What Makes Iceland Unique? Part 1- Capital Region, Southern Peninsula

Intro

If you’re anything like me, you know you love to travel, discover new cultures, and learn about the beauty in this wonderful planet we live on. Today I want to introduce (or reintroduce?) you to a beautiful, remarkable little Nordic country called Iceland. And it’s very apropos that we start with a look at the uniqueness of these two places: the Capital Region and the Southern Peninsula. You’ll be able to find more posts like this about many parts of the world in Earth’s Face.

I want to be real with you all: I haven’t been to these places or a majority of the places I’m going to write about in this series. It’s not a list of recommendations for your travels, since I can’t recommend a place I haven’t been to. This is part of a personal project of mine where I research the world’s state divisions out of pure pleasure, looking on maps, watching videos, and reading articles. I want to share what I’ve learned with you, and I encourage you to discover more for yourself. This is not a travel list. I am only sharing what to me seems to make these places unique in the world, to encourage you (and myself) to visit, or at least appreciate them.

What makes these two places so special, after all? Let me make my case…

Höfuðborgarsvæðið or the Capital Region highlighted red on a map of Iceland
Capital Region – By Karte: NordNordWest

Höfuðborgarsvæðið

Capital region: Quick Geography

So if you’re not Icelandic and you know anything about Iceland, you know it has some difficult place names to pronounce. I mean, just try and read that subheading. Ho-fud-bor-ga… and then just give up. If I could transliterate it to English it might be “Hofudburgersvedid,” but that’s not much easier. In simpler terms, this is the Capital Region, and it has a lot that makes it unique.

Hallgrímskirkja church building in the Capital Region, Reykjavik, discussing what makes Iceland unique
famous Hallgrímskirkja – by Yves Alarie

Just to catch up on some basic geography, this (you probably can tell by the name) is where the national capital, Reykjavík, is located, which is also the region’s capital. In southwest Iceland, it has a coastline with hills and mountains in the interior. It’s in sort of a mixed Alpine and Tundra zone, though these features run the same for pretty much all of Iceland. Okay, so what makes it stand out?

Features & Places

One thing right off the bat is that this region is home to the biggest, most populous city in Iceland. Most Icelanders live in or around the capital, which is of great importance. That’s because most of the major cultural, economic, and tourism stems out from this region specifically. There’s no better place to get an introduction to this awesome country and its people than to start in the Capital Region.

A building with interesting architecture in Reykjavik, discussing what makes Iceland unique
Cool architecture – by Michael Held
a street in Reykjavik painted with rainbow colors on the pavement and with small shops and apartments, discussing what makes Iceland unique
street in Reykjavík – by Square Lab

There’s so much art here. Besides the urban art, you also get a surprising amount of museums. This includes even the Phallological Museum, a quirky (or kinky) museum full of phallic imagery. Who’d have known? There’s also tons of unique architecture, like the cultural Nordic House, the Perlan, and a rad Voyager Ship sculpture/statue right on the coast. And I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of the almighty Hallgrímskirkja, the tall iconic church building. I had to look up the spelling on that one.

Capital Region is also a primary shoot-off point for lots of outdoor excursions in the area. Besides the famous whale watching, there’s this vast sweeping landscape of mountains, lava fields, volcanoes, and gorgeous rock formations right outside of the cities. This contrast makes the region really unique within Iceland itself. Some very interesting natural places to check out would be Heiðmörk, Reykjanesfólkvangur, and Krýsuvík, to name a few. That last one is actually in another part of the region which is broken into two separate sections, also unique in Iceland. This goes all the way to the southern coast where there are these long sharp cliffs staring out over the North Atlantic. If I can say anything else, the Northern Lights are a stunning backdrop to the city and mountains beyond.

Krýsuvíkurbjarg cliffs over the ocean in Capital Region, discussing what makes Iceland unique
Cliffs at Krýsuvíkurbjarg – By Wojciech Strzelecki “Wojtrix”
Suðurnes or Southern Peninsula region highlighted red on a map
Suðurnes – By A Red Cherry

Suðurnes

Southern Peninsula: Quick Geography

This is easy. The Southern Peninsula is just below the Capital Region in the far southwest corner of Iceland. It sits on a peninsula (surprise!) and right on a continental divide between the North American and European plates. Its capital is called Keflavík, part of a larger municipality called Reykjanesbær. I know, the names! But you’re here so you love it.

a sweeping landscape with clouds, snowy rock fields and grassy plains, discussing what makes Iceland unique
open landscape – by Chris Liverani

Features & Places

A big chunk of Iceland is actually in this geothermal, volcanic hot spot zone. That explains all the spewing bubbling landscape stuff. The Southern Peninsula is no different, and there are lots of awesome geological features like the famous Blue Lagoon hot springs. Those are a stunning set of steamy blue pools ahead of an icy, rugged backdrop. There’s Trölladyngja, a type of volcanic system with alluring colors and rocks. Besides this, there many signs of the Viking past, such as the ruins in Selatangar.

the Blue Lagoon in Southern Peninsula, steaming blue hot springs in a snowy setting, showing what makes Iceland unique
Blue Lagoon – by Jeff Sheldon

Several artifacts are well-preserved in the Viking Museum, set just outside of Reykjanesbær. There’s even an Icelandic Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum there if you want to see that. Lastly, I want to mention the town of Grindavík. This place is a stunning coastal town with awesome natural features just outside of it. Throughout Iceland are unique cottages and lodging you won’t find outside of the Nordic world. The remoteness and quaintness of them mixed with the inspiring backgrounds all add to what makes these regions special.

Culture (AKA Last Thoughts)

These two regions are the perfect introduction to Iceland. They have an impressive amount of culture, art, and natural features. Being the prime places of settlement and tourism in the country, it’s easy to find tours or things to see. This is where you want to go to get a taste of mainstream (or not so much) culture and identity in Iceland. Most of the country’s famous and influential persons come from these two regions, and most immigrants come to them. This makes for a more international and diverse experience as well. These were also significant locations for early Nordic settlement and a base camp for the Vikings that would go on to reach North America well before Columbus. The rich mixture of historic and current Nordic culture is part of what makes the Capital Region and the Southern Peninsula unique.

a brightly colored landscape of fields and rock formations and a cloudy blue sky above
colorful Arctic landscape

**I want to personally thank you for reading! I love that you love learning and exploring. Please share any experiences you have in these regions of Iceland or if there is anything you would add to this brief list. And one last thing: Go out and explore your world! It’s a beautiful place.

Gone Girl + society [2014] – What’s it say about us?

A small-town girl from the American Midwest disappears suddenly … and her husband is the prime suspect. Well, actually she’s a grown woman, but you get my point. This is the main plot of this post’s subject, Gone Girl. It was a book by Gillian Flynn that turned into a popular movie. It’s directed by David Fincher (for the movie nerds out there) and was nominated for a lot of awards too. By the way, this is part of a series where we (lightly) analyze English-language movies. If you like that sort of thing, there are more posts like this here.

The book cover of Gone Girl, novel by Gillian Flynn

We’ll look at what the movie has to say about American society at large, as well as some general themes of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, there might be some spoilers, I can’t make any promises. You can find it on platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix, though it depends on your country or region. The trailer is up top in case you want to refresh your memory or check it out for the first time.

Movie Setting

What does the movie, Gone Girl, have to say about American culture or society? For starters, let’s look at where it’s set. The movie takes place mostly in a fictional town in northeast Missouri. It’s not far from the Mississippi River which forms the border with Illinois. Why is that important? Well, Missouri is a state smack in the middle of the USA. Southern Missouri is a lot more like the South in terms of culture and other ways, while the north is a bit more like the Midwest. Even being in the same country (in this case the same state), being in the Midwest shows a greater lean towards mainstream, heartland American values and identity. You can kind of see the difference in accents, where some people have stronger “rural” or Southern accents where others have a more typical American accent. I’ll explain a bit later.

A map showing the course of the Mississippi River in North America, the setting of Gone Girl
course of the Mississippi River – By Mulad at English Wikipedia

The Mississippi River is the longest, most iconic river in the country. We see big homes with green lawns, quiet streets with cul-de-sacs, and small brick-stone towns. This is all typical of an American city suburb. There are also some scenes that describe what the weather is like in much of the Midwest during the summer. You have people searching for Amy (the gone “girl”) in green fields full of bugs and sweating under the sticky, humid air. There are some scenes by the river or poolside that show us how hot it is. I don’t remember if there is a winter scene, but I feel like there was. Either way, the Midwest also gets extremely cold in the winter months.

Gone Girl is set in modern times, which is important for this next section.

The Media

Maybe you haven’t noticed lately, but the media, especially social and mass media, have been impacting lots of people’s behaviors. From liking photos to deciding whether or not to wear a mask, these platforms have a bigger impression on most of us than we might think. The news especially has a way of leading us into believing what the studio thinks. If they don’t think anything, they are good at making the situation a lot more dramatic than it is. Even before Covid (I know, feels like forever), lots of people were suspicious of mass media and the news. They have a habit of accentuating the bad stuff and pushing people to be more scared than they need to. I’m sure this happens almost everywhere, but Americans have a long history of being suspicious of the government and any other entity that has too much power.

A large crowd of protestors walking through the city streets, representing the retaliation against Nick in Gone Girl
the town coming after Nick – by Alex Radelich, Unsplash

Still, this precaution doesn’t keep most of the town along with some of the investigators from believing that Nick (Ben Affleck’s character) really killed his wife. The news repeats this accusation and fires up conflict at a time when Nick’s involvement isn’t really suspected. This plays on our society’s recent growth in protecting women’s rights and protecting women in at-risk situations like domestic violence. Although this is a very real problem across the globe, the story shows how some women take advantage of this movement toward equality. There are those who intentionally try to harm the image of a man. There have been lots of scandals in recent years of women doing exactly this, as a matter of fact.

The fact that the community starts to turn against Nick after seeing the news sheds light on their innocence. There is a general perception that people from the city are sinners and those from the country are saints. That’s meant figuratively, but in Gone Girl, you can see how much of the community was influenced by the news. They were manipulated into the version of the story that would get more views, higher ratings. Another example of this is one of Amy’s (Rosamund Pike’s character) friends who jogs regularly and talks with her. Amy recognizes her innocence and tricks the woman into trusting her, steadily turning the woman against Nick. These people live a more relaxed, quiet, and routine suburban life. They don’t come across many bizarre situations like this very often. In the end, they don’t know what to believe or what to do about it.

Community

A rural town in the country with green hills and forests in the background, a yellow school bus running down the main road, a community like in the movie Gone Girl
small Midwestern community – by Louise Tollisen, Unsplash

Besides them turning against Nick, we also see how tight-knit this community is. This is a common feature in small towns across the country. People really look after each other and talk with one another when passing on the street, which isn’t as common in big cities. Other themes about the characters’ behaviors are the unhappy couple trying to fake a perfect marriage by putting up a false face of unity. Amy is robbed by a traveling couple with guns. This sheds light on the somewhat loose gun laws in certain states and the hardships many people in rural America face. This can go to the point of committing serious crimes on one another. This touches on gun culture being stronger in the American interior too. Missouri actually has a fairly high crime rate and lots of underprivileged areas. This reality is shown in a few scenes too.

Crime & Violence

This is essentially a crime-novel-turned-crime-movie. A cocky big-shot lawyer, constant snooping by the police, and investigators being quick to decide what happened before the case is closed; these are all common tropes in the crime genre. If you watch CSI or Law & Order, you know exactly what I mean. One thing that’s very apparent, especially near the end of the movie, is the high level of violence and bloodshed. Gone Girl isn’t really a violent movie, but it has a big bloody moment towards the end.

This touches on how common violence is in American moviemaking. I don’t want to say that we all love blood and guts (some do), but from our movies, you’d think so! There is also the theme of a couple staying together “for the baby,” which Amy sneakily tricks Nick into having. She uses her pregnancy in the end to trap Nick into their marriage. This is another note on the manipulation some women perform over men in their complicated relationships. To be fair, she manipulates pretty much everybody in this movie.

A small light sky blue woodshed with a small garden and trees in the background, a symbol of the woodshed in Gone Girl
a creepy woodshed – by James Frid, Pexels.com

The “Woodshed”

Besides small-town family values, heartland America identity, and rural/suburban naivety, there’s one last theme that’s really interesting. If you want, you can read more about this here. The woodshed is where Amy leaves her secrets, and it’s where Nick eventually finds out what’s happening. The woodshed represents a common part of many American homes where a family might store things they don’t use often. It can also be an unexpected symbol for how a figurative “mess” builds up during a relationship, then gets pushed deeper into the “shed.” There’s a related phrase in English: “come out of the woodwork.” This means that something comes out of hiding and into the light from an unexpected place. Basically, it becomes clearer. This seems like a funny way to show this idea. The truth comes out of the actual woodwork, or rather, the woodshed.

Last Thoughts

That’s all, everybody. I hope you enjoyed this look at Gone Girl and some of its themes, meanings, and cultural insights. It’s a story about relationship issues, lies, manipulation, and a whole lot of media interference. Even though Nick cheated on his wife, Amy did a lot more than expose him for it. She kind of ruined his life, not to mention forcing him to keep a marriage he was all but done with. This movie is reminiscent of a TV crime series, and it shows us why those programs can be addicting. Some of the most outrageous and deviant crimes happen out in the country where it seems like no one is watching. But boy, did we watch this one!

Please comment if you agree or disagree with parts of this post. What other ways does Gone Girl touch on true or stereotypical parts of American society? What about society in another country? Share your thoughts, my wonderful reader! And take care out there.

One day bet ride – “bet” “ride or die” “rider” “day one” meanings & uses

There are more than a few ways to agree with something in English. What about talking about a lifelong friend? We cover these topics and more in today’s post, looking at terms bet, ride or die, rider, and day one, as well as their meanings and how they’re used. Read more if you want to learn more about these words and how to use them properly. We’ll see examples in a short story about Charles, and as always, practice with some questions at the end. Here we go!

Young woman doing a thumbs-up to represent the word Bet, English slang word
Bet! – Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

Bet

You may be familiar with a “bet” as a type of wager or strong guess that something will happen, usually involving a loss or gain of money depending on the result. Bet has meant different things over the years, yet in slang, it often has the same meaning as “cool”, “for sure”, or “really?” This is because of the phrase, “You bet ya” or the shorter version, “You bet.” This is a way to say “of course” or to guarantee something. Shortening it to just “bet” usually is a response to something to show gratitude or respect, but can also be used to question something.

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Sweeping up the stage as always, Charles liked to approach his work with a smile. He knew one day he’d save up enough money to move out of his tiny apartment and into a decent condo, maybe even a home. Who knows? His friends Sheila and Jonah could split the rent with him, easy. By then, he could be designing the sets for plays instead of cleaning up dirty props. Until that day, he was content to help where he could.

BUNG BUNG BUNG. Footsteps pounded on the wooden floor before the doors to the theater flung open. It was an actor looking for … something.

Charles — You need help? You look lost.

Actor — Who? Oh, no, I’m just looking for my phone. I always forget it under a seat or behind a box or something. I bet money it’s in the same place I always leave it.

  • I’m sure, I know, I’m almost certain.

Charles — What? Do you mean this phone?

The actor smiled and ran up to Charles.

Actor — Yeah, man! Thanks so much. It was under the seat agian, wasn’t it?

Charles — Well, in the costumes bin, actually.

Actor — Bet. Thanks a lot man. I appreciate it. I was getting frantic.

  • For sure, cool, I get it, of course.

Charles — Really? I didn’t notice. Haha. I know how it is with the cellphones.

Actor — I have an extra special reason to keep my phone on me, though.

Charles — Bet? What is that?

  • Really? For real?

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Two hands making a promise to represent the term Ride or Die, informal English words
A ride-or-die is always there – Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

Ride or Die * Rider

The concept of a ride-or-die means a person, usually a close friend or partner, who will do anything to help you and is extremely trustworthy. It can sometimes be used to call someone your best friend or boy/girlfriend. This comes from the idea of “ride,” or to ride with someone. This means the person sticks with you when you need them and you can count on them. A rider then is someone who is a ride-or-die. A rider can also be a person who is willing to do whatever you want and has few boundaries. They go with the flow and are true companions.

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Actor — “What is it?” What else could it be? I gotta call my girl, man, my ride-or die.

  • My girlfriend, the person I trust, my close partner.

Charles — Oh, I didn’t know you had a girl. She a actress too?

Actor — Yeah, but she prefers the term actor. We met at the theater down the street watching somebody else’s play. Can you imagine? Somebody else’s play. Ha!

Charles continued to sweep the stage floor, focused deeply on his work.

Actor — What’re you doing after this?

Charles — I think I’ll dust the curtains. They’re pretty dirty.

Actor — Man, don’t you have a rider in your life? You need a woman.

  • Don’t you have a girlfriend, a close friend, a trustful partner?

Charles — I’m working on that, too. I have a potential girl. Just have to ask, really.

Actor — That’s what I’m talking about! But don’t wait too long. I’ve made that mistake before. Is she a rider?

  • Is she willing to do anything for you, trustworthy, does she like you a lot?

Charles nodded, halfway not understanding the question.

Actor — Oh, well then she’ll wait for you. Still, don’t take too long. Take my advice.

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Two young girls together representing the meaning of Day One, informal English term
Together since day one – Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

Day one

This term comes from an older one, “Since day one.” This is used to describe someone who has been there for you since the beginning, during hard times, and has stuck by your side the whole time. Calling someone a day-one means they are generally your closest and most trusted friend, and you respect them a lot for being there for you after years and years.

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Charles — I won’t. She’s been a good friend to me since we met. I come from another country and it can be hard to make friends.

Actor — I get that. I couldn’t imagine being so far from home without family or friends close by. I couldn’t live without my day-ones, too. They’re the ones that keep me together.

  • Without my closest, most trusted friends.

Charles — Yeah, well I didn’t have any super close friends like that back home anyway. I had to make some new friends here. But Sheila and Jonah have been there for me in lots of situations. They’re like my new day-ones.

Actor — Well, that’s all that matters, isn’t it? Good talking, bro. I never knew your story, so thanks for sharing.

Charles — Don’t mention it. I’ll see you at the next rehearsal. Or the next time you lose your phone.

The actor laughed at this statement and waved at Charles with a sarcastic smile.

Actor — See you next time. And call that girl!

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Final Thoughts

Saying bet is usually more informal, so it’s often used with friends or in casual settings. It’s not that it could be offensive, but it just sounds quite informal. It’s a pretty useful word you can use much the same as “okay, cool, for sure,” and so on. Ride-or-die and rider are mostly compliments and terms of respect, although they can be seen as disrespectful if they aren’t used correctly. “Rider” can have a negative connotation at times, so make sure the meaning is clear if you do ever use it. Otherwise, day-one is a very respecting and caring term, and it’s a great way to refer to a close friend, companion, or anyone that’s been there for you for a long time. We usually use it with friends though, and not family members like parents.

Do you get it? If you want, take some time to practice with these questions below. And make sure to learn some other words with the Adventures of Charles series. Be safe out there!

Questions:

  1. Can you use today’s words in your own sentences? Bet – Ride or die – Rider – Day one
  2. Are there any ride-or-dies or day-ones in your life? Who are they?
  3. What is something you would “bet money on?”
  4. Have you heard the slang word “bet” before in casual conversation? When was that?

society + The Wolf of Wall Street [2013] – What’s it say about us?

Every once in a while there comes a movie that is so big, so outrageous, and so crazy that it truly shocks us, the audience. Today’s movie under the spotlight will be The Wolf of Wall Street. We’ll take a look at some important aspects of the movie and how they shed some light onto this big complex thing called American society. Are you in? Read on, reader.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie from 2013 and based on the true life story of Jordan Belfort. Personally it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Now that may be because I-heart Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and crazy movies in general, but there is more to this movie than Matthew McConaughey beating his chest and humming “hm-hm-hm-hmm” in musical fashion. It actually has a lot to say about American society itself, and we’ll be taking note of some of those things here.

If you didn’t see this movie, you might want to watch before reading this. Or who knows? Maybe this post will make you want to watch it. Last I checked it was available on Amazon Prime and Netflix with a subscription and Google Play or YouTube for rent. If you know where to find it for free, more power to you. I certainly feel like watching it again tonight. If you did see this movie, you might recall lots of cursing, sexual content, drugs, and everything else a Rated-R movie is sure to have. While that R-Rating is definitely a “green-light” for the movie-makers to go ahead and put basically anything they want in the movie, there’s a bit of truth to some of these things. As a director, Scorsese kind of loves to put cursing and bad words in his movies anyway, especially the 17-and-up ones. However, most of the movie takes place in and around New York, the biggest city in the nation. In the U.S., you are far more likely to have people who curse a lot and don’t follow the traditional moral values in big cities than you would see in smaller cities and especially the countryside. This is a common trait of most countries where big cities are centers of more liberal culture movements. So in the cities they let their words fly.

Remembering that the movie takes place in the late 1980s-1990s, this was a time that traditional American values were being greatly challenged and all kinds of movements were in the process of changing culture ever since the late ’60s. That means sexual liberation, decreased censorship, and the popularization of recreational drugs like cocaine and pills. The U.S. economy was in a boom during part of the ’80s too which saw lots of people on Wall Street getting very rich and scheming to make ridiculous amounts of money. So the whole premise of The Wolf of Wall Street is showing what the motives, lifestyle, and eventual decline of these Wall Street schemers was like during that point in history.

In the early ’80s, America was suffering a terrible economic recession considered the worst since the Great Depression about 60 years earlier. This is about the point we see at the beginning where Jordan (DiCaprio’s character), his wife and some acquaintances are going through hard financial times. This struggle is a big motive for Jordan and his friends to start their fraudulent company and steal so much money. This isn’t so hard to understand, since most crime is induced by difficult circumstances. That is until the culprits get greedy and make a whole enterprise out of their crimes. We also see some of the effects of the recession where you had some stock brokers enter into depression and even kill themselves due to their sudden loss of wealth and hope.

Now, when the economic boom came and these guys figured out how to make tons of money, we saw how loose their morals got. This is where all kinds of crazy things happen, many of them in the office space. Jordan even trades his wife for the stereotypical thin blonde. You have derogatory language and actions used against little people, people with deficiencies, women in general, animals, and people of diverse races. Women are particularly objectified and humiliated throughout the movie, which I interpret as a genuine representation of how men in power have seen women, especially since the ongoing sexual liberation period. All the derogatory ideas and language used represent how often white people in power have seen other communities in America. Our acceptance or attempts of being more politically correct have really gained ground recently where now it is becoming more and more taboo to make fun of people for deficiencies, their appearance, their gender, or sexual orientation. Essentially the movie shows us a time when all of those concepts were a lot looser, at least away from the cameras.

An interesting point of the movie shows Jordan and his associates going to hide money in a Swiss bank. There are certain countries and territories that have pretty loose banking/tax laws called “Tax havens,” and so rich people, including many wealthy Americans, have tended to “hide” their money abroad where they don’t have to claim it or pay taxes on it. As you might know, this is a continuing phenomenon. This whole concept as well as the money shed light on the greedy and capitalistic nature of the American economy and the nation’s elite. We see how these rich guys run around with naked women on their yachts, tricking each other, even leaving their own families behind, just to make more and more money. This is more so a statement about rich or greedy people in general, especially those that made their fortunes by stepping on others.

These talk louder – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In an interesting way, it also shows what is possible and acceptable in the U.S. Of course, the vast majority of Americans don’t live like the characters in the movie and would probably disagree with several of its moral decisions (Lord, I hope). There was actually a lot of criticism on this movie for the excessive cursing, sexual content, and drug use. It actually had set a record for number of curse words in a single movie. Something interesting about that is showing how cursing is becoming more acceptable in American public life. I know there are some countries out there where cursing is totally natural and others where it is extremely discouraged. Even in the U.S., cursing has been looked down upon in the public eye for many years, even if lots of people did it at work or at home, for example. Again, you still have many Americans who discourage cursing, calling it a lack of intelligence, blasphemous or unnecessary. Yet there is a growing acceptance for bad words among Americans, and especially among the younger generations. No matter how religious or ant-cursing many of us may be, cursing is likely to become a non-issue in the next couple decades.

Watch that mouth! – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Something else I want to touch on in this movie is Jordan’s jailing. There is a general conception (at least by minorities) that white people in America often get an easier time at trial than minorities do. And certainly wealthy or famous people tend to catch a lighter sentence (less jail time) than poor individuals, even if they commit the same crimes. This is apparent when we see Jordan getting on house arrest and then going to a “white collar” prison. White collar criminals are those that commit crimes involving fraud, tax evasion, and other kinds of corrupt activities that don’t directly harm people’s safety but their wallets. Because these criminals tend to garner lots of wealth, they are able to pay and bribe for less prison time. Either that or juries don’t see them as being as dangerous as the common thief or murderer. Their prisons also tend to be in better condition than regular prisons, even having tennis courts as we saw in the movie.

Jordan’s arrogance throughout the movie came back to haunt him in the end when the FBI finally took him down. It’s sort of a lesson that the U.S. government always wins. The FBI is the main domestic investigative agency and answers to a federal department, so they sort of represent Big Brother’s check on the seemingly “endless” opportunities provided by capitalism, at least in this movie. Whenever you get too carried away, they will swoop in and take their part. And if they can’t get a part, they’ll at least make sure you can’t have anymore.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a very long and complex movie with lots of events and themes. There was a lot more I could get into and really explain, but this is a good introduction. I encourage you to watch the movie again (or for the first time!) and pay attention to these themes and tropes, maybe find your own representations of American or capitalist society. Write some ideas down in the comments if you feel like it! And tell me what you think of this movie? How much cursing is too much? Think about it! And take care, everybody.

“Savage Remix” [Megan Thee Stallion, feat. Beyoncé] – lyrics for English students

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Have you ever wanted to practice your English while listening to Megan Thee Stallion? Well, you’re in luck! Take a listen to the song and read the lyrics. Learn some new vocabulary, phrases, or cultural pointers here in Lyrics “Explained.” If you have time, answer some follow-up questions below and read some other lyrics here on CultSurf!

Queen B, want no smoke with me (Okay)

  • *You don’t want any smoke… “Smoke” here refers to a conflict. It probably comes from guns, since sometimes people say smoke to refer to guns or shooting.

Been turnt, this motherf***** up eight hundred degree (Yeah)

  • *I’ve been turnt… “Turnt” means having lots of fun, feeling good about yourself, etc. It comes from “turned up” which means about the same thing. “Turning it up” refers to making the temperature hotter, or making things more exciting and fun. *Eight hundred degrees…

My whole team eat, chef’s kiss, she’s a treat (Mwah)

  • *My whole team eats… “Eat” in this slang sense means to get money and to have success. Remember that “bread” and “cheese” are also terms for money. A “treat” is normally something tasty to eat like candy. It can also be used to talk about a situation, event, or person that is really nice and that you like, almost like it is a gift. “Coming to see you during the holidays is always a treat.”

Ooh, she so bougie, bougie, bon appétit

  • *She is so bougie… “Bougie” is another word for fancy or someone who has expensive taste. “Bon appétit” comes from French and is used in many languages to mean “enjoy your food.” This mixes well with the word “bougie” which comes from the French word bourgeoisie. Also because the French language, fashion, and food are considered fancy by many Americans and others.

I’m a savage (Yeah), attitude nasty (Yeah, ah)

  • “Savage” has become a way to compliment someone who is really cool, has lots of style, skill, and other good features. “Nasty” normally means that some food doesn’t taste good. In a sensual way, it can mean that someone is highly sexual and acts inappropriately. Having a “nasty attitude” means to be upset or angry about something. Megan is probably mixing all of these meanings into one.

Talk big s***, but my bank account match it (Ooh)

  • *my bank account matches it… To “talk s**” (also “talk crap,” “talk mess,” “talk stuff”) is to talk badly about someone or to brag about yourself. Basically she brags a lot about herself but she actually has the money to prove it, or to back it up.

Hood, but I’m classy, rich, but I’m ratchet (Oh, ah)

  • The “hood” is a lower-class neighborhood usually for underprivileged communities or ethnic minorities. Often these are places with more poor people, drug trafficking or gang violence, thought not always. To “be hood” is to act like the stereotypical person from these kinds of neighborhoods, which could mean loud, confident, but also enjoying fights and conflict. Again, this is the stereotype. “Ratchet” is a similar term that is used to describe women who act loud, cause conflict, and can get very “in-your-face.” It’s like she’s saying she’s the best and worst all wrapped into one.

Haters kept my name in they mouth, now they gaggin’ (Ah, ah)

  • *my name in their mouth, now they are gagging… She means that her haters talk about her a lot or criticize her. “Gag” is a form of choking, so her haters are now choking on Megan’s success. The origin of this phrase might be to “make someone eat their words.” This means to prove somebody wrong and be successful, especially when others are criticizing you. “John always calls me stupid. I’ll make him eat his words when I go to college.”

Bougie, he say, “The way that thang move, it’s a movie” (Ooh-oh)

  • *he says, “The way that thing moves… “Thang” is just another way to pronounce “thing.” It’s usually used more often by black Americans to add emphasis to that word. Here you might be able to guess what “thang” she’s talking about.

I told that boy, “We gotta keep it low, leave me the room key” (Ooh-oh)

  • This line comes from the term “down low” or “keep it on the down low.” Sometimes people say “on the low” or “low down” but it’s basically the same. The “low” is a secret or something secretive. The “room key” refers to a hotel room. Megan is showing her dominance by kicking her “boy” out of the room.

I done bled the block and now it’s hot, b****, I’m Tunechi (Ooh-oh)

  • *I have bled the block… Saying “done” like this is another way to say that “you have gotten done doing something” or you “finished something.” “Ouch! I done hit my toe!” “Bleed” here is related to the slang word “kill” which means to have a lot of success in something. Megan “bled the block” so she had a lot of success (in music, I’m guessing) on her block, or in her city. “Hot” of course means it is fresh, new, and everyone likes it. “Tunechi” is another name for rapper Lil Wayne. He made a famous song a while ago called “Tha Block is Hot“. Lil Wayne is also a very good and respected rapper, so she is kind of paying respect to him.

A mood and I’m moody, ah

  • A “mood” is a special feeling. Saying something is “mood” has become popular because of social media and hashtags. “Moody” usually is used to call someone emotional or dramatic.
Learning how to be bougie… Photo by David Suarez on Unsplash

I’m a savage, yeah (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, yeah (Hey, hey, nasty)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Woah, woah, woah, what’s happening?)

  • “Acting stupid” doesn’t necessarily mean that she is acting dumb or unintelligently. Sometimes “stupid” can mean funny, silly, or crazy. The way she pronounces “acting” like “ackin” is an informal way that some people might pronounce this word. Again, it’s more common in African American communities. Her “what’s happening?” isn’t a real question really. It’s just a rhetorical question seeing if anyone has something to say now. She’s doing so well that she leaves her haters speechless!

B****, what’s happening? (Woah, woah, okay)

B****, I’m a savage, yeah (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Ratchet)

Sassy, moody, nasty, huh (Nasty)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Woah, ooh-oh)

B****, what’s happening? (Ayy, ah, ooh-oh)

Hips TikTok when I dance (Dance)

TikTok logo.svg
  • “TikTok” is the name of a famous social media app, maybe you’ve heard of it? It has a double meaning here though, since “tick-tock” is the sound a clock makes when the hands move. It’s like saying her hips shake and move back and forth like a clock. A lot of people view and like videos on TikTok, so it can also mean that her hips get lots of love.

On that Demon Time, she might start a OnlyFans (OnlyFans)

OnlyFans logo.svg
  • “Demon Time” is a series on the OnlyFans website that has to do with strippers and erotic dancing. OnlyFans is a place where people can post exclusive content directly to their fans and interact with them. It’s kind of known for having provocative content so that’s where the reference comes from.

Big B and that B stand for bands

  • *that B stands for… “Bands” is the same as money; a thousand dollars is one band.

If you wanna see some real a**, baby, here’s your chance

I say, left cheek, right cheek, drop it low, then swang (Swang)

  • “Swang” is the same as “swing.” It’s same idea as “thang” and “thing” from before.

Texas up in this thang (Thang), put you up on this game (Game)

  • To “put someone on the game” is to make someone attracted to you or what you are doing, or to get them “hooked” onto something.

IVY PARK on my frame (Frame), gang, gang, gang, gang (Gang)

  • Ivy Park is a clothing brand founded by Beyoncé. It’s on her “frame” or body, so she’s wearing her own brand clothing. “Gang” is just something that some people say to show excitement or enthusiasm for your “crew” or the people you represent. It comes from a song too, “GANG GANG” by Jackboys.

If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain (Hol’ up)

  • “Hold up” is the same as “wait a minute.” This lyric is a reference to her butt, by the way.

Please don’t get me hype (I’m hype), write my name in ice (Ice, ice, ice)

  • To “get hype” is to get excited. It can also mean to get out of control, which is probably how Beyoncé means it. “Ice” in slang can mean diamonds. Writing her name in diamonds would be cool, and it also refers to her being “cold” or really good at what she does, maybe ruthless or someone hard to compete against. This comes from the phrase “write my name in stone” which means you are famous forever and people will always know your name.

Can’t argue with these lazy b******, I just raise my price

I’m a boss, I’m a leader, I pull up in my two-seater

  • “Two-seater” is a sports car with just two seats. It can also mean a person with a really big butt.
Only 2 can fit in this thing… Photo by Karol Smoczynski on Unsplash

And my mama was a savage, n****, got this s*** from Tina

  • Beyoncé’s mom’s name is Tina

I’m a savage, yeah

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Ratchet, yeah)

Sassy, moody, nasty, yeah (Okay)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Ah)

B****, what’s happening? (Ah, what’s up?)

B****, I’m a savage, yeah

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Woah, woah, woah, okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, huh (Ooh, ooh, okay)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Woah, ah)

B****, what’s happening? (Ayy, ah, ah)

Like Beyoncé, like me (Like me)

He want a b**** like thee Stallion with the knees (With the knees)

  • *He wants a… Megan is referring to the way she dances.

He be like, “Damn, how that thang movin’ in them jeans?” (Yeah, yeah, them jeans)

  • *He’s thinking… or He is like… How is that thing moving in those jeans? Saying “like” can be used to introduce a thought or dialogue in informal speech. “I was like, Come over, and he was like, Okay.” In informal speech some people say “them” when they mean “those.” “Them are some nice shoes! I want to buy them.”

Ayy, even D4L couldn’t do it like me, like me

  • “D4L” (Down For Life) is a rap group based in Atlanta that was popular in the early 2000s, especially for their song “Laffy Taffy.” They made a song called “Betcha Can’t Do it Like Me” which is probably what she’s referring to. D4L was like a one-hit-wonder, so she might be saying that she can make lots of hit songs.

Ooh, ah, ooh

I done got this body ready just for you

Girl, I hope he don’t catch me messin’ ’round with you

  • *I hope he doesn’t catch me messing around… To “catch” someone in this sense means to find them doing something they aren’t supposed to do. To “mess around” can be another way to say cheating on someone or sleeping with someone. It can also be just spending time with someone or having fun. Mess around has other meanings too, but these are some of them.

Talkin’ to myself in the mirror like, “B****, you my boo

  • *you are my boo… “Boo” is a loving term that you call someone you love and appreciate like a partner, spouse, and less commonly a family member. Here she’s calling herself “boo” in the mirror.

I’m the s***, ooh

  • Saying this means that you are really great and awesome. It sounds like a contradiction, but that’s what it means.

I need a mop to clean the floor, it’s too much drip, ooh

  • “Drip” is style, confidence, attractiveness, and all of that good stuff in one. She uses a metaphor, saying she has “drip” but comparing it to a literal liquid dripping on the floor that needs to be mopped.

I keep a knot, I keep a watch, I keep a whip, ooh (Keep it real, ooh)

  • These are all things used to control or dominate someone. A knot (she keeps her men tied, they are stuck with her), a watch (she keeps them on the clock, as if they were working for her), and a whip (like slavery, basically, or maybe like Fifty Shades of Grey?). To “keep it real” means to be open, tell the truth, and show things the way they really are. Not hiding or lying about yourself.

Let’s play a game, Simon says I’m still that b****, ayy

  • “Simon says” is a schoolyard game where one person is in charge (Simon) and everyone else has to do what that person says. “Simon says, touch your toes. Simon says, stomp your feet” etc. When someone says, “I’m that __,” it means that they are the best or the one being talked about. “Wait, so who are you?” “I’m that dude. Ask your friends, they know.” Megan also could be saying that she is the same as before and hasn’t changed her ways, in a good way.

I’m still that b****, yuh (Ah)

I’m a savage, yeah (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet (Okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, yeah

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Ah, what’s up?)

B****, what’s happening? (Ah, what’s up?)

B****, I’m a savage, yuh (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet, yeah (Woah, woah, woah, okay)

Sassy, moody, nasty, huh (Ooh, ooh)

Acting stupid, what’s happening? (Ooh, ooh, ah)

B****, what’s happening? (Ayy, ah, ah)

I heard they askin‘ for the Queen, they brought some cameras in here

  • *I heard that they were asking for the Queen…

I’m a bad b****, she’s a savage, no comparison here

  • A “bad B-word” is a term of respect and admiration for a woman who takes care of her business, has good looks, makes good money, and so on. Not all women like this term and it could be offensive depending on who says it or hears it. This goes back to the meaning of “bad” as something really good or cool.

I’ma flip my hair and look back while I twerk in the mirror

  • *I’m going to flip… You should know what twerking is. If not, just look up Miley Cyrus or somebody. Better yet, watch a Megan Thee Stallion video.

All this money in the room, think some scammers in here

Making that money— Photo by John Guccione http://www.advergroup.com on Pexels.com
  • A “scammer” is someone who tricks others into making money for themselves or makes money in a number of illegal ways. Megan and B make so much money that it looks as if they were doing it illegally.

I’m comin’ straight up out that Third (ah)

  • To “come straight up out of” something just means to come out of it or come from it. “Straight up out” here just adds rhythm and emphasis to the sentence, but it doesn’t change the meaning in any major way. Think of the slogan “Straight Outta Compton” (NWA came directly from Compton). The “Third” she refers to is the Third Ward of Houston, which I guess is where Beyoncé lived for a while. Interestingly, the way she pronounces “ah” after Third sounds like she could be saying “Third eye”, which is a light reference to the mystic third eye and deep perception. It’s actually referenced quite often in modern music and could just be used to mean a deeper level of awareness and success. It’s kind of associated with the Illuminati too …

I whip the whip like I stirred it (Stirred)

  • “Whip” is a slang term for a car. When talking about cooking, “whip” means to stir something quickly and repeatedly until it forms a foam or cream. That’s why she also says “stir.” Basically, she’s driving her fancy car as if she were whipping some type of food, driving it in circles, doing tricks in her car, and so on.

Woodgrain, we swervin, keepin’ his mind all on these curves (Uh)

Curvy wood design– Photo by DLKR Life on Pexels.com
  • *We are swerving… “Woodgrain” is a finish on wood that makes it look more natural. The design of woodgrain has lots of curves and swirls in it. To “swerve” is to curve quickly, usually in a car around a corner or sharp turn.

Coupe fly like a bird (Bird), cold on ’em like, “Brrr” (Ice)

  • “Coupe” is another word for a nice car or two-seater, too. Also, a coop is a place where chickens and sometimes other birds are kept, so she plays with this pronunciation. “Fly” here has the slang meaning of being stylish and attractive, although she compares it to the literal sense of a flying bird. “Cold” here probably has a mixed meaning of ice (diamonds and jewelry) and looking really good, fresh, stylish, etc. Cold is an adjective but she uses it like a verb, which happens a lot in English. “Brrr” is the sound someone makes when they are cold (temperature). It’s also the sound rapper Gucci Mane makes a lot in his music, much for the same reasons as Beyoncé just now.

Always keep my words, no, I don’t do crosswords

  • To “keep your word” means to be honest and do what you said you were going to do. It’s like not giving up. “Crosswords” are those word puzzles that you see in newspapers or puzzle booklets. She plays with the idea of a crossword puzzle and “crossing” someone, meaning to lie, trick, or cheat them. It’s also like saying “she doesn’t go back on her word” (she doesn’t say one thing and do another).

Stallion when I ride, he like them hot girls with them hips, ah (Skrrt, skrrt)

  • *He likes those hot girls with those hips…

I hopped that s***, the way I hopped out and slid, ah (Skrrt, skrrt)

  • Repeating “skrrt skrrt” makes me think she really is referring to a car. She hopped out and slid (got out of) her car. That sound is very popular in hip-hop music lately, and it almost always is talking about a fancy car, usually when someone is arriving or leaving somewhere. I’ll leave you to figure out the rest of what she means.

I pop my s***, now watch me pop up again, ah (Woah)

  • This line is more inappropriate but an interesting note: to “pop up” can mean to show up or appear unexpectedly.

I mop the floor, now watch me sweep up these Ms, ’cause I— (Ah)

  • Mopping the floor is a reference to the previous line talking about “drip.” Now she’s sweeping up “Ms” (millions of dollars).

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And the lyrics repeat.

Wow, that was a lot. This song is packed full of slang, informal expressions, double meanings, and pop-culture references. The whole song is basically about how cool, stylish, and awesome these two women are. They make lots of money, are sexy, close big business deals, and can walk the talk. There’s nothing much more to explain here.

Questions:

  1. What did you think of this song? Do you prefer the original or the remix?
  2. Why do you think they focus so much on their physical attributes? Does hip-hop as a genre encourage this?
  3. What’s your favorite Beyoncé or Megan Thee Stallion song? What is that song about?
  4. Would you rather be a savage, classy, nasty, bougie, ratchet, or sassy? (What’s happening)

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Cover image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63308428

Where I go? (audio version)

Photo by Bryan Catota

Languages learners, English enthusiasts … we have another one. Listen here to the audio version of “Where I go?” from the Adventures of Charles. You can listen to the audio by itself on this page or listen and read along with the original post here. Test your listening skills by answering some follow-up questions or writing a comment after. Follow the blog if you want to be notified directly of new content. Thanks and enjoy!

my bad_there you go_there it is_there you have it

Thanks to my student Bianca V. for helping me with this audio!

Some practice questions:

  1. In what situations might it be better to use “my bad”? What about “sorry”?
  2. Have you ever said or heard these phrases when receiving an object or giving something away?
  3. How do you usually react when someone bumps into you in the street or on public transportation? Would you be as respectful as Charles was?

Aren’t there a lot of black people in America, like on T.V.? – Black identity in the USA

The story of the U.S. is a complicated and controversial one, and few things add to that controversy than the question of race. Topics related to race, slavery, civil rights, citizenship, and even cultural identity can be traced to one of America’s most important groups of people. Speaking of that cultural identity you, as a foreigner, might have noticed that many famous movies (Coming to America, Training Day, Black Panther), T.V. shows (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Everybody Hates Chris, My Wife and Kids), and social figures (Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey) are African Americans or star lots of black people. When you talk about singers and musical influence, black Americans almost take home the prize for most impactful internationally. With all this influence, you might expect to go to the U.S. and see tons of black folks walking around everywhere. But are there really that many of us?

Fortnite now has a Black Panther skin and a Wakanda Forever emote - Polygon
Even Fortnite uses black culture, Wakanda Forever! from Polygon.com

I previously wrote about the misconception of America being pretty much all white, but this is an interesting turn of thinking. Maybe after seeing and listening to so many things featuring black people, you might conclude:

Hey, there has to be a lot of black people in the U.S., right? Why else would they be so prevalent on T.V. and music and all that?

Well, the answer would be no; black people in America aren’t as prevalent as you might think.

How it can feel to be black in America sometimes… Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

To be fair, even I was surprised by how many African Americans there truly are. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of black Americans. As I said in a previous post, black people are actually a majority or almost half the population in several cities across the country, in places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others. Despite all that, there are almost 330 million Americans, and people who identify as only black are 13.4% (about 44 million). So yes, that is a lot of black people, but it’s a small number compared to all the other people in the country.

Of course, you have to remember that many African Americans are not fully “black” but may identify as black because of reasons related to cultural identity, family ties, or simply not thinking that much about the question. You might find a light-skinned person with African ancestry more likely to identify as “black” if he or she grew up around mostly black people, lives around mostly black people, and identifies mostly with black American culture. This goes back to the One Drop Rule in the U.S., to which I’ll leave a link for more information down below. That also leaves us with blacks who might consider themselves “mixed-race” even though they are darker-skinned, but that’s a little less common. By the way, colored and mulatto used to be acceptable terms for mixed people, but they are considered offensive by most people nowadays.

Although black people practically make up a small minority in the U.S., there are reasons why they might seem so prevalent on T.V. and other media. One is that the country is huge! 13 percent of 330 million is still a ton of people, so of course, they seem like a lot. Another point is that many of these people went to urban areas like big cities after slavery and especially after suffering discrimination/violence in the South. Cities are where most of the cultural output comes from, so that’s why we seem to have so many black actors, musicians, musical styles, and social figures. Several of these figures exist purely because of the discrimination blacks have suffered. Black people in politics are on the rise recently too, so that could add to this misconception.

One more point I want to make is that black people have been severely and openly discriminated against in the U.S. for centuries, and people who supported slavery had all kinds of misconceptions about race, ethnicity, and what was good for the nation. Of course black people, and almost any minority in fact, have suffered all over the world, but the U.S. handled it a bit differently. After creating some highly significant social leaders and leading its own power movements, a big push has been made by black Americans to support each other, promote each other, and work with each other. There has been such a big momentum with black people trying to “catch up” with white Americans and have equality that this has allowed black people to be present in almost all facets of American life. Think of “#OscarsSoWhite” and the following year when a ton of black movies and filmmakers won awards. Even though black Americans in general are pretty well represented and better off than black people in almost all other American countries (think of Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, and many African nations for that matter), there is always a push for more equality and representation. I suppose all people deserve this and I’m glad to help represent my country and ancestry, even if it’s in a subtle, blog-writing way.

Black-ish guy making a movie, Photo by KASHILEMBO WABU

Even if there aren’t as much of us as you might have thought, I encourage you to keep listening to our music, keep watching our T.V., and keep supporting our social movements. Black people just want respect like anybody else, and I’m sure that they’d be proud to know how truly influential black U.S. culture has been all over the world. Keep up the support!

Speaking of support, I appreciate you for reading this post! Feel free to check the resources below to learn more and keep an open mind. If you liked this post, read some other ones here on the website. Tell me what you think of black American culture or people in the comments, or send me an email at tietewaller@gmail.com. Cool? Peace and take care!

Resources:

U.S. census info 2019: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219

America’s “One Drop Rule” explained: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/mixed/onedrop.html

About #OscarsSoWhite: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/02/02/oscars-academy-award-nominations-diversity/79645542/

society + Coming to America [1988] – What’s it say about us?

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Popcorn anyone? Candies? We are back at The Movies! This time we are going to look at a classic, “an oldie but a goodie” you might say. Where else can you find African warriors, an obvious McDonald’s ripoff and Arsenio Hall in a wig? That’s right, we’ll look at one of the funniest movies of all time and see what it has to say about our good and friendly Americans. Ready to read?

*There may be spoilers here if you haven’t watched the movie yet, but, I mean, 1988.

Zamunda on the map, from Jungle Maps

Now, I know this movie’s a little old. For those who don’t know, the sequel finally came out this year (2021), cleverly named Coming 2 America, and has many of the same cast members as the original. That title alone tells you how much we love puns and double meanings in the U.S., particularly when it comes to naming stuff. The movie is worth a look on Amazon Prime, but I’ll leave a link to the trailer here in case you don’t pay for that service … yet. The first movie has countless jokes that plenty of people reference to this day. It wasn’t just an American success either since this movie and its crazy scenes have fans from all over the world. Despite the fact that the story follows a young African prince — of Zamunda to be exact, please check your nearest map — and his royal assistant who basically tour New York in order to find a princess, the movie itself has a lot to say about our U.S. of A. And what better way to do this than to start with Africa?

The nation of Zamunda is like one of those ongoing jokes about Americans not knowing geography. Now, it is pretty common for filmmakers to come up with a fake name for countries in their movies, but Zamunda sounds like one of the answers you’d get from a classmate after a teacher asks them, “Name a country in Africa.” I know, Zamunda! It just sounds African, even if it isn’t real, and that’s why it sheds some light on American culture. Many people (around the world, but especially in America) don’t know much about Africa at all. You might be surprised just how little many African Americans know about Africa. Zamunda was meant to be fictitious, but I bet you there were many people that thought it was real, and as a matter of fact, probably still think so.

Stepping off the plane in Zamunda, Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Not to speak poorly of my fellow citizens, to be fair, there are many who know a lot about geography. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that most of us don’t. Poor geography skills aside, the movie says some other things about our view of Africa. It was admirable that they chose to show African royalty as opposed to poverty, and the royal family is very wealthy in the movie. Coming to America stars pretty much all black people too which is appropriate for a movie about Africans, though this has not always been the case. The movie came out at a time when black people were really growing in their pride and interest in African heritage, and this trend has swept over black American culture ever since. In Zamunda we can still see lots of random animals you might find on a safari just running around the palace. This plays on the idea that many Americans have this view as if Africa is full of lions, elephants, giraffes, and whatnot. Many people think you can step off a plane and see a rhinoceros, for example. It goes the same for other countries, like some people believe Brazil is all Amazon or Australia is all kangaroos. Don’t blame the people, blame our T.V. … and Kangaroo Jack, of course.

Many people’s image of what Africa is like (sorry for the moon), Photo by Faris Munandar on Pexels.com

Americans perceive that it is hard for foreigners to speak and understand English the way it is used naturally. Even for Zamundans, a nation that speaks English, cultural differences create a big gap. We see several scenes where Akeem (that’s Eddie Murphy) has hilarious misunderstandings with people because of the way he talks. Often, foreigners learn English in formal schools and their speech sounds very proper to us here. This explains why they had Akeem embarrassing himself so much. He’s also a skilled warrior and fights with spears, which is a sort of stereotype about Africans being wild and hunting with old weapons. Some rural or hunter-gatherer communities do, but most Africans aren’t quite as skilled as Akeem is with the spear.

Soul Glo & the Jheri curl

Going back to ’80s trends, that Soul Glo hairspray stuff has some major moments in the movie. The Jheri curl is the hairstyle that this spray makes, and it was fairly popular, especially among black people in the late ’80s to early ’90s. You had some ladies in tight bikinis, which relates to a sort of sexual revolution that was going on at the time, starting in the ’60s and getting more and more, um, liberated, up until modern times. And talk about that crazy pastor and the “Sexual Chocolate” guy! Most pastors and reverends are decent people, but you do get some bad eggs every once in a while. That creepy one in the movie references these “bad” pastors who care too much about money, yelling loudly, and watching half-naked women. Despite that stuff, you do still see many pastors who speak in the same style that he does. “Yess-uh, I wanna thank yah Lawd, uh-yas Lawd!” I don’t know where this style came from, but it’s very common for pastors to talk like this, especially in black churches in the South or smaller cities.

You know it’s a barbershop when you see this, Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Another part of the movie I want to talk about is New York. They spend most of the movie in Queens, a borough of New York City. Queens during the ’80s and before was known for having lots of black people and being sort of a poor neighborhood. Queens still has some rough parts, I hear (I mean I am from Los Angeles…), but it also has lots of nice neighborhoods nowadays. In the movie you see people throwing trash out their windows, cursing at each other, and people robbing each other. New York is fairly safe now, but before the 9/11 attacks some parts of the city were a lot more dangerous. The barbershop scenes are very important since they are seen as key parts of black communities. All communities have barbershops, but in black communities they are places of communion where people go to hear local news, talk with friends, and tease each other. So it’s really a family atmosphere. Hair has always been really important for black people, and hair care is a big deal for us. Remember that when you visit, and please don’t touch anybody’s weave, wig, afro, braids, or Jheri curl. Well, you can cut off their Jheri curl, I approve.

In the last post on Doctor Sleep, we saw lots of big houses and how they represent the modern American home. However, in big cities and especially in lower-class areas, there are lots of apartments like the ones in the movie; small, dirty, ugly, with neighbors who are noisy or kind of grouchy. In big cities you can see more angry people who are in a rush too. I’ve heard from several foreign people who visited New York and thought Americans weren’t nice people. Remember that New York is just one place and it’s the biggest city, so you get lots of stressed people all having to live on a couple of congested islands. Still, mean and nice people can be found anywhere you go.

The most-played sport in America, Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Akeem watches basketball and tries to talk about American football, which are the two main sports in the U.S. He gets a little confused by the rules which is a normal thing. We also see Akeem and his friend, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), interact with several promiscuous women, including his future wife Lisa’s sister. This might relate to how American or Western women in general are seen as more sexually open than Eastern and African women. That’s why this was sort of a culture shock to the African prince, and it is actually a good point made by the movie. I can’t say too much else. McDowell’s is an obvious ripoff of McDonald’s, but many successful companies and products have come as a ripoff of another product. McDonald’s itself used the idea of two brothers in California to create a worldwide enterprise, and didn’t even change the name. Ah, the things you learn from Netflix.

That’s it people! Thanks for reading. If you want to practice your writing skills, you can answer these questions in the comments:

  1. Do you like the movie Coming to America? What about the sequel?
  2. Have you ever felt like Akeem when traveling to another country? Did you travel for love too?
  3. What is your favorite part of this movie?
  4. Would you rather live in Queens or Zamunda?

Hateful balls (audio version)

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More audio! Hi English learners. I have another recording for you to listen to. This is the audio version of the post “Hateful balls”, which you can read and listen by clicking here. If you want to just test listening, you are in the right place! I went over a few terms here in the audio, so test your skills. Also, share this with someone you know is learning English, or to anyone who likes listening to audios. Cool? Thanks a lot and take care!

*I respond to comments 🙂

In the comments:

  1. Can you write rolling or roll out in your own sentence?
  2. Do you think having haters is a good or bad thing? Why?
  3. What do you think of people who hate on others?

Short girl travel fall – “trip” “freak out” “flip out” “shorty/shawty” and more, meanings & uses

To my English learners out there: Have you ever been in a situation — maybe been watching a movie — and the experience just feels like you are in another dimension, another world, and you’ve essentially left planet Earth? Well, today’s terms are great for these “otherworldly” experiences. I’m going to discuss some informal terms that use the word “trip” as well as similar terms like “freak” and “flip.” At the end I’ll talk about the word “shorty.” We’ll observe these words with the help of our old friend, Charles. If you find this information helpful, share it with someone you know is learning English. Cool? Let’s do it!

Today’s terms: trip, trippy / trip out, freak out, flip out / tripping, slipping / shorty, shawty

1. Trip – Trippy

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

So we know what a trip is. Taking a drive down the coast, going camping in the mountains, a vacation to Disneyland. But trip also has a more figurative meaning. You can call a situation or an event “a trip” when it is really crazy, spectacular, or unexpected. Sometimes when someone is being really funny or silly, you can call that person “a trip” too. Trippy has almost the same meaning but is an adjective. It describes situations that are very strange, crazy, and almost supernatural. You might see a ghost and say, “Wow, that was trippy.” On the other hand, “trip” can be used as a verb to talk about someone who is acting badly or in a stupid way. In this case don’t trip is also a common way to tell someone “don’t worry.”

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Charles was in the recording studio with his friend, Sheila, as she was finishing recording a song. He was bouncing his head and enjoying every second of the lively music with the swirling sound of the musical track. The producer noticed that Charles was enjoying the beat he had made.

Charles — Man, this song is just wild how it fills up your brain and every part of your body just wants to dance!

Producer — I know, the sound is trippy, right? It’s one of my favorite tracks.

  • The sound is really cool, crazy, and almost supernatural.

Charles — Well, your beats are always a trip. That’s why I love to come here and listen to you guys record live. Sorry if I’m intruding, by the way.

  • The beats are always fun, enjoyable, interesting, and kind of strange at the same time.

Producer — Don’t trip, bro. You can come anytime you want.

  • Don’t worry about it.

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2. Trip out – Freak out – Flip out

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

Now remembering the words from above, these next terms carry a similar meaning. If “trip” can sometimes mean “to worry,” then to trip out means to worry a lot, but in a way that you are almost paranoid. This term is common for referring to people who get paranoid on drugs and act in a very strange way. They trip out. Trip has been used to talk about the experience of getting high on drugs, so this relationship makes sense. Still, you can trip out even when you’re not on drugs. Same for freak out or flip out, these terms mean to overreact to a situation, or react to something in a very dramatic or exaggerated way. Freaking out or flipping out can come in many forms, like getting mad, being really paranoid, or being super scared or anxious. Some people also just say freak or flip, but the same meaning is implied when used as a verb.

The producer looked over at Charles and saw that he was almost falling into a weird dream state.

Producer — Psst! Dude, are you okay? You look like you’re tripping out.

  • He looks like he is dreaming, like he is on drugs, like his body is being taken over by something.

Charles popped his eyes open and stood up quickly.

Charles — What? Oh, man, I thought I was dreaming. The music together with Sheila’s voice is putting me in a trance, I think. Feels like her voice is coming to attack me or something, to control my mind.

Producer — Okay, well that’s a bit much. Maybe you wanna step outside and take a breath before you start flipping out.

  • Before you start acting crazy, acting paranoid, or have some kind of loud and weird reaction.

Charles — No, no, I can handle it. Sorry, I didn’t know I would freak like this.

  • I didn’t know I would have this weird reaction, act strangely this way, act paranoid like this. He could also say “freak out” here with the same meaning.

Producer — It’s all good. She’s almost done recording, anyway.

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3. Tripping – Slipping

Going back to the meaning of trip as “worrying,” we see that tripping is when someone is acting strange or worrying too much about something. Tripping can also mean to act in a way that other people don’t like. Slipping is a similar idea, but it’s used to say that someone is not doing something well. Usually, it’s a situation where the person was really good at something before but has been doing worse in more recent times.

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Sheila finally finished singing and came out of the recording booth. She didn’t look very happy.

Sheila — Dang, that sucked. I can’t believe my voice sounds like that.

Producer — What are you talking about?! You sang great! You had your friend Charles over here looking like he was going to grow wings and fly away.

Sheila — Aw, is that true? I thought I was slipping.

  • I thought my singing was getting worse, my voice isn’t as good as usual.

Charles — Yeah, I was about to catch a rocket ship and fly to Mars while you were singing. Haha.

Producer — Your voice is as good as ever, girl, strop tripping.

  • Stop worrying, stop acting insecure like that.

Sheila — Thanks you guys. I do sound pretty great, don’t I?

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4. Shorty – Shawty

Photo by Ashley Byrd on Unsplash

These final words are actually the same word. They both are used to refer to a woman in general, and they are often used as terms of endearment (loving terms). For example, some men call their girlfriends shorty, or even a woman they are attracted to. This term is more common for young women, and even girls can be called “shorty.” I have an Aunt Shorty (not her birth name), to give you an idea. Shorty in the past wasn’t always for just women either. It used to be a nickname for men too, especially short men. More recently because of music, in the States calling someone “shorty” gives a sense of care or femininity, at least. Shawty is just a more informal way of pronouncing the same word.

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Producer — Yeah, Sheila, you’re my star singer here. Of all the shawties that come here to record, you’re the best.

  • Of all the young ladies that come here.

Sheila took a bow and went to the restroom to clean the sweat off her nervous forehead.

Charles — What do you think? Is she taken?

Producer — Huh? What do you mean? You have a crush on Sheila?! Ooh, I’m telling!

They laugh together.

Charles — Nah, shut up bro! I’m serious. I might try to make her my shorty.

  • Make her my girlfriend or go out with her. It sounds less serious and more casual, even though he means something serious.

Producer — As far as I know, she’s never had a man come in here and watch her like you do. Try asking her.

Charles nodded at the producer as he noticed Sheila coming out of the bathroom.

Sheila — Ready to go?

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Basically, tripping and words like it (freak, flip) are related to strange and undesirable behavior. Sometimes it can be worrying, paranoia, or someone just asking too many questions. Slipping has to do with not being as good at something as before, or even being lazy at something. Some other terms I want to add real quick are slip up or trip up which both mean to “make a mistake.” Think of it as falling over your own feet or slipping on a banana peel. Those both are good phrasal verbs to add to your vocabulary. Another note about “shorty” is that sometimes men refer to a woman as a “shorty” when they don’t want to sound like they are super interested or in love with her. It’s kind of to look more manly or look tough, we can say to “downplay” their attraction for that woman. Of course, you don’t have to use these words, but you might enjoy understanding them in natural contexts, especially in current music.

Okay! What do you think? Was this helpful? Let me know if you know how to use these words, or write me a few example sentences if you have time. Comment if you’ve heard these words before! And don’t forget to follow the blog and read other posts, you might find something you’ll like. Until the next time, take care y’all!