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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Business English lernen - Your Letters to the Editor

Wie gefällt Ihnen dieser neue Newsletter? Haben Sie Feedback zu OWAD? Lesen Sie hier eine Auswahl interessanter Leserbriefe:

NAYSAYER word of 23 September 2005

Dear Mr. Smith,
the word "naysayer" is also existing in my owwerhessische Heimat and means the same. The sound of Owwerhessisch is very similar to the sound of an American English. It is also possible that you find the word "naysayer" in the Wedderaa (Wetterau) region. Best Regards from Hesse

Florian B.

Re. OWAD for 10.10. "to give someone a sermon": the English equivalent of the good old German "Gardinenpredigt" is "curtain lecture"; I recently saw this referred to (I think it is Dickens somewhere), but I'm blessed (substitute different expletive as required) if I can remember where it was... Kind regards /


Dear Paul,
Thanks for listing this phrase into the daily words. It is interesting to see that the same old wives' tales can have different meaning from country to country, e. g. In Slovakia black cat going across the street means bad luck, no matter which direction the cat takes; or if my nose itches it means that I will soon have a quarrel or a row with someone (no kiss unfortunately)... :-)

Or there are some old wives' tales restricted to a country or region - when I was in England and told a child not to drink freezing water in hot summer, as it would cause a sore throat, the child laughed at me, as he never heard such a thing from his mom like I often did when I was young.

Pity there was no discussion about this on the site, as it would be interesting to know some old wives' tales from other countries.

Good luck in your further work,
Jana from Slovakia

In manchen Fällen wäre es sinnvoll die Sprechweise mit zu nennen. Wie
beim heutigen Wort. Sagt man:
* one-ouh-one
* one-zero-one, oder
* onehundert-one?


Editor's note: "101" is pronounced "one-oh-one"
Thanks Tobias!

Ich habe eine Erkläung vermisst, woher das '101' kommt. Jeder Kurs einer amerikanischen Universitä/College hat eine dreistellige Nummer. '101' ist die niedrigste Nummer, die ein Kurs haben kann und somit wird in solch einem Kurs das Basiswissen des jeweiligen Faches vermittelt.


Regarding today's word: "finance 101":
Maybe you should have mentioned that the addition of "101" actually comes from listings of university courses. The ones with "101" after the title indicate that they are not an advanced but a very basic class.

My vocabulary is pretty good, having studied and lived in the U.S., but nonetheless you manage to stump me once in a while. That's great – and it's free on top of that! Thanks!


Ich habe Euren Service gerade bei meiner Schwester gesehen, klasse!

Ich habe einen Linktipp für Euch, vielleicht ist der für Eure Nutzer interessant:

Unter gibt es ein kostenloses de-en Wörterbuch. Auch Synonyme kann man dort abfragen und sich auf der Seite anhören. Vielleicht ist das ja mal etwas für Euren Newsletter.

Weiter so + viele Grüße,


room -- In George Orwell's 1984, he wrote of Room 101. . .

?The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world the worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.?

When I was at school, I wished we could banish school dinners, especially baked beans, to Room 101! (Plus hockey lessons, maths tests ...!)

There is now a TV programme on the BBC hosted by Paul Merton, where guests banish their most hated items to Room 101. Anne Robinson created a furore (another suggestion for OWAD?) by wanting to banish the Welsh to Room 101!


Dear OWAD, today for the first time since I get my daily English words from you, I was a bit confused by the translation you offered. It's not about "shrink" meaning "psychiatrist", but about your translation of "psychiatrist" into German (Psychotherapeut). To my mind, and as far as I know the sector of psychological diagnosis and therapy, there is a difference between psychiatrists and psychotherapists. As a matter of fact, these are two different job families, requiring different studies and experiences. A psychiatrist normally starts with a medical degree, a psychotherapist normally has a degree in psychology. You might refer to: and I do not think this is very different in English-speaking countries. But if there is, I would be happy to learn about it! Or maybe you might want to update this item if you find my explanations conclusive and helpful. Anyway, thank you very much for the daily dose of English you are providing me with :-)

Best regards,

Daniela P.

Ich prüfe mein Englisch jeden Tag mit One Word a Day und muß zugeben,
daß ich sehr oft danebentippe...

Heute habt aber - ausnahmsweise - Ihr einen Fehler gemacht: Die Übersetzung von psychiatrist ist Psychiater und nicht Psychotherapeut (psychotherapist). Das sind zwei unterschiedliche Berufe: ein Psychiater kann zwar auch Psychotherapeut sein, muß es aber nicht sein.

Viele Grüße


Editor's note: The following letter is long, but fascinating ...
threshold -- Next time you're washing your hands and the water
temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to
be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in
May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children -- last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs -- thick straw -- piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof -- hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This
posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor."

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway, hence, a "thresh hold."

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.
Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite awhile. Hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous. Hence the "killer tomatoes"

Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread which was so old and hard that they could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.

Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

And that's the truth. . . (who ever said that History was boring)?

Martin G.

Eine Anmerkung zum Jiffy: In der Informatik ist damit nicht direkt 10
Millisekunden gemeint, sondern das Intervall, in dem ein Hardwaremodul ein Signal erzeugt. 10 Millisekunden sind zwar ein gängiger Wert dafür, aber längst nicht der einzige - auf dem ersten Macintosh z.B. war es 1/60 Sekunde, auf anspruchsvollerer Hardware oft wesentlich kürzer (z.B. 1/1024 Sekunde). Moderne Hardware hat zumeist mehrere Timer mit unterschiedlicher Jiffy-Dauer, die teilweise auch durch Software beeinflussbar ist.

Diese und weitere Bedeutungen in verschiedenen wissenschaftlichen Zirkeln werden auch im Jargon File erläutert:

Sebastian F.

Todays word "A dog's dinner" also has another meaning. You can be "done up/dressed up like a dog's dinner" which means: "wearing very formal or decorative clothes in a way that attracts attention".

Tim C.

Haben auch Sie Feedback oder Anregungen für mich? Bite schreiben Sie mir an

Paul Smith

© Paul Smith

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