Archive for May, 2011

May 28, 2011

Queen bee

If you think that a queen bee is the boss lady of a bee hive, she who is the single fertile female in a hive of honeybees – then you are correct.

The queen bees are at it again, pic: screenrant.com

However, that is not the only way in which this term is used.  A queen bee is also a woman who is in a dominate or favored position over her female peers.  The term is used mainly to refer to young women, girls actually, often high-school kids who have a dominate position in their group of peers, that is their class or school.

Queen bees are the cool ones, the ones who set the trend and get the hot guys.  If a queen bee wears a particular sweater today everybody else will want it tomorrow.  She is frequently emulated and often envied.  Since assuming and keeping such a position is not easy queen bees are often mean and condescending,  surrounded by a clique of “girl-friends”  who would sell their soul to be her.

Queen bees are feared but generally not loved.  Mean queen bees have become quite an issue in the US society and so books are written and movies are made about queen bee characters.

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May 27, 2011

Catch-phrase

even a tired catch-phrase is refreshing when uttered by Daniel craig, pic: http://bit.ly/kvCWC2

Last time you said “I’ll be back” (ideally with an Austrian accent) or “shaken – not stirred” (ideally wearing a tux) – you used a catch-phrase (or catchphrase).

A catch-phrase is a phrase or expression which is widely recognized because it has been used very often.  Most catch-phrases originate in popular culture, often movies or TV shows but also radio, or literature.  A catch-phrase can become the “trademark” of a character and very closely associated with him or her.

When I think about catch-phrases Star Trek comes to mind:

Live long and prosper – the Vulcan greeting

Beam me up, Scotty – Kirk’s frequent request

Please state the nature of your medical emergency – the Doctor in Voyager

Resistance is futile – the Borg slogan

Staying with Sci Fi for a bit longer:

“May the force be with you” and “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” –  Star Wars

Our ex-governor, as the first sentence proves – is good for a few as well “hasta la vista, baby” being one of the more well-known ones.

Comics are great as well:

Eat my shorts – Bart Simpson

d’ooh – Homer Simpson

yabba dabba dooh – Fred Flintstone

Enough of that.

May 26, 2011

Land of no vacation

Proof what I write about vacation in the US, pic: http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/2007-05-no-vacation-nation.pdf

Okay, I admit that this is a bit of an overstatement – but only a bit.  We can let the statistics about vacation speak for themselves: The US is the only advanced (however that might be defined) country that does not obligate employers under federal law to offer any paid vacation to employees.  Even the Japanese – long thought of as the hard workers of the globe slaving away in their jobs giving half of their few vacation days to the company –  fare better: they get a mandated 10 paid days off.

Most American employees in fact get some time off, like 2 whopping weeks.  These come with strings attached.  Mostly it is considered unacceptable for an employee to take more than one week off at a time.  Even for that period of time the employer will generally expect the employee to check email, answer them and be available for phone calls.  With most parts of the world in reach for a week-long vacation completely wired even the “I couldn’t get a cell phone signal” excuse doesn’t fly anymore.

The weirdest thing to me is, that a good number of employees defend this and think it right.  Arguments I have read, heard and pieced together run the gamut from “the company sure won’t survive if I am away for more than a week”, “if I leave for that long they realize they don’t need me and fire me”, “we Americans are hard working and the rest of them are slackers”, “we aren’t like the French”  and similarly logical reasoning.

The funny thing is – or actually rather sad – that people seem to think that their relentless working makes them super competitive, when in fact the US was ranked fourth in the World Economic Forum‘s 2010-2011 rankings of the most competitive nations and the slackers in Sweden, with their five weeks of vacation, came in second.

Go figure.

May 25, 2011

More than meets the eye

Another useful little phrase: “more than meets the eye.” You use this to imply that there is more to a story than is obvious and easy to see, something hidden, secret, complicated or unexpected.

He is a geek but there is more than meets the eyes, pic: g4tv.com

The opposite version “less than meet the eyes” is also used.  Analogue to the positive version this expression means that something is not as interesting or appealing as it appeared on first sight.

The phrase can be used with people or situations as in these examples:

There is more to this issue than meets the eye. We should investigate it thoroughly before making a decision.

“Jack seems like such a quite and boring guy but there is more to him than meets the eye.  Did you know that he runs marathons and even participates in triathlons?”

On the negative side these are some examples:

Unfortunately, with her boyfriend, there is less than meets the eye.

May 23, 2011

Trailer trash

Today’ term isn’t very nice, in fact it is derogatory and should not be used when addressing people – unless you don’t care that they hate you afterwards.  Trailer trash, also called white trash, is a very negative term for poor white people.  The terms derived from trailers or mobile homes where a lot of poor people live.

Example 1, Pic: stoppopculture.com

Living in a trailer is not a strict requirement for being trailer trash, nor is anybody living in a trailer automatically trailer trash, it is more how a person behaves, dresses, talks and acts that make them trailer trash.

Another example, pic: http://lyricsdog.eu

Here are some of the attributes that in combination would make somebody trailer trash: poor personal hygiene, like BO (body odor), bad, stained teeth, greasy hair, foul language, slutty or slovenly clothing, dirty houses and yards with lots of junk strewn around.  Beverages of choice will be cheap canned beer and food of choice will generally be deep fried and purchased at one of the major fast food chains – and that would include breakfast.

Since pictures sometimes truly say more than a thousand words I am attaching several pictures which should get the point across.

May 21, 2011

Second coming

I am on a roll here with religion and this being the day of the predicted rapture or second coming of Jesus and me giving some wrong numbers about people’s belief about this topic in this country yesterday I feel compelled to revisit the topic.

So here we go with a nice little article plus overview statistics courtesy of the Pew Forum.  So according to this 2006 Pew survey a full 79% of Christians in this country believe in the second coming of Jesus.  That is an amazing number if you think about it.

Now to the number I misstated yesterday – “only” 20% of the US Christians believe that this will happen in their lifetime.  A back of the envelop calculation shows: about 80% of the about 310 Million (307 and some odd in 2009 so I rounded up a bit) are Christians and 20% thereof believe that Jesus will return during their life time, that is a whopping 50 million people.

50 Million people living their lives expecting that there might not be a tomorrow – that is a truly scary thought.

May 20, 2011

Rapture Day

Interesting times are just around the corner.  On May, 21 – or so the story goes in the extreme corners of the religious right – rapture day is upon us.

I just couldn't resist this one, pic: allhatnocattle.net

Rapture – for those not imminently familiar with the term – is the second coming of Jesus, when all the Christians, dead or alive, are gathered up and meet God in heaven, or the air, or somewhere.  The relevant biblical passage is 1 Thess. 4:15-17 if you want to read up.

In case you are not American you might wonder if this is some kind of tasteless joke that I am playing here but let me assure you, it is not.  There are people who believe that on May 21 of this year the rapture will occur (just like there are people who believed that many times before about seemingly random days and are still waiting).

In an interesting twist, even some of the most fundamental of right wing Christians, have publicly stated that this is nonsense.  The guy behind all of this, one Harold Camping, is no unknown in the end-of-the-world-is-near business, he already claimed back in 1994 that the rapture is upon us, but that simple facy does not seem to distract his followers.  After all, we are all wrong once in a while, right!

To round this blog out I was looking for some hard data on a number I once read and remember but have no source for, namely that 25% of American’s believe that the second coming of Jesus will be happening this year (that is an give year we just happen to have) and a full 50% believe that it will happen during their life time.  I couldn’t find any reputable stats on that but googling “believe in rapture during life time” I came  across and amazing number of webpages dedicated to the topic – go check them out yourself.

May 19, 2011

Due to popular demand

Due to popular demand we are offering the 2 foot, 2000-calorie burger, pic: foodfacts.info

“Due to popular demand” is a nice little phrase you can use to indicate that a lot of people want something, e.g. a product, without specifying who exactly wants it.  Maybe there are too many people, or you don’t know them, or both.

The phrase is often used when something is being brought back or reintroduced.  Some examples will make this more clear.

“Due to popular demand we extending our special offer for an additional three weeks.”

“Due to popular demand third Lady Gaga concert was scheduled in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

“Due to popular demand we now offer our grande burrito also in extra-super-special grande.  For those of you who really like their burritos.”

This is a nice way of avoiding to be specific and obviously the phrase can also be abused to justify something one wants to do anyway by claiming that some anomymous mass of people has demanded it.

May 18, 2011

Lemons

Lemons are those yellow, tart, healthy things that taste so good with ice cubes some water, sugar and your hard liquor of choice – bit not only.  the term lemon is also used to describe severely flawed products, especially cars.

A real lemon, color and all, pic: lemonlaw.org

Generally the flaws are hidden and so people who buy the product/car think they are making a good purchase just to find out later that they – well, got a lemon.  To protect consumers against lemon cars so called lemon laws exist in all states.  The definition of what constitutes a lemon is different in different states a sort of consensus definition is: A vehicle that continues to have a defect that substantially impairs its use, value, or safety. Generally, if the car has been repaired 4 or more times for the same Defect within the Warranty Period and the Defect has not been fixed, the car qualifies as a Lemon.

The phrase dates back to the 19th century when people started to describe other people were unfriendly, not cheerful or “sour” as lemons.  From there it was but a small step to refer to broken things as lemons.

May 17, 2011

Water

Love my free water, pic: news.ucdavis.edu

So here is something I absolutely love about US restaurants and would terrible miss if we ever moved back to Europe: free tap water.  Every restaurant you go to from the fast food joint to the high end French you always get free water.  Depending on where you are it comes in a styrofoam cup or a crystal glass but it is always free and generally served without asking.

That doesn’t need to keep you from ordering your diet coke or red wine or iced tea – it is just something to quench your thirst without adding outrageous extra cost to your bill.

Little thing, you think.  It is really not.  If you ever traveled with a child (thirsty husband, etc.) through Europe and every time you went to a restaurant you get a shock when you see that a teeny weeny little bottle of mineral water or apple juice costs like 3 Euro and your son drinks the whole thing down in one big gulp and asks for more and you, who always tells him to hydrate well, can’t really now tell him to tough it out – then you know what I mean.

The prices for water and soft drinks in pretty much all of Europe border on extortion.  I remember having lunch in a restaurant in Vienna on a hot summer day.  The food was decent and amazingly affordable and still we ended up paying roughly twice of what I thought we should pay.  One glance at the receipt explained it all: the three “large drinks” (mineral water, medium size by US standards) we had cost almost as much as lunch.  I thought it was a big scam – charge me more for the food, I don’t mind paying a fair price for that but don’t lure me into the restaurant with promises of cheap food and then screw me over by doubling my bill by selling  me overpriced water.

So every time a go to a restaurant here in the US I cherish the free water (with ice, always with ice!)