Category Archives: Poetry

133. Hip-Hop Lyric Analysis

A look at hip-hop culture and analysis of the lyrics to a classic rap song. FULL TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE BELOW, OH YES!

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There’s an introduction, then the lyric analysis begins at about 21mins.
HIP HOP LYRIC ANALYSIS

Small Donate ButtonI wonder if you’re a fan of hip hop. Maybe you are, maybe you’re not. If you already are, then sit back, enjoy the episode. If you’re not then listen on, because you might learn something about the world of hip hop music which you previously didn’t know. You can also learn some slang in the process.

In this episode:

1. I’ll tell you a bit about hip hop, and its history, but not too much because I don’t want to bore you.

2. We’ll listen to some hip hop and have a look at the lyrics and analyse them. I’ll explain them, and kind of give you my thoughts on them.

There is music in the background on this one. I thought it was appropriate because of the subject of this episode. Future episodes will not always have music, but this one does. If you really can’t hear what I’m saying then let me know and I might be able to upload this episode again without the background music. If you like the music and would like to hear more, let me know by commenting on this episode. I should be able to recommend some albums or tracks for you.

I understand that hip hop is not everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps you’ve never considered listening to it. Well, you know with Luke’s English Podcast you never know what you’re going to get each time. Variety. This time it’s hip hop, next time it might be about something else like kittens. A whole episode about kittens, that would be nice, or maybe something about football… that’s in the pipeline, and more interviews and all kinds of things, but for now it’s all about da hip hop game, straight up, no nonsense, no diggidy, no doubt, the ill communication… You’re probably thinking, “why is Luke speaking strangely, or more strangely than usual”. Well, I’m throwing in a bit of hop hop slang into my sentences sometimes, just for a laugh really.

I love hip-hop but sometimes I don’t feel like I can truly relate to it. It’s an amazing musical genre. There’s a lot of talent, great music and clever lyrics.

What are The 3 elements of hip hop? How did it develop?
First of all, the term ‘hip hop’ is used to refer to both the musical genre and the culture in general. This culture of hip hop is considered to have a number of elements. I think it boils down to about 3 main things:

1. DJing – this involves the creating of loops of music, usually taken from old jazz or funk records played on two turntables. This is clever because it involves a lot of skill. Two copies of the record are needed, and the record needs to be chosen carefully. Usually the piece of music to be looped is a drum break from a funk tune. That’s the bit where only the drums are playing. That section is just played over and over on the two turntables, the same bit being played and then rewound and played again- the music gets looped, and you get a continuous beat which people can dance to or rap over. The DJs would either do it live at parties or they would make mix tapes to be shared and used as the backing track for rapping.

2. Rapping. This is talking into the microphone over the top of the beat. The best rapping involves clever rhyming of words, and a unique flow or rhythm in your voice. It’s also known as MCing. MC means master or ceremonies. The original job of the MC was to be a kind of host for a party. He or she would liven up the audience and get the atmosphere going. Later, MCs started rhyming and creating stories or commentaries. MCs sometimes battle with each other. This means that they take turns to do a verse of rhyming in which they have to be more inventive, funny or insulting than the other one. An example of this can be seen in the movie 8 Mile with Eminem.

3. Breakdancing. This was the dancing associated with hip-hop in the early days. People seem to do it less these days. It involves body popping, robotic movements, or acrobatic spins and jumps. It’s also possible to have a breakdancing battle in which two teams take turns to perform better and better dance moves.
Graffiti is also associated with hip hop. That’s the painting of large graphics or tags in public places using spray cans. Now, DJing has been replaced by more sophisticated forms of sequencing and sampling using computers, but the effect is still the same – funky beats and samples of well chosen old records. Beats can also be created without samples as well, but most of the classic hip hop of the 90s was made with samples from 60s jazz/funk records.

Some also consider ‘knowledge’ to be an essential part of hip hop culture. This means the understanding of your cultural history and the reality of the situation you are living in. More specifically this relates to the condition of black Americans as a cultural minority in the United States, but it can also apply to a wider state of mind in which you ‘keep it real’. Keeping it real just means being true to yourself, trying to ascertain what really is going on around you, questioning authority and everything around you and not believing ‘the hype’. Public Enemy released a famous rap/hip-hop track called ‘Don’t Believe The hype’. I think the message of this is ‘don’t believe what you read in the papers, or don’t believe what everyone says about something. Check it out for yourself first. Have some independence of thought. Don’t accept the common opinion. Have confidence in your own sense of judgement. Don’t believe the hype.

Click here to hear Public Enemy “Don’t believe da hype”

Hip-Hop is also notable for it’s recycling of previously released music, particularly music created by soul, funk and jazz artists of the previous generation. This shows us how hip-hop is a kind of ‘do it yourself’ cultural movement. The musicians who made this music just used what was available to them there at the time. They didn’t have instruments, or classical musical training. There wasn’t a lot of money going round. What they did have was old records, possibly from their parents’ generation, and so they used that as a resource. If they were lucky they had record decks or other equipment. Otherwise they would use tape players to crudely edit together selected pieces of music from old records. This cut and paste approach is one of the things that defines hip-hop culture.

My personal favourite era for hip hop is the early to mid nineties. I think this is when it was at its best. If I could recommend one hip hop album it would be “Midnight Marauders” by A Tribe Called Quest. Why? The samples are very well chosen (some amazing bits of classic soul, funk or jazz) the music is positive, the rhyming is inventive and funny, it’s catchy, I never get bored of listening to it and it always puts me in a good mood and reminds me of great times. I strongly believe it will be considered one of the all-time great hip hop albums. Click here to see the album on Amazon.

Hip Hop music is often associated with poor urbanised black american communities, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s not about being poor black Americans. The music might have come from that community, but ultimately music transcends racial barriers and can be enjoyed by everyone. But, saying that, there is something weird about middle class English white kids acting like rappers from Compton. They’re not keeping it real, and the importance of keeping it real is one of the things you can learn from hip hop. Be true to yourself, don’t play yourself because that’s just straight up wack! A lot of rappers are very rich these days. Some are white, some are of other ethnicities. This just goes to show that it’s not just a simple question of black or white, rich or poor or whatever. Gangster rap is one sub-genre of rap music. There are other types of hip hop that don’t involve being a gangster. Positive hip-hop or political hip-hop. I suppose within gangsta rap there is the idea that hip-hop can be a way for poor people in America can escape from the ghetto. In the case of someone like Jay-Z who apparently used to live a gangster life, music did help him to escape the world of crime.

Hip hop music can give you an insight into life in the ghetto in America. The stories I hear in rap are like crime novels or a gangster movies. They can be evocative, moving, frightening and just very exciting tales of life on the edge. I must say though, as a white middle class English guy I can’t fully relate to the music, and sometimes I feel slightly ridiculous listening to rap music. I find I feel embarrassed sometimes listening to tales of the gangster life while I’m on shopping in Tescos or walking along the Champs Elysees. I can’t really relate to it, but nevertheless I love the music, and I wonder if you also like hip hop.

Anyway, I decided to play some hip hop in this episode and discuss the lyrics with you. First up, it’s a genuine hip hop classic. This one is from the 90s which is the best era for hip hop in my opinion. It’s basically gangsta rap. It’s moody, dark and tells a story of how difficult life can be in the ghetto. The track is called “My mind is playing tricks on me” by Geto Boys. Listen to the track, and then I will explain it all, and analyse the lyrics after. You’ll appreciate it more when you hear it the second time. If you like it, click the link to see the album on Amazon, where you can buy it and support this group. If hip hop is not your thing then I hope this episode at least educates you about a musical genre that you’re not familiar with. You don’t have to like it, but knowledge is power. Also, the English you’ll hear is a dialect (to an extent).  It’s the language of black American youth, and this is one of the most pervasive English dialects. It has influence on many informal dialects in English, including youth in London and all over the UK in fact. It’s interesting that the social group with the least status – poor African Americans, has some of the most widespread cultural influence though its music and its English slang. Well, maybe that’s the thing about hip-hop – it really changed the status of many poor young people in America, by making them into superstars. Although being a superstar is not the end of your problems of course, because you know, Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems… So, here it is.

GETO BOYS LYRICS

“My Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me”

Click here to check out the song on YouTube

[Intro: Scarface] 

I sit alone in my four-cornered room staring at candles

“Cool out man, we on the Radio dukes”

We’re on the Radio dukes

“yeah”

Ooh, alright, check this here

 

[Verse 1: Scarface] 

At night I can’t sleep, I toss and turn

He’s having a bad night. He can’t sleep. Maybe he’s had too much coffee, or maybe he’s got an exam tomorrow. You know the feeling, you’re nervous, you can’t sleep. Very frustrating.

Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned

If he’s got candles burning I’m not surprised he can’t sleep. You need to extinguish all lights. Anyway, he shouldn’t leave a candle burning when he’s going to sleep. It’s quite dangerous, it might start a fire and the smoke could choke him to death in his sleep, or he could be very badly burned.

Visions of bodies being burned. He’s having a very bad night. I know that sometimes your mind wanders  when you can’t sleep but that’s quite extreme. Maybe he’s been watching too much of The Walking Dead. It’s ironic that he’s thinking of burning bodies when he’s dangerously leaving candles lit while going to sleep.

Four walls just closing in, getting bigger

I know the feeling. It can be like you’re trapped in your room, especially if you’ve been indoors all evening revising and now you can’t sleep.

I’m paranoid, sleepin’ with my finger on the trigger

Woa! He’s sleeping with a gun in his hand and his finger on the trigger? He’s likely to have a bad accident, especially if he starts to drop off to sleep and his hand jerks. He must be paranoid if he’s sleeping with a gun. I wonder what happened.

My mother’s always stressin’ I ain’t livin’ right

Well, she’s right because already you’ve got naked flames and a gun in the flat.

But I ain’t going out without a fight

Ok, he’s determined.

See, everytime my eyes close

I start sweatin’ and blood starts comin’ out my nose

You might want to get that looked at. If blood comes out of your nose when you close your eyes, you might have a serious condition. I don’t think it’s paranoia. Those are genuine symptoms. Go to a doctor. Call NHS direct at least.

There’s somebody watchin’ the Ack’

But I don’t know who it is, so I’m watchin’ my back

OK, I’m not sure what that means but it seems that someone is watching him, and apparently they’re not really looking after him because they haven’t stepped in to give advice or help. Whoever this person is, it seems that they don’t have his best interest at heart. Again, I don’t think he’s being paranoid. This guy is probably not a friend. But then again it is quite normal to just see the same people in your neighbourhood and just because they’re not friendly, it doesn’t mean they want to kill you. I mean, in London I never talked to my neighbours but I saw them all the time. Didn’t mean I wanted to kill them. Just saying.

I can see him when I’m deep in the covers

When I awake I hear a car burning rubber

When he’s deep in the covers, that means when he’s in bed. So, what he can see him when he’s in his bed? That is pretty weird, what is he doing in the guy’s bed?? Or maybe he’s in the bed and looking out of the window and he can see him in the street or something. Oh I see, he can see him in his sleep. Bad dreams.

He owns a black hat like I own

A black suit and a cane like my own

Perhaps this is just a mirror. I wonder if he’s considered the fact that he’s seeing his own reflection in windows or something. That happened to me once. I was walking alone in the street and I thought I saw someone following me. I got really scared and ran home. Turned out it was just my own reflection in the windows of houses. I used to be scared of the dark so I suppose my mind was playing tricks on me too.

Some might say, “Take a chill, B”

Yes, it’s a good idea. Take a chill. Relax. Have a cup of tea. Watch some telly. Put your feet up. Just take the afternoon off. No need to go round being a gangster today. It’s hard work being a gangster. Just take it easy for a change. You’ve got to look after your health. Take some you-time. Just watch “Friday” or something.

But I can’t see, because there’s somebody trying to kill me

Mmm, that will tend to make you a bit uptight.

I’m poppin’ in the clip when the wind blows

Every twenty seconds got me peepin’ out my window

This means he’s putting a clip of ammunition into his gun whenever the wind blows. Now, the wind blows quite a lot, especially when it’s windy. Does this mean he’s just putting the clip in when he hears the wind, and then going “oh no it’s just the wind” and then taking it out, but then hearing the wind again and going “What the hell is that?!” and popping the clip back in again, and again and again. He needs a holiday. He’s peeping out of his window, with a gun. THis is an awful situation.

Investigatin’ the joint for traps

Checkin’ my telephone for taps

Ok, so I assume that he’s really nervous because of something he did in his past. Maybe he criticised someone’s mother, or stepped on someone’s sneaker. Now he’s worried that someone wants to take revenge on him and he’s so paranoid that he’s convinced that someone has set traps in his house. Perhaps like a bucket of water above the door and when you open it = splash. Or worse. Maybe a broken chair or a whoopee cushion. He’s checking the phone for taps. That’s a wire tap. Perhaps people are trying to listen in to his conversations. It could be the mob getting ready to kill him or the FBI surveying him, or maybe he’s just been smoking too much weed and he’s imagining it all.

I’m starin’ at the woman on the corner

It’s f*cked up, when your mind is playin’ tricks on you

The woman on the corner? I expect that is a prostitute. It’s quite sad that there’s always a woman on the corner. It’s even sadder that this guy is staring at her because he’s paranoid that ‘someone is trying to kill him’.

[Verse 2: Willie D]

I make big money, I drive big cars

Everybody know me, it’s like I’m a movie star

Sounds like Luke from Luke’s English Podcast.

But late at night, somethin’ ain’t right

I feel I’m being tailed by the same sucker’s head lights

This means he feels like someone is following him. He’s being tailed by someone’s headlights. But normally you’re tailed by someone in a car, not just some headlights.

Is it that fool that I ran off the block?

Or is it that clown last week that I shot?

He shot a clown? Why did he shoot a clown? They’re basically harmless. They’re just kids’ entertainers. He’s gone too far, shooting a clown.

To be honest, I think that by ‘clown’ he means a ‘fool’ or an ‘idiot’. But really, was it necessary to shoot the guy? Two words: Gun Control.

Or is it the one I beat for five thousand dollars

He beat a guy for 5 thousand dollars. That is a lot of money but is it worth it for the risk. You could be sent to prison for aggravated assault. I’m not surprised he’s having a bad time, because you know “what goes around comes around”.

Thought he had caine but it was Gold Medal Flour

His mind really is playing tricks on him. He’s seeing people doing their grocery shopping, and mistaking them for badass gangsters who want to kill him. The guy needs to just stay in for a while and wait for this all to blow over.

Reach under my seat, grabbed my popper for the suckers

Ain’t no use to me lyin, I was scareder than a mother*****

This means he reached under his seat to get his gun in order to shoot these bad rude boys, and truth be told he was very frightened. Scareder (not correct English) than a mother-. One can only assume that ‘a mother’ is usually quite scared, for some reason. I think we know he is referring not to a Mum, but to a swearword, a motherf***er

Hooked a left into Popeye’s and bailed out quick

If it’s goin’ down, let’s get it over with

So, in order to escape, or find a good place to hide or escape he turned a quick left into what I assume is some kind of shop. He was ready to have a fight if it was necessary. So, he thinks that these gang-bangers are going to get him as an act of revenge, but perhaps he’s just paranoid and imaginging it all.

Here they come, just like I figured

I got my hand on the chrome (gold?) plated the trigger

So, they’re coming just as expected. He’s got his hand on his chrome plated gun. The trigger is the part that your finger squeezes to fire the gun..

What I saw’ll make your ass start gigglin’

Three black crippled and crazy senior citizens

What he saw will make you laugh because it was three black crippled and crazy old people. He must have been tripping because he thought they were all gangsters. He’s in a real mess.

I live by the sword

I take my boys everywhere I go, because I’m paranoid

To live by the sword means you live a violent life. He takes his boys everywhere – not his sons I imagine, but some of his home-boys, some friends or fellow gangsters as protection.

I keep lookin’ over my shoulder and peepin’ around corners

My mind is playin’ tricks on me

Looking over his shoulder, looking around corners. He’s certainly got to be vigilant at times like this.

[Verse 3: Scarface]

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope

I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope

Ok, this really is a messed up life. He’s find it hard to cope. He can’t manage it or deal with the pressure. He feels like he’s the one doing dope – I guess this is a reference to the fact that he’s a drug dealer, and usually his clients are the ones who are strung out and losing control of their lives because of the drugs they’re taking, but this time even he is losing control. This is a messed up story of criminal life in America. Have you seen Scarface? This song is one of many similar crime stories which for me form part of American popular culture in literature, film and music. Yes, I’m saying this is art. Sue me.

Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous

Every Sunday mornin’ I’m in service

Prayin’ for forgiveness

And tryin’ to find an exit out the business

He’s going to church every sunday, praying to be forgiven by god, and trying to find a way to leave this terrible business of drug dealing and extortion. So, he does want to get out but apparently he is trapped. I wonder what you think. Does he have a choice? I suppose he is so deep in crime that if he tries to leave he risks losing his life.

I know the Lord is lookin’ at me

But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy

He believes in god but it’s almost not enough because of his guilty conscience.

I often drift while I drive

Havin’ fatal thoughts of suicide

BANG and get it over with

And then I’m worry-free, but that’s nonsense

He sometimes considers killing himself in order to escape, but yes, that’s nonsense. Suicide is the coward’s way out.

I got a little boy to look after

And if I died then my child would be a bastard

Technically that is true. That’s in line with the literal meaning of ‘bastard’ but does it also mean his son would be a bad guy? Quite possibly, if he’s deprived of a father and growing up in tough conditions, and considering his Dad is a bit of a bastard apparently it must run in the family, so yes if he is killed then his son is likely to be a bit of a bastard. BUt also, his son would be fatherless, and that’s serious.

I had a woman down with me

But to me it seems like she was down to get me

He used to have a girl friend, but it seemed she didn’t support him. Maybe she was not good for him. Maybe she nagged him, and it didn’t help.

She helped me out in this

But to me she was just another chick

OK, she did help a bit, but he didn’t love her. Sad story. Sorry listeners.

Now she’s back with her mother

Now I’m realizing that I love her

All right, so he does love her! Make your mind up!

Now I’m feelin’ lonely

My mind is playin’ tricks on me

You have my sympathy sir. Although I do think it was wrong that you committed those crimes and you shouldn’t have done it. There’s no way of justifying those criminal acts. Still, I will raise a glass to you sir.

[Verse 4: Bushwick Bill]

This year Halloween fell on a weekend

Me and Geto Boys went trick-or-treatin’

Robbin’ little kids for bags

So they went trick or treating. Not exactly the behaviour of authentic straight up gangstas. Why are they trick or treating? Aren’t they a bit old for that now? Don’t they have business to attend to?

And robbing little kids for bags?? Really? Literally stealing candy from children. That’s hardly the way a true gangsta rolls? It’s almost pathetic, stealing sweets from children. It’s a serious act of bullying and seems out of character. So these are very well esteemed bad-boy gangstas, who act like they’ve killed and done bad things, and here they are stealing sweeties from kids. Pathetic.

Till an old man got behind our rags

Too right. The old man was correct and I’m glad a member of the community stepped in to get behind their rags and tell them off.

So we speeded up the pace

Took a look back, and he was right before our face

They decided to leave quickly and walked away, but when they turned around he was right up in their face. Wow, that guy is fast!

He’d be in for a squabble no doubt

So I swung and and tried to take him out

So the guy wanted a fight, so Bill swung his fist and tried to knock him down. ‘Take him out’

He was goin’ down, we planned

But this wasn’t no ordinary man

The plan was to put this guy down, but apparently this was no ordinary man. Maybe it was, like, Batman or just an extraordinarily tough guy who they shouldn’t have messed with.

He stood about six or seven feet

Now, that’s the creep I’d be seein’ in my sleep

This is a very tall guy, and the ‘creep’ he’d been seeing in his sleep too. So, this is the scary guy that Bill was dreaming about earlier on. Wow, so here he is in a fight with him. Scary.

So we triple-teamed on him

Droppin’ them 5th ward B’s on him

Triple teamed on him – this means the 3 of them teamed up to fight him together. Ladies or in fact anyone else, if you’re listening – I’m sorry about the violence. More civilised topics will be dealt with in due course.

The more I swung the more blood flew

Then he disappeared and my boys disappeared too

The more he punched the more blood there was, but then suddenly he disappeared, and so did his friends.

Then I felt just like a fiend

It wasn’t even close to Halloween

He felt just like a fiend – this is someone who is evil and kind of obsessed by doing bad things. So, he frightened himself by realising he was a fiend, a monster. This is dark…

It was dark as death on the streets

My hands were all bloody from punchings on the concrete

Oh man, homie

My mind is playin’ tricks on me

The streets were pitch black, and his hands were bleeding from punching the concrete. So, he imagined or hallucinated the whole thing and in fact had been punching the street itself thinking it was a man. His mind is playing tricks on him.

 

What a dark tale.

Let’s lighten things up a bit. Now we’re going to listen to a short rhyme by De La Soul from their amazing album 3 Feet High and Rising. This one is all about the importance of washing yourself with soap to avoid BO or Body Odour, which can be a problem on public transport for example. Again, listen to the whole tune and then I will explain…

De La Soul “A Little Bit of Soap” – Click here to listen to the song on YouTube

Please, listen to this simple De La style I’m gonna sing

It’s strongly directed to all the misery you’re bringing

Now I’m not all about dissing someone else personnel

But there’s no quota on your odor, that’s right, you smell

Now you might feel a little embarrassed, don’t take it too hard

And don’t make it worse by covering it up with some Right Guard

Before you even put on your silk shirt and fat gold rope

Please, take your big ass to the bathroom

And please use a little bit of soap

Okay, contestant number two, do you have the answers?

No, no I don’t

SOME HIP HOP SLANG, DEFINED:

da hip hop game = the hip hop industry. ‘da’ means ‘the’

straight up = simply

no nonsense = simple

no diggidy = no doubt, definitely

the ill communication = ‘ill’ here means ‘good’

wack = not cool

sucka = a sucker, a stupid person

 

LINKS:

For more hip hop slang, click here.

To download some free hip hop mixes, click here. I personally recommend this one.

Visit this page to play around with ‘gizoogle’, which is a website that translates everything into hip hop slang.

Here’s an example of what it does. Look at the below sentence, which is normal.

Hello, my name is Luke and I am an English teacher. You probably know me from my podcast which is called Luke’s English Podcast. I really enjoy making episodes of my show and I hope that you like listening to it. Good luck!

Here’s the hip-hop slang version:

Yo muthaf*cka, hoes call me Luke n’ I be a Gangsta mackdaddy n’ sh*t. Yo ass probably know me from mah podcast which is called Lukez Gangsta Podcast. I straight-up trip off makin episodez of mah show n’ I hope dat you like listenin ta dat sh*t. Dope luck!

‘Dope luck’ indeed…

78. Christmas – It’s all about Family (with James)

This episode is all about Christmas. Learn plenty of general English vocabulary and culture.
You will find some vocabulary and definitions below.

Small Donate ButtonRight-click here to download.

In this episode I talk to my brother (James) about Christmas, and plenty of other things too!

*Caution – this episode contains some rude language and swearing :)*

This is a natural conversation between my brother and me. We talk mainly about Christmas and what it means to us as Londoners in England, UK. We also talk about other things as we naturally get sidetracked during the conversation.
The intention of the conversation is to explain what Christmas really means to us. Some of the things we say are intended to be humourous, which means sometimes we use irony, but most of the time we are being serious.
It might be difficult for you to follow everything we say, but we explain many things while talking. I have made a list of vocabulary and expressions that we use in the conversation. You will find this list of vocabulary and definitions below. Many of the definitions come from this website: www.thefreedictionary.com/, and some of the definitions are written by me.

I recommend that you check the vocabulary and expressions in your own dictionary too, and look for examples of the expressions online by googling them. Listen to this podcast several times to really catch all the expressions and to listen to them being used in the natural context of our conversation. Then try to use the expressions yourself, in your own conversations or just while practising English alone.

TRANSCRIPT
Vocabulary is defined below the transcript.

[0:00]
L – Luke
J – James

L: Hello and welcome to this Christmas episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Now, today I’m joined once again by my brother James. Hello James.
J: Hello.
L: And today we’re going to tell you all about what a typical Christmas is for most people in the UK. The UK?
J: Well, yes. I suppose we are specifically Southern England. You know, there are slightly different traditions around the UK such as Scotland may do things slightly differently up north of England things. So, I suppose, we can only really claim to represent Southern England.
L: Or like London. To be honest really, I think, we can only talk for ourselves. So mainly what we’re going to do in this episode is just tell you about what Christmas really means to us.
J: But I suppose it is fairly typical of English and British people.
L: That’s true, that’s absolutely right. So, we’re going to tell you about a typical Christmas for us, here in London, in England, in Britain, in the UK, in Europe, in the world etc. Right? And also we’re going to teach you, along the way… we are going to teach you bits of vocabulary and expressions that relate to Christmas and New Year and all the things and celebrations and various aspects of Christmas. Okay? So, cultural stuff and a bit of vocab in the process.
J: Okay.
L: Yeah. So, how are you doing?
J: I’m okay. I’ve got a bit of a cold, but I’m fine.
(sound of phone ringing)
L: Oh, the flimmin [this is not a word] phone , I bet that’s a cold caller.
(sound of phone ringing)
J: Luke’s just gone to answer the phone. This is sometimes a common thing.
L: (answering the phone ) Hello, Luke’s English Podcast.
(after a while)
L: No.
(sound of hanging up the phone)
J: Yes, very common thing. People get hold of your phone number through the telephone directory and they phone you up trying to sell you stuff or sometimes is just a robotic voice trying to sell you something. Very annoying and very little you can do about it.
L: That was a robot voice then it said: “Hello, this is an important recorded message for Luke Thompson.” And so immediately I knew it was a cold caller. Right?
J: It’s borderline illegal although…
L: It’s very annoying.
J: It’s very annoying. It’s well into the annoying category. Yeah.
L: We call them “cold calling”, because it’s a way for companies to just call someone without any warning…
J: Without any previous interactions, so as sort of a warm contact would be if they already answered a question essay and they wish to receive more information, but in this instance he hadn’t been asked. So that’s why it’s a “cold call”.
L: Because they’re just calling you without any previous contact at all. Cold call, which is ironic, because when the phone rang, you were just telling everyone that you had a cold.
J: Different meaning of cold. Cold is just, well I guess it’s the same around the world, a mild flu.
L: Yeah. It’s like a virus that goes round. And everyone kind of catches it. Because people always say: “Oh yeah, there is a cold going round”, you know. “It goes round” that means that, you know, it passes from person to person.
J: Especially in a place like London, where we have very tight concentration of people on public transport and cold and minor diseases, that sounds disgusting, but sorry it’s true…
L: Minor diseases.
J: Minor diseases can spread quite easily through the handrails and the shared air that you got on the ground.
L: Yeah, it’s right.
J: It’s common thing in London to get cold quite a lot.
L: Basically the London underground is just…
J: …a breeding ground for disease and infection.
L: A breeding ground for disease and infection. So that’s true.
J: There you go. Some people say this podcast is too positive. So, there you go. We’re given you a negative there.
L: My brother believes that sometimes in this podcast I just… I’m just too positive about things. I don’t agree, I think, you haven’t really listened to many of the episodes.
J: No, I’ve hardly listened to any of them, to be honest.
L: You haven’t really listened to the episode that you’re in.
J: No, I haven’t, I was too embarrassing.
L: And I did say “you’re in”, I didn’t say “urine” there.
J: Good.
L: We don’t ever mention urine on the show…
J: …in this house.
L: …until now.
J: Let’s get to the point.
L: Can I just explain what happened there? Sometimes in English words can sound like other words. Right? Like if you say the word “you’re” meaning “you are” and “in”, “you are in” it can sound a bit like the word “urine”. Right? “You’re in”, “urine”.
J: It’s not a very good joke, but some examples of this work better than others.
L: I don’t think that’s really a joke, it’s more just a coincidence.
J: It’s a double meaning.
L: Urine/You’re in.
J: So you could for instance… I don’t know if should say this, if I were to offer you a coffee

[5:00]
L: Go on.
J: I could say: “You’re for coffee?”.
L: Like “You’re for coffee?” as a question like “You’re for coffee?”, but also sounds like a rude word.
J: It sounds a little bit like a…
L: “You’re for coffee?”, “You fuck off-y?”.
J: Okay, okay. I think they get it. Sorry about that.
L: Anyway, so you haven’t really even listened to the episodes that you’re in, have you? Don’t tell me to fuck off at this point.
(laugh)
J: Enough swearing. I think we should delete that bit.
L: Let’s get down to business and talk about Christmas, shall we? But we’re both… before we do that, we both suffering from ever so slight colds.
J: That’s why we sound sort of slightly bunged up. There is a phrase for you.
L: Bunged up. I’ll write this down. I must write down…
J: So write down call cold, bunged up.
L: Urine.
J: No, not that one.
L: I should write it down. Call cold, bunged up.
J: Bunged up, that’s just means blocked up nose.
L: You’re for coffee.
J: We’re not going to do that one.
L: I don’t know, I might write it down anyway. Urine. You’re in.
J: Things not to say in a business meeting for instance. You don’t lean over to the managing director and say “You fuck off-y?”. That would be a social faux pas, which is French.
L: A faux pas. That is. Faux pas is a French word.
J: And some English phrases are just literally a French phrase which we quite like a sound of. It’s been picked up over the years and accepted as English phrases, for instance: cliche, faux pas.
L: Yeah, a cul-de-sac.
J: Yeah.
L: It’s true.
J: Cul-de-sac…
L: Wait, wait, wait. What is first of all… What is a faux pas? What is a cliche? And what is a cul-de-sac? What’s a faux pas? Well it’s a French word.
J: Fake. “Faux” means “fake”, doesn’t it?
L: Maybe. I don’t know what the original…
J: I don’t know what the literal thing means, we’re very embarrassing. If you know, write in the comment underneath.
L: I’m sure. I’ve got lots of listeners who speak French, who can tell us exactly what “faux pas” means in French, but in English…
J: It’s just means a minor mistake.
L: It’s a social mistake.
J: A social mistake, yeah.
L: So for example, if you go to a business meeting and you…
J: …are wearing trainers.
L: …and you’re wearing sport shoes, trainers, sneakers, pumps, that kind of thing, to a business meeting, where you should be dressed in formal way. That would be a faux pas, like a social mistake. Okay. Next one was a cliche, another French word.
J: It’s because that we don’t have a literal translation for that in English, so we use the French, which means a cliche. A kind of… it’s very hard to explain.
L: Welcome to my job.
J: It’s very hard to explain without using the French.
L: I think the cliche is something which has happened many, many, many times and to the point which it’s now become really sort of predictable and not even necessarily true.
J: Slightly embarrassingly obvious, maybe.
L: Obvious, predictable. It’s been repeated many times.
J: So for instance a cliche would be an English bloke swigging lager with an England top on watching the football.
L: So that’s a cultural cliche.
J: A cultural cliche.
L: Which is very similar to a stereotype.
J: It is, that’s the word I was looking for. It’s similar to a stereotype, but it doesn’t just have to fit a person. It could fit a style or…
L: Usually stereotypes describe a type of person, don’t they? Like the German stereotype, the American stereotype, French stereotype.
J: And all the best stereotypes have an element of truth in them as well, obviously.
L: Like the English stereotype. There’s two English stereotypes for me. One is that we are very posh, stuck up, kind of gentlemen…
J: Drinking tea, wearing bowler hats.
L: And being very posh and going “Oh, my dear… my good man…” that kind of thing, which you know the Americans love that kind of English stereotype. But the other stereotype is…
J: It’s a football hooligan. Somebody goes (sound of hooligans).
L: Right? I think actually most English people have both.
J: A bit of both.
L: Yeah. They can be very reserved and polite and “Oh sorry”, but on the other hand they can… if they have a few drinks…
J: They can be quite ignorant and stupid.
L: They become ignorant and stupid.
J: And I include myself in that, unfortunately.
L: I think, you’re more hooligan than gentleman. I am maybe more gentleman than hooligan, but it depends…
J: So you like to think.
L: I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s true. It depends. Sometimes you’re more gentlemanly than I am and sometimes…
J: I don’t watch football, I want to point that out, I don’t follow a team. I never drink lager.
L: How many time have you had a fight in your life? Physical, a physical fight.
J: A few, but they were really asking for it.

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55. Mini Podcasts Collection 1


Right-click here to download this episode.
My first 7 mini podcasts in one full length episode. Idioms with ‘about’, politics, how to make a perfect cup of tea, a comedy song about badgers and some sentence stress and intonation practice.

You can find my Mini Podcast page on Audioboo by clicking here.

Mini-Podcasts – Overview
There are 7 mini podcasts in this episode:

1. Introduction (losing my voice)
I talk about the new mini mobile podcasts and what to expect in the future.

2. Idioms with ‘about’
I teach you some common idioms and expressions using the word ‘about’

3. Government Cuts
At the moment in the UK the government is making large cuts to public spending. What will be the effect of those cuts on the funding of BBC Learning English? Are we going to lose BBC Learning English? This is an example of how we are living in an increasingly connected society where economic conditions in one country immediately effect people in other countries.

4. How to make the perfect cup of tea
I talk to my colleague Richard McNeff about making the perfect cup of tea. Listen closely for language for ‘how to describe a process’ – which is exactly the kind of thing you need to do in an IELTS writing exam.

5. Computer Games
Are games an art form like movies and television? What about the characters, the stories and the graphics?

6. New Guitar
I’ve got a new guitar and I’d like to play you a song. It’s a comedy song – remember that – it is supposed to be funny! So, look for the jokes in the lyrics of the song. The lyrics are printed below:

Bill Bailey – Hats Off To The Zebras (Tribute to Brian Adams)

The horse is a noble beast
From the mustangs of the west
To the stallions of the east
But the horse has a distant cousin
It lives I-do-not-know-where
But it’s message of racial harmony is one that we all can share

Hats off to the zebras
They are black and white
But they don’t fight
‘Cos they’re not very good at it

In a world of confusion
We all need a sign
If only we could live side by side
Like the stripes down a zebras spine

Hats of to the zebras, yeah

The humble badger
Takes a sip of morning dew
He’s totally colourblind
So he can’t judge you

But the badger is a dreamer
The badger has a plan
He knows that his destiny
Is to help his fellow man

Hats off to the badger
He is black and white
But he doesn’t fight
Except for mating rights and territory

Black man and a white man
Both they need to shave
United by the badger brush
He’s helping from beyond the grave

Hats off to the badger
What about the tapeer
Half zebra half pig
Imagine the stig-ma
But the tapeer stands proud
Hats off to the tapeer

Badgers and zebras
Skunks, oh yeah
Little ring-tailed leemurs
Living together in harmony

And if the killer whales can do it, why can’t we?
Tell me why can’t we?

It’s a song about how we can use the examples of black and white animals to learn to live together in racial harmony.

For the the funniest lines are “because they’re not very good at it…” and “except for mating rights and territory”

7. Sentence Stress / Intonation / Get Candy!
In this one I demonstrate the importance of sentence stress and intonation in emphatic speech. Listen to the same text read twice. First time I read with flat intonation. It sounds dull and meaningless. Second time I add emphasis, stress and intonation – it sounds more passionate and meaningful.

Here’s the text below. You should practise listening to it, marking where I pause and emphasize. Then say the text and try to copy the way I do it. Listen to the previous podcast about halloween to head a real comedian reading the text.

So the first time you hear the concept of halloween, when you’re a kid. Do you remember the first time you even heard about it? It’s like, your brain can’t even… “what is this? who’s giving out candy? Someone’s giving out candy? who is giving out this candy? Everyone we know is just giving out candy?? I gotta be a part of this, take me with you, I want to do it, I’ll do anything that they want! I can wear that. I’ll wear anything I have to wear. I’ll do anything I have to do. I will get the candy from these fools, that are so stupidly giving it away!”