Help with English

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Saint, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. Saint Valued Senior Member

    stench-filled = smelly?

    in foster care = closely monitored?

    Is it a crime to abandon your children in USA?
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No. "Foster care" is a legal term. Children who are abused, abandoned, or whose parents have unexpectedly died, become "wards of the state." The government takes them away and places them in a "foster home." Typically this is the home of a married couple who take in "foster children" and are paid a fee for their services (and reimbursed for their expenses) by the government--a kind of "job" although one parent may also work full-time.

    If the family situation cannot be repaired, the children will be "put up for adoption." People who can't have children of their own, or who simply love children and want to be good citizens, go through an excruciating application process to determine whether they're qualified for this honor. If the government decides that they would be good parents, they will adopt the children. At this point, for all legal purposes they become those kids' parents and the kids become their children. Even their birth certificates are changed! (This brings some problems in the age of genetics. Sometimes we need to know who a child's actual father is, to determine whether he's at risk of a particular disease.)

    If the parents of an abused or abandoned child have close relatives who want to take him in, they may be able to do this informally. It depends on the community. In some places the state or municipal government will step in and decide whether the grandparents, uncle, etc., are good enough to have them. In other places the government will decide that as long as the children are fed, clothed and sent to school, that's good enough.

    A friend of mine and his wife ran a foster home back in the 1960s, and usually had five or six kids there.

    In addition, there are organizations that run their own foster-care institutions for giving children long-term care. These are usually children with serious problems, whom no one else is brave enough to take in. They usually stay there until they're adults. I have a friend who has worked in one of those places for 20 years. (Not as a foster parent, but a member of the administrative staff.) They carefully follow the progress of "their children" after they grow up and move away. They are pleased to find that these kids have a somewhat better success rate than the national average, as measured by university educations, good jobs, lasting marriages, and happy children of their own.

    One of the reasons they offer for this phenomenon is that in one of their homes there are not just two parents, but more like six or eight adults. (Because there might be twenty children there and two adults aren't enough.) This way, if one leaves, there are still quite a few "parents" who have remained and who provide continuity. This provides a strong feeling of security. In a normal household, if one parent leaves, the child has suddenly lost half of the adults in his life.
    Good lord, yes! It is one of the worst crimes you can commit in the United States. It means you are an absolutely worthless human being. We might more willingly forgive a murderer (since many murders are crimes of passion committed out of desperation) than someone who has abandoned his children.

    If you abandon your children and they catch you, you will spend a long time in prison, or else under psychiatric care.
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  5. Saint Valued Senior Member

    If a mom did not hold the hand of her toddler to cross the road and he/she ran across the road and knocked down by a car and killed, will the mother be charged guilty?
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  7. Gustav Banned Banned

    absolutely not
    we sub-human americans celebrate negligence
    she will be feted with many a party
  8. Saint Valued Senior Member

    foodie = food?

    CSA box =?
    du jour = just prepared. Why use this French word?
    hobby and snobby = ?

    Basically I don't understand everything said above.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No. A foodie is, colloquially, a food junkie, someone who treats food like a hobby or avocation. This does not necessarily mean someone who overeats and gets fat (many, but not all, fat people eat indiscriminately and compulsively), but rather someone who fancies himself a connoisseur or a gourmet, or at the very least has strong opinions about which foods he likes best and can support them with a little bit of logic.
    CSA = Community Supported Agriculture, a concept that arose in Switzerland and Japan half a century ago and has recently spread to America. A CSA farm is run collaboratively by the farmer(s) and the consumers, the goal being to produce food that is safe, for a stable market. A CSA box is enough food to feed a family of four for a week; it may not actually be packaged in a box, a word which is a convenient metaphor. The price seems to range from $25 to $40, which is incredibly cheap. I spend quite a bit more than that on food for myself. I think the writer is using the term "CSA box" loosely, to mean simply food purchases made on a limited budget with a nod to nutritional wholesomeness and environmental responsibility.
    No, that's not what it means. It means a particular specialty that is on today's menu in a restaurant. In that context it's usually a treat. But people use the term colloquially in just the opposite sense, for example, "Today's breakfast entree du jour is French toast," meaning, "This is what I decided to cook this morning because I'm in a hurry and French toast is fast and easy. You guys can eat it or you can go to McDonalds for breakfast."
    A hobby is an activity which you take very seriously, put a lot of time into, and try to become an expert at. Collecting stamps, building model ships, hybridizing orchids, breeding canaries, etc. Note that a hobby is not something you do primarily for money, even though you will probably sell your orchids and canaries because you can't keep them all.

    "Snobby" is an adjective formed from the word "snob." A snob (in this context, there are other related definitions) is a person who considers himself an expert in a field and takes a superior, condescending, or even hostile attitude toward people who don't know as much about it, or who merely disagree with him.

    It is possible (and not uncommon) for a person to be snobby about his hobby.
    • Advil is one popular brand of the most widely used non-prescription pain-killer ibuprofen that is not an NSAID (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug) like aspirin, which has many bad side effects and is not as popular as it was 50 years ago. To "take an Advil and a nap" is a metaphor (or in some cases a literal description!) for backing away from a stressful situation to find relief.
    • A torta is a Mexican-style sandwich. Rather than slices of bread, it's made with an elongated roll that's been sliced in half and hollowed out, making lots of room for soft, juicy cooked contents, rather than the solid, cool contents used in an American sandwich (typically sliced meat, cheese and fresh vegetables).
    • A hangover is the withdrawal symptom from alcohol intoxication, arguably the world's most popular recreational drug. People who consume more than the equivalent of one ounce of pure alcohol (one beer, one glass of wine, one shot of whiskey, etc.) per hour may suffer unpleasant aftereffects the next morning, including most commonly a bad headache, but also "fog" in the brain, sluggishness and impaired coordination and judgment. Like any drug's withdrawal symptom, a hangover is a vector toward addiction, since the quickest and easiest way to make the bad feeling go away is to immediately drink more alcohol. To compare a question to a hangover is to say that the question is causing pain long after it was asked and has turned out not to be easy to dispel. Since the word "like" was used ("like your hangover"), this is a simile rather than a metaphor.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2012
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "If a mother did not hold her toddler's hand while crossing the street and he ran across and was hit by a car and killed, would she be charged with a crime?"

    First let me clarify this by making some reasonable assumptions:
    • This is a city street with cross-traffic, moderate speeds, and pedestrian crossings--not a high-speed expressway that's expected to be inaccessible to pedestrians.
    • The mother was in fact supervising the child. She was not sitting on a park bench talking on her cellphone, oblivious to where her child was and what he was doing.
    • The child was not hidden and did not burst out from concealment to surprise the motorists.
    • He was not an athlete and was not running at extraordinary speed.
    • It was daylight and visibility was good.
    In most American cities, in this situation the driver would be held responsible. We are all expected to understand that there are children everywhere and they do not always behave rationally and obey the traffic laws; also that sometimes parents are overwhelmed and are not able to restrain their children. This is our responsibility when we are members of a civilization. We all help each other and try very hard not to kill each other's children.

    In most American jurisdictions, when we see a pedestrian in the street, even if he is breaking the law by walking against a red light or walking outside of the crosswalk, we are required by law to slow down or stop and give him the right of way: let him complete his crossing. The law is colloquially phrased this way: "The right of way is not worth dying for or killing for." If the pedestrian did something illegal, it is up to the police to punish him, not the drivers.

    This is especially true of children.

    If the mother was truly negligent, then she could be arrested. But in a typical scenario where a child simply does something unexpected, the mother would not usually be prosecuted. Losing her child is enough punishment. What could you possibly do to her that would be worse than that?
  11. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Prepared for a given day:

    The soup du jour is cream of potato.
  12. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Snobby = snobbish,
    Of, befitting, or resembling a snob; pretentious.

    Snob, noun, =
    One who overtly imitates, obsequiously admires, and offensively seeks to associate only with those one regards as one's superiors and who tends to rebuff or ignore altogether those one regards as one's inferiors.
  13. Saint Valued Senior Member

    "The right of way is not worth dying for or killing for."

    I don't understand this phrase.
  14. Saint Valued Senior Member

    "If a mother did not hold her toddler's hand while crossing the street and he ran across and was hit by a car and killed, would she be charged with a crime?"

    When am I able to write as you do?

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  15. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    The underlying wisdom put forth here is that the universal principle of preserving life is far more precious than any right-of-way traffic statute. In short, it counsels that both driver and pedestrian should always embrace caution in this regard.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yes, that's the original use of the term. But the quotation you presented was using it as slang. When a mother (or whichever adult is the cook in the family) announces: "The sandwich du jour is olive loaf with pepper jack cheese," she is telling you that everyone in the family is going to discover an olive loaf and pepper jack cheese sandwich when he opens his lunch bag five hours from now, and you had better not complain about it. She probably got it at a good price and considers that more important than whether or not you like it.

    Every time I see a friend of mine, she is with a new boyfriend. She always says (in private when he's not listening), "This is my paramour du jour." "Paramour" is a word we borrowed from the French, originally meaning an illicit lover (such as a married person), but now simply an intimate boyfriend or girlfriend. So by saying "du jour" she's telling me that she never keeps the same one for very long. This is not literal usage--she doesn't actually get a new one every day--so it is slightly exaggerated, but not quite to the point of being metaphorical. And of course by combining two French borrowings that rhyme, she's being rather clever. She's a writer too, so we enjoy playing with words.
    These days, snobby people don't necessarily attempt to associate only with their superiors and to avoid their inferiors. The reason is that many people who act snobby have not actually earned the right to do so. They may not truly have the expertise, discretion, wealth, accomplishments, etc., that would gain them admission to those exalted circles; in fact by those measures they may not be significantly superior to the people they demean.

    There's an old term for this behavior: putting on airs. It means to act as though you're rich, powerful, educated, famous, or something along those lines, when you are actually perfectly ordinary. (Some snobby people aren't good enough to be called "ordinary," so they act snobby to pretend that they're better than they really are.)

    So, while some people who truly are rich, powerful, educated, famous, etc., may be snobby and behave like snobs to their "inferiors," that is obviously a relatively small number of people. Therefore, if you encounter someone who acts like a snob, the probability is very high that he is just pretending.

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    Also, don't forget that rich, famous, powerful people are not all assholes! Many of them are very kind and polite and understand the principle of noblesse oblige (another useful French borrowing): Those who are successful owe a debt to the people who helped them succeed without, themselves, succeeding.

    Many of our old sayings and cliches about honor are French. Saying something in French just automatically makes it sound more honorable.

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    America was founded in the 18th century by fighting a revolution against a king who denied us many important rights. Our Constitution is a list of rights that we fought for, and others that were added later. In the 19th century we fought a war among ourselves (the American Civil War, one of the deadliest in human history, killing a full 3% of the country's population) in order to extend those rights to Americans of African ancestry.

    So we take rights very seriously, and we often say that our rights are worth fighting for and/or worth dying for. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans of European ancestry traveled to our southeastern states to confront other Americans of European ancestry who had not yet granted the full rights of citizenship to Americans of African ancestry. They risked their lives and some of them were killed in the confrontation.

    So it becomes a rather sombre cliche to say, "But the right of way is not one of those rights that's worth killing for or dying for." Right of way is a legal term, specifying which vehicle or person must stop and let the other one go first when their paths cross. It's also used in other senses. For example, if there is a park behind your house and there are no roads into it, the original deed to your property may have granted right of way to the public, allowing them to walk (carefully, peacefully, and without leaving trash) across your land in order to use the park. This is known as a public easement.
    I'm a professional writer so obviously I have to be able to write better than most people in order to keep my job. Still, the vast majority of Americans can't write well. And I don't just mean that they can't express themselves clearly. They make mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. One of my major duties in the office is to edit other people's writing; to correct all their errors, but also to go beyond that and make it look like a magazine article or a legal contract, instead of something scrawled on a bathroom wall.

    You don't need to be able to write like me. Just learn to write better than the average American and you will be highly respected for it. And believe me, that isn't hard! You just have to think it's important enough to put some effort into learning. Most Americans are much too lazy to care.

    Also, texpeak (text messaging on a cellphone) has turned us into an entire nation of shitty writers. The 140-character limit forces them to leave words out and to make up clever new abbreviations, and those tiny keys the size of sesame seeds make it difficult to type correctly.

    I often repeat a wonderful line that was in an animated TV show several years ago, and is still true:
    Nothing worth reading was ever written by a man who was trying to type with his thumbs.
    However, to give you a little help with a specific answer, I refer back to your question, "When am I able to write as you do?" Since your native language is Chinese, you have some specific problems to overcome due to the specific differences between Chinese and English. One is the use of articles, of which I remind you often, since they don't exist in Chinese. Another is the proper use of verb tenses, which also don't exist in Chinese. No present, past, future, conditional, imperative, infinitive, gerund, participle, etc. You have to think very carefully about every verb you write.

    In this sentence, you used the present tense when you were talking about the future. The correct way to say it is, "When will I be able to write..."
  17. Saint Valued Senior Member

    nix = To forbid, refuse, or veto.
    Is it a German dialectal?

    spar = To bandy words about in argument; dispute.
    string of disputes = a series of disputes?
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  18. Saint Valued Senior Member


    right of way
    1.The right to pass over property owned by another party.
    2.The path or thoroughfare on which such passage is made.
    3.The strip of land over which facilities such as highways, railroads, or power lines are built.
    4.The customary or legal right of a person, vessel, or vehicle to pass in front of another.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's German slang, a contraction of nichts, "nothing," from the same Old High German source as English "naught," which means the same thing. It was borrowed into English more than 200 years ago, but began to be used as a verb about 100 years ago.
    That's not a very good definition. To spar originally meant to practice the arm and fist motions of boxing, a training exercise for fighters. Then it came to be used for two fighters practicing with each other, trading blows but not heavy ones. We still use the term "sparring partner" for fighters who help each other practice, using techniques and customs that reduce the chance of injury, and it's been extended from boxing to other martial arts.

    Eventually the word "spar" was extended to a "fight" using words instead of physical blows, i.e., a style of fighting in which physical injury is completely impossible.
    A string of things or events is a series in which the things or events follow each other very closely, or in a line, like a physical string. A string of islands is a set that are arranged more or less in a row, rather than packed tightly together. A string of disputes, questions, disasters, etc., is a series in which there is not a long pause between one and the next.
  20. Saint Valued Senior Member


    bombshell = refers to hot & spicy girl?

    ring girl = same role as cheer leader?
  21. Chipz Banned Banned

  22. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Ring girls or cheer leaders, the prerequisites are to be sexy, pretty and probably willing to sleep with you?

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  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Obviously a bombshell is a powerful destructive weapon. Used metaphorically, the original slang meaning is: something or someone having a sudden and sensational effect: "The news of his resignation was a bombshell." (You could have looked this up in're still not doing your homework!) The term became popularized in the 1930s for a girl with a very sexy figure, which in those days was much larger and healthier than it is in the USA today: the original fertility goddess that we keep digging up in Paleolithic archeological sites, with big breasts and wide hips, a woman who could raise healthy children and ensure the survival of the tribe. Jean Harlow was the original "blonde bombshell," starring in a 1933 movie titled "Bombshell," and for a while the term was restricted to "blonde bombshells" only. Alliteration is often part of the motivation for coining slang.

    In World War II, American aviators lovingly painted portraits of their favorite "pinup girls" (so-called from the practice of using pins to tack up photos of beautiful women from calendars on walls--they were also called "calendar girls") on the sides of their airplanes and even on the bombs themselves. This was unofficially approved by their officers because it boosted morale. So of course this gave a double meaning to the slang word "bombshell."
    As Chipz notes, a ring girl actually walks into the ring between rounds of a fight to announce the statistics. In some sports they also come in before the first round and remove the fighters' jackets, robes, championship belts, etc. That's the origin of the term.
    They usually wear stunning clothing like bikinis or ball gowns. Now that female boxing has become popular, some of the events feature men performing the duties of the ring girls.
    These women take jobs in which they highlight their beauty and engage in charming behavior, because they happen to have the attributes and skills that make it possible for them to earn a living that way. That does not make them sluts or prostitutes. You should be careful not to talk that way, it's very insulting. Many of these women are married and you would not want their husbands to read what you just wrote.

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