U. S. Information Service

American English & Culture

Dear readers, in today`s page we will focus on music and poetry - well, a special variety of poetry called "limericks", and we hope you will have a laugh or two as we had while we were writing this page. We also hope that some of the following classroom activities and music-related idioms will be useful to you.

I. CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES.

SINGING IN THE CHOIR

Harvey Pollard and his wife, Helen,

like to sing. Harvey can sing tenor and

Helen can sing soprano. They sing in the

church choir. They can`t practice on

Wednesdays. They are too busy. They can

sing on Sundays during church. At Christmas, they will sing a special cantata, and they will have to practice a lot.

EXERCISES

I. MAKING QUESTIONS. The following are answers to questions. Make the questions using who, when, and where.

1. Harvey and Helen Pollard 5. Helen can

2. in the church choir 6. on Sundays during church

3. at Christmas 7. Harvey can

4. on Wednesdays

II. Make the following sentences negative and read them aloud.

1. Harvey can sing tenor. 5. They will sing at Christmas.

2. They can sing on Sundays. 6. They will have to practice.

3. They like to sing. 7. Helen can sing soprano.

4. They are busy.

III. Answer the following using: Yes, he/she does; Yes, he/she can; Yes, they can; Yes, they will; No, he/she can`t; No, they can`t; or No, they won`t.

1. Helen likes to sing, doesn`t she?

2. Harvey can sing tenor, can`t he?

3. They can`t practice on Wednesdays, can they?

4. They will sing in a special cantata, won`t they?

5. They will have to practice, won`t they?

6. They can sing on Sundays, can`t they?

7. They are too busy, aren`t they?

IV. CHANGE THE READING. Change the subject to Helen and write about her only. Read the new reading aloud.

V. DICTATION. Copy the reading as your teacher dictates it.

II. LIMERICKS

Limericks are light, nonsensical verses of five lines in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other and the third and fourth lines, shorter in form, make up a rhymed couplet. The rhyme scheme can be represented by the formula aabba.

Though we know that limericks are named after the city of county in Ireland, we do not have a clear idea as to why they are so named. One theory is that the name comes from a group of poets who wrote in Limerick, Ireland in the 18th century. Another attributes the name to a party game of making up a nonsense verse and following it with a chorus of "Will you come up to Limerick". The first limericks appeared in books publishedin 1820 and 1821, and the form was popularized by Edward Lear in a collection published in 1846.

TEACHING TECHNIQUES. Limericks, like poems, can be used in a reader`s theater approach to give students the chance to playfully interpret a passage in a mock-dramatic oral recitation. In preparing your students to present the limericks included in this section, use the following guidelines:

1. Speak so that every word is heard.

2. Vary the speed of presentation.

3. Vary the tone of voice to fit the meaning of the message. (Some parts may be neutral in tone, some joking, some mock-serious.)

4. Vary the volume of voice.

5. Decide what the emphatic words are and emphasize them.

6. Pause in appropriate places. (Do not be afraid to keep the audience waiting: give them time to ponder what has been said and to speculate about what is to come.) Pause before emphatic words, before and after direct speech, and before any kind of climax.

7. Do not recite mechanically, or exaggerate the rhythm of the poem.

8. Do not pause automatically at the end of lines if the meaning does not require it.

9. After a little practice, perhaps you should encourage your students to make their own limericks. They`ll be surprised how easy and fun it is.

I. There was a young fellow named Hall,

Who fell in the spring in the fall;

"Twould have been a sad thing

If he`d died in the spring.

But he didn`t - he died in the fall.

II. There was an old fellow of Lyme

Who married three wives at one time.

When asked, "Why the third?"

He explained, "One`s absurd,

And bigamy, sir, is a crime".

III. There was a young lady of Lynn

Who was so uncommonly thin

That when she essayed

To drink lemonade,

She slipped through the straw and fell in.

IV. There was a young lady of Bygur

Who went for a ride on a tiger;

They returned from the ride

With the lady inside,

And a smile of the face of the tiger.

V. There was a young lady named Bright

Whose speed was far faster than light.

She set out one day

In a relative way,

And returned home the previous night.

VI. There was a young girl, a sweet lamb,

Who smiled as she entered a tram.

After she had embarked,

The conductor remarked,

"Your fare". And she said, "yes I am".

VII. An indolent vicar of Bray

His roses allowed to decay.

His wife, more alert,

Bought a powerful squirt

And said to her spouse, "Let us spray."

VIII. There was a young bard of St. Anne*

Whose limericks never would scan;

When they said it was so,

He replied, "Yes, I know,

But I make a rule of always trying to get just

as many words into the last line as I

possibly can."

IX. A decrepit old gasman, named Peter.*

While hunting around his gas heater.

Touched a leak with his light;

He rose out of sight -

And as everyone who knows anything

about poetry can tell you

he also ruined the meter.

X. A groundhog who lived in St. Paul

Was the laziest groundhog of all.

On the second of Feb

he stayed in his bed,

And spring didn`t come until fall.

* Please note that limericks VIII and IX break the rule of limerick construction for humorous effect.

III. THERE`S MUSIC IN OUR SPEECH

SING THE BLUES

to be disappointed or disillusioned. Jim is singing the blues since he broke up with Elizabeth.

PLAY SECOND FIDDLE TO SOMEONE

to be subordinate to someone. Carol resigned from the company because she was tired of playing second fiddle to George.

PLAY BY EAR

to play a piece of music without looking at the notes. I can play all the popular songs by ear.

to perform without prior preparation. We haven`t had time to prepare for the meeting. We`ll have to play it by ear.

MUSIC TO MY EARS

good news; information that makes someone happy. When my boss told me about my promotion, it was music to my ears.

TOOT/BLOW ONE`S OWN HORN

to praise oneself; to brag. Mary is always tooting (blowing) her own horn. She forgets that other people have a role in our company`s success.

JAZZ SOMETHING UP

to make something more interesting or lively. Tom jazzed up his gray suit with a red tie.

SOAP OPERA

an overly dramatic and emotional story broadcast regularly on the radio or television. Mary`s day was not complete unless she saw her favorite soap opera.

IT`S NOT OVER TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS

not to speculate about something until it is completed. Though her policies were criticized, and her election in doubt, the candidate reminded the news correspondents that it`s not over till the fat lady sings.

CHANGE ONE`S TUNE

to change one`s opinions or manner. John was critical of Anne`s judgment until she was made his supervisor. Now he has changed his tune and agrees with everything she does.

OUT OF TUNE

not in agreement. His suggestions were out of tune with reality.

CALL THE TUNE

make decisions; decide what is to be done. A lot of people do not get along with Carol. She always wants to call the tune.

The person who is in charge is the one who makes the final decision. S/he who pays the piper calls the tune.

MARCH TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER

to follow one`s own ideas rather than being influenced by the group. Dick isn`t going to support us; he always marches to a different drummer.

DRUM UP BUSINESS

influence people to buy something. The big advertisement in today`s newspaper should drum up business.

OFF-BEAT

unusual, not typical. He dressed in an off-beat manner.

TUNE OUT

ignore someone or something. I tuned out when the speaker started quoting statistics.

TUNE IN

set the television control to receive a program. I tune in to the news every evening.

TUNE UP

adjust an engine so that it runs correctly. I needed a mechanic to tune up my car.

to adjust instruments in an orchestra so that each musician is in harmony with one another. The orchestra tuned up before the concert began.

JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON

take a popular position; join the group that has the greatest popularity. The politicians jumped on the bandwagon when they saw the governor was so popular.

FACE THE MUSIC

accept the unpleasant consequences for one`s actions. Jimmy broke his neighbor`s window with his baseball. Now he`s got to face the music.

ALL THAT JAZZ

et cetera; and so forth. The movie was filled with kissing and hugging and all that jazz.

JAZZY

lively, active. Phil and Mary throw jazzy parties. Hours pass like minutes at their house.

LETTERS

We invite you to send us your questions about American English and American culture. We will attempt to answer all letters personally as well as on this page when space permits. And if there are particular subjects you want us to discuss, please let us know. Our address is:

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