外師專欄_The Uni- Prefix

As bi- means “two”, uni- means “one”. A unicycle has one wheel. The mythical unicorn has a single horn protruding from its head. A military presents itself as one, unified force by wearing a uniform. And then, of course, we live within a singular, physical reality comprising space and time, which we call the universe. Like bi- and many others, the prefix comes from Latin, borrowed from the phrase universus, which means “turned into one”. Consider the following:

  1. Two or more people singing the same notes rather than a harmony: unison.
  2. A group of people, such as mine workers, joined together for a common purpose: union.
  3. A public bathroom available to anyone regardless of gender: unisex.

The above are just a few examples though you probably already know a few others, such as “united” from the United States of America, or that something that is one of a kind is “unique”. You may not even notice how often you see it; just think about it the next time you start a new unit of your English textbook. ;^)

(NOTE: Don’t get this prefix confused with un- as in unable, untied, or unintended. Quick tip, one begins with a “you” sound and the other with an “uh” sound.)

外師專欄_“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman


          As of January 20th, 2021, the United States inaugurated its 46th president in Joe Biden and its 49th vice president in Kamala Harris, the first female to hold the office as well as the first of Black and Asian descent. Among the many speeches, performances and other events held during the day was a reading by Amanda Gorman, the first US National Youth Poet Laureate, of her poem “The Hill We Climb”.

           It is no secret that the last year has been a troubling one for the world with the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has been an especially troubling year for the US in particular. Regardless of how anyone might feel about the previous administration or the new one, the divisions in American politics, culture and media are readily apparent. Speaking to those divisions, the 22-year-old Gorman wrote a poem that well captures the struggle of reconciling America’s past, still reflected in present troubles, with the possibility and hope for redemption.

           Amanda Gorman embodies many struggles in her own life experience, not simply as a woman of color, but also as the daughter of a single parent and as a person with as auditory processing disorder (leading to difficulties processing and interpreting sounds) and a speech impediment. Despite these physical difficulties, Gorman realized that she had strengths in reading and writing and found particular inspiration in a quote by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” In her reading of “The Hill We Climb”, Gorman also embodies the powers of perseverance, dedication, and hope. These are qualities we can all take inspiration from.


You can watch the full recitation of her poem at the following link as well as find a transcription of the poem in its entirety below (courtesy of Seaweed Hero).

WATCH: Amanda Gorman reads inauguration poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’



"Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world:

“When day comes we ask ourselves, 'where can we find light in this never-ending shade, the loss we carry, a sea we must wade?'

 "We've braved the belly of the beast, we've learned that quiet isn't always peace. And the norms and notions of what just is isn't always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it. Somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished.

"We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.

"And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn't mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

"And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide, because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

"Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew; that even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we'll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.

"Scripture tells us to envision that 'everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.' If we're to live up to our own time, then victory won't lie in the blade but in all the bridges we've made.

"That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it, because being American is more than a pride we inherit – it's the past we step into and how we repair it.

"We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

"In this truth, in this faith we trust for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption we feared at its inception.

 "We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves. So while once we asked 'how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe,' now we assert: 'how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?'

"We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.

"Our blunders become their burdens but one thing is certain: If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy in change, our children’s birthright.

"So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left. With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west. We will rise from the wind-swept north-east, where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rinsed cities of the mid-western states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

"When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it."

外師專欄_Hank Adams

  “Hank’s a genius. He knows things we don’t know. He sees things we don’t see.” – Susan Komori (attorney, 2006)


  A few days before Christmas, a man who I had never heard of passed away. His name was Hank Adams; he was an activist, a strategist and a negotiator. His traditional name was Yellow Eagle; he has also been called “the most important Indian” (Deloria Jr.) for his involvement in nearly every major event in American Indian history since the early 1960s.

  Adams worked as an advocate for the rights of native American and indigenous peoples across the United States; decades after treaties had been signed by the US government with various tribes who had lived across the continent for hundreds or even thousands of years, guaranteeing certain rights to native peoples that allowed them to continue traditional ways of living such as hunting and fishing rights, those rights were often denied by the same government. The natural frustration of native people at the disruption of their rights and promises unkept led to frequent disputes and acts of civil disobedience, such as the Wounded Knee Incident in 1973.

  With the Boldt Decision of 1974, Adams helped to secure fishing rights for natives who depended upon the salmon harvest for their survival and livelihood, making native tribes co-managers of salmon and other fishing resources in Washington State. Adams negotiated peaceful ends to the occupations of both the Department of Interior Building in 1972 and Wounded Knee the following year. As a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), he authored the 20-Point Position Paper outlining the demands of native peoples across the country, intending to assert the sovereignty of the Indian Nations. Adams leadership helped paved the way for significant changes in US government policy.

  Despite having been shot in the stomach in 1971 and consistently confronted with conflict, Adams commitment to non-violent solutions was clear: “I’ve never hid the fact that my central interest, apart from securing general and specific Indian objectives, had been oriented toward helping achieve a peaceful settlement.” In wake of the events in the US capitol on 6 January, 2021, we would do well to remember the work of people like Hank Adams as well as remember the importance of non-violence, keeping our promises, and respecting the rights of all communities within our respective nations, whether in the US, here in Taiwan, or anywhere else in the world.

As Long as the Rivers Run – documentary



Additional context:

           To give a greater impression of how significant the movement was at the time, in 1973, Marlon Brando, considered one of America’s greatest actors, refused the Oscar for Best Actor due to Hollywood’s poor representation of Native Americans. He gave his platform to a native woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, to speak on his behalf. A link to video of the moment is below followed by Brando’s explanation of his refusal on the Dick Cavett Show in which he outlines his criticism of Hollywood’s portrayal not only of native peoples but also Asians, Blacks and others. His actions at the time are still reflected today in the ongoing efforts to represent different peoples fairly and proportionately in modern media.


Marlon Brando’s Oscar Win for The Godfather (refused by Sacheen Littlefeather on his behalf)



Marlon Brando on rejecting his Oscar | The Dick Cavett Show



The Godfather, for which Brando won the Oscar, is currently available on Netflix.

外師專欄_English Humor: Malapropisms

   As with other aspects of English humor previously discussed, such as lexical ambiguity (#13), one major aspect of humor has to do with how malleable, fragile and confusing language can sometimes be. A malaprop is mistakenly using an incorrect word in place of a word that sounds similar, often resulting in a nonsensical but humorous statement. For example, former Texas governor Rick Perry once referred to states, such as Texas, as “lavatories of innovation and democracy.” This is pretty hilarious if you know that a lavatory is a bathroom or toilet; the word he should have used or meant to use was “laboratories” – a place equipped to carry out scientific research and experiments. (Makes much more sense, doesn’t it?)

           The word malaprop comes from a 1775 play by Richard Sheridan called “The Rivals” and specifically from the character Miss Malaprop who has a regular habit of using wrong words that sound almost right. Her name, in fact, comes from the French phrase mal à propos, which literally means “poorly placed”. The malaprop existed before this play however and can be found in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (1598), for example, and the first recorded use of malapropos dates back to 1630. As such, malapropisms are also called Dogberryisms for the character, Dogberry, from Shakespeare’s play.

Here a few classic examples of malapropisms:

“Jesus was well-known for healing the leopards.”

 "Texas has a lot of electrical votes." (baseball player, Yogi Berra)

"She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile." (Miss Malaprop)

"Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons." (Constable Dogberry) 

"[The speech] gave us a few well-frozen worms in praise of the society." (Ronnie Barker, comedian)

“[No one] is the suppository of all wisdom." (Tony Abbot, former Australian MP)

"I might fade into Bolivian." (Mike Tyson, boxer)

           Finally, here’s a video from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, which provides an excellent explanation of malapropisms; it is best to watch the video with “closed captions” (CC) turned on as they have been written with complete punctuation and the video shows the correct word while the speaker says the incorrect word in his examples. Enjoy!  

Merriam-Webster’s Ask the Editor – an explanation of malapropisms


Correct words for the above examples:

  • Lepers
  • Electoral
  • Alligator
  • Apprehended, suspicious
  • Well-chosen words
  • Repository
  • Oblivion

外師專欄_English Humor: Deep Thoughts

  “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away and you have their shoes.”

Jack Handey is probably not the most well-known name in comedy around the world, but he certainly has a special place in American pop culture. Handey is a humorist and absurdist writer and his Deep Thoughts (as well as writing for other sketch shows and his novels) have been a part of comedic legend for several decades now. Deep Thoughts have been a short feature of the comedy-variety show, Saturday Night Live, since 1991; the first appearance of Deep Thoughts was in the National Lampoon magazine in 1984, another standard of modern American comedy and the direct predecessor of SNL.

  Deep Thoughts, as with example above, are usually short and presented as a sort of New Age wisdom with gentle music and pleasant landscapes. The humor plays on generally accepted wisdom or ideas, but then juxtaposes them with “outlandish hypothetical situations”. For example: “I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they’d never expect it.”

  The great thing about Deep Thoughts is that they are short and you can find many of them on YouTube, which include not only the text but also Jack Handey reading them as a voiceover. They are a short and simple tool for listening, reading and understanding English humor. (To be fair, some of them are pretty strange and some are definitely funnier than others.) Or you can check out another sketch series he created for SNL: Toonces the Driving Cat.

Click here for a listing of Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey: https://reurl.cc/9ZpMGd