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Greg Graffin of Bad Religion teaches English

Usually, Greg Graffin, who has a PhD from Cornell, teaches life sciences and evolution at UCLA. But at a recently appearance in Portland, he gave an English lesson for the ESL students of English, baby! as part of our Celebrity English Lessons series.

Greg was on tour with his band, Bad Religion, while also doing events on the side to promote his new book. I met with him at the book signing at the Bagdad Theater in Portland and, in addition to getting a book signed and one for a friend, asked him to explain what “against the grain” means, since it’s the title of a well-known Bad Religion song and album.

It’s interesting–while talking about “against the grain” Greg brings in another, similar idiom, “swimming upstream.” It’s probably because after 20 years of singing the song, the two are closely related in his mind. Take a look at the lyrics of the chorus:

Against the grain: that’s where I’ll stay.
Swimming upstream, I maintain against the grain.

I discussed the carpentry origins of the phrase in the lesson intro on Ebaby!, but it’s actually helpful that Greg brought in another image so that the English students on the website will have an easier time remembering the meaning of the phrase.

Bad Religion is actually my favorite band, so I was extra thrilled that Greg was willing to do this. I interviewed him once over the phone back in 2007, but it was an honor to meet him in person!

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