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

Mini-Lessons WITH EXERCISES from Monday, Mar. 19, 2012

I'm trying something new! Instead of a separate lesson, today's lesson will be exercises based on the Mini-Lessons. Let me know if you like it!
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!
  • Link: Grammar practice, all kinds:
  • Ancient History: guilds: workers' groups (stonecutters, glassmakers, etc.) in Europe in the Middle Ages, similar to labor unions today.
  • Irregular Verbs: Some people spit on the sidewalk. One spat in front of me yesterday. I have never spat in public.
  • Idiom: pull strings: get something through inside connections. "My friend at the cinema pulled some strings and got me free movie tickets."
  • Pop Culture: musical: or "musical comedy," a play or movie in which songs are sung as part of the story, like "The Sound of Music."
  • Slang: Good thinkin', Abe Lincoln: That's a good idea. A: "I'm going to get a job this summer." B: "Good thinkin', Abe Lincoln."
  • Government: A man's home is his castle: an idea of personal privacy, especially popular in England and America. Some laws are based on this idea.


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 Idiom is "pull strings." You would probably NOT use this to describe:
a. your boss giving you a well-earned bonus.
b. your cousin giving you "free samples" of his company's product.
c. your doctor asking a colleague a favor to get you an earlier appointment in her office.
d. your friend, a policeman, asking his boss informally to get your traffic ticket erased.

2. Use the correct form of the Irregular Verb "spit" in these sentences:
a. __________ in public can cause health problems.
b. If you have something terrible in your mouth, you may __________ it into your napkin.
c. The man in front of us __________ three times in the past five minutes, and may spit more.
d. Ew! You __________! That's gross (disgusting)!
e. __________ you ever __________ in public?

3. Match the Ancient History, Pop Culture, and Government terms below to these related ideas:
a. there are some recent ones about high school kids
b. no one can tell you what color to paint it (usually)
c. usually, police cannot enter without permission
d. would sometimes share expensive tools
e. probably began as opera
f. would label a person "apprentice," "journeyman," or "master"

(1) guilds
(2) musical
(3) A man's home is his castle

4. After which sentence would you probably NOT use the Slang term "Good thinkin', Abe Lincoln"?

a. "I finally realized: smoking cigarettes can kill me!"
b. "I should be nicer to my parents; they gave me everything."
c. "If I study harder, I'll get better grades."
d. "I don't think it's that dangerous to drink and drive; I do it all the time."


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. The ancient guilds are a little like modern unions. How are they the same? How are they different?
2. How many musicals have you seen in English? Which is your favorite? Why? If you haven't seen any musicals, which ones would you like to see?
3. Does your country have a principle like "A man's home is his castle"? If so, how is it applied? If not, what is the principle in your country?


1. a

2. Irregular Verb:
a. spitting
b. spit
c. has spat
d. spat
e. have, spat
NOTE: In fact, some North Americans use "spit" for the past and past participle: spit, spit, spit, spitting. But "spat" is more proper.

3. Matching:
a. (2) musical; "High School Musical" is a popular film series
b. (3) A man's home is his castle; except in some communities with special rules, a person is free to change his house's appearance to suit his tastes
c. (3) A man's home is his castle; except with special permission from a court (a "warrant"), or in case of emergency, police cannot enter homes in some countries.
d. (1) guilds; a workman would usually have his own tools, but some special ones might be shared through the guild
e. (2) musical; operas were all music; then came operetta; and now musicals
f. (1) guilds; there was a system of trainees ("apprentices"), then those who could take on jobs themselves ("journeymen") and finally those who could hire and teach apprentices ("masters").

4. d

  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture 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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