Many of the students in my classes usually stay for 2 weeks. They can’t afford to stay longer because of family or work commitments. It is  a surprise for them to discover that in English we have a word for a period of 14 days – a FORTNIGHT. Similarly, if you do something every 2 weeks (say, go to the cinema or clean your apartment), then it is something you do fortnightly.

Also in my adult classes, the maximum number of students is a DOZEN, which is another word for 12. This word can be used in many situations. For example, the other day I bought a dozen delicious kiwis, one of my favourite fruits! It’s possible to say half-a-dozen eggs (=6) and even two dozen cakes (=24), three dozen cans of beer (=36 …big party perhaps?) and so on. However, we don’t say half-a-fortnight.

Use the language

Some languages do not have a word for “fortnight”. If yours has one, what is it? And if you could take a fortnight’s holiday, where would you go to? Feel free to write in and share your thoughts.


Here’s a photo of a LEMON:

Piaggio Fly 125 motor scooter.
Piaggio Fly 125 motor scooter.

No, I haven’t been having an alcoholic lunch. What you’re seeing in the photo is a lemon, which also happens to be a motor scooter. Do I have your attention? So here’s the story.

Some 2 years ago I bought a Piaggio Fly 125cc motor scooter with a lovely pearl white finish that changed colour depending on the sunlight. It was brand new, straight out of the showroom. A small engine but a great runaround bike, it was just what I was looking for. It was not what I bargained for however, because in the first 40 days it broke down 3 times. I was unfortunate enough to have bought a motor scooter that was a lemon.

Lemon can be used to describe something you buy which doesn’t work well. In the USA they actually have a Lemon Law to protect consumers who purchase faulty products. While if you are a fan of Meatloaf (the singer not the food), you will now better understand his song, “Life Is A Lemon & I Want My Money Back”. Here are some of the lyrics:

There’s always something going wrong
That’s the only guarantee
That’s what this is all about
It’s a never ending attack
Everything’s a lie, and that’s a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!

Click the link to watch a live version of the full song: Meatloaf & Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – Life is a Lemon

Use the language

  • Have you ever bought anything which turned out to be a lemon?
  • What was it?
  • What did you do about it?

Write in and share your experiences.

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

After one of the lessons today, a student asked me how he could improve his reading skills. My first response was, “Read”! OK, my answer didn’t stop after that one word. However, the simple act of picking up a book, magazine or even sourcing interesting on-line articles can help in so many ways, with the most obvious being vocabulary. Let me share with you 3 interesting words from a book I read a while back – Ghana Must Go  by Taiye Selasi.

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

  • CRUX – If you’re in a discussion at work and someone says, “The CRUX of the problem is…”, then she/he is saying that this is the most important point.
  • FASTIDIOUS – Do you pay great attention to detail in your job or your daily life? FASTIDIOUS is the word that describes this character trait. It’s the opposite of “careless”.
  • AFFABLE – If you’re fed up with always using the word “friendly”, try AFFABLE.

Over to you … 

If you don’t use them, you lose them so try to include this new vocabulary in your conversations or emails over the next few days. If you feel like a challenge, write in a short paragraph which includes CRUX, FASTIDIOUS, AFFABLE.

More for you …


On a small island such as mine (Malta), a common conversational topic when meeting someone new is about family. This is because with only 400,000 people, it’s very easy to find a connection.

A: I live in Xemxija.

B: Really? My aunt’s from there too.

A: Who is she?

B: Carol. She’s an aunt on my father’s side.

“She’s an aunt on my father’s side”. Hmm … I can use the word AGNATE and simply say “She’s an agnate aunt.”  What if you want to speak about a relative on your mother’s side? Then ENATE is the word to use. For example, “Simona is an enate cousin”, meaning  that Simona is a cousin on  my mother’s side.

Use the language

  • If you know of another word which can be used instead of agnate or enate, post a comment to share it.


It’s summertime so today’s temperature of 31°C is normal for this time of year. However, have you ever noticed that it usually feels hotter than what the weather report says? The reason for this is because temperature is measured in the SHADE, a place away from direct sunlight. Many of us prefer to stay under an umbrella when we go to the beach or sit under a tree in the park with a book because it’s cooler in the shade.

And when you’re standing in the sun, what do you see when you look at the ground? That dark picture of you is your SHADOW. Here’s a photo I took of my own shadow.

Is the word for shade and shadow the same in your language or do you have two separate words? What are they? Do you have a shadow picture you like?


Here’s something that many of my students misunderstand – FITFUL. It’s easy to think it means “full of fitness”, hence a positive word. But be careful.

Let me tell you what happened to me last night, when I drank over 1 litre of Pepsi in the few hours before going to bed. The result is that I kept waking up every so often – sleep, wake up, sleep, wake up , sleep, wake up. The following morning, I certainly did NOT feel “full of fitness”! This is what we call a fitful sleep. Or I could say that I slept fitfully last night. Notice that fitful is with one “l” but fitfully with a double “l”. By the way, I have the same problem when I drink a cappuccino after 3pm.

Use it or you lose it …

Now tell me, what gives you a fitful sleep? Is there anything you can do about it?