Monday, October 23, 2017

ELL vocabulary - island

Because of the islands in the Caribbean Sea getting devastated by hurricanes in the fall of 2017, today's word is island.

An island, according to the OED, is "a piece of land completely surrounded by water."  The largest island in the world is Greenland:


See how the Atlantic Ocean completely surrounds Greenland?  One of the smallest islands in the world is Bishop Rock, off the coast of England:


Islands are isolated from the rest of the land by the sea that surrounds them--or perhaps I should say the water, because there are islands in freshwater lakes as well as in the ocean.  One common trope (or idiom) in English is the idea of being "marooned on a desert island."  This does not mean being left on an island that gets very little fresh water:


Here the word "desert" means deserted, as in "Forsaken, abandoned, left desolate."  The idea of being marooned on a desert island is to indicate that one is isolated from all human civilization, not that one is slowly (or quickly) dying of thirst.  So a common question to someone might be, "If you were marooned on a desert island, what three books would you bring with you?"  

Remember, this is all you will have to read until the end of your days or until you're rescued, whichever comes first:





I know I would bring The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the Norton Anthology of British Literature, and then some third, as yet un-named book.

If you were marooned on a desert island, which is to say marooned on a deserted island, what three books would you bring with you?

The English Avocado


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Our Kids -- On the Rise?

An article in the New York Times Magazine by Benoit Denizet-Lewis dated October 11, 2017 has been among the Times's most-emailed.  The article is about the seeming rise in anxiety disorders among United States adolescents.  The article describes the struggles of a number of teens with anxiety, including those of this young man:

Jake, at UNC-Chapel Hill, suffers from anxiety.
The Higher Education Research Institute has found that incoming college freshmen reporting that they "felt overwhelmed by all I had to do" had risen last year, to 41% of those surveyed, up from 18% in 1985.  See the report here.

The Mayo Clinic has listed several warning signs that young people may be suffering from mental illness.  Those include:

  • mood changes (sadness, withdrawal, or severe mood swings)
  • intense feelings (such as overwhelming fear for no reason)
  • behavior changes (including dangerous or out-of-control behavior, or frequent fighting)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • unexplained weight loss
  • physical symptoms (such as headaches and stomachaches)
  • self-harm
  • substance abuse
Many people with depression and bipolar disorder, including myself, first experienced symptoms of anxiety.  Dr. Susan J. Bradley, a child psychiatrist in Toronto, has written that "anxiety disorders precede mood disorders in most situations."

I first started experiencing severe anxiety in my second year of law school, at the age of 23.  I was doing everything I could to manage my feelings of panic, my muscle tension, sleeplessness, and constant worry.  (I went running so often and for such long periods of time that I was in the best physical shape of my life.)  But things got worse, instead of better, and I contacted a psychiatrist, who prescribed lorazepam, a tranquilizer, and propranolol, a beta-blocker, which reduces symptoms of panic.  The relief came right away, but soon my feelings morphed into depression.  I later learned that this is common.

lorazepam tablets
It used to be commonly accepted that the age of onset of mental disorders was usually in a patient's early twenties, but psychiatrists are revising that opinion.  "Roughly half of all lifetime mental disorders in most studies start by the mid‐teens and three‐fourths by the mid‐20s" write Kessler et al.

Parents and teachers should keep an eye out for the warning signs of mental illness in their children and their students.  Whether the prevalence of anxiety and mental disorders is truly rising or not, it is vital that people who are suffering get treatment.

Do you feel overwhelmed by all you have to do?  Do you have phobias, or obsessions mixed with compulsions?  Do you feel depressed?  Do not accept your suffering.  Seek treatment.  First, you are not alone.  And second, relief is out there.

The English Avocado

Friday, October 6, 2017

ELL vocabulary - stranger

"Stranger" is a noun that means a person you have not yet met--someone you have not been introduced to.  The OED definition is:
An unknown person; a person whom one has not seen before; also in wider sense, a person with whom one is not yet well acquainted. 

A stranger can also mean someone who comes from a foreign country or region, but today I'll concentrate on the first definition--someone whose name you don't know; someone whom you have not yet met.
A handshake.
In the United States one usually shakes hands when formally meeting someone for the first time.  One does this with everyone nowadays--bowing and kissing the hands of women have passed out of fashion.  Shake with your right hand.

The word stranger gives me the opportunity to introduce Richard Renaldi's "Touching Strangers" project.  As his website says, "Since 2007, Richard Renaldi has been working on a series of photographs that involve approaching and asking complete strangers to physically interact while posing together for a portrait."

Here's one of my favorite images in "Touching Strangers":
One of Renaldi's "Touching Strangers" images.
Here's the image on the cover of the Touching Strangers book:


Touching Strangers by Richard Renaldi.
Another one of Renaldi's Touching Strangers images:



I love the idea of asking strangers to interact so intimately and then pose for the camera.  For me, a wonderful energy arises from these images.

How do you deal with strangers?  Do you observe the advice, "Don't talk to strangers"?  If you see a stranger who is begging, do you give money?  Have you ever helped a stranger cross the street, or held open a door for a stranger?  What do you think of the way we treat strangers in the United States?

The English Avocado

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