Queries and Quandaries

Believe it or not, I LIKED managing the Emerson Newsletter. Sometimes, it was a tremendous pain in the backside but in general, it was a worthwhile activity where I could help students learn new things about the English language while I (hopefully) entertained them.

Here is a sample of the “Queries and Quandaries” section where I went off on a rant. The students thought it was hilarious.


Howdy folks!

This is where our subscribers take the spotlight. Send us your questions, comments, stories, and problems related to your experiences with the English language. Be careful, the answer you get might not be the answer you expect.

Dear LordGodKing: What means the verb of phrase “make up”?
– Hernan, from Segovia

Hernan, the phrasal verb “to make up” means several different things in the English language. Here’s a brief list:

  • Invent: “He made up an excuse for why he was not at a work.”
  • Put together or compose: “We are going to make up a gift basket for our grandmother.”
  • To apply cosmetics: “She made up her face with lipstick, mascara, and eye-shadow.”
  • To compensate for a deficit or lack: “The stereo costs 1000€. My son is going to pay 400€ and I am making up the difference.”
  • To resolve an argument or quarrel: “I fought with my wife last night but we made up this morning.”
  • To perform an action again (usually a course, test, or assignment) that was previously failed: “My professor is letting me make up the exam I failed last Tuesday.”
  • To constitute or form: “One-hundred years make up a century.”
  • To arrange, to put things in order: “Come by in half an hour, I have to make up the living room.”

I think that covers it, and I didn’t even have to make any up.  😉

Dear LordGodKing: Why are Americans so evil?
– Jordi, from Barcelona

Hi Jordi, they’re actually no more evil than anyone else in the world. Let me explain how things work so get an idea of why your question is the incorrect one to ask.

Money rules everything. The USA has a massive concentration of wealth compared to the rest of the world, which means that most people there (not counting the homeless and illegal immigrants) have a minimum level of wealth that would amaze people in 3rd world countries. Even the poorest family has two TVs, a DVD, and a Playstation. So, the people making the money amass all they can and the people doing the work are entertained by the aforementioned electronic equipment, sporting events, movies, alcohol, and reality shows.

The net result is you have a country where the middle class is disappearing, replaced by a financial/cultural/intellectual elite on one side and everyone else on the other. Those elite don’t need to know about anything related to culture or the world because the world caters to them. Most people learn english to speak with Americans, they import American TV programs because they’re usually better than the shows produced at home, they listen to American music because it sets trends, they eat American food because it’s fast and convenient, etc. On the other hand, the less wealthy Americans are satisfied working and being entertained and have little or no need to improve their cultural perspective or learn anything about our planet since they don’t really travel or care about what happens in Laos.

In general, people from the USA are like everyone else. They worry about their jobs, their girl/boyfriends, putting food on the table, their kids, occasionally having fun, and generally getting by without messing up anybody else’s plans. The country as a whole, however, is guided by the aforementioned, small (and evil) elite and everyone else on the planet (including you and I) kisses up to them because we want their cash and we want them never to bomb us.

Dear LordGodKing: What the heck does “thrice” mean?
– Mamen, from Alcorcon

Finally, a simple question! OK Mamen, in English, we have adverbs of frequency, words that indicate how often or how many times an action is performed. If something happens only one time, we use the adverb “once”. If it happens two times, we use the adverb “twice”. If it happens three times we use the adverb……….”THRICE”!

I think you should know, however, that NOBODY uses this word in English anymore. It went out of fashion over a hundred years ago. In modern English, we simply say “three times”.