Acadia English Blog

Dining and Day Trips in Midcoast Maine

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According to the New York Times, Camden, Rockport, Rockland, Belfast, and surrounding towns are fantastic places to find restaurants offering local produce and unique dining experiences. Kayaking, sailing, and hiking excursions that are popular with Acadia Center English immersion students are also highlighted in the travel article published this week.

Carried Away: What does it mean?

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In a recent New York Times interview, iconic American writer and radio host Garrison Keillor was asked: Have you ever felt carried away by a particular place in America? The phrasal verb carried away, used in the passive with the verbs be, feel, or get, means delighted and enraptured, and can also imply getting a little over-excited and out-of-control. For Keillor, the most intoxicating places in the USA include the Grand Canyon, the back roads of rural Tennessee, the High Plains of North Dakota, and the coastline of Maine.

Carried away, in its possible sense of emotion getting the better of reason, can also carry a more negative meaning, as in this quote from the Catholic writer and mystic Thomas Merton.

The idiom swept away has a similar meaning to carried away, with perhaps a dash more vigor. It appears in one of the best (and longest) movie titles ever, Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August – the English translation of the Italian title of Lina Wertmuller’s 1974 film and shortened to just Swept Away in the 2002 remake starring Madonna.

 

Between You and Me: Grammar Conundrums

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Between you and me? Between you and I? Between me and you? Even native speakers of English confess to feeling perplexed when it comes to choosing the correct pronouns.

In his entertaining podcast Lexicon Valley on the online news website Slate, Mike Vuolo presents a satisfyingly thorough and often funny discussion of the confusion provoked by this expression.

Although most accept between you and me as the correct standard usage (following the rule of using the object pronoun, not the subject pronoun, after a preposition), champions of the form between you and I make the argument that if it was good enough for Shakespeare (in Merchant of Venice), it’s good enough for them.

Which one does singer Jessica Simpson favor? Listen for yourself.

Here is some vocabulary from the podcast that might, without explanation, stump (be too difficult for) even advanced students of English:

hypercorrection – a mistake in grammar caused by a false analogy with another rule that is commonly ignored

smartass – someone who is obnoxiously self-assertive and impudent

high dudgeon  – intense indignation

up for grabs – available to the first person who wants it or tries to get it

roll my eyes – express exasperation

persnickity – placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy

cottage industry – a small, loosely organized flurry of activity or industry

from your lips to God’s ears – when used sarcastically, a pessimistic way of dismissing another’s naive hope

Comic Strip English – Doonesbury

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A great way to practice English is to read the comics – they’re short and funny, they feature everyday English vocabulary that you can really put to use, and like movies they give you plenty of visual clues to what’s going on.

A classic American comic strip is Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury. in circulation since 1970 and featuring such legendary charactes as Duke, whose exploits on the sketchiest fringes of the diplomatic world make for witty political satire; BD, the football star and army vet who never removes his helmet; and Alex, the daughter of the strip’s title character, “a true child of the media and searcher for the Killer App.”

Check it out, and if you have any questions about the vocabulary in the strip, let us know and we’ll help you out!

Who vs. Whom: Which is Correct?

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Either as a relative pronoun or question word, whom is rarely used in conversation. Formal writing, yes, but ordinary conversation, no.

With whom did you go to the movies? is correct but sounds like a police interrogation.

Who did you go to the movies with? is technically incorrect but is the way we usually say it.

Is it better to be correct and absurdly formal, or incorrect and more accurate in mimicking native speakers, including the most educated? In ordinary conversation, generally speaking, the answer is you’re right to be wrong – use who.

Still, it’s a good idea to know which is correct in a given context. The quick test in choosing between who and whom is to substitute he or him. If he sounds better, who is correct; if him sounds right, whom is correct. That’s because as a pronoun whom is used to represent the object of either a verb or a preposition, while who represents the subject of a verb.

He is the consultant whom we contacted for advice. (We contacted him.)
To whom was the letter addressed? (The letter was addressed to him.)
He is the consultant who can answer your question. (He can answer your question.)

In the two examples above, the formality can be toned down by omitting the pronoun in the first, and using the more casual who in the second:
He is the consultant we contacted for advice.
Who was the letter addressed to?

The he/him test works well unless you’re confronted with a choice between whoever and whomever as in this sentence:
You can just talk with whoever/whomever answers the phone.

Even native English speakers get confused by this, because our instinct tells us that whom, not who, should follow the preposition with. However, there is another rule in English which dictates that every verb in a tense needs a subject. Here, whoever is the correct choice, since the verb answers needs a subject.

Might there be another situation when, besides addressing the Queen at a tea party, it makes sense to use whom as an object pronoun? If you see someone walking a dog, and the dog is so big and strong that it’s all its owner can do to keep up with it, you can ask, without risk of sounding ridiculously formal: Who is walking whom?

Hike up Ragged Mountain

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Writing about your experiences in a full immersion English course is a great way to help yourself remember the vocabulary you’ve learned. It also encourages you to start thinking in English, rather than translating words that are new for you into your native language.

Last week, Daniela, human resources director for a software company in Bonn, Germany, and English immersion course student at Acadia Center for the second time, wrote an essay about her hike up Ragged Mountain, a favorite spot for local hikers here in Maine. Her guide was renowned artist and illustrator Anthony (Chip) Bacon Venti. After going over the essay carefully with her teacher, Daniela revised it and now you can read the result:

An Easter Sunday Hike

On Easter Sunday I went on a hike with Tomm’s friend Chip whom I have met before. He knew that I had the day off from classes and offered to show me parts of his home state. I really appreciated his offer and he picked me up on Easter Sunday at 11 am. First we drove to Lincolnville and he showed me the beautiful view from Point Lookout which was formerly  a private property. Now there is a kind of upscale restaurant inside. You can even sit on the deck if the weather is warm and sunny enough and enjoy the scenery.

Chip told me the name of some islands and mountains we could see and pointed to an island where celebrities like Kirstie Alley and John Travolta own a vacation home. Further away we could identify some offshore wind turbines which must be huge if they can be seen from that distance.

We took some pictures and than we drove to a parking lot at Route 17 which is at the beginning of the Georges Highland Path. We took our knapsacks from the backseat of his car and started the hike.

The trail was marked by blue markers on trees and rocks and sometimes it was difficult to identify exactly where the path might be. But Chip always found another marker and then we went on. The first part of the trail was not very steep but after about one hour it became a steep climb. Surprisingly we were overtaken by a couple who were running up the hill! We  kept up our pace and the last 20 minutes the path led over rocks until we reached the summit. On the top of the mountain stands a huge tower which apparently receives or sends data. We rested at the foot of the tower for a while and enjoyed our picnic. Chip did some sketches of the panorama and explained the landmarks to me. Then we went back downhill the same way we had gone up.

The whole hike took about 4 hours and was a really unique experience. Later he gave me a ride home to Acadia Center. I have to admit that I was really tired after that but I am glad I had the opportunity to see what I have seen.