Acadia English Blog

Dining and Day Trips in Midcoast Maine

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?

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.

 

Register Now for $50/Week Discount

Register by April 30, 2012, to qualify for an Early Registration discount of $50 per week off the package price for all 2012 English immersion courses at Acadia Center in Camden, Maine, USA.

New English immersion courses begin every Monday from May through October in 2012. Join us in Maine this summer or fall!

Between You and Me: Grammar Conundrums

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

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?

Choosing between who and whom, either as a relative pronoun or question word, can be tricky for English language learners and native speakers of English alike.

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.)

Increasingly, native speakers of English are adopting who as the preferred pronoun in informal conversation, even when whom, not who, is correct. This means that whom, when correctly used as an object pronoun, can sound more formal.

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?

Who did you go to the movies with? is technically incorrect but very common, even for speakers who are well aware of the mistake.
With whom did you go to the movies? is correct but in an informal conversation can stand out as having a bit more formal tone.

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.

Striking a more formal, educated tone doesn’t have to be the only reason to use whom as the object pronoun. Sometimes it’s an elegant way to emphasize a distinction between subject and object. 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, Who is walking whom?