Headbloom Blog

Below are the latest resources posted to the site. Check back soon as we will be adding more in the near future. If you sign up to the email list, I will send you an email when a new article is available. Enjoy!

Cultural Signs of Spring (Part 3)
After being indoors all winter, Michiganders need to clean out the "cabins" they've occupied for many dark months. More...

Cultural Signs of Spring (Part 2)
Basketball, basketball, and more basketball. The college tournaments are here! More...

Public Spelling and Punctuation
Checking to see if anyone cares about English the way that I do. More...

Deer Hunting (Part 3)
In earlier posts (Deer Hunting, Parts 1 & 2), I talked about the "whats" and the "hows" of deer hunting. Perhaps more interesting for readers are the "whys"--the reasons Americans go hunting. More...

Global Quiz #2: Dancing Around the World
Join American Matt Harding as he dances across 6 continents. And then try to place all 70 locations on the map. More...

Mary Ann Peels Potatoes
A TV actress gives a listening lesson on cooking, slang, and American culture. More...

The Language of Nothing
When there's nothing to say, how do you express it? English has many ways to say nothing. More...

Joys and Dangers of a Walk in the Woods
If you go off the beaten path looking for wild berries, beware this lurking monster of the Michigan woods. More...

Short and Sweet
3 ways that American English abbreviates everyday expressions. More...

The Christian Religion and its Practices in the U.S.
An ordained clergy friend explains Christianity to my students from non-Christian backgrounds. More...

Is Time Scarce or Abundant?
How you view this very basic element will affect your work in the U.S. More...

What Happens When a Language Becomes Extinct?
The Endangered Languages Project is working to save thousands of unique tongues worldwide. More...

Declining Invitations to the T-Party:
20 reasons you shouldn't pronounce the "t" in the word "often" More...

Don't Cheese Off the French!
An American undergraduate student learns (the hard way) about how not to behave in France. More...

Global Quiz 1
What do you know about the world's geography, languages, and cultures? Take this 12-point quiz! More...

The Burnses Decline an Apostrophe
Americans aren't quite sure about adding an S or an apostrophe. Sometimes they just throw some in for good measure. More...

Can a Modern Culture Afford a Monarchy?
The death of a Thai royal family member triggers questions about a nation's values and priorities. More...

April Fool's Day
Once a year, Americans have an official excuse for playing tricks on each other. Watch out! More...

Naked!
A pronunciation lesson for special adjectives. More...

Behaviors Sure to Tick Off the Japanese
Guest bloggers Toshio and Toru Suzuki talk about a half-dozen behaviors that Japanese will find annoying. More...

Portmanteaus: Jamming two words into one sandwich
You probably know "brunch" and "motel" and "smog" come from putting two other words together. How many other portmanteau expressions do you recognize? More...

Diagnostic Reading
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Hidden Racism in Language
How do we know if the language we're using has roots in bigotry? Check here to see if you're unconsciously doing it. More...

Distinguishing Male and Female Names
Students of English often have trouble with first names. Is it male or female? How is it pronounced? More...

Low-Cost and No-Cost Ways of Saying "I Love You"
In honor of Valentine's Day, here are 14 ways to tell your sweetie how much you care. More...

Knock on Wood: Asking gently, not forcefully, for good fortune
An idiomatic way to avert bad luck: The superstition, grammar, and logic of asking for good luck. More...

Verbs That Always Stay the Same
A dozen English verbs remain unchanged regardless of their tense. Do you always get them right? Look and see. More...

It Was Not Unexpected
What does it mean when Americans use two negative words in the same phrase? More...

Palindromes: Either way, it's all the same to me!
Picking Palindromes: Those strings of letters that we can write the same, frontwards or backwards More...

Fighting Racism, Helping Foreigners Fit In
I talk with Christina Shockley of Michigan Public Radio on what a white American guy knows about racism and foreigners. More...

American Culture, American Movies, and Quotes You Should Know
Listening to everyday conversation with Americans requires cultural knowledge from many areas. One of those is American movies. More...

Lessons on a Teeshirt
A look at the simple mistakes we make in communication. More...

Multi-Cultural Wish List for 2012
Our friends at Radio in Black & White invited Dr. Rik and me to share our wish list for 2012. More...

How do you carry on a conversation with Americans? What topics are okay? What is taboo?
Americans are very friendly toward strangers. Does this mean you can ask them anything? Take this quiz to find out. More...

What's the difference between an introduction, a foreword, a preface, and a prologue?
A student in Poland writes to ask about distinguishing these four words. More...

When Spelling and Pronunciation Collide
A student hears an American co-worker say "an historical" and thinks it sounds funny. More...

Catwalks & Scaffolds
A Vocabulary Lesson for Construction & Manufacturing Workers More...

International Flags: A Quiz
There are over 200 flags of the world. Only these 15 have something in common. Can you guess what that is? More...

Out in Public: Something's Wrong
What do you say when someone's shoelace is untied? When their button is unbuttoned? More...

Unpacking the Coded Language of Race
Meanings can change over time, becoming more specific or general, more positive or negative--especially when applied to the touchy topic of race. More...

Trendsetters or Idiots?
Is it okay to use "LOL" in real-life conversations, or should we restrict it to online and text messaging? A discussion of acronyms, abbreviations, and language change. More...

Elbow Room
A local drinking establishment spurs Alan to think about multiple meanings for the word "elbow." More...

The Koru, a Powerful Cultural Symbol
For the Maori of New Zealand, there is a powerful symbol representing their culture. More...

There is no "itch" in Michigan!
Learning how to pronounce the letter cluster "ch" in American English. (Preview: We have 1 rule and 3 exceptions.) More...

Are you good at word games?
Here's a quick test of your word-puzzling skills. More...

Hot Weather and Heated Language
Why does hot weather make us do bad things? Here we take a look at human physiology and the language to express it. More...

Love the French, Hate the French
Over history, Americans have had an on-again, off-again relationship with France. Here's a look at how we differ and a plea for reconciliation. More...

Learning, Keeping Fresh, Having Fun at Any Age
GVSU students, alumni, and faculty from the film/video production program combined their technical and artistic skills with the residents of Clark Retirement Community to produce the first-ever lipdub music video for retirement centers. More...

Compatriots Singing on the Same Page
The official language of the new African nation of South Sudan is (choose one): A. Dinka, B. Nuer, C. Shilluk, D. Zande, E. English. Click here for the answer: More...

How We Relate to Our Partners
Preparing to celebrate a wedding anniversary at month's end, Alan takes a look at the funny and the serious ways two people relate. More...

New Numbers Change the Face of America
A 20-second slide show demonstrates the evolving racial profile of the United States. More...

Reflections on Father's Day
Connecting four generations in song and essays. More...

Is it Universal, Cultural, or Personal?
How easy it is to judge the behavior of others based on our own experience, culture, and beliefs. More...

Most Likely to Succeed
Can American students make predictions about their classmates' futures? More...

Who Is Welcome Here and Who Is Not: A Discussion on U.S. Immigration
U.S. history is checkered with intolerance for others based on race, culture, and religion. Most recently, high unemployment has triggered anti-immigrant sentiment along southern states bordering Mexico. More...

Weapons as Words
From urban locales to rural ranches and all across U.S. history, American life is steeped in the use of firearms. This blog looks at how gun culture shapes the way we talk to one another. More...

Cultural Signs of Spring (Part 1)
Beyond the physical evidence, there are other ways to tell spring is on the way. More...

National Grammar Day is March 4th
It's time to celebrate the correct use of language in our schools, neighborhoods, and workplace. More...

Justice For All?
How do we overcome 500 years of racial injustice on the North American continent? By changing attitude and access. More...

Points of Discretion
If a person in authority can choose to follow strict rules or apply creative justice, what does that choice look like? More...

National Cliché Day
Pull out all the stops. Celebrate like there's no tomorrow. November 3 is National Cliché Day. More...

Looking at the Language of Prejudice and Power
What's the difference between racism and prejudice? Between homophobia and heterosexism? More...

Dilbert: An iconic, ironic view of corporate America
Here is a description of a well-known American cartoon. It is recommended reading for any expatriate trying to improve his/her understanding of corporate American culture. More...

Tools, devices, and items with unknown names
Gadgets and do-hickeys: Here we examine words for things you don't know the names of. More...

September 11 National Day of Service
I was invited to speak to a group of 50 volunteers on the topic of diversity, healing fear, and educating the community about different cultures and religions. Here are my notes. More...

The Culture and Meaning of Baptisms
Here are brief explanations of the religious meaning and cultural expectations surrounding the Christian ceremony of baptism. Also some tips for first-time guests. More...

What's in a Name?
Using and saying names properly shows respect to others. However, knowing when and how to say names isn't clear--for Americans or for international visitors. Here are some observations to make you more sensitive when using someone's name. More...

Accommodating Ramadan in the American Workplace
For American HR managers with Muslim employees, the monthlong fast of Ramadan creates some tricky workplace issues. My friend Kemal Hamulic helps out with a half-dozen useful tips. More...

The Apoplectic Apostrophe
Public Spelling and Punctuation: Learning the hard way that not everyone cares about English the way that I do. More...

Awkward Moments in Expatriate Life
It's not easy living and working in another culture, going about life in a second language. More...

What's So Funny?
Ten examples of American humor (with explanations). More...

When Small Words Make a Big Difference
An international blunder shows that important speeches require special knowledge--or at least careful editing. More...

Observing Flag Day in the United States
Here are a few notes on how to handle the U.S. national flag. More...

Discovering "Lost Positives" in English
Why isn't "gruntled" the opposite of "disgruntled"? This Headblog discusses the phenomenon of Lost Positives in English vocabulary. More...

Derogatory expressions and images regarding Native Americans
A recent court ruling allows the University of North Dakota to discontinue use of the name "Fighting Sioux" to represent the University. White Americans see the name as "no big deal" or as a matter of historical pride. Native American groups see it as a continued legacy of racism against indigenous peoples. More...

February events in the U.S.
Three dates are recognized in February in the United States: Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, and Presidents Day--all with different levels of observance. More...

Should poor spellers give up?
An American friend asks for advice about his chronically poor spelling. More...

New expressions
Explanations for two English expressions: "deer in the headlights" and "vice-versa" More...

January events in the U.S.
Traditionally, the first day of a new year is time to take stock of one's life and look at ways to improve it. The middle of the month allows for reflections on the country's difficult history with race relations and celebrating the birthday of a national civil rights leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More...

December events in the U.S.
There are religious activities in December: Advent, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. There is also a non-religious celebration: New Year's Eve. More...

Girl, Lady, or Woman? A question of language and gender
Sorting out when to use which expression. More...

November events in the U.S.
In the U.S., there are three nationally observed events in November: Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving. More...

Follow-up on Death and Dying in America
My father passed away in November. We held a memorial service in his hometown to celebrate his life. More...

October events in the U.S.
There are two U.S. holidays in October: Columbus Day and Hallowe'en. The former is a national holiday on which banks and governmental offices are closed. The latter is observed in personal lives to varying degrees. More...

On death and dying in America (Part 4)
In this final section, you'll see a list of ways to express your sympathy and show support to friends or co-workers who have lost a loved one. More...

On death and dying in America (Part 3)
Here is a description of the events and behaviors at a typical American funeral service. These notes will help you know what to expect and make you more comfortable in a situation which people (from any culture) may find awkward. More...

On death and dying in America (Part 2)
What is the difference between hospital care, hospice centers, and home hospice care? Here you will read an outline of the basic kinds of care for sick and dying patients in the U.S. More...

On death and dying in America (Part 1)
How do Americans deal with death and dying ? The following begins a four-part series based on personal experience and summarizing how people in the U.S. deal with loss. More...

September events in the U.S.
By now, all students--from Kindergarten to university--have started back to classes. Football is in full swing. And Americans celebrate Labor Day. More...

Football Talk at Work, in the Coffee Shop, or on the Street
If someone at the business meeting proposes doing an all-out blitz or an end-around, what does he/she mean? Are you familiar enough with the concepts of American football to understand their use in non-sporting conversation? More...

August events in the U.S.
American families are scurrying to get in their last vacations before the start of the school year. For sports fans, football fever is now taking hold. More...

Beyond Baseball: Humorous Sayings by Yogi Berra
Newly announced inductions into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame got me thinking about one of America's all-time great players, more so for his contribution to American folk philosophy than his prowess on the baseball diamond. More...

Blending tact and assertiveness to get what you want
For the second time in a week, a neighbor's large dog strayed into our yard today. Some thoughts on keeping stray pets off our property while maintaining a good relationship with my neighbors. More...

Independence Day (quiz)
The major U.S. holiday in July is Independence Day. See how much you know about the traditions surrounding this day. More...

July event in the U.S. (national anthem)
The most visible symbol of American Independence Day is the flag of the United States. Here is some information about the song which Americans sing about their flag, The Star-Spangled Banner. More...

June events in the U.S.
In the U.S., there are two nationally recognized days in June: Father's Day and Flag Day. Also included in this month's quiz are questions about celebrating birthdays. More...

May events in the U.S.
In the U.S., there are three interesting cultural events in May: Mother's Day, Senior Prom, and Memorial Day. See how much you know about these traditions. More...

April Events in the U.S.
In the U.S., there are two big events in April: the religious holiday of Easter and the start of the sport of baseball. See how much you know about these traditions. Take the quiz. More...

March Events in the U.S.
Take the quiz. In the US, there are two big events in March: St. Patrick's Day and part of the Easter season known as Lent. See how much you know about these traditions. More...

Deer Hunting (Part 2)
In my previous post, I talked about the "whats" and the "hows" of deer hunting. Perhaps more interesting for readers are the "whys"--the reasons Americans go hunting. More...









Alan Headbloom