Did dinner used to mean lunch?

Answer by Franklin Veaux:

Dinner is the largest meal of the day. It's a term that indicates the size of the meal, not the time of the meal.

In some places where I've lived, like Florida and Oregon, it is customary to have the largest meal in the evening, so we talk about having breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I lived in Nebraska, it was customary to have the largest meal at midday, so we would talk about breakfast, dinner, and supper.

Did dinner used to mean lunch?

Why do we say “THE” United States of America but not in the case of India?

A descriptive noun is linked with an article "the". A plain proper noun (a name) does not.

Answer by Kelly Martin:

Do your friends address you as "Shiv" or "The Shiv"?

The "name" of the United States is not actually a name.  It is, instead, a description. It describes who we are: we are the "United" "States" of "America": a country comprised of states, all located in America, that have voluntarily united. Because it's a descriptive phrase, not a name, grammatically it needs an article. This is also why we say the United Kingdom: again, the name describes the country (in full, it is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland").

India, however, is a name; the word doesn't describe the country, but simply names it, and thus grammatically does not need, or merit, an article.

Why do we say "THE" United States of America but not in the case of India?

The Order of Adjectives

Adjectives can be “stacked” into a long string of words that describe the noun that comes after them, but not many users of English are aware that there is an order to stack them.

  1. Opinion. lovely, wonderful
  2. Size. big, humongous
  3. Age. young, old
  4. Shape. square, round
  5. Colour. red, green
  6. Origin. Chinese, American
  7. Material. iron, leather
  8. Purpose or function. grilling, measuring

I guess you can say that Sensei Michael is a wonderful tall middle-aged Singaporean teacher. Now to come up with a phrase that uses all 9 for an epitome of the use of the above rule!

What’s the difference between “spin” and “turn”?

Answer by Joseph Michael Pallante:

Turn left! turn right!

You use "turn" mostly with directions or something that moves on a pivot point briefly.

Spin around, spin in a chair, my head is spinning. These are all fixed on one point and involve a rotation or series of rotations.

Think of turning as the process for spinning, but to spin you need to complete a circle. For example I can turn down streets going only left or right and complete one circle, yet I had to turn at 3 pivot points.

A turn has pivot points, a spin has 1 central pivot point and rotates in at least 1 circle.

What's the difference between "spin" and "turn"?

What are some tips to correctly use “the” and “a”?

Answer by Michael Chan:

"a" refers to anything of that type, nothing specific.

"the" refers to a specific something of that type, nothing else. It is usually used when referring to something that both parties already know of.

I am a vice-president in the company.

In this case, I am probably one of the two or more vice-presidents in that specific company that we have been talking about previously.

I am the vice-president of the bank.

In this case, there is no other vice-presidents, there is only one, which makes me a lot more "big-shot" in that particular bank we have been talking about, than any banks which have tons of vice-presidents all over the place.

What are some tips to correctly use "the" and "a"?

The Turnip in China

When I first arrived in China, we had to adjust to how some food have different Chinese names from the ones we are accustomed to, or even how we have become so used to the English names that we struggle for the Chinese terms for the food item.

We found out that potatoes in Shanghai is not 马铃薯 but 土豆 (although the Shanghainese understood the former). It was also really hilarious when we wanted yam 芋头 (and we were sure we got the pronunciation right) but our domestic helper got for us fish-head 鱼头 instead.

And since quite a few Singaporean dishes have turnips in them, it was an interesting occasion when we could not find them in Shanghai. We tried describing it to our chefs in school, tried giving searching for pictures, all to no avail. They had no idea what it was called in Chinese too, even with the pictures.

It took one of my northern Chinese student Haylin to let me know what they call those things 萝卜. I went “huh?” at that. I knew 萝卜 as radishes, not turnips. It was then that I understood that, to the Chinese, turnips are simply a different type of root vegetables – all root vegetables in Chinese are 萝卜, whether carrots 红萝卜 (“red luobo”), radishes 白萝卜 (“white luobo”) or just the plain turnip.

Learning languages is a matter of learning the respective cultures as well. It is great to be bilingual!

Meet Gulangyu Island – a Fantastic Adventure

An essay by my student Sarah Zhang, Grade 6

During the winter holiday, I went to Xiamen. It is a city in Fujian province at the south of China. Xiamen is near both the ocean and Gulangyu Island. When the airplane arrived at Xiamen, it was already 1am midnight. We went to the wharf and waited for the ship to the Gulangyu.

It was night, I just saw the dim lights around me, only the moon still in the sky. The sea breeze stroked my face, and brought the special smell from the sea.

When we arrived at Glangyu Island, the story started. It was a fantastic adventure. My mom and I must find the inn at a strange place. First we followed mom’s GPS and tried to find the place. But, it was not an easy thing, the result was that we got lost! We circled at the island, but because it was really dark, we could not clearly see the road sign.

When we walked to a church, it was really scary. The light was flickering, the cat went “meow”, it was so weird. Finally we turned back to the wharf, it was 2am. At last, I called the inn’s owner, he was waiting for us. He told us the landmark at each road over the phone. Nobody was there, my mom and I felt cold and scared.

It was a remote place, and when we found the inn, it was already 3am. We walked half of the island! We were all tired and fell asleep soon. This was an adventure I would never have done, it does not look like a nice beginning, but tomorrow everything will be fine, the trip would start then!

How long is a company considered a startup? Is it the time, revenues or size?

A good read for anyone wanting to understand why startups behave the way they do.

Answer by A Quora admin:

There is no one definition of a startup. But, one of the gurus in this field, Steve Blank, offers this definition:
a startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

Think of a startup as a lab. A lab to experiment a variety of business models until one of them sticks & scalable. A researcher at the lab might try out a variety of combinations until she finds out the winning drug formula. With each formula she performs a variety of tests – first in the lab and if that works in the broader world [field trials etc].

Once she discovers the right formula that passes all the tests and cures the disease, she will take that to the engineers who will then build a large manufacturing unit that will mass produce that drug. At that point, her job is over and she can go and start discovering another drug.

Discovering a drug

This is what happens in a startup world. You are discovering for that right "drug" [solution] for that right "disease" [problem]. Facebook helped fight the disease of not being able to stay in touch with your friends and family who have moved far. Google helped fight the disease of not being able to find the right info on the web.

In their initial stages, both companies were not sure of their market and not sure of how they would make money. It took a few years for their business model to fall in place. That period of time is known as the startup phase.

Once the drug is discovered and tested, it can be mass produced in millions and billions. That's how startups grow rapidly – with the right drug they can have explosive profits.

Properties startups

  1. Most startups fail: People outside the field tell this with a dramatic effect as though they have solved Fermat's last theorem. Of course, most experiments in the lab fail. Most pharmacologists never discover a blockbuster drug. Does that mean it is not worth pursuing that goal? Any path that is worthy in life will be riddled with failures.
  2. There is luck, but can be improved with agility: Some researchers hit upon the winning experiment by chance. While others slog for years patiently looking for their combination. In any discovery, there is a huge element of chance and luck. However, this factor can be a bit reduced by doing a lot of experiments and improving from each. That can substantially improve the probability of finding the winning drug. However, many startup founders are too stuck with their initial idea and never experiment.
  3. There is failure and there is pivot. What happens when a chemist tries out a combination and that doesn't work? He tries another. He might not bother about that "failure" too seriously. It will just go into the lab observation notebook. When you are in the experiment mode, you will not get your desired result in all but one experiments. However, after each trial, he can fine tune his next experiment based on previous experiments. If including sodium gave only partial results, maybe move down the table and try potassium? In the same way, startups keep pivoting after each trial. That's not failure. That is the nature of the system.

  4. Keep testing. Chemists might write their reactions in paper and plan. But, they don't stop at that. They will do the experiment to see how the reaction actually pans out. And if that works in the lab, they will do further tests in the real world. In the same way, startup founders needs to keep pushing new products & features and keep testing. You cannot just assume something would work based on theory.
  5. Startups do get acquired even when they don't make money. This is something that the outsiders get so confused about. Underpaid journalists in popular media will scowl at how these darn startups get bought out without generating profits. Let's say you have hit upon that winning drug and have not built a full factory yet. Is the drug valuable, still? Of course. Because, making the factory is quite straightforward for a company with that expertise. But, making the winning drug combination is not. That's why Facebook bought Whatsapp and Instagram before they made a lot of profits. Both companies already had a strong winning drug, while Facebook was good at building the factories. 
  6. In fact, you don't even need to produce the winning drug in some cases. If you are quite advanced in the process and have done multiple trials – you might still get acquired by a bigger company who would build on that process. While the common public would not know about the value of that midstage product, trained eyes can.

In summary, a startup is a lab that is attempting to produce a money-making enterprise. As long as it is on track to produce a rapidly scalable company, it can be called a startup [99% of small businesses are not startups – they are not built as labs nor can have explosive growth with a winning formula].

How long is a company considered a startup? Is it the time, revenues or size?