Rosetta Stone Teaches New Languages Without Making You Memorize a Thing

Will flags fly out of your mouth when you achieve fluency? Well, no.
Will flags fly out of your mouth when you achieve fluency? Well, no.
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TL;DR: Rosetta Stone is offering up to 45 percent off subscriptions from November 11th to November 24th.

Rosetta Stone has been the go-to program for many language-learning enthusiasts since its launch in 1992. Whether you’re considering taking up a new language to prepare for a future vacation or just to pick up a new hobby, here’s a quick guide to what it is, how it works, and what you could gain from becoming bilingual (or multilingual).

What Is Rosetta Stone?

After you said your very first word, your parents almost definitely didn’t hand you a textbook filled with long vocabulary lists and essays on grammar rules. Instead, they probably built up your language skills by doing things like pointing at a dog and saying “Dog.” Before long, you could say “Mom, can we get a dog?” without ever having been aware that you were learning a language.

Rosetta Stone is a subscription-based service founded on the premise that learning a new language should be just as easy. Basically, it’ll pair a word with an image, speak the word out loud, and then ask you to choose a similar image that corresponds to that word from a few options. It’s sort of like your mom pointing at a dog, saying “Dog,” and then asking you to point out the next dog you see. As the lessons progress, you’ll build on that vocabulary until you’re choosing images that match phrases and sentences, and then having full-fledged conversations into your device's microphone.

Since the goal is communication, Rosetta Stone never makes you memorize grammatical dogma—after all, when you’re asking your waiter in Italian which meals are dairy-free, they’re not going to make you identify the prepositional phrase in your sentence before they answer. Just like you did as a kid, you’ll subconsciously pick up grammar and syntax patterns in your new language and echo them without even realizing it. There’s also speech precision technology that recognizes parts of your accent that could use a little work (and it’s adjustable, so you can lower it to your ideal level of nitpicky-ness).

What Are The Benefits of Learning a New Language?

The benefits of learning a new language extend far beyond helping you convey your dietary restrictions in restaurants abroad. In terms of mental exercise, it’s a little like circuit training for your brain. Studies have suggested that bilingual speakers’ ability to juggle more than one language at a time makes them better multitaskers, and it’s possible that learning a new language could even help protect against Alzheimer’s or dementia.

And, of course, it could help you catch a translation error that might otherwise cause you, your company, or your country some serious problems (or at least a moment of embarrassment). When KFC opened its first store in Beijing in the 1980s, for example, their famous “Finger-lickin’ good” catchphrase was mistranslated as “Eat your fingers off.” Ford Motors had a similar problem in Belgium, where a campaign that was supposed to boast that “Every car has a high-quality body” ended up reading “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Though nothing quite beats President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 visit to Poland, when his interpreter translated “when I left the United States” as “when I abandoned the United States,” and “your desires for the future” as “your lusts for the future.”

What Does It Cost?

From now until November 24th, you can purchase a lifetime Rosetta Stone subscription for $199 (instead of the usual $299). While that’ll get you the best bang for your buck, the monthly deals accommodate various levels of commitment: a three-month subscription is $11.99 per month; 12 months costs $7.99 per month; and you can sign up for a two-year subscription for $5.99 per month. There are 24 languages to choose from—including Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and more—and you can find out additional details about all their deals here.

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Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Why Do We Call Coffee ‘a Cup of Joe’?

Photo by Rodolfo Quirós from Pexels
Photo by Rodolfo Quirós from Pexels

By Samantha Enslen, Quick and Dirty Tips

Raise your mug and take a sip because today we’re looking at some of the weird words we use to talk about coffee.

Coffee Comes From the Turkish Word Kahveh

Let’s start with the word coffee itself. It comes from the Turkish word kahveh, and it seems to have come into European languages around 1600. (6) That’s because coffee beans were first brought from North Africa and the Middle East into Italy in 1615, and then into France in 1644. There, the Turkish ambassador to France, Suleiman Aga, helped to make coffee the “it” beverage in the court of Louis XIV. (4)

The European aristocracy became enchanted by the thick, hot beverage. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Back then, the word coffee appeared in a lot of different forms: chaona, cahve, kauhi, cahu, coffa, and caffa. Eventually, these all settled down into the coffee we know today. (6)

Battery Acid, Crumb Coffee, and Unicorn Frappuccinos

Over time, we’ve come to know coffee by a bunch of different terms. We’ve called bad or poorly made coffee “battery acid,” “belly wash,” and “sludge.” (4) And a certain brand’s coffee is sometimes called “charbucks” by those who don’t appreciate really dark-roasted coffee.

We’ve called fake coffee “Boston coffee,” “Canadian coffee,” and “crumb coffee.” These so-called coffees were made in the U.S. after the Revolutionary War, when Americans were abstaining from tea because of high British taxes, yet also suffering from high coffee prices. These three coffee substitutes were made, respectively, from rye, peas, and burnt bread. (4)

I can’t really imagine how they would have tasted.

Today, we often refer to coffee by the way it’s made: drip coffee, press coffee, moka pot coffee, instant coffee, and siphon coffee, for example. (3)

Americans have borrowed the British expression “a cuppa,” referring to a cup of tea, and now use it willy-nilly to refer to a cup of coffee. (5)

And of course, we have all the made-up names for coffee we could ever want, courtesy of today’s gourmet coffee shops: unicorn frappucinos and caramel flan macchiatos are just two of many.

Why Do We Call Coffee a ‘Cup of Joe’?

One of the most common ways we’ve referred to coffee in the past century is to call it a “cup of joe.” Why do we do that? The real answer is that we’re not quite sure, but there are some theories.

One theory is that it’s named after Josephus Daniels, a U.S. Secretary of the Navy. In 1914, he banned alcohol from being served on Navy ships. After that, coffee would have been the strongest drink allowed onboard. So, the theory goes, sailors started calling coffee “Joe” to spite Secretary Josephus.

The problem is most alcohol had already been banned on Navy ships 50 years earlier. A daily ration of grog was once normal on Navy ships, but an 1862 edict put that practice to rest. So by 1914, the only hard stuff that would have been left was wine served in the officer’s mess. So Josephus’s ban wouldn’t have had much effect on the average … well … the average Joe. (7)

Another theory is that this name for coffee is based on an African-American spiritual written by Stephen Foster, called “Old Black Joe.” There is a comic strip from 1911 that describes this phrase as meaning coffee without milk. The problem is the comic is making a joke, suggesting that when that song is played in a restaurant, it means a customer wants coffee. The song itself never mentions coffee. And the song was popular way back in the 1860s. So it doesn’t make sense that it generated a slang term that wasn’t popular until the 1930s. (2,7)

Java + Mocha = Jamoke

The most likely reason a “cup of joe” means a cup of coffee is that joe is a shortened form of jamoke, which is a combination of the words java and mocha. (2)

Remember how I said that coffee was exported from North Africa and the Middle East starting in the 1600s?

Well, Dutch traders at that time wanted to get in on the action. They began moving into Southeast Asia and Indonesia and setting up coffee plantations on islands like Sumatra, Bali, and Java. They probably used the term java to refer to coffee beans grown on that island. They were essentially the original advertisers of single-origin coffee.

For some reason, the term java took hold with the public. Over time, it came to mean coffee generically, not just coffee from that island.

At the same time coffee was being produced in Indonesia, it was also being produced and traded in Yemen. That’s where arabica coffee beans originated; they’re native to both Yemen and Ethiopia. Traders buying coffee from Yemen had to stop in the port city of Mocha, and from there, they often sailed on to Java. When they combined the beans from those two countries, they created “Mocha Java," also known as “jamoke.”* And the shortened version of that, of course, is “joe.” (1)

That’s our best guess as to why a cup of coffee is also called a “cup of joe.” I hope you enjoyed a cuppa today, and I hope that it was more unicorn than sludge.

*Just like the original coffee, jamoke has seen several alternative spellings across the years: jamoca, jamoch, jamok, and jamoka have all turned up.

Sources

1. Driftaway Coffee. Why is Coffee Called Java? Accessed September 23, 2019.

2. Green, Jonathon. Joe, jamoke. Green’s Dictionary of Slang, digital edition. Accessed September 23, 2019.

3. Home Grounds. The Complete Guide to Coffee Brewing Methods. Accessed September 23, 2019.

4. Mariani, John. Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink. Bloomsbury, USA, 2013.

5. Not One-Off Britishisms. Cuppa. Accessed September 23, 2019.

6. Oxford English Dictionary, digital edition. Joe. Accessed September 23, 2019.

7. Snopes.com. Why is coffee called a “cup of Joe”? January 19, 2009. Accessed September 23, 2019.

A version of this article was originally published on Quick and Dirty Tips as "Why Do We Call Coffee ‘a Cup of Joe’?" Read more from Quick and Dirty Tips.

About the Author

Samantha Enslen is an award-winning writer who has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She runs Dragonfly Editorial, an agency that provides copywriting, editing, and design for scientific, medical, technical, and corporate materials. Sam is the vice president of ACES, The Society for Editing, and is the managing editor of Tracking Changes, ACES' quarterly journal.