Natalie Merchant/ Leave Your Sleep: The Man In The Wilderness

Absolutely beautiful: The title of Natalie Merchant‘s new album Leave Your Sleep is taken from a Mother Goose rhyme:

“Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day;
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
and come with your playfellows into the street.”

In the booklet that introduces the two-disk album, she writes,

“This collection of songs represents parts of a long conversation I’ve had with my daughter during the first six years of her life. It documents our word-of-mouth tradition in the poems, stories, and songs that I found to delight and teach her. I pulled these obscure and eccentric poems off their flat, yellowed pages and brought them to life for her. I willed into being this parade of witches and fearless girls, blind men and elephants, giants and sailors and gypsies, floating churches, dancing bears, circus ponies, a Chinese princess and a janitor’s boy, and so many others. I tried to show her that speech could be the most delightful toy in her possession and that her mother tongue is rich with musical rhythms and rhymes. I gave her parables with lessons in human nature and bits of nonsense to challenge the natural order of things and sharpen her wit.”

Thank you to my dear colleague Sarah Gough for bringing Natalie Merchant to my attention, via her performance at TED, which includes an interactive transcript of all songs performed.

The Man in the Wilderness
Mother Goose

The man in the wilderness asked of me,
“How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?”
I answered him, as I thought good,
As many a ship as sails in the wood.

The man in the wilderness asked me why
His hen could swim and his pig could fly.
I answered him as I thought best,
“They were both born in a cuckoo’s nest.”

The man in the wilderness asked me to tell
All the sands in the sea and I counted them well.
He said he with a grin, “And not one more?”
I answered him, “Now you go make sure.”

song of the week 🙂 englisch lernen mit liedern

Grammar Guru: Needs to be done, or needs being done?

You can say “This laptop needs repairs” and, very elegant: “This laptop needs repairing.

But which of these two is correct:

  • “This laptop needs to be repaired.”
  • “This laptop needs being repaired.”

Yes, unfortunately I’ve worked my poor laptop so hard that it’s got several hardware problems now. One key sometimes doesn’t work (the 9), and the right loudspeaker sometimes goes silent on me. That must have to do with the many lunches I have had too close to the keyboard — and my somewhat percussive style of typing. You see, I was a real idiot when I was a teen and refused to learn to type with ten fingers, saying I didn’t want to be stuck in an office job. — So what do I do for a living today? Creative typing! And loud! And bouncy!

Another problem: The DVD-ROM drive doesn’t read discs ever since I dropped my laptop case one black day. I’ve got about 1/2 of my music collection imported onto this baby (and backed up) and have switched to iTunes for new stuff, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to play a DVD, you know?

OK, dear Apple Store, I’m afraid I’m going to have to bite the bullet and ask for an estimate. Is having repairs done going to be cheaper than a new laptop? Fingers crossed!

Guess what, Mr. Desktop, I’m coming back to you for a week. But don’t get your hopes up, baby, this is strictly temporary.

But first, I’m off to give a seminar for a few days. So, just in case, here’s your answer.


It’s spring. Deep breath. Smile.

On Sunday we built up the catamaran, our Dart 18, the Seebock. It’s now sitting down by the beautiful Ammersee, ready to go. Looks good, but could use a new trampoline and some lines. The water was 7.5 degrees centigrade, brrrr, so we decided to go and have potato-leek soup and tea (me) and dark beer (him) instead in the beautiful beergarden under the little medieval church.

It was First Communion Sunday, the girls in white and cream, the boys in suits, moms in purple and grandmoms in lilac… and a big sister being flaky in green and purple stockings. Photo ops against a blue-grey-green lake and sky. A few white sails. Flowerpots with pansies and forget-me-nots. Sparrows. Perfect.

I didn’t have anything to take a picture with. Sorry. I’m afraid you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Grammar Guru: Referring to general knowledge

How do you refer to general knowledge?

“_____________ flights all over Europe are cancelled because of the volcano.”

  • They say
  • Something tells me
  • One says

Related news:

  • Lufthansa is reportedly going to try to sue the German government for damages.
  • John Cleese is alleged to have spent thousands to get from Oslo to Brussels… by taxi!

She & Him: You really got a hold on me

What a pretty interpretation of the Beatles’ classic, by She & Him.

I don’t like you
But I love you
Seems that I’m always
Thinkin’ of you
Oh, ho, ho, you treat me badly
I love you madly

You’ve really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)
You really got a hold on me

(You really got a hold on me)
I don’t want you
But I need you
Don’t wanna kiss you
But I need to
Oh, ho, ho You do me wrong now
My love is strong now

You’ve really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)
You really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)

I love you and all I want you to do
Is just

Hold me
Hold me
Hold me
Hold me

I wanna leave you
Don’t wanna stay here
Don’t wanna spend another day here
Oh ho ho, I wanna split now
I just can’t quit now
You’ve really got a hold on me

(You really got a hold on me)
I love you and all I want you to do
Is just
Hold me (please)
Hold me (squeeze)
Hold me
Hold me

You really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)

song of the week 🙂 englisch lernen mit liedern

Grammar Guru: _______ verbs

Ok, this guy’s knocked out some teeth here:

Danny Granger, American professional basketball player for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, famously knocked out his two front teeth in a victorious game against the Boston Celtics on 1 November 2008. You can say both of these:

  • He knocked out two teeth.
  • He knocked two teeth out.

But you can only say one of these:

  • He knocked out them.
  • He knocked them out.

Compare: “knock out” is a phrasal verb like:
put away (aufräumen), bring up (=mention), try out, give up, call up, rip off (=steal), think over, boss around (herumkomandieren), make up (=invent)
They all use the structure of “knock it out.”
There are lots of lists and exercises here. Try them out!

Contrast regular two part verbs:
fall for, bump into, get over, look at, go up, fall down…
Look at them!

Knock ‘em out

Feed the grammar guru

My favorite quote so far at IATEFL: “Do not teach things that are wrong.” That’s Dave Willis. And as he proves in this talk held before a room full of English teachers, it’s easier said than done. We often enough do teach total malarkey, namely as soon as we teach prescriptive grammar rules that don’t allow for the complexity of the language.

According to Dave Willis (and Peter Bundy), grammar rules don’t really work. The knowledge of the language comes first, the grammar comes second. Grammar consists in knowledge of use, not in knowledge of rules.

So what do teachers need to do? Students are smart. They need to look at the language. They’ll figure it out.

And meanwhile, what does the teacher do? Correct student errors, not so that students will apply the rules correctly, or even get the phrasing right then and there, but to destablize students and remind them that there is a little (just a little) more to be learned.

This is not verbatim, but close:
“Encourage learners to look at language themselves. … Get them to work with text… How many different patterns can you see here? Which verbs operate with which patterns? Can you think of any other verbs which operate with this pattern? All the time, throwing the onus on the learner and making them think things through for themselves … This seems to me to be much more productive … encouraging the learner to actually apply that amazing creative facility that they have to work with language. If you give prescriptive rules, you’re in danger of cutting that off. If you encourage learners to think for themselves, then you are helping them become more positive learners and apply that faculty which is far more sophisticated than anything a teacher could offer them.”

By the way, I do think this is worth a debate! Isn’t all education filled with “white lies” mediating between learners and reality?

Tomorrow’s Grammar Guru quiz will be on a hot issue Dave Willis presented: Phrasal verbs.