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Say what you mean and mean what you say

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Neil Edgeller Neil Edgeller | 15:16 UK time, Monday, 22 August 2011

Hi Alfonso. Thanks for your latest blog. Once again, you've written with great enthusiasm and passion about your country. I like the way you try to take the reader on a journey with your descriptions.

Sentences like these here really draw the reader in:

Let's go together through the mountains of Columbia...
Pop up your heads and just take a look around. What do you see?

This type of writing sets the scene well and engages the readers by making them feel you are guiding them somewhere interesting. Well done!


Sometimes your enthusiasm gets the better of you and it's difficult to understand what you mean. In this blog I'd like to look at three words or expressions you've used which I don't understand or are wrong in this context.

This is what you've written. The words in bold are where I don't understand the sense:

1. Believed or not, with Coffee. I swear of God is true!
2. ...make a living spinning off around the coffee.
3. Music is less festive, just a little bit sorrow but beautiful and sticky.


Alfonso, for this homework I would like you to try to have another go at writing these sentences in a clearer way for the reader. Think about what you are trying to say and express it as clearly and simply as you can. Other followers of this blog, I'd like you to help Alfonso. Do you know a better way of saying in English what he has written above? Help each other!


• draw the reader in - make the reader believe your story.
• sets the scene - describes a situation before you tell a story.
• engages - interests someone.
• gets the better of you - allows you to do something you know is wrong.
• to have another go at - try again.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hello Neil,

    let me give my ideas on Alonzo's sentences. In the first one I guess he wanted to use the expression believe it or not. Because it's hard to believe that the whole country was built with coffee.
    In the second sentence maybe he wanted to say that people's lives in that area are all connected with the growing coffee activity. So they're always surrounded by coffee.
    In the third one, I guess he means that the music is so good that it sticks to your mind and you never forget it.
    Well, they are just ideas. What do you think Alonzo?

    It's nice to participate in the blog. It's great to read it.

    See you.

  • Comment number 2.

    Dear Neil,
    I'm a teacher (don't worry, I don't teach English), so I see you're simply «setting the scene» because, in my opinion, you understood very well what the highlighted espressions mean! However, despite I'm not a good student in English, I'm going to play my game!
    1) "Even though you cannot believe it"...
    2) (To be honest, I don't know, but it's my fault.)
    3) How could we say "tormentone" in English? When you hear a riff and can never forget it, like er... Whole Lotta Love: it sounds more and more and more in your brain...
    Stop! I've got the better of me!

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Nail,
    As my native language is Spanish I´ll try to understand the mentioned expressions.
    1) "believe it or not, with coffee....." literally and metaphorically Colombia IS coffee and many other things indeed, too.
    2) "make a living spinning off....." could mean coffee is vital in their lives and country development and..
    3) about the "Sticky music...." it wants to express that once you listen to it, it will remain in your mind for ever.
    I´m trying to guess. Am I right?

    Best wishes to you Neil and to Alfonso, Adilson, Wilson, Sonia and the rest of the group. Beatriz.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Neil,
    let me suggest an idea about the third sentence in our homework.
    It seems to me when Alfonso used the word “sticky” he meant that music in these regions is more sentimental and emotional than in neighbouring regions. In this case this word has a different meaning, it doesn’t mean “adhesive”.
    Thank you for your advice, best wishes

  • Comment number 5.

    Hei Neil,
    I think the first question would be:
    1) "Believe it or not, with coffee"... I understood perfectly the Alfonso's idea;
    2)"make a living spinning off around the coffee" I agree with Mauricio that the most Colombian people's lives are connected with the coffee's production.
    3) "Music is ..... and sticky". I guess Alfonso meant that the music is so good than you'll never forget it.
    Neil, I'm trying to improve writing in English. Coul you help me? Thanks all of you peope.
    Best regards.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Neil and everybody!
    Thanks for your all advice, Neil.
    Alfonso has lived in America a long time, so it was maybe just some American informal phrasal verbs. Among the Russians there is a joke, "I'm sorry, I no speak American" and to be said when a person don't want to show his ignorance of the English language and to do belittle his discomfort in front of foreigner, because nowadays even in ex-USSR it's not a good thing don't to know English. Saying that the homosoveticus tries to show himself as the so big master of English grammar that he notice at once any little "mistakes" of foreigners (meaning all differences of English local various'),of course, it's needless to say that he no speak English at all, and the joke use usually among Russian-American good friends and everybody know it and laugh...I'm so sorry Neil, I translated this my paragraph so long time that it seems I've forgotten what I was going to say about, I'm afraid, I have to end it next time, may be.
    :)) Oh, by the way, do you know Neil, what Mark Twain once said about his not so good French??..

    Friends! :)) Hi, my friends, well, relax, don't rack your brains over this simple stuff relatively Alfonso's very first phrase (the means of next words are difficult to understand for me, too). I have for you a really true version of it: if I'm not overestimating the importance (what is hardly possible) of my previous comment to Alfonso on his previous entry, then the situation is such that: yes, it was just some old Columbian encoded message addressed to me. On my mentioned comment I did a supposition asking him about his some original author's passages and wrote something like that, "...is it really true story, or it was your fantasy after a good portion of aquaguente??...". So as a wise man consequently modest one he just said with all meekness in his voice: "Believe it or not, with coffee". (Maybe my that light-hearted question sounded a bit disrespectfully, if it's so - I'm sincerely sorry, Alfonso).
    Best regards,

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Neil and everyone,
    I just back from a short trip to my hometown. Consequently, I want to apologize all of you if I´m late to answer your comments.
    I just want to say pals, Thanks!
    Thanks! Neil for your core advice on. Your comments are the real drive behind ours blogs and the fastest way to improve our English skills.

    Let´s go and take a look in the context of my last blog:

    ´Once upon a time´ where a country was built with coffee…Believed or not, with coffee. I swear of God, is true! This is not a fairy tale. Let's go together through the mountains of Colombia. Now, we are in the middle of the triangle formed by the three main coffee growers regions in this country.

    And now the same out of context:

    ´Once upon a time´ where a country was built with coffee…

    Believed or not, with coffee. I swear of God, is true! This is not a fairy tale. Let's go together through the mountains of Colombia. Now, we are in the middle of the triangle formed by the three main coffee growers regions in this country.

    As you must notice, the first statement was placed out of context as a blog’s title.
    When I wrote ´Once upon a time´ where a country was built with coffee…´the first part of the statement ´ Once upon a time´ must call out the reader’s attention through the metaphorical language .You must make up your mind.´ Once upon a time´ must lead the reader through one unreal world.It´s up to you believe it or not.I swear of God(Please, do not believe my word)..
    No one country was built of coffee. Do you remember the Hansel and Gretel, the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale? They found out a house made with cookies and candies. If you did read that tale- when you was a kid- you believed it. I did; indeed.I´m a naive person. In Easter Season, in States you ´ll see Ginger´s houses. The most beautiful part of the metaphorical language is that you must believe in those stories, with no strings attached. So then, you can smile freely.
    When I wrote my country Colombia´ was built with coffee´, I was using metaphorical language, meaning the economy, the culture, the roots; all around my country was related with coffee and the folk’s ´spin of´ around it. ´Spinning off´ was used just to explain folks make a living, derive all, making ends meet around and with coffee beans.
    if your heart is aching

    All the best,

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Beatriz,Mauricio,Sergio,Emat,Tatiana and Sonia
    Thanks for your comments.I´m pleased to hear from you.
    Beatriz:Yes.You are right.The adjetive Sticky was used in my last blog in a closer connotation with the word music, meaning the music ´are always in my mind´as the Willy Nelson song...the music stay ´on´...like a ´mantra´..is so ´good´you never forget..
    Tatiana:The connotation was similar to ... ádhesive´in your mind....(metaphorical language)
    Etan:lol:)..believed it or not.....was not ´my fantasy after a good bottle of ´aguardiente´......
    Sergio:´Torment´music.Should be better but with a mental connotation.
    Mauricio:You are ´on the ball´.
    Sonia:You are ´on the ball ´
    Thanks again everyone for your time.
    All the best,
    PD:Did you pals ,ever heard the song Smile? Performed by Michael Jackson &Charles Chaplin.Just take a look on that song.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Alfonso,
    You are quite right; the song is worth listening and taking it on board. Pals, smile! ;-)

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tatiana,
    I told you.´sticky´song is ´Smile´.
    All the best,


  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Alfonso!
    Oh no, what a disappointment: I thought you are one of our men in Colombia! Well, so be it.Tell me please better still, do you think to write something else as a Student blogger? I don't why, maybe it's all things initial went somehow in a little wrong way, but, it seemed to me you came here to say something special...
    Take care,

  • Comment number 12.

    It's me again, just to correct this my grammar mistake: "I don't know why" - not "I don't why".
    All the best

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Emat from Kazakhstan,
    First and foremost I just want to say Thanks for your comments on my previous entries.Those, with no strings attached ,honor me .
    You are far away from Colombia, and your country looks unknown ,as your culture and language sound strange and become a puzzle for me.
    However,the web allow the people to meet every day ,chat in a daily manner with confidence and feel that our pal is closer and his friendship is growing every day.
    I just want to say Emat,that you have a friend in this country and;indeed,enjoyed to read your comments.
    All the best,

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Neil,
    Am from Somalia, this phrase means Colombia is a country familiar with coffee, all people live in Colombia mostly they were agricultural or farmers, depending on what they harvested from their garden, despite most of them were planted Coffee, exported to other countries, for getting money income to their country


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