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Newsletter About the English Language
Issue No. 3 Aug. 16, 2006
ASK KATHY!

This week's question comes from Rika.

I've heard of the dance "the limbo" , but recently I heard someone say "limbo" and I couldn't understand the meaning. I don't remember exactly what she said, but a native speaker in my office was talking about moving to Tokyo because her husband may soon be transfered there. She said, "I hate being in limbo." I think it is the same word, but I can't understand. Is "limbo" a place? Can you explain?

Answer: You've got good ears! The words are spelled and pronounced exactly the same but they are of different origins and have very different meanings. First, "limbo" the dance is from the West Indies. You may have seen people doing it in a movie. What does it look like? Two people hold a pole and other people try to bend backward and pass under it without touching it. The pole gets lower and lower each time the people pass under it. Only people who are very "limber" (which means "flexible") can pass under it, that's why it's called "the limbo".

The other word "limbo" comes from the Roman Catholic Church. Some people believe
"limbo" is like a holding place between Heaven and Hell. They think innocent souls that can't go to heaven (for example, babies that died before they were officially baptized into the Catholic Church) go there and wait. They can't leave. They can't go to Heaven. They don't get sent to Hell. They are stuck there and can't do anything about it. So in normal conversation, when someone says "I'm in limbo", he means he is stuck in between two things/positions/choices waiting for a decision.

Here are some examples of "limbo" the dance:
ex: We went on a cruise and every night they danced the limbo.
ex: I can't
do the limbo because I have a bad back.
ex: He was drunk and fell over when he tried to
do the limbo.

Here are some examples of "limbo" meaning "an in between place":
ex: The refugees left their country because of violence, but the neighboring countries won't allow them to enter, so they are in limbo.

ex:
I feel like we're in limbo! We had to postpone the wedding because of his father's illness, and we have no idea when he will be well enough. There is nothing we can do about it. We just have to wait and see what happens.

ex: We applied for a permit to start our new business weeks ago. The city officials said we could probably get permission, but then some citizens protested. Now we're waiting for them to decide in court. Until the judge makes the decision,
I guess we are in limbo.

I hope that clears things up for you!

Have a question for Kathy? Click here to e-mail your question to Kathy!

WORD TRENDS

New words are born every day, so even native English speakers discover new English words from time to time. This week I'd like to introduce some recent additions to the English language. First let's review a couple of old words:

Heterosexual (n/adj): A person who is attracted to the opposite sex. A man who likes women or a woman who likes men. Heterosexuals are also called "straight". [Note: hetero means "different".]
Homosexual (n/adj): A person who is attracted to the same sex. Aman who likes men or a woman who likes women. A homosexual is also called "gay", which is used for a man or a woman, and a homosexual women is also called "lesbian". [Note: homo means "same".]
Bisexual (n/adj): A person who is attracted to both sexes. A person who likes both men and woman. [Note: bi means "two".]

If you understand those words and where they come from, you can easily understand the new ones. Here is one, followed by some example sentences:

Metrosexual (n/adj): A man (usually from an urban area) who has good taste in clothes, is well groomed, likes shopping, knows about wine, enjoys chatting, is sensitive, etc. In other words, a metrosexual is a heterosexual man who seems like he's gay, but he's straight.
[Note: metro means "of the big city".]

ex: When I met him I was impressed. He always looked nice and he knew a lot about food and wine. But now I'm sorry that I married a metrosexual! He spends more time in the bathroom than I do and he uses all my hair gel and body lotion!
ex: At the spa, most of our customers are women, but we're getting more and more metrosexuals these days. The men usually come in for massages, but some ask for waxing and manicures, too.

Here is a term that means the opposite, followed by some example sentences:

Retrosexual (n/adj): A man who doesn't have an interest in fashion, doesn't like to shop, doesn't want to spend the day at the spa, and likes watching sports. He is the opposite of a metrosexual. He is the old-fashioned kind of guy, a "real man" or a "man's man".
[Note: retro means "moving backward".]

ex: I didn't know your husband was into cooking. He always seemed like a true retrosexual to me!
ex: Phil won't be joining us for brunch. He says real men don't do brunch. He's going to stay home and watch the game on TV with all the other retrosexuals!
ex: Jen and her sister never fight over men. That's because they have completely different taste. Jen prefers the metrosexual type. Kelly, on the other hand, goes for the retrosexual type who'd rather have beer and pizza than wine and pate.

I hope you learned something new! I'll keep my ears and eyes open for next month's WORD TRENDS!

BE CAREFUL!

This week I'd like to focus on the word "quit". It's a simple word, but you need to be careful because it is not used exactly like yameru in Japanese.


When we talk about actions that are repeated, we can use "quit". Here are several correct examples:

ex: His doctor says he should quit smoking.
[Note: He smoked every day.]
ex: He never graduated from college. He quit (college) in his junior year.
[Note: He went to school every day.]
ex: Is it true that John quit his job?
[Note: He went to work every day.]
ex: That's the tenth time you've asked me to write your report. I'm not going to do it, so quit asking me! You know you have to do it yourself.
[Note: The person asked again and again.]
ex: John quit coming to the gym because he hurt his back.
[Note: John went to the gym three times a week for one year.]
ex: Gas is so expensive that I've quit driving to work. I ride my bike now.
[Note: I used to drive to work every day.]

But we can't use "quit" when we're talking about a one-time action. For example, in Japanese we say, Pari e iku no wo yameta. In this case, we can't use "quit". We usually say "I've decided not to go to Paris" or "I've decided against going to Paris" or "I've decided that I shouldn't go to Paris". Here are several correct examples of this pattern:

ex: They were going to get married in Hawaii, but they've decided not to. They'll have the ceremony in Japan instead.
ex: We've decided not to move because we couldn't find anything better than this apartment in this area.
ex: I was going to ask my boss for a raise today but I decided I'd better not. He is in a really bad mood. I'll wait for a better time.
ex: Sally was going to buy stock in that company, but luckily she decided against it. It went down in value soon after that.
ex: He was going to ask Mary out on a date, but at the last minute he chickened out.
[Note: chickened out = got scared and decided not to do something]
ex: On the day of the wedding, the groom got cold feet and called off the wedding.
[Note1: got cold feet = chickened out, particularly used when we're talking about weddings Note2: call off=cancel]

Now, try to make a few examples of your own!

REAL AUDIO

This week's audio feature is Real Audio. Below you'll find an announcement you might actually hear if you were overseas. Follow the instructions in bold below:

When you are ready, click the PLAY arrow below to listen to this week's audio.


Now read the questions below and think about them while you listen to the announcement again.

1. What kind of announcement is this?
2. Has it been raining or has it been sunny for the past few days?
3. Will the weather be good or bad on the weekend?
4. When will the rain probably start?
5. Will it rain continuously or will it rain on and off?
6. What effect will the rain have on the temperature?
7. How hot will it get?


Now listen one more time and try to fill in the blanks in the transcript below.


It has been hot and (_______) for the past few days, but all that's going to (_______) on the weekend. It looks like (_______) will be moving in on Friday and we can expect (_______) starting Friday night or (_______) at the latest. The rain will continue on and off until Monday or possibly (_______). That makes for a wet, wet weekend. So if you were planning a (_______) or a day at the (_______) this weekend, you'd better make other (_______). On the upside, the rain will (_______) things down a bit. Look for highs in the mid-70s and lows in the (_______) this weekend.




Now you can check your answers to questions 1-7.

1. What kind of announcement is this?
A: It's a weather report.
2. Has it been raining or has it been sunny for the past few days?
A: It has been sunny.
3. Will the weather be good or bad on the weekend?
A: It will be bad.
4. When will the rain probably start?
A: It will probably start on Friday night or Saturday morning.
5. Will it rain continuously or will it rain on and off?
A: It will rain on and off.
6. What effect will the rain have on the temperature?
A: It will cool things down. / It will lower the temperature.
7. How hot will it get?
A: It will get up to around 75 degrees. / It will get into the mid-70s.


Now listen one last time and as you read the full transcript below.


It has been hot and sunny for the past few days, but all that's going to change on the weekend. It looks like clouds will be moving in on Friday and we can expect rain starting Friday night or Saturday at the latest. The rain will continue on and off until Monday or possibly Tuesday. That makes for a wet, wet weekend. So if you were planning a barbecue or a day at the beach this weekend, you'd better make other plans. On the upside, the rain will cool things down a bit. Look for highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-60s this weekend.