Three Questions & A Birthday

Why can’t I say Happy Anniversary when it is someone’s birthday?”, many an ESL student has asked me.

That’s a great question and one that merits a post about to explain the answer – especially since I just attended a very special birthday celebration for someone close who was celebrating 90 years (name withheld to protect the identity of the person in question. Don’t ask!)   

Here’s the deal. The definitions of the words will help us out.  

Question 1: What’s the difference between the words birthday and anniversary?

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, an anniversary is defined as: the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event.

In English-language culture, this applies to notable event such as the following: the founding of a company, a wedding, a graduation, a natural disaster… however, it does not apply to a birthday! (Unless you want to say: Happy Anniversary of your birth!)  

A birthday, by definition, again according to the online Cambridge Dictionary is: the day that is exactly a year or number of years after a person was born.

So, if you want to wish someone well on the day they are born, the term that is used is birthday, not anniversary.

Question 2: Are there any other ways to say Happy Birthday?

Ah-ha! Another great question. You could say any of these:

  • Best wishes for the day!
  • Enjoy your day!
  • Have fun on your special day!
  • Many happy returns (British)!
  • May your day be filled with love, laughter and joy!

Of course, there are as many ways to wish someone a happy birthday as there are people. I won’t even try to list them here (just google Ways to say Happy Birthday for more).

Question 3: Are birthdays really that important?

I added this as the third question because the person who we celebrated this past week would have preferred us not to celebrate their special day, especially not talk about the number of years being celebrated.

My answer to this question is a resounding yes! Yes, yes, yes! Please celebrate your birthday and the birthday of those around you! A life is important, precious and unique. There is only one day in the entire year dedicated to celebrating the presence of that person on this planet and in your life.

Each person arrives in our existence for a reason. Yes, I believe that those skeptics and cynics may smirk and scoff. What reason you may ask? There is no one-size fits all answer.

The answers to that precise question lies in what makes you so incredibly unique. Your contribution, albeit by your mere presence in the lives of those around you are what make celebrating your existence so essential.

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your special abilities?
  • What are your talents?
  • What makes you laugh?
  • What moves you to tears?
  • What kind of music makes you want to get up and dance?

Your contribution, albeit by your mere presence, in the lives of those around you are what make celebrating your existence so essential. The number of years is inconsequential to your specialness.

I’ll leave the final point to Dr. Seuss, who always knows how to say things so eloquently!

It basically comes down to the fact that celebrating your birthday is a day to honour you, not your achievements or non-achievements, that you are, not what you are or aren’t.

Thanks for dropping in to read. What do you think: Why are birthdays important to you? Or are they? I’d love to hear what the youer-than-you has to say!

Cheers, and keep on learning!

Claire :o)

ESL Mixologist: What’s the deal?

I am never just teaching an English class! I am on the lookout for new insights or epiphanies I may have while talking about vocab, grammar or functional language.

ESL Mixologist is all about my journey as an ESL teacher who just can’t get over the serendipitous glimpses into the parallel universe of philosophy while teaching language learners.

It is an endless source of amazement for me to see how a verb tenses reveal psychological realities (example: Are you living in the present continuous or the simple past?!); word meanings disclose unexpected portals into past civilizations and faraway existences (example: courage comes from the Latin word cor meaning heart, or as Brené Brown explains, telling one’s story whole-heartedly); and discussion topics (example: If you were a star, what would you ask for from the show organizers?) open the mind to whole new possibilities and dreams.    

Just as a savvy mixologist combines sweet, sour and alcohol to create daring new taste experiences, ESL Mixologist takes you inside my language teacher’s mind where I experiment with continually changing combinations of syntax, semantics and pragmatics, to gain insights into some of life’s more major questions.  

Syntax (Structure)

Language: According to Google dictionary, syntax is “the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.

Life: How can I get my life better organized for optimal enjoyment?  How does this all work?

Semantics (Meaning)

Language: Secondly, semantics (quoting the Google dictionary), “involves the branch of linguistics or logic concerned with meaning.

Life: What is meaningful to me? What is really important? What does this experience mean?

Pragmatics (Use)

Language: Finally, pragmatics (from the Google dictionary again) is “the branch of linguistics dealing with language in use and the contexts in which it is used […] text organization, presupposition, and implicature.

Life: What should I do? How do I deal with this situation? What do I say?

I never thought that teaching ESL could be so stimulating. It is so much more than vocab lists and grammar rules, handouts and tests. For me, it’s all about teaching (and learning) to initiate and maintain connections. What could be more meaningful than that?

Cheers, and keep learning!

Claire :o)

3 Reasons to Savor the Summer Solstice

Got to admit it, I didn’t know much about the Summer Solstice. Yet the more I Googled, the more I learned, and the more I realized that this is a date to celebrate.

1. Summer has arrived!

The word solstice comes from Latin and basically means the day the sun stands still (solstitium: sol – sun; stit – stand). Scientifically speaking, it is when in the Northern Hemisphere the sun hits its northernmost point (called aphelion), thus causing June 21 to mark the longest day, the shortest night and the beginning of summer.  

2. Love is in the air!   

Ever heard of Puck? He was the mischievous hobgoblin (a bizarre-looking fairy) who turns a man’s head into that of a donkey’s and mistakenly spreads a love potion on the wrong suitor so he falls in love with the wrong girl in Shakespeare’s comic play A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Just think: that means he wrote an entire play just to underscore the importance of the summer solstice!

The question is: why would Shakespeare have chosen this event? He obviously knew what he was doing! In many countries in both ancient and more modern times, people celebrate courtship and romance with many rituals and traditions, such as jumping over bonfires as a couple (Sweden), floating wreaths to snag an eligible bachelor (Poland) or leaving a personal belonging beneath fig trees as they dream of marriage (Greece), or contemplate the marriage of the Earth and the Sun over the circle of rocks at Stonehenge (England).   

3. Great food abounds!  

For those who live off the earth, the Summer Solstice marks the beginning of a season of growth and imminent harvest. Spring planting and rain have prepared the crops, and the heat caused by the sun’s position above the earth means that farmers will begin harvesting soon, and enjoy the fruit of their labor, in both food and income.

Of course, if you’re an urban citizen, like I am, it means the heady delight of local market produce and country drives to purchase freshly picked fruit and vegetables that actually taste like the fruit or vegetable their physical form denotes!

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like all the ingredients for a party! Savoring warm temperatures, love and friendship, and delicious food is what summer is all about. So how are you celebrating the arrival of summer?

Cheers, and keep learning!

Claire :o)

[References: https://www.etymonline.com/word/solstice; https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/summer-solstice-world-traditions/index.html; https://www.themanual.com/culture/what-is-summer-solstice/; https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/06/21/summer-solstice-celebration-facts-longest-day-year/721004002/ https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/msnd/character/puck/; https://www.space.com/june-solstice-northern-summer-2019.html; Photo Credit: Tatsiana Hrak/Shutterstock]

Disrupt the humdrum and go creative at the coffee machine!

You know the drill. You get to the office, leave your stuff at your desk, grab your coffee cup and head to the coffee machine. Then the conversation begins.

  • Hey Charles! How are you?
  • Oh, you know, busy usual.

Or:

  • Hey Laurence! How are you today!
  • Not bad, you?

Or:

  • Good morning, Simon! How are you this morning?
  • Uhhh… fine thanks, you?

Woah, woah, woah! How can we dress up these dry pieces of toast? Where’s the jam? Where’s the honey?

There are so many ways to dress up your answer – unless of course, you don’t feel like talking! In that case, let me suggest you not even go to the coffee machine! The coffee machine is THE place to chill and chat with your local office fauna.

Let’s look at some ways you could add some pizazz to keep the conversation going!

Response A. Oh, you know, busy as usual.

  • I’m swamped.
  • I’m in over my head!
  • I’ve got a long going on at the moment.
  • I’ve got a few things to handle today!
  • Let’s just say I won’t be bored!

 Response B. Not bad, you?

  • Thanks for asking. Is it just me or is the rain getting to everyone?
  • Good question! How are you doing?
  • Actually, I have felt better. But hey, how are you?
  • You know what? Not that great. Can we talk about it?
  • Not too sure, this morning. Tell me joke. It might cheer me up!

Response C. Fine, thank you, and you?

  • Great! I was listening to the radio on the way in. You know what I heard?
  • Fine! That was a great game last night. Did you see it?
  • Terrific! Did you see that sunshine this morning?
  • I am so excited. I got some really good news last night.
  • I’m doing well. What’s new in your life?

These are just some examples of answers you can use. They’re sure to help you connect better with your co-workers. After all, what’s a workday like without some real conversation?

So, which one will you try out tomorrow morning? Maybe you’ve even got some good answers yourself. What do you like to say?

  • Claire :O)

[Photo credit: qvasimodo art/Shutterstock]

Do you always need to have the last word?

Here’s one fancy way to do just that: use an epiphonema!

What in the world is that?

So glad you asked!  According to Dictionary.com, an epiphonema is, and I quote, “a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said“.  In other word, it’s a fancy way to have the last word!

For an example, listen in to the following conversation:

Dan: I got my bike out yesterday, and it’s already at the bike shop.

Lise: What? How come?

Dan: Well, I cleaned it all up, tuned the brakes and the gears, checked and pumped up the tires. I figured I’d go for a ride before supper, but then my phone rang. So I left my bike there and went into the house. Came back out and what do you know? My son hit my bike with his car!

Lise: Oh no! Not for real!

Dan: Yup, the best laid plans of mice and men!  

Did you notice the epiphonema?

Exactly! The last comment: the best laid plans of mice of men – refers to English poet Robert Burn’s poem To A Mouse, where he writes:  

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/gang aft a-gley.

(Modern translation: The best prepared plans of a human often go wrong.)

Shall we try another example?

Anna: Hey, Laurence! I finally submitted my application for the Master’s program.

Laurence: At long last! Alia iecta est!

In this example, Laurence ends the conversation saying alia iecta est (meaning, the die is cast, or we’ll just have to see what happens), apparently said by Seutonius to Julius Caesar as they crossed the Rubicon River to begin battle against Pompey.

There you have it! Can you think of any epiphonemas you used lately, or heard someone else use?

Have a great day, and keep learning! (Wait! Was that an epiphonema?!)

  • Claire :o)    

[Sources: https://rhetconcepts.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/epiphonema-overview/; https://www.dictionary.com/browse/the-best-laid-plans-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alea_iacta_est]