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"Sort Of" vs. "A Sort Of"

Written by Tricia

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Today's comic strip is a very interesting illustration of the use of two very similar looking but rather different idioms: sort of, and a sort of. These idioms are more often used in less formal situations.

Sort of is an adverb (副詞) that means "in some way" or "to some degree" (ある程度). And because it is an adverb, it comes before an adjective (形容詞) or a verb (動詞). So, in the above comic strip, when Charlie Brown says that he loves standing in the snow because he feels "sort of closed-off," he means that in some way he feels that he is away from the rest of the world, with nobody there to bother him. 

On the other hand, a sort of is used in conversation or informal writing to mean "a kind of" (~のようなもの). It is a way to describe something in an approximate (おおよその) manner. This idiom is usually followed by the thing that it describes. In the above example, Charlie Brown, however, changes the word order a bit (which is common in spoken language), and says "sort of a feeling of security," instead of "a sort of feeling of security." Here, he means that the he almost feels as if he is very safe from harm. 

But is he? Take a look at the last panel. He really isn't totally safe from hidden pranksters who would love to throw snowballs at him when he least expects it. So, he ends his monologue very appropriately, with a wry "Sort of."  

Can you think of your own sentences that use these idioms? Go and try making some and talk about it with your teacher!


Say Something Nice

Written by Elliot

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When was the last time you said something nice to someone else?  I don't mean the usual "good morning" or the obligatory "nice to see you".  When was the last time you went out of your way to say something nice to someone for the sole reason to make that person feel good about themselves?  Take a second and think.

Many people usually keep to themselves and try to talk with other people as little as possible when they don't have to.  This doesn't mean people are bad or not nice, but rather everyone is dealing with their own problems and they don't want to bother other people with them.  At the same time since everyone else has their own problems, people don't want to deal with other people's problems as well.  For these reasons, among others, many people tend to keep to themselves and not talk to other people when they don't have to.

In the comic, there are two animals, a cat named "Snow", and an inch-worm.  An inch-worm is named as such because of its size, one inch or about 2.54 centimeters.  The cat being nice decides to compliment the inch-worm and say that he may in fact be an inch and a fourth or 3.175cm.  While this may not be true, it makes the inch-worm very happy.  So happy in fact that he says he feels like he is a foot long or a whopping 30.48cm.

This comic shows that even the smallest compliment can make other people feel really good about themselves, even if they have their own problems to deal with.  So try it out! It's not always easy to reach out and compliment someone but try and see how happy you can make someone.  Go ahead, compliment your teacher, compliment your coworker, compliment your spouse.  Spread some happiness, just in time for the holiday season!


Had It the First Time

Written by Eoin

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sigh                   ため息
chomp on        chew on (eat)
worm                 虫
nope                 no
philosophy       哲学
meditation        瞑想
fulfilling            充実した
In today’s comic we can see a little bird eating a worm and thinking to himself, “Is there more to life?” He wants to know if life has some kind of deeper meaning. Is life only about eating and staying alive? Or is it about something more?
So the bird studies philosophy – we can see books by the famous philosophers Confucius (孔子), Aristotle (アリストテレス) and others – then he tries charity, and finally meditation.
After all that, he returns to his worm and thinks to himself, “Had it the first time.” He thinks that he was correct the first time, or that eating worms is more fulfilling than philosophy, charity or meditation.
I sometimes use this phrase in class; if a student says something in correct English but then changes their sentence making it incorrect, I’ll say, “No, you had it the first time.” Of course, sometimes the student doesn't understand ‘had it the first time’ and just gets confused, and, if I try to explain the phrase, just gets more confused, and then I get confused . . . and, well, that is not an example of good teaching.
Anyway, I hope this comic helps you remember the useful phrase ‘had it the first time’.


Supposed To

Written by Bret

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This is an adjectival phrase that is a little different from the verb "suppose".

To suppose means to assume, to believe, or to consider something as being a certain way.  

Examples: Traffic is bad so I suppose that our client will be a little late.  I suppose my Mom might like flowers for her birthday.  


When we use the word "supposed to" it is similar to "should" or "ought"

When a person is supposed to do something, that means that doing this something is expected of them.  It is used for obligations, or things that you should do.

Examples:   Students are supposed to do their homework.  I am supposed to exercise every day.  You are supposed to read these blogs every week.

When something is supposed to be some way, it means that this is how things ought to be, or how you would assume they would be.

Examples:  It is supposed to be sunny tomorrow.  Climbing Mt. Everest is supposed to be very hard.  The train is supposed to be here at 8 am.

In this comic strip, Garfield is thinking about his owner Jon.  He is thinking about how Jon has some problems, and then Jon says "Are knees supposed to bend this way?"  And, of course, knees are not supposed to bend in that direction.  For this reason, Garfield realizes that Jon has more problems than he had previously been thinking.




Dilbert Does Meetings

Written by Matt

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Many of you have probably seen Dilbert before. This comic strip is a satirical look at office life. It began in 1989 and continues to this day. One of the topics that is often covered in the comic is meetings. 
In the above three panel comic the joke is about having too many meetings. Dilbert makes a joke about having a meeting to prepare for the premeeting. Unfortunately his boss takes him seriously and they actually have to have the meeting.
The writer and illustrator of this comic is called Scott Adams. He's a very interesting person. He is very creative but also extremely organized and calculating in the way he creates and manages his comic and his life. He has a very interesting theory about the different kinds of comedy that people use to make people laugh.

If you'd like to hear more about him I recommend listening to a podcast by Tim Ferris in which Scott Adams is interviewed. You can find it at http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/09/22/scott-adams-the-man-behind-dilbert/ He talks about Goals vs System and various other interesting topics. 
If you'd like to read more Dilbert you can go to the website http://dilbert.com/ and search through them by topic or by date. The comics are generally not too difficult to understand and I'm sure that many of you can understand the humor because of the familiar office setting. 

I know you'll have hours of fun from reading this famous comic.