Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Challenge of Using “Challenging”

Photographing a newborn can be a challenge (for the photographer AND the baby)
Challenge is a misused and misunderstood English word.

It is not uncommon for me to hear a student say enthusiastically,

“We must challenge!”

Huh?*  I think the intention of this rally cry* is, “We must fight!,” or “We must overcome!”

The problem with my students’ cheer is that the verb challenge requires an object, it’s a transitive verb.  We can challenge authority, old ideas, our imagination, and even ourselves and each other!  Things are challenged. We cannot simply “challenge.”

Let’s compare challenge as a noun and as a verb.

Challenge as a noun

There are several ways challenge can be used as a noun.

As in the caption beneath the picture above, when something is described as being a challenge, it means it will require a lot of effort and/or skill.  Obstacles can also be called challenges.

Examples: ♦ The TOEFL* test is a challenge (especially if you don’t prepare beforehand)., ♦ A traveler’s first challenge is to find safe and affordable transportation from the airport to the hotel.

When someone is described as being or presenting a challenge, it means that person is difficult to get along with, or manage.

Example: ♦ “Our new employee is going to be a challenge.”

A challenge can also be a  rally cry.

Challenge Sept. 12, 1962
President John F. Kennedy’s Challenge

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy encouraged Americans to land a man on the moon and bring him safely back. Inspiring a common goal is often called giving a challenge. (Click here for more about John F. Kennedy’s Challenge to the Nation).

The adjectives: Challenging, and Challenged

We often use the word challenging  instead of  the phrase being a challenge.  For example, the sentence, “The TOEFL test is challenging,” means the same as, “The TOEFL test is a challenge.” Likewise, instead of, “Our new employee is going to be a challenge.” I could say, “Our new staff member is going to be challenging.”  

Note: We can’t always make this substitution. In the sentence, “A traveler’s first challenge is to find safe and affordable transportation from the airport to the hotel,”  we can’t use challenging since we are focusing on a specific challenge.

Test yourself!  Look at the caption under the picture of the crying baby again.  Can you rewrite it using challenging instead of a challenge?  (The answer is in the My Take On It  section at the bottom of this post).

Additionally, challenged can be used to indicate a disability or something that is lacking. For example: Visually challenged means a visual impairment. Please note, when talking about people with disabilities it is rude to describe a person by their disability. I will be writing about how to talk about disabilities, as part of my “Tough Topics” series soon. In the meantime please check out the state of Washington’s, Guide to Disability Etiquette and Using Respectful Language in the Workplace.

Challenge as a verb

Using challenge as a noun or adjective is fairly simple.  The real challenge (meaning difficulty) is using challenge as a verb.

Think about John F. Kennedy’s challenge to the nation again.  A person who is giving a challenge is “challenging others to do something.” It means to encourage others to take action. We can also challenge systems and organizations.  One of my students said,

“I’d like to challenge the current system to become unprejudiced towards Japanese women.”

Her sentence uses challenge correctly. She is saying she wants to push the system to change.

Another student asked if he could challenge his appointment at the consulate.* Answer: No. He was trying to express that he wanted to try to meet with a consular officer earlier than his appointed time.  He could have said, “It might be challenging/a challenge to be seen early at the consulate, but I’m going to try.”

A third student said she would like to challenge business in the US.  Again, no. This idea doesn’t make sense in English.  She was trying to say that she wanted to accept the challenge of doing business in the US.

Not all nouns can be paired with the word challenge.  Let’s look at several examples and definitions of challenge as a verb from Webster’s online Learner’s Dictionary:

challenge 1

challenge verb definition 2

There are three primary uses of challenge as a verb:  1. to question the authority or validity of a person or thing (definitions one and two), 2. to confront someone, or dare someone to compete (definitions two, four, and five), and 3. To challenge someone’s imagination, or be challenged by something or someone is to be pushed, i.e.,  to be encouraged to accomplish something which is difficult (definition three).

Before using challenge as a verb... Click To Tweet, Do you want to express the idea of questioning someone/something, confrontation, or being pushed by someone/something?  And, do you have a subject which is challenging or being challenged by an object?

Things which can be challenged:
Grandkids challenging
My grandkids challenging my patience

Use #1: truth, decisions, statements, rules, reports, results, research, outdated ideas or methods

Use #2: authority, decisions, assumptions

Use #3: minds, imagination, ability, things requiring any skill (athletic, intellectual, dexterity. language, concentration/focus, any skill)

Use #4: “challenge (someone) to a___”: fight, or competition (anything where someone has to prove themselves)

Use #5: people we suspect of not being authorized (intruders, uninvited guests, those who appear too young to purchase or consume alcohol or tobacco, etc).

My Take On It  Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG

Quiz: How can you replace the noun “a challenge” with the adjective “challenging” in the caption above? Answer: Photographing a newborn can be challenging. (If you used another variation of “photographing” such as “taking pictures,” or “snapping photos,” your answer is also correct).

Famous quotes about Challenges:

Accept the challenges, so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.
George S. Patton

Dreams can often become challenging, but challenges are what we live for.
Travis White

I wanted to be scared again… I wanted to feel unsure again. That’s the only way I learn, the only way I feel challenged.
Connie Chung

It’s always the challenge of the future, this feeling of excitement, that drives me.
Yoshihisa Tabuchi

To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist.
Gail Sheehy

Famous Challenges (calls to action):

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Harry S. Truman

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.     Sai Baba

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

 Blessings,    Michele  


Peachy Peaches

Just Peachy! A love story


Peachy Feast in the Fields
Palisade Feast in the Fields

The Palisade Peach Festival is just around the corner (meaning it is close).  I was looking through this year’s schedule of events and was reminded (like I am every year at this time) of how my husband and I fell in love.

Errol and I were both working for a healthcare organization in Fruita, Colorado. He was the COO (Chief Operating Officer) and I had just been hired to manage the company’s on-site childcare facility. In other words, he was my boss!

I had moved to Colorado because I needed a support system.  I had left my alcoholic husband at a city mission in Ohio because he was unsafe around our children.   The kids were nine, thirteen, and fifteen at the time.  Our youngest was not adjusting well at all.  In fact she was so angry, and had so much emotional pain that she started cutting.  I remember staring at her arms in disbelief, after she  had cut her wrists multiple times with pieces of broken glass. (For more on the topic of cutting, including how to get help for you or a family member, click here: Teens Health).

I was beside myself* with grief, guilt, and fear all rolled into one.  I called Errol (my boss) and explained what was happening.  I’ll never forget what he told me.

“Right now, you just need to focus on your family.  Take care of your daughter. “

He told me he would make sure my staff had the support they needed and that I didn’t need to worry about things at work.  I “just needed to focus on my family.”  I was so relieved and grateful to have such a supportive and understanding boss.

Truthfully, the events of that dark period are still somewhat of a blur.  I know I took my daughter to the hospital emergency room, but I don’t remember how much work I missed because this story turns around….When I got back to my office I found a peach sitting on my desk and laying beside the peach was a small card which simply said, Have a peach of a day! Click To Tweet

The card was unsigned, but it was written on the back of Errol’s business card.  I remember feeling very cared for.   Errol became my mentor and my best friend.

After my first marriage ended, I realized that Errol was the partner I had been seeking all my life.  I shared my feelings with him (which was risky because he was still my boss!). Lucky for me however, Errol felt the same deep friendship and connection.  We explained our situation to the CEO, who agreed to become my boss, so Errol and I could date each other without others raising concerns* about our growing romance.

Several months later we were married.  We have been happily married for 15 years, and peaches have remained a symbol of our soft, sweet, beautiful love for each other.

Peachy expressions

Peaches are featured in several English idioms and expressions.  Here are several, along with examples of how to use them (If you know of others, please add it to the comment section below):

A peach  To say someone is “a peach” means they are sweet and kind.  Example: Errol was a peach to leave me something to encourage me when I was down.*

Peach fuzz  A young boy’s first whiskers are sometimes described as peach fuzz. Peach fuzz can also mean the fine light colored hair found on the body of children and women (vellus hair).  Example:  The guy’s friends teased him about shaving, saying all he had on his face was peach fuzz.

Peaches and Cream complexion  A peaches and cream complexion is smooth, and has a soft, even-toned, pinkish, blush. It is beautiful.  (See the photo below.  These boys have peaches and cream complexions). Peaches and Cream complexions, Boys with Santa

Peachy  This means, nice or good. Example: The title of this post is Just Peachy.  “Just Peachy” is an expression meaning “fine.”  When someone asks, How are you doing? You can answer, “I’m just peachy!” We could also say, “Everything is peachy!”

Peachy keen  This variation of “peachy” was popular in the 1950’s -1970’s to mean “real good, cool.” Example:  I am peachy keen today!  I’m on top of my game!*

The pits  When something is rough, tough, hard, difficult, and undesirable it can be described as “the pits.” The center of a peach, its seed, is called a pit or a stone. Example: No matter what you call the center of a peach, breaking a tooth on one would definitely be the pits!

My Take On It  Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG

Going from the pits to peachy

As I was retelling my love story, I was surprised at how sad my story was at the beginning. I’ve been in love and happy for so long, I almost forgot how miserable and stressful my life used to be. It truly was the pits (see the definition above).

In the Bible, the book of Isaiah, chapter 61, God promises to turn grief into joy and to provide comfort to those who mourn.  This promise was made to God’s people, the Jews. But because God’s people rejected Him (when they rejected Jesus), those promises were extended to the non-Jew as well.   Now, Jew and non-Jew alike can establish a relationship with God Himself.  His promises are true for all mankind.  Test Him and see that He is true and good, and let Him turn your life around,* just like He did for me.

Blessings,   Michele