Hurricane Katrina Retrospective

Posted on 01. Sep, 2015 by in Culture

Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on (This is not a picture of Hurricane Katrina itself, but it shows the a hurricane and the Gulf Coast where Katrina hit.)

Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on (This is not a picture of Hurricane Katrina itself, but it shows the a hurricane and the Gulf Coast where Katrina hit.)

In the United States, the city of New Orleans is commemorating (both celebrating and mourning) the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; a natural disaster that devastated this city and the surrounding towns of the American Gulf Coast. The 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has been in the news a lot in the United States. Over the past few weeks the news about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina has focused on positive changes and growth in the city, but ten years ago the focus of the news about New Orleans was on tragedy and racial/economic inequality.  This blog post is going to take a look at this important current news event.

New Orleans is a major American city, rich with a unique creole cultural including strong French, Caribbean, African, and Native American influences. New Orleans has and continues to be known worldwide for its music scene, eclectic food, and Mardi Gras festival. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 other aspects of this city were also made famous, such as its racially segregated neighborhoods and poverty.

The city of New Orleans was certainly changed by Hurricane Katrina, which is to date the costliest natural disaster in American history. There were over $108 billion dollars in damages from this hurricane! The changes in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina have taken many years to come about. Many people said the response to this natural disaster were slow to begin with and not sufficient to help all those who needed help.  But now after many homes and communities have been rebuilt a lot of people say that New Orleans is a better city than it was before Hurricane Katrina. That is certainly a matter of opinion, but one thing is sure, the people of New Orleans are very strong and have shown their love and determination to bring their city back to life day-after-day for a decade.

Here are some facts about New Orleans related to Hurricane Katrina.

The population of New Orleans:
Pre-Katrina: 484,000 people
Post-Katrina: 360,400 people
Many people lost their homes and jobs, especially people who were living in poorer neighborhoods and some people moved away and never returned.

The percentage of the city of New Orleans that was flooded in Katrina:
Much of New Orleans is 6 feet (1.8 meters) below sea level on a regular basis! A system of levees (or damns) surround parts of the city to keep water out. When the high winds and waves from Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans most of the city was flooded.

The number of people who lost their lives in because of the hurricane and flooding:
over 1,250
The exact number of people who died is unknown. Many people died in the flooding that occurred due to the high winds that broke the city’s levees.

If you want to see pictures and learn more about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina here are some links to US news story that looks at New Orleans 10 years ago and now:

Talking Shit in English

Posted on 25. Aug, 2015 by in English Language

Image by Duncan Hull on

Image by Duncan Hull on

‘Shit’ is not a polite word in English, but it is a common word none-the-less and therefore worthy of a little attention here on the blog today. Shit is considered a swear word or a bad word in English, and so it is best not to use it around people you don’t know well. Shit isn’t a word you should use at work or school; it is a word you can use around friends as long as your friend are okay with that. You are very likely to hear this word if you watch English TV, movies, or listen to English music. So, what does it mean? Shit is another word for poop. It is a word for human excrement or feces. It is because of this meaning that this word is not considered a nice word, so just be careful how and where you use it.

In this post I am going explain some commonplace expressions or phrases in English in which this word is used. Because this swear word is so commonplace in English slag, knowing these uses may be helpful to you, especially in understanding native English speakers.

“Talking shit” in English:

Shit! – an emphatic expression of anger or annoyance
Example: Shit! I can’t believe you just did that.

shitty (adj.) – 1) something that is of poor quality; 2) feeling sick or miserable; 3) incompetent or not good
Examples: This is a shitty little radio that never works.
I feel shitty about how we treated that new guy.
We had the shittiest taxi driver on the way over here. He got lost three times.

shit-faced (adj.) – drunk
Example: My brother and his friend all got shit-faced last night at the bar.

shithole (noun) – a very dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place
Example: We have to move out of this shithole apartment ASAP.

I don’t give a shit = I don’t care
Example: I don’t give a shit where we go to eat, let’s just go. I am starving.

to scare the shit out of someone – to really scare someone
Example: Instead of happily surprising James we scared the shit out of him when we jumped out and yelled “surprise” at his party.

to be full of shit – to be untruthful, not credible, or ridiculous
Example: Sasha is full of shit; you can’t believe a thing she says.

to know (one’s) shit – to be very knowledgeable about something
Example: Jesse really knows his shit when it comes to car repair.

to talk shit – to talk in an insulting manner
Example: The boys were talking shit and that escalated into a fight.

bullshit (or BS) – an obvious lie
Example: That is complete bullshit you are just making things up.

I have one last important note to make on the word ‘shit’ and that is about pronunciation. Often ESL speakers mispronounce this word.  I don’t want that to happen to you. So, here is what you need to know. The trick in pronunciation here is that the vowel ‘i’ in this word has a short vowel sound. If you know how to say the word ‘it’ all you have to do is add the sounds ‘sh’ in front of ‘it’ to make the word shit. The word ‘shit’ rhymes with the word ‘sit.’ Many people mistakenly use a long vowel sound when pronouncing this word, saying this word like ‘sh-eat’ instead of ‘sh-it.’ So, just remember, keep it short and be careful where and when you use this word and these expressions as some people may find them offensive.

English idioms involving clothing

Posted on 18. Aug, 2015 by in English Vocabulary

Image by Joel Penner on

Image by Joel Penner on

This post is one for all the “fashionistas” (or people who love clothes and fashion) out there. Today we are going to look at clothes from hats to shoes, but we aren’t going to talk about specific clothing vocabulary, we are going to look at idioms and expressions that involve clothing. So, even if you don’t care much about fashion, this post will still help you build your English knowledge and give you a few more fun phrases to work into your everyday speech.

Clothing-related idioms from top to bottom:

at the drop of a hat – without planning or notice, impromptu, unexpectedly
Example: We are ready to leave for the hospital, to have the baby, at the drop of hat.

to take (one’s) hat off to (something) – to admire or respect something or someone
Example: I take my hat off to you Burt, that was an extremely well prepared presentation.

a stuffed shirt – a very rigid, old-fashioned, or formal person (usually a man)
Example: I expected my new boss to be a real stuffed shirt after the interview, but he is actually a pretty cool guy.

to ride on (someone’s) coattails – to gain success or fortune due to the work of someone else
Example: It is clear that Zack is riding on his father’s coat tails; there is no way he could be where he is now in business on his own.

to have (someone) in (one’s) pocket – to have control over someone
Example: The secretary has her boss in her pocket since she found out about his illegal activity.

to have an ace up (one’s) sleeve – to have secret knowledge, especially when it can be used against someone else
Example: I’m sure the vice president has an ace up his sleeve that he is waiting to use when the time is right.

off the cuff – without preparation, impromptu
Example: The speaker decided to make a few off the cuff remarks before beginning her prepared speech.

to tighten (one’s) belt – to spend less money
Example: The time has come for us to either tighten our belts or find second jobs.

by the seat of (one’s) pants – due to luck or good fortune
Example: Henry passed his math class, but only by the seat of his pants.

to have ants in (one’s) pants – to be restless, to move a lot
Example: After a whole week of rain and staying indoors I felt like I had ants in my pants and can’t wait to get outside.

if the shoe fits, wear it – a way of saying that someone should accept a general comment or criticism as applying to them
Example: A: “Just because I was late for work twice this week doesn’t mean I am a late person.” B: “I don’t know about that, if the shoe fits, wear it.”