Oct 08

“…drinking with strangers can be very risky.”

A pair of short stories that are appropriate for the approaching Halloween festivities are The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, by the American author, Washington Irving. First published in 1820, these stories brought Irving high acclaim from European critics. In Sleepy Hollow there is a headless horseman, a haunted tree and many stories of the supernatural. In the story of Rip Van Winkle, he is magically transported through time in an alcohol induced dream state that lasts 20 years. In his dream he is met by ghosts who play nine-pin and somehow know his name! These are classic American tales and I encourage you to read them. Stories like these help to impart a deeper understanding of the culture and, in turn, this can help students to gain a greater appreciation of the language. For example, if we say, “He is a real Rip Van Winkle”, it means he likes to sleep a lot.


David Bromberg is a long time favorite performer and consummate story teller. David wrote a sweet song that uses the story of Rip Van Winkle as a way to characterize some of his own life. Kaatskill Serenade gives cause for me to reflect back upon my youth as well. I attended college in the beautiful Hudson River Valley. Not far from the towns in which these storybook fantasies are said to have taken place.

The lyrics:

Where are the men that I used to sport with? What has become of my beautiful town? Wolf my old friend, even you don’t know me. It must be the end. My house has tumbled down.

My land was rich, but I wouldn’t work it. I guess I made a shrew of my wife. My duty clear I could always find some way to shirk it. I dreamed away the best years of my life. It seems like only this morning I went up into the mountains. No word of warning, just her usual curse. I hated the house with all her nagging and shouting, but to be in this strange world is a thousand times worse.


You know that man he called me by name and he bought me that cheaply. He called my name and I didn’t know what to think. I watched their loud game and oh I drank deeply, though no one ever asked me to drink. And that stolen liquor it was sweeter than whiskey and many times quicker to put me to sleep. Ah, but drinking with strangers can be very risky. My sleep it was long. It was twenty years deep!




The word, anomia (also here), comes from the Greek — familiar things seem strange. In the modern context, especially in the field of neurology, it is defined as an inability to remember names.

Here is an interesting site with a list of unusual words and some other excellent English language resources to help expand your vocabulary .


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