Watch these quick videos to hear how someone might use the slang word grip. Read “A Handful” to learn more about how this word is used. What do you think of my explanation?
Welcome back to another post about Iceland! We’re going to continue our curious quest to learn what makes different parts of the world stand out from all the rest. Moving on within the nation of Iceland, this post explores how unique the Western Region and Westfjords are. This isn’t really a travel list, more a letter of admiration for these two incredible places. You can read Part 1 about Iceland here. Check the links to discover more, or feel free to research some of these places for yourself. But read this first!
Okay. What does make the Western Region and the Westfjords so special?
As far as place-names go in Iceland, this one is about as simple as it gets. The Western Region is named so for being in the west. It sits just north of the Capital Region, with its capital at Borgarnes. It has coastlines, highlands, mountains, and glaciers like all the other regions do. The climate doesn’t differ much either. Okay, moving on.
Features & Places
Even though Borgarnes is the capital, the biggest town in the region is Akranes. Akranes is a coastal city with several interesting features like a lighthouse that looks spectacular underneath the sunset or aurora lights. There’s this ship from the 1950s called Höfrungur AK 91 that was just left on the shore and turned into a tourist attraction. There’s a sandy beach too, although the water’s a little chilly for diving.
It’s not the biggest, but Borgarnes is still worth the visit. The saving feature of this town is the majestic landscape surrounding it. There are winding peninsulas and harbors with snowy mountains in the backdrop. Like with most of the country, the elevation rises the further inland you go. With this, you can see an impressively tall waterfall called Glymur high above the surrounding canyons and tumbling birds.
A mention of landscapes couldn’t go without Snæfellsnes. It’s a natural region on a peninsula that happens to be one of the most photographed and iconic parts of Iceland. There are these unbelievable rock formations covered in green pastures alongside roaring white waterfalls. The whole thing is like a fantasy setting. The coast is just as impressive with twisty stones and rugged shores alongside many uniquely shaped rocks. There are natural bridges, arches, and tunnels carved out by the constantly beating waves.
In this same area is Snæfellsjökull, a big volcano that overlooks beaches and shorelines. It’s a pretty sight considering the glacier sitting on top of it, and even more amazing when the whole area is covered in snow during the winter. Inland you can see even taller mountains and larger glaciers. Isn’t that awesome?!
The Westfjords are named so for being in the northwest of the country (naturally) and being full of fjords. It’s actually the part of Iceland furthest to the west and is the closest to Greenland. Its capital is a town deep inside a fjord called Ísafjörður. Now let’s see what you’ve got.
Features & Places
Now, the Westfjords or West Fjords — really you can write it either way — is a very pretty area similar somewhat to the Western Region. What makes it stand alone are its complex systems of fjords (imagine that!), cliffs, and very very twisty roads. These kinds of roads are famous and highly memorable for those that have driven them. The winding roads take you past some pretty amazing sights, including the mighty Dynjandi Falls. These suckers cascade over cliffs around the bend of some big road curves. Because of the rugged landscape, summer in these parts becomes really beautiful. As the snow melts, it creates all sorts of streams and waterfalls that run down into the ocean. One of the more interesting places to see this is in Ísafjörður, where the green and the streams really stand out around the edges of the town’s harbor.
The highest cliffs on the North Atlantic can be found at Látrabjarg. This place is a refuge for many sea birds like puffins that you can watch and get close to. The feeling of standing over the sea and watching birds fly under you must be an incredible sensation. The region is also full of green meadows that cover the hills and misty clouds that shift in between cliffs and mountains. The best showcasing of this unique beauty is found in Hornstrandir, an area with protruding mountains and cliffs like rhino horns that jut out over the sea. The setting is spectacular!
Culture (AKA Last Thoughts)
It’s easy to imagine why these regions are some of the most photographed and celebrated parts of Iceland. Just look up Iceland on Google Images and you’re bound to see a few locations from these iconic places. It goes to show from their almost unbelievable landscapes pressing right against the sea, their iconic winding roads, seaside volcanoes, and tall grassy cliffs. The Western Region and the Westfjords are definitely important for tourism, being not too far from Reykjavík. Still, they are remote enough to preserve the old customs and lifestyles while being open to welcome in newcomers. Go and check it out!
**Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning more about these unique regions of Iceland. I appreciate that you like to learn about the world and have a passion for exploring! Please share with us anything you’d like to add about these regions. What was the most interesting place on this list? Would you ever visit these regions? As always, take care of yourself. And go explore your world 😉
If you’ve been studying English, you know there are many possible meanings of the word “get.” There are so many uses that it has become notoriously difficult for English learners to know how to use. The past tense of that word is “got,” and it is no exception to this wild and confusing system of uses and meanings. I’m not here to explain all the possible meanings of “got”. Instead, I specifically want to tell you about some habits that English speakers have when we talk. You’ll be able to read more quick tips like this on the Blog. Hopefully, this can clear things up a bit more (or confuse you a bit more)!
Got and Have, which one is right?
One habit that many English speakers have is saying “got” where they should be using “have.” This is where “have” means to possess something or needing to do something. This use is quite informal and is used more in casual speech. Read more about that here.
- I got five rooms in my house.
More correctly would be: I have five rooms in my house.
A similar habit that people have is in situations where “have” is used in the present perfect. We might mean to say “have got,” but “have” gets completely taken out. Here’s an example:
- I got to leave in five minutes.
More correctly is: I have (I’ve) got to leave in five minutes.
Because most of the time saying “have” and “have got” means the same thing, it can be hard to tell which of the two cases the speaker is using. Either way, they are referring to possession or a need to do something.
In British-style English (British, Australian, South African, etc.), I notice it can be more common to say “have got” in place of “have.”
British: — Have you got any gum?
— I’ve got some. Here you go.
Neutral: — Do you have any gum?
— I have some. Here you go.
Again, I’m not saying only British-style accents use this. It’s just more common in those accents than in the American-style accents. And remember that all English speakers don’t have the habits listed above. Like any language, the region, social class, and personal experiences of the speaker play a role in how the individual talks. Still, you can bet lots of English speakers talk like this!
Read More Examples:
“Do you got a dress? I need one for the party.”
“Marissa got three kids? She looks so young!”
“Listen, I got to tell you something.”
“We got to go, hurry up!”
**Thank you for coming, curious readers! Have you heard English speakers talk like this? Do you think you could correct the example sentences with the right grammar? You’re doing great for seeking to learn more about this wonderful language! Keep on learning, my friends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Continuing our quest to explore the world’s English-speaking countries, today we’ll take a look at Belize’s place on the map. Have you ever wondered Where is Belize? Or simply, I want to learn about Belize. Here we’ll see a bit about its geography and help you all understand this place a bit better. Of course, this won’t be a definitive description, so whoever wants to add on to it can feel free to chime in! You can find more about Geography on The Actual English World. And the Geography Now video is below to enjoy. Let’s get started.
Mapping out Belize
To start off, Belize is a pretty small country, a drastic contrast to our last country, Canada in many ways. The country is broken up into six districts. From north to south:
- Orange Walk
- Stann Creek
- & Toledo
Belize has got over 403 thousand people in an area of almost 23,000 square km, or 9,000 square miles. That places Belize as smaller than countries like Haiti or Albania, about the size of states like New Jersey or New Hampshire. It’s also the second-smallest country on the American mainland, but don’t let that fool you! This place has a lot to offer in such a small area.
Belize Geography – Where We At?
Belize has a very interesting place on the map. It sits right at the crossroads of Central America and the Caribbean, making its land features and culture really unique. It’s actually the only country mostly on the mainland to be considered a full Caribbean nation on par with Jamaica or Trinidad & Tobago, even though it does still have lots of little islands and cays. The landscape is generally flatter with plains in the north and gets more hilly and mountainous as you go south. This also goes for traveling from the east coast as you get further inland. At last, you culminate with the Mayan Mountains in the interior of the south. Most of the country has rainforests and jungles too since Belize has some of the best-preserved forests that exist.
Going back to the coast, Belize also has lots of reefs. If you’ve seen pictures of this country, you probably know there are tons of reefs, not to mention some giant blue sinkholes. Belize and its neighbors are actually home to the second-biggest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (we’ll talk about that one later). That makes it a perfect place for snorkelers and a haven for marine life to grow and reproduce. Put that together with the jungles that are havens for wild creatures like jaguars and you’ve got a pretty big refuge for tons of important critters.
What’s the Weather?
Besides the flatter north to the hillier south, the weather also changes a bit depending on location. North Belize is a bit drier and has a more savanna-type setting. Meanwhile, south Belize is wetter and gets more rain, which can explain the thicker forests down that way. Another thing to keep in mind is the storms. Belize does sit right on the Caribbean and just below the Gulf of Mexico. That means it’s not just a paradise for people, but for hurricanes too! To talk more on that, you might notice that Belize City is the biggest city in the country. It actually used to be the capital, but that all changed when a series of storms knocked it nearly out of place. Nationals picked up and moved their capital to Belmopan which is the current capital, a nice safe distance from the sea (in Cayo district, if you wanted to know).
But not to dwell too much on that, you’ll see a common trend of hurricanes in pretty much all the Caribbean/West Indies countries. Belize is still beautiful as heck and has a lot of biodiversity for such a small country. They owe it to their numerous habitats and the protection provided for them.
Enough Map Stuff, Talk About Belize’s History
Okay, I feel you. You want to know about some history. I know this isn’t a history post, but you might know that Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. That doesn’t mean Spain didn’t try to take it. Spanish sailors were actually the first Europeans to claim what we call Belize, but they didn’t really care to settle it. In fact, they cared so little that eventually the British swooped in and just took it for themselves. Caught you sleeping, Spain. Well, even with that, the country was called British Honduras for a pretty long while because Honduras is what Columbus called that whole bay region. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the name was changed to Belize, and the country became independent from Great Britain only in the 1980s. That’s not even that long ago.
Belize of course had a big African slave trade initially which brought tons of black people to the country. There were also lots of migrants from other Caribbean countries like Jamaica which continues to this day. Before Europeans, the region was inhabited by indigenous Americans, most noticeably the Mayans. Proof of this exists all across the country with majestic Mayan ruins being a major tourist draw and source of general awe. There have also been many other migrations from neighboring countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras of people seeking refuge from war, violence, or poverty. You also have migrants from further in the past like the Russian Mennonites, Pennsylvania Dutch, and American Southerners who were looking for religious freedom, cheaper land and whatnot.
OK, Now You’re Talking Belizean Culture
Even with all of those diverse cultural influences already listed, I still didn’t talk about the South and East Asian (mostly from India and China) communities that were taken to Belize to do the work that slaves used to do. And I’m sure that I’m forgetting somebody. Oh, yes, the Garifuna! The Garifuna are mostly descendants of Africans that were able to escape slavery or ended up shipwrecked and founded their own communities on the Caribbean coast. Most of the other countries in Central America have Garifuna or related cultures, but we won’t talk about them in this section since those countries speak mostly Spanish. Still, it’s an interesting fact to know. Garifuna, no matter where they live, much like the rest of Belize, speak a creole language (in Belize’s case, Kriol), although their creoles are a bit different. Here you can read some examples of Kriol phrases.
That’s right, even though English is the official language and most people can speak or understand it, Creole is the main language for a large portion of the people. It’s a more informal way of speech, but it serves a lot for the national identity of Belizeans no matter what their ethnicity or background is. Besides that, it’s kind of interesting as an American seeing people who look Mexican/Mestizo or Chinese speaking Belizean Creole.
What Else You Got?
Much like Canada, Belize is also a Commonwealth state of the British Crown. If you want to read about Canada, I explain more in-depth what the Commonwealth is (kind of). Otherwise, just know that Belize was part of Great Britain for a long time before it became an independent state. Like most Caribbean nations, Belize celebrates versions of Carnival and has some special events of its own. September is considered an entire month of festivities and celebrations by itself. Because of nearby Latin American contact, there are some Spanish-influenced traditions as well, and many people even have Spanish surnames. Spanish itself is widely spoken in Belize too, given that most of the population is multilingual in at least two of the national languages like Creole, Garifuna, or the several German and Mayan dialects used throughout.
So that’s that! I hope you enjoyed mapping Belize with me. It’s a spectacular country with tons of diversity right up in your face. It’s colorful, tropical, all kinds of paradise and beautiful. It may be English-speaking, but Belize has a whole identity unique to its own. Comment below if you love Belize. If you’re Belizean or know some Belizeans, please tell me how I did. What do you have to add about this compact powerhouse? Can you teach us some words in your language? Be well, and I’ll be writing to you soon!
From a young girl in a police family to a final showdown in the Badlands, there’s a lot of action in this song. We”ll be going over “Dani California” lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers here with explanations, especially for you English students out there. Learn some new idioms, slang, and grammar points. Learn a little about society too. And don’t forget to listen to the song to check your understanding! I checked the lyrics on Genius if you want a reference. After you read, make sure to find other song lyrics explanations here. Alright, here we go:
Gettin’ born in the state of Mississippi
- Grammar: *Being born…
- Society: He could be using the improper “getting born” to present the uneducated origins of Dani from Mississippi.
Poppa was a copper and her momma was a hippie
- Slang: “Copper” is an informal word for a cop or police officer.
In Alabama, she would swing a hammer
- Society: “Swinging a hammer” probably refers to a chain gang. This is a form of punishment in prisons that has been outlawed for a while. Prisoners had to do unpaid labor like build and construct things, often in the form of mining or clearing space for roads and train rails. Working in a mine or with heavy tools creates the idea of swinging a hammer,
Price you gotta pay when you break the panorama
- Grammar: *It’s the price you have to pay…
- Figurative Speech: “Breaking the panorama” is like going against what everyone else is doing, or not fitting in. In Dani’s case, she is probably breaking the laws established in her community.
She never knew that there was anything more than poor
- Society: Just a note; the way he pronounces “poor” like “po” is an informal but common way for certain American communities to pronounce it. This is usually associated with poor, black, or Southern speakers.
What in the world, what does your company take me for?
- Daily speech: By “company” here, he means the people you spend time with, not a real enterprise or business. Asking “What do you take me for?” is another way of saying “Who do you think I am?” or “You are wrong about me!” Also, saying “What in the world?” is a simple way to show that you are shocked or confused by something. You can also use it to ask a question. “What in the world is that thing? Oh, it looks like a termite.”
Black bandana, sweet Louisiana
- Culture/Society: The “black bandana” is usually a symbol of criminal activity. This is because traditionally when someone would rob a place, they would wear a bandana to cover their face.
Robbin’ on a bank in the state of Indiana
- Grammar: *Robbing a bank …
- Culture: Again, using informal grammar on purpose to relate to a specific class or region of the U.S. In these communities, it can be common for people to say a verb with “on.” “He was kissing on her, loving all on the poor girl. So she didn’t like that and slapped all on his face.”
She’s a runner, rebel and a stunner
- Figurative/Informal speech: “Runner” in the sense of a fugitive. Also, she lives a fast-paced lifestyle. I can’t tell exactly if he sings “stunner” or “stunter,” but either way he is saying that Dani is confident and likes to show off her skills. She can stun others with her abilities but can make herself look amazing doing it.
On her merry way sayin’, “Baby, what you gonna—?“
- Other details: “Merry” of course means happy or cheerful. Her saying “Baby, what you gonna–?” can be like her teasing or playing with her victims. She’s also a quick shooter, killing them before they can even answer her question.
Lookin’ down the barrel of a hot metal .45
- Informal speech: “A metal .45” probably refers to a Colt .45, a type of gun.
Just another way to survive
California, rest in peace
- Special occasion: “Rest in peace” (R.I.P.) is what we say when someone has died.
- Figurative speech: This line could be talking about the “release” of a gunshot that “releases” Dani’s soul. It also sounds like it could have a sensual meaning, but we’ll stick to the violent one, hehe.
California, show your teeth
- Figurative speech: Saying “show your teeth” is another way of making people afraid of you. Think of how wolves or lions show their teeth to try and intimidate others. It could also mean showing us who you really are.
She’s my priestess, I’m your priest, yeah, yeah
- Figurative speech: This is like saying she told him, so now he is telling us. She taught him, now he will teach us.
She’s a lover, baby and a fighter
- Figurative speech: “Baby” here meaning someone sweet, kind, loving, and also a bit innocent.
Shoulda seen her comin’ when it got a little brighter
- Grammar: *I should have seen …
- Figurative speech: “Get brighter” here refers to something becoming more clear or evident. It’s like the phrase “come to light,” which has this same meaning.
With a name like Dani California
Day was gonna come when I was gonna mourn ya
- Deeper meaning: He says this like he knew the day was going to come.
- Informal speech: “Ya” in this case is an informal way of pronouncing you.
A little loaded, she was stealin’ another breath
- Slang: “Loaded” means drunk. It could also have a double meaning, referring to her loaded gun (gun with bullets in it).
- Figurative speech: “Stealing a breath” is like the phrase “Cheating death.” This means living dangerously, encountering seemingly fatal situations and still making it out alive.
I love my baby to death
- Figurative speech: “Loving something to death” is actually a pretty common term in English. It usually just means that you love someone or something a lot. Here, he uses the “to death” part literally, so it sounds a bit more morbid.
California, rest in peace
- Other details: Now we see that California is Dani’s last name, so we know he’s talking about a woman, not the state.
California, show your teeth
She’s my priestess, I’m your priest, yeah, yeah
Who knew the other side of you?
Who knew what others died to prove?
Too true to say goodbye to you
Too true to say, say, say
Push the fader, gifted animator
- Informal speech: To push the “fader” is referring to the fade feature where DJ’s or music producers make a song fade at the end.
- Figurative speech: Referring to the “gifted animator,” this could be a reference to the Creator, the designer of the universe, putting an end to Dani’s life as if it were a song. This relates the fading feature in music to the fading away of a person’s life.
One for the now and eleven for the later
- Unusual format: This might be a reference to the bullets in a gun. There was one shot, and eleven were saved for later.
Never made it up to Minnesota
- Informal speech: To “make it” somewhere is the same as getting there or arriving there. The same is used for non-physical places. “She never made it to 21 (she died before turning 21).”
North Dakota man was a gunnin’ for the quota
- Other details: The “quota” means a share or earnings from something.
- Slang/Informal speech: This North Dakota man was “gunning,” or using his gun, to get a piece of the reward, apparently for stopping Dani. Adding “a” before a verb is also a stereotypical way that rural or Southern people are seen to talk. It has no meaning but is used to add color to speech. “He was a-going and a-going until he got tired. Then his feet start a-hurting.”
Down in the Badlands, she was savin’ the best for last
- Geography: The “Badlands” is a geographical feature of several U.S. states, and other parts of the world. It is characterized by desert or rugged rocky landscapes where few animals live. It’s usually dry and looks like a very tough place to live.
- Figurative speech: The rock formations look like a spectacular arena or something, so she put on a final show.
It only hurts when I laugh
- Figurative speech: He laughs when he remembers the good times with Dani, which also hurts because she is not around anymore.
Gone too fast
. Then they repeat.
The story of Dani California is a classic bandit highway criminal tale. We have a girl with humble beginnings in the South who’s a rebel for her times. She grows up, gets into more and more trouble, all until she eventually gets taken down. The lyrics add in a lot of colloquial or figurative phrases to better paint the picture of where Dani California is from. There are several bits of imagery to present her wild lifestyle and we see her final demise at the end. The singer loves this woman, has respect for her, but that couldn’t save her. After all, we see that a life of crime really doesn’t pay, though it can bring us fun and exciting memories.
Thanks for reading/listening and I hope you enjoyed the post! Check out some related posts if you want, and follow to be notified of new posts to your email. Thanks and have a good one!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
- Can you use today’s words in your own sentences? Bet – Ride or die – Rider – Day one
- Are there any ride-or-dies or day-ones in your life? Who are they?
- What is something you would “bet money on?”
- Have you heard the slang word “bet” before in casual conversation? When was that?
We’re starting off a new section here in CultSurf just to give you all a bit of variety. We’ve been discussing culture, society, music, and movies from around the globe (mostly the USA, sorry, I’m a little biased). Some of you might be interested in learning more about the in-depth characteristics of English-speaking countries. We won’t focus too much on culture here, but more on geography and a few other things. I was really inspired by Geography Now on YouTube and I enjoy their channel, so I’ll share their video with the corresponding countries if they’ve made it already. They make videos about all the world’s countries from A-Z, so it might take a while for them to reach Zimbabwe, for example.
What does an American know about Canada?
So obviously I won’t be writing about myself or Americans that know a lot about Canada. I’m speaking about what I knew about the country before I started learning geography, and what my fellow citizens may or may not know already.
- We know about some cities like Toronto and Vancouver, probably Montréal. Some of us like the name Newfoundland and joke at how hard it can be to pronounce.
- We know it’s freezing up there. We’ve seen those pictures of polar bears walking through town.
- Moose, caribou, Northern Lights, and the Arctic is somewhere up there.
- We have to cross it to get to Alaska.
- Funny accents, eh? And syrup, lots of bacon and syrup.
The Provinces & Cities (and Territories)
As we see on our lovely map, Canada has 10 subdivisions called provinces, plus another 3 called territories.
Central Canada has the two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. This is also where you find the two biggest cities, Toronto and Montréal. It’s known as central Canada even though it’s not directly in the middle of the country. That’s because historically these were the main places to be settled by the British and French as the colony known as Canada. Later they spread out and acquired more land. These places have the most people and are the biggest economic and cultural influencers in the country. They’re also massive, reaching from the Great Lakes all the way up to the northern tundra!
The smallest provinces are in the general Atlantic Maritimes region, which are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. These areas were among the last to really join Canada as a united country. They had lots of immigration from Scotland and Ireland, and have a much stronger sea culture than the rest of the country. They’re sort of like the New England of Canada. They were also the main places that welcomed British Loyalist soldiers during and after the American War for Independence.
Then there’s out West. This area can be thought of generally as the Great Plains and mountains of Canada. Here we have Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, though B.C. can also be thought of as the West Coast province. These were lands acquired after Central Canada was already set up, and are known for big open spaces, farming and agriculture, and lots of mountain stuff. There is major business and cultural influence coming from this part of Canada too, especially since Calgary and Vancouver are major global centers.
And then there were the Territories; Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Nunavut. These, generally speaking, are three massive landmasses (haha) way up in the tundra and arctic of North America. They are very, very, very scarcely populated and mostly got attention during the gold rush years, especially in Yukon. Otherwise there’s lots of ice and natural beauty, but I’m pretty sure they’re the least known region of the country overall.
A little about the cities, you have Toronto, Ontario, the biggest in the country, that is known as one of the most, if not the most, ethnically diverse cities in the world. I think about half the city is non-white, if not more, and even the white population is pretty diverse there. The capital, Ottawa, is in Ontario as well. A lot of the world-famous artists from Canada come from this lower area of Ontario, like Justin Bieber, Drake, The Weekend, and so on. Niagara Falls is the home of those same falls, and Mississauga has some cool spacey architecture.
Montréal is the 2nd biggest mostly French-speaking city in the world and is also extremely diverse, as is the rest of Canada. Québec is a very traditional European-looking city, especially in the old town. Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Newfoundland are important port cities and historic centers. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and the biggest city in the world for how far north it is. Calgary is also a very big city and cultural center. Some other major cities worth your research are Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, and St. John.
What are They?
So we know Canada has provinces, not states. The provinces actually are quite similar to states in how they are run, and many freedoms that the United States are allowed, so too are the Canadian provinces. Provinces, in general, tend to come from more Empirical powers (like the United Kingdom was) and so this name stems from historical association. The United States were also at once independent states that united, while Canada’s provinces have mostly been under the rule of Britain except for a few exceptions.
Canada stayed loyal and sympathetic to Britain for much longer than the U.S. which could explain many things about their cultural identity. Otherwise, the territories are similar to territories of any country. Even though they are huge, they have tiny populations. This makes it so that their representation is a little less relevant on the national scale, and so they do in fact have less representation.
And the Commonwealth?
Like with province, there’s no universal definition of what a commonwealth really is. Puerto Rico and Guam, for example, are commonwealths of the U.S. Still, the British Commonwealth states have a lot more autonomy and are all considered their own sovereign states with some more or less cordial ties to Britain. The Monarch really only has a say in cases of a complete national or political emergency really, but otherwise Canadians are Canadians and not Brits. Although as I said before, they do and did keep stronger ties with Britain (and France, for that matter) over the years than the U.S. did.
Canada’s English-Speaking. What About Québec?
Good question. Canada traditionally had two main European colonizers: the English/British and the French. You’ll actually see this in a lot of English-speaking countries, where France took the colony from Britain or Britain took it from France and so there is a lot of mixed historical identity. Think of Louisiana, St. Lucia, or Cameroon. Geographically, Canada’s French-speaking population stuck mostly to one general area, giving this group a more distinct identity. People from Québec have long had mixed feelings about Canada, some wanting to separate into their own independent place while others just want more autonomy (not to mention those who don’t really care either way). Speaking English, French, or Punjabi, they’re all Canadians in the end.
Generally, there is pride in the history of French Canada, the part of Canada where the country got its name from. English and French are both official languages in the nation, but French is a lot stronger in Québec province, along with a few pockets of places in the neighboring provinces. You also get St. Pierre and Miquelon, which is an overseas territory of France (something like French Guiana, although it’s a full-on department of France) that borders Newfoundland and is fully French.
Talk More About Diversity
Canada is really one of the most diverse countries there is, and this is due to its historic reputation as an open arm for immigrants. The Asian (East and South) population and impact on Canadian culture is huge. German and Scandinavian identity is big in some regions, not to mention the largest communities of Icelandic and Ukrainian descendants outside those countries live in Canada. The country has also welcomed many from other Commonwealth states and former colonies, such as Caribbeans and Guyanese, Africans, Indians, and Pakistanis. The most influential though, hands down, have been the British and French.
Most Canadians live within a few hundred miles from the U.S. border which also impacts the culture. Northern Americans and most Canadians have a fluid cultural and societal mixture that influences one and the other. This is especially true of migration, business, and the arts. Lots of Canadians have American ancestry and vice-versa. And of course, the first occupants of the continent have had a huge impact on the country. In Canada, they are generally referred to as First Nations, and they themselves are as diverse and influential as the later foreigners that would create modern Canada. They generally are considered two main groups, the traditional people most of us think of as Native or indigenous Americans, and the Inuits, a set of people with a bit different ancestry.
Let’s End with Some Actual Geography!
Canada has a land area of over 3.5 million square miles, making it the second biggest country in the world after Russia. It has a population of about 38 million, less than countries like South Korea, Spain, and Uganda, which are way smaller. I mean, compare them on a map. The Maritimes are mostly chilly and rainy with oceanic climates and many pretty islands. The northern continuation of the Appalachian Mountain system goes up here, and way up North in Labrador to Nunavut you get the Arctic Cordillera range of tall, jagged, arctic mountains.
The south of Central Canada borders the U.S. by way of the super-important St. Lawrence River system, as well as the Great Lakes. This area is very hospitable and is where the biggest urban areas are concentrated. You also get big waterfalls and some dense forests on up to Hudson Bay which supports a kind of wet plain. It usually freezes over and so this is a major crossing ground for Arctic animals like polar bears. The middle of the country has an outstanding number of lakes, and the north is especially stocked with some of the biggest forests and highest amount of lakes on planet Earth.
Going back down, you get a general plains and prairies region that goes on till you hit some mountains. These are essentially the Canadian extension of the Rockies, and they go up all the way to the Yukon and even into Alaska. You have a fertile yet somewhat dry valley between those and the coastal mountains and rainy forests which also extend into Alaska. Above all that stuff is basically a large stretch of lakes, cold plains, forests, and taiga (basically a tundra with some scattered trees). Tundra covers most of that very northern part of the country where it steadily transitions into polar landscapes. This is especially true of the massive islands of Nunavut which reach all the way up to the North Pole (and Santa! Oh wait, he’s Scandinavian)
That’s all, you curious geography lovers! I hope you enjoyed mapping out this huge and special country called Canada. As promised, here is the Geography Now video. Please comment if you like Canada. If you are from there (howdy neighbor) comment if you want to teach us more about your fabulous home! Thanks, and we’ll be talking soon.
If you liked this, you might also like to read about the U.S. geography with Aren’t all the U.S. states and cities basically the same? – Regional diversity in the USA. Tell me what you think, and enjoy 😉
Other fun facts about Canada: https://www.canadianaffair.com/blog/how-big-is-canada/
Thanks for coming! Practice your English skills by reading and listening to the song lyrics. You can find more songs here on the website, too.
I wanted love, I needed love
Most of all, most of all
Someone said true love was dead
And I’m bound to fall, bound to fall for you
Oh, what can I do? Yeah
Take my badge but my heart remains
Lovin’ you, baby child
Tighten up on your reins
You are runnin’ wild, runnin’ wild, it’s true
Sick for days in so many ways
I’m achin’ now, I’m achin’ now
It’s times like these I need relief
Please show me how, oh show me how to get right
Yeah, it’s out of sight
When I was young and movin’ fast
Nothin’ slowed me down, oh, slowed me down
Now I let the others pass, I’ve come around
Oh come around, ’cause I’ve found
Livin’ just to keep goin’
Goin’ just to be sane
All the while not knowin’
It’s such a shame
I don’t need to get steady
I know just how I feel
I’m tellin’ you to be ready
- To be “bound to” do something means that it is meant to happen or destined to happen. In other words, it is guaranteed. “If you jump off of bridges, you are bound to get hurt.” In this lyric, “falling” refers to falling in love. Sometimes people don’t say the “in love” part but it means the same thing.
- “Badge” here can mean respect or honor since people who wear badges are generally respected and honored people. She took his honor but he still loves her (my heart remains).
- Calling her “baby child” is a way to sound like he is in control or has power in the relationship. It also sounds like he feels pity for her because some people say this when they feel sorry for another person. Still, it’s a loving term.
- To “tighten up” is to hold onto something tighter or more firmly. “Reins” are the equipment used to steer a horse or other large animal. That’s where we get the word “reindeer”. “Tightening up the reins” can be thought of as getting a strong grip on your life, controlling yourself more, behaving more appropriately.
- This shows how “sick” can be a state of feeling terribly both physically and emotionally.
- Of course, to “ache” is pretty much the same as to hurt. That’s why we say headache, back ache, etc.
- *It is in times like these…
- To “get right” is to feel better or live life better. When someone wants to have a more fulfilling and successful life, they want to get right.
- “Out of sight” is more of an old-fashioned slang. It was more popular in the ’70s but obviously, people love the ’70s and so it’s still popular among some groups of people. It means that something is amazing, it’s so good that you can’t see it anymore, out of sight.
- To “come around” usually means to come over, like to someone’s house. “What time are you coming over?” In this song, though, he uses a figurative meaning. “Come around” also means to come to your senses, or to realize that you were doing something wrong. You think more clearly now. “Finally, you stopped listening to that terrible rock band. I knew you would come around.”
- “All the while” means the whole time. It’s especially used in situations when someone doesn’t know about something, but they usually find out later. “The kids were crying to buy ice cream after school when, all the while, there was already ice cream at home.”
- “Such a” before a descriptive noun just adds emphasis, meaning it is a lot or in a big way. “He’s such a good guy (a really good guy).”
- “Steady” normally means to be stable or in control, both physically and emotionally. To “get steady” then means to become stable or to gain control of himself/his emotions.
The song lyrics are quite short but there’s a lot of story in them. We have an old love seemingly from childhood, and a guy who insists on love when everyone else doubts him. It seems like for good reason since the love interest has disrespected him and hurt him. Still, like so many of us, he insists on keeping the relationship going, keeping hope alive, and denying he needs any help at all. I like the idea of these lyrics because he hasn’t yet resolved his relationship issues and he’s very much still trying to figure out what he’s doing, all while being a little bit in denial. Either way he seems to have a strong mindset about it and is warning us to “be ready” for when he is back on top of things. This story is not over yet!
Thanks for reading. Here are some things to think about and some questions to answer in the comments if you want to practice your English writing skills. I will give feedback on any comments or answers guys!
- Do you know someone who should “tighten up” their reins and behave a little better?
- Why do you think someone might tell you “love is dead?” Do you agree with this statement?
- Do you like The Black Keys? What other songs do you like by them?
- Why do you think they’re called “the black keys”, anyway?
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?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Cool? Peace and take care!
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