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
In this episode I’m joined by Jennifer – a podcaster from the USA, and we test each other on our knowledge of slang from our countries. Listen and learn some informal words from British and American English. Notes & definitions below.
Here’s a new episode and in this one I’ve got a guest. I’m talking to Jennifer from the English Across the Pond podcast. You’re going to hear a mix of both British and American English and you can learn some slang from both sides of the Atlantic. Also you can find out about Jen, her podcast, and the other language learning services that she offers to you, with her co-host Dan on their podcast and also through their website. More on that in a moment.
But first let me give you a little bit of news here before we get started properly.
A little bit of news before we get started properly
If you’re a subscriber to my email list then you will have received an email from me recently with a link to a post that I published on my website. Did you get that email? Did you click the link? Normally emails from me just contain a link to a new episode, but sometimes I send you other stuff, like posts on my website which you might find interesting.
Basically in that recent post I said a couple of things. One of them was that February might be a bit quiet for the normal podcast – I mean, these free episodes (because there’s the free podcast and the premium podcast, you see). This is the second episode I’ve uploaded in February, and this might be it for February actually, on the free podcast and that’s because I’m focusing on LEP premium this month in order to make up for the lack of premium episodes in January.
So if you’re a premium subscriber you’ll see that you’ve been getting new episodes regularly and that’s going to continue throughout the month but the number of normal free episodes will be a bit lower.
Now, this means that all the free subscribers can just catch up on all the episodes I’ve uploaded since the start of the year (which is quite a lot) but if you want more you could just wait a bit for some new ones to come along, or you could consider signing up for the growing library of premium stuff.
New premium episodes this month include ones covering vocab & grammar from my recent conversation with Zdenek Lukas. I picked out over 40 bits of target language for you to learn from that, and so there are about 4 parts to that episode. Then, in the pipeline I’ve got premium episodes focusing on language from the Paul Chowdhry episode and the recent episode with James. Tons of language for you to learn. This is all stuff you’ve heard on the podcast, but I’m doing all the work of explaining, clarifying and demonstrating the language and also drilling it for pronunciation and all that – all to help you not just hear it but properly learn it. I do all that work so you don’t have to. To subscribe to my premium content, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
The other thing I wrote about in that recent website post was that I was featured in an episode of the Rock n’ Roll English Podcast. Do you remember Martin and Dan from episode 490. They’re the guys from Rock n’ Roll English, which is another British English podcast. Just recently they had me on one of their episodes and we talked again about how to handle awkward social situations (like we did the first time I was on their podcast), and we covered some pretty funny and fairly disgusting topics, including the ins and outs of giving up your seat on the tube, how long you should hold a door open for someone and how to deal with poo smells in public toilets. Yes, the poo thing is a subject that quite regularly comes up in their episodes.
Anyway, check the episode archive on my website for the recent website post about Rock n Roll English and that’s where you can find the relevant links to listen to that.
Now then, onto this new episode of Luke’s English Podcast…
This is another collaboration with a fellow podcaster. There are quite a few of us out there in podcastland and from time to time we invite each other onto our respective podcasts as you will have noticed.
This time I’m talking to Jennifer from English Across the Pond. Some of you will be familiar with English Across the Pond – it’s another podcast for learners of English, hosted by Jen in the USA and Dan in the UK (that’s another Dan – not Dan from the RnR English Podcast). They do weekly episodes focusing on different topics and you can listen to their conversations which include both British and American English.
In this episode you’ll hear me talking to Jen via Skype (she was in California), and we chose to focus on slang words in British and American English.
UK vs USA Slang Game
We decided it might be interesting to see how much of each other’s slang words we know by playing a kind of UK vs US Slang Game.
What do you think will be the result?
So we both prepared a list of 5 slang words and prepared to test each other, and that’s what you’re going to hear.
There’s a bit of chat between the two of us first, so you can get to know Jen a little bit and then we get stuck into the slang game.
As you listen, see if you can play along with us. Do you know all the words in this game?
Keep listening to hear the words explained, defined and demonstrated. I have a feeling that long-term listeners to my podcast might know some of the British ones because I’ve probably dealt with them in previous episodes of this podcast, but do you know all of them? And how about the American English slang words you’re going to hear?
All the answers to the slang game are on the page for this episode if you want to see them.
And also keep listening until the end to find out about a nice offer that Jen and Dan have for you in terms of the learning English content that they are providing on their website.
Anyway, I hope you’re ready for some real slang from both sides of the pond.
So without any further ado, let’s get started.
Answers to the slang game
1. Buff (adj) You’re looking buff, have you been working out? Meaning = muscular, toned
2. give me / let me have a butcher’s at that thing (noun) Giz a butcher’s at that new phone of yours = give me a look at that new phone of yours Meaning = Give me a look
It’s cockney rhyming slang. “A butcher’s hook” = a look.
3. Chuffed (adj)
I’m really chuffed to bits to have won the prize. When my daughter does something for herself she always looks so chuffed. Meaning = pleased, or pleased with yourself
4. Gutted (adj) How do you feel to have lost the match today? I’m absolutely gutted to be honest. Meaning = very disappointed
How would you feel if these things happened? Chuffed or gutted?
Dan wins a podcasting award, but you don’t.
Tom Cruise crashes his car into your house.
5. Knackered (adj) I’m absolutely knackered this evening. I had an absolutely awful day at work today. I had to work a 12 hour shift with no break. I’m knackered. I’m just going to go straight to bed. Meaning = very tired, exhausted
USA slang words (California specific)
1. a grippa somethin’ (a grip of something) You must have a grippa toys in your house at the moment. I have a grippa things to do today. I have a grippa work that I need to get done today. It feels good when we get a grippa things done. Meaning = a lot of
2. To rock something (clothing) You’re rocking some fresh sneakers. I’m rocking this fresh cardigan. I’m rocking some dope corduroy pants (trousers) this afternoon. My brother rocks a cowboy hat. Meaning: To wear some stylish clothes
3. To post up somewhere If you want to go into that shop, I’ll just post up here and wait for you. I like to just post up at the beach all day long and enjoy the sun. Meaning: To stay somewhere for a while and hang out.
4. To flip a bitch Hey, at the next light, flip a bitch. Meaning = To do a U-turn (to turn around 180 degrees)
5. To trip out I was tripping out because I thought I saw you at the restaurant yesterday but I thought “He’s not here. He’s not in Southern California.” Meaning = to be confused
So there you have it.
Now, if you liked what you heard there and you’d like to hear more, you could check out English Across the Pond – they have weekly podcast episodes, but also you could consider signing up for their Gold Membership Package, which includes loads of cool stuff to help you learn English with Jen and Dan.
I’m just telling you about this because you might be interested in what they have to offer. So here is some info that might be of interest to you, plus a couple of freebies (that means free things)
So you heard Jen mention this near the end of the conversation there.
Basically, if you sign up with their membership package, every week they send you a learning plan which contains loads of exercises, activities, tests, vocabulary lists, grammar explanations and also a speaking task and a writing task each week with real feedback from Dan and Jen. So, each week their members get a study plan with all those things.
Jen and Dad have set up a little freebie for any LEPsters that choose to become members, and that’s two free study plans if you sign up within the first week of this episode being published.
So, sign up and you’ll start to receive their weekly study plans and if you sign up within one week of the publication date of this episode you will get two extra study plans as a free gift.
Understand a funny anecdote by comedian Bill Burr. In this episode we’re going to do some intensive listening practice using the true story of a bizarre encounter with a man on a plane. Look out for language for travelling by plane, some American English and A LOT of swearing, particularly the F word.
In this episode you’re going to do some fairly intensive listening practice, using a funny story.
This is just a story which I find really enjoyable, and I keep going back to listen to it and I just want to share it with you.
Do you have things like that? Like, YouTube videos that you keep going back to again and again because they make you laugh for whatever reason? For me, this is one of those things.
Hopefully you’ll find it as enjoyable as I do
Maybe you won’t, you know, because you just might not get it for whatever reason. It might not be your cup of tea and of course you just might not understand it like I do because of your level of English, but we’ll see about that, and that’s my aim in this episode – to try and help you to understand this like I do, which hopefully will result in you just finding it funny like I do.
I’ve been here so many times before – sharing comedy with learners of English. I’ve done this plenty of times as an English teacher, thinking “This is hilarious, I’m going to use it with my students, it’ll be brilliant!” And then I play it to my students and it’s just tumbleweeds in the classroom…
*Luke goes off on a tangent about tumbleweeds in western movies*
…and nobody gets it and I think “I will never do this again. Just pages from English Grammar in Use next time”, even though the students probably did enjoy it, but they weren’t able to laugh out loud because it was difficult to understand. But in the past, that kind of experience has made me feel quite bad, as an English teacher.
To be honest, these days that doesn’t happen to me as often as it used to. I think I’ve finally learned that comedy will only work in the language classroom if you devote loads of time to helping the students understand it – understand the specific vocabulary used, the context and the pronunciation and delivery (often it’s just that it’s hard to catch specifically what’s been said and if you miss one little bit you won’t get the joke).
(As we know) Comedy is extremely hard to enjoy in a second language
…and this is because it’s all about understanding things instantly and being able to pick up on very subtle changes in tone – not just the words being used, but the nuances of the comedian’s attitude and shared experiences that you’re supposed to know about.
So, as we know, it can be hard to understand comedy, but I’m still committed to helping learners enjoy it, because I enjoy it so much and I just think you’re missing out if you don’t get it.
It’s like one of those 3D posters or something, but obviously, much better than that. (Remember those 3D posters? If you couldn’t see the 3D image, they just looked utterly terrible.)
I’ve learned how to do comedy in the classroom (I mean as listening exercises) these days and I tend to lower my expectations a bit and I don’t get so disheartened if my students aren’t rolling on the floor laughing when I show them something. So, it’s alright.
So, you’re going to hear a story which I find funny. I’m going to try to help you to enjoy it too, but if you don’t. That’s totally fine and it doesn’t matter that much anyway because the main thing is that you’ll be learning English and if you have a bit of a chuckle in the process, that’s just a bonus isn’t it?
What is this Luke? What is this thing you’d like to share with us?
This is the audio from a YouTube video. It’s a true story told by a stand up comedian on his podcast. We’re going to listen to the whole story and I’m going to break it down and explain it bit by bit.
The comedian’s name is Bill Burr. Have you heard of him? He’s definitely one of the top English speaking stand-ups in the world. He is hilarious, in my opinion, and also in the opinion of many many other people.
He does stand-up shows on stage in very large arenas these days. He has Netflix stand-up specials and he also does other things like some writing and some acting. He was in a few episodes of Breaking Bad, for example. He also has a podcast called The Monday Morning Podcast. It’s called that because it’s published every Monday morning. I think there are episodes on Thursdays too, even though it’s still called the Monday Morning Podcast.
We’re going to listen to an extract from an old episode of Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast here. So, a bit of OPP in this episode today – and if you don’t know, OPP stands for other people’s podcasts.
Some intel on Bill Burr
Bill Burr grew up on the East Coast of the USA, in Boston I think, and I think he has some Irish roots. In any case, he’s from Massachusetts, so he has that kind of East coast accent, not fully Boston, or New York but in that area, as you’ll hear.
In terms of his style, this is from his Wikipedia page (two quotes):
Rolling Stone magazine called Burr “the undisputed heavyweight champ of rage-fueled humor”.
Bill often rants about subjects and tells stories with a certain level of anger, or is it just irate energy? I don’t find him that aggressive or angry actually, beyond the fact that he has a pretty loud and intense voice and he swears a LOT, particularly using the F word (or the F bomb as it is known) and various other typical American English swear words which for some reason make me crack up every time.
Burr often portrays himself as “that loud guy in the bar” with “uninformed logic”.
That’s exactly the sort of guy that he is. A slightly dumb and pissed off guy with a loud mouth and the gift of the gab (although I don’t think he’s dumb – you’ve got to be very clever to be able to tell stories in such a funny way). He sometimes has views which I don’t really agree with, but he’s got such a way with words and a kind of flow to his storytelling, particularly when he gets angry, that it really makes me laugh. He is a naturally talented comedian.
In this story Bill is just describing something that happened to him on a plane. There’s no political subtext or any of that kind of thing. It’s just Bill telling a true story about a weird guy he encountered on a plane.
If you don’t know Bill Burr and you’re a fan of stand up comedy, you might want to check him out. You could listen to the Monday Morning Podcast to hear Bill just chatting about his life and telling stories, and you could see some of his comedy specials on Netflix.
Comedians from the states have to do a lot of travelling and so they all seem to have stories of flying and being on planes. This is also something that most Americans can relate to since the country is so big that flying is a regular occurrence, particularly if you travel from coast to coast. Bill is no exception. He’s a top comic who plays to sold out arenas across the country, so he regularly flies to different cities to do his shows. He also came to the UK and sold out some big shows there not long ago. He’s a big deal now but he still manages to tell these relatable stories.
I should warn you that this episode will contain A LOT of swearing (rude words)
Bill talks to you like you’re his buddy and you’re both sitting down having a drink in a bar or something, and therefore there is a lot of swearing as you would expect in that kind of situation. I’m not suggesting you should talk like this, and swear like this. But I think it’s not a bad idea to be able to understand it and to hear some typical swearing from someone like Bill.
He’s a sort of blue-collar guy, a regular guy from the East coast of the USA and this is how a lot of people like him really speak when they’re with their friends. But, just a warning – this episode is full of the F bomb – and by that I mean the word *fuck* in all its glory, used frequently and I should say very effectively by a true master of the art of swearing – Bill Burr.
So, what about this story? I’ll let you discover it as you listen, but essentially it’s about having an encounter with a really weird guy on a plane.
I don’t know what it is about flying, but it seems to bring out some weird behaviour in people. Sometimes it makes people behave very badly, or weirdly. Perhaps the cramped space in the plane causes this, or the close proximity to other people, the alcohol that people drink, all the security protocols or simply the stress of flying. All of those things can make people act really weirdly on planes. I’m sure most of us have been in situations when there’s a weirdo or a nutter on the plane and you observe some strange behaviour, maybe some arguing or trouble between passengers. If you’re particularly unlucky you might end up sitting next to someone strange, who kind of makes your flight really difficult. It could just be someone who insists on talking to you for the whole flight, or someone who won’t stop moving around, or worse – someone who gets aggressive with you or the cabin crew. This is a story about a situation like that.
So, let’s listen to the story and I’ll explain things that I think are necessary as we go along. I will stop the recording from time to time and explain things, repeat bits if necessary. If you’d like to listen to the whole story uninterrupted, you can find the video of this story on YouTube – it’s called Bill Burr Hilarious Plane Story, and it’s also embedded on the page for this episode.
So this is all American English. Normally it’s British English on this podcast of course, but it’s interesting to explore some American English too and I can perhaps make some comparisons along the way and talk about the differences between how he speaks and how I speak, for example.
I’ll play the story in parts. All you have to do is understand what happened in each part. I’ll pause after a couple of minutes and then sum up the part we listened to. This will probably take the whole episode as the YouTube video I’m using here is about 18 minutes long.
This was recorded by Bill in his home for his podcast. It’s not him on stage. It’s just him and a microphone in his living room or something.
By the way, it might be hard for you to understand what he’s saying at the beginning because you’re not familiar with his voice, but you’ll get used to it, and when we get into the story I think you’ll be fully locked in. I hope so anyway. But again, don’t worry, I will explain things as we go.
Check the page for this episode on the website where you’ll see the YouTube video for this if you want to listen to the whole story again, uninterrupted. Also, you’ll some bits transcribed and also some vocabulary notes.
So let’s go.
Some Notes & Vocab (unfinished at the moment – I might add more later)
Play the first part. From 00:20 until 4:10 when Bill tells the guy his name.
Task: Just try to follow exactly what’s happening. Bill meets a guy on the plane. Who is he? What does he want? What’s Bill’s reaction?
I go to the airport and I’m taking the red-eye
A red-eye (or red-eye flight) refers to a long, single flight across the USA which happens at night but doesn’t give you time for a full night’s sleep.
I’m on a good plane, why would I want to get off it and switch and roll the dice, and get on another one.
When I’m driving to SF I don’t pull over in, fucking, Burbank and get in another car, “we get it Bill!”
I use my miles, bump myself up like a fancy person, you know, maybe I invented the Cheesecake Factory, people are thinking… and then they see how I’m dressed and they go “oh no, he didn’t invent the Cheesecake Factory”.
Bill goes to set his back down in front of me and the “nice fella” says “why don’t you set it in the middle, there’s room” and I think “alright this guy’s a solid dude, or whatever”
3:52 (skip back a bit) – Bill tells the guy his name – until 7:22 when Bill says “Fuck this guy, I want to see where this is going!”
7:22 to 12.25
Summary: The plane stopped for a while as the crew are finding out what is going on. The guy is asked “Are you going to be ok to fly with him?” and he feels like he’s in control and says “Yeah, don’t worry, it’s ok”. Then he’s getting in Bill’s ear going “You know what? I hope you try something, I fuckin hope you try something when we’re up there” and Bill is just laughing at the guy like “Fuck you you jerkoff!”
12:25 – 14:11 “Why are you going to Indianapolis Bill???” 😂😂😂
14:11 – End
…that’s it so far. I might add more notes later if I get the chance!
Learn English from an anecdote told by Sir Paul McCartney. Let’s listen to Paul telling a sweet story about something funny that happened to him and George Harrison when they were teenagers, before they became world famous musicians in The Beatles. Let’s listen to his story , do some intensive listening practice and then I’ll help you understand everything. Also, let’s have a laugh with some funny Paul McCartney impressions. Video and notes available below.
This episdoe is called Paul McCartney’s Spider Story and if you keep listening you’ll hear what happens when a couple of Beatles meet a couple of spiders.
You can also do some intensive listening practice focusing on every single word, and then later there are some bits focusing on Paul McCartney’s voice – including a few fun Paul McCartney impressions.
But right here at the beginning, before the jingle even, I just want to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that appear in the episode. I’ll tell you the vocab now and while you’re listening and hopefully enjoying the episode, just try to spot these words and phrases as they come up, and when you do spot them you can just go – oh, there’s that word, there’s that phrase.
a bed and breakfast (a B&B) = a simple guesthouse where you pay for a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning, a bit like a basic hotel which is just someone’s home. (e.g. We hitch-hiked around Cornwall and stayed in a few little B&Bs along the way)
to turn out (phrasal verb) = when you discover a fact or when something is later revealed to be true or to be the case ,turn out + infinitive (e.g. we got talking to this guy and made friends with him and it turned out that his mum owned a B&B up the roador I was standing in a shop and I overheard someone talking about recording music and a concert and it turned out to be Paul McCartney!)
menace (noun) = something dangerous that can cause you harm (e.g. next door’s dog is a real menace to my chickens, or he has an air of menace about him, or there was a hint of menace in his voice)
as blind as a bat = totally blind, e.g. I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses! (Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes)
a nativity scene = a set of models or statues depicting the birth of the baby Jesus Christ, with Mary & Joseph often sitting over the baby Jesus. Every Christmas my school used to display a nativity scene in the school’s entrance. Sometimes people display nativity scenes in their homes or even outside the house if they’re particularly religious at Christmas.
to bury the hatchet = to stop a long running argument and become friends again. E.g. I wish you two would just bury the hatchet so we can get the band back together. (bury the weapon you might use to fight with someone)
to bury the hatchet in someone’s head= a joke! If you bury a knife, sword or hatchet in this case in someone’s head – it means you stick it deep in their head – to kill them. E.g. I’m ready to bury the hatchet – in your head! – Makes it sound like you’re ready to stop fighting, but actually you still want to kill the other person!
showing off = behaving in a way to attract attention and show people how great you are, but in a way that’s annoying. E.g. Dave is really good at the guitar but he’s always showing off doing these ridiculous guitar solos. He just wants to impress everyone. or Stop showing off in front of all the guests!
OK – so, no information yet about the context that those words come up in, but I just wanted to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that definitely do come up at various points during the episode. See if you can spot them all as they naturally come up. Now, on with the episode!
What are we doing in this episode? Listen to an anecdote – a real one, told by none other than Paul McCartney.
This is a video I found on YouTube (see below). Listen to the story, and just work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a few questions to guide you. Then I’ll go through the recording again and explain it, clarify, highlight any features of language and generally help you to understand it as well as I do. So, this is a great chance to learn some English from a real anecdote – a personal little story, in this case told by Sir Paul McCartney.
I love The Beatles. I love listening to Paul talking about, well, anything really, and I love this particular video and this little anecdote.
It’s not a story about how he conquered the world in The Beatles, or how they played Shea Stadium or how they sold millions of records or whatever.
It’s just a sweet and funny little story about something that happened to him and his mate George Harrison when they went hitchhiking in Wales – before they were even famous or in The Beatles.
I think the video originally appears as an outtake from the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World”, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. Highly recommended.
He was just asked if he could tell a story about a good memory of George. Of all the things they must have been through together, this is the one he picked.
Who’s Paul McCartney? (as if you don’t know…)
He’s got to be one of the most successful musicians to have ever lived.
He was in The Beatles – you must have heard of them!
I don’t know if you like their music, but you can’t deny that they’re one of the most significant bands ever and also one of the most significant moments in cultural history. I have no doubt that their music and their story will forever be remembered, studied and considered ultimately to be like classical music.
But I don’t mean to build it up too much. For me, I’m a fan of the Beatles not just because of their place in cultural history, but because of the fascinating story of these apparently ordinary guys from Liverpool, their lives, their friendship and the amazing pool of creativity that seemed to open up between them once various factors were in place and the career of the Beatles happened.
Watch the video of “Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison” (below)
Try to answer these questions. Listen to find out the answers.
Why did they hitch hike to this place called Harloch in Wales?
Where did they end up? Why did they spend their time there?
Where did they stay?
What did he realise later on?
Who did they hang out with? What did they do?
What was their reaction to the spiders in their room? How did they deal with the spiders?
Who were Jimmy & Jemimah?
Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison – “The Menace! The Spiders!”
The second anecdote – Buddy Holly and John Lennon’s poor eyesight
What’s the funny thing Paul says about John’s eyesight?
Answer: John Lennon famously wore glasses because he was very short sighted. He used to take the glasses off if girls were around. Later, Buddy Holly became a famous pop/rock star and suddenly it was quite cool to wear horn-rimmed glasses. Anyway, one night after writing songs at Paul’s house one dark evening at Christmas time, John walked past a house and thought he saw some neighbours still sitting outside in the freezing cold playing cards. Paul later realised that it was just a nativity scene, and John was so blind that he’d thought the statues of Mary & Joseph bending over the baby Jesus were a couple of people playing cards outside their house.
Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan do Beatle Impressions in The Trip to Spain
Rob and Steve do their Paul McCartney impressions. Rob talks about how Paul’s voice has been affected by the fact that his mouth has lost some mobility now that he’s quite old. Steve disagrees and says that he thought Paul was quite articulate. They then start doing John Lennon impressions.
Peter Serafinowicz Show – The Beatles go for a poo
A parody of the Beatles in their Let It Be period, when there was lots of friction in the band and they couldn’t agree on the musical direction for the group. British comedian Peter Serafinowicz does impressions of all the Beatles.
Listen to Episode 414 – “My Uncle Met A Rock Star” – My uncle’s account of how he once met Paul McCartney in a shop
Hello! In this episode of the podcast I am talking to Martin Johnston and his mate Dan The Man from the Rock n Roll English Podcast and we’re going to teach you some phrasal verbs and other expressions relating to friendship, while also putting their friendship to the test. Martin and Dan are lifelong friends. They know each other very well but they spend a lot of their time bickering and getting at each other. What’s going on in this friendship? Do they really like each other or not? Let’s find out in this episode and you can learn lots of vocabulary while we’re doing it. Vocabulary list and explanations below.
Here is a selection of vocabulary, including a lot of phrasal verbs relating to friendship, with definitions and the questions I asked Martin and Dan.
To get on with someone = to have a good, friendly relationship with someone
You often bicker with each other, insult each other, tell each other that you’re stupid, boring, generally shit etc.
How well do you actually get on with each other?
To hang out with someone = to spend time with someone, socially
What’s the maximum amount of time you can actually stand to hang out with each other?
To hit it off = to get on with someone when you first meet them
When you met, did you hit it off straight away? (was it love at first sight)
To get to know someone = to learn about someone personally
How did you first get to know each other?
To go back years / a long time = to have a long relationship with someone
How far back do you go?
To fall out with someone = to stop being friends because of a disagreement or argument
Have you ever fallen out with each other?
What would it take to fall out with each other, do you think?
What would you do in these situations?
Dan, you both go to the pub – you buy a round, but when it’s Martin’s turn he doesn’t buy a round, he just gets himself a drink (it’s a half a lager shandy by the way) and then he leaves early
Martin, Dan suddenly one day starts saying nice things about you in public
Dan, you overhear Martin saying some shit about your nan (grandmother) – he said she was a ‘slag’. (a very rude thing to say about anyone, especially someone’s grandmother – a slag is a woman who has sex with lots of people 😱)
Martin, you get a new girlfriend and then when she meets Dan you realise that she actually prefers him
Dan, you learn that Martin has asked your sister out on a date
Martin, your Dad one day says “Why can’t you be more like Dan?”
Dan, you buy some biscuits and Martin eats them all, even the last one
To make up with each other = to become friends again after falling out
If you did ever fall out, what would be the best way to make up with each other?
Martin, how would you make up with Dan because of the biscuits?
To break up with someone = to end a relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, to dump someone
Do you think it’s possible to actually break up with a friend, in the same way you can break up with a girl. I’m not saying that you would, I’m just wondering.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve got a friend (probably quite a new friend – or maybe someone who you knew as a kid who has come back into your life) and you feel like it’s just not working and you feel like you have to break up with him? (it’s in an episode of Seinfeld)
Seinfeld (TV show) – Jerry Breaks Up with a friend (it’s funny because you don’t normally ‘break up with’ a friend, only with a ‘romantic partner’)
To drift apart / To lose touch with someone = when your lives just start going in different directions (drift apart) and you stop contacting the person regularly (lose touch with)
You don’t see each other so much any more because you’re in different countries. Are you ever worried that you might drift apart, or lose touch with each other completely? “How’s Martin?” “Oh, I don’t know we just kind of lost touch”
To enjoy someone’s company = to get on with someone, to enjoy spending time with someone
Honestly, how much do you enjoy each other’s company?
To have something in common with someone = to share something similar. E.g. you both like Star Wars.
Do you have a lot of things in common? What things do you have in common?
To be in a relationship with someone = to be dating someone, to be romantically involved with someone
Martin, how do you feel about the fact that Dan is in a relationship? (is there any jealousy there?)
Dan, imagine Martin is going on a date with a girl tonight – what could you say to him as a friend in this situation?
To be on the same wavelength as someone = to have a similar way of thinking as someone
Are you on the same wavelength as each other?
To see something in someone (often → …what someone sees in someone) = to like something about someone, to find a good quality in someone
What do you actually see in each other?
What does Dan’s girlfriend actually see in him?
Other vocabulary you heard (explained at the end of the episode)
Martin: That sounds like the most boring introduction in the world. Dan: Actually, I think it’s quite apt.
I’ve been trying to get rid of him as a friend for a long time now.
Treading in dogshit all day. There’s an abundance of it. I almost tripped up on one the other day.
When they hear my terrible French they gladly switch to English, just to rub it in a bit.
My Italian’s not bad but I can get by.
I did a gig once in London, a charity gig.
You’re an accomplice now, because you planted that idea. (murder)
I’d like to explore the dynamic between you, a dynamic that some might call a bromance.
Martin came here at the weekend and 15 hours later we were both sick to death of each other.
You fall out, you get over it, you bounce back and then move on.
Martin: Dan always says that I’m tight. (mean, tight-fisted, stingy)
Dan’s sister: We all know that Dan is a tight bastard.
In the UK if someone doesn’t buy a round they are ostracised.
Dan: I’m trying to keep you on your toes (by buying Martin Christmas presents)
You overhear Martin saying some shit about your nan. He’s saying that she’s a slag.
I’m digging myself into a hole here.
Those awkward conversations that I just can’thandle. I avoid them at all costs.
The cross-examination of your friendship is over and I have to say I’m none the wiser about the mysterious dynamic that you have.
A conversation with my (lovely) mum in which we generally witter on about a number of different things including some British history, ways of describing rain, different expressions for talking (like rambling and wittering), my mum’s accent, what she thinks of this podcast and some of her podcast recommendations. Vocabulary is explained after the conversation and there is a vocabulary list available below.
Today on the podcast, you’re going to listen to a conversation with my Mum and I’m going to explain some of the vocabulary that comes up naturally in that conversation.
Here are some of the topics that we talked about:
a bit of British history from the Regency period (that’s the Jane Austen period of British History) including descriptions of ballroom dances and men in tight trousers
some descriptions of how we talk about rain in British English
a few expressions related to ways of talking such as the words ‘rambling’ ‘wittering’ and ‘bickering’
what my mum thinks of my podcast
some of mum’s podcast recommendations – her favourite podcasts that she listens to and how she likes to listen to them
and various other things that you can discover as you listen to the conversation in full
At the end I will be going through some of the vocabulary that you are going to hear, which should help you to learn some really nice, natural English phrases, the kind of English that my mum speaks.
I’ve highlighted some words and phrases in bold and there are definitions and comments [in brackets].
I typed up the minutes of a meeting of a volunteer group I belong to.
[typed up = converted handwritten notes into a document on a computer]
[minutes of a meeting = the notes describing what happened in the meeting, usually written, typed up and then kept as a record of what happened]
It’s a very tedious job but someone has to do it.
[tedious = boring]
Did you volunteer to do that or did someone delegate that responsibility to you?
[to delegate something to someone = to give someone a responsibility]
*Mum bangs the microphone and apologises* Mum: Oh, sorry I think I just banged the microphone and made a noise. Luke: Flagging it up like that may have just made it worse than it would have been.
[to flag something up = to bring it to everybody’s attention]
The fact that you brushed against the microphone slightly.
[to brush against something = to touch something a little bit as you move past it, make contact with something as you move past it, probably by accident] [brush up on something also means to improve your skill, e.g. to brush up on your English – but that’s the idiomatic version of the phrase]
The building had a complete renovation which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
[a renovation = the appearance was changed in order to make the building look new again. The building had a renovation. It was renovated.]
[it was funded by = it was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A fund = a collection of money which is collected for a particular purpose. Verb – to fund something = to provide the money for something]
One of the conditions was that the town council would stage community events.
[verb – to stage an event = to organise and present an event. Noun – a stage – a platform where performances happen, e.g. in a theatre]
It dates back to the 18th century some time.
[dates back to = it comes from that time, it originates from that time. E.g. this building dates back to the late 1700s]
It was used as a petty sessions court.
[petty sessions = court sessions or court procedures which are for petty crimes]
[less serious crimes, also called “summary offences” in legal English. The serious ones are called “indictable offences”]
Just fairly petty, trivial offences, like drunkenness etc.
[trivial = another word for ‘not very important or serious’]
We have a lovely Regency ballroom.
[a ballroom = a fancy looking room where formal dances are staged.
Regency = a period of British history including the very end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century]
Going to the ball was a very good way of meeting people.
[a ball = a dance]
The dances were danced en-masse, like a folk dance.
[en-masse = in a group, together. It’s a French phrase that we use in English]
[a folk dance = folk here refers to the traditions and culture of ordinary people, not upper class people or nobility. When I think of ‘folk’ I think of the countryside, farming communities, acoustic instruments, simple clothing and group dances that involve old traditions]
Men would be wearing these kinds of frilly shirts and tight trousers, and neckties.
[ frilly = a design of a shirt that has fabric with lots of folds in it – see the pic]
Regency style clothing (from the BBC TV series Pride and Prejuduce) The men wore frilly shirts with neckties. The women wore dresses that were fitted ‘under the bust’.
Heaving bosoms (!)
[ a bosom = a woman’s breasts or ‘bust’. Heaving = full and pushed up]
The dresses were fitted under the bust. [ the bust = the breasts. “bust” is a singular noun used to describe the whole area of the breasts. It’s a woman’s chest, basically]
What with the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts, it was quite interesting! [What with (all the) + noun . This is a way to say “because of” but you put the noun at the beginning of the sentence. E.g. It was difficult to hear him because of all the noise. What with all the noise, it was difficult to hear him. It was quite interesting because of the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts. What with the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts, it was quite interesting!]
In common parlance we talk about the Regency era.
[common parlance = the things that people usually say]
If it starts pissing down (with rain)…
[raining heavily – a slightly rude but very common expression]
It’s raining cats and dogs [raining heavily – an idiom that we don’t really use much any more]
It’s bucketing (it) down [raining heavily – a common, informal expression]
It’s “shuttering” down
[what my Gran used to say, but nobody else said it I think!]
To ramble / To ramble on [to talk for a fairly long time in quite an unfocused way. It’s sometimes annoying because someone doesn’t get to the point. Note – not rumble.]
[to ramble on means to continue rambling] to ramble on + about + something
To witter / To witter on [it’s similar to ‘ramble’. To ‘witter’ means to talk without really saying anything important. It can be used in a negative way, as in “Stop wittering on!”]
[to witter on = to continue wittering] to witter on + about + something
“A ramble chat” as Adam Buxton would say.
[Adam Buxton calls his conversations ‘ramble chats’ on his podcast]
What on earth do people want to hear me wittering onfor?
[what… for? = why. e.g. Why did you do that? What did you do that for?]
Why (on earth) do people want to hear me wittering on?
[Do you enjoy listening to my Mum wittering on? Let us know in the comment section]
The kind of English that Jacob Reese Mogg would speak.
[A Conservative politician who is very posh and upper class, and speaks with an obvious heightened RP accent. My mum doesn’t like him]
Don’t go there! Don’t even go there!
[Don’t start talking about that!]
Luke: I think you speak RP. Gill: Yep, I’d go along with that.
[I’d go along with that = I agree]
Some of them are a bit rambly and go on a bit but most of them are excellent.
[rambly = the adjective for the verb ‘ramble’]
[to go on a bit = to talk for a bit too long]
Backlisted podcast – They do a podcast every fortnight, talking about backlisted books, which are books that are mainly out of print or aren’t popular in bookshops.
[a fortnight = two weeks – just UK English]
[backlisted books = books which are out of print – I don’t need to explain that, do I? Still, nice language]
They’re so knowledgeable and yet they’re not academic, they’re not stuffy.
[knowledgeable = knows a lot about things, has a lot of knowledge. Can you say it? He knows a lot. He has lots of knowledge of the subject. He’s very knowledgeable about it.]
[stuffy = formal and old-fashioned, a negative and disapproving word]
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon – it’s written from the point of view of an autistic child.
[autistic = suffering from autism. Autism = a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, difficulties in communicating, problems with seeing and hearing, repetitive behavior, etc.]
We just peruse the different shelves and tables.
[to peruse = to browse, read, investigate in a relaxed and casual manner]
James is Whatsapping us while we’re on the podcast. How dare he?
[Whatsapp = a messaging app on your phone. To ‘whatsapp’ someone = to send someone a message on Whatsapp.]
[How dare he? – usually How dare you? – It’s used when you’re shocked or unhappy with someone’s behaviour]
James tweeted to Mark Kermode (Mark had tweeted that he was listening to a couple of soundtrack albums for films by William Friedkin, and James replied saying he’d “snapped up” the soundtrack to a Friedkin film called Sorcerer. Mark is a big fan of Friedkin, especially Sorcerer, and he liked the tweet.)
[snapped up = took quickly, like a crocodile would take something]
The Frank Skinner Podcast (Absolute Radio)
(Frank Skinner) He’s very witty, very articulate, very quick witted.
[witty = funny, able to make quick jokes. Quick witted = with a fast brain for making jokes or quick comments]
He’s from our neck of the woods. He’s from West Bromwich. It’s in The Black Country. It’s part of the midlands.
[our neck of the woods = the area where we live]
[The Black Country is a region of the West Midlands in England, west of Birmingham, and commonly refers to all or part of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It’s called the Black Country because in the mid 19th century there were many iron working foundries and forges that produced a lot of black smoke and because of the coal mines that produced the black rock and dust from under the ground.
People say people from Birmingham sound untrustworthy.
[untrustworthy = can’t be trusted]
Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review (aka The Wittertainment Podcast) @Wittertainment
(Mark and Simon) They seem to be on the same wavelength, but they play this game of being irritated with each other all the time.
[On the same wavelength = they think in the same way]
[to be irritated with someone = to be annoyed by someone]
They just witter away with each other.
[to witter away = to witter on]
They bicker with each other. Bickering, getting at each other, a bit like an old married couple.
[to bicker with someone = to argue but not very seriously]
[to get at someone = to criticise someone again and again]
As far as I can gather, most of my listeners listen when they’re on public transport.
[gather = to understand. Gather can also mean ‘collect’, e.g. to gather firewood. Here it means ‘gather information’ or just ‘understand’]
There’s no language quiz this time. The reason for that is that it takes absolutely ages to create them and I wonder how many of you are actually using them! Let me know if you have used the language quizzes that I’ve done for recent episodes of the podcast. If there is enough demand for language quizzes, I can try and bring them back.
Give me your feedback – I need to know what you think.
There’s going to be a meetup of some London-based LEPsters this coming Sunday 30th July at 7pm at the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street. It’s just north of Soho and to the west of Tottenham Court Road. There should also be a Facebook link soon.
The Fitzroy Tavern
6 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY, UK
Sunday 30th July 7pm Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street.
Zdenek Lukas of Zdenek’s English podcast will be there with any other London-based LEPsters that choose to come out. The plan is to have conversation, a beer or two and perhaps play some board games, because Zdenek is bringing some board games too. So head on down to practise your English, meet some like-minded people in a cool part of central London.
Episode Notes & Transcripts
Hello dear listeners, welcome to the podcast. This is one of those episodes in which I go through some British comedy and help you to understand it. We will cover some vocabulary and also some cultural stuff too.
This is also chance to for you to listen to some Scouse English – the kind of English you might hear in Liverpool.
Scouse – that means from Liverpool. A Scouser is a person from Liverpool, and in that area people speak with a Scouse accent. In fact you find that accent in many parts of Merseyside – which means, Liverpool and its surrounding areas.
I’m going to tell you briefly about a popular stand up comedian from Merseyside (the Liverpool area) called John Bishop, who is often on the TV and on stage across the UK. I think he’s probably one of the most famous scousers in the UK these days. We’re going to listen to one or two of his routines which you can find on YouTube, we’ll understand them and notice some features of his Liverpool accent.
By the end of this episode I expect that you’ll have broadened your vocabulary, you’ll have become more familiar with the way people speak English in Liverpool and you’ll have learned some cultural details about family life in the UK. Also, you’re going to be introduced to the comedy of John Bishop, who you might enjoy. There are various John Bishop videos on YouTube and you can can buy his comedy DVDs which are very popular in the UK. If you like what you hear in this episode, you could get one of those DVDs and use it for both learning English and for your own general amusement.
John Bishop – some info on him
To cut a long story short, he was born in Liverpool and has lived in the Merseyside area for most of his life.
Where is Liverpool? Why is it called Merseyside?
People in Liverpool – amongst other things they are known for having a particular accent which people say is a kind of mix between Irish, Welsh (a lot of Irish and Welsh workers moved into the city during it’s time as a major industrial port in the 19th century), Lancashire and even Scandinavian influences. The accent is instantly recognisable to anyone in the UK.
So, John Bishop was born in Liverpool and has lived in the area for most of his life.
In his 20s he had what seems to have been a fairly boring and ordinary career selling pharmaceuticals. By the age of 30 he was married and had a baby son but he wasn’t particularly happy. He ended up getting separated from his wife and they were going to get divorced. He started doing stand-up during this period because he says it stopped him staying at home on his own in the evenings and drinking. It got him out of the house. The thing is, he found that he was good at it and eventually he quit his job to do stand-up full-time. Basically stand-up saved him and it rescued his marriage too – because one day his wife (who was divorcing him at the time) happened to see him on stage during a show and she went up to him afterwards and said “that was the man I fell in love with years ago” and they got back together. Since then his stand-up comedy career has taken off, and how he’s one of the most popular and well-known comedians in the UK. He’s often on the TV and his stand-up comedy DVDs are very popular.
Now he’s got quite a big family with 3 kids – all of them boys. In his comedy he talks a lot about family life and being a father – the typical frustrations, difficulties and experiences that many parents go through.
He’s definitely a mainstream comedian. I mean, his routines are not political, they’re not particularly challenging or controversial. They’re not super intellectual. It’s just straight forward observational comedy and storytelling. He’s not my #1 favourite, but I just love stand-up and I definitely enjoy his work even if he’s not my absolute favourite. But he is very successful. I think his appeal is that he’s an ordinary guy and his stories and routines are very relatable – people enjoy them because they can relate to them.
Scousers have a reputation in the UK for a few things – one of them is for being funny. This maybe a cliché or a stereotype, but I do think it’s quite true, having lived in Liverpool for 4 years. I met lots of Scousers who were very funny – just characters with stories to tell and who had the gift of the gab and good comic timing.
John Bishop is a good example of that. Partly it’s to do with the Liverpool accent which has so much character and I think helps the delivery of his routines. He tells endearing stories in a relaxed way. He wears a suit and tie so he’s well-presented. He is quite handsome and charming, but in an average kind of way. He’s like the ‘boy next door’ kind of guy. Just a normal bloke. His delivery is quite casual and easy-going, he keeps it pretty short and simple with pauses in the right places which is always a good approach to storytelling.
His attitude on stage is quite dry or deadpan (Wikipedia defines “dry” or “deadpan” like this: Deadpan or dry humor/wit describes the deliberate display of a lack of or no emotion, commonly as a form of comedic delivery to contrast with the ridiculousness of the subject matter. The delivery is meant to be blunt, sarcastic or apparently unintentional).
Usually his stories allow us to see that his life is actually quite frustrating and ridiculous – just like normal life is for everyone from time to time. Watching observational comedy like this makes you feel good because you totally understand what he’s going through because in fact your life is quite frustrating and ridiculous too. So it’s therapeutic – that’s what’s great about comedy. It lets you laugh at life and realise that you’re not alone and that we all experience these frustrating things.
Let’s listen to John Bishop, with his Liverpool accent, telling a couple of stories of family life from some of the videos on YouTube and let’s pick up some English in the process.
I’m going to play the first clip to you in just a moment.
As you listen, I wonder what you will be thinking. We’ve done this before, listening to English with different regional accents. You might feel that you can’t understand him completely – I think he speaks pretty clearly, delivering stories in a slow but punctuated way, but the accent might be hard for you to understand. You might think “Oh his accent is too strong”. I wouldn’t be at all surprised. But remember, English is a very diverse language. You might not want to speak like John Bishop (or maybe you do I don’t know) but you certainly should try to understand him. English comes in many different forms – many different accents – and even if you’re not familiar with those accents, they are normal and perfectly valid forms of the language which everyone can not only understand but appreciate.
It would be a pity for you to only understand one standard form of English. It would mean your English was limited. Anyone with a decent sense of English should be exposed to different accents. David Crystal said it, we all know it’s true. So let’s listen to some Scouse English. And please, do not think “Oh god his English is bad”. That’s not fair and it’s simply not true. I understand all of it, so do his audiences. British people do not struggle to understand him at all, quite the opposite – he’s very understandable and relatable. He draws in very large crowds of people to his shows all across the country. All those people understand and enjoy the things he says. His Liverpool accent is a very important part of his charm. If it’s hard to understand him I think it would be wise to consider that maybe you’re just not familiar with his accent, and that you just need to broaden your exposure to English a bit, and that this is a chance for you to do that.
Anyway, maybe you won’t have trouble understanding him at all and you’ll just enjoy listening to his story. Let’s see.
Here’s John talking about going on holiday with teenage kids (I wonder what teenagers are like in your country.)
You’re going to hear him say that he had a massive tour one year and he was away from home a lot so he wanted to spend some quality time with his kids – in a kind of nostalgic way – like he imagines it used to be when he was a kid – go somewhere in the countryside where there’s no internet so he can spend some quality time with his teenage sons, spending a sort of idyllic Christmas and New Year’s Eve sitting around the fireplace playing board games, like it was in the good old days. But, his kids are modern British teenage boys who are addicted to the internet – so that might make things difficult…
You’ll also hear a few sound effects from the video, which you can see on the page for this episode.
Holidays with the kids (video 1)
White trainers, growing up, puberty, hormones and getting your head kicked in by your own son. (video 2)
John Bishop gets a new fridge and takes his old one to the dump (video 3)
Here is some of the vocabulary you could learn from this episode.
Going on holiday with the kids (video 1)
Sitting around a log fire playing board games
Addicted to the internet
It’s on the border between Scotland, england and Narnia
Internet, it’s Berwick son, we haven’t even got ceefax
We turned up at the cottage
In the middle of nowhere
Youse three, go in the living room, put the telly on
Looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses
In the middle of nowhere
White trainers (video 2)
You don’t realise how much of a cock you are
They do your (bleedin) head in don’t they?
Going through puberty
You have a week off school for half term (holiday)
You do P.E. (physical education)
You walk into the showers all self-conscious
Some kid walks in with a beard and bollocks by his knees!
Your voice breaks and that’s when you don’t get control over your voice
The hormones just come flying in and you’ve got no control over them
It’s the funniest thing on the planet bar none
I’m not asking you, I’m telling you!
Get up them (those) stairs and take them off.
It’s like the little lion is taking on the big line and all the other lions are running around going “it’s kicking off here!”
We’re stood toe to toe
I can take you!
There’s a chance he can take me here.
Thinking you’re going to get your head kicked in with your shoes
Taking the fridge to the dump (video 3)
To get rid of some stuff
It’s health and safety gone mad
It’s political correctness gone mad
A silver fridge that’s the size of a bungalow
That hasn’t half changed our lives (that has changed our lives a lot)
Put it next to the sink
I’m saving meself (myself) a yard of walking
We had a spare fridge
I turned up at the dump
There’s a fella there with a yellow vest and a clipboard
He’s done an NVQ in clipboard management
You can’t just dump a fridge now
You’ll have to phone us up
Then we come and get it
Who do I ring?
The phone in his hut rang
I’m outside dickhead!
The plan in this episode is to go through some of the language that you heard during the last two episodes.
If you listened to episodes 464 and 465 you will have heard me telling you to watch out for certain language that I would be explaining later.
Well, it is now ‘later’ – later has arrived. This is later. So let’s check out some of that language, shall we?
Check the page for this episode to see the words, phrases and some example sentences written for you to look at with your eyes and then remember with your brains (your brain – you’ve only got one, right?)
So, how much stuff did you notice? How many phrasal verbs, collocations and instances of ‘get’?
I’ve been through the episodes and have picked out some of that language that I thought was worth highlighting, and there was loads of it, tons of it, considerable amounts, too much for one episode. So in this one I’m just going to focus on the uses of get, which is one of the most common verbs in the English language. Let’s consider all the uses of ‘get’ which came up in the last two episodes.
GET the word ‘get’ into your life
Open a dictionary and look up this little word. You’ll see pages and pages of entries. Different meanings, grammatical functions, uses, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions and so on.
*actually read out loads of uses of get…*
You can’t underestimate the importance and usefulness of this little word. Native English speakers use get an awful lot. It’s one of the features of native level English.
Now, actually I should point out that it’s not just this one word on its own. That’s slightly misleading. Instead you realise that you’re not learning ‘get’ over and over again, you’re learning all the many different phrases in which it occurs. So, don’t focus on what ‘get’ really means – on its own it doesn’t mean that much, that’s why it’s a delexical verb. The meaning is to be found in the whole phrase – so that means you need to pay particular attention to how the word collocates with prepositions like ‘in’ or ‘on’ and auxiliary verbs like ‘have’ and also how these phrases affect the grammar of the sentence (e.g. if they’re followed by a gerund or an infinitive).
Sounds difficult? That’s because it is. In fact, I think ‘get’ is an example of exactly how English can be extremely tricky for learners of English.
Some aspects of English are easier than other aspects.
Some of the ‘easier’ things about our language are – there are not so many verb forms (e.g. with ‘go’ – to go, go, goes, going, went, gone, been) or verb endings (-ed, s or es) , no gender – so no need to change the gender of the adjective or pronoun and so on. Obviously I would say English was easy because it’s easy for me and I know that, admittedly, there are some tricky bits like some adjective and adverb morphology (with comparatives and superlatives – er, ier, est, iest), our irregular verbs and spelling are an irregular nightmare, we have lots of vocabulary with many synonyms, indirect language is hard to deal with, modal verbs are hard to get to grips with and there’s massive diversity in the way the language is spoken with many different accents around the world and so on, but compared to something like French or German there is less grammar to deal with, like the number of verb forms for example is quite limited.
I guess this is why it’s fairly common for people to get to a certain level of functional English (intermediate level) quite quickly but then get stuck at the intermediate plateau. Many people get to that level where they can basically say what they want to say and hold down a basic conversation but then that’s it, they stay there or they get stuck there because they hit a wall when it comes to the more complex stuff – the really nitty-gritty of native level English usage – the stuff that allows you to communicate shades of grey, subtlety, nuance and humour.
This is where English becomes particularly tough stuff. It’s the sheer diversity of little phrases which are created by combining certain ‘delexical verbs’ with prepositions, pronouns, gerunds and infinitives.
‘Delexical verbs’ are verbs which don’t carry much meaning on their own. Often they are little verbs. E.g. get, have, keep, put, take, make, give. They combine with other words in phrases. It’s the phrase as a whole that carries the specific meaning.
We end up with sentences like: “I’ve just got to get in on some of that action.” or “I just can’t get used to being out of the loop.” or “I’ve got to get round to getting you back for that thing that you did to me.”
“I’ve just got to get in on some of that action.”
to have got to do something = to have to do it, to need to do it
to get in on something = to become involved in something, take part in something from which you will benefit.
Is the meaning obvious from the words? Not really. The only big word there is “action”. All the others are little ‘grammar words’. The whole thing is quite idiomatic.
Is it easy to spot all the words being used when someone says it? Not really
You might eventually understand it, but can you use and pronounce it quickly and confidently?
Jim: Do you want to get in on some of this action? *points to chips and salsa*
Pete: No thanks, I’m Good.
(from the Urban Dictionary – which isn’t always reliable by the way, there’s a lot of stupid, rude slang in there)
“I can’t get used to being out of the loop” = I’m in a really difficult position because I don’t know what’s going on and I haven’t known what’s going on for a while. This position is not getting easier for me.” e.g. you’ve got no internet connection and life just doesn’t seem normal.
“I’ve got to get round to getting you back for that thing that you did to me.”
to get round to doing something = to finally do something you should have done before
to get someone back for doing something = to get revenge on someone
This is where English gets really quite difficult. It’s a nightmare, I know.
A lot of these ‘bits of English’ with get are phrasal verbs, others are just fixed expressions. They are difficult, right? But what are you going to do? Ignore them? Pretend they don’t exist? Bad move. You’ll end up speaking an unnatural form of English. You’ll end up not really understanding what native speakers are talking about or getting at.
So, don’t underestimate the importance of little verbs like ‘get’ or ‘make’ or ‘put’. They’ve very common and this is the real English that is used all the time every day, but which is hard to learn because it’s probably quite different from your native language and because they’re not the ‘big heavy latin words’ that are more noticeable. These delexical words are like the ninjas of English. Yes, more ninjas on the podcast. I am obsessed with ninjas.
There are actually about 29 different uses or different phrases with ‘get’ in this episode. Maybe more.
That’s a lot, I know. Normally in lessons we don’t teach more than about 12 words at a time. There’s a good chance not every phrase will stick.
It can feel overwhelming. There are so many usages and phrases. It feels like you’ll never learn them all. But don’t worry about it all too much. It does take a while to pick up these difficult aspects of English but it’s not impossible. It helps if you stay positive.
Tips for dealing with all this tricky vocabulary
Here are some tips that I hope will help:
Remember – it feels like there’s an infinite number of these little phrases. There isn’t. It’s a finite number. You can learn them all if you try. It is achievable. You can do it. Yes, you can.
OK, so you might not learn them all, it’s quite difficult. But don’t worry, you don’t have to learn them all. Just learn some and the ones you do learn properly will stick with you forever as long as you keep noticing and using them. That’s better than just going “Oh to hell with it!” and learning nothing. Something is better than nothing, even if it is not everything. So, don’t worry if you don’t get all of these expressions. Just learn some now and get the others later.
You could check a phrasal verbs dictionary like the Cambridge Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs to see the frequency of expressions, which might help you see which expressions are more common than others.
When you’ve learned a phrase, or started learning some phrases. Listen out for them, watch out for them. You’ll find you start noticing them more and more. This will help you remember them a bit. The ones you notice a lot are the really useful ones worth remembering.
Watch out for tricky little details such as whether the expression is followed by an -ing form or an infinitive form (with or without to) or if there are sneaky little prepositions, auxiliaries or pronouns. Don’t just learn the big solo verbs or words, train yourself to be on the lookout for vocabulary in phrases, or chunks. E.g. “to get used to doing something” or “be used to doing something” – both of those expressions with ‘used to’ have 4 parts, not just ‘used to’.
Always study vocabulary with real examples, not just definitions. Beware of translating everything directly from or into your language, this might not work. English is a different language, remember.
Try to use expressions with your own examples. Own the language. Personalise it. Use examples that mean something to you. This will help it stick in your mind, especially if your examples are visual or spatial – e.g. involving you in a particular space.
Listen back to episodes 464 and 465 and focus on spotting the uses of ‘get’ either in phrasal verbs or other uses. You could play ‘vocab hunter’ if it makes you feel more excited.
These phrases can be difficult to notice because of connected speech – the way certain sounds are cut, or even added in order to say the phrase quickly. All the words in the phrase run into each other and it ends up sounding like one word or even just a noise. E.g. “things might get a bit technical” (try it with and without the /t/ sounds)
Check out my series called “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. It’s currently on hiatus, but there are about 130 phrasal verbs explained in individual episodes with their own examples. Each episode is just a few minutes long and there’s not much rambling. I just get straight to the point each time. It might help.
So, let’s carry on and look at the ways in which ‘get’ is used with some examples from episodes 464 and 465.
Uses of GET
Get on its own can mean a few things. See below for examples.
The list below is in order of frequency from episodes 464 and 465. The most frequent uses in those episodes are at the top of the list.
Get = receive (get a letter), obtain (get permission to do something), achieve (get a good result)
e.g. (to get an idea, to get the giggles, get the motivation to do something)
here’s a message I got not long ago
I do get quite a lot of messages like that
I get messages like this quite a lot
where I get the inspiration for episodes
getting the giggles
Zdenek got a teaching job off the back of his podcast
Get some inspiration to record something
get the right results
getting a sense of what works with learners of English
some things that I’m sure will be a hit seem to get a muted response
trying to get their approval
it’s great to get your feedback
you can’t get that lovely close sound with the laptop mic
Get = become (get + adjective)
e.g. get old, get hot, get dark, get famous, get bored
This might get a bit technical later on
which could get quite geeky
if you get too focused on controlling everything
I think she gets distracted at work
I have to get myself pumped up
That’s how a British person gets pumped up
Come on, let’s get pumped!
Let’s get pumped up!
things get a bit more fun in the second half of the episode
Ooh, suddenly this has got way more exciting, hasn’t it. Hasn’t it?
Get = the auxiliary verb in passive forms (sometimes)
e.g. to get paid, to get downloaded, to get noticed, get caught, get arrested, get involved in something
if you get too focused on controlling everything you might stifle the conversation
I think she gets distracted at work
Let’s get pumped up!
Get = understand
e.g. to get the message, get a joke, to get the idea
nobody gets the joke
you get the idea
Do you get what I’m trying to say?
I just don’t get it
have got = have (possessive)
I’ve got two Shure SM58s and a Shure SM7B
Send out a search team for Carlos. Sweep the area, we’ve got a missing LEPster. (actually he’s not missing, he got in touch)
Imagine you’re a presenter and you’ve got your own radio show
Watch out for:
*we don’t use it in the past (I had)
*auxiliary verbs in negatives and questions
(+) I have an idea / I have got an idea
(-) I don’t have an idea / I haven’t got an idea
(Q) Do you have any ideas? / Have you got any ideas?
Have got to = have to (obligation)
I’ve just got to get through this work
“I’ve got to concentrate!”
Watch out for:
*not in the past (I had to)
*negatives and questions
I have to do it / I have got to do it
I don’t have to do it / I haven’t got to do it
Do you have to do it? / Have you got to do it?
Get = reach/arrive at a place/stage
e.g. to get home, to get to work, to get to where you want to be
to get to where I need to be to start recording something about it
Get = manage to put something somewhere
e.g. to get it on the table, to get the ball in the hole
get it online, get those files online
Phrasal verbs and other expressions with get
To get through something = to finish something, to pass from the start to the finish
e.g. We need to get through the woods before the sun goes down.
Things got a little bit difficult in the middle of the marathon but I got through it.
try to get through the bits about how I make the podcast
To get your head around something = to understand it
I’ll explain the vocab later, which should help you to get your head around it all
To get round to doing something = to do something you have intended to do for a long time
I’m glad to have actually got round to doing it
I wonder if I’ll ever get round to making all those episodes
To get into something (literal) = to enter something (e.g. get into the car please sir) or change into a particular state (e.g. get into the right mood to do something)
I just try to get into the right frame of mind to record an episode
To get into something (idiomatic – ish) = become interested or involved in something
You might want to get into it too
To get back (to something) = to return to a place, or return to something you were doing before
e.g. “Get back! Get back! Get back to where you once belonged. Get back Jo Jo!”
Let’s get back to the topic of this episode
To get something across = to communicate something to someone, to make someone understand something
I have to come up with ideas and get them (my ideas) across to my audience
How to actually get the message across
To get on with someone = to have a good, friendly relationship with someone
Listen to people who know each other and get on well
To get rid of something = to throw something away, to discard it
Sometimes I have to get rid of what I recorded and start again
Other expressions and uses of ‘get’
To get going / to get started = to start
So let’s get going.
Let’s get started properly.
To get on with it = Start doing something that you should be doing.
e.g. Come on, stop wasting time! Get on with it!
Let’s get on with it.
To get down to business = to start talking about the subject which is to be discussed
Let’s get down to business.
To get something done = do it, finish it – ‘get’ is a causative verb here – either you do it or someone else does it
Control the podcast settings and get it published to iTunes
I need to get this finished by the end of the day
I need to get my teeth looked at
To get someone to do something = another causative verb – it means to make someone do something, to persuade someone to do something – someone else does it (in USA they might say “have it done”
getting people to download it
How I get people to know about what I’m doing, how to get people to listen.
To get someone doing something = to put someone in a state, to make someone do something over and over
Here are just a few questions to get you thinking.
What’s the difference between ‘get someone to do something’ and ‘get someone doing something’?
The first one means persuade someone to do it, and it might only be once. (e.g. I got him to give me the money)
The second one means that you make someone do something over and over again, or put them in a state, not just do one single thing. (e.g. “now you’ve got me worrying” or “I really want to get you running every day”)
To get used to doing something = to become accustomed to doing something, to become familiar with something
I want you to get used to noticing different bits of language
To get the hang of doing something = like ‘get used to -ing’ but more informal, to learn how to do something
I want you to get the hang of noticing language
To get the most out of something = to achieve the most from something that is possible, to take advantage of something
I want you to be able to get the most out of these episodes
to get the most out of the people you’re listening to
Also: to make the most of something
To get in touch (with someone) = to contact someone by phone, text, email etc
Get in touch
Also: keep in touch, stay in touch
To get it right/wrong = do something correctly or incorrectly
I’m sure I don’t get it right every time
I try to get it right
To get together = meet socially
Get people together
Get together with someone
If you get the right people together
Also – (n) a ‘get together’
Let’s have a get together at the weekend
Today I’m talking all about how I make episodes of this podcast including details about the technical side (all the gear I use and how I use it) and the creative side (how I come up with ideas and make them into episodes).
I’ve also decided to make sure there’s plenty of language content in this one too. Obviously it’s all English – these are all words, you know.
But what I mean is that later I’m going to highlight certain bits of vocabulary that will come up in my descriptions, including;
vocabulary for talking about technical stuff like recording audio
some uses of the word “get”, which is one of the most commonly occurring verbs in the English language
and also just some other fixed expressions and bits of language I think are worth pointing out to you.
As you listen to this, you can watch out for vocabulary and try to predict which bits you think I will be explaining later.
So, even if you’re not completely married to the subject matter of this episode, you can just try to get through the bits about how I make the podcast, try to spot some vocab and then hold on until the end when you’ll hear me going through that language for you which should help you to get your head around it all.
In fact, did you notice that I’ve already used ‘get’ several times. I said ‘try to get through the bits I say about recording equipment [how I make the podcast]’ and also ‘help you get your head around it all’.
To get through something = to finish it, or pass from one end to the other. “I’ve just got to get through this work.” or “I’ve got a lot of emails to get through” or “I know it’s hard when you have depression, but don’t give up, you’ll get through it.”
To get your head around something = to understand it. It’s often used in the negative form. “I just can’t get my head around all this recording equipment.” or “I can’t get my head around this tax return. It’s a nightmare.”
So, watch out for that kind of thing – other uses of ‘get’ and more expressions, I’ll be highlighting and explaining it later.
Let’s get back to the topic of this episode: How I make episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.
Message from Carlos in Barcelona
Just to explain why I’ve chosen to do this episode, here’s a message I got not long ago from a LEPster in Spain.
My name is Carlos and I’m a listener of your Podcast. I’m from Barcelona.
First of all, I’d like to congratulate you, your podcast is excellent. It helps me to improve my English and it’s also fun. Hence, I think it’s a way of learning English without realizing that I’m actually studying it.
In addition, I’d like to suggest a topic to be talked in one of your programmes. It would be great if you told us how you record a podcast, like how you prepare it and record it and what software and hardware you use.
Well, it would be fun to know what the podcast is like. Sometimes, I wonder about the insides of it.
I hope you like my suggestion.
Yours sincerely, J.Carlos Mena
I do get quite a lot of messages like that, from people asking me either about the technical side of the podcast making process – like what kind of gear I use, or the creative side – like, where I get the inspiration for episodes, how I come up with ideas.
I’ve been meaning to do this episode for a while now and so finally I’m glad to have actually got round to doing it at last.
OK, so let’s talk about what goes into the making of episodes of this podcast – the whole process from me starting from scratch to you listening to the podcast and, if I’m doing it correctly, you learning some English and maybe even getting the giggles on a bus somewhere while people give you weird looks, if I have managed to amuse you at all.
Listen to the episode for all the details… the expressions with ‘get’ will be explained later.
Talking about restaurant culture in the UK, an introduction to one of the UK’s most famous chefs and a chance to learn some authentic English from a popular British TV show featuring Gordon Ramsay. Video available. Includes swearing.
Hello, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English. Here is a new episode for you to listen to and indeed watch, because I’m videoing this one. You’ll be able to find the video on the page for this episode on my website, or by visiting the YouTube channel for Luke’s English Podcast.
A lot of what I am saying here – particularly in this introduction is written on the page for this episode. So you can read it with me, or check it for certain words you hear me using. The best way to get access to these pages is to subscribe to the mailing list.
In the last episode of this podcast you heard me talking to Amber about restaurants and hotels and some crazy TripAdvisor reviews.
At one point in the episode we talked briefly about Gordon Ramsay – one of the UK’s most famous chefs, and his TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” which was a really popular show in the UK a few years ago, and I thought it could be interesting to do a whole episode about that.
So in this one I’m going to talk a little bit about Gordon Ramsay and then we’re going to listen to some YouTube clips from one of his TV shows and I will help you understand all the language that you’ll hear. No doubt there will be some new vocabulary in the process – probably on the subject of food, cooking, restaurants and kitchens but lots of other natural language that just comes up, including plenty of swearing, because Gordon Ramsay is known for his frequent use of swear words.
Yes, there will be quite a lot of swearing in this episode, and you know my position on this. I’m choosing to show you the language as it is really used and that includes the rude words, but don’t be tempted to start throwing swear words into your everyday English. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that swear words are a short cut to sounding exactly like a native speaker. Often it just gives people a bad impression of you. We’ll go into it more later, because there are quite a lot of unwritten social rules around swearing that you need to be aware of – the main one being, that with swearing it is much much easier to sound rude and inappropriate than it is to sound cool. Think of swearing as a motorbike – you might think it’s cool but unless you really know what you’re doing you’re likely to seriously injure yourself. Similarly, swearing can be cool when it’s done in movies or even by someone like Gordon Ramsay, but if you try and do it in your normal life there’s a good chance you’ll just offend people.
So anyway, we’ll listen to some of the English in these YouTube clips and analyse the things they’re saying so that in the end you can understand it all just like I do, which should help you learn some real English in the process. You’ll also learn a thing or two about restaurant culture in the UK and about Gordon Ramsay who is one of the most well-known people in Britain.
Who is Gordon Ramsay and what’s the TV show?
Gordon James Ramsay, is a British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and television personality.
*Difference between a chef and a cook? Basically, a chef is someone who’s had professional training – at least a culinary degree, but a cook is just someone who cooks food. Both might work in a kitchen, but mainly being a chef is about having the status of culinary qualifications and experience.
Ramsay is one of the most famous chefs in the UK and probably in the world too. He has a reputation for being an excellent restaurateur and chef, and also for his extremely strict and direct style. He’s often very rude, saying exactly what he thinks about the people he’s working with in the strongest most colourful language. Imagine an army captain shouting at a platoon of soldiers during military training, but with really good food.
Ramsay was born in Scotland, but he grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is in fact not far from where I grew up in England). So, he is Scottish but doesn’t speak with a Scottish accent.
Ramsay now has restaurants all over the place – in London, in Paris and in New York. During his career he has trained at the highest level with French chefs in the UK and in Paris. He specialises in Italian, French and British recipes, and his cooking is known for being simple, unpretentious, high quality and delicious.
His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality. Michelin stars are very difficult to win and restaurants around the world proudly promote their Michelin Star status if they have one. His signature restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001, which is a mark of extremely high quality in restaurant dining.
As well as being a top chef, Ramsay is also a TV presenter. He first appeared on TV in the UK in the late 1990s, and by 2004 Ramsay had become one of the best known celebrity chefs in British popular culture, and, along with other chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Delia Smith, he has influenced viewers to become more culinarily adventurous.
As a reality TV personality, Ramsay is known for his fiery temper, strict demeanour, and use of expletives. He often makes blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants and their cooking abilities.
Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on British TV a few years ago – probably around 10-15 years ago now. These days you can find most of the episodes on YouTube.
Local restaurants vs manufacturing companies and processed food
Ramsay is actually very passionate about local restaurants in the UK.
In the UK our eating out culture is vibrant and successful but it is being undermined by a number of factors. One is the industrialisation of food culture. THis means that big businesses are involved in preparing food at an industrial level and then selling it to restaurants as part of a large corporate chain.
These chains might be restaurants which are all owned by one company, or food manufacturers who dominate the wholesale market, driving down their prices and pushing out competition such as local producers who sell fresh products.
In these industrial food manufacturing companies, the food is prepared in high quantities and then sold off to other companies and restaurants as part of a corporate supply chain for food.
There’s a big infrastructure for food purchasing in the UK which is dominated by these big food manufacturers. As a result, many smaller restaurants are forced to buy industrialised and mass-produced food because it is cheaper and more convenient than fresh food which you can buy direct from farms or markets.
If you were a struggling restaurant owner in a town in the UK, what would you do? Buy your food fresh from a local producer and then make sure you sell it in a short-term period, or buy similar products from a mass producer but at a lower price, and it’s food which you can store for longer because it has been processed to stay fresh.
In the end, people choose to eat at home, especially during an economic crisis.
So, economic factors are having a negative effect on the restaurant culture in the UK to an extent. Family owned restaurants should be where you get proper traditional and delicious local food, but these restaurants are being squeezed economically and forced to go along with the industrialised food manufacturing process.
Also, there are many chain restaurants which you find on high streets in the UK. These are not locally run, but are owned by big companies who have a single business model which they apply to all their restaurants. The fact that these places are part of a big corporate chain means that they can drive down their prices, making it very hard for local restaurants to be competitive. As a result, these smaller places suffer, struggle and often close down.
Gordon Ramsay believes that these local restaurants are the backbone of our restaurant culture in the UK, and he strongly believes that they need to be supported so they can compete with the corporate chains, and given training so they can serve the best food possible. Essentially that’s the concept behind Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but also it’s just entertaining watching him shouting at incompetent chefs. You sort of let him get away with the way he bullies people because you believe that really he’s just trying to help them to learn the discipline you need to run a really good restaurant.
But he does seem really passionate about proper restaurant culture in the UK and I like that about him. Even though he’s making this reality show and he’s making money from doing it, I think he really does care about improving restaurant culture in the UK.
On the other hand, he is very good at TV. He knows how to make entertaining TV, and he’s got a good formula for it. Basically, this means that he takes the harsh discipline and the no-nonsense brutally honest approach that he applies to his kitchen management, and uses it when giving feedback to the restaurants which he visits.
Let’s listen to a few scenes and I’m going to make sure you understand everything that’s going on and everything that’s being said.
Let’s learn English with Gordon Ramsay
The TV Show
Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on UK TV about 10-15 years ago.
The format is this – Gordon Ramsay visits a failing restaurant somewhere in the UK. So, restaurants that are failing – e.g. losing money, getting terrible reviews etc. He goes into the restaurant and spends a week there, observing the way the owners run the kitchen, how the business works and what’s going on at all levels. Usually he starts by sitting down to eat the chef’s speciality dish, and it’s nearly always disgusting, and Ramsay comments on how it tastes, how it looks, and also the decor of the restaurant and the service from the staff.
Then Ramsay gives his feedback to the owner and the chef, and it’s always a massive reality check, and it usually involves very strong words and lots of swearing. This is what happens when a top-level chef enters the world of a crappy low-level restaurant.
Then over the course of the week, Gordon helps the managers turn the restaurant around. It’s almost always a huge challenge and often the most difficult part is dealing with the psychological aspects – the stubborn chefs, the relationship issues in the kitchen, the fact that these people have personal issues which are causing the business to go horribly wrong.
It is car-crash TV. We see arguments, meltdowns, unhappy customers and so on.
In almost every episode Gordon seems to go hopping mad as he can’t believe the incompetence or shockingly low standards of service shown by the people in the restaurant. He then tries to help them change everything and turn the business around. It all makes really great telly.
And by the end of the episode, with Gordon’s help they have usually turned the restaurant into a successful business again.
There’s a UK version and a US version.
If you search for Kitchen Nightmares on YouTube you will probably find the US version first, but I think the UK version is better!
But really, it is better because the US version is horrible. It’s full of really fast editing and there’s loads of music which is added in order to tell you how you should be feeling about what’s happening. It’s distracting and patronising.
Example of the US version (just listen to all the distracting sound effects and music)
The UK version just has some rock music in the background at the start, but then during the show it’s more simple and you can just focus on what’s happening without constant sweeping sounds and tense music.
Let’s listen to some scenes from one of the episodes.
These scenes actually come from an episode called “Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmares” which was shown on TV between series 5 and 6 of Kitchen Nightmares. It’s basically the same as any other episode of the series.
Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare – Dovecote Bistro
Gordon goes to visit a restaurant in Devon called Dovecote Bistro, which is run by a guy called Mick.
Mick is a former truck driver and burger van operator who has opened this bistro with his wife and adopted daughter, Michelle. Ramsay is firstly appalled by the psychedelic wallpaper decorating the restaurant, and then his attention turns to the food and the way it is cooked. While Ramsay is impressed with the simple menu, he is furious to find that Mick has very little cooking ability, using orange squash to make a sauce and using vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lamb shanks in a microwave bag. Not only does he show little responsibility in the kitchen, he is also secretive with his spending and is hugely in debt. Mick is adamant that the problems in the kitchen are not his fault, and his stubbornness causes a rift with his wife and daughter. Ramsay solves the crisis by taking the business matters out of Mick’s hands and kicks him out of the kitchen. His daughter, Michelle, is placed in charge of the kitchen despite having no cooking experience. She rises to the challenge, and while Mick is not convinced over replacing his microwave food, the reopening is a success.
Months later, Ramsay returns to find that the restaurant is making profit. He sent Michelle for further culinary training, and she impresses Ramsay with freshly cooked food.
The restaurant was renamed Martins’ Bistro during production.
Video 1 – Flourescent duck cooked in orange squash
Let’s see what this ex-trucker can do
Fuck me! (surprise / shock)
Your blouse matches the wallpaper
I feel like I’m tripping out!
I’ve never touched the stuff but I feel like I just swallowed an E.
The hideous wallpaper
On paper it looks delicious
A spoonful of gravy
Fuck me do I need sunglasses!
That’s worse than fucking Benylin
They’re actually vacuum packed
They can last for about a year
They’re bought in, they’re vacuum packed
They’ve got a shelf life of about a year
Well, fuck me!
That might be the worst food I’ve ever come across
He might be beyond my help
It doesn’t need refrigerating
How in the fuck could you charge 11 pounds for that?
E numbers, like Tartrazine
Do you feel like having a shit?
Thank fuck I didn’t eat it.
I’m surprised you haven’t killed off half the population of Okehampton