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Learn the language of news and weather and world events while following news and weather and world events, and learn to understand and write about them in the English Conversations Almanac.

How long do we have left?

Johnny Cash sings about a condemned man’s last minutes.

Well they are building a gallows outside my cell and I have got twenty-five minutes to go.

A gallows is a frame to hang a man. Hanging was used to kill convicts in the US. Was the death penalty ever used in your country? Is it still used?

And the whole town is waiting just to hear me yell and I’ve got 24 minutes to go.

“Yell” and “shout” generally mean “speak in an extremely loud voice” for example when shouting for help. “Scream” is usually an expression of emotion which has no intelligible words. But it can also be “a scream for help”.

The Last Meal of a Condemned Man

Well, they gave me some beans for my last meal with twenty-three minutes to go.

Do you like baked beans? They cause flatulence.

And nobody asked me how I feel – I got twenty-two minutes to go.

Government Officials – Mayor, Governor, Sheriff

I sent for the Governor and the whole durn bunch – I got twenty-one minutes to go.

The Governor is the executive head of the State. “”Whole durn bunch” is a non-standard way to say “the whole damn group (of people)

Johnny Cash is from the southern US and often uses southern turns of phrase.

Link to North and South.

Out to Lunch

and I called up the Mayor but he is out to lunch – I got twenty more minutes to go

“He is out to lunch” can also mean “he is not mentally acute” or “he is a fool”.

and the Sheriff said “Boy, I am going to watch you die” with nineteen minutes to go.

So I laughed in his face and I spit in his eye with eighteen minutes to go

Note the non-standard use of the verb “to spit”. It us usually “spit spat spat”

Spanish Language Interference

Now here comes a preacher for to save my soul with thirteen minutes to go

Note the non standard use “for to save” which would usually be “to save”. Is it a grammatical borrowing from Spanish because the southern US is near Mexico where Spanish was spoken? Much of the southern US once belonged to Spain and Mexico. Do you speak Spanish?

Link to the Spanish Page.

Heaven and Hell

and he is talking about burning but I am so cold – I got twelve more minutes to go

It is hot in hell. We talk about “burning in hell”.

Of course heaven exists, but does hell really exist or is it just a creation of the mind?

The Gallows Mechanism

Well they are testing the trap and it chills my spine with eleven minutes to go

A “trap” is a trapdoor that you fall through.

Have you ever used a trap to hunt animals. (different meaning of trap)

and the trap and the rope, well they work just fine – I got ten more minutes to go

A Pardon

I am waiting for the pardon that will set me free with nine more minutes to go

A pardon is a message to exonerate you from a crime. It comes from the Governor or the President.

Non-standard Pronunciation

but this ain’t the movies so forget about me. I got eight more minutes to go.

Note the use of “ain’t”, which means “is not” here. Life in Hollywood is not the same as reality.

with my feet on the trap and my head in the noose – five more minutes to go

Won’t somebody come and cut me loose?
four more minutes to go

I can see the mountains I can see the sky. Three more minutes to go

and it is too durn purty for a man to want to die. I got two more minutes to go.

Note the non-standard pronunciation of “too durn purty” which means “too damn pretty”

Carrion Eaters

I can see the buzzards I can hear the crows with one minute to go

Crows and buzzards are types of birds which eat carrion (dead bodies)

and now I am swinging and here I go o o o o

(the sound of applause)

Thank you … all right!

You can video, audio and notes on culture at this link: North and South.

Johnny Cash

Here is a link to another Johnny Cash Song: Man in Black

Vocabulary Tests





More Songs

Beat – Power words with songs

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Advice – What should I do?

Describing People

First guy: Gentlemen. Excuse me. My girlfriend of six months is going away to Paris, France for three months. She is beautiful, young, intelligent and very conscientious. She says she loves me and that she will miss me terribly. She has also got this ex-boyfriend in Paris.He is real smart, talented successful. He is a real nice guy.

Asking for Advice

Before she leaves, she wants me to tell her if there is a future for us. For me and her. My question is, am I wrong in wanting more time, more proof. Is it wrong of me to be so scared?

Giving Advice – Practical Advice

Second Guy: It is important to keep the girl constantly within your sphere of influence. Of course this is difficult to do if she is in another country. I would write many letters, daily if possible. And I do not think it inadvisable to let her know frankly and before she leaves that you have these fears of losing her. She is young. Perhaps she is impressionable. This sounds manipulative but remember she is not just going anywhere. She is going to Paris, France.

A Philosophical Approach

Third Guy:
Relinquishing a hold on someone is an act of love. The giving of affection and the determination to provide comfort are the two practisable elements of love. Love requires no proof. Seen in this light love is a sort of faith since a faith that requires proof wouldn’t be a faith at all. But I will make this distinction: Love is an act. Faith is an ability.

Link to the Philosophy Page

A Realistic Approach

Fourth Guy: The best of all possible approaches to this dilemma is for the two of you to firmly embrace reality for what it is; cruel brutal cold and totally unconcerned with the individual.

Third Guy: I don’t want to sound despairing or at a loss of ideas but the fact is you can do nothing to retain this girl’s love except be the best man you know how to be.


Do you like reading? Read extracts of literature to increase your vocabulary:

Mailer – The Naked and the Dead

Kerouac – On the Road

Do you want to find Love? Link to the Romance Page

Do you need advice? Link to the Advice Page

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Power Words – Beat

Some words have many meanings. Learning a few different meanings can stop confusion and increase your vocabulary. This gives you more power to express yourself and also more power to read and understand other people. Look at the word “beat” in this song:

The word “beat” has many meanings. In the song above we hear Buddy Holly sing about the beat of his heart. Listen to the song and read the lyrics.

Look at these words and phrases related to heartbeat:

his heartbeat is irregular
he has no heartbeat
my heart beats for you
My heart is beating faster and faster.
My heart misses a beat when I see you.
with every beat of my heart, I think of you
Kriemhild’d heart beats only for Siegfried

We talk about heartbeat in the context of love but also in the context of medical problems.

Link to a conversation about medical research with audio and transcript.

Michael Jackson

In the song “beat it” , the phrase means “Leave!”, “Go away!” or “Get out of here!” Listen to the song and read the lyrics.

The verb “beat” can mean “subdue” or “defeat”. Look at these phrases:


The Yankees beat the Mets.
The Yankees were beaten by the Mets.

Dimitrov beat Federer in the tennis.
Federer was beaten by Dimitrov in the tennis.

Grammar Note

Note that the the past simple tense of “beat” is “beat”. The pronunciation does not change and the spelling does not change. The present tense and past tense forms are identical.


The government forces beat the rebels.
The rebels were beaten by the government forces.

When the army marches to war, the drummer beats a drum and the soldiers march in time to the beat of the drum.

Johnny Cash

In the song Man in Black, the phrase “beaten down” means “subdued”, “defeated” or “humiliated”. Listen to the song at this link: Man in Black

Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation

A counterculture movement called the Beat Generation was the predecessor of the hippies. Jack Kerouac talks about the Beat generation and the meaning of the word here at this link: The Beat Generation

You can read an extract of Jack Kerouac’s famous novel of the Beat Generation here: On the Road – Selected Readings in Literature


“Don’t beat around the bush!” means “Don’t delay!”, “Get to the point!”

Look at these phrases:

Stop beating around the bush and get to the point!
Stop beating about the bush and tell me what is on your mind!

“I am beat” means “I am tired”.

Phrasal Verbs – beat somebody up

“Somebody beat him up” means “somebody hit him many times”.

Word Family


He is unbeatable – nobody can defeat him.

Past Participle

He remained unbeaten for his whole career and retired as the world champion at the age of 45.


He beat me in the test this time but I beat him last time and I will beat him again next time.


His heart has stopped. There is no heartbeat. Call the ambulance.

Link to more Power Words

Power Words – cell

Link to Vocabulary Tests:

Vocabulary Test – Add

Vocabulary test – Employ

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Man in Black

Listening to songs is a good way to develop pronunciation ability and improve vocabulary.

Listen to the song and read the lyrics.

Look up new words in the dictionary.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is a famous American singer and song writer. He died in 2003.

Do you like the song? Did you learn any vocabulary?
Do you have any questions?
If you have a question, write it in the comments section below.

Share your thoughts...

Who is the New Finance Minister?

Earthquake Metaphor

Syriza – the hard left party behind a seismic shift in Europe.

Note the metaphor of earthquake and sudden violent change “a seismic shift”.

Stage or Film Metaphor

Elected against a backdrop of austerity, recession and massive unemployment.

Note the metaphor from cinema or theatre. Actors perform in front of a backdrop. Are politicians actors? Which famous politicians were once movie stars?

Ron Paul
Joresph Estrada
Ronald Reagan
George Bush
Arnold Schwazzennegger
Barack Obama

Metaphor of Storm and Physical Collision

It is set for stormy times as it collides with the European Union over renegotiation of Greece’s massive debt.

In this metaphor, the negotiations between Greece and the Eurozone are cast as “stormy” (dangerous) and violent (collision).

Metaphor of Fire

And the man charged with leading Greece’s negotiations, rather than a firebrand radical, is a self-styled accidental economist.

A firebrand is a burning stick. Is the Finance Minister dangerous and hot like fire?

The simple answer is “no”.

Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek

Media savvy 53 year old Yanis Varoufakis gained thousands of fans and followers with his tv appearances, blogs and poetic tweets about economics and austerity.

Reference to a Song

Greece is absolutely irreversibly committed to staying in the Eurozone. You see the problem is, once you are in – just like if you recall the Eagles song Hotel California – “you can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

Simile or Metaphor?

He rejects convention, saying that his approach to economics is like “an atheist theologian in a middle ages monastery”.

Note the use of “like”. A simile is a type of metaphor. We see one thing in terms of another.


He studied at Essex University before teaching at universities around the world.

Metaphor of Conflict

An international man now needed to face Greece’s international creditors. He will be up against the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

Note “he will be up against” frames the meeting as a conflict or competition.

Winners and Losers

“The problem with the way that Europe has been dealing with its crises since 2010 is that everybody is a loser. When we could have a much more rational way of dealing with the crisis where the average European citizen pays less for this unfolding never-ending debacle.”

Is life a competition? Can we live together and everybody has enough? Or do we have to compete like animals to see who is the winner and who is the loser?

Link to Employment Vocabulary

Link to an interactive story about a stormy life

Link to easy reading and vocabulary activity about a Storm.

Share your thoughts...

Learning Academic Vocabulary

When we learn vocabulary there are many techniques.

many techniques
many ways to learn

There are also some basic common sense rules.

Rule One: Learn a phrase before a word.

learn a phrase before a word
learn a phrase rather than a word
learn a whole phrase rather than an individual word
learn a whole phrase rather than just an individual word

If you learn a whole phrase instead of just a word, you will get many clues to the meaning.

Language is not just lists of words. Language has meaning. Language has context. Much of meaning comes from context. (See below)

Language and Thought

Language is a way of communicating ideas but those ideas themselves are the product of thought:

the product of thought
the framework of thought
the building blocks of thought
the products of thought
the mental framework of reality
the cognitive background of the world

Thinking and Speaking

To learn a language is to learn a system of thought. To learn academic language is to learn the system (or systems) of thought.

There are relationships between thoughts and words and thoughts and thoughts and words and words.

They are like patterns. We can learn those patterns and it will help us to navigate through language. It will help us to communicate, and it will help us to think.

Now take our test and practice using vocabulary in context. After you do the test, you can check your answers.

The Test

The Answers

Was the test useful?

What is your score out of fourteen? Write it in the comments section.

Words or Phrases

Did the test teach you individual words or phrases?

Did you learn individual words or words in context?

Can you see the difference?

Write your thoughts in the comments section below.

Was this lesson too difficult? Try something easier: An easy lesson (the big dream)

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Grammar Lesson with Piano

Existence and Location

Henry: You see, Simon, there are three kinds of “there”. There is “there”: T-h-e-r-e. “There are the donuts.”


Henry: Then there is “their”: T-h-e-i-r, which is the possessive.”It is their donuts.”


Then finally there is “they’re”: T-h-e-y-apostrophe r-e, a contraction meaning “they’re”. “They’re the donut people.”

Checking for Understanding

Henry: Got it?

Simon: M-hm.

Link to there is – the existence page

Link to Easy English

The above video clip is from a movie. The movie was written and directed by Hal Hartley.

Have you ever heard of Hal Hartley?

Have you ever seen any of his movies?

The guy at the piano is called “Henry Fool”.

What do you think of him?
How do you feel about him?
What kind of guy does he seem to be .. to you?

Write your answer in the comments section below.


These three words have the same pronunciation:


Existence – Talking about Existence

Have you seen the existence page?

Does God exist?

We ask:

Is there a god?


Does god exist?

Some people believe in god. They have faith. Some people do not believe in god. They do not have faith. Some people do not know. They wonder. They ask. They are unsure. Which one are? What are your feelings? What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments section.

Does god exist?

How do you talk to god?

How does god talk to you?

World English Course

There are lots of things you can learn in the World English Course. There is a place where you can talk about work and there is also a place where you can find a job and a place where you can find staff. There is a place where you can have fun and there is a place where you can talk about food or family. There is also a place where you can talk about money or love or philosophy. You can study anything you want anytime you want. You can do it once a week or every day or any time you like. Have fun! Work hard! Tell your friends and family members! Enjoy!

Share your thoughts...

Do you trust me?

What do you think about love and trust? Are they the same thing? is trust an aspect of love? Do they always come together? Write your answer in the comments section below.

Maria: What time is it?
Matthew: 5:03.
Maria: Did you mean it? Would you marry me?
Matthew: Yes.
Maria: Why?
Matthew: Because I want to.
Maria: Not because you love me or anything like that, huh?
Matthew: I respect and admire you.
Maria: Isn’t that love?
Matthew: No, that is respect and admiration. I think that is better than love.
Maria: How?
Matthew: When people are in love they do all sorts of crazy things. They get jealous. They lie. They cheat. They kill themselves. They kill each other.
Maria: It doesn’t have to be that way.
Matthew: Maybe.
Maria: You’d be the father of a child you know isn’t yours.
Matthew: Kids are kids. What does it matter?
Maria: Do you trust me?
Matthew: Do you trust me first?
Maria: I trust you.
Matthew: Sure.
Maria: Yes.
Matthew: Then marry me.
Maria: I will marry you if you admit that respect, trust and admiration equal love.
Matthew: Ok. They equal love.
Maria: Good! I trust you. Now it’s your turn.
Matthew: What?
Maria: Go on up.
Matthew: Maria, that is pretty high.
Maria: Don’t you trust me?
Matthew:Of course I do.
Maria: Go on up.
Matthew: Maria,I am twice your size.
Matthew: If I fall on you from that height, I will kill you.
Maria: Trust me.
Matthew: This isn’t a matter of trust.
Maria:Matthew, Go up. I will break your fall. I promise.


Are you married?
What are your thoughts on marriage?
In your society, do people always get married or do they sometimes just live together?

This post is dedicated to the work of Hal Hartley. Thank you, Hal.

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Giving Advice – Be true to yourself

I believe you are sincere and good at heart.

First Conditional

If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road.
Try not to leave it.

Above all avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself.

falsehood – lying – lies

Interjection: Teach us something something useful!


Watch over your own deceitfulness. Look into it every hour, every minute.

Avoid being scornful both to others and yourself. What seems bad to you within yourself, will grow pure by the very act of you observing it.

Interjection: This is ridiculous!

Interjection: We are paying for this.

Interjection: You are a disgrace.

Avoid fear.Though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-hearted-ness in attaining love. And don’t be frightened over much but your own evil actions.

I am sorry that I can say nothing more consoling to you for love and action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love and dreams. Love and dreams is greedy for immediate action rapidly performed so everyone can see. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last too long but is soon over with all looking on and applauding as if on a stage. But active love – active love – is labour … and fortitude.


fortitude – strength


Who is the speaker?
Who is the audience?
Where did the conversation take place?


Is this good advice?

Can literature show us how to live?
Have you ever had a teacher like this?

Link to the story of Love and Death

Link straight to the dream:
The Dream

Share your thoughts...

Science – A New Book about Science

a delusion – an illusion

Relative Clause with Present Participle and Passive Infinitve

The science delusion is the belief that science already understand the nature of reality, leaving only the details to be filled in.

to fill in – to be filled in

Past Participle as Adjective

This is a very wide-spread belief in our society.

a wide-spread belief
a widely held belief

Relative Clause

It is the kind of belief system of people who say I don’t believe in god. I believe in science.

Do you believe in god?
What is your belief system?
Write your opinion in the comments section below.

Relative Clause and Present Perfect Tense

It is a belief system which has now been spread to the entire world.

A Conflict between A and B with Noun Phrases and a Metaphor

But there is a conflict in the heart of science between science as a method of inquiry based on reason, evidence, hypothesis and collective investigation, and science as a belief system or a world view.

the heart of science
a method of inquiry
a belief system
a worldview

Present Perfect Tense with a Relative Clause and a Metaphor

And unfortunately the world view aspect of science has come to inhibit and constrict the free inquiry which is the very life blood of the scientific endeavour.

to inhibit – to constrict – to limit – to control

Present Perfect Tense in Passive Voice with a Relative Clause and an Adverb

Since the late nineteenth century
science has been conducted under the aspect of a belief system or worldview which is essentially that of materialism – philosophical materialism.

the early nineteenth century
the middle nineteenth century
the late nineteenth century

A Metaphor and a Past Participle as Adjective

And the sciences are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the materialist worldview.

a totally owned subsidiary
a wholly owned subsidiary

a partially owned subsidiary

Future Passive

I think that as was we break out of it, the sciences will be regenerated.

will regenerate – will revitalise
will be regenerated – will be revitalised

Relative Clauses and a Present Participle

What I do in my book “The Science Delusion” which is called “Science Set Free” in the United States is take the ten dogmas or assumptions of science and turn them into questions- seeing how well they stand up if you look at them scientifically.

None of them stand up very well.

stand up -hold up – make sense

none of them
one of them
a few of them
some of them
almost all of them
all of them

Relative Clause

What I am going to do is first run through what these ten dogmas are.

And then I will only have time to discuss one or two of them in a bit more detail.

run through – go though – list – elucidate

But essentially the ten dogmas which are now the default worldview of most educated people all over the world are first that nature is mechanical or machine-like. The universe is like a machine. Animals and plants are like machines. We are like machines. In fact we are machines. We are lumbering robots in Richard Dawkins’ vivid phrase – with brains that are genetically programmed computers.

Passive Voice

Second, matter is unconscious. The whole universe is made up of unconscious matter.

The Vocabulary of Existence from Macro to Micro

There is no consciousness in stars, in galaxies, in planets, in animals, in plants. And there ought not to be any in us either, if this theory is true.


Consciousness – Word Family and Present Perfect Continuous Tense

So a lot of the philosophy of mind over the last hundred years has been trying to prove that we are not really conscious at all.

consciousness – noun
conscious – adjective
unconscious – adjective

Passive Voice

So matter is unconscious. The laws of nature are fixed. This is dogma three. The laws of nature are the same now as they were at the time of the big bang and they will be the same forever. Not just the laws but the constants of nature are fixed, which is why they are called “constants”.

Relative Clause – when

Dogma four – the total amount of matter and energy is always the same. It never changes in total quantity except at the moment of the big bang when it all sprang into existence from nowhere in a single instant.

matter and energy


purpose – purposeless – purposelessness
point – pointless – pointlessness
meaning – meaningless – meaninglessness

The fifth dogma is that nature is purposeless. There are no purposes in all nature and the evolutionary process has no purpose or direction.

evolution – the evolutionary process

Complex Biological Vocabulary

Dogma six. Biological heredity is material. Everything you inherit is in your genes or in epi-genetic modifications of the genes, or in psyto-plasmic inheritance. It is material.

material – physical – tangible

Passive Voice Memory

Dogma seven: memories are stored inside your brain as material traces. Somehow everything you remember is in your brain in modified nerve endings, phosphorelatyed proteins.

memory – memories

No-one knows how it works but nevertheless almost everyone in the scientific world believes it must be in the brain.

The Mind and the Brain

Dogma eight: your mind is inside your head. All your consciousness is the activity of your brain and nothing more.

Psychic Phenomena

Dogma nine, which follows from dogma eight: psychic phenomena like telepathy are impossible. Your thoughts and intentions cannot have any effect at a distance because your mind is inside your head. Therefore all the apparent evidence for telepathy and other psychic phenomena is illusory.

I am telepathic. – Are you telepathic?

People believe these things happen but it just because they do not know enough about statistics, or they are deceived by co-incidences, or it is wishful thinking.

coincidence – coincidental
statistics – statistical

Relative Clause – the Vocabulary of Medicine and of Mechanics

And Dogma ten: mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works. That is why governments only fund research into mechanistic medicine and ignore complementary and alternative therapies. Those can’t possibly really work because are not mechanistic.

Link to a conversation about medical research

machine – mechanic – mechanical – mechanistic

They may appear to work because people would have got better anyway or because of the placebo effect. But the only kind that really works is mechanistic medicine.

mechanistic medicine
mainstream medicine – alternative medicine
Chinese medicine – western medicine
Ayurvedic medicine
homeopathic medicine – allopathic medicine

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