January 29th, 2012

Reading English (1) Harry Potter, an unusual boy

This is my first post here, after some years. I want to write in English about some non-technical topics, like the ones I wrote in my Spanish blog: science, philosophy, mathematics and more. But before that, I should improve English. So, I will write about English, too. Writing down a topic helps me to understand it. Let's start with some comments about reading English.

To learn more words and expression in English, I was reading "Harry Potter and the Prisioner of Azkaban" by J.K.Rowling, the third book in the series. (I have the first and second book in English, too, but there are stored in boxes, after my last move). The book starts with these paragraphs:

Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework, but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.

It was nearly midnight, and he was lying on his front in bed, the blankets drawn right over his head like a tent, a torch in one hand and a large leather-bound book (A History of Magic, by Bathilda Bagshot) propped open against the pillow. Harry moved the tip of his eagle-feather quill down the page, frownin as he looked for something that would help him write his essay, "Witch-Burning in the Fourteenth Century Was Completely Pointless - discuss".

The quill paused at the top of a likely-looking paragraph. Harry pushed his round glasses up his nose, moved his torch closer to the book and read:

Non-magic people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in medieval times, but not very good at recognising it. On the rare occasion that they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsover. The witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame-Freezing Charm and then pretend to shriek with pain while enjoying a gentle, tickling sensation. Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burnt so much that she allowed herself to be caught no fewer than forty-seven times in various disguises.

Interesting. The first time I read this part, I learnt some words and expressions. New vocabulary:

torch: A portable light produced by the flame of a stick of resinous wood or of a flammable material wound about the end of a stick of wood; a flambeau. See more definitions at: http://www.answers.com/topic/torch

leather-bound: covered in leather, as a book. See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leather-bound

propped: to support by placing something under or against —often used with up.
to support by placing against something.
Example: She propped the rake against a tree.
First Known Use of Prop as a verb: 1538
See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propped

quill: Many definitions; the hollow horny shaft of a feather, and then, a pen. What does shaft means? the long handle of a spear or similar weapon. And spear?  thrusting or throwing weapon with long shaft and sharp head or blade. See http://northkeep.ansteorra.org/graphics/spear.gif
Sources: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quill, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shaft, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spear

likely-looking: seeming to be right or suited for a purpose. See http://www.learnersdictionary.com/search/likely-looking

to shriek: To utter a shriek. And what is a shriek? A shrill, often frantic cry. A sound suggestive of such cry. See http://www.answers.com/topic/shriek What does shrill mean? High-pitched and piercing in tone or sound: the shrill wail of a siren See http://www.answers.com/topic/shrill

tickling: from to tickle: to excite or stir up agreeably, example: music … does more than tickle our sense of rhythm — Edward Sapir. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tickling

disguises: disguise, cloak, mask mean to alter the dress or appearance of so as to conceal the identity or true nature. Example We disguised the fact that we were disappointed. See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disguise

New Expressions:

For one thing.... For another...

in the dead of night

he also happened to be...

It was nearly midnight

had no effect whatsover

and then pretend...

... she allowed herself..

I will write more about my readings, vocabulary discovery and new expressions.

Keep tuned!

Angel "Java" Lopez