Almanac – 19 August 2010 – Thursday

Read the text first, then listen to the audio at the bottom of the page.

Good Morning!

It is the nineteenth of August 2010. It is Thursday.

It is a barren day in the garden. It is not a good time for planting. Wait until Sunday to plant above ground crops.

On this day in 1994 Linus Pauling passed on. Groucho Marx also died on this day.

In some countries birthdays are celebrated but in others they are not considered to be of great importance.

In some countries death days are observed but in other countries such a thing is not so formally noted.

What is the situation in your country? Do you observe “death days” or “remembrance days” for family members? In Japan we do. In Thailand we do as well.

What is the situation in your country? Explain it clearly. Talk about birthdays and death days. Do it now. Do it orally

What is the situation in your country?

After you have explained the situation in your country orally, write an answer in the “comments” section below.


It is clear.
It is wonderfully clear.
You can see for miles.

Look at these uses of the word “clearly”

speak clearly
explain clearly
see clearly

Clarity or “being clear” is not just associated with sight. It is also associated with sound. We often use this expression:

as clear as a bell

I can hear it. It is quite clear. As clear as a bell.

Word Families

Look at this word family:

clear (adjective)
clearly (adverb)
clarity (noun)

Now I want you to tell me about the weather where you are. What is the weather like where you are? Answer this question. Say your answer aloud.
What is the weather like today?

Now write an answer. What is the weather like today in your area? (Post the answer below in the “comments” section)


Here is a current news headline:

Brazil sets up grammar hotline

In English “newspaper headline” style present simple tense is used instead of present perfect tense so

“Has set up”

has become

“sets up”.

The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro has established a call-in service for people who have questions about correct usage of the Portuguese language.

The government has set up a grammar hotline in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The socio-economic diversity in Brazil and the linguistic diversity have meant many people have not been educated in the standard form of the language. If they are unsure about how to say something correctly or write something correctly, they can ring in.

Look at these variations:

have not been educated
have not been given access to information
have not been given opportunities
have not been given a chance

has set up a service
has established a service
has created a service

say something correctly
say something clearly
say something incorrectly
pronounce something incorrectly
pronounce something correctly
pronounce something clearly

Do you know Lula?

The President frequently makes grammatical mistakes. To some this is a source of embarrassment. To others it is a source of pride as it shows that a man can achieve great things even though he was not born into a wealthy family and this is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

Look at these phrases:

a source of embarrassment
a source of pride
a source of concern
a source of joy
a source of strength
a source of information
a source of diplomatic tension

a testament to the power of the human spirit
a testament to the power of the almighty dollar
a testament to the might of nature
a testament to the might of God
a testament to the endurance of the human spirit

Is anybody there Brazilian? What do you think, Brazilians (and Portuguese)? Is Lula a source of embarrassment or a source of pride? How do you feel about this question of language and social class?
How do you feel about it? Tell us.
How do you feel? How do you feel about it?

Answer the question orally and then write an answer in the “comments” section below.

Look at another headline:

China increases military spending

This means:

China has increased its military spending since last year according to a US report.

Again present simple tense is used instead of present perfect tense so

“has increased its military spending”

has become simply

“increases military spending”

China has increased the capability of its military to help deal with disasters like the current mudslides which are plaguing the country. It has also expanded its capacity for long range operations like dealing with Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Look at these variations:

long range operations
mid range operations
short range operations
local operations

Taiwan remains a source of diplomatic tension between China and the US, which supplies the Taiwan military with weapons. China has not confirmed the US report.

So far today we have seen two headlines that use present simple tense instead of present perfect tense. Now we are going to see how it works with the passive. We are going to look at two headlines that use past participles to replace the present perfect tense in passive voice.

If you have trouble understanding “passive voice” go to “The Banjo Player”s Brother” and click the links. You will find many many examples of passive and active voice.

Here is the first headline with a past participle:

US – Colombia pact declared illegal.

A past participle has replaced a passive verb phrase.


has replaced

“has been declared”.

We saw this word in the almanac a couple of days ago when Obama declared the US Gulf coast safe after the oil spill. We use this word at customs.

A US Colombian pact pact that allows the United States to use seven Colombian airbases has been declared illegal by the constitutional court. it was argued during the case that such an agreement should have been debated in Congress in order to conform with normal constitutional protocol.

Look at these present perfect phrases which are in passive voice:

has been declared illegal
has been declared unconstitutional
has been declared “out of bounds”
has been declared “off limits”

In Australia we have these courts:

Magistrates Court
District Court
Supreme Court
High Court

There are also:

the Privy Council
the Family Court

What is the court system in your country? How many courts do you have? Tell us about the legal system:
How many courts do you have? How many courts do you have and what are they called?

Here is another headline which uses a past participle:

Google subpoena-ed in Spain

“Has been subpoena-ed”

has become simply


Subpoena is a Latin word. Latin expressions are often used in English legal terminology. An equivalent term is “summons”.

He was subpoena-ed
He was summons-ed
He was summoned
He was served a summons
He was given a summons

They all mean:

He was ordered to appear in court.

Here are some details:

Google has come under fire in Germany and several other countries for its streetview program because during the collection of data it illegally obtained personal information from people’s wi-fi networks. Google says it obtained the information by mistake and will never use it.

Look at these phrases:

has come under fire
has been criticised
has received criticism

Look at these opposites:

it obtained the information by mistake
it obtained the information deliberately

We see legal vocabulary again here:

A Madrid judge has ordered a representative of Google to appear in court on October 4 to answer charges that it violated people’s privacy and violated the penal code.

“Violated the penal code”

is another way to say

“broke the law”.

What do you think? Do you think Google gathered all that personal information by mistake? Do you think they should discard it (throw it away) Should they be made to discard it?

Answer the question orally then write and answer in the “comments” section below:

What do you think?

News and weather Summary

Now listen to a summary. If you do not understand everything you hear, go back and read the text again. Look up all the new words in the dictionary.

Download audio file (nw190810.mp3)