Miscellany and Trivia

Anecdotes by vegetarians – Four

MTr 5

Damian Bown, London, England: 

My sister, also a vegetarian, recounts visiting a restaurant in northern Italy asked “I am a vegetarian, is that a problem?” to which the waiter replied “Only for you madam, only for you.”


Anecdotes by vegetarians – Five

MTr 6

Laura Dover, Calgary, Canada:

When I was in (then) Czechoslovakia in 1992, I order a meatless, fishless pizza. Sure enough, they brought me a ham pizza. My Czech boyfriend berated the waitress and pointed out the meat on the pizza. “But it is chopped up in small pieces!” she exclaimed.

Anecdotes about teaching English – One

MTr 2 Teaching English

A practical attitude

We were having a repetition class a few days before a test. I had prepared a worksheet with a set of tasks similar to those planned for the test. One of them was drawing conclusions about the past using modals (can't have, must have and so on). Among others, I prepared a cue “He was rich and handsome, but she didn't want to marry him.” I was expecting something like “She must have been in love with another man” or “She can't have loved him.” What I got instead, and quite promptly, from a very gentle and sweet 18-year-old girl was “She can't have been normal!”

Anecdotes about teaching English – Two

MTr 3 Teaching English

New York, New York!

To teach a young man, about 30 years old, to use the past simple tense, I gave him a scenario to use. “Your friend came to visit from New York. You took him on a tour of your city. Tell us what happened.”

He replied, in complete seriousness, “He came and stayed at my apartment. The next day we went to the metro to go on a tour of the city. We went downstairs, he got on the train, the doors closed, train left and I haven't seen him since! It has been three weeks!”

I still laugh at how clever that was. And he used the tense correctly!

Anecdotes about teaching English – Three

MTr 4 Teaching English

Uncomfortable moment

Whilst teaching English to a small group of foreign businessmen of different nationalities, we began a role play based upon the report we had just seen. The subject concerned smoking – cancer and the resulting lawsuits initiated by those afflicted. Casting the German student in the role of cancer victim and his Dutch classmate as a rich tobacco executive, I sat back to watch the action unfold.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten what the word “cancer” is in German (though it now explains the zodiac a little more). Imagine my horror and surprise when he opened the debate with the line “I've got crabs and it's all your fault!” Falling off my chair in hysterics took some explaining too.


Anecdotes about teaching English – Four

MTr 5 Teaching English


I have been teaching English for many years in Los Angeles, a small city in the south of Chile. I have taught adults, teenagers and young children. The story I am recalling now took place in a small basic school of very deprived children where I worked in my first year as a teacher. This class was formed by children of eight or nine years old and they had one head teacher who taught them most of the subjects, except English – I was their English teacher – and Catholic Religion, which was the job of another colleague. During one of the first lessons I was teaching to them the names of some school things such as pencil, book, crayon, etc. They had to look, listen and repeat and they were all very enthusiastic about the activity.

Then one little boy raised his hand and asked me in Spanish, of course: So 'lápiz' in English is “pencil”, but then, how do you say “lápiz” in Religion? I was very surprised with this question but it made me realize I could not take for granted that students know what we think they should. In this particular case I had to prepare a lesson to explain what languages are and that people from other countries speak in a different way. It is an anecdote that makes me smile now when I remember it but that helped me understand that a teacher has to check his/her students’ previous knowledge and experiences before starting a new lesson. 

Anecdotes about teaching English – Five

MTr 6 Teaching English

Big people words

A group of kindergartners were trying very hard to become accustomed to the first grade. The biggest hurdle they faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk!

You need to use ‘Big People’ words”, she was always reminding them.

She asked John what he had done over the weekend.

I went to visit my Nana.”

No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use ‘Big People’ words!”

She then asked Mitchell what he had done.

I took a ride on a choo-choo.”

She said “No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use ‘Big People’ words.”

She then asked little Alex what he had done.

I read a book,” he replied.

That's WONDERFUL!” the teacher said. “What book did you read?”

Alex thought real hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride, and said, “Winnie the SHIT.”

Anecdotes about Leonardo da Vinci – One

MTr L da Vinci 2

Leonardo was “illegitimate.”

Da Vinci was born in 1452 near Vinci, in what is now the Italian region of Tuscany. By most accounts, his father was a notary and landlord named Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci. His mother, Caterina, is commonly believed to have been a local peasant. However, some experts believe that Caterina was actually a slave owned by Messer Piero.

Da Vinci's parents never married each other. The young da Vinci lived with his mother until he was 5 years old and later moved into the home of his father, who had married another woman.
The artist's journals show that he maintained a somewhat distant relationship with his mother throughout his adult life, exchanging letters with her only from time to time. His writings suggest a closer connection with his father, whose death da Vinci mourned deeply.

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