Tag Archives: English


I learned a new word today: efflorescence

I read it in the following sentence: “The last fifteen years have seen a great efflorescence of research and advocacy relating to the collateral consequences of criminal convictions in the United States.”*

According to Wikipedia, efflorescence means, “the migration of a salt to the surface of a porous material, where it forms a coating.” Which literally makes no sense in the context of the above sentence.

Dictionary.com says more satisfyingly, but no less unhelpfully: “the state or a period of flowering.”

And finally, Merriam-Webster defines it as: “the action or process of developing and unfolding as if coming into flower.” 

After finding the third definition, I went: “Oh! What a great word to use there!”

But I’m of two minds about the author’s use of the word overall. On the one hand, I like finding new words and I think an author does me a service by introducing me to new ones, particularly if the context makes sense. On the other hand, efflorescence seems a very fancy word where something simpler (and thus more legible) might do. Like burgeoning or expansion. But perhaps those are the expected terms and the use of something like efflorescence wakes the brain from complacency. 

What are your thoughts? Is it good writing or not in this context? And does it matter that I had to look in three places to find a proper definition? 


*Alec C. Ewald, Barbers, Caregivers, and the “Disciplinary Subject”: Occupational Licensure for People with Criminal Justice Backgrounds in the United States, 46 Fordham Urb. L.J. 719, 722 (2019). Actually a very fascinating article I do recommend checking out if you’re looking for some light reading 😉 

Group Papers

I have discovered something worse than group projects: group papers. 

The first time a professor assigned one, I thought maybe it was a fluke. Like, he did not think through what he was asking and accidentally assigned 4 of us to write 1 paper instead of 1 of us writing 4 papers or something. But now I know better. I think I have had a group paper due in every single class.

To put it mildly…I am not a fan.

Think of all the hassle of a group project. Now imagine the stress of writing a paper. Put them together. 

99.9% of the time I look at our finished work and think, “I do not want to put my name on that.” 

To give credit to my classmates, they are undergraduates and English is their secondary language. I admire them for trying. They do their best.

But besides being a native English speaker and grad student, I am a trained legal writer and editor. I expect more from myself and any work I turn in. 

It creates a difficult tension. On the one hand, I am stressed because I just read through my classmates’ writing three times and I’m still not sure what they are saying. At the same time, outside of completely rewriting everything, there is not much I can do to change it. Helpful hints only go so far when your audience does not see a problem. 

It does not help any that we have not gotten back any grades for group papers yet. I just keep telling myself, “Surely the professors cannot expect more than what your classmates are turning in. This must be the norm.” Right? Right?

Friday Adventures

After the excitement of coming home to an apartment with no electricity, yesterday ended on an almost anticlimactic note. Not long after I posted my blog, my landlords sent someone to sort it out. Only my room appeared to suffer an outage. The rest of the building was fine. Three, non-English speaking men showed up and went into the little electrical/storage room that I assume services the entire floor. They then started flipping breakers. Now, I am not entirely sure how breakers work, but it strikes me as singularly inefficient to flip one breaker, look expectantly at the still dark apartment, flip another, look at the apartment, flip another…but eventually it worked and I got electricity again! 

Maybe because of that, or because I got too much sleep, I woke up cranky this morning. I decided to channel my crankiness and finally buy a cell phone and data plan. My previous attempts all came to naught and left me exhausted and frustrated. I figured my crankiness would keep me going. 

Unfortunately, endorphins kicked in on the 2.5 mile walk to the nearest mall and I ceased feeling grumpy. Not that it ended up being only a 2.5 mile walk, as I managed to get lost. I may have no sense of direction but I know how to follow my nose and my nose quickly told me I had no idea where I was. I decided to cross the street. This proved an extremely challenging task as traffic kept whizzing past.

I don’t think I dawdled too long staring at traffic, but apparently I dawdled long enough. A police officer popped out from nowhere and literally stopped all lanes of traffic to help me cross! Sometimes looking helpless works quite effectively. 

Once I crossed over, I found my way to the mall with little difficulty. The malls here are…huge. The one I visited easily had 7 floors. I kept trying to count them from the escalator and then realized I couldn’t even see them all. And this mall isn’t even the biggest or most well known one around! 

Mindful of the advice I received from the internet, I began my phone hunt by comparing the prices of various phone retailers in the mall. By which I actually mean I furtively stole glances at the price tags on the kiosks full of phones and tried not to make eye contact with the salespeople. I’m very susceptible to sales pitches.  

I knew, though, which place I wanted to buy a phone from the minute I saw it. Only females worked there and I immediately liked the look of one, joyful looking saleswoman who barely looked out of her teens. While her knowledge of English lacked breadth, she knew enough to help walk me through the various phones and prices. As I only wanted a basic smart phone, don’t know much about phones, and couldn’t read the packing describing the options anyway, the conversation went something like this: 

Me: “And they all work with Google maps?”

Her: “Yes! Google maps comes with all of them.”

Me: “And I just need to go buy a sim card and data plan? Nothing extra?”

Her: “Yes, they all work that way.”

Me: “…”

Her: “…”

Me: “…”

Her: “…”

Me: “So…how are these different?” 

Her: “They all come with Google maps!”

Me: “Would they work in the United States?”

A confused shrug. 

Her: “This one comes in two colors and this one comes in three.” 

And so forth. I appreciate her patience. Eventually we found one for me. I think she found my inefficiency a form of haggling because she even lowered the price a few times. We parted mutually satisfied and she asked to be friends on Snapchat. 

I then sallied forth to get a data plan. The last time I walked in, I did not realize I was supposed to get a number at the door. I was politely chastised for overlooking this step. Now I confidently walked in and received the little ticket that would send the next person who spoke English in my direction. 

Except apparently no one spoke English today. Or at least, it took 3 of them to help me and I’m not really sure about the results. They asked how long I would be in Thailand and we spent several minutes trying to figure out the translation for “June.” They then disappeared and reappeared with a sim card, a price tag, and the information that I was set for the next 6 months. As I payed an obscenely low amount for the plan, I’m skeptical about how much data I actually received. Unfortunately, all my inquires met with equally blank and confused faces. After posting this, I’m going to try and see if I can figure out what I got! 

I then ventured forth from the mall and – buoyed by success – decided to swing by a drug store and buy face masks. The pollution is down considerably but with all the walking I do, it can’t hurt. Drug stores here keep everything behind the counter so I’ve been too intimidated to buy masks before. The lady who helped me proved very cheerful. After learning I was from the United States, she said it was much colder in Chicago than in Thailand. I agreed and said I was from a place near Chicago. She was delighted by this discovery! For a moment we basked in mutual understanding about the frigidity of Illinois. Then I tried saying something else but we apparently maxed out her English and I was politely dismissed from the store. (Thankfully by that point I acquired a box of face masks.) 

For my final errand, I visited my favorite store: Tesco. In England, Tesco reminded me of Pick ‘n Save. Here it seems more like a Wal Mart. Not that I am complaining. I love that I can buy jam, a mug, and a pillow case in the same place and not have to worry about haggling over anything. 

The only difficulty I ran into at Tesco was finding instant coffee. Actually, finding it was easy. The store carries a variety of instant coffee flavors and types. Finding one, however, that doesn’t list “sugar” as the second ingredient is almost impossible. While I’ve enjoyed waking up to what amounts to little more than hot chocolate every morning, I’m a black coffee kind of girl and I miss it. Forget coffee beans and a coffee pot, though! Everything here comes instant. (In the end I did manage to find a non-sweet mix and am enjoying a cup with Digestive biscuits right now.) 

I walked out triumphant and loaded with groceries. The bag then split down the middle and it dawned on me I had a 2.5 mile walk home. I almost took a taxi but I decided taxis were for the weak and I marched on. By the time I arrived home, my arms were shaking and my legs aching but by golly I made it! 

And so my Friday adventures roll to an end. Sort of. I need to work on a paper tonight (and probably the rest of this weekend, ugh) but I think this feeling of triumphant success should last at least until next weekend’s adventure! 

Thai Students

Disclaimer: Not all students act this way. These are just a few observations based on what people told me to look out for.

Professor: “I might allow a paper instead of a test this semester. But last semester, students plagiarized up to 50% of their work and that is not allowed.”

Me: * internally* Uh, yeah! Wow. 

Student: “What is an acceptable amount to plagiarize?”

Me: * internally* “Um…none?!”

Professor: “It is hard to put a number on it…but I would say, if you are plagiarizing 30%, I’m going to be concerned.”

Me: “…”

Besides the plagiarizing question and showing up for class whenever (see my last post), Thai students demonstrate a few other habits that I can’t imagine being tolerated in any other classroom.

For starters, they talk while the professor talks. I’ve been in at least one classroom where the professor eventually gave up because even with a mike, he couldn’t be heard over the chatter of the students. 

Paying attention to the professor in general seems somewhat optional. I’ve seen students play with their phones, watch TV, and in one case, literally read a Percy Jackson book while the professor lectured. (She was sitting in the front row, too. Extra gutsy.) 

Students come to lecture to collect the slides. Actual learning – I’m told – happens afterwards. Accordingly, very little preparation goes into coming to class. Twice now, professors sent out pre-class readings and I was the only student to do them. 

Students also don’t seem to like answering questions. One or two take the lead and answer every question, often to the point where other students lean over and whisper the answer to them. In their defense, I know English isn’t their first language and I give them major kudos for being fluent enough to learn about the law. It still astounds me. 

So there are a few ways I’m getting used to the other students here! On the bright side, I think the professors like me. At least I’m comfortable talking in class! (Whether I know the answer is another question…)

Can’t Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

Guess what book came out in English yesterday? None other than…


Title: Just Dreaming by Kerstin Gier

Publishing Date: May 2nd, 2017

Plot: A dream traveler faces the greatest challenge she’s yet encountered in this gripping third and final book of the Silver trilogy. The course of dream travel never did run smooth—at least, not in Liv Silver’s experience. Able to visit other people’s dreams (whether they want her to or not), Liv has solved mysteries, unearthed difficult truths, fought madmen, and escaped life-threatening peril, all from the comfort of her own bed. But Liv’s troubles are just beginning.


Kerstin Gier is a German author I’ve been reading since her book Ruby Red hit Wal Mart’s shelves. I have mixed feelings about her books but I always look forward to them getting translated. I won’t go out of my way to find this one, but I will certainly be avidly waiting for the library to get it!