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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Saturday, Mar. 31, 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!
  • Link: Listen to spoken interviews on many topics:
  • Ancient History: Oxford and Cambridge Universities: England's oldest universities (founded 1096 and 1209). Still thought two of the best in the world.
  • Irregular Verbs: My local TV station often reruns shows. They reran my favorite yesterday. They have rerun it many times.
  • Idiom: an ax to grind: a strong opinion to discuss. "The man went to the city council because he had an ax to grind."
  • Pop Culture: rite of passage: an event like graduation or marriage that marks a person's change from one stage in life to another.
  • Slang: That's it?: Is that all? (usually shows disappointment) A: "Here's your present." B: "A pen? That's it?"
  • Government: contempt of court: Action of a court of law against a person who will not follow its orders. Can involve a fine (payment) or jail.


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 "an ax to grind." You would probably use this when someone goes to the school office because:
a. he wants to sharpen a tool.
b. he wants to cut down a tree.
c. he loves the new school lunch menu.
d. he is angry about a change in the school lunch menu.

2. Use the correct form of the Irregular Verb "rerun," as well as the noun form, in these sentences:
a. Good news! They're __________ my favorite show on TV!
b. I've seen everything that's on. Let's go out; I hate __________.
c. Will they __________ that show again next week?
d. Let's watch something else; this is a __________.
e. They __________ the show five times before they showed a new one.

3. Match the Ancient History, Pop Culture, and Government terms below to these related ideas:
a. sometimes put together and called "Oxbridge"
b. this might be because a person argued with the judge
c. both are named for places to cross water
d. this is often done in a ceremony
e. even spectators might be subjected to this
f. other things can be called this informally, like buying one's first car

(1) Oxford and Cambridge Universities
(2) rite of passage
(3) contempt of court

4. What does the Slang term "That's it?" probably mean in this sentence?

You're leaving me? That's it?

a. You have a new boyfriend.
b. There won't be any discussion.
c. You're taking my things.
d. You don't love me.


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. What do you know about the type of education given at Oxford and Cambridge Universities? Do you know anyone who has gone there? Did you ever hope to go there?
2. What "rites of passage" have you experiences? Or have you ever seen another person go through one?
3. Why do you think courts need a tool like "contempt of court"? Do you think it's a good idea?


1. d.

2. Irregular Verb:
a. rerunning
b. reruns
c. rerun
d. rerun
e. reran

3. Matching:
a. (1) Oxford and Cambridge Universities
b. (3) contempt of court
c. (1) Oxford and Cambridge Universities; a "ford" is a crossing in the water, and a "bridge" is over water.
d. (2) rite of passage; like a wedding or graduation exercises
e. (3) contempt of court; this could happen when a visitor in the courtroom causes a problem
f. (2) rite of passage; this is a modern use of the term.

4. b. The other things MIGHT be true, but here the expression definitely means "We won't be talking any more about it."

  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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