Login

Register

Login

Register

Episode 12
Giving up alcohol for ‘Dry January’; some Americans learn to pump their own gas
Plus English words ‘sober’ and ‘quirky’

A UK charity encourages people to give up alcohol for the month of January. Those who do experience better sleep, weight loss, and better health—but does it make a big difference? Oregon is one of only two states that have full-service gas stations, but that’s about to change. Plus we review English words “sober” and “quirky.”

Listen


Transcript

  • Thousands of people in the UK are giving up alcohol for the month of January. Welcome to Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English language learners. Today is January 11, 2018. I’m Jeff and on this week’s episode, we’ll talk about two current events and two English words you should know. First up this week is Dry January, a movement based in the UK that encourages people to go without alcohol for the first month of the year. We’ll also talk about a new law in the US state of Oregon allowing some drivers to pump their own gas. Two words you should know this week are sober and quirky. We’ll practice those in the second half of the program.

    Before we get started, I have some really exciting news. Many of you know that the full transcript of each show is available on the web site, PlainEnglish.com. Those of you who speak Spanish may also know that the transcripts are interactive; they show instant translations of difficult words and phrases from Spanish to English. The good news I have today is that we now have those translations available in both Chinese and French. So if you speak Chinese or French, and I know a lot of listeners are from China and France, then you have a new way of experiencing the program.

    If you want to take advantage, head to the web site for this episode, which is PlainEnglish.com/12. Then find the tab for your language—Spanish, Chinese or French. And as you listen to the program, follow along with the transcript. When you get to a highlighted word, just hover your mouse over the word (or tap on it if you’re reading on your phone) and you’ll see the translation into your language. That’s for anyone who speaks Spanish, Chinese or French as a first language—and I hope to have more languages available soon.

    Now that you’ve indulged me that one announcement, let’s get started with the first topic this week.


    Giving up alcohol for ‘Dry January’

    Last week we talked about how different people celebrate the New Year around the world. But this week let’s talk about what some people are doing in January—specifically, those who are observing Dry January by not having any alcoholic drinks for the first month of each year.

    Dry January is a campaign that started in England in 2013, but has been practiced informally around the world for years. Its official sponsor in the UK is Alcohol Concern, a nonprofit that seeks to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol. They trademarked the name and the UK government helps promote the idea.

    What’s the point of being sober for a month? Participants say there are several benefits. A study by the University of Essex in 2015 found that 82% of people who completed a month of sobriety felt a sense of achievement, 79% saved money, 62% got better sleep, 62% felt they had more energy (probably because they got more sleep), and 49% lost weight. Think of all the calories that are in most alcoholic beverages—beer especially. Scientists have found other health benefits, too, including lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar.

    Those are just the immediate benefits. There are some other longer-term benefits as well. The UK government found that 8% of people who completed a full month without alcohol were actually still alcohol-free six months later. Others say that after their dry month, they drink less often and when they do drink, they tend to have less each time. Some people find themselves under pressure to have a drink, either in social situations or as part of their career. Taking a full month off can give them practice declining a drink.

    Some psychologists say that this is also a good opportunity to see if you might have a problem with alcohol. If it’s too difficult to give up drinking for a short period of time, you might have a problem. But most people who willingly participate in Dry January are moderate drinkers who just want to take a break after the holidays. For many people, the winter holidays include a lot of family gatherings, cocktail parties, and big meals; people feel that by January, they’re ready to take a break from alcohol and get the New Year off to a good start.

    One study found that about 65% of people who start Dry January complete it successfully, but even those who don’t go a full 31 days still experience some of the benefits.

    Some restaurants and bars in the UK are getting into the spirit, offering virgin cocktails based on juice or craft soda. Speaking of bars and restaurants, having a Dry January must be especially hard for all the people who work in the hospitality industry, who are around alcohol every day.

    Not everyone thinks a Dry January is a great idea. Some advocates are concerned that people will over-indulge in February, wiping out many of January’s benefits. Others say there’s really no benefit for moderate drinkers since a month is too short a time period to make much difference. You have to be careful in February, too, because if you haven’t had a drink in a month, your tolerance for alcohol may be affected by the time you pick up your next drink. Still, there’s no real strong argument against it—and as long as you don’t overdo things in February, there’s probably no harm in laying off the sauce for a month.

    I picked this story this week because I am among the people who abstain from alcohol every January. I’ve done it for a long time—not always in January, but always for a full month. I find that it’s nice to hit the pause button, take some time to focus on my health and sleep. I’ve settled on January because during the winter holiday season I find myself at parties, happy hours, friends’ houses, and with family—usually with wine or beer. I don’t drink too much, but during January I do find my sleep and diet improve.

    Personally, I find that it’s not that difficult to do. I tend to move any bottles of wine I might have in the house so they’re out of sight. When I’m in a situation where I’d usually have a drink, I try to plan an alternative ahead of time. If I’m at home watching a game or a movie on TV, I make a cup of tea, just to have something to take my mind off the fact that I can’t have a beer or glass of wine. Green tea is good at night since it doesn’t have much caffeine, and it helps warm me up in the frigid Chicago winters.


    Controversy at the pump in Oregon

    There is a minor controversy in the American state of Oregon, which is just now allowing motorists to pump their own gas in certain rural locations. Oregon is one of two states in the US that have traditionally required gas stations to have attendants fill up customers’ tanks; the other state is New Jersey.

    These two states have for years been the last two holdouts from a previous era. In the other 48 states, and in most of the Western world, drivers who pull up to the gas station have to get out of their cars and fill their own tanks with gasoline, or petrol, as they say in some English-speaking countries. But in New Jersey and Oregon, by law, there has always been an attendant there to pump gas for motorists.

    But that changed, just a little bit, this January 1, when a new law in Oregon came into effect saying that residents of rural counties can fuel up their own tanks. This might not sound like a big deal, but it is in Oregon, where this quirky law is part of state’s identity. There are a lot of opinions on both sides of the issue. Many Oregonians take pride in their full-service gas stations. They don’t want to smell like gasoline. They say it’s unsafe to have to get out of your car, when there might be all kinds of other people lurking around. They are concerned about the elderly or disabled, who can’t pump their own gas.

    Some of the reaction is over-blown. Oregon’s new law only applies in rural counties, parts of the state that have a very small population. Oregon is a very rural state, with a lot of wide open areas, so it’s not always practical for gas stations to have attendants for so few customers. And the law just allows rural gas stations the option to have self-serve pumps; it doesn’t eliminate full service at all. Many gas station owners will continue to offer full service, regardless of the new law.

    As the outrage from Oregonians spread on social media, the backlash from the whole rest of the country was pretty swift. One writer wrote from Wisconsin said she had just pumped gas in -17 degree weather; she didn’t have sympathy for people saying they didn’t want to get out of their cars in Oregon’s relatively moderate climate.

    So that leaves New Jersey as the last US state that requires all gas stations to employ attendants to fill up their customers’ tanks—and it’s likely to stay that way. One recent poll said 75% of the state’s residents like their full-service law. A couple of recent attempts at changing the law went nowhere.

    As strange as it seems today, full service at a gas station used to be the norm in the United States. Gas in the 1970s was actually dirtier and more dangerous, so there might have been some health or safety risks in consumers pumping their own gas. Credit cards were not as widely used at that time, so it made sense to have an attendant outside to collect payment.

    Today, though, self-serve is the norm in most Western countries, though I know from traveling that Mexico and Brazil both require full-service gas stations and I think it’s uncommon in India. If you’re in a country with only full-service gas, let me know in the comments on the show or on Twitter, at PlainEnglishPod—I’d be curious to know where full service is still common.


    Before we start the second half of the program, I wanted to encourage you to connect with the show on Twitter or Facebook. The show’s user name on both is PlainEnglishPod. I wanted to say hi to Nicola from Italy and Ekaterina from Russia for connecting on Twitter. PlainEnglishPod on Twitter or Facebook; you can also send me an email at jeff@plainenglish.com.

    In the second half of each program, we review two words or phrases that you should know in English. This week, those words are sober and quirky.

    Sober

    Let’s start with sober. There are two meanings of sober I want to tell you about. The first meaning, and the most common, is the way I used it during the story about Dry January. People will be sober for the month of January; it means they won’t drink alcohol during that time. Sober usually describes a person who has given up an addiction for good. Someone who was once addicted to alcohol might tell you, I’ve been sober for five years. It means he gave up his drinking five years ago. You can also use it for smoking or any other addiction, though I think it’s most common to describe an alcohol addiction. In the story about Dry January, I said that thousands of people will have a sober month. This is a more informal way of using sober: just means that for a month, they—actually I should say “we” since I’m doing it too—we won’t drink. We will be sober for one month. A related word is sobriety; that’s the noun. We are having a month of sobriety. We’ll see if keeping sober is easy for us, or if the sobriety is too hard to maintain.

    Depending on the context, sober can also mean the opposite of drunk, regardless of whether a person is or ever was addicted. A friend might ask if you had been drinking the night you fell down a flight of stairs. And you might answer, “Nope, I was completely sober. I just slipped and fell.” Some people say that after drinking, they have some coffee or take a cold shower to sober up, meaning to reduce the effects of alcohol. That doesn’t work, by the way—it doesn’t actually reduce the effects of alcohol, but some people say that anyway.

    Quirky

    The second word to discuss this week is “quirky.” This is kind of a fun word meaning that someone or something is unusual or slightly strange. If something or someone is quirky, it’s not a bad thing; it means a person or a thing is weird, but in a good way. In the story about Oregon, I said the state is proud of its quirky law that requires all its gas stations to be full-service. This is a quirky law because it’s unusual; it’s unexpected, kind of in a good way. It’s a quirky law because it’s so unique and a little strange, but in a good way.

    Here are a couple of other ways to use quirky. You might say a person has a quirky sense of humor, if that person’s jokes are funny, but a little unusual. You could say a store is quirky if it has a lot of things you don’t usually see when you’re out shopping, but that store is interesting nonetheless. There’s a store like that near me that has a lot of vintage things that used to be popular a long time ago, but that you never see anymore. It’s fun to walk through and see the quirky merchandise; it’s funny and definitely unusual.


    That brings us to the end of today’s program. Thanks again for listening and being part of this growing audience. I’d really love to know what you think of Plain English so far, so please send me a note with your thoughts. I can be reached at jeff@plainenglish.com or on Facebook and Twitter under the username PlainEnglishPod. If anyone else out there is having a Dry January, let me know; I could use the encouragement of others in the same position. We’ll be back with a new episode next week. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Thousands of people in the UK are giving up alcohol for the month of January. Welcome to Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English language learners. Today is January 11, 2018. I’m Jeff and on this week’s episode, we’ll talk about two current events and two English words you should know. First up this week is Dry January, a movement based in the UK that encourages people to go without alcohol for the first month of the year. We’ll also talk about a new law in the US state of Oregon allowing some drivers to pump their own gas. Two words you should know this week are sober and quirky. We’ll practice those in the second half of the program.

    Before we get started , I have some really exciting news. Many of you know that the full transcript of each show is available on the web site, PlainEnglish.com. Those of you who speak Spanish may also know that the transcripts are interactive; they show instant translations of difficult words and phrases from Spanish to English. The good news I have today is that we now have those translations available in both Chinese and French. So if you speak Chinese or French, and I know a lot of listeners are from China and France, then you have a new way of experiencing the program.

    If you want to take advantage, head to the web site for this episode, which is PlainEnglish.com/12. Then find the tab for your language—Spanish, Chinese or French. And as you listen to the program, follow along with the transcript. When you get to a highlighted word, just hover your mouse over the word (or tap on it if you’re reading on your phone) and you’ll see the translation into your language. That’s for anyone who speaks Spanish, Chinese or French as a first language —and I hope to have more languages available soon.

    Now that you’ve indulged me that one announcement, let’s get started with the first topic this week.


    Giving up alcohol for ‘Dry January’

    Last week we talked about how different people celebrate the New Year around the world. But this week let’s talk about what some people are doing in January—specifically, those who are observing Dry January by not having any alcoholic drinks for the first month of each year.

    Dry January is a campaign that started in England in 2013, but has been practiced informally around the world for years. Its official sponsor in the UK is Alcohol Concern , a nonprofit that seeks to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol. They trademarked the name and the UK government helps promote the idea.

    What’s the point of being sober for a month? Participants say there are several benefits. A study by the University of Essex in 2015 found that 82% of people who completed a month of sobriety felt a sense of achievement , 79% saved money, 62% got better sleep, 62% felt they had more energy (probably because they got more sleep), and 49% lost weight. Think of all the calories that are in most alcoholic beverages —beer especially. Scientists have found other health benefits, too, including lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar .

    Those are just the immediate benefits. There are some other longer-term benefits as well . The UK government found that 8% of people who completed a full month without alcohol were actually still alcohol-free six months later. Others say that after their dry month, they drink less often and when they do drink, they tend to have less each time. Some people find themselves under pressure to have a drink, either in social situations or as part of their career . Taking a full month off can give them practice declining a drink.

    Some psychologists say that this is also a good opportunity to see if you might have a problem with alcohol. If it’s too difficult to give up drinking for a short period of time, you might have a problem. But most people who willingly participate in Dry January are moderate drinkers who just want to take a break after the holidays. For many people, the winter holidays include a lot of family gatherings , cocktail parties, and big meals; people feel that by January, they’re ready to take a break from alcohol and get the New Year off to a good start.

    One study found that about 65% of people who start Dry January complete it successfully, but even those who don’t go a full 31 days still experience some of the benefits.

    Some restaurants and bars in the UK are getting into the spirit , offering virgin cocktails based on juice or craft soda . Speaking of bars and restaurants, having a Dry January must be especially hard for all the people who work in the hospitality industry, who are around alcohol every day.

    Not everyone thinks a Dry January is a great idea. Some advocates are concerned that people will over-indulge in February, wiping out many of January’s benefits. Others say there’s really no benefit for moderate drinkers since a month is too short a time period to make much difference. You have to be careful in February, too, because if you haven’t had a drink in a month, your tolerance for alcohol may be affected by the time you pick up your next drink . Still, there’s no real strong argument against it—and as long as you don’t overdo things in February, there’s probably no harm in laying off the sauce for a month.

    I picked this story this week because I am among the people who abstain from alcohol every January. I’ve done it for a long time—not always in January, but always for a full month. I find that it’s nice to hit the pause button , take some time to focus on my health and sleep. I’ve settled on January because during the winter holiday season I find myself at parties, happy hours, friends’ houses, and with family—usually with wine or beer. I don’t drink too much, but during January I do find my sleep and diet improve.

    Personally, I find that it’s not that difficult to do. I tend to move any bottles of wine I might have in the house so they’re out of sight . When I’m in a situation where I’d usually have a drink, I try to plan an alternative ahead of time . If I’m at home watching a game or a movie on TV, I make a cup of tea, just to have something to take my mind off the fact that I can’t have a beer or glass of wine. Green tea is good at night since it doesn’t have much caffeine, and it helps warm me up in the frigid Chicago winters.


    Controversy at the pump in Oregon

    There is a minor controversy in the American state of Oregon, which is just now allowing motorists to pump their own gas in certain rural locations. Oregon is one of two states in the US that have traditionally required gas stations to have attendants fill up customers’ tanks; the other state is New Jersey.

    These two states have for years been the last two holdouts from a previous era. In the other 48 states, and in most of the Western world, drivers who pull up to the gas station have to get out of their cars and fill their own tanks with gasoline, or petrol, as they say in some English-speaking countries. But in New Jersey and Oregon, by law , there has always been an attendant there to pump gas for motorists.

    But that changed, just a little bit, this January 1, when a new law in Oregon came into effect saying that residents of rural counties can fuel up their own tanks . This might not sound like a big deal , but it is in Oregon, where this quirky law is part of state’s identity . There are a lot of opinions on both sides of the issue . Many Oregonians take pride in their full-service gas stations. They don’t want to smell like gasoline. They say it’s unsafe to have to get out of your car , when there might be all kinds of other people lurking around . They are concerned about the elderly or disabled , who can’t pump their own gas.

    Some of the reaction is over-blown . Oregon’s new law only applies in rural counties, parts of the state that have a very small population. Oregon is a very rural state, with a lot of wide open areas , so it’s not always practical for gas stations to have attendants for so few customers. And the law just allows rural gas stations the option to have self-serve pumps ; it doesn’t eliminate full service at all. Many gas station owners will continue to offer full service, regardless of the new law.

    As the outrage from Oregonians spread on social media , the backlash from the whole rest of the country was pretty swift . One writer wrote from Wisconsin said she had just pumped gas in -17 degree weather; she didn’t have sympathy for people saying they didn’t want to get out of their cars in Oregon’s relatively moderate climate.

    So that leaves New Jersey as the last US state that requires all gas stations to employ attendants to fill up their customers’ tanks—and it’s likely to stay that way . One recent poll said 75% of the state’s residents like their full-service law. A couple of recent attempts at changing the law went nowhere .

    As strange as it seems today, full service at a gas station used to be the norm in the United States. Gas in the 1970s was actually dirtier and more dangerous, so there might have been some health or safety risks in consumers pumping their own gas. Credit cards were not as widely used at that time, so it made sense to have an attendant outside to collect payment.

    Today, though , self-serve is the norm in most Western countries, though I know from traveling that Mexico and Brazil both require full-service gas stations and I think it’s uncommon in India. If you’re in a country with only full-service gas, let me know in the comments on the show or on Twitter, at PlainEnglishPod—I’d be curious to know where full service is still common.


    Before we start the second half of the program, I wanted to encourage you to connect with the show on Twitter or Facebook. The show’s user name on both is PlainEnglishPod. I wanted to say hi to Nicola from Italy and Ekaterina from Russia for connecting on Twitter. PlainEnglishPod on Twitter or Facebook; you can also send me an email at jeff@plainenglish.com.

    In the second half of each program, we review two words or phrases that you should know in English. This week, those words are sober and quirky.

    Sober

    Let’s start with sober. There are two meanings of sober I want to tell you about. The first meaning, and the most common, is the way I used it during the story about Dry January. People will be sober for the month of January; it means they won’t drink alcohol during that time. Sober usually describes a person who has given up an addiction for good. Someone who was once addicted to alcohol might tell you, I’ve been sober for five years. It means he gave up his drinking five years ago. You can also use it for smoking or any other addiction, though I think it’s most common to describe an alcohol addiction. In the story about Dry January, I said that thousands of people will have a sober month. This is a more informal way of using sober: just means that for a month, they— actually I should say “we” since I’m doing it too—we won’t drink. We will be sober for one month. A related word is sobriety ; that’s the noun . We are having a month of sobriety. We’ll see if keeping sober is easy for us, or if the sobriety is too hard to maintain .

    Depending on the context , sober can also mean the opposite of drunk, regardless of whether a person is or ever was addicted. A friend might ask if you had been drinking the night you fell down a flight of stairs . And you might answer, “ Nope , I was completely sober. I just slipped and fell.” Some people say that after drinking, they have some coffee or take a cold shower to sober up , meaning to reduce the effects of alcohol. That doesn’t work, by the way —it doesn’t actually reduce the effects of alcohol, but some people say that anyway .

    Quirky

    The second word to discuss this week is “quirky.” This is kind of a fun word meaning that someone or something is unusual or slightly strange . If something or someone is quirky, it’s not a bad thing; it means a person or a thing is weird , but in a good way. In the story about Oregon, I said the state is proud of its quirky law that requires all its gas stations to be full-service. This is a quirky law because it’s unusual; it’s unexpected , kind of in a good way . It’s a quirky law because it’s so unique and a little strange, but in a good way.

    Here are a couple of other ways to use quirky. You might say a person has a quirky sense of humor , if that person’s jokes are funny, but a little unusual. You could say a store is quirky if it has a lot of things you don’t usually see when you’re out shopping , but that store is interesting nonetheless . There’s a store like that near me that has a lot of vintage things that used to be popular a long time ago, but that you never see anymore. It’s fun to walk through and see the quirky merchandise ; it’s funny and definitely unusual.


    That brings us to the end of today’s program. Thanks again for listening and being part of this growing audience . I’d really love to know what you think of Plain English so far , so please send me a note with your thoughts . I can be reached at jeff@plainenglish.com or on Facebook and Twitter under the username PlainEnglishPod. If anyone else out there is having a Dry January, let me know; I could use the encouragement of others in the same position. We’ll be back with a new episode next week. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Thousands of people in the UK are giving up alcohol for the month of January. Welcome to Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English language learners. Today is January 11, 2018. I’m Jeff and on this week’s episode, we’ll talk about two current events and two English words you should know. First up this week is Dry January, a movement based in the UK that encourages people to go without alcohol for the first month of each year. We’ll also talk about a new law in the US state of Oregon allowing some drivers to pump their own gas. Two words you should know this week are sober and quirky. We’ll practice those in the second half of the program.

    Before we get started , I have some really exciting news. Many of you know that the full transcript of each show is available on the web site, PlainEnglish.com. Those of you who speak Spanish may also know that the transcripts are interactive; they show instant translations of difficult words and phrases from Spanish to English, so you never have to hit the pause button while you’re listening in order to understand the content of the program. Well, the good news I have today is that we now have those translations available in both Chinese and French. So if you speak Chinese or French, and listen I know a lot of you are from China and France, then you have a new way of experiencing the program, here is what you have to do: Just head to the website for the first episode or any future episode, this episode’s transcript is on PlainEnglish.com/12, then once you’re there find the tab for your language—Spanish, Chinese or French. As you listen to the program, follow along with the transcript. When you get to a highlighted word, just hover your mouse over that word (or tap on it if you’re reading on your phone) and you’ll see the translation into your language. That’s for anyone who speaks Spanish, Chinese or French as a first language —and I hope to have more languages available soon.

    Now that you have indulged me that one announcement, let’s get started with the first topic this week.


    Giving up alcohol for ‘Dry January’

    Last week we talked about how different people celebrate the New Year around the world. But this week let’s talk about what some people are doing in January or not doing I’m talking about those of us who are observing Dry January by not having any alcoholic drinks for the first month of each year.

    Dry January is a campaign that started in England in 2013, but has been practiced informally around the world for years. Its official sponsor in the UK is Alcohol Concern , a nonprofit that seeks to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol. They trademarked the name Dry January and the UK government helps promote the idea.

    What’s the point of being sober for a month? Participants say that there are several benefits. A study by the University of Essex in 2015 found that 82% of people who completed a month of sobriety felt a sense of achievement , 79% saved money, 62% got better sleep, 62% felt they had more energy (probably because they got more sleep), and 49% lost weight. Think of all the calories that are in most alcoholic beverages —beer especially. Scientists have found other health benefits, too, including lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar for those of us who give up alcohol for a month.

    Those are just the immediate benefits. There are some other longer-term benefits as well . The UK government found that 8% of people who completed a full month without alcohol were actually still alcohol-free six months later. Others say that after their dry month, they drink less often and when they do drink, they tend to have less each time. Some people find themselves under pressure to have a drink, either in social situations or as part of their career . Taking a month off can give them practice declining a drink when its offered to them.

    Some psychologists say that this is also a good opportunity to see if you might have a problem with alcohol. If it’s too difficult to give up drinking for a short period of time, you might have a problem. But most people who willingly participate in Dry January are moderate drinkers who just want to take a break after the holidays. For many people, the winter holidays include a lot of family gatherings , cocktail parties, and big meals; people feel that by January, they’re ready to take a break from alcohol and get the New Year off to a good start.

    One study found that about 65% of people who start a Dry January complete it successfully, but even those who don’t go a full 31 days still experience some of the benefits.

    Some restaurants and bars in the UK are getting into the spirit , offering virgin cocktails based on juice or craft soda . Speaking of bars and restaurants, having a Dry January must be especially hard for all the people who work in the hospitality industry, who are around alcohol every day.

    Not everyone thinks a Dry January is a great idea. Some advocates are concerned that people will over-indulge in February, wiping out many of January’s benefits. Others say there’s really no benefit for moderate drinkers since a month is too short a time period to make much difference. You also have to be careful in February, too, because if you haven’t had a drink in a month, your tolerance for alcohol may be affected by the time you pick up your next drink . Still, there’s no real strong argument against dry January—as long as you don’t overdo things in February, I don’t see any harm in laying off the sauce for a month.

    I picked this story this week because I am among the people who abstain from alcohol every January. I’ve done it for a long time—not always in January, but always for a full month. I find that it’s nice to hit the pause button , take some time to focus on my health and my sleep. I’ve settled on January because during the winter holiday season like many people I find myself at parties, happy hours, friends’ houses, and with family—usually accompanied by wine or beer. I don’t drink too much, but during January I do find my sleep and diet improve.

    Personally, I find that going a month without taking a drink it’s not that difficult to do. I tend to move any bottles of wine I might have in the house so they’re out of sight . When I’m in a situation where I’d usually have a drink, I try to plan an alternative ahead of time . For example, if I’m at home watching a game or a movie on TV, I make a cup of tea, just to have something to take my mind off the fact that I can’t have a beer or glass of wine. Green tea is good at night since it doesn’t have much caffeine, and it helps warm me up in the frigid Chicago weather .


    Controversy at the pump in Oregon

    There is a minor controversy in the American state of Oregon, which is just now allowing motorists to pump their own gas in certain rural locations. Oregon is one of two states in the US that have traditionally required gas stations to have an employee fill up customers’ tanks; the other state is New Jersey.

    These two states have for years been the last two holdouts from a previous era. In the other 48 states, and in most of the Western world, drivers who pull up to the gas station have to get out of their cars and fill their own tanks with gasoline, or petrol, as they say in some English-speaking countries. But in New Jersey and Oregon, by law , there has always been an attendant there to pump gas for motorists.

    But that is changing, just a little bit, this January 1, when a new law in Oregon came into effect saying that residents of rural counties can now fuel up their own tanks . This might not sound like a big deal to most of us, but it is in Oregon, where this quirky law is part of state’s identity . There are a lot of opinions on both sides of the issue . Many Oregonians take pride in their full-service gas stations. They don’t want to smell like gasoline after operating the pump. They say it’s unsafe to have to get out of your car , when there might be all kinds of other people lurking around . They are concerned about the elderly or disabled , who have trouble pumping their own gas.

    Some of the reaction is over-blown . Oregon’s new law only applies in rural counties, parts of the state that have a very small population. Oregon is a very rural state, with a lot of wide open areas , so it’s not always practical for gas stations to have attendants for so few customers. And by the way the law just allows rural gas stations the option to have self-serve pumps ; it doesn’t eliminate full service at all. In fact many gas station owners will continue to offer full service, regardless of the new law.

    As the outrage from Oregonians spread on social media , the backlash from the whole rest of the country was pretty swift . One person from Wisconsin wrote saying she had just pumped gas in -17 degree weather; And she didn’t have sympathy for people saying they didn’t want to get out of their cars in Oregon’s relatively moderate climate.

    So that leaves New Jersey as the last US state that requires all gas stations to employ attendants to fill up their customers’ tanks—and it’s likely to stay that way . One recent poll in New Jersey said 75% of the state’s residents like their full-service law. A couple of recent attempts at changing the law went nowhere .

    As strange as it seems today, full service gas was the norm in the United States. Gasoline in the 1970s was actually dirtier and more dangerous, so there might have been some health or safety risks in having consumers pumping their own gas, plus credit cards were not as widely used at that time, so it made sense to have an attendant outside to collect payment.

    Today, though , self-serve is the norm in most Western countries, though I know from traveling that Mexico and Brazil both require full-service gas stations and I think self-serve it’s uncommon in India also. If you’re in a country with only full-service gas, let me know in the comments on the show or on Twitter, at PlainEnglishPod—I’d be curious to know where in the world full service is still common.


    Before we start the second half of the program, I wanted to encourage you to connect with the show on Twitter or Facebook. The show’s user name on both is PlainEnglishPod. I wanted to say hi to Nicola from Italy and Ekaterina from Russia for connecting on twitter, PlainEnglishPod is the show’s username on Twitter or Facebook; you can also send me an email at jeff@plainenglish.com.

    In the second half of each program, we review two words or phrases that you should know in English. And this week, those words are sober and quirky.

    Sober

    Let’s start with sober. In the story about Dry January I said that people will be sober for the month of January; it means they won’t drink alcohol during that time. Sober usually describes a person who has given up an addiction for good. So, someone who was once addicted to alcohol might tell you, I’ve been sober for five years. It means he gave up his drinking five years ago. You can also use it for smoking or any other addiction, though I think it’s most common to describe an alcohol addiction. However in the story about Dry January, I said that thousands people will have a sober month. That doesn’t mean that thousands of addicted people will give up alcohol for a month, this is a more informal way of using sober: it just means that for a month, those people— actually I should say “we” since I’m doing it too—we won’t drink. We will be sober for one month. The related word is sobriety ; that’s the noun . We are having a month of sobriety. We’ll see if keeping sober is easy for us, or if sobriety is too hard to maintain .

    Depending on the context , sober can also mean the opposite of drunk, regardless of whether a person is or ever was addicted. So, a friend might ask if you had been drinking the night you fell down a flight of stairs . And you might answer, “ Nope , I was completely sober. I just slipped and fell.” Some people say that after drinking, they have some coffee or take a cold shower to sober up , meaning to reduce the effects of alcohol on their. That doesn’t work, by the way —it doesn’t actually reduce the effects of alcohol, but some people say that way anyway .

    Quirky

    The second word to discuss this week is “quirky.” This is kind of a fun word meaning that someone or something is unusual or slightly strange . If something or someone is quirky, it’s not a bad thing; it means a person or a thing is weird , but in a good way. In the story about Oregon, I said the state is proud of its quirky law that requires all its gas stations to be full-service. This is a quirky law because it’s unusual; it’s unexpected , kind of in a good way . It’s a quirky law because it’s so unique and a little strange.

    Here are a couple of other ways to use quirky. You might say that a person has a quirky sense of humor , if that person’s jokes are funny, but a little unusual. You could say a store is quirky if it has a lot of things you don’t usually see when you’re out shopping , but it’s interesting nonetheless . There’s a store like that near me that has a lot of vintage things that used to be popular a long time ago, but that you never see anymore. It’s fun to walk through and see the quirky merchandise ; it’s funny and definitely unusual.


    That brings us to the end of today’s program. Thanks again for listening and for being part of this growing audience . I’d really love to know what you think of Plain English so far , so please send me a note with your thoughts . I can be reached at jeff@plainenglish.com or on Facebook and Twitter under the username PlainEnglishPod. If anyone else out there is having a Dry January, let me know; I could use the encouragement of others in the same position. We’ll be back with a new episode next week. Thanks so much for listening.

  • Thousands of people in the UK are giving up alcohol for the month of January. Welcome to Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English language learners. Today is January 11, 2018. I’m Jeff and on this week’s episode, we’ll talk about two current events and two English words you should know. First up this week is Dry January, a movement based in the UK that encourages people to go without alcohol for the first month of each year. We’ll also talk about a new law in the US state of Oregon allowing some drivers to pump their own gas. Two words you should know this week are sober and quirky. We’ll practice those in the second half of the program.

    Before we get started , I have some really exciting news. Many of you know that the full transcript of each show is available on the web site, PlainEnglish.com. Those of you who speak Spanish may also know that the transcripts are interactive; they show instant translations of difficult words and phrases from Spanish to English, so you never have to hit the pause button while you’re listening in order to understand the content of the program. Well, the good news I have today is that we now have those translations available in both Chinese and French. So if you speak Chinese or French, and listen I know a lot of you are from China and France, then you have a new way of experiencing the program, here is what you have to do: Just head to the website for the first episode or any future episode, this episode’s transcript is on PlainEnglish.com/12, then once you’re there find the tab for your language—Spanish, Chinese or French. As you listen to the program, follow along with the transcript. When you get to a highlighted word, just hover your mouse over that word (or tap on it if you’re reading on your phone) and you’ll see the translation into your language. That’s for anyone who speaks Spanish, Chinese or French as a first language —and I hope to have more languages available soon.

    Now that you have indulged me that one announcement, let’s get started with the first topic this week.


    Giving up alcohol for ‘Dry January’

    Last week we talked about how different people celebrate the New Year around the world. But this week let’s talk about what some people are doing in January or not doing I’m talking about those of us who are observing Dry January by not having any alcoholic drinks for the first month of each year.

    Dry January is a campaign that started in England in 2013, but has been practiced informally around the world for years. Its official sponsor in the UK is Alcohol Concern , a nonprofit that seeks to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol. They trademarked the name Dry January and the UK government helps promote the idea.

    What’s the point of being sober for a month? Participants say that there are several benefits. A study by the University of Essex in 2015 found that 82% of people who completed a month of sobriety felt a sense of achievement , 79% saved money, 62% got better sleep, 62% felt they had more energy (probably because they got more sleep), and 49% lost weight. Think of all the calories that are in most alcoholic beverages —beer especially. Scientists have found other health benefits, too, including lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar for those of us who give up alcohol for a month.

    Those are just the immediate benefits. There are some other longer-term benefits as well . The UK government found that 8% of people who completed a full month without alcohol were actually still alcohol-free six months later. Others say that after their dry month, they drink less often and when they do drink, they tend to have less each time. Some people find themselves under pressure to have a drink, either in social situations or as part of their career . Taking a month off can give them practice declining a drink when its offered to them.

    Some psychologists say that this is also a good opportunity to see if you might have a problem with alcohol. If it’s too difficult to give up drinking for a short period of time, you might have a problem. But most people who willingly participate in Dry January are moderate drinkers who just want to take a break after the holidays. For many people, the winter holidays include a lot of family gatherings , cocktail parties, and big meals; people feel that by January, they’re ready to take a break from alcohol and get the New Year off to a good start.

    One study found that about 65% of people who start a Dry January complete it successfully, but even those who don’t go a full 31 days still experience some of the benefits.

    Some restaurants and bars in the UK are getting into the spirit , offering virgin cocktails based on juice or craft soda . Speaking of bars and restaurants, having a Dry January must be especially hard for all the people who work in the hospitality industry, who are around alcohol every day.

    Not everyone thinks a Dry January is a great idea. Some advocates are concerned that people will over-indulge in February, wiping out many of January’s benefits. Others say there’s really no benefit for moderate drinkers since a month is too short a time period to make much difference. You also have to be careful in February, too, because if you haven’t had a drink in a month, your tolerance for alcohol may be affected by the time you pick up your next drink . Still, there’s no real strong argument against dry January—as long as you don’t overdo things in February, I don’t see any harm in laying off the sauce for a month.

    I picked this story this week because I am among the people who abstain from alcohol every January. I’ve done it for a long time—not always in January, but always for a full month. I find that it’s nice to hit the pause button , take some time to focus on my health and my sleep. I’ve settled on January because during the winter holiday season like many people I find myself at parties, happy hours, friends’ houses, and with family—usually accompanied by wine or beer. I don’t drink too much, but during January I do find my sleep and diet improve.

    Personally, I find that going a month without taking a drink it’s not that difficult to do. I tend to move any bottles of wine I might have in the house so they’re out of sight . When I’m in a situation where I’d usually have a drink, I try to plan an alternative ahead of time . For example, if I’m at home watching a game or a movie on TV, I make a cup of tea, just to have something to take my mind off the fact that I can’t have a beer or glass of wine. Green tea is good at night since it doesn’t have much caffeine, and it helps warm me up in the frigid Chicago weather .


    Controversy at the pump in Oregon

    There is a minor controversy in the American state of Oregon, which is just now allowing motorists to pump their own gas in certain rural locations. Oregon is one of two states in the US that have traditionally required gas stations to have an employee fill up customers’ tanks; the other state is New Jersey.

    These two states have for years been the last two holdouts from a previous era. In the other 48 states, and in most of the Western world, drivers who pull up to the gas station have to get out of their cars and fill their own tanks with gasoline, or petrol, as they say in some English-speaking countries. But in New Jersey and Oregon, by law , there has always been an attendant there to pump gas for motorists.

    But that is changing, just a little bit, this January 1, when a new law in Oregon came into effect saying that residents of rural counties can now fuel up their own tanks . This might not sound like a big deal to most of us, but it is in Oregon, where this quirky law is part of state’s identity . There are a lot of opinions on both sides of the issue . Many Oregonians take pride in their full-service gas stations. They don’t want to smell like gasoline after operating the pump. They say it’s unsafe to have to get out of your car , when there might be all kinds of other people lurking around . They are concerned about the elderly or disabled , who have trouble pumping their own gas.

    Some of the reaction is over-blown . Oregon’s new law only applies in rural counties, parts of the state that have a very small population. Oregon is a very rural state, with a lot of wide open areas , so it’s not always practical for gas stations to have attendants for so few customers. And by the way the law just allows rural gas stations the option to have self-serve pumps ; it doesn’t eliminate full service at all. In fact many gas station owners will continue to offer full service, regardless of the new law.

    As the outrage from Oregonians spread on social media , the backlash from the whole rest of the country was pretty swift . One person from Wisconsin wrote saying she had just pumped gas in -17 degree weather; And she didn’t have sympathy for people saying they didn’t want to get out of their cars in Oregon’s relatively moderate climate.

    So that leaves New Jersey as the last US state that requires all gas stations to employ attendants to fill up their customers’ tanks—and it’s likely to stay that way . One recent poll in New Jersey said 75% of the state’s residents like their full-service law. A couple of recent attempts at changing the law went nowhere .

    As strange as it seems today, full service gas was the norm in the United States. Gasoline in the 1970s was actually dirtier and more dangerous, so there might have been some health or safety risks in having consumers pumping their own gas, plus credit cards were not as widely used at that time, so it made sense to have an attendant outside to collect payment.

    Today, though , self-serve is the norm in most Western countries, though I know from traveling that Mexico and Brazil both require full-service gas stations and I think self-serve it’s uncommon in India also. If you’re in a country with only full-service gas, let me know in the comments on the show or on Twitter, at PlainEnglishPod—I’d be curious to know where in the world full service is still common.


    Before we start the second half of the program, I wanted to encourage you to connect with the show on Twitter or Facebook. The show’s user name on both is PlainEnglishPod. I wanted to say hi to Nicola from Italy and Ekaterina from Russia for connecting on twitter, PlainEnglishPod is the show’s username on Twitter or Facebook; you can also send me an email at jeff@plainenglish.com.

    In the second half of each program, we review two words or phrases that you should know in English. And this week, those words are sober and quirky.

    Sober

    Let’s start with sober. In the story about Dry January I said that people will be sober for the month of January; it means they won’t drink alcohol during that time. Sober usually describes a person who has given up an addiction for good. So, someone who was once addicted to alcohol might tell you, I’ve been sober for five years. It means he gave up his drinking five years ago. You can also use it for smoking or any other addiction, though I think it’s most common to describe an alcohol addiction. However in the story about Dry January, I said that thousands people will have a sober month. That doesn’t mean that thousands of addicted people will give up alcohol for a month, this is a more informal way of using sober: it just means that for a month, those people— actually I should say “we” since I’m doing it too—we won’t drink. We will be sober for one month. The related word is sobriety ; that’s the noun . We are having a month of sobriety. We’ll see if keeping sober is easy for us, or if sobriety is too hard to maintain .

    Depending on the context , sober can also mean the opposite of drunk, regardless of whether a person is or ever was addicted. So, a friend might ask if you had been drinking the night you fell down a flight of stairs . And you might answer, “ Nope , I was completely sober. I just slipped and fell.” Some people say that after drinking, they have some coffee or take a cold shower to sober up , meaning to reduce the effects of alcohol on their. That doesn’t work, by the way —it doesn’t actually reduce the effects of alcohol, but some people say that way anyway .

    Quirky

    The second word to discuss this week is “quirky.” This is kind of a fun word meaning that someone or something is unusual or slightly strange . If something or someone is quirky, it’s not a bad thing; it means a person or a thing is weird , but in a good way. In the story about Oregon, I said the state is proud of its quirky law that requires all its gas stations to be full-service. This is a quirky law because it’s unusual; it’s unexpected , kind of in a good way . It’s a quirky law because it’s so unique and a little strange.

    Here are a couple of other ways to use quirky. You might say that a person has a quirky sense of humor , if that person’s jokes are funny, but a little unusual. You could say a store is quirky if it has a lot of things you don’t usually see when you’re out shopping , but it’s interesting nonetheless . There’s a store like that near me that has a lot of vintage things that used to be popular a long time ago, but that you never see anymore. It’s fun to walk through and see the quirky merchandise ; it’s funny and definitely unusual.


    That brings us to the end of today’s program. Thanks again for listening and for being part of this growing audience . I’d really love to know what you think of Plain English so far , so please send me a note with your thoughts . I can be reached at jeff@plainenglish.com or on Facebook and Twitter under the username PlainEnglishPod. If anyone else out there is having a Dry January, let me know; I could use the encouragement of others in the same position. We’ll be back with a new episode next week. Thanks so much for listening.


Explore more episodes

Now that you’ve finished this episode, why not check out some previous episodes?


Do you transfer money overseas?

If so, make sure you’re not paying hidden bank fees or inflated money-agent fees. TransferWise is the easiest, cheapest way to send money across borders. All you need is a bank account in each country and you can start saving with TransferWise.

Plain English recommends and uses TransferWise for any international money transfer.

Comments are closed.
Share
+1
Email
Pin
Share
Tweet