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Ask Doctor English
Your ESL and English language learning specialist. Ask Dr. English whatever you like about the English language.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Here is a chance for you to have your questions answered by Doctor English. Today’s question is:

What is the meaning of “set a beggar on a horse and ride it to death?”

Doctor English is not familiar with this exact expression, however there are some similar expressions, or proverbs, as follows:

Set a beggar on horseback, and he will ride a gallop
Set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll outride the Devil.

These are quotes from Robert Burton from Anatomy of Melancholy (pt. II, sec. III, memb. 2)

The meaning of these expressions are that if you give an undeserving person an advantage, they will misuse it. These expressions have also been shortened to the idiom a beggar on horseback, meaning a person who was originally poor and has become arrogant or corrupt through achieving wealth.

Thank you for sending your questions. If you have any further queries, please email Doctor English at drenglish@vec.ca.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


One of the challenges of learning English is that the language changes depending on the English-speaking country in which you are in. Whether you are in Canada, the United States, England, Australia, or any of the many other countries in which English is the primary language, you will find the language changes. Not only are there distinctions in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, but there are also many cultural differences which affect how we use the language.

One the most popular sports in Canada, particularly in the winter, is Ice Hockey. Ice Hockey originated in eastern Canada in the 1800’s. The game is divided into three 20 minute periods, separated by 15-minute breaks. The periods begin with a “face-off”. Six players from each team can be on the ice at one time and their objective is to get as many goals as possible to win the game.

Here are some basic vocabulary words associated with hockey :
Puck – the round, black object that is used to score goals.
Goalie – the person who protects the goal from the puck going in.
Penalty- when someone breaks the rules of the game.
Referee- the person who blows the whistle when there is a penalty.

If you have a chance, watch a game of hockey on TV or even better, go to a live game and enjoy one of Canada’s favorite pastimes!

If you would like more information on CANADIAN, EH?, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Do you find learning Slang Expressions confusing? Well, don’t worry - you are not alone. Most students struggle with the many slang expressions in the English language.

In our last edition of WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, Dr. English asked you to find the meanings of some common slang expressions related to animals. Here are the answers:

Cat got your tongue? – Nothing to say?
Ex: If you ask someone a question and they don’t respond immediately, you could ask “Cat got your tongue?”

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off- Running around like crazy.
Ex: She is trying to do so many things at once. She is running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Raining cats and dogs – Raining a lot.
Ex: In Vancouver it always seems to be raining cats and dogs!

Kill two birds with one stone – Do two things at the same time.
Ex: I am going to stop at the post office on the way to the bank so I can kill two birds with one stone.

In the dog house – In trouble.
Ex: Her boyfriend forgot her birthday. He is going to be in the dog house tonight!

If you would like more information on WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Using English for business purposes can be challenging. Typically speaking business English is more formal than the language used in everyday situations. However you need to consider not only the use of the language, but also the culture when using English in a business environment

These days one of the most important forms of communication in business is email. You probably use email on a daily basis to communicate with friends and family at home, but do you feel confident using email in a business setting?

Email as a communication tool is overall less formal that a business letter, however it is important to consider your level of formality when you are emailing your boss or a client. In this case, your choice of words becomes more important for the tone of the email. Keep in mind that when you are using writing as a form of communication, your tone is not as obvious as when you are speaking and needs to be conveyed through your choice of words. Make sure to always re-read an email before sending it, because you can’t change it once its been sent.

If you would like more information on BIZ TALK, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

Monday, December 05, 2005

T.I.P.S – To Improve, Practice Skills

Tired of studying English through basic grammar practice? There are many other creative ways to practice and improve your language skills than just by using a textbook.

The Internet is an excellent source of language learning to give you additional practice for any skills that you may want to focus on. You can find many, many websites for anything from grammar exercises, to pronunciation, to vocabulary and more.

One of Doctor English’s favorite websites for language learning includes Dave’s ESL Café – www.eslcafe.com . This website has a Help Center, Idioms, Phrasal Verbs, Pronunciation Power, Quizzes, Slang and a Student Forum. If you have a favorite website for English language learning, please email it to Doctor English.

If you would like more information on T.I.P.S for English, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.