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May 2, 2013

It's 8:45 at Tom, Dick, and Harry's. The coffee's hot, the door's unlocked, and that corner table - the one by the jukebox(1), is gathering a familiar crowd. They're retired farmers, contractors, businessmen, a few old law enforcement guys(2), a former postmaster(3) and more. There are about 17 in all, with ages ranging(4) from the early 70's to 90. They meet daily, but show up(5) in greatest numbers on Fridays, when they take turns(6) bringing doughnuts. They've been around the block once or twice(7), and they love talking about it. In fact, they love talking in general, about everything from football, to politics, to how best to plant tomato seeds. "Sometimes there are three or four stories going on at once and you can't hear anything," says Kenny. "Put it this way," adds Bill, "when I started coming here I didn't have hearing aids(8). Now I do." Another of them adds, "We enjoy each other's company. We don't always agree, but we don't get too annoyed at each other." There is a real diversity of opinions and life experiences in this group. "We have a vast table of knowledge," says Sackman, a retired state trooper. His comment provokes snickering(9) and eye rolling from his friends. The first members of this group started getting together 35 years ago. When asked if wisdom does really come with age, half of the members say "yes", and the other half, at the same time say "no". And then there's more laughter.

1. 'Jukebox' is a typically American word which describes something that is very important in American culture. It is a machine which plays different pieces of music when money is put in it.

a. This jukebox takes quarters. You need to put a quarter in it before you can choose a song.

b. The diner is very retro; it has 60's style decoration and even a jukebox.

2. 'Law enforcement'/ 'a law enforcement officer' basically means a policeman.

a. He's taking his law enforcement class in order to become a policeman.

3. 'Postmaster' is the same as a postman or a mail man.

4. 'With ...ranging from ....' when comparing ages, weights, sizes, colors, or other characteristics.

a. The shop has antiques with prices ranging from $50 to $3000.

b. The concert has performers from countries ranging from India to South America.

5. 'To show up' means the same as 'to turn up' which means to arrive, appear, or be present. Both imply that the opposite would be possible.

a. I'm glad that you finally showed up!

b. They didn't show up until the party was over.

6. 'To take turns' is fairly self explanatory. In a game or arranged activity of some sort, one person will have a turn, then another, and so forth.

a. When we play cards, we have to take turns.

b. If you don't take turns, it's not fair for everybody else.

7. 'To go around the block' or 'to have been around the block' means to have lived a long life. 'A block' refers to a block of houses, or a square formation of homes around 4 streets.

a. He speaks from experience; he's been around the block a few times.

b. He's too young, he hasn't been around the block yet.

8. 'A hearing aid' is a small device that you put in your ear to help you hear.

a. My hearing test showed that I need a hearing aid.

b. His hearing aid is so small that you can hardly see it.

9. 'To snicker' is a way of laughing. There are many verbs for different types of laughter, 'to chuckle', 'to chortle', 'to snigger', 'to giggle'. The most common ones are 'to giggle' and 'to chuckle'. 'To snicker' is more American, and implies that you're laughing at someone or disagreeing with what has been said. 

a. The children giggled while they mixed the mud with water, and wiped it on the dog.

b. He snickered at my comment. I knew that he disagreed with me.

Thanks for listening! You're all welcome to join my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Comments, questions, suggestions? Let me know at Need an app to learn English? Check out A Cup Of English in iTunes.