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English Detective #24, Disease Fighters: Oct. 22,2013
October 21, 2013

English Detective #24, Disease Fighters: Oct. 22,2013


The current investigation (Introducing this issue):

TED has several fascinating talks about controlling big killer diseases like malaria. It was hard to choose just one. I hope you find the talk I chose as interesting as I did.

It tells how scientists are learning to control the "world's most dangerous animal:" the mosquito-- an insect whose bite has given malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other terrible diseases to so many people that it has affected human history.

(When I studied the history of disease in college, I was amazed at how much damage has been caused by diseases carried by mosquitos. Among other things, they kept parts of central Italy from developing for centuries and gave the people of the Mississippi Valley, as well as much of tropical central and south America, a reputation for laziness-- as well as huge losses of productivity and income due to malarial weakness.)

Malaria in particular has proved a very difficult disease to eradicate (completely destroy.) This TED talk discusses how researchers have genetically altered male mosquitoes (which don't bite) so that their offspring (babies born with their genes) will die. When researchers have introduced these altered mosquitoes into areas with a problem with malaria or dengue fever, they have quickly reduced mosquito populations and (as a consequence) new cases of those diseases.

If you're interested in public health, check out some of the other TED talks on malaria, on the "ghost map" that helped prove that cholera was spread by contaminated water, and a comparison of the killer 1918 flu with bird flu and other recent strains. (I found that talk especially interesting since I knew Laurie Garrett, the journalist who presented it, in college.)

The second reading is from Voice of America about medical heroes whose research has greatly contributed to human health, sometimes at the risk of their lives.(Several yellow fever researchers actually lost their lives proving that mosquitoes transmitted yellow fever. However, their research led to the public health campaign that wiped out yellow fever-- a disease that had killed thousands in the colonial U.S. and in the Caribbean until the early 20th century.)

Due to major computer problems this week, I can't make a crossword or vocabulary game, but there is a little information and practice with words using the prefix 'trans-.' I hope you find it helpful.

One final note about the AWL. In the last issue we finished going through the last of the 570 words of Academic Word List. In this and future issues, there will be a lot of review, as well as practice with other important academic or fairly common words.

I have been wondering if some of you who subscribed fairly recently to English Detective (or even some who subscribed earlier) would like to keep getting emails to study the AWL words. I have started work on some extra practice materials, and also on lessons dividing the AWL into 2 parts, the first 5 or last 5 levels, for those who especially need the most common words or for those who need mainly the less common words.

This turns out to be a lot more complicated than I expected, so I would need to charge something (probably less than $10), still less than the price of a class or most books that teach the AWL.

Near the end of this letter is a link to information on the AWL, including some good books, ways you can practice it for free online, and a survey asking about interest in an inexpensive email course on either the first 5 levels of the AWL, the last 5 levels, or the whole AWL. (An even less expensive option would be to send improved English Detective issues, with extra new practice and links.)

This short survey is to help me decide if there is enough interest to work on the needed changes. If you ARE interested, please fill out that survey to let me know. (Your name isn't required.)

Thanks very much.



Your First Clue: Vocabulary we’ll Emphasize in this Issue


Academic Word List review: environment, phenomenon, release, supplement, transform, transmission, transport

New words: eradicate, offspring,susceptible

Most of these words should be clear from the context. Briefly, the environment is the whole natural world around us, or the conditions (air, water, earth, and other living things) that are home to a particular group of animals, plants, and/or people.

A phenomenon is a natural event or occurrence.

To release is to set free or send out into the world, and to supplement is to add to something. Release and supplement can also be nouns-- something sent out, or something such as a vitamin added to a diet for better health. A university professor might ask his students to buy one textbook, and then find supplemental (or supplementary) materials on the subject in the library.

Transmission and transport are discussed below, with other words made with 'trans.'

To eradicate is to completely get rid of something-- to destroy it so it can never return. It comes from the word for 'root out'-- to pull up by the roots, as we pull up weeds we don't want in our gardens.

Offspring means descendants: the children, grandchildren, and later lives that come from parents.

Susceptible means vulnerable-- in danger of being harmed by something, or of 'catching' a disease. "People with weak immune systems are more susceptible to AIDs, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases."

Getting the whole story: this issue’s reading/listening practice:


Here is the TED talk on mosquitoes

The Voice of America discussion on Medical Research Heroes is here.

and this is the talk on the 1918 flu and its implications for today if you want more information.

Prefix Investigator


The prefix 'trans-' means across or through. The list belwo gives some of the most common English words beginning with trans-, along with an idea of their meaning based on their roots. (Most of these roots are discussed in EnglishHints.com, either in 50 Word Roots from Latin, Important Latin Roots, or The Latin Root Ponere.)

Transfer- to 'bring or carry across'-- move from one person's ownership or responsibility to another's, or to be sent from one office to another.

Transform- to change completely from one form to another. Transformation is the noun to express that complete change.

Transgress- (from the past participle of gredi-- to step, so 'to go beyond' what is right or acceptable. To transgress means basically to sin or violate a standard. The noun is transgression.

Transition- (from the past participle of trans- combined with 'ire'-- to go, so 'to go across.) A transition is a gradual change from one condition to another. Transit- transportation. 'Public transit' means transportation, often bus service, provided by a city government. Transient- temporary (as an adjective), or 'a transient'-- a person staying somewhere but not living there permanently. Often transients are homeless, poor, and distrusted by the police and permanent residents of a place.

Translate- to transfer a thought or meaning from one language to another. (Literally, 'to move from one side to another.')

Transmit- to send across (often to send signals across space or over an electric wire). Radio, television, and the Internet all depend on clear transmission of signals.

Transpire- (from 'breathe across or through.') Transpiration is a biological process in which plant leaves give off water vapor and waste products (including oxygen), just as respiration is a process in which animals breathe air to exhange carbon dioxide for oxygen. To transpire can also sometimes mean 'to happen.'

Transplant- to dig up a plant and replant it in a new location. We often use this metaphorically of people who get 'uprooted' and need to settle somewhere else.

Transport- to move or carry something (or someone) from one place to another. (From 'portare'- to carry. Portare is also the root of 'portable'-- something that can be moved, import (to carry into a country), and export (to carry away from a country.) Trains, ships, cars, buses, trucks, and airplanes all provide transportation.

Transpose- usually to set or put music into a different key (or to reverse the order of letters in a word: to write 'teh' when you intended 'the.')

Prefix Practice with 'Trans-'


Choose from these words to fill in the blanks: transfer, transform, transition, transport. ) For answers, see below "Coming in the next issue.")

"We're moving to Chicago. We'll drive with everything that we can take in our car, and a moving company will 1. _________ most of our furniture and household goods."

"I want to 2. _______ this account to your branch office in Chicago."

"Our office is going through a 3. ________ process. We're making the changes a little at a time, but the end result will completely 4. ________ the way we handle data.

A note if you get gmail: Have you missed any issues of English Detetective? if you find English Detective in your “Promotions” box, you can move it to your “Primary” box (if you want) by clicking on it and dragging it there, then clicking ‘yes’ when asked if you want to always get it in the Primary box.

Coming in the next issue: Choices Make Heroes.

Answers to Prefix Practice:

1. transport, 2. transfer, 3. transition, 4. transform.

Are you interested in more practice with the Academic Word List?

Please complete the short survey halfway down this page. (You can leave your name to be notified, or not.)

In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with all 570 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here. or here for the most recent issues. These pages are finished now, since the whole Academic Word List has been covered.

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