Six things authors would rather NOT hear

Right, as many of you know I have stopped teaching as of December 2009 and am doing a lot of promotional travel and conference-attending this spring. An awful lot. In all these trips I meet teachers, representatives from the publisher, conference organisers and fellow authors and teacher trainers (and recently students too!). Ninety-nine percent of the time everyone is really nice, but there are some things that I think all authors prefer NOT to hear. Here are six that “get my goat” to a greater or lesser extent.

1. The distributor has not got copies of your book here.

This one is usually from an extremely frustrated sales representative. It doesn’t matter how good the book is, they go on to say, if we don’t have copies they we can’t sell it. Distribution problems can really make or break a book but more so a publisher. A school who has ordered X copies of your book and it doesn’t arrive will think twice before ordering from that publisher again. This is a dreaded scenario.

2. There is a typo on page XX of your new book.

How is it that, even after a manuscript has been through countless edits there are still pesky little typos that get in there? I’m convinced there are little gremlins in the production stage that do it out of sheer spite. Now, there are typos and there are typos. Some are relatively harmless and slightly annoying and others are real howlers. This sentence is sometimes uttered with glee by a teacher, who then watches the author squirm like a bug stuck on a needle. I believe that almost ALL first print runs of new books, be they methodology, coursebooks, dictionaries even, have one or two typos. And in case you are wondering if my new book has a single typo in it well I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to find out for yourselves!

3. Can you make your session 30 minutes shorter/longer?

This one comes from the local representative or the conference organiser. I don’t mind adapting a talk or workshop but not an hour before I start. Still, I’ve learned to be quite pragmatic about this and just get on with it. Throwing a bit of a tantrum does not help, nor does it endear you to the poor event organiser who is probably dealing with a million other problems at the same time. Jeremy Harmer has more on conference talks and such things at his excellent blog by the way here.

4. I loved your last book X (when the book was not in fact your book)

Ok, this is a completely normal mistake for someone to make. I’ve made it myself to tell the truth. So it counts as a minor irritation. Actually it often leads to a rather embarrassing situation when I say “Umm, no that wasn’t me. That was someone else. But yes it is a good book.” The other person then mumbles something like “Oh, errr, and what was your book? Oh, I’m sure it’s very nice too.” There follows a silence while we both search for something to say.

5. Can you sign this copy of X (a book that is not your book)

I’ve had this situation a couple of times. The funniest is when I say that I didn’t write it the other person cheerfully says “Doesn’t matter, sign it anyway.” Now I’m an obliging sort of fellow so I often do and then feel guilty. So I’m coming clean here. Other authors reading this blog: there are quite possibly teachers out there with a copy of your book with my signature on it. Sorry!

6. Did you include a unit on (insert teacher’s favourite thing here) in your book? No?!? Well you should have!

The first part of the question is fine (although I’ve heard some very weird requests). It’s the second bit where I feel the other person getting pissed off at me because I neglected to include their favourite football team, favourite author, obscure grammar point or lexical set or what have you. When these conversations get ugly it usually finishes with me smiling and saying “You should write a book then, with that in it”. Invariably the rejoinder is “Yeah? Well maybe I will!” and the other person marches off, but not without having grabbed a (often free) copy of my offensive book first!

You may notice I have not mentioned someone coming up and saying “I don’t use coursebooks,” or “I hate coursebooks, I teach with my own materials” or “I’m a dogmeist”. Almost all authors I know are very sympathetic to dogme and teachers making their own materials and don’t take that comment really that personally. Unless of course someone comes up and says “I hate YOUR books especially” which is obviously hurtful but doesn’t happen all that much.

I hasten to add that I don’t hear any of the above that often, thankfully!

Published in: | on March 1st, 2010 | 35 Comments »

The Irregular Verb Ski Jump and 5 other language games!

With the winter Olympics being 1) over half finished and 2) held in my homeland of Canada I thought it would be a good excuse to do an Olympic related six. Although I stopped my last class just before Christmas the following six activities are all fun sports-like games I’ve done with my students in the past, although perhaps not precisely on the winter Olympic theme. Anyway, see what you think. Many are suitable for adults and children!

1 Lexical Luge or Bobsled – For this activity you need a series of lexical categories (e.g. animals, food, clothing, crime) suitable for your students’ level. On the board draw an image of a steep hill and a luge track on it (it doesn’t have to be exact, a windy route down a big mountain side will do). Draw five different X’s at various points on the track. It should look a bit like this, but as a slide.

Start: _________X______X__________X___X_______________X – Finish

Now the game works like this. A student comes up. You give them the lexical category. He/she has to say 5 words (one for each X) in as quick as time as possible. Do this with a stopwatch. If they make a mistake, add 5 seconds to their final time. If they make three mistakes they have “flown off” the side of the track and are disqualified. Students could do this in teams of four, making it a bobsled race. The student/team with the fastest time gets the gold medal. Add more Xs to make it a more challenging track.

2 Irregular verbs Ski Jump – For this activity you need the ubiquitous list of irregular verbs. Draw an image of a ski jump on the board. A student comes up in front of the course. Give them three irregular verbs (e.g. make, go, eat). They have to say the past tense forms. If they make a mistake they sit down again. If they get them right they have made a successful jump. They then have 30 seconds to say as many pairs of infinitive and past forms of irregular verbs as they can, e.g fly-flew, teach-taught, buy-bought etc. Count how many correct they get in the 30 seconds (another student can time this). They score one point per correct pair. Their total points is the total distance jumped. At the end the student who has jumped the furthest gets gold medal.

3 The Olympic Rings Alphabet Game – Students play this in teams. They have to work together and make an alphabet of sports words. E.g. A Athletics, B basketball etc. Set a reasonable time limit (ten to fifteen minutes). At the end, check answers. For every five correct words in their alphabet each group gets an “Olympic ring”. Can any group get five rings?

4 Figure skating Recital – individual programme – This one takes a little more setting up, and you need students who are willing to “go for it”. Each student has to choose a short text, either from the coursebook or another source (a poem, an extract from a speech they find on the net, a paragraph from a novel). They need to memorise the text at home. The next class nominate a series of students as judges. Students get up and recite their memorised text aloud. The judges award points on choice of text, difficulty and pronunciation and award a final score out of ten points.

5 Figure skating Recital – pairs programme – Very similar to above, but this time students work in pairs and choose a dialogue to memorise. Other students act as judges and award points in the same way.

6 Spelling Halfpipe – The halfpipe, I learned this Olympics, is the acrobatic jumping you do on a snowboard. For this activity in class you need a long list of words that are difficult to spell (e.g. Wednesday, separate, writing…) It’s better if you have this list in different categories: hard, very hard and fiendishly hard. You can probably find lists of difficult to spell words on the net if you search around, or if you have Penny Ur’s Five Minute Activities there is a list in there. Run this like a typical spelling bee (spelling competition). Students choose the category and you give them a word to spell out loud. The more difficult the word, the more points it’s worth (you decide on points). Each student spells five words total. Calculate the points and decide how you want to award medals.

So there you have it. Now I know that some will say these are competitive, and maybe some of this activities will not work with a class of 175 (or insert your own “large number” here) students. But the ideas are surely flexible enough that with a bit of creativity you could make some of them work in some of your classes. What do you think? Do you have another favourite sports-related vocabulary or grammar game? Post a comment.

Six best movie-clips never to use in language teaching

Warning, use these clips at your own risk!

I’m pleased to announce the first REPEAT OFFENDER here at Six Things, none other than the great Pete Sharma. I think this is a post that Pete has been meaning to get off his chest for some time, and what a treat. Here is a full multimedia collection of celluloid moments not to be used in ELT, selected by self-confessed movie-buff Pete Sharma. Enjoy!

(1) Film: Witness

Starring: Harrison Ford

Teaching point: non-verbal communication

The little Amish boy uncurls his finger and points at the photo of the cop. Harrison Ford moves slowly across to him. This powerful spine-chilling “J’accuse” moment, conveyed (crucially) without words, is totally comprehensible to absolute beginners. Indeed, the whole film is largely comprehensible to lower level learners, and a great way to tune them in successfully to the punishing authenticity that is film. Incidentally, I have actually used this clip to demo NVC (non-verbal communication) on a native speaker communication skills course.

(2) Shirley Valentine

Starring: Pauline Collins

Teaching point: Simple present with adjectives of frequency

My whole life I have done the daily routine class with students, thinking: “When do I ever, in reality, explain my daily routine?” Then, I’m watching Shirley Valentine and suddenly, shocked to find egg and chips on his plate, not steak, Joe says:

Joe: “It’s Thursday. We have steak on Thursday. We always have steak on Thursday.”

Shirley: “We’re having egg and chips for a change. You like egg and chips.”

Joe: “On a Tuesday. I like egg and chips on a Tuesday”. (Priceless). “Today is Thursday.”

Shirley: “Well pretend it’s a Tuesday.”(!!)

Joe: “Where’s me steak?”

Shirley: “I gi’e it the dog!”

Not only that, he enunciates slowly and clearly, so angry is he. I want to round off all my present simple classes with this clip! Alas, I could not find it on youtube but it’s worth getting the whole film just for this dialogue!

(3) Film: High Fidelity

Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black

Teaching point: Yet

Rob (actor John Cusack) in romantic agony questions the meaning of yet: What did Laura mean last night when she said, “I haven’t slept with him yet.” Yet! What does “yet” mean anyway? It means you’re gonna do it, doesn’t it? Or does it? We then get the rest of the great clip above. Gets to the very heart of language drilling: a real world take on asking a question to which you know the answer, but you ask anyway – just to practice!

(4) Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Starring: Steve Martin

Language point: The language of complaining

Coming from an indirect culture, many is the hotel I’ve been in and tiptoed down to complain that the TV is broken. “Excuse me, er, sorry to bother you but, and I’m sure it must be my fault, I’m afraid the TV is……..” Inside of me is a Steve Martin trying to emerge. Here he is, complaining that his hire car isn’t in its bay, a scene which starts off like any other customer service dialogue. Warning: you will hear the F word a LOT in this clip!

Never has the gap between ELT dialogue and the silver screen been wider. Student task: redraft this conversation to make it, er, more polite.

(5) Film: It’s a wonderful life

Starring: James Stewart

Teaching point: conditional type 3

When alien Mork comes to earth in the old US series Mork and Mindy, it transpires all the English he learnt was from transmissions of television shows. Wow. A dream scenario! No teachers, just students totally immersed in a world of film. No need to teach Conditional Type three, then. Just show that last 20 minutes of It’s  a wonderful Life and have your learners report back. Most everything they explain will use the target  structure! We all know the ending: “Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life.”

So, if George hadn’t been born…well, you get the picture (pun intended). Cue summarising Back to the Future and a host of films on time-travel…….

(6) Film: Double Indemnity

Starring: Edward G. Robinson

Teaching point: ESP – lexis


The fabulously named Barton Keyes (Edward G.) works in insurance. Norton, Keyes’s boss, has just tried, unsuccessfully, to convince a client that her husband’s death was a suicide. It’s the words and the incredible speed of delivery that makes this speech so magnetic. Anyone for a gap-fill?

“Come now, you’ve never read an actuarial table in your life, have you? Why they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by colour, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poison, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by “types” of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth; suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under the wheels of trains, under the wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from “steamboats”. But, Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record, there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train. {..} We’re sunk, and we’ll have to pay through the nose, and you know it”.

I’ve waited all my TEFL life to use this dialogue with a student. Before I die, I just want to teach an actuary in order to use it. How sad is that?

Published in: | on February 16th, 2010 | 18 Comments »

Six scary things about the internet

The internet can be a big bad place. Recently I seem to have come across several warnings about web use and computers, some I knew about and others I didn’t. I’ve collected six scary things here that can form part of a discussion on online and computer activity or just generally serve as an awareness-raising reading for teachers and learners moving into the virtual environment.

1 Flame wars and smack talk - The internet is said to have a disinhibiting effect on people’s communication, meaning that they will sometimes say things in online discussions that they would never dream of saying in face to face communication. This hostile and/or insulting behaviour is called flaming, or sometimes smack talk. When users fight fire with fire it descends into a spiral, also called a flame war.

2 Internet addiction disorder – There is some disagreement as to whether this is a separate disorder or rather just a symptom of other disorders (e.g. gambling or porn addicts who go online). Apart from the obvious – wanting to be online all the time – symptoms include fatigue, lack of sleep, irritability, apathy, racing thoughts… uh oh this is feeling close to comfort I’ll stop there :-)

3 Creepy Treehouse syndrome – What a great name for a syndrome. This has been defined as a place online that adults built with the intention of luring kids in (by Jared Stein, see a more detailed exploration here). In education circles, some people refer to the Creepy Treehouse syndrome when a teacher for example “forces” students to join twitter or Facebook and become friends or followers. Needless to say, this is rather hotly debated (see here for example)

4 Trolls - Internet trolls are unpleasant people who post insulting, inflammatory or irrelevant messages in online forums or on blogs or other public areas. The prime motivation of a troll is to disrupt communication or provoke an emotional response. If a troll is baiting you online, you are giving them exactly what they want by rising to it.

5 Facebook depression  – This one is a bit tenuous, but I need to get my six in so here goes. According to one study of teenage girls in New York the ability to share problems and personal issues to such an extent is causing, or at least aggravating, depression. The problem with online places such as Facebook is that it allows one to discuss and cover the same problems over and over again. You know, really wallow in it.

6 Narcissism and web 2.0 - Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, authors of The Narcissism Epidemic, call web 2.0 the new Wild West of narcissistic culture. They say the overwhelming message of social networking sites is a focus on the individual and, often, the superficial. Two arguments they make that made me think were the following: 1) the internet makes it very easy for you to be someone you’re not (usually better, cooler, more attractive )and 2) a lot of internet communication is through images and brief self-description placing attention on the shallower aspects of the person (your carefully selected photo, your quips, your blurbs). Ouch!

So, I wonder… do you think learners and educators should be aware of these things, and to what extent? Are these real fears or exaggerated horrors about modern technological life? Post a comment if you feel like it.

Published in: | on February 11th, 2010 | 14 Comments »

Six ELT apps for the iPad/iPhone

Immediately after the launch of the iPad, that crazy team of scientists here at Six Things (the ones who brought you six technological inventions teachers really want to see) got down to work on creating apps for our field. Here they are, still under development but showing a lot of promise already…

1. iGrind - delivers ten grammar exercises to your mobile phone every day for 20 years. A 21st century application of an idea from my co-author and friend Philip Kerr for a coursebook called Grind On.

2. iCELTA – Imagine having your CELTA teacher trainer in every one of your classes! This app quietly sits and listens to your lessons, occasionally giving you CELTA-type advice via text message (e.g. “slow down your teacher talk” “demo the activity first” “spelling mistake on the board”) At the end of your lesson press the feedback option, and iCELTA will ask you gently what parts of the lesson you thought went okay before giving you a mark.

3. imSick – makes your voice sound completely cold-ridden and flu-like for when you want to call in ill for work.

4. Dogme app – this paperless app at first emits a peaceful and purposeful silence. Point your iPad or iPhone at the students and watch the language simply flow out. The app then uses this to tailor a language learning activity just for you. Don’t ask what this looks like, it must be experienced.  Can be upgraded to synch with twitter and will broadcast the occasional anti-technology tweet. Note: this app works best if all coursebooks have been removed from the room.

5. 6things app – delivers a daily dose of Six Things joy to your phone. Never miss a blog post again ;-)

6. UnderstandMe app – programmed with instructions for all your favourite activities in clear and loud English. Don’t worry about losing your voice, or your cool, ever again. The volume on this app can actually go way up so that the instructions are heard by a large class of teenagers.

Do you have an idea for a killer app for English language teachers? Post a comment.

Published in: | on February 8th, 2010 | 33 Comments »

Six questions for linked language learning

Yes! Time for another guest post, this time from a colleague in Ireland, Patrick Jackson. Patrick is the author of Potato Pals. Here he shares six questions teachers can ask themselves about links, linking up and linked learning. Some good food for reflective thought here.

Think Link! Six questions for Linked (Language) Learning

1. The links between teacher and student.

Do I have mutually respectful relationships with my students and do I devote time and energy to developing these relationships?

2. The links between students.

Are my students communicating without anxiety, working together well and supporting each other? Do students have plenty of opportunity and encouragement to develop these relationships?

3. The links between teachers.

Am I connected to an active community of teachers? Does this community enrich my teaching and support my development? Is it easy for me to seek the help of more experienced teachers? Am I engaged in helping less-experienced teachers than myself?

4. The links to the world outside the classroom.

Are students being given opportunities to use the target language in a real and relevant way, linked to the world beyond the classroom? Is the language being learnt through such links? Am I giving students space and time to use this language in the context of their own lives?

5. The links between the known and the new.

Is new language being introduced in a way that makes connections with language students have already mastered. Am I helping my students to find and use these connections?

6. The ‘M’ link.

Do I use a wide variety of materials, methods and media linked in a way that students will find memorable and motivating? Mmmm.

You can find out more about Patrick’s work at his blog, The Potato Diaries, here. Thank you Patrick, for your six!

Published in: | on February 1st, 2010 | 3 Comments »

Six things teachers always say

Insert what you always say here.

This is a post I have been meaning to do for some time. What words and phrases do we always use as teachers?

1. OK

Perhaps not so unusual as it is supposed to be the most frequent discourse marker in the English language (for a humorous take on the various uses of OK, see here)

2. Right

Again, this is a typical teacher “signalling” device. I use this all the time, I must confess.

3. Very good

A common and useful form of praise from the teacher, or is it? According to research by Jean Wong and Hansun Zhang Waring in the United States, the highly frequent use of ‘very good’ by teachers may not always be indicative of positive feedback and in fact may inhibit learning opportunitites (see ELTJ volume 63/3 July 2009)

4. Today we’re going to…

Many English classes around the world begin very much with these words I think. Not much of a problem unless it ends up being a rather long tedious ramble that takes up the first quarter of the class.

5. Quiet please!

Well, teachers of business executives perhaps not but I’d be willing to bet that this phrase gets a lot of usage in young learner classrooms (or a close equivalent)

6. (open your books to) Page … please

I’ve given whole workshops devoted to finding alternatives to saying this in class. This common phrase can be quite a killjoy, especially if they are the first words out of a teacher’s mouth at the beginning of class.

There are two good ways to find out if you are overusing a certain word or phrase. One is to record yourself over a series of classes and watch. The second is to ask your cheekiest student to do an imitation of you. I am not sure which is more painful!

What word or words do you overuse? Post a comment.

Published in: | on January 30th, 2010 | 47 Comments »

When a crisis the scale of what is happening in Haiti hits the headlines and gets “blanket coverage” from news outlets like CNN, it’s tempting to bring it up with students. But does this sort of thing have a place in the language classroom? One the one hand it feels negligent not to mention it at all, but on the other hand one wants to avoid descending into a sort of gruesome spectacle (using youtube clips or the like) which may not be that productive at all.  Here are six suggestions on ways you could address the Haitian crisis in a language classroom.

1 Use an existing lesson plan – e.g. Breaking News English

Sean Banville at Breaking News English has already made a general lesson plan about Haiti and the disaster.  You could use that on its own or in conjunction with any of these ideas.

2 Understand the Richter scale and earthquakes

I’m very fortunate not to live in an earthquake zone, so those of you who do may already be very aware of how the Richter scale works.But if you or your students aren’t, it makes for a useful and timely read. Or you could use as your text any of the many websites giving advice on what to do during an earthquake. Here’s one from FEMA in the US.

3 Analyse how the media is portraying the crisis

Ask students to pay attention to the news and make a list of the keywords being used. Ask them to bring these to class and translate them into English. Then, depending on the level of your students you could ask questions such as the following: What elements of the disaster are focused on most? What is attracting the attention of the news stations? Do different stations focus more on one kind of story? How are average Haitians being portrayed?

4 Use something Haitian other than the disaster

It might make for a welcome change from death and looting stories to raise awareness about other aspects of Haiti. One possibility would be to use a folktale or Haitian proverbs as a text. You can find examples of both here. Alternatively, and especially if you are working with younger learners, you could make a poster project about Haiti, its geography and culture.

5 Encourage a critical eye

One way to look at events in Haiti is also through the prism of “who benefits” from such disasters? With all the money flowing in from around the world there is ample incentive for many different players to get involved: from all kinds of aid organisations (some perhaps with political or religious agendas), to corrupt government officials to multinational building companies wanting to get rebuilding contracts. And then there are the fraudsters (see warning from the FBI here). These questions could be a starting point for a higher level class discussion on how, why and who to donate money to in the name of solidarity. Or ask students to do a webquest on this topic and bring in articles or viewpoints themselves.

6 Ask students what they think they can do to help

Of course, any of the above might lead to a feeling of urgency to “do something” for the victims of the earthquake.  This could form the basis of a class project: either to organise a fundraising event, create a poster project for the school to educate others about Haiti or generally raise awareness among students who can then choose themselves what they should/are able to do.

I currently don’t have a class (my last one finished just before Christmas and I won’t have a group until April) but I’d personally be tempted to do a combination of two or more of the above if I did. I know some teachers who believe this kind of stuff is best avoided in the classroom. So I’m curious, would any of my readers address this issue? And if so, how to do it sensitively? Post a comment if you have time.

Six anagrams of well-known ELT bloggers

Awhile I ago someone sent me this link to an anagram generator. I’ve been thinking of ways to use it in class, barring simply making interesting anagrams from words or phrases for my learners to solve. Recently I found a whole new fun thing to do, which was put names into the generator and see what I get.

So, here’s a test on six things for you! The following are anagrams of other ELT bloggers out there (they are on my blogroll). I’ve included a little description next to each. Can you identify them?

1 Seller, Hell Try – I met Seller, Hell Try at a conference last year. She’s a great networker, very active on twitter and #edchat and her blog currently features a set of goals. Would I recommend Seller, Hell Try? Hell yes!

2 Obstruct Thorny - Obstruct Thorny does tend to ask questions worthy of his anagram last name, especially about coursebooks and grammar syllabi. However, the quality of his blog entries makes up for the thorniness of some of those questions!

3 A Giddy Uneven -Taking a trip to A Giddy Uneven’s blog about technology matters is not a dizzying experience, it’s a solidly written one. Some of his blog posts are very “even”, as long as you agree with him! :-)

4 Transversely Keen – Her blog transverses many topics, supposedly about technology and speaking but in reality covers a lot more. Transversely Keen lives up to her last name very well, she’s one of the keenest bloggers out there – I mean that in a good sense.

5 Noel Winks – Noel Winks is a splendid chap and recent addition to the blogosphere  who is making quite an impact despite his modest claims to the contrary. Mr Winks alternately shares stories from his life in the profession with provocative posts about culture, or the things he knows about teaching English.

6 Cease Lax – The Godfather of the ELT (blog) world, Cease Lax has been blogging since before many of the others on this list. Cease Lax has a wry sense of humour, produces far too many free worksheets for his own good and probably had a post like this around 8 months ago. Many of my favourite post ideas were probably done by Cease Lax in the past.

Finally, my name is Clay Landside Find. Creator of what one reader called “a bit of a hodge podge” of this blog, which is also – according to Onestopblogs – probably too wordy. Hopefully there are some good finds in this clay landslide of text though!

Ok, let’s hear it from all the other great bloggers and readers I’ve missed. What does your name give in the anagram generator?

Published in: | on January 20th, 2010 | 54 Comments »

Six Canadian English words or expressions, eh?


The Canadian Beaver beer commercial, a favourite of mine

As many readers of this blog know, I am an expat Canadian living in Spain. This past Christmas I was back in Canada for a couple of weeks with my family and friends. I found myself smiling at words or expressions that I had always thought were just “English” but I realise now are particularly Canadian. I thought I’d share six of my favourites with you. I’m sure there is a potential exercise here for students, somehow. But it doesn’t have to be practical, you can simply read this and consider yourselves better educated. ;-)

1. Canuck – The Canadian informal word for a Canadian, as in “He’s okay, he’s a fellow Canuck.”. There is also a hockey team called The Vancouver Canucks.

2. goal suck – Another hockey term (you can tell I was back in Canada in winter time). I heard my nephew use this expression. A goal suck is a player who hovers around the opposing team’s net in hockey, waiting for the puck to come close so he or she can score. You can’t really have a goal suck in football (European football) because offside rules prohibit it. What a great expression though: goal suck.

3. homo milk – Now this probably would raise eyebrows if you asked for it at a British supermarket, but homo milk is short for homogenized milk, which contains 3.25% milk fat. It is called whole milk in the USA, I am not sure if there is an English equivalent.

4. loonie and toonie – Two informal words for Canadian coins. The loonie is the one dollar coin, which earns its name from the image of the loon on it (a loon is a kind of bird). A toonie is the more recent two dollar coin, named that way because it sounds like loonie. Yes, Canada is full of loonies and toonies.

5. T dot, Hogtown, Big Smoke, TO – Three names for my hometown of Toronto, the biggest city in Canada. I always called it TO (Tee-Oh) and sometimes the Big Smoke. Hogtown is more derogative I believe. T Dot is a newer version, which I think sounds a bit like a corporate slogan to appeal to youth but that could just be me.

6. twofer, two-four - Ah, this word kind of defines my university days. A twofer is short for twenty-four, the number of cans of beer in a case which was a staple of parties. Pick up a twofour and a two big pizzas and you’re set for the evening. I didn’t see one twofour (also called a flat in Western Canada) this last visit, maybe because all my university friends have grown up and we don’t guzzle so much beer (ahem these friends are NOT English teachers, which also explains it). Plus Canada has discovered wine and organic, small brewery beer in the past twenty years which does not sell in the big cases and feels more refined. There is nothing refined about bringing a twofour to a dinner party.

So there you have it. If you are not Canadian, consider yourself educated. If you are Canadian, maybe this was boring. Either way, if you know other Canadian English phrases or expressions, why not add them below as a comment?

*note: I include eh? at the end of the title of this post as it is another common Canadian expression, a bit like a Canadian question tag. Like the Canadian version of ‘innit’.

Published in: | on January 18th, 2010 | 33 Comments »