Tag: health

History and our Worldview

History and our Worldview

Photo by Jeppestown

If I were to describe to you a scene in which a democratically elected head of state and his brother were set upon[1] by a mob[2], tortured, mutilated and murdered, which country do you think these events might have happened[3] in? I suspect that your answer would not be Holland. But that is precisely what happened when a crowd[4] of supporters[5] of William of Orange – future king of England – attacked Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis in The Hague in 1672. Members of the mob2 even ate the Witt brothers’ livers[6] in a cannibalistic frenzy[7].

Over the years I have come across[8] isolated examples of extreme behaviour[9] that have shocked and contradicted my worldview. It is relatively easy to explain away[10] Crusaders roasting[11] and eating Muslim babies because that happened an awful long time ago. The fact that the English settlers[12] propagated the practice of scalping[13] across North America is also surprising for anyone brought up[14] on westerns[15]. But still, several centuries separate us from such primitive barbarism.

One of the most sickening[16] of the many shocking aspects of the AIDS crisis in Africa is the “virgin cleansing myth”. Popular superstition suggests that one way of curing AIDS is to have sex with a virgin. The consequence of this outlandish[17] notion is that thousands of children have been raped[18]. At one point almost a third of the population of South Africa reportedly believed in ‘the virgin cure’, though progress has been made in dispelling[19] the nefarious[20] myth. It’s a hideous[21] idea but I’d always seen the virgin cleansing myth reported in the media as propagated by traditional healers[22]; as a local cultural problem it would seem difficult to solve from outside the culture.

Then, to my horror I discovered, after a minimal amount[23] of research[24] that the virgin cleansing myth is not native to Africa but in fact emerged in 16th-century Europe. Worse still, it gained prominence[25] in Victorian England where sex with a virgin was believed to cure STDs[26]; in the second half of the 19th Century Britain suffered an epidemic of syphilis and gonorrhea. Far from being[27] a ‘primitive’ local belief, this atrocious idea was exported to southern Africa by the British Empire. I wonder[28] why they never mention these things in history class at school or on the BBC.

[1] to set upon sb. (set-set-set) – physically attack sb.

[2] mobviolent tumult, angry multitude

[3] to happen – occur

[4] crowdmultitude, tumult

[5] supporterfollower

[6] liver – hepatic organ

[7] frenzy – hysteria

[8] to come across (come-came-come) – encounter

[9] behaviourconduct

[10] to explain awayfind excuses for

[11] to roastcook over a fire

[12] settlercolonist

[13] scalpingcutting the hair and skin off the top of an enemy’s head

[14] to bring up (bring-brought-brought) – rear, raise

[15] westerncowboy movie

[16] sickening – repulsive

[17] outlandishludicrous, bizarre

[18] to rapesexually assault

[19] to dispel – eliminate

[20] nefariousevil, criminal

[21] hideous – (in this case) awful, repulsive

[22] traditional healerwitch doctor, sb. who supposedly cures illnesses using nonWestern medicine

[23] amountquantity

[24] research – investigation

[25] to gain prominence – become important

[26] STDssexually transmitted diseases

[27] far from being – it was the opposite of

[28] to wonderask oneself

At the Gym

At the Gym

I rather[1] cruelly dedicated my last post to those learners who failed in their New Year’s resolution to quit[2] smoking. To make amends[3] for my cynicisms, here’s a post dedicated to those who fulfil[4] their New Year’s resolution to go to the gym more.

If you are an urbanite then most of the exercise you take is probably at the gym – if you take any. People go to the gym to do aerobics or to build up their muscles. Aerobics and other group exercises to music, such as jazz dance, are meant to strengthen[5] the heart and lungs[6]. Taking exercise specifically to develop[7] your muscles is called bodybuilding[8]. A colloquial way of saying this is “to pump iron”. A person who regularly exercises to develop their muscles is a bodybuilder.


Be aware of[9] the right verb to use with each activity:

take exercise               do aerobics                 get fit              keep/stay fit

Getting Fit

One of the aims[10] of going to the gym is to keep fit[11]. This has evolved into a noun/adjective: we talk about keep-fit classes in the UK. These are called (physical) fitness classes in the USA and Australia. Be careful with the expression “s/he’s fit!” because in British slang it means you think someone is sexually attractive. You should also take care with the word ‘fitness’; in English it simply means the condition of being physically fit and does not have the specific connotations it has when used in other languages.

Expressions with ‘fit’

Three English expressions:

To be fighting fit        To be as fit as a fiddle[12]         To be as fit as a flea[13]

mean ‘to be in good health’.


Most of the muscle vocabulary comes from Latin and is more or less the same across different European languages; e.g. abductors, adductors, pectorals, biceps, etc. You should know the abbreviation ‘abs’ (= abdominal muscles) and the term “one’s six pack” for visibly well-developed abdominal muscles). One term you might not know is the hamstring for the three muscles behind the thigh[14] that flex the knee[15].

Some Typical Exercises

  • We say you do press-ups in Britain when you lie flat[16] on the floor with your face down and you try to push your body up with your arms, while keeping your legs and back straight[17]. This is called doing push-ups in the USA and Australia.
  • You do squats when you bend[18] your legs under your body and then straighten[19] them (going up and down).
  • If you do squat thrusts, you put your hands on the floor and move your legs from a bent[20] to a straight17 position by moving your feet in a single movement.
  • You do sit-ups when you lie flat16 and then bring your head up to touch your knees.
  • Be careful with the expression to do the splits, this is a false friend and refers towhen you lower you body so that both your legs are flat on the floor in the opposite directions. If you put your weight on one leg which you flex, while the other is straight, this is called a hamstring-stretching[21]

Some Fitness Machines

  • A rowing machine imitates the action of rowing[22] a boat (logically!).
  • A treadmill is a machine that measures your speed[23] while you walk, jog[24] or run on it. Originally, treadmills were wheels with a prisoner inside that were used to drive[25]
  • An exercise bike imitates the action of a bicycle but does not move.

For more footnoted articles about sports, see Yes 15 (www.yes-mag.com).

[1] rather – (in this case) somewhat, quite

[2] to quit (quit-quit-quit) – stop

[3] to make amends (make-made-made) – atone,

[4] to fulfil – (in this case) satisfy, execute

[5] to strengthen sth.make sth. stronger

[6] lungpulmonary organ

[7] to develop sth. – (in this case) expand sth., build sth.

[8] ‘culturism’ does not exist as an English word!

[9] to be aware of – be conscious of

[10] aim (n.) – objective

[11] to keep fit – maintain your body in a good physical condition

[12] fiddle – violin

[13] flea – (Siphonaptera) small insect that cannot fly but can jump and drinks humans’ and animals’ blood

[14] thighupper leg, the part of one’s leg around one’s femur

[15] kneemid-leg articulation

[16] to lie flat (lie-lay-lain) – be in a horizontal position

[17] straight – in line, not flexed

[18] to bend – flex

[19] to straightenmake sth. straight17

[20] bentangled, arched, flexed

[21] to stretch – extend, tense

[22] to rowmove a boat with oars (= long sticks with paddles at the ends)

[23] speed – velocity

[24] to jogrun at a slow, regular speed for exercise

[25] to drive (drive-drove-driven) – (in this case) power, cause sth. to function

Headaches 3: Hangovers

Headaches 3: Hangovers

painting by Christian Krohg

OK, here it is the concluding part of my exploration of headaches and how to avoid[1] them. Here I look at how to mitigate the aftermath[2] of drinking too much. With luck this post will ensure you have a happier Christmas session. Needless to say[3], the best preventative solution for hangovers[4] is to drink in moderation.

Hangovers can be minimized by a number of standard practices. One strategy can be to line[5] your stomach before you start drinking. One technique can be to drink a large[6] glass of milk before going out. This will both dilute the alcohol and slow its absorption into the blood stream[7]. Combining food and drink has a similar effect.

Minimizing Hangovers

Hangovers are greatly aggravated by bad combinations of different types of alcohol. As a rule, try never to mix drinks: if you start on wine, stick to[8] wine. However, certain combinations are particularly troublesome[9]: wine, cider[10] and martini mix badly with other drinks. Just one glass of red wine followed by a glass of cider can be a killer. Each person has a slightly[11] different tolerance to different types of alcohol so it is worth observing[12] which drinks and which combinations affect you the worst. Remember that there may be no direct relationship between liking the taste[13] of a drink and what it does to your head.

Curing Hangovers

Most of the effects of a hangover are the result of the dehydration caused by alcohol. You can avoid1 a hangover by drinking two or three glasses of water before going to bed. Water is much less effective in the morning once the hangover has set in[14].

In Brazil and the Caribbean the kola nut[15] is used as a hangover cure (but you may not have any kola nuts handy[16] on the morning after a binge[17]!). Painkillers, such as aspirin or paracetamol, are the easiest solutions to your problem but, as your stomach is probably rather[18] ‘delicate’, they may simply transfer the problem. Throwing up[19] is the body’s fastest solution to the problem. However, if you do vomit[20], remember to clean your teeth afterwards as stomach acids can be very corrosive.

There is a tradition that a small alcohol drink may alleviate a hangover, popularly known as “the hair of the dog[21]”. There is no hard[22] evidence that this trick[23] works and it may prolong or aggravate the problem.

For more footnoted reading practice visit: www.yes-mag.com

[1] to avoid – (in this case) not suffer from, prevent

[2] aftermathconsequences, after-effects

[3] needless to say – it should not be necessary to say this but

[4] hangoverheadache and other symptoms resulting from excessive drinking of alcohol

[5] to line sth.coat/cover the inside of sth.

[6] large – (false friend) big

[7] blood streamveins and arteries

[8] to stick to (stick-stuck-stuck) – (in this case) continue to drink

[9] troublesome – problematic

[10] cider – alcoholic drink made from apples

[11] slightlymarginally

[12] it is worth observing – it is a good idea to observe

[13] liking the taste – preferring the flavour

[14] to set in (set-set-set) – start, become established

[15] kola/cola nut – dry fruit/seed of a tropical tree (Cola acuminata)

[16] handy – (colloquial) on hand, available

[17] bingesession of heavy drinking

[18] rathersomewhat, quite, (in this case) very

[19] to throw up (throw-threw-thrown) – (colloquial) vomit

[20] do vomit – (emphatic) vomit

[21] The full expression is “to stroke (= caress) the hair of the dog that bit (= attacked with teeth) you”

[22] hard – (in this case) definite, convincing, solid

[23] trickstratagem, subterfuge

Headaches 2: Additional Relief

Headaches 2: Additional Relief

Improved Diet

Diets that are deficient in fibre are likely to[1] lead to[2] constipation[3], which can mean that more toxins are absorbed into the body. This will cause headaches and other symptoms. Avoid[4] refined ingredients like white sugar and refined flour[5]. By adding bran[6] to food you can partially compensate for the lack of[7] roughage[8] caused by the refining of processed food. Moreover, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can reduce stress. For example, brewer’s yeast[9] contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6 as well as vitamin C – all of which offer anti-stress benefits.

Foods rich in vitamin E – avocados[10], cold-pressed vegetable oils, nuts[11] and seeds[12] can also help because vitamin E neutralizes the effects of toxic free radicals, which are believed to cause some headaches.

Intracranial Headaches

Intracranial headaches are caused by an increase in blood[13] pressure in the arteries at the base of the brain. This may arise from[14] problems of high blood pressure, stress, a hangover[15], fever or other factors. One characteristic of intracranial headaches is that the pain changes as you change posture. Relief[16] can be achieved[17] by a flannel[18] soaked in[19] cold water being applied to the back of the neck[20].

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are referred pains (i.e.[21] they are perceived in a different part of the body from where they originate). These extracranial headaches are the result of stress, fatigue, frustration, anxiety or depression. They usually come from tensions in neck[22] muscles and facial muscles. The ability to massage your face and neck effectively is a useful tool[23] for relieving headaches. Learn to massage your face and neck or convince your significant other[24] to learn these skills[25]. You should also learn a routine of gentle neck exercises. It goes without saying that you should also try to minimize the stress in your life.

Daily tension headaches are usually caused by depression, anxiety, anger, frustration or a feeling of inadequacy. They can also arise from[26] excessive use of painkillers. The best solution to these problems is to seek[27] psychological help.

The best way to reduce the risk of headaches is to have a healthy diet, to minimize stress and to sleep regular hours. However, if you suffer from regular headaches you should seek professional medical advice[28].

For more footnoted reading practice visit: www.yes-mag.com

[1] are likely to – will probably

[2] to lead to – cause, result in

[3] constipation – (false friend) – difficulty defecating

[4] to avoid – (in this case) try not to eat

[5] flourparticles of cereal grain used to make bread, etc.

[6] bran – husks (= dry covering) of cereal grain (usually eliminated to make white flour5

[7] lack ofabsence of, deficiency in

[8] roughagedietary fibre

[9]  brewer’s yeastyeast (= fungi used to ferment sugar and make bread) used to make beer

[10] avocado (pear) – pear-shaped fruit from Mexico that has oily green flesh

[11] nutfruit with a hard shell and edible kernel (e.g. almonds, Brazil nuts and peanuts)

[12] seed – grain, pip

[13] blood (adj.) – (in this case) arterial

[14] to arise from (arise-arose-arisen) – be caused by

[15] hangoverheadache and other symptoms resulting from excessive drinking of alcohol

[16] relief – alleviation, mitigation, reduction of pain

[17] to achieve – obtain, gain, find

[18] flannelsmall towel for the face

[19] to be soaked in – be saturated with

[20] neckvertebral column connecting the head to the body

[21] i.e. – (id est) that is

[22] neck (adj.) – cervical

[23] tool – (in this case) technique, skill25

[24] significant other – romantic/sexual partner, husband/boyfriend or wife/girlfriend

[25] skill – technique, talent, ability

[26] to arise from (arise-arose-arisen) – occur because of, be the result of

[27] to seek (seek-sought-sought) – ask for, try to find

[28] advice – recommendations, help

Headaches 1: Ingredients to Avoid

Headaches 1: Ingredients to Avoid

’Tis the season to[1] have headaches, so I thought I’d offer you a little relief[2] with this three-part blogpost:

Everyone has a headache at one time or another and about 10% of the population suffer from a recurrent problem. As such, headaches are one of the great evils[3] of humanity. However, the term ‘headache’ describes a variety of conditions that are potentially caused by a whole series of different factors or a combination of these.

Headaches usually reflect an imbalance or deficiency in some part of our bodies. For this reason, while the short term solution may be to take a painkiller[4], in the long run[5] it is much better to try to identify the problem that has caused this frustrating symptom.

Eating Relief

According to some estimates[6], three quarters of headaches are caused by an allergy to some type of food. The most common culprits[7] are milk, wheat[8] and eggs. If you suffer from regular headaches it is worth experimenting[9] with your diet to see if you can identify and eliminate the ingredient that is causing your headache. To do this, keep a food diary and cut out specific foods one by one. None of the recommendations made here can adversely affect your health and most of them will improve[10] your wellbeing even if they are not directly related to your headache.

When experimenting with the elimination of an ingredient from your diet it is worth remembering[11] that the positive effects will not be felt immediately. What’s more, you should be sure to eliminate all sources of[12] the ingredient not just the most obvious ones (e.g. caffeine is not just found in coffee but also in tea and soft drinks). However, a word of warning[13]; eliminating caffeine too quickly from your diet can cause withdrawal headaches[14].

Most people who are allergic to alcohol, caffeine and wheat8 are aware of[15] their problem. The following ingredients may also cause allergic headaches:

Tyramine. This substance is found in chocolate, cheese, eggs, red wine and onions.

Monosodium glutamate. This additive can cause headaches and has also been associated with more serious conditions[16] such as epilepsy.

Nitrites. These are found in fertilizers and above all[17] in smoked food.

Other people may have a low tolerance for the hormones and antibiotics that are used in the industrial production of meat, butter, cheese, other dairy products[18] and eggs. Consuming organic food should relieve[19] headaches caused by these factors.


Heavy Metals

Heavy metals can seriously affect your health as well as causing headaches. Cadmium is one metal to watch out for[20]. Refined foods often have higher levels of cadmium than wholemeal[21] foods. Moreover[22], the refining process often eliminates ingredients that reduce the negative effects of cadmium, such as vitamin C and zinc. Another source[23] of cadmium is cigarette smoke.

Fish and seafood from rivers and coastal waters often contain harmful[24] levels of cadmium, mercury and lead[25] because these organisms tend to accumulate the heavy metals that contaminate our waters. Mercury is also found in some fungicides[26], which is just one reason why it is important to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly[27]. The best way of reducing the effects of heavy metals is again to consume organic food rich in zinc, calcium and magnesium.

[1] ’tis the season to – it’s the time of year when we typically

[2] relief – (in this case) alleviation, mitigation, succour

[3] evil (n.) – misfortune, affliction

[4] painkilleraspirin, paracetamol, acetaminophen (US English), etc.

[5] in the long run – in the long term, as a permanent solution

[6] estimate (n.) – approximate calculation

[7] culpritguilty party, element to blame

[8] wheat – (Triticum aestivum) grain/cereal from which bread is typically made

[9] it is worth experimenting – you should experiment, it is a good idea to experiment

[10] to improve sth.make sth. better, enhance sth.

[11] it is worth remembering – you should remember, it is a good idea to remember

[12] source of – (in this case) food containing

[13] a word of warning – be careful

[14] withdrawal headacheheadache that is a symptom of ceasing to take a drug

[15] to be aware of – be conscious of

[16] (medical) conditionmedical problem

[17] above all – especially

[18] dairy productfood and drink made from milk

[19] to relieve – alleviate, mitigate, reduce

[20] to watch out for – be vigilant against, be careful with

[21] wholemeal – organic, ‘natural’

[22] moreover – furthermore, besides, what’s more, in addition

[23] source – originator, producer

[24] harmfuldangerous

[25] lead – (Pb.) type of soft metal

[26] fungicidesubstance for killing fungi

[27] thoroughly – well