In time, these lessons and "stubs" will be migrated to the Buzzwords site.
Until then, consider them historical.

Mini-Lessons from Saturday, Mar. 24, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Use English for everyday tasks. Make your shopping and "to do" lists, reminders, and other notes in English.
  • Proverb: Never say die: Never give up. A: "I don't know if I can finish this project." B: "Never say die!"
  • Academic Vocabulary: straightforward: easy; honest, direct. "I need your straightforward opinion." "Using this telephone is very straightforward."
  • Literature: original sin: The idea that, because Adam and Eve (the first people) did wrong, all humans are born separated from God.
  • Art: barbershop quartet: group singing "a cappella" in four parts ("lead," tenor, baritone, bass). A fun, old-fashioned style of music.
  • Slang: Much: sometimes, a joke. A: "I wrecked the car! My dad will be so mad." B: "Don't worry. He won't kill you. Much."
  • Geography: Myanmar: also "Burma," country near Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, Thailand; has one of least-developed economies in the world.


Read the Mini-Lessons above. Make cards and study them. When you think you know them, answer the questions below. You may have to look up some new words to answer the questions!


1. Today's Proverb is "Never say die." You would probably NOT say this when:
a. someone talks about his grandfather's ill health.
b. someone is having trouble at work.
c. someone wants to stop training for an athletic event.
d. someone is thinking about giving up college.

2. Use the Academic Vocabulary word "straightforward" in its correct form (use a dictionary to see other forms):
a. I would appreciate a __________ answer to my question.
b. Answer the question __________ or I will have to ask someone else.
c. Because you were __________ with me last time, I can't trust you in the future.
d. If you can't be __________ with me, there's no sense discussing anything.
e. I appreciate your __________.

3. Match the Literature, Art, and Geography terms below to these related ideas:
a. A group of women that does this is called the "Sweet Adelines."
b. This is why some people think babies must be baptized.
c. The two names refer to the same ethnic group.
d. Some believe Jesus came to take care of this.
e. Ranks 161 of 181 on some lists.
f. The leading organization is called the SPEBSQSA.

(1) original sin
(2) barbershop quartet
(3) Myanmar

4. Today's Slang term is "Much." It has other meanings besides the one given. Rewrite the sentences below using "much."

a. A lot of his time is spent reading.
b. I ate more than I should have; now my stomach hurts.
c. There's only a little money in my bank account.
d. My dad bragged about me when I was born.
e. He isn't handsome, but he's a nice guy.


If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers. You may need to do some research in your language, but then you should express your answers in English.

1. Do you believe in "original sin"? Why or why not? If not, does the idea make any sense to you?
2. Try to find some barbershop singing online. (Try searching for "barbershop quartet mp3.") Do you like it? Why or why not?
3. What do you know about Myanmar? What can you find out?


1. a. We don't use this to talk about actual dying!

2. Academic Vocabulary:
a. straightforward
b. straightforwardly
c. unstraightforward
d. straightforward
e. straightforwardness

3. Matching:
a. (2) barbershop quartet; "Sweet Adeline" is the name of one famous barbershop quartet song.
b. (1) original sin; if we are sinners even at birth, then some people think baptizing babies will keep them from going to hell. ("Baptizing" is putting water on them to make them Christians.)
c. (3) Myanmar; "Burma" comes from the name of the Bamar people, who make up about 2/3 of the people in the country; "Myanmar" is a literary form of their name.
d. (1) original sin; some think that believing in Jesus takes away original sin.
e. (3) Myanmar; their GDP per capita (a measure of average income per person) is one of the world's lowest, at 161 of 181 on the IMF's list in 2011.
f. (2) barbershop quartet; this stands for the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, (Inc.).

4. Slang term:
a. Much of his time is spent reading.
b. I ate too much; now my stomach hurts.
c. There isn't much money in my bank account.
d. My dad made much of me when I was born.
e. He isn't much to look at, but he's a nice guy.

  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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