Master English in Five Tiny Steps…

… or as Winston Churchill said: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

A man and a child hiking

A man and a child hiking

“I’m too busy to study English!” is the most common complaint I hear from my adult English as a foreign-language students.

Like many people, these students juggle work obligations, family duties, and English classes, and they feel overwhelmed. Despite this overload, however, these students know it is vital that they learn English to achieve their academic and/or career goals. A small number of these adult learners are highly motivated, and they are inevitably able to become proficient in English. They don’t become discouraged, and they persevere in their studies.

But then, there’s everybody else. 

Hiking up a hill in the forest.

Hiking up a hill in the forest.

There are times when our willpower is strong, but normally it can be difficult to force one’s self to do that extra bit of learning that needs to happen each day in order to acquire a new language. I recognize that maintaining a high level of motivation is very difficult, and I have usually not known to how to convince my students to make studying English a habit. But now, I have found a solution: develop tiny habits. The Tiny Habits method is virtually painless and can be used to create a variety of new behaviors, and, after having used this method myself, I believe it can also be used to help students improve their language skills — almost without effort. And surprisingly, one’s level of motivation does not need to be the most important factor to achieve success.

Step 1: Choose a behavior that you really want to acquire. 

If you only are doing something that you feel you should do, Tiny Habits probably won’t work. But it you really want to improve your English (but just lack the discipline to do so), then learning the Tiny Habits method should be able to help you.

Step 2:  Choose three habits that you want to start to use — rather than just one habit.

Hiking along a ridge

Hiking along a ridge

Why? Because focusing on three new habits at once will help you understand the process of acquiring a new habit, rather than only focusing on one behavior that you want to learn. If you are going to use this method, you need to understand what works and what doesn’t. You can then use this technique to effectively target the habits you want to acquire in the future.  Possible tiny habits for learning English might include: listening to, reading, speaking, or writing something in English each day. This sort of consistency is key toward developing true English fluency.

Step 3: Make your new habit very small.

BJ Fogg, the creator of Tiny Habits, suggests starting with something very small. As an English teacher, who writes for students who want to improve their English, I recommend just opening your English text-book to the page of your homework. Or, if you generally want to improve your English, consider trying the following Tiny (English) Habits — or create some of your own. For example, you could:Hiking

  • Open your English textbook to your homework assignment.
  • Write one sentence in English.
  • Read one sentence in English.
  • Open one English-language YouTube video.
  • Open an English-language news website.
  • Turning the TV to an English-language channel.
  • Chose one English-language movie.
  • Say one sentence in English out loud, one time.

Focus on making your habit ridiculously easy — like BJ Fogg’s suggestion of flossing just one tooth. Notice that I didn’t recommend actually doing your homework, watching that English-language YouTube video, or even reading an entire page. Just start by opening your textbook to the correct page, going to the correct website, or writing one sentence.

Step 4:  Select your anchor.

Hikers helping each other

Hikers helping each other

Think of a trigger or anchor (some starting point or action that you do or that happens to you) that you will do your new, Tiny (English) Habit after. This is a vital step in creating a habit that will help you learn English more easily. Some possibilities might include opening your textbook to the page of your assignment (or whatever Tiny (English) Habit you are working on):


  • after you come home from class,
  • when you finish reading your emails at work,
  • the minute you get home from work,
  • in the morning after you have poured yourself a cup of coffee,
  • after you sit down for lunch,
  • or after you get ready for bed.

It may take a little time to find a good trigger for your new Tiny Habit, but once you find one that is logical and easy for you, you will be able to do this new behavior almost automatically.

Step 5: Congratulate yourself on a job well done.

A Ukrainian skywalker celebrates getting to the top of a building with a selfie.

A Ukrainian skywalker celebrates getting to the top of a building with a selfie.

Whenever you have successfully completed your new tiny habit (or even when you just remember to do your new Tiny Habit), celebrate. Do a happy dance, quietly tell yourself that you’re awesome, say, “I did it!” out loud with a victory gesture: do whatever it takes to make yourself feel good — and do this self-congratulatory action every time you complete your Tiny Habit. According to BJ Fogg, this sort of self-congratulation makes you feel good, and we begin to associate these good feelings with the new Tiny Habits that are being created. And so we want to do these new behaviors again and again — and that’s the whole point. And, what’s more important, this small act of self-congratulation is the key to establishing a desired tiny habit, and those tiny habits build to life-changing behaviors.

On top of a pyramid in Egypt

On top of a pyramid in Egypt

I realize that opening your textbook to the homework assignment won’t get the assignment done, but consider: what are the chances that you might read a little of it, or do at least one of the exercises? Still, in the beginning, don’t focus on doing anything except for opening that book. Once the new habit of opening the textbook to the correct page has been established, then (maybe in a week or two) work to build on that accomplishment. You could then focus on reading just one sentence of the homework assignment. And, if you read more? That’s extra credit — a bonus which you should feel really good about — but know you don’t have to repeat that level of involvement each time. Your goal is to just complete the one tiny habit.

On top of the Chrysler Building in NYC

On top of the Chrysler Building in NYC

On subsequent days, you can progress to doing one exercise per day, and slowly, slowly, you can build on your accomplishments. Doing your English homework — or learning English — can become something that you can incorporate in your life automatically. You will be using automaticity (learning to do something automatically — in your case, beginning an English-learning habit) and this English habit can be a powerful means of changing your life and accomplishing your goals. And by incorporating English into your life automatically, you can lay the foundations for English fluency— the tiny way.  After all, Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

On top of a mountain

On top of a mountain

So, I ask you, which exciting place are your tiny English steps taking you today?


An Email-a-Day Makes Writing Mistakes Go Away

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Woman Reading a Book

For non-native English speakers, learning to write well in English is a challenging task — and it is a task that most English-learners are afraid of failing. I have had numerous students ask for advice about how they can improve their writing skills, and unfortunately there is no easy solution. There are a few tried-and-true methods that one can use, however. These methods only take perseverance to show good results.

The most important activity you can do to improve your writing skills is to read.

This seems like strange advice, but consider why: when reading you have time to see how sentences are constructed, and how punctuation is used. You, the reader, are being shown examples of correctly formulated sentences again and again and again. Subconsciously, you will begin to absorb these structures, and — if you read for the purposes of improving your writing — you will be able to think about why the writer chose to punctuate a sentence in a certain way, or to use a certain type of word order.

Additionally, your understanding of vocabulary will improve. As you read, you see how different words are used correctly, and in which context. As you see these words used repeatedly, you will develop an innate understanding of how and when to use those same words.

Your spelling skills will also improve. You will be able to see how words are correctly spelled, and after continual exposure to correctly spelled English, you will begin to absorb those words, to notice patterns of spelling, and, in turn, be able to correctly spell those same words.

One challenge, however, is where to find material to read.

library-1024x691Some countries don’t have readily available English-language books, magazines or newspapers. Additionally, if you are busy professional or student, you may not have much time to surf the web, and it may be difficult to find the kind of content that interests you. Further, if you only have a few minutes to read during lunch-time at work, or perhaps before bedtime, you may end up just watching TV, or scrolling through Facebook.

So, how can you fit daily reading in English into your already busy schedule? One solution is to subscribe to a daily email which provides you with a short piece of writing. And the good news is that there are a number of different kinds of writing in English available in a daily email format. Here are some of my favorites:

Delancyplace: “Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.”

A word of warning: occasionally the subjects chosen may be offensive, but more frequently than not, they will be interesting.

Dailylit: “Make great fiction a habit. Thousands of people are already using DailyLit to read the books they never thought they had time for. We’ve already delivered more than 50 million installments—that’s hundreds of thousands of books! It’s easy to set up. Just pick your book and what time of day you want your installments delivered and you’re set. Don’t want to carry Anna Karenina on the train? DailyLit sends you just enough for your morning commute or coffee break. Find yourself with some extra time? Can’t wait a whole day for the next chapter of Moby Dick? Just tap “Next installment” and it’ll be on its way.”

There is no better way for you to improve your English skills than to read English and American literature. And here it is, painlessly and delivered — free of charge.

The Poetry Foundation: “The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.”

Have a daily poem delivered to your inbox! Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the link to subscribe daily.

Do you prefer the news? Have the news delivered daily via email. There are a number of different sources:

– Try the BBC for a British point of view.

– CNN provides a more typical American perspective. “Follow stories that matter to you. We’ll alert you when stories are posted about topics you select.”

– The Skimm has a more controversial American angle. “TheSkimm is the daily e-mail newsletter that gives you everything you need to start your day. We do the reading for you – across subject lines and party lines – and break it down with fresh editorial content.”

So, no more excuses!

If you have time to read an email, you have time to read an email in English. And, you will get much-needed practice as well as an enjoyable break. Further, you will improve your grammar, your vocabulary, and your writing skills — all at the same time.

What’s stopping you from becoming a better writer, today?

Long Time No See

TOEFL/IELTS students


Two incredible years.

It may be a cliché, but time has gone fast! We’ve been incredibly busy at the American English Plus Language Center, and now, thanks to the ability to access the Internet while at work, I’ll be able to update this blog (much) more regularly.

Two new pieces of news:

This fall we have begun our first TOEFL/IELTS preparatory class. Although the texts we use for our advanced-beginner through advanced classes uses a method which is specifically TOEFL preparatory, we now offer a post-advanced class which is geared towards understanding how to take the TOEFL. In this class we spend time learning what the test will cover, and looking at how the TOEFL test raters score the test. Additionally, we will spend time perfecting writing and speaking skills as these are the two areas that are most difficult to master on one’s own.

This class not only prepares our students to take the TOEFL and/or the IELTS, but it also helps to refine the skills that our advanced students have already acquired. If you are interested in this course, please give us a call at 213.791.89.03.77 or

Additionally, we have set up a Pinterest account to help our students (and others) work on their English-language skills online.

Please visit American English Plus Pinterest for helpful links and information about learning English.

I’d also like to share a particularly helpful page I found about commas.

The ability to write a properly constructed sentence is a vital skill to master for all students of English. Whether you are writing an email, an essay for school, a thesis for your Master’s degree or your PhD, or an entry for a scientific journal — if you cannot correctly punctuate a sentence, you will not be taken seriously by native English speakers. Over the years, I have noticed that one area of weakness is knowing when you should use a comma. Extended Rules for Using Commas, is a beautifully clear summery of where, when, and how to use commas. I encourage you to take time to read it carefully.

Finally — a tip for those of you who want to improve your English on a daily basis:

Try to make all the websites you visit — and have your entire computer interface — be in English. Use to search in English, and have your web-based email in English. This daily exposure will help you practice thinking in English and, before you know it, your English will begin to improve!

What is your favorite way to help you improve your English?



Follow me!

I have fallen in love with a reference book.

That sounds a bit sick, doesn’t it? I’ve fallen in love with many books over the years: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, 1984,  even The Moosewood Cookbook. Each one (and there are dozens and dozens) has a certain richness, a personality, a true soul. They are dear friends I love to revisit. But a manual? Too dry for words.

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style

This “little book”, The Elements of Style, has turned my head completely, however. Of course, I’d heard of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (the preceding is yet another link to this work), and although it is so small – a mere 89 pages – it always seemed intimidating. The Elements of Style was something only writers used, and those writers were undoubtedly professionals who wrote their official prose in official offices behind official office desks and got paid for their official writing.

Stunk and White was not for the likes of me.

William Strunk

William Strunk


EB White

But my wish to be ever more correct – and the low price – eliminated  my excuses. Even after The Elements of Style arrived I dawdled. Why open a book that promised to be dry as dust? I only needed it for a few, brief rules. Then, one day, I started glancing through it, just to see what rules it contained – and I was transported!

Just the forward is pithy, and the introduction makes me want to reread all of E. B. White’s classics again.

This, for example:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

The rules, given in (as E.B. White says) “sharp commands”, are crystalline. “Follow me!” they order, and I readily join rank, the desiring to slash all befuddlement from my writing.

I fail, of course.  But that wish to make every word, every phrase tell remains – the seductive, elusive aspiration to write – to write truly, and to write well.


14 Ways to Improve Your English Speaking Skills

“Karen,” one of my students said to me recently,  “I understand everything I read, and I can write well.  But how do I improve my speaking?”

Talking Heads

In Algeria, this is a common problem. It’s not as though one can just go out on the street and chose to speak English instead of French, Derja or Kabyle. The opportunities for practicing one’s English are so limited – and of course, without practise, it’s hard to improve.

Here is a list of a fourteen ways you can work to increase your level of fluency, even in predominantly Francophone Algeria:

  1. Immerse yourself in English.

    It will be difficult to increase your level of fluency in English if you don’t work to  think in English. You can’t set a goal for fluency in English if you don’t train your mind to think in English – because thinking in another language and then translating it into English before you speak will not only cause you to hesitate as you speak, but the syntax or word choices you use can easily be incorrect.  One way you can do this by making English the primary language for your computer, instead of French or Arabic.

  2. Read English-language literature.

    There is a wealth to choose from – for free – online. PlanetEBook is just one of many websites where you can download books and read them online or print them out. Better yet, though, if you are working on pronunciation, go to Free Audio Books or one of these other websites and read along as you listen to the text being read aloud. You can download these YouTube books by using the free, online site SaveVid. If you have access to a credit card you could order books with free shipping from Better World Books. Yes, they ship free to Algeria – although they will take a long time to arrive. It will be worth it, though!

  3. Read a book you have already read in another language — in English.

    You already know the plot – now you can savor the language. Have you read books by Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert or perhaps the Qur’an in French or Arabic? Now read these titles again, but in English!

  4. Listen to and read poetry out loud

    Poems are short, are full of rich vocabulary, and are written to sound wonderful. Luxuriate in the beauty of the English language!

  5. Listen to English as much as you can.

    If you are not able to hear how the word is pronounced, you cannot expect to be able to say it! I truly recommend listening to audiobooks – this is a brilliant way to learn vocabulary, pronunciation and syntax. “But,” you say, “I don’t really like literature and poetry!” No problem. Listen to the news, in English! Try National Public Radio if you prefer American English, or, for those of you who prefer a British accent try BBC Radio: both contain a wide selection of  news, documentaries, dramas, sports and comedy shows.

  6. Watch TV in English.

    There are many English-language channels available here in Algeria. Watch the news, the weather, movies or a TV series. If these seem a bit difficult, watch children’s shows – they are an excellent method to learn simpler, more understandable English.

  7. Watch movies in English. 

    Pick a film you really want to see, or one that you’ve seen before and that you love. Watch it in the language of your choice so that you really understand it. Watch it again, but this time in English with subtitles in Arabic or French. Watch it again in English with English subtitles. Watch it a third time in English, without English subtitles. Either purchase a DVD with both English audio and the subtitles you need, or download the movie and find the appropriate subtitles.

  8. Join a conversation class.

    No, I’m not just plugging American English Plus (although we do have a conversation class on Fridays from 15:00 – 17:00).  If the AEP Language Center is not located near you, find an English language school that is, and get some weekly practise! Remember the famous saying: “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!” If you are more serious about improving your speaking skills, take an English listening and speaking class.

  9. No time for a class? Find an English-speaking buddy. 

    Have you made a friend through an English-language school? Keep in frequent contact with that person, and make a commitment to speaking English with each other — even when you are out on the street. Yes, you’ll get some stares, but not too many (insha’Allah).

  10. Turn your job into a place to practise English.

    Convince your employer that perfecting English is vital for international competitiveness, and then institute an “English Only Day”, or just commit to speaking English with your like-minded colleagues. And yes, there are companies who do do this in Algeria!

  11. Talk to yourself in the mirror. 

    Notice how you mouth moves to form the words. Practice everyday pleasantries, or pretend phone conversations.

  12. Just talk to yourself! 

    Whenever you are alone, voice your thoughts, but do it in English. Don’t just think these things. Speaking English (or any new language) well takes training the muscles of your mouth to move in the ways that need to. It is oral exercise, and exercise takes practise!

  13. Make an English-speaking Skype buddy. 

    Go to Facebook, join an English-language group and see if there are any members that would like a chance to practise their English with you on Skype. It’s a great way to make new friends, it’s free and you can do this where ever you have an Internet connection and the free time!

  14. Don’t give up!

    “People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to.” – George E. Allen

    And, best of luck. :) You can do it, insha’Allah!

Ginormous Edutainment

I had to repost these – they are just way too cool to not have a record of them:

25 Favorite Portmanteau Words – thanks to the amazing folks at Daily Writing Tips

by Mark Nichol

One of the many compensating charms of the often infuriating English language is the ease with which speakers and writers may exercise creativity and inventiveness. One of its most inventive components is the portmanteau word — one formed by combining two words into a single (and often deprecating and/or ironically humorous) term that denotes a new concept, or one for which a satisfactory term was heretofore unavailable. Here are twenty-five such terms, their parent words, and their meanings.

1. Affluenza (affluence/influenza): anxiety or dissatisfaction caused by submission to consumerism

2. Anacronym (anachronism/acronym): an acronym derived from a phrase no longer widely known (for example, radar)

3. Anticipointment (anticipation/disappointment): the letdown after hype gives way to reality

4. Backronym (back/acronym): a word presented as an acronym after the fact (for example, the name of the car brand Ford was derisively backronymed to stand for “Fix Or Repair Daily”) or mistakenly believed to be an acronym (the Morse code distress signal is erroneously said to stand for “Save Our Souls”)

5. Blaxploitation (black/exploitation): a genre of pulp entertainment — most prevalent during the 1970s, when African American culture began to permeate US society — that exploits clichés about black people

6. Bodacious (bold/audacious): insolent or unrestrained, extraordinary or impressively large,
or extremely attractive

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton






7. Celebutant(e) (celebrity/debutant(e)): someone famous for being famous, with no apparent talent except self-promotion






8. Chillax (chill/relax): behave, calm down, or relax

Coca Cola Advertisement

American Coke

9. Cocacolonization (Coca-Cola/colonization): the aggressive introduction or pervasive influence of American consumerism on other cultures

10. Cosplay (costume/play): wearing costumes and accessories that resemble those of characters from various forms of popular culture, or the subculture that engages in cosplay

11. Craptacular (crap/spectacular): entertainment so poor in quality as to be ironically captivating, or hyped but ultimately disappointing

12. Edutainment (education/entertainment): educational material presented in a format intended to attract with its entertainment value)

13. Frankenfood (Frankenstein/food): genetically modified food

14. Frenemy (friend/enemy): a supposed friend whose actions and/or behavior are characteristic of a foe

15. Gaydar (gay/radar): the ability to identify a person as a homosexual based on observation of the person’s appearance and/or behavior

16. Ginormous (gigantic/enormous): huge

17. Infotainment (information/entertainment): information presented in a format intended to attract with its entertainment value

18. Interrobang (interrogative/bang): a combination question mark and exclamation point ?!

19. McMansion (McDonalds/mansion): a blandly generic large house

20. Metrosexual (metropolitan/heterosexual): a man who appears to be inordinately concerned about personal aesthetics and/or is perceived for this quality as being homosexual

21. Mockumentary (mock/documentary): a feature film that spoofs the documentary form

22. Netocracy (Internet/aristocracy): an elite demographic distinguished by facility with technology and online networking

23. Screenager (screen/teenager): the typical adolescent who indulges excessively in screen entertainment

24. Sexploitation (sex/exploitation): pulp entertainment intended primarily to titillate

25. Shopaholic (shop/alcoholic): someone addicted to shopping

A portmanteau word, as described by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’sThrough the Looking-Glass, is (inspired by the word for a suitcase with two opposite compartments) a case of “two meanings packed up into one word.” Many such terms, most of which are in the mainstream vocabulary — and some of which are not widely recognized as invented terms — already exist.

More mundane portmanteau words represent dual ideas in many contexts, including entertainment (cineplexdocudramainfomercial), sports (heliskiing,parasailingslurve), and technology (avionicscamcorderpixel), as well as hybridization of breeds or species (cockapoojackalopeliger).

Some older examples include electrocution (electricity/execution), motel(motor/hotel), motorcade (motor/cavalcade), prissy (prim/sissy, though it may be simply a variation of precise), rollicking (rolling/frolicking), and ruckus(ruction, rumpus).


When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

by Walt Whitman



When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

A Selfish Post: What Work Is

As a daily treat to myself I get a poem a day from

Today, this one was sent to my mailbox.

Really, I’m supposed to go to bed now, but I had to share it. This poem is one of my very favorites and, coincidentally, is by a Detroit ,Michigan poet – and recent Poet Laurent of the United States – and I am a Detroiter. What’s more, however, is that I used to drive past this building (the Ford Automobile Plant) everyday. So, in a wave of nostalgia and out of a love of poetry and for those who labor, this:

What Work Is

The Ford Plant in Highland Park, Michigan (Detroit area)

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying toThe Ford Plant
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

Calling all Teachers and English Lit Fans

Teacher Training

I am very happy to announce that the American English Plus Language Center will begin holding our free Teacher Training sessions on this Tuesday (September 4th, 2012) from 10:00 am – 12: 00 pm, insh’aAllah at our Said Hamdine location.

All attendees will need to have passed an AEP English proficiency test before attending Teacher Training.  The AEP English proficiency test takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete, so I suggest you arrange to do so as soon as you possibly can.

Additionally, we are beginning the AEP Book Club this Tuesday.

Young Jane Austen

We will be discussing Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, insha’Allah – with the intention of covering all of Jane Austen’s books.

The AEP Book Club will meet from 13:00 – 14:00, but if there is enough interest we can extend that time until 15:00 insha’Allah.  Please try to have read at least the first third of the book, and bring your questions!

Please note that Pride and Prejudice is readily available online, as well as through some local English bookstores in Algiers, insha’Allah.

The AEP Book Club is free for all AEP Staff members! 😉 [A staff member is someone who actually teaches classes for AEP.]

We hope to see you there!

And for as another treat for teachers, this:

An Apple for the Teacher(s)


I have written all of these previous entries with English learners in mind, but today I found a fun resource for teachers of all kinds. This is a brief entry – but the little slide show is well worth your time.  Check it out! (If you don’t see a slide show appear right underneath this sentence, try refreshing your window. It ought to appear and it’s worth the wait, insha’Allah!)

And – as the theme of this entry relates to a little gift for a teacher, here are a few apple-flavored tidbits more:

“An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away”

Derived from the old English saying . . .“Ate an apfel avore gwain to bed, make the doctor beg his bread,” the original author of this most popular apple saying has been lost to history.

Today, the expression rings truer than ever, as our knowledge of apples’ many and myriad health benefits increases. Source:

“As American As Apple Pie*”

Americans may profess to have invented this quintessentiallyAmerican dessert, but history books trace pie as far back as 14th Century England. Pie-making skills, along with apple seeds, came over with the Pilgrims, and as the country prospered the rather slim apple pie of colonial times became the deep-dished extravaganza we enjoy today.Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, apple pie became the symbol of American prosperity, causing one American newspaper to proclaim in 1902, “No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.” Source:

* Excellent recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

“Upper Crust” (As In Apple Pie)

In early America, when times were hard and cooking supplies were scarce, cooks often had to scrimpand save on ingredients.Apple pie was a favorite dish, but to save on lard and flour, only a bottom crust was made. More affluent households could afford both an upper and a lower crust, so those families became known as “the upper crust.” Source:

(As a literary side note – if you would  like to read an example of what American “upper crust” was, try The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. This is certainly one of my all-time favorite books and films!)

“Apple Polisher”

The custom of “apple polishing” hails from the little red schoolhouses of yore. Young children whose math skills were less than exemplary sought to win their teacher’s favor instead with a gift of a bright, shiny apple. Remember this ditty? “An apple for the teacher will always do the trick when you don’t know your lesson in arithmetic.”

“Adam’s Apple”


This physiological terminology sprung from the conception that the protuberance on a man’s throat was caused by a piece of forbidden apple from the Garden of Eden’s Tree of

Knowledge lodged in Adam’s throat, rather than the thyroid cartilage of the larynx. Source:

New York . . . “The Big Apple”

Two different stories . . . and here they are . . .

This nickname for one of our nation’s greatest cities, New York, dates from the 1930s and ’40s, when jazz jived in clubs across the country. The smokey clubs of New York City were the favorite hotspots of the likes of Charlie Parker and other jazz greats, and Manhattan soon became known for having “lots of apples on the tree” – that is, lots of places to play jazz. Source: USApple.orgAnother source states:

The Big Apple is a nickname or moniker for New York City. It was first popularized in the 1920s by John J. Fitz Gerald, a sports writer for the New York Morning Telegraph. Its popularity since the 1970s is due to a promotional campaign by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau, known now as NYC & Company. Source: Wikipedia

“Apple of My Eye”

This expression dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, when people conceived of the pupil of the eye to be, like the apple, a global object.The word itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon “aeppel”, which literally meant both “eye” and “apple.” In addition to providing the literal, vital sense of vision, the pupil was also regarded as the figurative “window” to the treasured secrets within each of us. Thus, the “apple of my eye” meant someone very beloved.

“The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse, how he shall take his prey.” – William Blake

“There’s small choice in rotten apples” – (From The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

It’s like comparing apples to oranges.” – Proverb