Stand out

To “stand out” is to be noticeable, especially in comparison to other similar things or other things nearby.

Today's story: Volodymyr Zelensky
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Stand out

Today’s English expression is “stand out.” To stand out is to be noticeable, especially in comparison to other similar things or other things nearby.

Today’s current events lesson was about Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine . He has appeared before legislatures around the world, building support for the Ukrainian cause. He’s asking for weapons, financial support, sanctions, and a no-fly zone over his country. His words have been very powerful. But one other thing stands out about his speeches, and that is his dress.

His dress stands out because his dress is noticeable, in comparison to other presidents and world leaders. He wears a close-fitting olive green t-shirt. When he’s not wearing that, it’s an olive green sweatshirt or button-down shirt. This stands out because most presidents and prime ministers wear business suits when they make official appearances. There’s nothing strange about Zelensky’s t-shirts; it’s only noticeable when you compare him to other similar people—other world leaders. His dress stands out—it’s noticeable in comparison to similar things.

What stands out to you about where you live? I’ll answer about Chicago. The architecture here stands out. Especially in downtown, the architecture is beautiful in comparison to other large cities. One thing that stands out to me about New York is the energy on the streets. That’s what I notice; that’s what I think is different than similar cities.

Those of you who have been to New York probably remember that first moment when you stepped out of a taxi, or you got to the top of the stairs in Penn Station: you just feel the rush of energy on the streets, the traffic, the pedestrians, the sound, the sights. The energy on the streets is unique and noticeable in comparison to other cities.

I went to Vienna on vacation last fall. Here’s what stood out to me about Vienna: the buildings were handsome and old and distinguished, but also so modern at the same time. The buildings might be old and majestic, but you walk into the ground floor and the light is bright, the furniture is sleek, the espresso machines are gleaming and new, the street-level windows are floor-to-ceiling glass.

Why did this stand out? I think it’s because when I think of Europe—Madrid, Paris, London—I definitely think of nice old buildings. But those old buildings have a certain…let’s just say charm. They’re beautiful, charming, full of history, but maybe not fully modern. So when I think about Vienna, the buildings stand out because (a) they’re old, but (b) they’re also so modern.

We don’t all have to agree when we use “stand out.” You may have gone to Vienna and not even noticed how modern the stores and buildings looked; you may have even thought the opposite. It doesn’t matter; it’s about what we sense and perceive. I thought the architecture stood out, but something else may have stood out to you.

So far, we’ve used “stand out” for thinks you can look at. But it doesn’t always have to be something visual. Here’s another thing that stood out to me in Europe: a lot of cafes don’t open until about nine in the morning. Vienna is famous for its coffee and café culture. So I set out one morning to get my first cup of the day and found several cafés were closed at eight o’clock in the morning on a weekday.

That stood out to me. That was noticeable or surprising to me. Why? Because let me tell you something about the United States: we buy our coffee early. Most coffee shops—at least in the cities—open no later than seven in the morning on a weekday. Even seven o’clock is late. If you have a coffee shop and you open at nine in the morning, you’ve missed the majority of your potential customers. A lot of us buy our coffee on the way to work. It wakes us up in the morning. When I go into the office, I get coffee on the way in. I never get there that early, but the coffee shop I go to opens at 5:00 in the morning, and that’s typical for a city center here.

So you can imagine my surprise when I strolled out of my apartment at what I thought was a leisurely hour of eight o’clock, only to find the cafés weren’t even open yet. That stood out to me: that was noticeable in comparison to other similar things, or in comparison to what I expected. Going to a café in Europe is less of an early-morning thing and more of a mid-day activity, after you’ve gotten your day started.

Quote of the Week

For five straight years, Florida has been the U.S. state with the most net migration. You calculate net migration by adding the people who move in and subtracting the people who move out. If you do that for all 50 U.S. states, you’ll find that Florida has the greatest net migration: people want to move there, in other words. And it’s not just since the pandemic; it’s been the top state for net migration for five years.

So I loved this quote, from a Virginia congressman in 1845. He said, “No man would immigrate into Florida, not from hell itself.” That was back before Florida was a state. Congressman John Randolph was arguing that the U.S. should not acquire Florida from Spain, at that point.

“No man would immigrate into Florida, not from hell itself,” was the opinion of John Randolph in 1845. In fairness, he was speaking before the invention of air conditioning!

See you next time!

Let me tell you something that stands out to me about all of you. Well, listen, I don’t know all of you. But I have gotten to know a lot of you, through social media, e-mail, and through our calls and forums in the Plain English Plus+ membership. And one thing that really stands out to me is how much you like using English to engage with the world.

So many English programs are about, “Here are the things you find in your kitchen” or “Here’s how to leave a voicemail”…and there’s a place for that, you have to learn that stuff. But you here at Plain English, you want to use English to learn about the world, think about the hard topics, laugh once in a while, even disagree sometimes. Don’t deny it! I know you disagree sometimes, and that’s okay.

But what really stands out to me is how much you want to get out of the traditional classroom, traditional course style and really use English to learn about the world. And I love learning about it alongside you all—you really are an inspiration for me, and that is what stands out about this audience.

So remember, we’ll be back again on Thursday with another lesson. It’s going to be another TV series review on Thursday: we’ll be talking about the HBO series “Succession.” It’s going to be good! See you then.

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Story: Volodymyr Zelensky