My friend Emina Tuzovic has learned English to a proficient level as a non-native speaker of the language. She says it has been “a long journey”. Let’s find out all about that journey of English learning in this conversation, recorded in London just a couple of days ago.
Today on the podcast I am talking to my friend Emina Tuzovic, who is an English teacher.
For ages and ages I have been meaning to have Emina on this podcast for 3 main reasons:
1. Emina is absolutely lovely and it’s just nice to spend time talking with her, plus there’s plenty I’d like to find out from her that I’ve never really asked her before. That’s a benefit of the podcast, it gives me a chance to have in-depth conversations that often just don’t happen otherwise.
2. She is a non-native speaker of English who has learned the language to a proficient level – good enough to do a masters, a PhD, and to teach English at a very high level, to deliver workshops and seminars and just to live in the UK for a good length of time. So, she must have some valuable insights and experiences about learning English because she’s done it herself, but also about the cultural experience of moving to London and living there for what must be about 15 years at least I think.
3. She is a very well-qualified and experienced English teacher and so I am sure she has loads of insights into learning English from that point of view too, including certain areas of specialist knowledge as a result of her academic studies, including things like the challenges faced by native speakers of Arabic when they learn English. I’ve never talked about Arabic speakers of English on the podcast, so hello to all my Arabic speaking listeners (or should that be marhabaan.
As I said, it’s been quite hard to pin Emina down and interview her – mainly because our timetables are different, I live in Paris, she lives in London and she goes to bed so early in the evening. Thankfully the universe has finally allowed it to happen, here at the London School of English in Holland Park, London. This is where I used to work and where Emina still does work.
So the aim here is to have a long(ish) and natural conversation with Emina, touching on topics like learning English, cultural differences in the UK, teaching English and her academic studies in linguistics.
Every version of every language has slang and also cultural reference points that are unique to that language. English is no exception of course and because it is such a diverse language in terms of the number of different dialects it has, it is quite possible for there to be slang in certain dialects that other speakers of the same language don’t understand. For example, Americans might not understand certain things said in British English. Of course it’s also difficult for learners of English to deal with slang. It’s not normally the language you encounter in the coursebooks and so on, and yet slang is very commonly used.
So, a dialect of English like British English might be difficult to understand for anyone who wasn’t born or grew up there.
That’s what this article was all about and the 88 bits of English (either words or expressions) listed, reflect this uniquely British version of English that might be confusing for everyone else in the world.
But I am here to try to lessen that confusion with my explanations and examples.
You can use this episode series to quickly learn a whole world of slang, which will help you understand and be understood by Brits more easily.
And even if you’re not planning to get chatting to some British people any time soon, you can consider this series just to be a chance to broaden your horizons as far as the English language is concerned and learn yet more of this precious vocabulary – because vocabulary probably is the most precious stuff of all. This is the difference, often, between intermediate English and advanced or proficient English – knowing how to adjust your style of English to meet various different situations. A knowledge of slang is essential, I think, in order to know all the possible light and shade in this language.
As ever with these articles, there are always a few little words or phrases that I dispute or at least don’t know. Last time it was “dench” which neither my brother nor I use, ever. (I made several edits to the episode after initially releasing it, with some comments that my brother sent to me via text). Let’s see if there are other similar words and phrases that I don’t use, perhaps because it’s a regional thing and not said in my area growing up.
As we go through the list I will let you know which ones I actually use and which ones I don’t. If you’re using me as a model for the type of English you want to speak, you can perhaps disregard any of the ones which I don’t use. But of course you should always be listening carefully to the English language as it is used and if you spot any of these expressions being used on TV, in music, films or just in normal life then that’s worth noting.
Also, I think that sometimes I use these expressions but in a knowing, ironic way. For example, if I called someone “the bee’s knees” I think I’d be doing it largely because I like the sound of the expression, but knowing it’s a bit old-fashioned. It can be fun sometimes just to use these different expressions for a laugh as a way to add colour or humour to your speaking.
So I will also let you know if I think I use these expressions with a bit of irony.
In part 1 I did 30 of these. Let’s see if I can do the next 30 and then the final 28 in part 3.
I’m going to have to be quick, so pay attention!
Text in italics has been pasted from the original article (link above).
to faff about/around
To “faff” is to waste time doing very little.
“Faff” comes from the 17th century word “faffle,” which means to flap about in the wind.
“We were just faffing about.”
Stop faffing around. Come on, let’s go!
How much time in your typical day do you spend just faffing around?
What do you actually do when you faff around?
A “fag end” is also the ratty bits towards the ends of a reel of fabric, which are the worst and the cheapest bits of the reel. Historically, “fags” were the cheaper cigarettes made of lower grade tobacco, however, the slang has spread to encompass all cigarettes.
“Could I scrounge a fag off you, please?”
In American English it’s a gay person (very offensive word) so watch out for that. – “Can I bum a fag off you mate?”
What’s the nickname you give to cigarettes in your language?
A fag butt, to stub out a cigarette, to ask for a light, a ciggie
“She’s really fit though, isn’t she?”
When I was a kid we all thought our maths teacher was really fit.
Used to describe someone physically attractive, usually referring to their physique.
“She’s got a fit body”
Obviously it also means to be in good physical condition, like an athlete.
Which actor or actress do you think is quite fit/fit/really fit?
To “flog” means to sell something — usually quickly and cheaply.
“I’m trying to flog my old sofa. Do you know anyone that might be interested?”
What is the last thing that you flogged?
Flog It (TV show)
5. “the Full Monty”
The entire thing, with all the extras included.
After “The Full Monty” film was released in 1997, there was some international confusion over the phrase in which it was taken as a euphemism for stripping. However, “the full Monty” actually refers to pursuing something to the absolute limits.
“The full Monty” historically refers to an old tailor called Sir Montague Burton. Going “the fully Monty” meant purchasing a full three-piece suit, a shirt, and all of the trimmings.
“Our Christmas dinner had everything from sprouts to Yorkshire puddings. If you’re going to have a roast, have the full Monty!”
I’m going to go for the full monty. A full English breakfast.
I very rarely use it.
Have you ever had a full English breakfast? Did you go for the full monty? How about a Sunday roast? Full monty?
6. “Full of beans”
Someone that’s energetic, lively, or enthusiastic might be described as “full of beans.”
This phrase could be a reference to coffee beans, although these claims have been disputed.
Beans generally give you energy (and gas) so the meaning is pretty clear for me.
“Goodness, you’re full of beans this morning!”
How do you feel right now? Do you feel full of bean? Or are you feeling knackered?
Where do you want to do it? Your gaff? My gaff?
“Gaff” is an informal word for “home.”
It sounds cockney to me.
“What are you up to this weekend? We’ve got a party at our gaff, if you fancy it?”
I’d use it ironically because it sounds really cockney. It’s the kind of thing you hear in Eastenders.
Have you ever seen Eastenders?
Withnail &a I?
To “gallivant” means to roam, or to set off on an expedition, with the sole intention of having some light-hearted fun. I imagine someone skipping through a forest or a hilly meadow.
You’re supposed to stay and be a princess, not go gallivanting after pirates!
I would only use this in a kind of sarcastic way, in order to complain about someone doing other things when they should be focusing on something more serious.
Off he goes, gallivanting around the South of France when he should be at home sorting out all the problems.
A “geezer” is a man that could be described as “suave” or “dapper,” and is often suited and booted. Men from east London are also commonly referred to as “geezers.”
A geezer is a slang word for a man, like a bloke.
“That guy’s got such swagger — he’s a proper geezer.”
I use this one quite a lot although it does sound quite cockney (other regional dialects use it too). You can also say “bloke”.
10. “Give me a tinkle on the blower”
“Give me a call” or “ring me.” The phrase is sometimes shortened to “give me a tinkle.”
“Tinkle” refers to a phone’s ring, while “blower” is slang or telephone and refers to the device that predated phones on Naval ships. Sailors would blow down a pipe to their recipient, where a whistle at the end of the pipe would sound to spark attention.
“Give me a tinkle on the blower.”
I never say it.
Astounded; bewildered; shocked.
“Gob” is slang for mouth, so if you’re gobsmacked, you’re shocked to the point of clasping your jaw in disbelief.
“I was gobsmacked!”
It’s a good word which everyone should know.
When was the last time you were gobsmacked? Have you ever felt gobsmacked while watching a film or TV show, like when a character dies unexpectedly?
Not to be confused with literally being disembowelled, someone that says they’re “gutted” is devastated or extremely upset.
“I was absolutely gutted.”
It’s one of the most common and recognisable bits of UK slang, along with knackered and chuffed.
How would you feel if you got invited onto Luke’s English Podcast? Would you feel gutted or chuffed?
13. “Half past”
While Americans are more likely to say “seven thirty” or “five fifty,” Brits will more often than not refer to times in “minutes past” the hour (or minutes to). Eg, “half past seven,” and “ten to six.”
It’s unclear why Brits appear to favour analogue time-telling while Americans go for the digital format. (we don’t do it so much any more)
“It’s twenty past eleven.”
On the right hand side of the clock, it’s past (including half past).
On the left hand side of the clock, it’s to.
1:10 “ten past one”
2:15 “a quarter past two”
3.20 “twenty past three”
4.25 “twenty five past four”
5.30 “half past five”
6.35 “twenty five to seven”
7.40 “twenty to eight”
8.45 “a quarter to nine”
9.50 “ten to ten”
10.55 “five to eleven”
Sometimes these are abbreviated to “half past” “quarter past” “ten to” etc.
What time do you get up?
What time did you start listening to this?
What time do you go to bed?
What time does your lunch end?
14. “Hank Marvin”
“Hank Marvin” is Cockney rhyming slang for “starving.”
“I’m Hank Marvin” means “I’m hungry” or “I’m ravenous.”
“When are we going to eat? I’m absolutely Hank Marvin.”
I do use this one, and my wife has learned to understand it.
How are you feeling right now? Full, stuffed, fine, a bit peckish, hungry, absolutely Hank Marvin?
“Innit” is an abbreviation of “isn’t it” most commonly used amongst teenagers and young people.
You can add it as a tag question on the end of a sentence, no matter what the auxiliary verb is.
He hasn’t done his homework, innit.
He ain’t done his homework innit.
You ain’t done your homework innit.
It can also be used as a response as a way to confirm something.
“It’s really cold today.”
I think also we use “Is it?” as a way to show surprise.
“My mum won the lottery”
“Is it?” or “Yo, is it fam!?”
Sounds terrible when I say it.
I use “innit” quite a lot, but ironically, meaning I know I’m not normally the type of person who uses it and I’m kind of imitating Ali G.
16. “Leg it”
Make a run for it; run away; scarper.
“That’s when all of the lights came on, and so we legged it.”
We used to say this all the time when we were kids.
I never say this and if I did it would be embarrassing. It’s the sort of thing I’d hear from schoolkids on the bus in London.
The same people who’d say things like “innit” and “blud” or “fam”.
Something that takes a lot of effort and probably isn’t going to be worth all of the effort, either, could be described as “long.” This could be due to the lengths that the person will have to go to in order to complete the task.
Something that is “long” is probably also annoying or aggravating.
“Cleaning the kitchen is long.”
18. “the Lurgy”
If someone’s “caught the lurgy,” they’re suffering from cold or flu-like symptoms.
“She’s come down with the dreaded lurgy.”
When was the last time you got the lurgy? Did you take time off work or college? How do you protect yourself from the lurgy? What’s a cure for the lurgy?
19. Making random words past-tense to mean drunk
Brits are known for favouring a drink or two, so much so that almost any noun can be used as a substitute for “drunk.”
In his stand-up show, British comedian Michael MacIntyre said: “You can actually use any word in the English language and substitute it to mean drunk. It works.”
Examples include “trollied,” “smashed,” and “gazeboed.”
I’ve never heard or used this phrase (except the “I’m on it” part).
This colloquialism might be said by someone that has the situation under control.
“I’m on it” is definitely a phrase.
“How’s the report going, Steve?”
“Don’t you worry, Alan, I’m on it (like a car bonnet).”
Alan thinks “That would have been alright if he hadn’t said ‘like a car bonnet at the end’….. He’s going to have to go.”
“Don’t worry Alan. I’m on it!”
26. “On the pull”
Someone that’s “on the pull” has gone out, usually on a night out, with the intention of attracting a sexual partner.
“Pull” can also be used as a verb. If you’ve “pulled,” you’ve kissed someone.
“You look nice. Are you going on the pull?”
“Get your coat, you’ve pulled.”
Also: on the lash
27. “Over-egg the pudding”
“Over-egging the pudding” means embellishing or over-doing something to the extent that it’s detrimental to the finished product. Going over the top.
Basically though, it means going too far, doing too much, pushing a situation to the max, but it is said in a pejorative and disdainful way, like “Don’t over-egg the pudding Luke”.
“We get it — you’ve injured yourself. Don’t over-egg the pudding.”
Do you think they over-egged the pudding at the end of Avengers Endgame? Too many superheroes?
Rubbish; terrible, really bad. Poor quality.
“This is pants.”
“That film was total pants.”
How was the film? Pants
What about the match? Pants
How was England’s performance? It was pants
What about the pub where they showed the game? Pants
The beer? Pants
How about your pants? They’re pants.
Actually no, my pants are great. They’re the only thing that isn’t pants, my pants.
That’s ironic isn’t it, that your pants are great but everything else is pants, but not meaning great.
I think it’s because pants in general are bad, but my pants just happen to be great so they’re
The exception that proves the rule.
Yes, but I’ve never understood that phrase. How can an exception prove a rule? Surely it should be the opposite?
29. Par (diss)
I never ever use this. I’m much more likely to say “diss” as in “disrespect”. So let’s replace “par” with “diss” instead.
A “diss” is a disrespectful comment.
“Diss” can also be used as a verb, eg, “You just got dissed.” “Are you dissing my English?”
It comes from the word disrespect or disrespected.
“I don’t mean this as a diss, but did you remember to wash this morning?”
I don’t think I would use it unironically.
Are you dissing me?
A situation which has quickly evolved into an accident waiting to happen might be described as “gone pear-shaped.”
The phrase is reportedly old slang from the Royal Air Force and was used to described awry expeditions and flights.
“Well, this has all gone a bit pear-shaped.”
Simon, where have you been?
Well, I went out to buy some milk but things got a bit pear shaped and I ended up going to Area 51.
An episode about British English slang and culture, featuring expressions that Brits know but everyone else finds confusing. Here are the first 30 expressions in a list of 88 that I found on independent.co.uk. Includes plenty of funny improvised examples to make you laugh out loud on the bus.
He’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, isn’t he?
I’m a bit of a Beatles anorak.
Bagsie the front seat! Shotgun!
4. The bee’s knees
He’s the bee’s knees.
5. Bender (go on a)
I went on a 3-day bender last weekend. I feel rough as f*ck right now.
6. Blinder (to pull a)
You pulled an absolute blinder in that negotiation.
My brother has chipped in here with a comment, saying that he thinks the most common collocation with Blinder is “to play a blinder” and I admit that he’s right. Thinking about it, I’ve definitely heard “play a blinder” more than “pull a blinder”.
A quick internet search shows us the same thing.
Collins says it’s when a sports player or musician plays something really well but it’s also applied to when anyone does anything well. For example, you played a blinder in that meeting.
Or You played an absolute blinder getting us front row tickets for this show.
OK, so let’s say “play a blinder” more often than “pull a blinder”.
7. Bloody / Bleedin’
Bloody hell Harry! Bleedin‘ Heck!
8. Bob’s your uncle
Put the bag in the mug, add hot water, then some milk and Bob’s your uncle.
We’re staying in a bog-standard hotel up the road.
Put the money in theboot of the car.
11. Botch(ed) job
You did a real botch(ed) job on that chair. It is a real death-trap. You really made a botch of that, didn’t you?
Do you need a brolly?
13. Budge up
Come on, budge up a bit. I don’t have much room.
14. Builder’s tea
I like a nice cup of builder’s tea, me.
Give us a butcher’s at that! Have a butcher’s at this.
I’m really cack-handed today. I don’t know what’s the matter with me.
You’re such a cheeky little monkey!
18. Chinese whispers
It must have been Chinese whispers.
Let’s get together and have a good old chinwag.
I tell you what. It’s absolutely chockablock out there. Absolutely chocka.
You must be really chuffed!
You dropped an absolute clanger at the dinner party.
What a load of absolute codswallop.
24. Cost a bomb
Those new iPhones cost an absolute bomb.
I am absolutely cream-crackered. I think I’m going to go straight to bed.
26. Curtain twitcher
Our neighbour is a bit of a curtain twitcher.
I’m going to make some tea. Dench. (?)
I just want to add something about the word “Dench”.
I said that I didn’t know this and that I don’t use it.
My brother reckons the word is “fake”, by which I think he means that this one isn’t really used.
He’s never heard or used it either.
I don’t know why the Independent would add a fake word in their list, but let’s just say that you can probably avoid the word “Dench” and not worry about it at all.
If you’ve heard or seen the word being used, add a comment to the comment section.
I’ve just done a quick google check and there are entries for the word in Collins (but not an “official” definition – it was added by a user) and Urban Dictionary – both confirming that the word basically means “nice” or “Awesome” but there aren’t that many entries for it.
So I think we can conclude that it is a new phrase, probably only used by a few people, particularly younger generations.
Tim’s a jolly good bloke. A bit dim though.
That exam was an absolute doddle.
30. Dog’s dinner
You made an absolute dog’s dinner of that.
Follow me on Twitter @EnglishPodcast
For me, this is British humour and music at their finest, and it's part of a European absurdist art movement that started 100 years ago, and which runs through a lot of Britain's best TV and radio comedy. 2/12
Actually, it’s 17 jokes, including some simple one-liners and a few longer story-based jokes for you to remember and practise telling yourself. Listen to Luke read out and explain some pretty awful but enjoyable word puns and shaggy dog stories, and learn some English in the process.
I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant but then I changed my mind.
Did you hear about the guy who cut his whole left side off? Luckily he is all right now.
I’d tell you a chemistry joke but it probably wouldn’t get a reaction.
I tried eating a clock. It turns out that it’s very time-consuming.
I am reading a book about anti gravity. It’s impossible to put down.
I accidentally swallowed some food colouring. I feel like I’ve dyed a little inside.
Did you hear about the guy who got cooled to absolute zero? He is OK now.
Asked my dad if we could turn him into a salad ingredient, but he wouldn’t lettuce.
Last night I was dreaming that I had written Lord of the Rings. My bro said I was Tolkien in my sleep.
South Korea is so much more inviting than North Korea.
North Korea is a Seoulless place.
Have you heard about the difference between a hippo and a zippo?
One is REALLY heavy, and one is a little lighter.
I used to have a soap addiction,
But I’m clean now...
Next time you’re cold, go stand in the corner it’s always 90 degrees there.
To Absent Brothers
An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn.
When he finishes all three, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.
The bartender says to him, ‘You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time.’
The Irishman replies, ‘Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I’m here in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days we all drank together.
The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.
The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar and always drinks the same way: he orders three pints and drinks the three pints by taking drinks from each of them in turn.
One day, he comes in and orders two pints. All the other regulars in the bar notice and fall silent.
When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, ‘I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss.’
The Irishman looks confused for a moment, then a light dawns in his eye and he laughs. ‘Oh, no, ‘ he says, ‘Everyone is fine. I’ve just quit drinking!
Some Things You Just Can’t Explain
A farmer was sitting in the neighbourhood bar getting drunk.
A man came in and asked the farmer, “Hey, why are you sitting here on this beautiful day, getting drunk?”
The farmer shook his head and replied, “Some things you just can’t explain.”
“So what happened that’s so horrible?” the man asked as he sat down next to the farmer.
“Well,” the farmer said, “today I was sitting by my cow, milking her. Just as I got the bucket full, she lifted her left leg and kicked over the bucket.”
“Okay,” said the man, “but that’s not so bad.” “Some things you just can’t explain,” the farmer replied. “So what happened then?” the man asked. The farmer said, “I took her left leg and tied it to the post on the left.”
“Well, I sat back down and continued to milk her. Just as I got the bucket full, she took her right leg and kicked over the bucket.”
The man laughed and said, “Again?” The farmer replied, “Some things you just can’t explain.” “So, what did you do then?” the man asked.
“I took her right leg this time and tied it to the post on the right.”
“Well, I sat back down and began milking her again. Just as I got the bucket full, the stupid cow knocked over the bucket with her tail.”
“Hmmm,” the man said and nodded his head. “Some things you just can’t explain,” the farmer said.
“So, what did you do?” the man asked.
“Well,” the farmer said, “I didn’t have anymore rope, so I took off my belt and tied her tail to the rafter. In that moment, my pants fell down and my wife walked in … Some things you just can’t explain.”
The British Abroad
Roland, an Englishman went to Spain on a fishing trip.
While there, Roland hired a Spanish guide to help him find the best fishing spots. Since Roland was learning Spanish, he asked the guide to speak to him in Spanish and to correct any mistakes of usage.
Together they were hiking on a mountain trail when a very large, purple and blue fly crossed their path. The Englishmen pointed at the insect with his fishing rod, and announced, ‘Mira el mosca.’
The guide, sensing a teaching opportunity to teach Roland, replied, ‘No, senor, “la mosca”… es feminina.’
Roland looked at him in amazement, then back at the fly, and then said, ‘Good heavens….. you must have incredibly good eyesight.’
During Desert Storm, an American Air Force officer met a Saudi Air Force officer. Their love of flying bonded them together and soon they became friends. One day, while making small talk, the discussion turned to family. Each expressed how much they missed their wives and children. The Saudi officer decided to pull out his wallet and show pictures of his family to the American.
When the American saw the picture of the Saudi’s family, he was shocked. “Hey, that looks like my son,” he said, referring to one of the Saudi officer’s children. “That looks just like my Juan!”
The Saudi officer explained. “About 15 years ago, I went to Mexico to drill for oil. While I was there, my wife and I decided to adopt a young boy. We named him Amal and he has grown up with us.”
The American said, “Well, about 15 years ago, my wife and I were stationed at the American embassy in Mexico City. We adopted Juan and now he is in high school. I wonder if your boy and mine are twins!”
Excitedly, both officers compared the boys’ birthdays, and sure enough, the boys shared the same day. They agreed that the two boys must be twins. Immediately, they vowed that after the war ended they would meet in Los Angeles and have a big reunion to unite the two long-lost brothers.
When the news media received word of this, they created media frenzy as they eagerly promoted the day when the boys would meet. Eventually, the big day arrived and local, national and international news outlets, as well as several hundred onlookers descended on LAX airport.
There was a festive mood in the air, and representatives from the Mexican, U.S., and Saudi Arabian governments attended.
However, to the disappointment of the assembled crowd, a representative from Saudi Arabian Airlines announced that the plane had been delayed and would be over six hours late.
Juan’s mother took the podium and addressed the crowd saying, “You might as well go home. There’s no point in waiting here.”
“Why would we want to do that?” asked a reporter.
“Well,” she replied, “they’re identical twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”
Practise telling the jokes until you can do it comfortably without a script!
Rambling on my own about all sorts of things including Brexit news, describing my recording setup and microphones, a book recommendation for you, comments about the Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary, the latest Star Wars Episode 9 trailer and Bill Bailey dissecting music in a brilliant way.
Hello everyone and welcome back to this podcast which is made by me in my flat in order to help you learn English and also enjoy learning English too!
If you heard the last episode, you’ll remember that I was planning to play an idioms game with Paul. That’s what you’re going to hear in this episode – a game with Paul in which we have to try to include some idioms into our conversation seamlessly.
What you can do in this episode is not only follow the conversation as usual, but also try to spot all the idioms as they crop up. There are 15 in total. Admittedly, about 3 of them are explained and defined at the beginning, but 12 others are slipped into the conversation and then explained and defined at the end.
So, can you spot all the idioms during the conversation? Do you know them already? Can you work out what they mean from context? This is good practice because it encourages you to pay attention and notice new language as it occurs in natural conversation. Noticing is actually an important skill which can really help with language acquisition.
When learners “notice” new language, they pay special attention to its form, use and meaning. Noticing is regarded as an important part of the process of learning new language, especially in acquisition-driven accounts of language learning, when learners at some point in their acquisition, notice their errors in production. Noticing will only occur when the learner is ready to take on the new language.
A learner might make an error in the use of a preposition, but “notice” its correct use by another learner, or in an authentic text. This might allow them to begin to use it correctly.
It’s an important skill to develop – to be able to notice language, to identify certain bits of grammar, or certain fixed expressions like idioms, notice the form (all the individual words used to create the idiom) and the meaning. It helps you identify differences between your use of English and the way it is used by natives, and that comparison allows you to then adapt your English accordingly. This awareness of what kind of English you’re aiming for is vital.
Developing noticing skills is an important part of developing learner autonomy and your language acquisition skills. The better you are at noticing, the more you are able to learn English by just listening to audio that you enjoy, rather than going through a language coursebook which teaches you specific language items. So, I encourage you to pay special attention during this episode on idioms and fixed expressions. Obviously idioms are confusing because they’re not literal – the whole phrase means something different to the individual words being used.
About the idioms you will hear. These are all very common ones. Some of them you are bound to have heard before and will not be new to you. In a way though, if you have heard them before I’m not concerned. That just means that you’re starting to learn all our idioms, which is a good thing. Remember that you also have to be able to use these idioms, not just understand them. When you do use them, be extra sure that you’re using them 100% correct – for example you’re not using a wrong little word here or there, or perhaps collocating the phrase with the wrong verb or something.
The topic of conversation just happens to be Paul’s brother Kyle who we talk about on the podcast occasionally. In case you don’t know – Kyle Taylor is a professional footballer who plays for the Premiership team Bournemouth FC, although he is still yet to make his Premiership debut. A debut is your first game. So he hasn’t played in the Premiership yet (he’s only about 20) but he has played in the FA Cup.
Alright, so you can listen to Paul and I discussing Kyle and his footballing career, amongst other things, and you have to spot the idioms, which will all be explained at the end. All the idioms are listed on the page for this episode on the website, so check them out there if you want to see specific things like spellings, the specific form of the idioms and so on.
Right, without any further ado, let’s begin!
Remember, all those idioms are listed on the page for this episode. So check them out.
The Idioms List from this game
(to go) back to the drawing board
to mind your Ps and Qs
to feel under the weather
to be all ears
to take the bull by the horns
to save something for a rainy day
to pull your socks up
to be down in the dumps
to let the cat out of the bag
to bend over backwards
to get your skates on
to call a spade a spade
to be full of beans
not a sausage
What did you think of the episodes about the mystery game? I don’t know what you all thought of that? Did you enjoy it? Was it too difficult to follow? Give me your feedback. You can do that on the website.
Here is another episode of this podcast for people learning English.
This time we are dissecting the frog again as we are going to be looking at top jokes from this year’s Ed Fringe. I’m going to read all the jokes to you and then dissect them for vocabulary which can help you learn English really effectively.
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.
So let’s dissect the frog again!
A challenge for you:
Can you understand the jokes the first time you hear them?
Can you repeat the jokes, with the right timing, intonation and stress, to make the joke funny?
The Culture of Joke-Telling in English
Remember, when someone tells you a joke there are certain normal responses you should make. You shouldn’t give no reaction.
You have to show that you see that a joke has happened. Don’t just give no reaction or respond to the question on face value.
So when someone tells you a joke, you have to show that you’ve noticed it.
go “awwww” or something
Say “I don’t get it”
Heard it before
You also have to respond to certain jokes in certain ways.
Knock knock – who’s there?
Any kind of question, especially “What do you call a…?” or “What do you get if you cross xxx with yyy?”
You answer: I don’t know. Then the answer is the punchline.
Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2019
I did one of these last year – episode 547. A whole year has gone by. So I did 64 episodes of the podcast, plus all the premium ones. Quite a productive year for LEP!
Right now stand up comedians all over the UK are having a welcome break and a chance to think about how their Edinburgh run was and what they can learn from it.
The rest of us are reading articles in the press about the best jokes from this year’s fringe, and which new comedians to look out for over the coming year or two.
What’s the Edinburgh Fringe again? (I’ve talked about it a lot on the podcast. Never actually been there.)
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (also referred to as The Fringe or Edinburgh Fringe, or Edinburgh Fringe Festival) is the world’s largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the month of August. It has been called the “most famous celebration of the arts and entertainment in the world” and an event that “has done more to place Edinburgh in the forefront of world cities than anything else.
It is an open access (or “unjuried“) performing arts festival, meaning there is no selection committee, and anyone may participate, with any type of performance. The official Fringe Programme categorises shows into sections for theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events. Comedy is the largest section, making up over one-third of the programme and the one that in modern times has the highest public profile, due in part to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
Every year hundreds of stand up comedians go to the Fringe to do their shows. It is a sort of make-or-break experience.
Have you ever done it Luke? What’s it like?
I did something about different joke types in the last one of these episodes. I talked about things like “pull back and reveal” and “then I got off the bus”.
Here are about 5 different joke types, or stand-up techniques.
Puns (word jokes) – one word or phrase means two things at the same time, maybe because one word can sound like two words – homophones. [Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9. —> “8” sounds exactly like “ate”]
Pull back and reveal – the situation radically changes when we get more information. [My wife told me: ‘Sex is better on holiday.’ That wasn’t a nice postcard to receive.” Joe Bor 2014]
Observational humour – noticing things about everyday life that we all experience, but haven’t put into words yet. [What’s the deal with airline food, right?]
Similes – Showing how two things are similar in unexpected and revealing ways. [Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog…]
Common phrases, reinterpreted. This time it seems that most of the jokes are based on well-known common phrases and how they could mean something else if you change the context. It’s like a pun but for a whole phrase. [Conjunctivitis.com – now there’s a site for sore eyes. Tim Vine]
The top 10 jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 have been announced, with comedian Olaf Falafel taking the coveted top spot. Check out the full list below.
After previous triumphs from the likes of Tim Vine, Stewart Francis and Zoe Lyons, Falafel scooped the prize with a snappy vegetable themed one-liner.
He took ‘Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe’ with the gag:
1. “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
Florets are chunks of broccoli or cauliflower
Tourette’s is a condition in which people shout out the rudest and most taboo thing in any situation, particularly stressful ones.
The two words sound quite similar.
It’s not the best joke in my opinion.
What makes a really good joke?
If it’s a pun, it should work both ways.
You’re looking at a sentence that means two things at the same time. Ideally, both of those things will make overall sense.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
So, one sense here is that he has a type of tourette’s which only involves shouting out broccoli and cauliflower. That makes sense, sort of.
But the other meaning doesn’t. Why would he be randomly shouting out the words broccoli and cauliflower if he had some florets in his hand?
So, for me it doesn’t quite work.
Here’s a joke that works both ways
I broke my finger last week. On the other hand, I’m ok.
On the other hand means “But” (the whole sentence still makes sense) He broke his finger but overall he’s ok.
On the other hand means “literally on his other hand” (the whole sentence makes sense again) He broke his finger on one hand, but his other hand is ok.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
It came from Falafel’s show It’s One Giant Leek For Mankind, which was performed at the Pear Tree.
The comic, who won with 41% of the vote, claims to be “Sweden’s 8th funniest” comedian. He also works as an acclaimed children’s book author.
(This is like a democratic election in which the one that 59% of people (the majority) didn’t vote for, is the one that’s picked.)
Falafel said: “This is a fantastic honour but it’s like I’ve always said, jokes about white sugar are rare, jokes about brown sugar… demerara.”
(How is that like winning this list?🤷♂️)
Check out the rest of the top ten below.
2.”Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy” – Richard Stott
Listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, but there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.
This is LEP episode 610. and it’s called British Comedy: James Acaster.
In this one we’re going to listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, and there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.
James Acaster is a popular stand up comedian from the UK who has won various awards, done Netflix specials, Edinburgh shows and who appears on panel shows and TV comedy programmes all the time. He’s now a very popular and well-known stand up in the UK.
I’ve got a clip of one of his performances from the New Zealand Comedy Gala in 2013 on YouTube.
I’m going to play the video in about two parts.
You have to try to understand it – not just what he’s saying, but why is it funny?
Then I’ll go back through the clip, sum it up, go through it line by line, breaking it down for language.
You can then listen again using the video on the page for the episode.
Who is James Acaster? (Wikipedia) James Acaster is an English comedian originally from Kettering, Northamptonshire. (accent?) He has performed for several consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won two Chortle awards in 2015. He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe. Acaster has appeared on several panel shows, including Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? He has a 2018 Netflix show entitled Repertoire, consisting of four hour-long stand-up comedy performances. He has also written a book, James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, consisting of true stories, most of which were originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM. He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.
He’s originally from Northamptonshire which is in the east midlands. He doesn’t have a strong northern accent or a brummie accent, although I do think he would say “podcast” instead of “podcast” and “bath, grass, laugh” with that short a sound too.
The main thing is that he drops all his “T” sounds and also “TH” sounds.
So, “bring them” sounds like “bring em”
“Sitting in a tree, eating all the apples” sounds like “si’in in a tree, ea’in all the apples”
“Theft” becomes “Feft”
He also says “Raver” instead of “rather”.
All very common features of local English – dropping Ts and TH sounds is common all over the country.
What is his comedy style?
Whimsical (unusual, strange and amusing)
Thinking of things in a different way, unconventional (quite normal in stand up)
Acting a bit cool even though he isn’t
Geeky looking, wears sweaters, clothes even a granddad might wear
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker
James bought some ‘ready-to-eat Apricots’ and he went on a lads’ night out
You get these bags of fruit in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) of fruit which is ready to eat.
It’s been cut up, washed, prepared. It’s ready to eat.
For example, you might get “ready-to-eat apricots”. That’s what James is talking about here.
Also, the expression ”You are what you eat?”
Play the clip:What’s the joke about apricots?
Stop and explain it
What kind of apricots are these?
They are ready-to-eat apricots.
How do you feel?
I feel ready. Ready to eat apricots.
In fact, you could say I was ready to eat these ready-to-eat apricots.
Maybe you’re not ready to eat apricots.
Maybe you just want some, which is why they’re in a resealable bag.
So, they should be renamed ready-to-eat-some-apricots.
A lads’ night out / You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard
James went on a night out with a bunch of lads.
For James, this was not an enjoyable night.
It wouldn’t be for me either. I’ve never been one of those guys who likes to go out on a lads’ night out.
Lets me explain what a lads’ night out is like.
Lads are usually English young men, together, doing male things and generally being aggressive, overly sexual, crude, rude and competitive.
Lots of alpha male behaviour
Taking the piss and general one-upmanship and aggressive, laddish, competitive behaviour
Spending time in bars and clubs that you hate but they think are brilliant (terrible, terrible music, awful people, loud, smelly, horrible)
Trying to pick up girls and the general lack of a moral code – cheating, lying, using alcohol – all in an attempt to get lucky with a girl. This includes cheating on your girlfriend if you have one.
Medieval-level sexual politics – being openly judgemental about women’s appearances, giving women marks out of ten, saying whether or not you would shag any of the women around, looking at their bodies and comparing notes etc.
You get sucked into it through peer pressure and become part of it even though you hate it.
One of the lads, who has a girlfriend and yet plans to pick up a girl at the club, when asked why he didn’t bring his girlfriend, says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”
An orchard is a place where apples are grown. It’s full of trees and there are apples everywhere. You might pay to access the orchard and pick the apples.
You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard. Presumably because you wouldn’t need to bring one because there are loads there anyway.
How about bringing your girlfriend to a night club. Is it the same?
This leads James to kind of question the logic of that statement and go off an a monologue about bringing an apple to an orchard and how that compares to bringing your girlfriend to a nightclub.
To be an accessory to something (like a crime)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Play the clip:Do you understand all the comedy about the nightclub and bringing an apple to an orchard?
Stop and explain it
Going to a nightclub with a bunch of lads
One of them cheats on his girlfriend and you become an accessory to it, like it’s a crime and now you’ve become pulled into it. You’re involved in it, without intending to be, and you could go down, like you’re an accessory to a crime.
In this sense, you just have to keep a secret, you’re being expected to lie on behalf of someone else. The guy is a twat basically.
This lad says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”.
But then James deconstructs this analogy in a brilliant way.
This is nuanced comedy which is subtly making fun of stupid lad culture in a clever and funny way, with some weirdness and surrealism.
Go through it line by line
One of the reasons I like it is that a lot of people might just say James is being weird and that he’s some sort of loser, but he’s absolutely right in my opinion and he’s just clever and not afraid to be himself and he embraces the slightly weird things in life, because let’s face it, life is weird.
Types of humour / how nuanced & subtle humour can be all about changing the context of the situation in order to reveal new perspectives.
This acknowledges the fact that there are many different perspectives or layers to any situation and a good comedian can make you realise a whole different underlying meaning by just changing one bit of perspective.
Despite the fact that I like this a lot and so do many other people, I’m sure plenty of others don’t find it funny because it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough dynamic changes (he doesn’t change his voice a lot, a lot of the jokes are left to the audience’s imagination), it’s pretty low energy, maybe little things like (I can’t get into it – I just don’t like his hair cut or his shoes or something) and also some people just don’t really want to look at the world from a different point of view. Some people prefer more direct humour, perhaps with a more obvious target or more relatable things, like observational comedy or something.
As usual, I’m worrying that nobody will get it, but what’s the point of that? Some people just won’t get it because “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
And it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t find it funny, that’s totally fine. At least you’ve learned some English in the process. :)
They say “you are what you eat”
A resealable bag
A lads’ night out
Check out the arse on that
Normal people perv solo
To outnumber someone
A dented suitcase
To cheat on someone
An accessory to a crime
Eloquent use of language
A little bit miffed
This godforsaken pisshole of an orchard
Who in their right mind compares women to apples?
Another saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
Here’s another short clip of James Acaster, this time talking about Brexit and comparing it to a tea bag in a cup.
Should you take the bag out or leave it in?
James Acaster Brexit Tea Bag
Now explain that Luke!
Tea / Brexit
Should you leave the bag in or not?
If the bag stays in, the cup as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the bag is getting weaker in some way but it’s actually part of a good strong cup of tea.
If you take the bag out, the tea is actually quite weak, and the bag goes straight in the bin.
Do I even need to explain how that analogy works with Brexit?
Should the UK stay in or go out?
If the UK remains, the EU as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the UK is getting weaker in some way, but it’s actually part of a good strong union of nations.
If the UK leaves, the EU gets weaker and the UK goes straight in the bin.
Quite clever really.
You can watch James Acaster clips on YouTube.
You can see his Netflix specials “Repertoire” on Netflix
You can read his book “Classic Scrapes” from any half-decent book shop.
Hello folks, welcome to a new episode. In this one I’m going to go through some more audio of interviews I did with native speakers of English in London 10 years ago and will mine if for any nice bits of English vocabulary that we find.
Before we begin this episode properly I just want to say a couple of things about the last episode – the one about Queen & Freddy Mercury and also to let you know about my plans for the summer and how that might affect the podcast.
We’ll start with summer plans.
First of all, I’m going away on holiday during the 2nd week of July, so no podcasts will go up during that time. Then when we get back I’m teaching intensive summer courses at the British Council, which means teaching all day every day. I still have the evenings, but having a lot less time probably means I won’t be able to produce podcasts at the usual rate. So, things might go quiet for the rest of the month. Also, in August we have several holiday plans which are currently coming together and that will mean being away for at least half of the month. So things might go quiet during July and August, only to return at the normal rate in September. I’ll also prioritise premium content, because that is stuff I I feel I have a duty to publish.
Right, so that’s the summer plans and how they will affect the podcast. Things might be a bit quiet as usual at this time of year, but there’s the whole episode archive to explore, all the app-only episodes you might not have heard and all the premium content too.
Audio Quality – Queen Episode
Next let me say a couple of things about the last episode, which was all about Queen, before starting this episode properly in a few minutes.
First of all, I received some nice, enthusiastic responses from people who were very pleased that I was finally talking about Queen on the podcast.
For example, Francisca Lopez Aperador on YouTube wrote: Hi, Luke, I was waiting for this episode. You really made my day. How could express how thrilled I am. Thanks, thanks, thanks. Cheers from Spain, teacher.
However, some people are saying that Alex is unintelligible in the Queen episode. There weren’t many comments, but I reckon if I just get one or two comments about something, it’s probably representative of what a lot of other people (ninjas) are thinking too.
For example, Arsiney wrote on the website: I don’t understand any words in this conversation. Luk`s speech is clear but this guy speaks like alien.
So, is Alex unintelligible? Does he speak like (an) alien?
Personally I understand every single word Alex says and said in the episode and also I noticed that YouTube’s automatic subtitles understood most of what he said (my episodes go up on YouTube now too, so you can see the automatic subtitles, which are 90% correct, going up to 95% correct when I’m on my own).
But there were definitely moments when it was difficult to understand everything he said – largely due to the audio quality during the call and partly due to Alex’s speech, and that probably made it a less satisfying listening experience for you.
Apologies for that. The audio quality wasn’t up to the normal high standard that you have become used to.
Also, Alex doesn’t enunciate as clearly as I do, but then again most people don’t.
This brings us back to this perpetual question of the way I speak on the podcast.
“Luke, do you speak normally or do you slow down because I understand everything you say but I don’t understand other native speakers.”
I do try to be normal and natural but I’m also trying to speak clearly. This is actually how I speak. I always make an effort to speak clearly. That’s who I am – partly as a result of being an English teacher, but also it’s just the way I was brought up to speak.
However, in the real world you’re going to hear people who don’t speak as clearly as me, and you need to prepare for that. I think that most people don’t speak as clearly as I do and it’s not just about speed, it’s about diction. Diction is the manner in which words are pronounced. To an extent you’ve been spoiled by my clear diction. You also have to listen to people who are harder to understand. It trains you to do things like use the context, and other words you can hear to piece together the bits you don’t understand. It’s not always going to be laid out on a plate for you, and you can’t always blame the speaker for not being clear enough for you. As I said, I always understand everything Alex says, so as far as we are concerned, he doesn’t have a problem with his speech. He goes through his life fine, communicating without issues, doing comedy on stage and making people laugh. So, Alex’s pronunciation isn’t a problem in his life. He doesn’t speak as clearly as me, but not many people do.
So, listening to someone like Alex is actually good training.
The Pros and Cons of Audio Quality & Learning English
It’s important to listen to subprime audio.
But I know that some of you will be frustrated that you couldn’t understand or hear everything, and I’m sorry about that. I thought it would be alright. I think the main thing was the audio quality actually.
Understanding what you hear is an important part of the learning process, but be careful of getting used to understanding everything. Sometimes you have to learn to fill in the gaps yourself.
I want you to understand everything you hear. Understanding what you’re hearing is an important part of the enjoyment of this podcast. It’s also an important part of how this works. I’ve talked about the role of comprehensible input. Basically, this is the theory that you learn language when you understand it, and so finding compelling material to listen to that you understand is vital.
So, naturally, clear audio is a part of that and that’s why I spend a lot of time attempting to make sure the audio is of good quality on this podcast. Where possible I even send microphones to guests I’m interviewing by Skype. I’ve sent mics to my dad, my brother, Raphael in Liverpool. I sent a mic to Andy Johnson. I couldn’t send a mic to Alex because he was using his phone, making a whatsapp call over a cellular connection. I expect this meant that the bandwidth of the audio was very narrow, or something like that. Perhaps the audio was compressed so much that there was not much range in the frequency, making it sound squashed or small. I’m not an expert in audio broadcasting so I’m not sure, but it’s probably something like that. Alex doesn’t have wifi at home – believe it or not, and so our only option was to do a voice call. No way for him to plug in a USB microphone. So, that’s one of the reasons for the difficult audio.
I’m probably going too far here and people are going to write to me saying “It’s ok Luke, don’t apologise too much!” etc. I usually go a bit over the top if I’m apologising for something on the podcast – usually because I’ve mispronounced a place name, I’ve made some factual error about your country, like saying your country is part of another country when in fact they’re separate independent nations. You know, stuff like that. Even apologising for uploading too much content. And now, apologising for less-than-perfect audio in one episode. I am probably going too far.
But it’s still worth taking this moment to talk about the pros and cons of good and bad audio, when learning English.
There are good and bad things about having super clear audio and English you can understand easily.
The pros are that you can learn a lot from it (comprehensible input) and you get the satisfaction of understanding it all.
The disadvantage is that you get used to it and then struggle to understand fast native speech.
There are also pros and cons of having audio that’s harder to understand.
Difficult audio trains you to listen more actively and intelligently.
But sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t understand.
It’s about striking the right balance. Hopefully on my podcast I mix it up and have some audio which is not too difficult to follow, that you can learn from and enjoy, while also presenting you with more difficult things that you have to really focus on.
Now, about this episode you’re listening to right now.
This is London Native Speaker Interviews Revisited part 2.
Recently I uploaded part 1 of this series. That was episode 591.
If you remember, what I’m doing is revisiting some videos I made 10 years ago, when I went into central London with my video camera in order to do quick interviews with people about life in London. My question was “What is London really like?” I got loads of little responses from people talking about the good and bad points of life in our capital city and the videos were pretty successful. Two of them now have over a million views. Not bad.
So in these audio episodes what I’m doing is revisiting those videos. We’re going to listen to the audio from the video – see how much you can understand, and then I’m going to break it down in the usual way, clarifying bits of language and helping you to expand your vocabulary.
Also this gives me a chance to be like a film director doing my own DVD commentary track, which is always fun.
How does this relate to the topic of audio quality?
Well, I recorded these video interviews on a basic handheld camera just using the inbuilt microphone. There’s a bit of wind and loads of atmospheric noise (because central London is a very noisy place) and so yes, the audio isn’t as crystal clear as you might expect, but as I’ve said – it’s good practice. This is where we strike that balance between challenging listening and comprehensible listening.
Right, so let’s go! Let’s listen to the audio – we’ll do each mini interview one by one, and then I’ll break them down for language one by one.
We’ll listen to each clip twice. The first time I’ll just ask you the question “What are the good and bad things about living in London?”. Then listen and try to understand. Then we’ll listen again and I’ll break it all down bit by bit, and there’s quite a lot of nice, natural vocabulary to learn from this video.
On the page for this episode on the website you’ll see:
A transcript for most of this, especially the first part
Transcripts for each part of the video
Vocabulary notes with definitions, for the bits of vocabulary I explain during the episode
Right, so let’s get started!
Student / Justin Bieber / Ed Sheeran
Graphic design student: Hello
Luke: So, how long have you been in London?
Graphic design student: Two weeks
Luke: Really? What do you do?
Graphic design student: Err, graphic design. Camberwell, School of the Arts.
Luke: Ok. So, your first two weeks.
Graphic design student: First two weeks. It’s quite a big impact. Very big, lots of people, and it’s quite expensive as well.
Luke: Ok. What’s the best thing about it?
Graphic design student: Err, night life. Very good night life. It’s got, you know, erm… If you go to the right places… A lot of action, erm, you know, a lot of friendly people as well.
Luke: Excellent. What about the worst thing?
Graphic design student: Depends on where you go. I mean, there’s quite a lot of, err, muggers about, dodgy people looking at you weirdly. You want to just, turn, turn away from them
Luke: Ok yeah
Graphic design student: Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice. I mean, there’s some people that shove about, but, you know, you’ve just got to deal with it.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Graphic design student: That’s ok
how long have you been in London?
A lot of action
looking at you weirdly
Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice
there’s some people that shove about
you’ve just got to deal with it.
Girl in the red scarf
Luke: So, hello
Girl in red scarf: Hello
Luke: Where are you from?
Girl in red scarf: I live in Redhill, which is about half an hour away from London
Luke: Ok, erm, how long have you lived there?
Girl in red scarf: Two weeks!
Luke: Ok. Everyone’s been living in London for two weeks for some reason. So, what’s London really like then?
Girl in red scarf: London, well, London’s a really really massive place which can be quite overwhelming, but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there. Erm, London has everything you’d ever want, if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything. Erm, I would say, just get stuck in there and go for it!
Luke: Ok, great, and what’s the worst thing about London?
Girl in red scarf: The worst thing… oooh the worst thing… err, I think the worst thing would have to be the pollution. It’s probably not as bad as some countries, but you always feel like you’ve got black fingernails.
Luke: Ok. Thank you very much.
Girl in red scarf: Thank you
but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything
just get stuck in there and go for it!
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Hi!
Luke: So, are you from London too?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, I am
Luke: Ok, so how long have you lived here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Err, my whole life. Luke: Ok, so you’re a real Londoner
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, a real Londoner
Luke: Ok, what’s it really like then, living here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): What’s it really like? Erm, well I think it’s fantastic. It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place with lots of things to do. You can never say that you’re bored or have nothing to do because then that’s all down to you, so…
Luke: What’s the best thing about it?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Erm…
Luke: You might have just answered that
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes I think I have. Just the variety and everything you want to do. Lots of things for different age groups, there’s always something for someone to do. I would say the best thing is, like, the cultural little occasions that we have, like Chinese New Year and things like that, where you have big street parties. I would say that’s the best thing.
Luke: Ok, what about the worst thing?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh… I don’t like to answer that question
The girl with the red scarf (off screen): Pigeons!
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh yeah! I hate pigeons! I hate pigeons! They’re just…
Luke: What’s wrong with them?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): They’re diseased!
Luke: They’re diseased. Flying rats.
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yeah. That’s the worst thing, I don’t dislike anything else.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): You’re welcome
It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place
that’s all down to you
I hate pigeons! They’re diseased. Flying rats.
Young Business Couple
Smartly dressed couple: Hi
Luke: So, are you from London
Smartly dressed girl: Err, we’ve just moved here, yeah.
Luke: Just moved here, right, so err… How long have you been here?
Smartly dressed girl: Err… We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
Luke: Ok. Everyone I’ve interviewed today has been in London for, like, two weeks. I don’t know why… So, what’s London really like then? What do you think?
Smartly dressed guy: Err, it’s a huge place. There must be about 10 million people living here. It’s got a lot of good things, bad things. It’s vibrant, it’s multicultural. It’s got fantastic places to eat, fantastic places to go out in the evening.
Smartly dressed girl: Fantastic theatre, fantastic restaurants. Fantastic museums, art galleries. Absolutely loads of stuff.
Smartly dressed guy: It’s a fast paced place. People seem to be moving around a lot faster than in the rest of the country
Smartly dressed girl: Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know. People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
Smartly dressed guy: But it’s interesting, but there’s also negatives to living here
Smartly dressed girl: It’s very congested, it’s very expensive. Err, extremely expensive, public transport is expensive. It’s hard… it can take a long time to get anywhere
Smartly dressed guy: And there’s also a lot of pollution, and crime as well. So, if you come to live here I think it’s about finding the right enclave…
Smartly dressed girl: Yeah, the right neighbourhood to live in, definitely…
Smartly dressed guy: And having friends. Set up your own community of friends, rather than knowing your next door neighbour.
Luke: Yeah. Ok, thank you very much
Smartly dressed guy: No worries
Luke: Cheers, bye bye
Smartly dressed girl: Cheers, bye
we’ve just moved here
How long have you been here?
We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
There must be about 10 million people living here.
It’s a fast paced place.
Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know
People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
It’s very congested
I think it’s about finding the right enclave
Vocabulary with definitions
Here are some definitions of some of the vocabulary in the video.
night life – social life at night, for example clubs and bars a lot of action – lots of exciting things happening, and lots of nice girls to meet muggers – criminals who might steal things from you in public (e.g. attack you and steal your bag) dodgypeople – people who are strange and can’t be trusted looking at you weirdly – looking at you in a strange way turn away from them – look/turn in the other direction shove about – push people when in a large crowd (e.g. pushing people when getting on or off a crowded train) you’ve just got to deal with it – you have to just learn to live with it. You can’t let it make you unhappy.
massive overwhelming – having such a great effect on you that you feel confused and do not know how to react
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything – ‘to be into something’ means to be interested in it, or to enjoy it just get stuck in there – get involved without hesitation or fear and go for it – just do it! pollution – dirty air caused by cars, bad air conditioners etc a cosmopolitan place – a place with lots of people from all over the world (positive adjective) Pigeons – very common birds which you find in the city (see the video at about 3:33) vibrant – full of energy and activity in an exciting way multicultural – involving people from many different cultures fast paced – with a quick lifestyle (e.g. people rushing about everywhere, walking very quickly, in a hurry) get quite a bit (too) much – be stressful and annoying congested – full of traffic, lots of traffic jams the right enclave – a small area within the city in which you live and feel comfortable neighbourhood – part of town in which you live
Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you? It’s boiling hot here. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and today the temperature is expected to be in the high 30s with a feels-like temperature somewhere in the 40s.
I’ve never understood that. So the temperature is 39 but it feels like 43. So isn’t the temperate 43 then? I don’t get it.
In any case, it is boiling. So if at some point I stop talking, you hear a thud and the podcast goes silent – don’t worry, I’ve just passed out from heat stroke or exhaustion or something. Just joking, but it is very hot.
These aren’t exactly perfect conditions, but my dauntless British spirit is unbowed by any crisis, as we heard in the last episode, so I will be just fine, thank you.
I wonder how it is where you are.
Now, enough idle chit chat, let’s on to this episode.
This is episode 602 and it’s the second part of this episode I’m doing about British comedy TV show “The Day Today”.
You should listen to part 1 before listening to this, and also know that there are notes, videos and bits of transcription on the page for this episode on my website. Just go to teacherluke.co.uk and check the episode archive where you will find all the other episode pages, plus some bonus website-only content too.
In the first part of this episode I talked to you about The Day Today – what kind of programme it is, who made it and so on. Then we listened to three clips from that show which you can find on YouTube and then I broke them down for language and to help you understand the humour.
That’s exactly what we’re going to continue doing in this episode. I have 3 more clips, available on YouTube, so let’s do it like this:
First I’ll talk to you about the clip we’re going to see, explaining the context, giving you the main details and asking you to listen out for certain things. This part is necessary because it will really help you understand the reference points and bits of humour that you might otherwise miss.
Then we’ll listen again bit by bit and I’ll explain specific things including phrases or other features of English
Hopefully through this process you will understand and appreciate the humour and you’ll also pick up some English in the process.
Just a reminder – The Day Today is a parody news programme. None of the stories we’re going to hear about is real. It’s all completely made up parody for comedy purposes. This show makes fun of the conventions and clichés of TV news and current affairs programmes, and does it with a weird and surreal twist.
Also, I want to appeal to you to write to me about these episodes. Whenever I do episodes about comedy I wonder what people are thinking. Part 1 of this is doing well in terms of listens, but in terms of comments there are only a couple on the website and I’ve received maybe one email about this, so I’d like to appeal to you to get into the comments section. As a teacher in a classroom and a stand up comedian in a comedy club I get instant feedback on what I’m saying and doing. On the podcast it’s not like that. I record episodes, publish them and then I have no idea beyond just a few numbers, what people think. So, write to me and let me know what you think of this. Do you understand it all? Does it entertain you or disturb you? What are you thinking? Let me know.
Get The Day Today DVD Box Set on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Today-Complete-BBC-Disc/dp/B000171RU4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+day+today&qid=1560774228&s=gateway&sr=8-1
OK, so let’s carry on with the first of our three clips.
It’s your blood – “Chopper of Doom” 22:30 (Episode 1)
This is from a feature called “It’s your blood” which is exactly like those old TV shows that told stories of bad accidents and how the emergency services responded to them. We used to have a show called 999 which was exactly the same as this.
They always used reconstructions with actors to remake the accident, and they were very cheaply done with the victims telling the story with a voice over. The presenter was Michael Buerk (again) and he had a certain kind of tone which was serious and stern with a patronising edge as if to say “If you’re stupid enough not to take precautions then you deserve to have an accident” perhaps with a little pause, looking at the camera to say “Don’t be an idiot”.
A little snippet of 999 (12:00)
Listen out for the stern, dramatic and slightly patronising tone of it. Also, it’s presenting itself as a public safety broadcast but really it’s just stories of bad accidents reconstructed for our entertainment.
So this is a little clip from BBC 999. (12:00)
On the Day Today it was called It’s Your Blood.
“Every week on It’s your blood we feature an actual bad accident”.
It’s a parody of that kind of show. Did you have shows like that in your countries? Someone tells the true story of a bad accident that they had and then it’s reconstructed using actors and sometimes the real ambulance workers themselves, who are always terrible actors.
In this clip, the accident is that a farmer flies his helicopter above some fields, but passes out while flying. The helicopter is dangerously out of control in the sky and might crash on some children. Luckily the farmer’s dog is in the helicopter, so the authorities manage to save the situation with the help of a local shepherd who whistles to the dog through the CB radio, instructing him how to land the plane, which he does.
If you’re not listening carefully you could easily miss the fact that the dog is the one that lands the plane, because everything is told in such a serious way. The dog even has a voice over at one point as it explains what it was like to fly in the helicopter.
Listen out for
How Chris Morris ramps up the drama by suggesting that the blades of a helicopter could easily kill humans “Helicopters, machines for cutting air, air that’s soft and easy to slice, like human beings.”
The perhaps unnecessary levels of drama, violence and suspense in the retelling of the story
Making the reconstruction had ethical questions because it forced the victims to face their ordeal again
“All bodily fluids are the ones that actually emerged at the time.” Ridiculous and impossible, but somehow exactly the kind of thing they’d say on a show like this. For example, the first 20 seconds of the real BBC 999 show.
The way he says “For this reason and many others, you may find that the following sequence produces a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” Listen out for how he says the final line “a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” in a kind of tragic way because it involved an actual bad accident. They could just not show this, but for some reason it’s their duty to show it and for us to watch it because a man had an accident and we shouldn’t do it too.
The voice over from the sheepdog Lindsay “It was smooth and exhilarating like an aerial motorbike” – that’s the sheepdog actually speaking in voice over
Question: What causes the farmer to pass out?
The local resident who takes 10 minutes to call for help because she’s too busy filming the disaster on her camcorder
Does the story end on a positive note or a negative note?
Clip begins at 22:30
A treat – give a treat to someone, promise someone a treat, get a treat for doing something, to deserve a treat, give a dog a treat A memento – I decided to video it for him as a memento Perilous – the helicopter was perilously out of control To head towards something – the chopper was heading towards a field, heading for a field
REDUNDANCY (Peter O Hanrahanrahan) 5:05 (Episode 6)
Economics Correspondent Peter O Hanrahahanrahan is back. This time the story is that General Motors in Detroit have laid off some workers at their factory.
Some language A factory / a plant To lay someone off / to make someone redundant
How many workers have been laid off? Peter O Hanrahahanrahan has the story, live in Detroit. The thing is, he’s got the wrong number.
Chris Morris presses him on this, forcing him to embarrass himself by showing his notes, which have a doodle of a spider in a spider’s web in the corner of the page.
Chris tells Peter off like he’s a naughty schoolboy.
Listen out for
Peter’s conviction at the moment that this is “Mass redundancy on an unprecedented scale”
How Chris shows his scepticism over Peter’s number.
How Peter quickly admits that he’s wrong when Chris asks to see his notes.
“You’re lying in a news grave” …what does it say on the gravestone? …news
Clip begins at 5:05
The POOL (Coogan’s bit) 24:21
This is from a spoof fly on the wall documentary about a municipal swimming pool in London and the people that work there.
You know that kind of thing – a camera crew follow people around their working life and reveal little human dramas that go on and tell the story of people in their ordinary lives in their own words.
In this one we’re at a swimming pool and we’re following some of the staff there. We see footage of the staff interacting, dealing with problems. We see what it’s really like to work at a swimming pool. There used to be a lot of shows like this on TV, and they spawned parodies like The Office. The bit I want to look at is Steve Coogan as the pool’s security guard. He’s playing a much older man and it’s pure Peter Cook. It’s a great little comedy character that we have never seen again.
He’s the security guard at the pool and he describes his work including several incidents like when a pigeon got into the pool once. It seems his working life is extremely boring and mundane, but then we learn that one year a person was killed at the pool and there’s a question of whether the security guard is somehow responsible for this. I love the way he responds to the suggestion that he’s liable for the person’s death.
Listen out for
Coogan’s tone of voice, accent and other little touches that make this an authentic feeling character
The way Coogan’s story about the pigeon has a very boring ending
What did he do one night when he found a woman’s swimsuit?
What’s his response to the allegation that he was responsible for the death at the pool?
Clip begins at 24:21
Rick Thompson in the DVD extras for The Day Today
The DVD has various bonus extras on it. I remember watching one of those extras with my brother and there was one which was a mini documentary about news broadcasting and how The Day Today uses the style of news for comic effect.
After a couple of minutes, we were surprised to see our dad on screen! He’d been filmed for the documentary and there he was in the BBC newsroom talking about news.