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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

No Plums in the Pudding

Plum pudding is dessert frequently served at holiday times. Plum pudding has never contained plums (ciruelas); it may, however, contain raisins (pasas de uva).  
Why is Plum Pudding called Plum Pudding when there are no plums in it? One explanation says that in the 17th century, the word plums referred to raisins, which were dried grapes, or to other dried fruits. Prune (ciruela seca) is actually derived from the same word as plum: the Latin word pruna. But the terms were quite confused in the 16th and 17th centuries and people talked about growing prunes, and not plums, in their garden.
Another version suggests that dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but gradually in the sixteenth and seventeenth century they began to be replaced by raisins. The dishes made with them, however, retained the term plum, and to this day the plum pudding reminds us of its former ingredients.

Christmas food: Bûche de Noël


Bûche de Noël is the French name of a traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, Quebec, Lebanon and several other Christian-populated countries. The cake generally looks like a log ready for the fire.
The traditional bûche is rolled to form a cylinder, and filled with chocolate buttercream. Bûches often have a bark-like texture to offer further realism. This is often done by dragging a fork through the icing. These cakes are often decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, tree branches, fresh berries, and mushrooms made of meringue.
In Spanish this dessert is known as Tronco de Navidad. In English, it is called Yule Log. Yule is the pagan holiday from which the Christian tradition of Christmas derives.

Christkind: yesterday & today

* The old tradition

In Germany, the Christkind, or Christmas Angel, leaves presents under the tree on Christmas Eve. The old tradition depicted Christkind as a child with blond hair and angelic wings.
The figure of Christkind was originally introduced in the 16th century by religious reformer Martin Luther; until then, it was always Saint Nicholas who brought gifts on December 6th. But as Protestants can’t have saints, Luther needed a new Christmas tradition for his followers. Luther moved the gift-giving away from December 6th, so he reinvented the tradition for Protestants by moving it to Christmas Eve and making the Christkind – really, the baby Jesus – the person who brought the gifts.
* The traditional image changes

Under the rule of the National Socialists, the image of Christkind was changed and in 1933, a young girl dressed like a tinsel angel opened the city’s Christmas Market for the first time. The change took place due to marketing reasons: as an advertising technique, the Germans found it very difficult to make baby Jesus give away Christmas presents!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Like the Rock of Gibraltar

The Rock of Gibraltar is a narrow mountain area on a peninsula (= piece of land surrounded on three sides by water) in the south of Spain, at the western end of the Meditarranean Sea. The state of Gibraltar is there.
British people sometimes use the phrase "like the Rock of Gibraltar" to talk about something that is so solid and permanent that it will never break or be destroyed.
Example: Our love is like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Myths and Facts about Red Hair

º Myths and facts about the red hair plus a list of real and fictional redheads in history and in art. 

Cool Links in English:

Friday, 12 November 2010

Tea: A British Custom


Tea is a hot brown drink made by pouring boiling water onto (= on top of) leaves of a special kind. It is thought of as a typically British drink:
a cup of tea
Do you take milk and sugar in your tea?
Tea is especially popular in the UK, where people drink it regularly. As soon as friends arrive at a person’s home, they usually put the kettle on (= start boiling water for tea) and ask them if they want a cup of tea, sometimes informally called a cuppa, or a brew.
Tea is usually served with milk and sometimes sugar. If you feel worried or have just experienced something bad or shocking, a British person will typically tell you to sit down while they make you “a nice cup of tea”, because it is believed that tea makes you feel calm, comfortable, and cared for.

English-Spanish Glossary

herbal tea: té de hierbas; infusión; tisana
iced tea: té helado
lemon tea: té de limón
milk tea: té con leche
mint tea: té de menta
rich tea / tea biscuit: galletita para el té
tea-bag: saquito de té 
teacup: taza de té 
tea-party:  merienda
teapot: tetera
tearoom: salón de té; confitería 
tea set: juego de té 
teaspoon: cucharita de té 
teaspoonful: cucharada  
tea-time: hora del té 
tea-towel: repasador

Did you know?

Tea drinking and tea parties became more popular when Queen Anne (1665–1714) chose tea as her regular breakfast drink.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Very British: Cream Tea


Cream tea is a light meal taken in the early afternoon consisting of small cakes (scones), jam, and cream, usually also with a pot of tea. It is considered to be typically English and is often something people have when in holiday.
It is also called "Devonshire tea". The name Devonshire tea comes from the county of Devon in England, where it is a local speciality.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The many meanings of candy

Candy apple: an apple that is covered with caramelized sugar. In Spanish, manzana acaramelada
Candy bar: a bar covered with chocolate and filled with a variety of different sweets:
What's your favourite candy bar?

Candy cane: a stick of hard red and white sugar with a curved end.

Chewy candy: a soft candy, usually with a fruity flavour. In Spanish, caramelo masticable.

Stick candy: a long cylindrical hard candy. They are also called barber pole because they usually have at least two different colours  in a spiral pattern, resembling a barber's pole. In Spanish, palitos masticables o palitos de la selva.

Candy-inspired Cloth


Candy-striped cloth is material having narrow coloured lines on a white background:
a candy-striped blouse

Candy striper: a nickname given to a hospital volunteer. This name comes from the red-and-white striped jumpers that female volunteers traditionally wore in the United States, which looked like stick candy. The name and uniform are used less frequently now.

An island for the rich and famous



Martha’s Vineyard is a small island off the coast of Massachusetts.  The Vineyard is only accessible by air or boat, and because of that, it has traditionally been known as a summer getaway for the rich and famous. U.S. President Bill Clinton spent vacation time on the island during and after his presidency, along with his wife, Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. Former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis maintained a home in Aquinnah, a town located on Marthat's Vineyard.
The original inhabitants of the island, the members of the Native American tribe Wampanoag, still remain on the island today. English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold named the region with its current name in 1602. He possibly chose the name to honour his daughter, Martha, who had died in infancy. For some time it was called Martin’s Vineyard, after Gosnold’s ship’s captain, John Martin, but it became more commonly known as Martha’s Vineyard. Martha Gosnold’s gravesite lies between St. Mary’s Church and the Cathedral, in England.

Did you know?

- The original Stephen Spielberg movie Jaws was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard and a few of the island’s residents appeared as extras in the film.
- Martha's Vineyard was actually the site of one of the earliest documented deaf communities in the U.S., and a unique dialect of sign language emerged, specific to the island, that remains in use today.
- On July 16, 1999, a small plane crashed off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. In this accident John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren Bessette lost their lives.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Halloween, unmarried women & mirrors



Halloween greeting cards from the late 19th century and early 20th century illustrated a widespread Halloween superstition. It was believed that if an unmarried women sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of her future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if a skull appeared,  that woman would die before marriage.

Halloween colours & their meaning


If you walk into any retail store that sells Halloween costumes, or decorations, you will find masses of black and orange items. Most Halloween candies are also in black and orange wrappers. You know that it’s Halloween time, because the distinctive colour combination is only used for this season.
Have you ever wondered about the meaning of Halloween colours?

Orange is the colour of autumn (the season when Halloween is celebrated), which is derived from the colour of the leaves. Pumpkins are also orange. Many people use pumpkins to carve them into scary jack-o-lanterns with lit candles inside. Jack-o-lanterns are used to scare off evil spirits. Orange is also the colour of the bonfires that burn at Halloween.
Halloween was once (and still may be in some areas) a festival of the dead. Death is usually associated with darkness, absence of light and mourning signified by the colour black. Black cats, witches’ hats and cauldrons are also black.
Traditionally, Halloween is always celebrated after sunset. The blackness of the night hides the celebrants’ tricks if they don’t receive any treats.
Neon green and purple are also common colours during Halloween nowadays. The green usually represents some sort of witch's brew or monster slime and purple seems to be replacing black because it's brighter and represents the fun of the holiday, instead of the dark side of it.  

Did you know?

Anoka, in Minnesota, was the first city to officially observe Halloween as a holiday in the United States in 1921. It is considered that "Halloween Capital of the World".

Cool Link:

A site containing popular halloween pages such as Halloween Customs, History & Origin, Pranks & Tricks, Recipes, Superstitions, Trivia & Fun Facts and Urban Legends.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The empress behind the cake

Sachertorte is a chocolate cake, invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Metternich in Vienna, Austria. It is one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. The Original Sachertorte is only made in Vienna and Salzburg, and is shipped from both locations.
The real history of the Sacher Torte begins in 1832 when Prince Metternich told his personal chef to create a special dessert for several important guests. As the head chef was ill, the task fell to the sixteen-year-old Franz Sacher, who was an apprentice in Metternich's kitchen. The cake consists of two layers of chocolate sponge cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. It is traditionally served with whipped cream without any sugar in it.

Prince Metternich was one of the most important diplomats of his era. Through the mediation of Metternich, Napoleon married Maria Louise, daughter of the Emperor Frances of Austria. Marie Louise was also a granddaughter of Leopold II, who was Marie Antoinette's brother. Napoleon had obtained a divorce from his first wife  Josephine because she was too old to have children.
Marie Louise became Empress of the French after she married Napoleon.  In 1821, four months after Napoleon's death, Marie Louise married her lover, Count Adam Albert von Neipperg.

The number 33 and the Chilean miners

For Roman Catholic Chileans, the number 33 has a mystic importance since they believe that Jesus Christ was 33 when he died. The trapped miners in Chile are highly superstitious. It seems that the number 33 has also acquired a special significance for them:
1. There were 33 miners.
2. The rescue shaft had a diametre of 66 centimetres, which is 33 times two.
3. The first note that the miners sent to show they were still alive -- "estamos bien en el refugio los 33" (all 33 of us are in the shelter) -- was 33 characters in length if the spaces between characters are counted.
4. The message was sent on August 22, 2010 (22 + 8 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 0 = 33).
5. The day of the message was a Sunday, which ended the thirty-third week of the year.
6. It took 33 days for the drill to complete the rescue.
7. Director Rodrigo Ortuzar will make a film about the underground tale of despair and rebirth and he has already titled it "The 33." The movie is going to last one hour and 33 minutes.
8. The date of the rescue 13/10/10, adds up to the number 33.
9. Even President Sebastian Pinera mentioned the "magic number" in his triumphant speech after the first miner emerged from the shaft.
10. After the miners were rescued, they were taken to hospital. The journey takes exactly 33 minutes.
Those who believe in numbers will also be surprised to discover another fact: the date of the rescue (13/10/10) coincides with the aircraft crash into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. The 1993 movie Alive (¡Viven!) is based on that true story.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The number behind the WTC attacks

The World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City had several buildings. The World Trade Center was most famous for its Twin Towers. These two skyscrapers (rascacielos), the North Tower and the South Tower, were once the tallest buildings in the world. They had 110 floors each. The Twin Towers and the WTC building 7 were destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Coincidentally, the number eleven appears in a number of facts related to the World Trade Center attacks.
The date of the attack: 9/11: 9 + 1 + 1 = 11.
911 is the Number for Help in many countries.
Mohammed's birth is celebrated on the 11th day of the 9th month. Mohammed, the prophet of the Muslim faith, died in 632 A.D. - 6+3+2=11.
119 is the area code to Iraq/Iran. 1 + 1 + 9 = 11. The suspected base of the terrorists is Afghanistan - 11 Letters. Osama bin Laden's birthplace is Saudi Arabia - 11 letters.
The Twin Towers, standing side by side, look like the number 11.
The number of Tower windows = 21,800 2+1+8+0+0 = 11.
The first plane to hit the towers was Flight 11. Flight 11 - 92 on board - 9 + 2 = 11. Flight 11 had 11 crew members. The State of New York was the 11th State added to the Union.
New York City has 11 Letters.
The Pentagon has 11 Letters.
George W. Bush - 11 Letters.
Trade Center is 11 letters, and Skyscrapers is 11 letters.
World Trade Center Towers is 22 letters - 2 x 11 = 22.
The first WTC tower hit (North Tower) collapses at 10:28 A.M. -1+2+8=11.
The official death toll from the World Trade Center attacks was 2,801 - (2+8+0+1 = 11).

The Tarot card behind the Twin Towers

The Tarot card number 16 is the Blasted Tower. The card shows a tower which is hit by lightning bolt (rayo) and flames of fire. Two people are falling head-first (de cabeza) to the hard rocks below and one can only fear what will happen to these poor people when they "hit rock-bottom" (= reach the ground). The full name of this card is "The Lightning-Struck Tower", and that adds an electrifying element of sudden "shock" to the scene. The people inside the tower couldn't see this coming, and then suddenly their whole world was turned upside-down.
The tower card symbolises destruction. It may be a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, where God destroys a tower built by mankind to reach Heaven. It might then symbolise God's punishment for pride.
Some people, like Ian R. Crane, believe in the conspiracy theory and relate the tower tarot card to the attacks on the Twin Towers on the 11th of September, 2001. The fact that the flames go sideways, instead of upward, the falling/jumping people, the rubble (escombros) in front of the tower and the meaning of the card (negative change), make people like him believe, as he said in a presentation, that "the world drew (extrajo) the tower tarot card on 9/11".

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The rock singer behind Jane Eyre


Few people know that the heroine of the film Jane Eyre is not only an actress but also a singer and a song-writer. Charlotte Lucy Gainsbourg (born 21 July 1971) was born in London, and was raised in Paris. She is the daughter of British actress and singer Jane Birkin and French singer-songwriter, actor and director Serge Gainsbourg. Her maternal grandmother was actress Judy Campbell and her uncle is the screenwriter Andrew Birkin, who directed her in The Cement Garden.
Gainsbourg is not married but she has a longtime partner: the French-Israeli actor/director Yvan Attal, with whom she has two children, Ben and Alice.
In 1996 Charlotte played the main role in the adapted version of the book Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë. In 2000, Gainsbourg appeared on the Madonna album called Music on the track "What It Feels Like For A Girl". There is a long introduction made by Gainsbourg, taken from the film The Cement Garden, which inspired the title of the song.

On 5 September 2007, Gainsbourg was taken to a Paris hospital where she underwent (= went through) surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage. Before this operation, she had been having headaches since a minor water skiing accident in the United States.
In late 2009, Gainsbourg released a studio album produced by Beck. Her song, Trick Pony, appeared at the beginning of Grey's Anatomy episode "Perfect Little Accident".

* Watch the video:

Trick Pony - Charlotte Gainsbourg

Oh, yes!: Vampires Suck!


Vampires Suck is a 2010 parody film based on the Twilight Series.
Though Vampires Suck was seen by a large audience, it gained strong negative reviews in the United Sates.
The plot (= argumento) of the film is the following: Becca Crane moves to Sporks to live with her  father, Sheriff Frank, after her mother starts an affair with Tiger Woods. Meanwhile people have been killed and the number one suspects are the Kardashians. Becca quickly makes new friends at her new high school, but she is intrigued by the mysterious Edward Sullen, who perplexes her during their time in the biology class.  After reaching the wrong conclusion that Edward is a Jonas Brother, Edward corrects her saying he's a vampire, though he only consumes animal blood.
The pair fall in love. When Edward introduces Becca to his vampire family on her birthday, Becca accidentally gets hurt. On seeing her blood, Edward's family attempts to kill her. Realizing the danger that he and his family respresent for Becca, Edward decides to save Becca from  these nomadic vampires who have been killing humans.

There are interesting points related to the movie which are connected with language. To begin with, the title Vampires Suck is a pun (= juego de palabras). To suck in English means "to draw liquid (in the case of vampires, blood) into the mouth" and also "to be disgusting". The names of the protagonists are also punny. Edward Sullen is a pun on Edward Cullen and Becca Crane is a pun on Bella Swan. Sullen is an adjective which means "angry and silent, especially because you feel life has been unfair to you" (= hosco, huraño) and crane is a water bird with very long legs, similar to the swan (= cisne).

* Watch the movie:

Vampires Suck Movie Trailer (Subtitulado)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Why is Bella called Swan?

Swan is the surname given to the character of Bella in the Twilight Series. Why is Bella's surname Swan? According to vampiric terminology, there are two types of swans: black swans and white swans.
* Black Swan:
A non-Vampire lover or friend, favourably inclined towards Vampires. They may or may not frequent vampire nightclubs and usually understand the vampire lifestyle.
* White Swan:
Someone who cannot tolerate the Vampire lifestyle. In general, White Swans are still a part of the Gothic scene, which often brings them into contact with the vampire community despite their disgust of vampirism.  

Did you know?

The kind of font (type of letter) Bella uses in her handwriting is called Pablo. Edward Cullen, instead, uses a font called Carmilla.
Carmilla is also the title of a Gothic novel written by Sheridan Le Fanu.  

Special Vocabulary: Seafood

Seafood is food made from fish or other sea animals (such as shrimp and lobsters). The harvesting (= collecting) of seafood is called fishing. Seafood is rich in protein, and is usually thought as healthy food.
Seafood includes fish, shellfish (moluscos) and roe (= eggs of fish eaten as food). Shellfish (marisco) is a culimary term which includes crustaceans and mollusks.

* Types of seafood 

Bass: róbalo
Blowfish: pez globo
Catfish: bagre
Caviar: caviar
Clam: almeja
Crab: cangrejo
Cockle: berberecho
Cod: bacalao
Drum (also croaker, hardhead): corvina
Eel: anguila
Hake: merluza
Herring: arenque
Lobster: langosta
Mackerel: caballa
Mussel: mejillón
Octopus: pulpo
Oyster: ostra
Pollock: abadejo
Prawn: camarón
Sardine: sardina
Salmon: salmón
Shark: tiburón
Shrimp: langostino
Silverside: cornalito
Snail: caracol
Sole: lenguado
Squid: calamar
Swordfish: pez espada
Trout: trucha
Tuna: atún

Anchovy: anchoa

Monday, 23 August 2010

No emperor behind the salad


A Caesar salad has romaine lettuce (lechuga romana) and croutons (=small pieces of bread fried in butter an oil) dressed (aderezada) with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce (salsa inglesa), and black pepper. Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies (anchoas) and garlic (ajo).
Many people believe the Caesar Salad owes (debe) its name to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. The name Caesar, however, comes from the original creator of the salad: Caesar Cardini. Cardini was an Italian-born Mexican who lived in San Diego and had a restaurant in Tijuana.
According to Caesar's daughter Rosa, on July 4th 1924 the salad was created on a busy weekend at Caesar's Restaurant. It is said that Caesar was short of (se quedó sin) supplies (provisiones) and didn't want to disappoint the customers so he created this salad with what was on hand (a mano). The salad soon became a hit and people came to the restaurant just to get the salad. In particular, the Caesar salad became a favourite of Hollywood actors.  Many restaurants serve a Caesar salad with grilled (a la parrilla) chicken, steak, salmon or shrimp (camarones).

An insect, a virgin & a saint



A ladybird is a small, rounded, usually brightly coloured beetle (escarabajo), often reddish with black spots (manchas).
The name "ladybird" originated in the Middle Ages when the insects were called the "beetle of Our Lady" . They were named after The Virgin Mary because in early religious paintings she was often shown wearing a red cloak (capa). The German name Marienkäfer means "Marybeetle". In the United States the name was Americanized to "ladybug".
In Argentina a ladybird is associated to a male saint (Saint Anthony) and not to the Virgin Mary: it is called "Vaquita de San Antonio" (San Antonio's little cow) and it is considered to bring good luck. People also believe ladybirds bring good weather.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

English Language: Fruits that discriminate?


Due to the colour of their skin (cáscara), some fruits are used as ethnic slurs (insultos étnicos) in English.
An apple is a red-skinned person who behaves in a servile way (como un esclavo) towards white people or who behaves like a white person. The term apple then refers to an American Indian (Native American) who is "red on the outside but white on the inside."
A banana means somebody who is "yellow on the outside and white on the inside."
A coconut is a person who has black skin who acts like a white person.
There is a cookie called Oreo which is also used to refer to somebody who has black skin trying to be "white".

Angels, devils and pigs in the kitchen


Angels on horseback

Angels on horseback (ángeles a caballo) is a hot appetizer (aperitivo) made of oysters (ostras) wrapped with (envueltas en) bacon.


Devils on horseback

They are a 'darker' (and cheaper) version of angels on horseback. Most recipes contain a pitted prune (ciruela descarozada) stuffed with (rellena con) mango chutney and wrapped in bacon. Instead of prunes, sometimes dates (dátiles) are used.




Pigs in a blanket

In the United Kingdom, "pigs in blankets" refers to small sausages (usually chipolatas) wrapped in bacon. Usually served at Christmas lunch or with roast dinners, pigs in blankets are now considered a traditional part of the Christmas meal.
Pigs in blankets can also refer to chipolata sausages wrapped in pastry (masa).
A variation of the recipe in the UK is to use a layer (capa) of bread around the bacon.