Archive for January, 2009

Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience (read by Mark Ruffalo)

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Many people are euphoric about Obama winning the election. What amazes me is the degree of excitement even in our country, Germany. I predict that next year when we are asked to the ballot box in order to vote for our own government, the excitement will be nowhere near as big as it was during the US election week. But at the moment people all over the world seem to believe that with the new President world peace will suddenly break out. (Christopher Hitchens warns of “the cousinhood of euphoria and hysteria” about this.) At the least, I am afraid that the the expectations of Obama are to high not for him to fail.

Over the last eight agonizing years, when we were not outraged, we Europeans have developed a tendency to lean back and smirk at what was going on in the US. This attitude has never been very becoming to us.

ambidextrous (adj.)

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Actually I wanted to follow up with another very nice alliteration that I heard this week. But I will save it for another week.

I rather think it is time, however, to introduce the first juggling related piece of vocabulary here. It is a word from ordinary language, which is saying a lot because juggling has, in a very literal sense, a language of its own, namely an artificial formal notation for writing down juggling patterns. But I will not trouble you with that. Yet.


linger (v.)

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

English is very good at changing nouns into verbs. Or maybe not changing them but instead simply using them as nouns. Toboggan, for example, the last word in the series can be used as a verb in a sentence like The weather was so beautiful, we stayed outside tobogganing all afternoon. Linger, however is a ‘genuine’ verb and, in fact, the first verb featuring in this little word of the week series.


Hugh Laurie – America

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Hugh Laurie only needs three words to construct the lyrics for “America”. And yet, he says it all, at least it appears as if he does to anyone who has in some way a connection with the “The States”.

toboggan (n.)

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

picture credits: This image is available from Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number PA-008492 and under the MIKAN ID number 3194118

Last week I introduced you to an English word with French origin. Today I give you the Native American toboggan. The first time I saw this kind of sled was in the film Home Alone (1990). The main character Kevin is left behind by accident as his family goes on Christmas Holiday. Among all the stupid things he does while they are away is going down the front-room staircase on a toboggan. But it was not a standard model as the movie geeks at IMDB will tell you but rather a film prop:

“As Kevin flies through the air outside the front door after he sleds down the stairs, you can see the rollers on the bottom of the toboggan.”InternetMovieDataBase :;7 December 2008)