Under way

When something is "under way" it has recently begun.

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Under way

Today’s expression is “under way.” I’m still amazed that we’re now in Lesson 250 and I almost never have trouble finding a unique English expression to talk about. Every so often, I have to go back and read the main lesson and I don’t see a good expression right away—but that is the exception. Of course, sometimes I accidentally repeat one, like I did with silver lining a few weeks ago. Anyway: “Under way.” What does it mean to be “under way”?

It means a process has recently begun. It’s in progress. The renovations at Notre-Dame Cathedral are under way. After the fire, the immediate concern was the safety of the people in the area and the structural integrity of the building. Then there was fund-raising and planning. But now the restoration is under way: it has begun. Scientists are working on the inside, and building engineers are working on the outside. The process has begun and will continue.

We usually say “under way” when we want to emphasize that the process has recently begun. The fire happened a year ago, and the renovations have been going on for months now. But it’s a multi-year process, so we are still early in the process of the full restoration.

Universities across the US closed their campuses due to the coronavirus, and as a result, a whole new experiment with remote learning is under way. A whole new experiment with remote learning has recently begun. Can classes be taught as effectively over Zoom as they can in person? We are about to find out because this experiment is under way. It has recently started. Sure, we have had online learning for a long time. But this is on a much bigger scale, and it’s relatively new for a lot of people. That’s why we say this massive experiment with remote learning is under way. It has started somewhat recently.

The United States is required by its constitution to perform a count of all residents once every ten years. This year’s census measures everyone living in every place in America—from the biggest cities to the smallest towns—as of April 1. The process to count every American—and every foreigner living in America—got under way earlier this year. It is now past April 1, but the process of doing the count will continue for several months, until everyone has (theoretically) been counted later this year. The process got under way earlier this year. When it got under way, the web site was established, forms were mailed, public service announcements were broadcast on television. That’s what happened when it got under way, when it just got started.

Another way to use “under way” is to say something is “well under way.” When something is well under way, it is advanced in the process. By the summer, the US Census count will be well under way. By then—this is in a month or two from now—most people will have filled out their forms. The many Census workers will have knocked on millions of doors, collecting information in person. It will be well under way. There will be a lot of activity and it will be well advanced in the process—it will no longer be just at the beginning. When we want to specify something is not at the beginning any longer, we say “well under way.”

We talked in Lessons 165 and 242 about the Democrats who want to run against Donald Trump this November. The process to select a nominee started early, way back last June when candidates started to enter the race. Then the elections got under way in February with the first few states to vote. Now, we’re in mid-April and the primary election season is well under way. So many states have voted so far that we now think we have a winner: Joe Biden. It’s not over yet; states will continue to vote until June. But the process is well under way; it’s not the beginning any more. In June, we’ll know who gets to go head-to-head against Trump in the fall.

JR’s song of the week

Today’s song of the week is “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin, who we talked about in Lesson 79. I picked the song this time, and I picked it because it’s one of the songs in the Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere,” which I’m watching, and because it’s Aretha and this is our update lesson. So there you go, “Rock Steady,” which accompanies the morning routines of the two very different characters Mia and Elena in this series.

See you next time (& Coca-Cola with coffee)

One last update for you. Lesson 151. We talked about the new Coca-Cola with caffeine. It started in Asia and then I heard from listeners in Mexico and Brazil, who had seen local versions but I never saw it here. Granted, I don’t drink a lot of soft drinks and I don’t find myself in that part of a grocery or convenience store. But the other day as I was stocking up on supplies at Target, I saw a new, taller, thinner can of Coke. That’s when I knew it was here. It’s called “Coca-Cola Energy” in the United States. I bought one can and I tried it as I was writing this lesson. I have to say…I don’t hate it.

On your first sip, you can smell just a little bit of that sweet energy-drink kind of smell. The consistency of the drink—how it feels on your tongue and in your mouth—is classic Coke. The flavor is just a little bit different from the real thing, just a tiny bit sweeter, and without as strong of a caramel taste. I was expecting it to taste half like Red Bull, which I don’t like. JR tried it and he said he liked it too.

I won’t drink this a lot—I get enough caffeine from coffee—but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

That’s all for today, this was a long one. Remember PlainEnglish.com/live to check out our schedule of live events on Zoom. It’s been fun getting to know all of you, so we’ll continue to do live events. See you Monday!

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Story: Update on previous lessons