Monday, February 27, 2012

The Big Apple

So how did New York City get the nickname [1] The Big Apple? No one knows for sure but there are several theories. Here are just a few.

Eve and Her Apples. During the French Revolution, at the beginning of the 19th century, many of the French upper classes escaped to the United States and started a new life. One of these escapees was Evelyn Claudine de Saint Évremond, a friend of Queen Marie Antoinette. Evelyn was a very beautiful woman and was soon at home [2] in New York society. She was even going to marry John Hamilton, the son of the revolutionary leader Alexander Hamilton, but for some unknown reason the wedding was called off. [3] Shortly afterwards, she decided to go into business. With the help of some of her wealthy admirers, she opened a “salon” (which was in fact an elegant brothel [4]. Apart from other activities, visitors went there to gamble [5], enjoy witty [6] conversation and have dinner in elegant surroundings. The girls who worked for Eve were as beautiful and elegant as the owner and many of them married wealthy clients. New York society insisted on anglicizing her name to “Eve”, which she found amusing because of the biblical reference. From then on, she referred to the girls who worked for her as “my irresistible apples”. This term, used to describe the girls who worked in such salons, was mentioned in a guide to New York – The Gentlemen’s Directory of New York City (1870) – which said that “New York apples are superior to any in the New World, or indeed the Old”.

All That Jazz. Many of the jazz musicians at the time lived in Harlem and, when they were on tour, they couldn’t wait to get back to the Big Apple. As seen above, in the quiz, they used branches and apples as metaphors to describe where they were working. An old saying in show business was “There are many apples on the tree but only one Big Apple” referring to New York in general, and Harlem in particular, which was the jazz capital at the time. There was also a dance, started by a jazz club in South Carolina and called “The Big Apple”, which quickly spread [7] to Harlem and later became a national craze [8]. 

Spanish Influence. New York is home to a number of Spanish speaking immigrants. Besides meaning “apple”, manzana in Spanish can be translated  to block in American English, which is the section of street between two cross streets. La manzana principal could mean the center of the city, or downtown as Americans say.

Around the Race Tracks [9]. This is one of the most popular and widely accepted theories. John Fitzgerald was a prominent horse-racing reporter, who wrote for the New York Morning Telegraph. He first heard the name when visiting race tracks in New Orleans. The stable hands [10], jockeys and trainers all referred to New York, which had the most important race tracks, as “The Big Apple”. Fitzgerald liked this term so much that he began using it for the headings [11] of his columns, "Around the Big Apple" or "On the Big Apple". In fact, the corner of West 54th Street and Broadway, where Fitzgerald lived for 30 years, was renamed “Big Apple Corner” in 1997. 

Well, which version do you believe or prefer? All of them sound feasible [12], don’t they? Although we may never know the real origin of the name, you have to admit that it has a nice ring to it [13], doesn’t it? Go ahead, take a bite!

[1] apodo, [2] sentirse como en casa, [3] cancelado, [4] burdel, [5] apostar, [6] ingenioso, divertido, [7] se extendió, [8] moda, [9] hipódromo, [10] mozo de cuadra, [11] titulo, [12] factible, [13] suena bien

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in India in 1869.He was the youngest of four children.As a child, he was greatly influenced by his mother, who was an extremely religious woman. She didn't eat meat, and she often fasted ( = didn't eat). When Gandhi was young he wanted to rebel against the old traditions.For example he thought that Indians should eat meat because it would give them the strength and vitality of the Englishmen who ruled India.But when Gandhi went to England to study law , he read books on vegetarianism and became an active member of the vegetarian movement there. Ghandi became more and more ascetic as he grew older .He abstained from sex. He did not drink alcohol. He did not go to doctors or use medicine.And little by little, Ghandi was developing his philosophy of non-violent resistance, " satyagraha".The first time Ghandi put satyagraha into practice was in 1906 in Johannesburg, South Africa when Indians there were being forced to carry registration cards. Under Gandhi's influence many Indians went to jail to protest against this injustice.
Later , non-violent resistance, with Ghandi as its leader and inspiration , helped India get its freedom.
Ghandi was called "Mahatma", which means "great soul". The Indian people, as well as many people throughout the world, considered him a saint.
Ghandi was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic. He died smiling kindly at his murderer and speaking the name of God, "Ram".

Monday, February 20, 2012


I know Valentine’s Day was last week, but I want to profess my love for New York City. It’s a hard city to define, but if I had to choose just three words to describe it, they would be energy, diversity, and above all, attitude! The opening scene of Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan is a wonderful ode to the Big Apple. Filmed in black and white and accompanied by George Gershwin’s composition Rhapsody in Blue, Mr. Allen captures the city’s essence.

Chapter 1
He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion... no, make that... He romanticized it all out of proportion... better... To him, no matter [1] what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white, and pulsated [2] to the great tunes of George Gershwin... Ah, no, let me start this over...

Chapter 1
He was too romantic about Manhattan as he was with everything else. He thrived [3] on the hustle-bustle [4] of the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women, and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles [5]... Nah corny [6], too corny for a man of my tastes [7]. Let me try again...

Chapter 1
He adored New York City. To him, it was a metaphor for the decay [8] of contemporary culture. The same lack of individual integrity that cause so many people to take the easy way out [9] was rapidly turning the town of his dreams into [10]... It’s going to be too preachy [11], come on, let’s face it, I want to sell some books here...

Chapter 1
He adored New York City. Although to him, it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. How hard it was to exist in a society desensitized [12] by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage... Too angry, I don’t want to be angry...

Chapter 1
He was as tough [13] and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed [14] glasses was the coiled [15] sexual power of a jungle cat... I love this!... New York was his town and it always would be!

[1] da igual, [2] palpitaba, [3] prosperaba, [4] bullicio, [5] saber a todo de P a Pa, [6] cursi, [7] gustos, [8] decadencia, [9] coger la salida fácil, [10] convirtiéndose, [11] sermoneador, [12] insensibilizado, [13] duro, [14] con montura, [15] enroscado

Friday, February 17, 2012

How much do you know about Leonard Cohen ?

Are you a Leonard Cohen fan ?   Test yourself with this  quiz.

1-Leonard Cohen was born on 21 st September ...
a- 1910   b- 1934   c- 1954

2- As  a student Cohen became interested in the poetry of ...
a- Shakespeare    b- Federico García Lorca     c- Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

3-The song Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen was used on the soundtrack album of...
a- Ghost    b- Shrek    c-Terminator II

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen ( with subtitles in Spanish)

4-In 2011 Cohen was awarded ...
 a- a Grammy   b-  an Oscar   c- the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature

5- The artist released his latest album in January 2012. Its title is...
a- Old Ideas   b- Ten New Songs      c- Various Positions.

Watch  the new song "Show Me The Place" from his latest album. Enjoy  !

1-b, 2-b, 3-b 4-c ,5-c.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Scottish Love Story

As you probably know, Scotland is one of the four countries that form Great Britain. Scotland lies to the north of Great Britain. Scotland was independent until 1603, when Queen Elizabeth I died. She had no children, so before she died, she made James VI of Scotland the new King of England, because he was her closest relative.[1]

King James
James VI of Scotland, or James I of England, was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Lord Darnley. Mary and Elizabeth were cousins and Elizabeth thought that Mary wanted to become Queen of England. This was not true, but Elizabeth was convinced that Mary wanted to replace [2] her, so she sent Lord Darnley to Edinburgh to see if he could find out [3] what Mary wanted to do.

Queen Mary and Lord Darnley
But Mary and Lord Darnley fell in love [4], married and had a son. However, Lord Darnley was a very attractive man and he had lots of affairs [5]. When Mary found out, she decided to divorce him. Lord Darnley wanted to become King of Scotland and he planned to murder Mary, but before he could do anything, he died in an explosion in his house. Nobody could prove [6] it, but some people said that Mary was responsible for Lord Darnley’s murder.

Isn’t it ironic? Lord Darnley didn’t become King of Scotland, but his son, James, became King of both Scotland and England and so Scotland and England were united.

[1] pariente más cercano, [2] reemplazar, [3] averiguar, [4] enamorarse, [5] aventura amorosa, [6] probar

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

On Wednesday, 6 February 1952, while staying in a remote part of Kenya ,Princess Elizabeth received the news of her father's death and her own accession to the throne. She is now celebrating sixty years as Monarch . It is her Diamond Jubilee.

But what does the Queen do ? 

The Queen is, of course, the titular head of government. But she is not political, not Conservative, Liberal or Labour. She is the symbol of sovereign Britain. The Queen signs all acts of Parliament to make them laws.This is called Royal Assent. But it is only a formality. Because, though theoretically she has the right of veto, the Queen has got no real power to use it. She regularly holds meetings with the Prime Minister to discuss government policy and be informed  on the state of the nation. She opens each session of Parliament with a speech prepared for her by the  Prime Minister and dissolves Parliament at the request of the Prime Minister when new elections become necessary.But what is, perhaps , her most important role in government is her position as head of the armed forces. The British army swears allegiance to the Queen, not to the government.
Critics of the monarchy ask how the Queen, the richest woman in the world, can have any relationship to the British people. These critics add that the Queen is a needless public expense because, besides her vast personal fortune, she is paid a yearly wage by the British people.
Of course the Queen works very hard.She is constantly travelling around the world promoting British interests . She is a representative of the British people in everything she does throughout the world.
Now that the British people are beginning to ask themselves if they really need a queen, it is important to understand what her role is. We must not abolish our monarchy simply because it is the fashion of the times, nor must retain it merely for sentimental reasons.

Would you like to send a message to the Queen ?  Remember to say something nice  ! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

American Boy

Whenever I find a catchy song with subtitles on YouTube, I always thinks it a good idea to share with students. This is the case with American Boy, by Estelle. First familiarize yourself with the vocabulary before listening to the video with subtitles. Next, watch the official video without subtitles below it and see how much you were able to understand. In general, this is a good method to improve your listening comprehension; listen while reading text, then listen without text.

get down = festeja
touched down = aterrizado
sold out = agotado
pick it = meterse
peaking = alcanzar su punto máximo
baggy = holgado
underneath = debajo de
subway = metro
hood, short for neighborhood = vecindario
slick = de mucha labia
cool down = calmarse
chick = chica
blinkin’ = parpadear
persona = imagen, personaje
shallow = poco profundo
bloke = tío
bespoke = hecho a medida
broke = sin un duro
rubbish = basura

Estelle’s original version came out in 2008. There are several covers of her songs. New versions are interesting if they can add a new dimension to an old song. Of course that is easier said, or sung, than done. Below, you can listen to Cocoon’s 2011 cover. Further below, you can listen to VersaEmerge’s 2010 cover. What do you think of these cover songs? Do they add a new touch, or not?

Friday, February 3, 2012


A brainteaser is a problem for which it is hard to find the answer, especially one which people enjoy trying to solve as a game. Try solving the brainteasers below and ... have fun !

1-If a water lily (nenúfar) doubles its size everyday, and if it takes ten days to cover a lake, how long does it take to cover half the lake  ?

2- A farmer has to cross a river in a small boat .He can only take one animal with him in his boat. He has a bird, a cat and a dog. But he cannot leave the bird  and the cat alone, for the cat will kill the bird.And he cannot leave the cat and the dog alone, for the dog will kill the cat. How can he take all the animals safely across the river ?

3-Brothers and sisters I have none but that man's father is my father's son. Who  is the man the speaker is talking about ?

4-There are 22 rows of bricks (hileras de ladrillos)  in a wall. Every hour a snail (caracol) climbs two rows of bricks and then slides back  (  se desliza hacia atrás) one row. How many hours does the snail take to climb to the top of the wall ?

Answers to brainteasers

1- Nine days.On the ninth day the lily covers half the lake, it doubles and covers the whole lake on  the next day.
2- The farmer crosses with the cat and comes back alone. The farmer crosses with the bird but comes back with the cat and then crosses the river with the dog. He comes back and then crosses the river with the cat.
3-The speaker is talking about his son.
4-21 hours. During the last hour the snail climbs two rows of bricks to the top of the wall and so it does not slide back.