Idiom: In Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail

e.g. I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Meaning: very quickly, in a very short time.

Origin: The expression means in no time at all because this is how quickly a lamb shakes their tale. It first appeared in Richard Harris Barham’s book Ingoldsby Legends published in 1840, but since then it has been reduced to two shakes (e.g. see you in two shakes). Probably the expression is gradually disappearing because fewer people grow up actually seeing lambs wag their tails. However, shake is a recognized time of unit, equal to 10 nanoseconds, so the phrase will probably be preserved among nuclear scientists.

The Unsaid (2001)


In the wake of his son’s suicide, Dr. Michael Hunter (Andy Garcia), a psychologist, quits treating people. Until Barbara Lonigan (Teri Polo), asks him to evaluate whether Tommy (Vincent Kartheiser) has recovered from the childhood trauma of witnessing his mother’s murder.

Μετά την αυτοκτονία του γιου του, ο Δρ. Μάικλ Χάντερ (Άντι Γκαρσία), ψυχολόγος, εγκαταλείπει το γραφείο του. Μέχρι που η Μπάρμπαρα Λόνιγκαν (Τέρι Πόλο), τού ζητάει να αποφανθεί αν ο Τόμμυ (Βίνσεντ Καρθάιζερ) έχει ξεπεράσει το τραύμα τού να είναι μάρτυρας στην δολοφονία της μητέρας του.

Andy Garcia and Vincent Kartheiser

Andy Garcia and Vincent Kartheiser © 2001 New Legend Media


This psychological thriller would stand a better chance (being released to theaters instead of straight-to-video) if the script was better written (there is no build-up to Michael’s son suicide) and Vincent Kartheiser’s performance was not so anemic. The film is slightly interesting for psychology students who try along with Michael (Andy Garcia) to unearth the repressed memories from Tommy’s subconscious.

Αυτό το ψυχολογικό θρίλερ θα είχε καλύτερη τύχη (να βγει στις αίθουσες αντί το βίντεο) αν το σενάριο ήταν καλογραμμένο (δεν υπάρχει κλιμάκωση για την αυτοκτονία του γιου του Μάικλ) και η ερμηνεία του Βίνσεντ Καρθάιζερ δεν ήταν αναιμική. Το φιλμ είναι σχετικά ενδιαφέρον για σπουδαστές ψυχολογίας που ταυτίζονται με την προσπάθεια του Μάικλ (Άντι Γκαρσία) να ανασύρει τις καταπιεσμένες αναμνήσεις από το υποσυνείδητο του Τόμμυ (Βίνσεντ Καρθάιζερ).

Favorite Quote

As a therapist you wish your subject would simply tell you the root of his or her pain. But then they wouldn’t need a therapist. So, we simply ask a question and the subject responds. But often what is not said, is far more important than what is said.

– Dr. Michael Hunter

Starring: Andy Garcia, Vincent Kartheiser, Teri Polo

Written by: Miguel Tejada-Flores, Scott Williams, Christopher Murphey (story)

Directed by: Tom McLoughlin

Long-Life Secrets From The 115-Year-Old Woman

She was 115 years old, cognitively healthy -no signs of dementia- and mostly healthy for her age. Dutch researchers who sequenced her genome suggest that “perhaps we should consider stem cells one of the secrets to a longer life.”

English: A Genuine Global Language

Prof. David Crystal

For the first time in human history there is a genuine world language and it happens to be English. English is spoken as a first language in the UK and Ireland, in the USA, in Australia and New Zealand, in South Africa, in the Caribbean, as well as by a certain number of people in Canada. But English is also spoken as a second language in many countries where it carries a special status; countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Singapore, India, etc. The people who speak English in Nigeria and India are three times more than the people in the UK and the USA. And of course nobody knows how many people speak English as a foreign language. So here is the answer to the question. Is English a global language? Yes or no? Yes, in the sense that over 2 billion people speak it across the globe, which means that one quarter of the world population is conversing in English now. That’s the reality. Nevertheless nobody knows what happens to a language when it is spoken by so many people in so many places.

English-speaking world (Source: Wikipedia)

A global language

Why has English become a global language? Because obviously it is a logical language, a useful language – or because it has no…. grammar. A language becomes global for one reason only and that is the power of the people who speak it.

Five hundred years ago people predicted no future for the English language. People who travelled in those years wondered what language they should learn to speak. They thought of French, Dutch, but not English. English was of no use beyond our shores. English was the language of England and there were four million people who spoke English in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. English spread across Europe with Shakespeare and across America and other parts of the world with the colonies. It went beyond our shores and began to have some power. Without that power it wouldn’t have any future at all. But what are the types of power that spread a language? In fact there were four kinds of power.

A language of political and military power

The first, obviously, was the political and the military power. People in the 18th century would have no difficulty answering the question why English has spread around the world. They simply appointed it to the British Empire and that would have been enough. So if the question is whether there was a political element that generated the first world move of English, the answer should be that a language travels around the world on the backs of its soldiers and sailors.

A language of industrial power

The industrial revolution was a second kind of power. Almost half the scientists and technologists who made that revolution worked through the medium of English. And in the 18th century people from all over Europe crossed the English channel in order to learn the then latest technology, how to make a machine, etc.

A language of economic power

In the 19th century there was a third kind of power, the economic power. At the beginning of the 19th century the three most economically powerful nations of the world were Britain, America and Germany. At the end of the 19th century it was America, while Germany and Britain were lagging behind.

A language of cultural power

After World War II English acquired a fourth kind of power, the power of culture. Every culture in the 20th century either originated in an English-speaking country or was facilitated by and English-speaking country. Innovations such as the cinema, television, music, advertising, computers, the Internet, etc. began in English-speaking countries. Take the cinema for example. 85% of all films produced globally are in English. So the power of culture has an important dimension. It has been said that English has repeatedly found itself in the right place at the right time.

The future of English

Let’s look at the future and see what happens to a language like English when it is spoken by so many people in so many places; and what happens to other languages when they find themselves in the way of a language like English. The more one language is spoken the more diverse it becomes. New Englishes are emerging. And it is perfectly obvious why this happens. English, being an Anglo-Saxon language, had always had a variety of accents and dialects; and this accent variation, this dialect variation should be seen on an international as opposed to a national stage. The millions of people around the world who speak English create their own variation of English: British English, American English, Australian English, Nigerian English, Indian English, South African English, etc. Thousands of new words enter the English language. Where do these words come from? From other languages. English has borrowed words from over 350 other languages. That’s why the English vocabulary is so diverse and one reason why virtually anybody learning English for the first time would recognise words from their own language.

Research makes it clear that this continuous borrowing of words will bring changes in the English language. Take the example of Nigeria, which has a plethora of 450 dialect. Taking into consideration the fact that everybody speaks English as a second language in Nigeria and the fact that 450 other dialects are in use in this country, one should not fail to predict that in a few years’ time Nigerian English will be far more different than any other English.

Although there have been many changes in the vocabulary, not many changes have been so far in grammar. But pronunciation varies across the English-speaking world. English has never been a syllable-kind language. But now virtually all the new Englishes around the world develop and use a syllable-kind English.

Professor David Crystal

Sooner or later we would encounter people who have English either as a mother tongue, or are fluent in English as a second language, that we will not be able to understand. English teachers have the most difficult job they ever had to do. They are very concerned. What kind of English should they teach? they are very concerned because, now, progressively fewer and fewer people can actually be heard speaking standard British or American English. Three out of four of the world English-speaking population are beginning to speak new Englishes. It’s so difficult to know what is going to happen.

But what about other languages? For not clearly related reasons we have never had the prospect of half the world’s languages dying out in the next fifty years. The pressures are on the English teacher. If I’m teaching English in some part of the world where the local language is dying, I’m going to get the blame. Yet it might not be the fault of English that this language is dying in the first place.

Language is people – and I am not sure that people have developed a sense of what the problems facing them are going to be. I do not think that people realise that we are at an absolutely crucial turning point in the history of language. For the first time in human history there is a genuine global language. It happens to be English, so that means the responsibility is for the English language teachers to handle.

We’ve got to tell people about the way English is going around the world and what’s happening to it; we’ve got to tell people about the endangered languages; we’ve got to tell people that the greater strength in protecting their own culture is to develop the fullest possible competence in their own mother tongue.

David Crystal is a British linguist, academic and author.

Moonlight Mile (2002)


Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) stays with his fiancée parents, Jojo (Susan Sarandon) and Ben Floss (Dustin Hoffman), to grieve her death. Joe’s meeting Bertie Knox (Ellen Pompeo), whose boyfriend is MIA in the Vietnam war, helps them move forward with their lives.

Ο Τζο Ναστ (Τζέικ Τζίλενχαλ) μένει μαζί με τους γονείς της αρραβωνιαστικιάς του, την ΤζοΤζο (Σούζαν Σαράντον) και τον Μπεν Φλος (Ντάστιν Χόφμαν), θρηνώντας τον θάνατό της. Η συνάντηση του Τζο με την Μπέρτι Νοξ (Έλεν Πομπέο), της οποίας ο φίλος αγνοείται στον πόλεμο του Βιετνάμ, βοηθάει όλους να προχωρήσουν στην ζωή τους.

Touchstone Pictures

Ellen Pompeo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon © 2002 Touchstone Pictures


I could relate to their grief -having recently lost my father- but I have to say the plot strikes me as odd! Staying with your almost-in-laws? Τhe performances of Sarandon and Hoffman as bereaved parents are heart-wrenching! Gyllenhaal is also awesome as he conveys his awkwardness [is he their surrogate son?] through his body posture and facial expressions.

Η ταινία με άγγιξε – έχοντας πρόσφατα χάσει τον πατέρα μου- αλλά οφείλω να πω ότι η ιστορία φαντάζει εξωπραγματική. Μα να μένει με τα παρ’ολίγο πεθερικά του? Οι ερμηνείες της Σαράντον και του Χόφμαν ως πενθούντες γονείς είναι σπαραξικάρδιες. Ο Τζίλενχαλ είναι καταπληκτικός καθώς επικοινωνεί την αμηχανία του [είναι ο ‘υιοθετημένος’ γιος τους;] μη λεκτικά, με την στάση του σώματός του.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Susan Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Pompeo, Holly Hunter, Alexia Landeau

Written & Directed by: Brad Silbering

Idiom: Sow One’s Wild Oats

e.g. Bill and I had to break up because I was looking to get married, and he just wanted to sow his wild oats.

Meaning: to do wild and foolish things in one’s youth, to be promiscuous before settling down.

Origin: The phrase is used to describe young men going through a period of wild behaviour, and is said indulgently of the young. The wild oat (Avena fatua) is a common tall plant that looks like its relative, the cereal plant oat, but it is really a weed. Sowing wild oats instead of good grain is fruitless and in that uselessness lies the origin of the phrase which can be traced back to the Roman comic Plautus in 194 BC.

Idiom: Grasp the Nettle

e.g. You’ve been putting off making that phone call for days – I think it’s about time you grasped the nettle!

Meaning: to deal with a difficult problem, or an unpleasant situation, with determination and courage.

Origin: It is believed that if you grasp a nettle firmly, it is less likely to sting you, than if you just touch it lightly. This belief was first recorded in a rhyme quoted in Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock (1925):

If you gently touch a nettle

it’ll sting you for your pains;

grasp it like a lad of mettle,

an’ as soft as silk remains.