An anti-war Christmas Song by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Harlem Comminity Choir

December 30, 2009

Artist: John Lennon, Yoko Ono & the Harlem Community Chorus

Song: Happy Xmas (War is over)

See vocabulary explanations below

Also see another version of the video below with the Harlem Community Choir

Here is a modern Christmas classic: Happy Xmas (War is over).  It was written and performed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono with the Harlem Community Choir.   In English it is very common to shorten the word “Christmas” to “Xmas”.

The song is very anti-war but is now also considered a standard Christmas song.  The original intention was to protest the Viet Nam War or change people’s focus to one of peace.  The song is relevant again this year as the world finds itself involved in more wars.

The chorus is a phrase from a advertising campaign that John and Yoko did several years earlier.  They put posters in more than ten international cities that simply read “War is over (if you want it)” in different languages.

The full chorus is:

War is over over
If you want it
War is over


Happy Chirstmas: is a  non-standard phrase.  The real phrase is “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year/s”   Perhap Lennon mixes them just for fun or variation.

Over: often means “finished”

Ex: When is the movie over?

Ans: is just a mistake; they meant to write “and”.

The near and the dear: is a phrase which means people close to you (near) and people you love (dear).  Here, it is a little strange that they lyrics don’t say, “the near and the dear oneS” with an “s”.  Lennon’s choice is quite non-standard, but he is the artist, so…

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Beyonce Parody (Joke): If I Were a Girl. See Vocabulary Below.

July 28, 2009

Hey, we’ve already looked at the original Beyonce song, now let’s look at a parody (joke version).  You can re-enforce what you’ve already learned and listen for the differences.

Artist: Dave Days

Song: If I Were a Boy Girl

Words to the Song: Click here


Yeah: yes

To be missing: to be lost

Pen 15: New English for me.  Slang for “penis”

To give ____ a try: common expression for “to try”

To mess with: to play tricks on; to tease

Behind: bum, backside, butt

To check out: look at.  Very common expression in everyday English.

Ex: Hey check out that building – it’s on fire.

OMG: Oh My God.  This acronym is used frequently in SMS messages and emails.

Ha: Like “ha ha”; laughter

Gotcha: Slang form of “got you”.   It ‘s the same as “caught you!”

Dang: This is an expletive (something you say when you are surprised, angry or upset), but it is the super polite version.  It is used in place of “Dam”, which is considered a “bad word” and inappropriate in many situations.

Kinda: kind of; sort of

Change back: return to a previous state.

Ex: The princess changed the frog back into a prince.

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Beyonce Teaches English Conditionals: If I Were a Boy… (Vocabulary Below)

July 10, 2009

Song: If I Were a Boy

Artist: Beyonce

Words to the song: In video


In the following song, Beyonce uses a lot of conditionals.

Ex: If I were a boy….

Notice that she uses the third conditional.  This form shows what isn’t real in the present.  It looks like past tense but it’s different.  Here the use of the past tense shows unreality.  Actually, the verb “to be” is an exception because you have two options: you can say, “If I was” (past) or “If I were” (subjunctive).  With other verbs in the third conditional only the past is possible.

Roll out of bed – a very common, casual way of saying “get out of bed” or “get up”

To throw on _____ –  another common and causal phrase meaning to put on clothes

To chase – to pursue – often while running.

Ex: Dogs chase cats.

To kick it – street English for relax

Ex: Tonight let’s kick it at home – I don’t feel like going out.

To stick up for – standard English for “defend” a person – often verbally

Ex: When I was young, I often had to stick up for my little brother in our neighborhood.

Swear – to promise very seriously

‘Cause – short for “because”

To take for granted – to not appreciate

Ex: When we are children, we take all of our parents hard work for granted.

To put something first – to make it a priority

Faithful –  devoted and not have other lovers

Ex: Bill Clinton was not faithful to his wife.

Come back –  a phrasal verb for “return”

To for forgive – accept someone’s apology

Duffy Sings Mercy – The Lyrics Explained in Englsih. (Vocabulary below)

June 7, 2009

Song: Mercy

Artist: Duffy

Words to the song click here.

It is impossible to escape this song these days – it’s everywhere.  Here’s the explanation of Duffy’s lyrics for “Mercy” in English.


Gotta” is slang for “have to”

Stay true” is to  tell the truth

To have someone on their knees” is to make them beg or plead, to make them ask with intense desire.  To say “beg” or “plead” is more common in English.

Ex: He begged his daughter to attend university, but she wanted to pursue a career in acting.

You got me” has several meanings.  Here it means you have captured, caught or trapped me.

Spell” is another word with multiple meanings.  It can mean to say the letters of a word.

Ex: How do you spell “dog”?  “Dog” is spelled D – O – G.

Spell” is also magic.  Normally witches cast (throw or put) a spell.  In the classic situation when a witch changes a prince into a frog, she has “cast” a spell.  The frog is  “under” the spell.  When the frog turns back  into a prince the spell has been “broken”.

Mercy” is forgiveness or compassion.  When you are the authority and you control the  destiny of someone with a problem, they might beg you for mercy.

Ex: He begged the judge for mercy – he didn’t want to go to prison.

Release” is to set someone free or liberate them.

On the side” in the context of a relationship means not your primary romantic relationship, but usually a secret extra relationship.

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Walk On The Wild Side!!! Great Images of New York City (Vocabulary Below)

May 30, 2009

Song: Walk on the Wild Side

Artist: Lou Reed

Words to the song: click here


Fla is short for Florida.

To hitchhike is to stand by the side of the road and ask for a ride from a car.  Usually you do this by sticking out (extending) your thumb or holding a sign.  It is a compound word: hitch + hike = hitchhike.  Knowing this will help you with pronunciation.

To pluck is to remove something that is anchored.   For example, you pluck hair because hair is anchored or rooted in your skin.  You also pluck flowers because flowers are anchored or rooted in the dirt.

To shave is to remove hair with a razor.  Men typically shave their faces, women typically shave their legs.

To take a walk is to go for a walk

To take a walk on the wild side just means to go a little crazy – it isn’t a very typical expression in English

Darling is a term of endearment like “honey”, “babe”, “sweety” or“love”.

To lose your head is to lose control.

To give head is perform oral sex – usually on a man.  We have other expressions for performing oral sex on women, for example, “to go down on someone”.

To be “colored” is a very old expression for black people.  It is now considered offensive.  The normal term is “black” in the US they sometimes use “African American”.  BE CAREFUL!  Many people think that “nigger” is an appropriate word to refer to a black person.  This is because similar words in their languages are inoffensive.  Maybe they also hear the work “nigger” or “nigga” in rap or hip hop music.  This is one of the most offensive words in the language and might even cause a fight.  Do not use this word.

Hustle is a word with many meanings – context is very important here.  To be a “hustler” means to be a prostitute.  Logically, to hustle can occasionally mean to sell your body, like in this song, but it very frequently means “to hurry” or “go fast”.  This last meaning is appropriate even in polite English.

Ex: Let’s hustle; we don’t want to miss the train! (to hurry or go fast)

To hit can mean to make contact with someone very forcefully with your hand or fist (a closed hand).  Boxers, for example, hit one another.  But to hit can also mean “to arrive” or “go to”.

Ex: I’ll call you when I hit (arrive in) New York.

Soul food is the traditional food of the African American people.

Go go go in the context it means “go go” dance.

To speed is to go fast.  The preposition “away” gives the sense of “leave” or “opposite direction” when combine with some verbs.  For example, walk away, run away, swim away, look away, drive away…

However, in this song “to speed” likely means to take “speed” a powerful drug (stimulant/amphetamine).  When someone is on the drug speed and then suddenly runs out of energy, we say they have “crashed”.  Valium is a depressant or calming drug.  It is thought to help people through one of these “crashes”.

Bash can be a very big, fun party or a sudden hit.

Ex: You are all invited to my birthday bash (big, fun party).

Ex: This morning I bashed my head on my car door (to hit).

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The Most famous Sound Track In English The “Friends” Song! See Vocabulary Below.

May 24, 2009

So everyone knows this song from the popular TV series, “Friends”, but do you actually know what it says?  Read the vocab, read the lyrics, and learns some friend-ly vocabulary.

Song: I’ll Be There For You

From: The Show “Friends”

By: The Rembrandts

Read the words: Click Here


To be there for someone: to support or help someone

A joke: something one does or says to cause laughter.  Obviously, if your job is a “joke” it is not very serious.

To be “broke” is to have no money.

D.O.A.” is a acronym for Dead On Arrival.  It can refer to someone who arrives at the hospital emergency room dead.  In the song it simply means that your love life is horrible or non-existent.

To be stuck in second gear: Gears are the mechanical parts that allow a cars to function.  Normally cars have 4 or 5 gears plus reverse.  If you are stuck  in (trapped in) second gear, you are not going very fast – not making progress.

To be your day/week/month/year”  Simply means that you are having a good period.  It is used in the positive and negative.

Ex: Today is my day – I found $10 on the ground!

Ex: It hasn’t been her month; she lost her job then her house and now she is sick.

To pour: to put liquid in a glass, for example, is to “pour”.  “Pour me a beer”, “poor me a glass of water”, etc.  “Pour” also means to rain heavily.  The levels of rain from lightest to heaviest are: to mist, to sprinkle, to rain, to pour, and the famous expression “to rain cats and dogs”.

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In English, What Exactly Does “Bitch” Mean?

May 13, 2009

Here is the song “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks.  Read the lyrics here.

We need to talk about the word “bitch”.  The majority of people

seem to think that it means “prostitute”.  This is not correct.  I

don’t know how this misunderstanding has become so common.  I

think that in rap and hip-hop music the singers use the word in

this way, but in normal conversations we don’t do this.

Normally, “bitch” means angry person or person with bad

intentions.  And, I am sorry to say, but it is a feminine word.

Don’t worry, there are other insults which are almost exclusively


Being a “bitch” can be a temporary or permanent condition.  I

guess everyone knows that calling someone a “bitch” is an insult.

Ex: My boss is being such a bitch today.

Now, obviously this doesn’t mean “my boss is being a prostitute” –

it means angry.

Bitch” as a verb is different.  It means to complain and can be

used with men or women.

Ex: Quit your bitching! (Stop your complaining)

Underneath: Underneath and under are almost identical.  Here it

means below the surface.

Relieve: to end tension.

Ex: I thought I was going to do badly on the test, but I was

relieved to get 80%.

All rolled into one: This phrase means to be combined.

Ex: This is my house and my painting studio all rolled into one.

A sinner: someone who breaks God’s rules.  Historically, if

you worked on Sunday (in the Christian faith) that was a sin and,

therefore, you were a sinner.

Ashamed: similar to embarrassed but more negative.  You can be

embarrassed if someone says something nice about you.  To be

ashamed is to feel bad about your previous behavior.

Hell: is the place where the devil lives.  There is lots of fire

and it is very hot.  Sinners (see above) go to hell.

Rest assured: I assure you

Figured out: to understand as in to know something for the first time or solve a problem.  It usually doesn’t mean comprehend.

Ex: I just figured out that we have two holidays next month! (understand for first time)

Ex: Figuring out how to connect my wi-fi was a disaster. (solving the problem)

Ex: I  figure out understand French. (not the same as comprehend)

Seasons: the 4 parts of the year – spring, summer, autumn, and


A tease: a person who promises something but doesn’t give it.  It

usually refers to sex but can have other uses.

A: I have a huge secret, but I can’t tell anyone.

B: Ah, don’t be such a tease!

Undercover: disguised, secret – a “secret police” is an

“undercover police”

Numb: to feel no sensation or feeling.  When you go to the dentist

you get a shot (injection) that makes your mouth numb.

Revived: to be renewed or live again –  to regain your energy

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