express a future decision

In this mini English blog, I want to discuss one of the uses of Will to express the future.

As we previously discussed in other blogs there are a number of different ways of expressing the future.

Using Will is one ways to express the future and Will has a number of different uses, however in this blog I want to focus only on Will as used to express decisions.

When we are speaking about an action in the future, and we make decision about this future action while we are speaking we must use will.

For example:

"I don't know if I should go to the cinema or not...hhmm...OK I will go with you."

In this sentence the speaker is unsure about a future trip to the cinema, however while they are speaking they make up their mind to go to the cinema, so they must use Will to express this decision, because will is used to express a decision made at the moment of speaking.

Will is used to express a decision made at the moment of speaking.

There you have it another use of will for expressing the future!

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We look forward to hearing from you soon.