October Challenge – Day 2

Well, it’s October 2nd and is therefore the second day of Niki’s October Post-A-Day Challenge. So it would seem that I owe you a post, would it not?

Yesterday’s post wasn’t terribly good, I don’t think. It’s not that it was poorly written – it’s that, as a blog post, it was poorly written (or rather, formatted). I’ll try to do better today, despite having used up most of my subject material yesterday.

While discussing Halloween traditions (which, outside of ancient religious context, has only started in Europe for the last decade or so), I’ve been invited to carve a custom pumpkin for the office. Last Halloween, I didn’t carve any pumpkins, but the year before I carved a hand-drawn “Oogie Boogie” jack-o-lantern (which turned out very well). I’m considering what design I would create for an English school, and wondering how to get the pumpkin to last more than a couple of days.

I thought I would also share with you some of the interesting questions posed by our ESL students:

A scarf is that thing worn around your neck, right? So why is the movie called ScarfAce?
Because one of the major subtexts of the film is that of Tony Montana harboring a secret desire to become a magnate of the European fashion scene. Sadly, the conflicts brought to life by his sideline project, “Criminal/Drug Empire”, prematurely extinguished the flame of his winter-wear designing genius, before he even had a chance to design his first mittens.

If we use the +ing form of a verb for a continuous action, like he has been washing the dishes for three hours, why can we not say that Susan has been loving John for 12 years? Doesn’t she love him anymore?
This was a pretty smart question, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer it. It turns out the answer is that love is what is called a stative, or static, verb. Any verb which indicates an action you wouldn’t have control over (see, love, hate, know, etc…) cannot be used as a verb in the +ing form. A good test is whether I can command you to do it. I can command you to run – it is therefore not stative, and can be used as a verb in +ing form (he is running a mile). I cannot command you to know – therefore it is stative (he is knowing the answer does not work). Stative verbs CAN exist in +ing forms as noun phrases (e.g. Seeing is believing [seeing and believing are both acting as nouns, not verbs]), or also as part of an adjective (John is all-knowing [‘all-knowing’ describes John]).

I translated this phrase, directly and literally, from French into English. Why isn’t it good English?
Because French is not English. We shouldn’t have to explain this more, but strangely, we do.

Why are we writing Haikus?
Because I’m the teacher, and I said so damnit. Also, it’s in the lesson plan I was given.

The haikus were actually for a couple of high-level students. While the lesson plan can be viewed as a suggestion (and certain exercises tossed out), I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to enjoy some poetry! Surprisingly, my students wrote some damned good Haikus, although one of them still has problems counting syllables.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Tune into tomorrow, and check out my partner-in-crime here to see what she has posted for her second challenge post.


One thought on “October Challenge – Day 2

  1. I wondered what you did for a living as an ex-pat. (my not-so-secret fantasy: find a way to live in France) Since you teach ESL, you might enjoy the blog: billdaviswords . He’s a linguist from California, living in the Philippines who writes about language, translation and culture.

    Great post!

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