The Union Jack a flag that unites.

Posted on 14. Apr, 2015 by in Culture

Image British flag (Union Jack) in Bangor by Iker Merodio on Flickr.

Image British flag (Union Jack) in Bangor by Iker Merodio on Flickr.

The picture above is a picture of the national flag of the United Kingdom, or as it is also known, the “Union Jack.” You may know this flag because of its connection to England, but perhaps you have seen it in Australia, New Zealand or the Caribbean, too.  Today we are going to take a look at the interesting history of the Union Jack and where you may see it flying across the English-speaking world.

The Union Jack made its first appearance in the 1600s and was a symbol of accord* between Scotland and England when they became united under one ruler. Parts of the existing English flag (a red cross on a white background) and the existing Scottish flag (a white X with a blue background) were brought together to create the earliest version of the Union Jack. It was at this time the term “Great Britain” first started to be used, as well. The term Great Britain is now often used to refer to the collective countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The term “United Kingdom” is also used in the same way.

When Ireland joined the United Kingdom in the 1800’s a change was made to the Union Jack to represent this addition. Red lines in the form of an X were added to the flag to represent Ireland. Wales is the only nation within the United Kingdom that is not distinctly represented in the Union Jack. Since the 1800’s no further changes have been made to the flag that is an iconic symbol of Great Britain worldwide.

The Union Jack is found on many more flags, other than just Great Britain though. It appears in the upper-left hand corner of the flags of several other nations and territories all of which were former British colonies or possessions. Can you think of any other national flags that have the symbol of the Union Jack in them?

Here are two examples. Do you know which countries these flags belong to?

Image Red Duster by Andrew on Flickr.

Image Red Duster by Andrew on Flickr.

Image by caccamo on Flickr.

Image by caccamo on Flickr.

The first of these flags belongs to Bermuda and the second is that of Australia.

There are a number of other nations that use the Union Jack in their flag, as well. These include:
Cayman Islands
New Zealand

There are also a number of states and territories that include the Union Jack in their flag, including:
Hawaii, USA
Manitoba, Canada
Ontario Canada
British Columbia, Canada

Needless to say the Union Jack has an important presence in the English-speaking world. Next time you see the Union Jack, wherever you are in the world, I hope you feel like you have a greater understanding of what is and how it came to be. If you have any questions or comments about this post please let me know by using the comment box below.

* accord = an agreement or treaty

English abbreviations that are important “imo”

Posted on 07. Apr, 2015 by in English Language, English Vocabulary

Image 'WFT" by Niels Heidenreich on

Image ‘WFT” by Niels Heidenreich on

Abbreviations, or short forms of words and phrases, are quite common in English. They are particularly common in electronic communication such as emails, texting, messaging on social media, and so on. One of the reasons written abbreviations are so common is because they are quicker to type than full words. So they save time and we all like to save time, right? Knowing common English abbreviations is important for understanding, of course, but learning to use them yourself is also a great way to add new vocabulary to your repertoire.  Just keep in mind that abbreviations are definitely informal English and best used with friends and family, but not in formal school or business writing.

Note: Abbreviations traditionally are written in all capital letters in English, like acronyms, but when they are used in texting, chat rooms, or on social media they are more commonly written in all lowercase letters. Using either all capital letters, or all lower case letters, is fine.

AMA – ask me anything
BRB – be right back
BTW – by the way
FYI – for your information
GG – good game
ICYMI – in case you missed it
IDC  – I don’t care
IDK – I don’t know
IKR – I know right? (This is an emphatic expression of agreement.)
ILY – I love you
IMO – in my opinion
JK – just kidding
LOL – laugh out loud
LMAO – Laugh my a** off
OMG – oh my god
PPL – people
TGIF – thank God it’s Friday
THX – thanks
TBH – to be honest
WTF – what the f*ck (This is an emphatic expression of surprise or anger.)
YOLO – you only live once

Well, now that you have had a look at these common English acronyms, let’s take a look at how they can be used. Here are some texting conversations using acronyms from above, and a few others I introduced in this post. Keep in mind, these are not examples of spoken conversations, they are all written electronic conversations.

Jim: icymi we just made it 2 the finals
John: I saw – gg

Al: tgif want to get drinks l8r  (l8r=later)
Abi: idk I’m feeling tired
Al: come on yolo

Eric: wtf did you see what Kate wore 2 work today
Erin: imo ppl can wear whatever they want – who cares

Now that you have seen how some of these acronyms can be used, why not see if you can figure out which acronyms go where in this fill in the blank. Good luck!

1.    That was so funny it literally made me ________.
2.    I love the present you got me, __________.
3.    _________ ! I can’t believe that you just said that.
4.    I __________ during the movie we went to last night. It was hilarious.
5.    I know what I am talking about ________.



1.    LOL 2. THX 3. OMG 4. LMAO 5. FYI

The major rivers of the USA and their culture.

Posted on 31. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, Travel

Mississippi river.

A picture of the mighty Mississippi River by Jerry Huddleston from

The longest river in the United States is well known to all American school children because of its fun and funny name: the Mississippi River. Mississippi is a fun word to say, go ahead give it a try. It is also a fun word to spell. I remember as a child learning how to spell this word for the first time, with all its double letters and 4 i’s:   m – i – ss – i –ss – i – pp – i.  I was very proud of myself for having learned to spell such a long word!  I didn’t know anything about this river then, but now I do and I want to share some of this information with you today.

There are many rivers in the United States, not just the Mississippi, and we will look at all of the important American rivers in this post, but we will start with the longest river first; the Mississippi.

The Mississippi River: 
This is the longest and most famous of all the rivers in North America. The Mississippi is 2,339 miles (3,765 km) in length from its source to the sea. It starts flowing in the state of Minnesota (the ‘source’ or beginning of a river is also called the ‘head waters’) and flows south to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River is used primarily for transportation, although there are also pleasure boats found on the river.

The Mississippi River connects many cities and has long been an important part of American trade.  There is also a famous American novel written about a young boy and his adventures traveling down the Mississippi River on a raft.  This book is called ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain. It was published in 1884, but is still read by Americans today. If you would like to get a better idea of how important the Mississippi River is to Americans I suggest you read this book.

The Colorado River: 
The Colorado River begins flowing in the state of Colorado in the Rocky Mountains and flows down into the Gulf of California. This river is 1,450 miles (2,333 km) in length. Over many thousands of years the water of this river has carved away canyons in the land, including the famous Grand Canyon in the state of Arizona. If you would like to see the Grand Canyon in a unique way, you should take a rafting trip down the Colorado River. The Colorado River is not used for transportation of goods like the Mississippi River, but it is used to make energy. There are over 30 electric power plants (water-powered) along this river!

The Columbia River: 
The Columbia River is wide and fast-flowing (the movement of water is called its ‘flow’). This river begins in the Canadian Rockies and flows south into the United States through the state of Washington. The river also acts as a border between the American states of Washington and Oregon, before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River is 1,152 miles (1,857 km) in length.  The Columbia River is famous for its salmon. Salmon is a type of fish that has pink colored meat. Salmon swim up stream (against the flow of water) to spawn (to lay their eggs) in the Columbia River every year. Wild Columbia River salmon are considered some of the best salmon in the world.

The Rio Grande: The Rio Grande begins in southern Colorado and flows south through the state of New Mexico. It forms a natural border between part of the state of Texas and the country of Mexico, before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. The Rio Grande is 1,885 miles (3,034 km) long.  This river is generally not called the ‘Rio Grande River,’ because “rio” means river in Spanish, so we don’t say “river” twice when saying its name. Sadly, this river has become increasingly polluted over the years due to farming and human waste.

There are other rivers in the United States for sure, other large rivers, including the Ohio and Missouri Rivers, but the rivers listed above are four of the most important rivers in the USA.  Learning a little about these rivers also helps you learn more about the United States as a whole. If you have any questions about any of this information, please leave a comment below.