American English & Culture

One thing that is difficult for most Americans to picture is snow in late October or early November. While it is still warm and sunny in Washington, D.C. or New York City, Moscow said <> to its first snow on November 2nd this year. What it means is winter will set in soon and with it cold, wind, snow, snowdrifts, traffic jams… In our today’s page we will speak about snow, cold, and what may befall one during winter.


The Big Snow

Harvey Schmidt hates snow! He’s

so tired of shoveling snow. He thinks

that he will move to Florida!

Yesterday, it showed 12 inches.

Today Harvey has been busy clearing snow

from the sidewalk, the patio, and the

driveway. There was a lot of snow on the

driveway and he couldn’t get his car out

of the garage.

Now the driveway is cleared of snow.

But Harvey can’t rest long. His wife wants

him to take her to the grocery store!


I. WHAT DO YOU SEE: Tell where the following are located in the picture.

a. a snow shovel d. snow

b. a car e. a scarf

c. a house f. overshoes

II. DESCRIPTION: Describe (a) Harvey Schmidt (b) Harvey’s home

III. QUESTION AND ANSWER: The following phrases or statements are the answers to questions. Make the questions that the phrases or statements answer and ask them of your classmates. Use WHO, WHEN, WHERE, HOW (MUCH) (MANY), WHY.

Example: Statement: He hates it.

Question: What does Harvey Schmidt think about snow?

1. From shoveling snow.

2. He thinks that he might.

3. twelve inches.

4. It snowed yesterday.

5. From the sidewalk, patio, and driveway.

6. Because there was a lot of snow on the driveway.

7. Not for long.

8. Take his wife to the grocery store.

IV. ORAL PRACTICE: Tell the story of <> in your own words.

V. PERSONAL INTEREST: Answer the following questions about yourself.

1. Do you like snow?

2. Did you ever shovel snow? How much?

3. Do you think that snow is pretty?

4. Do you have a pair of overshoes?

5. Do you prefer cold weather or hot weather? Why?

VI. DICTATION: Copy the second and third paragraphs of the reading as your teacher dictates them. Correct your own errors.


Cold weather has a great effect on how our minds and our bodies work. Maybe that is why there are so many expressions that use the word cold.

For centuries, the body’s blood has been linked closely with the emotions. People who show no human emotions or feelings, for example, are said to be <>. <> people act in cruel ways. They may do brutal things to others, and not by accident.

For example, a newspaper says the police are searching for a <> killer. The killer murdered someone, not in self defense, or because he was reacting to anger of fear. He seemed to kill for no reason, and with no emotion, as if taking someone’s life meant nothing.

Cold can affect other parts of the body. The feet, for example. Heavy socks can warm your feet, if your feet are really cold. But there is an expression, <<to get cold feet:, that has nothing to do with cold or with your feet.

The expression means being afraid to do something you had decided to do. For example, you agree to be president of an organization. But them you learn that all the other officers have resigned. All the work of the organization will be your responsibility. You are likely to get <> about being president when you understand the situation.

Cold can also affect your shoulder. You give someone the <> when you refuse to speak to them. You treat them in a distant, cold way. The expression probably comes from the physical act of turning your back toward someone instead of speaking to him face-to-face. You may give a cold shoulder to a friend who has not kept a promise he made to you. Or to someone who has lied about you to others.

A <> is not a fish. It is a person. But it is a person who is unfriendly, unemotional and shows no love or warmth. A cold fish does not offer much of himself to anyone.

Someone who is a cold fish could be <>. A cold hearted person is someone who has no sympathy. Several popular songs in recent years were about cold hearted men or cold hearted women who, without feeling, broke the hearts of their lovers.

<> is an expression often heard. It means not getting something that everybody else got. A person might say that everybody but him got a pay raise, that he was left out in the cold. It is not a pleasant place to be.


The Practical Country Boy

It’s a cold winter afternoon. A car comes along a little-traveled road. The motor is not working well, and it finally stalls. The automobile slows down until it stops. Two men get out, and they begin to talk:

1: What happened?

2: I guess we ran out of gasoline.

1: What awful luck! It’s…it’s cold here. Look, there’s nothing in sight. We can’t make a phone call. And there’s no traffic on this highway.

2: We’ll have to walk to the nearest town and find a gas station. Let’s go on ahead, because the last town we passed was more than a hundred kilometers back.

1: But how do we know there’s a town any closer in this direction?

2: Yeah, you’re right! We don’t have any idea how long it will take us to get to the nearest town. And I don’t have a map of this area.

1: Well, the best thing to do is walk to the nearest town – if it isn’t too far. On the other hand, if it’s more than two hours away, it would be better to stay with the car.

2: Wait a minute! Here comes someone. Maybe he can tell us how far it is to the nearest town. Let’s wait till he gets here.

1: I beg your pardon, can you tell us how long it would take us to walk to the nearest town?

2: Do you suppose he’s deaf? He just stands there and looks at us without saying a word.

1: Maybe he didn’t hear me. I’ll try to explain our problem to him again. Look, son, if it doesn’t take more than two hours to walk to the nearest town, we want to go there. If it would take longer to get there, we’ll stay here in the car. Now can you please tell us how long it will take us to walk to that town?

2: He still doesn’t answer. The best thing we can do is stay here.

1: I suppose you’re right. Come on, let’s go back to the car.

The travelers walk quickly toward the car, which is about twenty-five steps away. The boy remains silent, gazing at them intently. He keeps watching their movements while he calls to them in a loud voice:

Country Boy: Hey, mister! You can get to town in forty-five minutes!

2: Oh! Then you’re not deaf after all.

C: No, of course not!

1: Then why didn’t you answer us before?

C: How could I answer you, without knowing how fast you walked?

Vocabulary and expressions:

1. little-traveled: not having much traffic; not used by many travelers;

2. stalls: stops working; fails to function;

3. ran out of: exhausted (used up) the supply of; had no more;

4. awful: extremely bad; terrible;

5. in sight: that can be seen;

6. gas station: place where gasoline (petrol) is sold;

7. Yeah: yes (informal);

8. I beg your pardon: excuse me (an expression used preliminary to asking someone – especially a stranger – a question);

9. Look, son: an opening remark used to obtain the boy’s full attention;

10. Now can you please: a restrained impatient utterance introducing a repeated request;

11. Hey, mister!: an attention-getting phrase, shouted from a distance.


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:

English Language Office/USIS

Embassy of the United States

Novinskiy Blvd., 19/23

121099, Moscow

Tel: (095) 956-4493

Fax: (095) 255-9766

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