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Backhanded Compliments

Written by Nick

Click here for today's comic.


A compliment is when you say something nice to someone. For example:
"That is a nice sweater!"
"You have lost a lot of weight!"
"You have a nice head!"
"You can speak Japanese really well!"
As you can see, compliments are easy to give. What's a backhanded compliment?
A backhanded compliment is when you say/do something nice for someone, but follow it up with an insult. For example:
"That is a nice sweater! It must be cheap!"
"You have lost a lot of weight! You are almost perfect!"
"You have a nice head! It must be difficult to find hats that fit you."
"You can speak Japanese really well for a foreigner!"
Those are backhanded compliments. When you say them, it usually makes the receiver feel bad.
In the above comic, a girl gives Spud a flower, which is something nice! She then says that she picked it for him, which is also nice.
However she then says, "Its unique beauty reminds me of your oddly disproportionate skull."
"oddly disproportionate skull" = "your head looks strange"
Telling someone that their head looks strange is an insult. Giving someone a flower because it reminds them of you is a compliment. The girl has just given a backhanded compliment.
Have you ever been given a backhanded compliment? If so please let you teacher know in class this week.
Bonus Question:  In the comic, in the last panel, Wallace says, "Stings just like a front-hand." What does it mean?




Simple Suggestion, Deadly Decision

Written by Eoin

Click here for today's comic.

Today’s comic features a rather strange superhero. His name is Too Much Coffee Man. He is a little crazy because he drinks too much coffee.
The story in this comic is unusual but it uses some common and useful English. There is a good example of making a suggestion and a good example of instant decision.
Making a suggestion:
Too Much Coffee Man’s friend says, “Why don’t you move to the Moon?” (月へ引っ越しすれば?). ‘Why don’t you (do something)?’ is a friendly way to make a suggestion or give advice. Here are some examples:
Why don’t you take the day off? (A co-worker is feeling sick.)
Why don’t you try calling him? (A friend is late for an appointment.)
Instant decisions:
Too Much Coffee Man thinks his friend’s suggestion is a good one and so instantly decides to go to the Moon. He says, “I will (move to the Moon)!” This is a good example of ‘will’ because ‘will’ is used for instant or spontaneous decisions. Too Much Coffee Man didn’t have a plan to go to the Moon; he decided to go there just after he heard his friend’s suggestion. He had probably never thought about going there before that moment. Here are some other examples of instant decisions:
I’ll open the window. (The room is hot.)
I’ll fight you! (You insulted my mother just now.)
The story ends with Too Much Coffee Man dying on the Moon because there is no air, which shows that he had never thought about going there before and that he didn’t have a proper plan. If he had had a proper plan, he would have said, “I’m going to move to the Moon” or “I’m moving to the Moon”. Here are a few more sentences about plans:
I’m going to move to Tokyo next year.
I’m meeting the section manager on Monday morning.
I'm going to go to Thailand for Golden Week.


features                     has (as an important part)
spontaneous             natural, sudden, unplanned
insulted                     said bad or rude things about


My Thing, Your Thing

Written by Tricia

Click here for today's comic.

I'm quite sure that in your English classes, you have learned that the word "thing" is used to refer to inanimate objects, such as a book, a car, or a table. However, "thing" can also be used for afeature, activity, idea, situation, or event, when the speaker cannot, need not, or does not want to refer to it more precisely. Because of its flexibility in meaning, a lot of expressions using this word have been created and eventually became part of everyday, spoken English. For today, we shall focus on the expression "my thing."

Saying that something is "my thing," is a way of telling people that I like or am very interested in a particular activity, feature, idea, or event. So, in the above comic, when Snoopy said that "jogging is my thing," he means that he likes to jog very much. In my case, I could say that musicals are my thing, both watching and performing in one. Friends who know this often inform me of any interesting musical performance in town, invite me to watch with them, or even audition for one!

Conversely, if you do not like or are not interested in something, you can say that it "isn't my thing." For example, a friend once invited me to watch a professional basketball game with her because she had an extra ticket. However, I wasn't too interested in going because I don't really like basketball: basketball really isn't my thing.

So, what is or isn't your thing? You could try talking to your teacher and classmates about each other's interests using this expression. Better yet, you could also ask your teacher about other idiomatic expressions that use the word "thing" to refer to anything other than inanimate objects, and learn new phrases!


Vocabulary Words:

used to refer to        ~を指して用いられる

inanimate object      無生物    

feature                    特徴

precisely                  正確に

musical                    ミュージカル


Answering the Phone

Written by Gosia

Click here for today's comic.

Today's comic is related to telephoning so I'd like to introduce some useful phrases spoken on the telephone.
The phrase used in the comic is "Hello, this is (name)." This is what English speakers usually say when introducing themselves on the phone. After a greeting word such as "Hello" they usually say "This is (your name)."
For example:
A: プルルル
B: Hello.
A: Hello, this is Tom Brown.
Here are some other phrases:

Making contact :
  • Hello / Good morning / Good afternoon ...
  • This is John Brown speaking
  • Could I speak to ......... please?
  • I'd like to speak to ..... .....
  • I'm trying to contact ..........
Giving more information:
  • I'm calling from Tokyo / Paris / New York / Sydney ...
  • I'm calling on behalf of Mr. X ...
Taking a call :
  • X speaking.
  • Can I help you?
Asking for a name / information :
  • Who's calling please?
  • Who's speaking?
  • Where are you calling from?
  • Are you sure you have the right number / name?
Asking the caller to wait :
  • Hold the line please.
  • Could you hold on please?
  • Just a moment please.
Vocabulary from the comic:

PRANK CALL: いたずら電話

Challenge Yourself: Make Contact with Some Native English Everyday

Written by Matt


For today's article I would like you to challenge yourself. One of the most important things about learning English is listening to and reading real English.

Over the years, research has shown that the more you listen and the more you read the better your understanding and comprehension will be. This makes a lot of sense. Children who are native speakers of a language spend uncountable amounts of time only listening before they actually speak.

Don't worry if you don't understand everything that you listen to or read. That's okay. Just choose something that you find interesting. Choose something that holds your attention.

I remember when I was a little boy of only eight years old. I had a passion for reading and read everything I could get my hands on. I have a very clear memory of trying to read a book by Terry Pratchett. This book was called "The Colour of Magic". It was the first in a long series of books. This book was very difficult for me to read at that age. I remember that the sentences were very very long and difficult to follow. There were sentences inside of sentences which made it even more difficult. However the parts of it that I could understand kept me interested and I learned to be able to read the book eventually.

Learning your second language is not like learning your first language. As adults we do not have the same amount of time or the same amount of input as native speaking children do. However we do have some advantages. We can be much more efficient in the use of our time and effectively we can learn much more quickly than a child can.

One way to do this is to be selective about the material that we use to study with. Find something that's interesting and when it stops being interesting move on to something else that's interesting. Don't be afraid to leave books or articles half unread. Just keep the input coming and you'll do well.

So here is my challenge to you. Read a little bit of English every day. You can choose whatever source you like just make sure that it's native English. Below are some book recommendations and website recommendations that I think will help. Just 15 minutes a day will make you a better listener and a better speaker in English.

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page -  This version of Wikipedia is written in simple and easy to understand English. Of course you can look up your topics of interest on the normal Wikipedia too if you like.

www.reddit.com - This is a website which gathers together articles from many other websites. If you make an account you can select specific topics that you would like to be notified about. It's one of the most popular English websites on the Internet at the moment for English speakers. You'll not only find articles there but also many comments written by English speakers.

http://www.bbc.com/news - This is an excellent source of fairly easy to understand international news. It's updated daily so there's always something fresh to read.

http://www.scholastic.com/bookwizard/ - Use this website to help you find books that are at your level. You search for books that you've already read and then the book wizard will be able to show you books which are of the same level or higher that it recommends for you. This is extremely useful when you want to push yourself a little bit.

That's all for today. I hope you find these resources useful and continue to challenge yourself and learn every day.



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