Category Archives: Science

734. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 1] Learn English with Stories

Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.

Audio Version

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Video Version

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 3

Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.

The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.

Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.

I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.

The aims of this episode

To entertain you with a really engaging story in English.
Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.

To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English.
It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language.
Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style.
This can really strengthen your English in various ways.

To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way.
Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.

To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book.
Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.

This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.

You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Context of the story and the writing style

War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.

This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.

This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.

The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.

A note about the language and the writing style

The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.

As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.

Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.

There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.

Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.

This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.

This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.

This is quite scary stuff

I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.

Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.

Useful Links & Sources

Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.

Project Gutenberg
I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.

Link to War of the Worlds html version
www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm

CourseHero Study Notes
Also there’s a website called coursehero.com which has useful summaries of the story and other useful information.
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/

Summarising the opening chapters

These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens

That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.

Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.

Ogilvy the Astronomer

The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.

So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.

6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.

Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.

Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.

6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.

As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.

The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.

The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.

Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.

The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.

The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.

The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder.
Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful)
Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.

IV.
THE CYLINDER OPENS.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice:
“Keep back! Keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
“He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one.
“Keep back!” said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
“I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!”
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
[It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one]
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.

Summary of Chapter 4

As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered.
A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.
Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents.
One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd.
The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit.
The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere.
The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line.
The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.

To be continued in part 2…

732. Christian from Canguro English returns

Talking to Christian again about some of the themes and controversial opinions he talks about in his YouTube videos, plus some bits about men wearing thongs on the beach, an obsession with rabbits and if Christian was the Donald Trump of English teaching. Video version available.

Audio Version

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Video Version

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

How are you today? You are now listening to episode 732, and in this one I am talking again to Christian Saunders from Canguro English.

This is the second time I’m talking to him on the podcast. I previously interviewed Christian in episode 686 last year and got to know him a bit, but I wanted to talk to him again after having seen some of his most recent videos on YouTube about language and language learning.

In his videos Christian often challenges certain assumptions and myths about language learning, and so I thought it might be interesting to talk to him about those things, so I came up with some questions about language, learning language and teaching English on the internet.

There is a video version of this conversation on my YouTube channel too, so don’t forget to check it out and of course to like and subscribe while you’re there.

There’s no more for me to add here in the introduction. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get some good things from it. Once again, Christian’s YouTube channel is called Canguro English and his website is canguroenglish.com

Let’s get started.


So that was Christian from Canguro English. Thanks again to Christian.

And here we are, at the end of yet another episode. I wonder what you thought of the points which came up in that conversation? Feel free to let us know in the comment section or perhaps under the YouTUbe version of this. Where do you stand on things like comprehensible input, workbooks and clickbait titles? Let us know.

For me, this is one of the last episodes I’m recording before officially starting my summer holiday. As usual I have loads of stuff to record and publish before I go away, and I might end up recording some of it while I am back in the UK. But here’s a little overview of what’s in the pipeline right now.

  • A Summer Ramble
  • War of the Worlds
  • P31

So I have my work cut out.

In terms of holiday – we’re going back to the UK to stay at my parents’ place and we will have to deal with the whole quarantine thing, and the day 2 and day 8 testing process and all that. It’s quite annoying. But after we quarantine we will be going to a posh camp site for some “glamping” and generally spending a couple of weeks in the UK.

Meanwhile our new flat in Paris is being demolished (on the inside) and remade to our specifications. Let’s hope that all goes according to plan.

I’ll talk more about this stuff in that rambling episode which is coming up.

In any case, I will speak to you again soon.

But for now, it’s time to say, good bye bye bye…

700. Marooned With My Music: Luke Thompson

Guest host Oli Thompson interviews Luke using a classic format from BBC Radio. Luke is going to be marooned on a desert island but he is allowed to bring 8 pieces of music, one book and a luxury item. For episode 700 this is a chance to get to know Luke and his musical choices a little better. (Transcript and text video versions available)

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD]

Download 100% Transcript

Text Video Version

My 8 Musical Choices

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness

Cheese & Onions by The Rutles

We’ve Got Johnny Wells by Booker T & The MGs

And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles

To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen

Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius

Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)

Rule My World by Kings of Convenience

Full Spotify Playlist including loads of music I couldn’t choose as part of my 8 pieces

680. Park Life – A Year in The Wildlife Of An Urban Park (by Rick Thompson) / Animal Collective Nouns

My dad has written a book and it’s all about the wildlife you can find in an urban English park. He’s on the podcast to tell us all about it, and there are some collective nouns for animals too, plus some bonus stand up comedy at the end.

[DOWNLOAD]

LEP Premium Promo www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

Hello  listeners, this is a reminder about LEP Premium, which is my other podcast service. With episodes of LEP Premium I focus specifically on language, helping you understand, remember and pronounce target vocab and grammar. I’m currently still deep into premium series 24 which is about homophones, but also you can access an archive of over 80 episodes now both audio and video, all about teaching you the kind of English that I speak, and there are plenty of stupid improvisations and jokes and things too. Get started by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

Introduction Transcript

Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast – this award-winning podcast for learners of English. Yes, the podcast has won a few awards over the years, but not lately. The last few years have been quiet, on the award front. If you see any competitions for best podcast for learners of English, or something, let me know!

Speaking of competitions, I’ve been thinking of launching another listener competition, and I’m wondering what you think. The competition would involve you recording yourself speaking and sending it into the podcast, then people would vote for their favourite and that person would then get interviewed in a full episode of the podcast. This idea was sent to me some time ago by a listener called Vadim. What do you think? I haven’t fully decided to do it yet, so let me know what you think of this new competition idea from Vadim.

But anyway, what about this episode then?

Park Life – A Year in the Wildlife of an Urban Park

As promised, this episode features my dad, which should be good news for all the Rick Thompson fans out there. As you might know we sometimes call my dad Rickipedia because he knows so much stuff about so many things, although it might be unreliable from time to time.

People often say that my dad should start his own podcast, as his episodes are so popular. He still hasn’t created a podcast of his own, but I am glad to say that he has written a book. 

The book is called “Park Life – A year in the Wildlife of an Urban Park”

The book is available for you to read. You can find it on Amazon.com and also Bookdepository.com (free shipping).

In this episode I’m going to talk to my dad about the book he’s written including a broader discussion of urban parks in the UK – green public spaces which perform an increasingly important role in UK life.

We start by talking about the book, what it’s about, how he was inspired to write it and what style it’s written in. Then we move on to describe some of the wildlife you can find in a local English urban park. Then we discuss some history of urban parks and the health benefits of spending time in green spaces. 

Also there are some collective nouns for different animals, including things like “a murder of crows” and “an unkindness of ravens”. Keep listening to hear some more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation. I’ll chat with you a bit afterwards, but now, here is Rick Thompson talking about his new book.

—–

Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Dad for being on the podcast today. Once again, check Amazon or BookDepository for Rick Thompson Park Life to pick up a copy of my dad’s book for yourself.

In fact the book has already picked up a 5 star rating on Amazon from someone called Princesslizzykins

I have no idea who she is, but this is her review.

5.0 out of 5 stars

 A wonderful read.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 September 2020

What a beautifully and thoughtfully written book.

A super balance of content between wildlife and local history, with some lovely poetic references thrown in, this book shows how anyone can escape the haste of urban life and take a moment to look at and love the world around them.

I live in Warwick, so have the added benefit of knowing the localities mentioned, but would recommend this to absolutely anyone that has an urban park near them and enjoys a damn good read.

Thumbs up for Dad. Nice one.

We’re not done here yet, I have some more things to do in this episode.

First of all, you heard me mention the stand up comedy gig that I had on Sunday and I did the gig and it went fine. I recorded it so I’ll play a few minutes of that at the end of the episode.

But first, let me go through some more collective nouns for animals. This is a really interesting and curious aspect of English – the way we use different words to collectivise different animals.

You heard us mention some there, and I’ve included them in this list too. So here is a list of common collective nouns for animals.

More Collective Nouns for Animals

  • A school of whales
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A flock of sheep
  • A nest of rabbits
  • A litter of puppies
  • A flock of pigeons
  • A parliament of owls
  • A troop of monkeys
  • A pride of lions
  • A swarm of insects / flies / bees
  • A colony of gulls
  • A charm of finches
  • A murder of crows
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A pack of dogs
  • An army of frogs
  • An array of hedgehogs
  • A mischief of mice

That’s it for this episode then! Don’t forget to check out LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

As promised earlier, here are a few minutes from my stand up set on Sunday evening. There was one LEPster in the audience by the way, who had come because he’d seen the gig advertised on my facebook page www.facebook.com/lukecomedian So, shout out to that LEPster!

Anyway, this was my first gig since Christmas, but it was great to be back on stage again and I should be doing more gigs this year, lockdown permitting.

So this is me on stage at the New York Comedy Night in Paris last Sunday. Thanks for listening and speak to you again soon. Bye…

672. The Rick Thompson Report: COVID / BREXIT / BLM (July 2020)

Talking to my dad about recent developments in the UK relating to coronavirus & Brexit with a cameo appearance by Gill Thompson talking about statues.

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report.

In the Rick Thompson Report I talk to my dad about the issues of the day, news and current affairs from the UK, especially politics.

The last time we spoke was in episode 652 at the beginning of the lockdown. We talked about COVID-19, how the government was handling it, what kind of crisis it could become.

Now, recording this at the start of July 2020, the world is coming out of lockdown in many areas. Are we out of it now, or are some places still affected? What’s been going on in the UK all this time? And will the government be ready to properly leave the EU at the end of the year when the transition period ends?

With his usual clarity then, here is my dad, Rick Thompson, to talk about these things.

And here we go.


Outro

There you are then. That was the Rick Thompson Report for July 2020 here on planet earth, specifically focusing on the UK sector.

Thanks again to Dad for taking the time to talk to me on the podcast today and for taking me to Wembley Stadium once in 1991 to see the FA Cup Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest. I was a Nottingham Forest fan but I also liked Tottenham and we went along and it was amazing. I saw some of my heroes like Stuart Pearce, Gary Linaker and Paul Gascgoine. So, thanks for that Dad. Forest lost the game but it was still amazing.

Anyway, what’s up with you?
How’s your English?
How’s that lockdown treating you?

Hey, can you do me a favour? Could you send me a message telling me what your favorite kind of LEP episode is?

What’s your favourite kind of LEP Episode?

Here are some categories

  • Talking to guests I don’t really know
  • Talking to guests I do know, like my family and friends, James, Amber & Paul
  • Talking about learning English with strategies and advice
  • Episodes about specific topics like 666, films, music and so on, often with James
  • Conversations with my wife
  • Listening to comedy and breaking it down
  • Explaining jokes and dissecting the frog
  • Rambling monologues
  • Made up stories and improvisations
  • Voices, impressions and characters
  • The Rick Thompson Report
  • Gill’s Book Club
  • Luke’s Film Club
  • Vocabulary, Idioms or Slang
  • Exploring a British TV show
  • Detective Stories and Mysteries
  • Something else

I think that’ll do for now.

Let me know what your favourite type of episode is. It’ll help me think of more ideas in the future.

You can write an email to me, leave a comment under the episode, or tweet me @EnglishPodcast

That’s it for this episode, thank you for listening. I will speak to you again in the next one, but for now – good bye!

652. The Rick Thompson Report: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Talking to my dad about what’s happening in the UK at the moment, how serious this pandemic is, what the consequences might be and how the UK’s government is responding to it.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

Hello listeners out there in the world. How are you? I hope you’re ok. What a weird time this is on planet earth.

Here’s my second episode about the coronavirus which is currently sweeping across the globe in fairly dramatic fashion.

This one is an episode of the Rick Thompson Report on Luke’s English Podcast and this is where I talk to my dad, who is a semi-retired journalist, about current affairs and politics.

Obviously, the big story at this moment is the coronavirus COVID-19. So let’s hear what my dad has to say about it.

This is the second episode I’ve done on the subject. Yesterday I uploaded an episode which covers some of the key vocabulary relating to this issue. If you’d like to know some specific words and phrases that will help you to talk about this topic, then go back and listen to episode 652. Listening to that first should help you understand this conversation better and the idea is that getting specific teaching from me and then just listening to a conversation about it, you’ll be better equipped with the right language for your own conversations in English.

There’s also another episode in the archive which is all about vocabulary and phrasal verbs for feeling ill. That is episode 40. So, two episodes with specific explanations of high-frequency vocabulary on the coronavirus and on feeling ill in general.

40. Health / Feeling ill – Phrasal Verbs & Expressions

651. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vocabulary

Neither of us are experts on this subject of course but my dad does his best to stay informed about things like this and my listeners often comment that they appreciate the clear way he describes what’s going on.

Our conversation focuses mainly on what’s happening in the UK at the moment, how serious this pandemic is, what the consequences might be and how the UK’s government is responding to it.

Just before we start, I want to give you a quick reminder of two words – a cold and the flu.

A cold or the common cold is what we call a mild virus that people typically catch during the winter. It’s not very serious, just annoying really. Having a cold usually means having a sore throat, a bit of a cough, perhaps a headache or a runny nose, but you can still usually work or do the things you usually do even if you feel a bit run down. That’s a cold and we say ‘to have a cold’ or ‘to have got a cold’ or ‘to catch a cold’ when you refer to the moment you become infected. “I’ve got a cold”, “I’ve caught a cold” or “I’m coming down with a cold” or “I’m getting over a cold” (recovering). So that’s a cold – not serious, but very common.

Then there’s the flu (full name: influenza) which is also very common but much worse because it usually knocks you off your feet. If you have the flu you will have to stay at home, probably stay in bed for several days. The flu gives you much stronger symptoms, like a very bad cough, a high temperature, aches and pains in your body, weakness, very sore throat and sometimes diarrhea. “I’ve got the flu” or “I’ve caught the flu” or “I’m coming down with the flu”. So that’s the flu. More serious than having a cold.

I just wanted to clarify those things because in my experience there’s always some uncertainty from learners of English about the exact difference between a cold and the flu and they are words that come up in this conversation.

OK. I will talk to you again at the end of the episode, but now, let’s talk to my dad and here we go.


Professor Graham Medley on BBC Newsnight yesterday

Ending

Right, so there we go.

Thank you again to Dad for his contribution.

I wonder what you think of the UK’s position on this whole thing? I expect some people will definitely disagree with the apparently casual approach that the government is taking. Is it irresponsible not to close the schools and put the country on lockdown? Is it possible to really stop this happening? Is it better to let the population get exposed to the virus, in order to create herd immunity, or is that just irresponsible? Is it realistic to imagine that putting everyone in isolation will curb this? I don’t know all the answers, but I am curious to read comments from people in different countries.

What is going on where you are?

Get in touch, leave a comment on the website. Where are you? In which country do you live? What is the situation there? What are people doing and saying?

So, this is all pretty weird isn’t it? It’s like something out of a film. The whole world is facing this situation and it is really impacting on our daily lives.

Speaking for myself, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how long this is going to go on. I don’t know the extent to which the country will be on lockdown, and as a result I don’t know how the podcast will be affected. In terms of LEP Premium, as I said, there is a new series coming very soon and I just have to put the finishing touches to it before publishing it as soon as possible. The series is about common errors, this first one dealing specifically with some linking words of contrast, like despite, in spite of and although, plus some spelling and pronunciation of tricky words. To sign up to LEP Premium in order to hear all the episodes (and there are over 60 of them now) go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium.

There are worse ways to spend your time than using my content to really push your English.

My thoughts go out to you if you are directly affected by this.

What more can I say than just “keep calm and carry on”.

I don’t know if I will be referring to this again in future episodes, this isn’t the coronavirus podcast. In future episodes it will just be business as usual, as long as I manage to get the time to produce more content. I might be spending all my time just hanging out with my daughter and keeping her busy. We will see.

But as I said, leave your comments on the website and I will speak to you soon. First in a premium episode and then in other episodes of LEP which are yet to be decided.

Thanks for listening, speak to you next time, but for now, it’s bye bye bye….

Leave your comments to let us know what’s going on where you are.

651. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vocabulary

Explaining key vocabulary about the coronavirus (COVID-19) to help you talk about this global pandemic in English.

Small Donate Button

[DOWNLOAD]

Episode Notes, Transcripts & Links

Hello ladies and gentlemen, here is an episode about the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19), which is the #1 story in the news around the world at the moment. It’s something that we are all facing; me, you, everyone.

In this episode the plan is to;

a) Talk a little bit about the situation where I live and how this might affect me, my family and the podcast.

b) Go through a list of vocabulary items in order to help you learn the right words you need to talk about this situation in English. This will contain various medial words, and also general words being used day to day by people talking about this situation.

c) Go through some language to describe “how to wash your hands”. That’s not public health advice, it’s just quite interesting from a language point of view. How do you describe the process of washing your hands correctly? It’s something many of us are doing, and talking about a lot at the moment. How do you describe it in English?

So, a bit of a ramble and then lots of key vocabulary.

Let’s get started.


I wasn’t planning to talk about this but the situation has just reached a new stage here in France where I live and also people keep asking me to talk about it.

I’d like to echo the comments of Jurgen Klopp the manager of Liverpool FC, which I briefly mentioned in episode 649.

Essentially he said (and I’m paraphrasing) Why do people ask me to talk about it? I’m a football manager, but in terms of the virus, I am the same as you. I’m just a normal person. People should ask experts, not me. I’m just a guy in a baseball cap who hasn’t shaved properly.

I’m a bit wary of talking about the subject because I’m not an expert on viruses. I’m just an English teacher. I’m happy to talk about my personal experiences of it – meaning, what’s going on here in France where I live or back in the UK, but I really don’t want to spread misinformation. I wouldn’t want to get any of the facts wrong. And there are various important facts that I just don’t know, like specific numbers of infected people, where the virus comes from specifically. I understand that it first infected people in the Wuhan area of China, that it probably originated in bats, then spread to an animal called a pangolin (which I had never heard of before this) and then to humans.

Anyway, I’ll talk more specifically later. The point is, I can only talk about it from my own personal point of view, rather than as a really well-informed commentator. I’m just like most of you, probably. Just trying to work out what is going on day by day. I’m wondering if I’m even qualified to talk about it.

Having said that, I think it’s important to address what’s going on. This podcast is for an international audience and this is very much an international thing. We are all united by the fact that we are now facing this global pandemic.

Also I think that most of you don’t really expect me to talk as an expert. You’re probably just interested in hearing about my personal experiences of the matter and learning some vocab.

There are all sorts of issues and questions to discuss. What’s going on? What is the situation in Europe? Why is this such a big deal? How is the UK government responding to this? What is happening in my life? What is going on around me? How am I dealing with this and in fact how might this affect Luke’s English Podcast over the next month or two?

There’s also the question of how to talk about the coronavirus. I mean, how can you talk about it in English? What kind of language is being used in people’s conversations about this?

So here’s what I’m going to do. At least two episodes which I hope to upload over the next couple of days, as long as I can manage my time correctly. I’m actually recording this one at about 11.40pm on 12 March. It’s nearly my bed time! Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I get enough rest.

So, those two episodes.

  1. A vocabulary episode
  2. A conversation with my dad

This is the vocabulary episode (you’re listening to it now) and the aim is to help you learn and then use the right words and expressions in English to describe this situation.

The next episode should be a Rick Thompson report. I say should because I haven’t actually had that conversation with my dad yet. It’s scheduled to happen tomorrow. If all goes according to plan I’ll talk to Dad about it tomorrow lunchtime and hopefully will upload it tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow evening.

This is quite a time-sensitive subject, so I really want to get both these episodes published as soon as possible.

I would also like to say, in terms of podcast content that I am uploading, that the situation has suddenly become a lot more serious here in France where I live.

The French President Emmanuel Macron this evening made an announcement that schools, universities and childcare centres will be closed for the foreseeable future. The country is on semi-lockdown. I’ll be explaining phrases like “on lockdown” in the main part of this episode.

So, because the daycare centre is closed it means that my wife and I will have to look after our daughter all the time. That’s not bad in itself. I mean, we quite like her. Haha.

But it does mean that suddenly a lot of our time will be taken up by looking after her, finding things to do with her and so on. It’s going to change everything in terms of our daily routines.

Also there’s the fact that we have to stay fit and healthy ourselves. It’s not completely clear to me what the risk is to our health. Apparently my wife, my daughter and I are not the ones who are in the danger zone. Elderly people and sick people are more likely to be seriously affected by this. So, touch wood, we will be alright even if we catch the disease. In fact, we might even have it already but not notice because it hasn’t really taken hold. So, fingers crossed, touch wood, we will still be fit and healthy and I will be physically well enough to podcast as well. The main thing is the disruption to our lives that could be caused by the daycare centre being closed, and potentially other things closing in the future like the public transport system, shops, and other services. We’re not at that stage yet. There are quite a lot of unknowns. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow with Dad, hopefully.

So I have no idea how this will affect LEP. It might disrupt the podcast, meaning that I won’t be able to upload new episodes. But equally, it might not. I have the advantage of being flexible. My wife also works for herself. So we’re planning to share time with our daughter, so for example I will look after her in the morning one day and my wife will work and vice versa. So who knows, it might not affect the podcast too much.

Premium subscribers, you might be looking at your apps and thinking, where’s the new content? Well, I have the first part of the new series ready and I was planning to upload it today but this coronavirus situation has taken over a little bit, mainly in the form of people around the world asking me to talk about it and I get the feeling that this is just something that I have to talk about.

So, the premium series (P21) will come straight away after I’ve done this episode and the next one with my dad. Premium episodes will arrive.

We don’t know how long this situation will last. In terms of the podcast (which is now my main job) I’m going to take it step by step. I might be podcasting in the evenings, maybe at night, when my daughter is sleeping, when she’s with my wife.

What about you? How is the coronavirus affecting life where you are?

There’s a good chance that in your country the situation is a lot more advanced than it is in France and the UK. I have a lot of listeners in China, Japan, Korea and Italy, which have been on lockdown for several weeks now. There may be other places which are now on lockdown too. I wonder how you are coping. Good luck out there! Keep your chin up!

English lacks exactly the right phrase for this. In French they say “Bon courage”. In Japanese it’s “Ganbatte!”. In English we say things like “ best of luck!” “Keep going!” “Keep calm and carry on”.

But really. This will be a tough time for many people out there. It could be very disruptive and hard. Hang in there. My thoughts are with you.

Right, so let’s get into some vocabulary.

What I would like to do is to teach you some key words and phrases for talking about this situation.

Remember I am not an expert. I don’t think you expect me to be, but still it is worth saying. I am sure I have listeners to this podcast who are more specialised than me in this area. I invite you to give your input in the comment section.

I’m trying my best to be as accurate as possible here, focusing on the sort of everyday words and phrases people use in normal life. For example, if you had a conversation with a friend or colleague about this, what language would probably come up? This is the stuff I’d like to talk about here. It’ll also be interesting to see if any of these phrases come up in my conversation with my dad tomorrow.

Dad will also be able to give commentary on the political situation in the UK, including how the UK’s government led by Boris Johnson is responding to this situation.

Right, so vocabulary of the coronavirus!

Full disclosure

Info for this comes from Wikipedia (which includes a full list of information sources), the NHS website and a word list on EnglishClub.com

I am reading some words and definitions from a page on EnglishClub.com, a website that publishes a lot of content for learning English, including vocabulary, grammar, infographics and more. They’re really on the ball because they’ve already published quite an extensive list of words and phrases with definitions and examples. So, I’ve picked out some of those phrases, not that they own the phrases or anything, but because I’m working against the clock here, I will be reading out some of the definitions and example sentences that they’ve added to their list. So, some of these details come from there. It probably doesn’t make that much difference to you, but credit where it’s due: EnglishClub.com

I’ve also added other phrases not in their list which I have noticed a lot.

COVID-19 Vocabulary

Information sources used by EnglishClub.com

  • Must-Know Vocab For COVID-19 (NPR)
  • Coronavirus (World Health Organization)
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (Wikipedia)
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (Wikipedia)

What is the coronavirus disease? (EnglishClub.com)

www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/coronavirus-covid19.php

coronavirus (noun): any one of a large family of viruses that can cause disease in the breathing and eating systems of humans and animals (respiratory and digestive systems). Coronavirus diseases can range from the relatively harmless common cold to more severe and potentially fatal diseases such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Seen through a microscope, coronaviruses appear circular with spikes, like crowns 👑, and are named after the Latin for crown, which is corona. Coronaviruses normally originate in animals and usually cannot be passed to humans. But very occasionally a coronavirus mutates and can then be transmitted from animal to human, and then from human to human. This is how the SARS epidemic started in the early 2000s, for example – Did you know that flu is a coronavirus disease?

COVID-19 (noun): official name for the novel coronavirus disease that emerged in China in 2019. COVID-19 = COronaVIrus Disease-2019. All countries are requested to report any new confirmed case of COVID-19 within 48 hours.

Let’s start by going through the first couple of paragraphs on Wikipedia. I’m just going to read through that and explain things as I go.

All sources referenced here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronavirus_disease_2019

Wikipedia page for Coronavirus Disease 2019

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).[7] The disease has spread globally since 2019, resulting in the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.[8][9] Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Muscle pain, sputum production and sore throat are some of the less common symptoms.[3][10] While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms,[11] some progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure.[8][12] The case fatality rate is estimated at between 1% and 5% but varies by age and other health conditions.[13][14][15]

The infection is spread from one person to others via respiratory droplets, often produced during coughing.[16][17] Time from exposure to onset of symptoms is generally between two and 14 days, with an average of five days.[18][19][20] The standard method of diagnosis is by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) from a nasopharyngeal swab or sputum sample. Antibody assays can also be used, using a blood serum sample.[21] The infection can also be diagnosed from a combination of symptoms, risk factors, and a chest CT scan showing features of pneumonia.[22][23]

Recommended measures to prevent the disease include frequent hand washingmaintaining distance from other people, and not touching one’s face.[24] The use of masks is recommended for those who suspect they have the virus and their caregivers, but mask use is not recommended for the general public.[25][26] There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19; management involves treatment of symptoms, supportive care, and experimental measures.[27]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak a pandemic[9] and a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).[28][29] Evidence of local transmission of the disease has been found in multiple countries across all six WHO regions.[30]

Vocabulary List from EnglishClub.com

www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/coronavirus-covid19.php

How to Wash Your Hands

618. The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts (with Cara Leopold)

A conversation with Cara Leopold about the climate crisis including descriptions of key charts, graphs and data. Notes and transcripts available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast.

It’s International Podcast Day today, which is nice! Monday 30 September 2019.

Luke rambles about International Podcast Day for a couple of minutes… www.internationalpodcastday.com

The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts

So, what about this episode of the podcast which is called “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts”?

In this one I am joined by English teacher Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com to talk about what must now be the number 1 issue facing the world, and that is the climate crisis. It’s bigger than Brexit, bigger than the latest scandal involving Trump or other leaders, it’s bigger than the fact that you’ve just made a cup of tea but there’s no milk in the fridge. This is bigger than all those things.

The title “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts” is actually the title of an article on The Guardian’s website which is all about certain key facts and figures explaining the climate crisis.

www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/20/the-climate-crisis-explained-in-10-charts

In order to get a bit more specific and look at some data on the subject Cara and I decided to go through this article which contains various graphs and charts illustrating the way climate change is happening and what the likely knock-on effects are. There are also charts about the growth of green energy and other possible solutions.

In terms of learning English, there is language here to look out for. Obviously there’s the language we use to talk about the climate, changing weather systems and the other aspects of this issue. But also you’re going to hear us using language to describe data, charts and graphs, which is very useful language if you have to write reports in English or when you write the Writing Part 1 task in the academic version of IELTS.

So listen out for descriptive verbs and other terms for describing changes and trends.

My guest for this episode is Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com

Here’s some info about Cara

Cara helps intrepid travellers and adventurous expats improve their English listening skills through movies and TV shows so they can understand native speakers, even when they talk fast. Her website is Leo-listening.com. She has been on this podcast before, talking about learning English from TV and films in episode 523.

523. Tips for Learning English with Films & TV Shows (with Cara Leopold)

In this episode, first Cara and I talk about our personal experiences of recent changes in the weather and our concerns for the future and then we get stuck into the article. You’ll find a link to that article on the page for this episode on the website. You can hear us describing the charts, and discussing the significance of the data.

So, let’s get started. All you have to do is keep up with the conversation and spot the useful bits of vocab.

I’ll speak to you again on the other end of this conversation. But now, here we go…

Notes & Links from Cara

The Drilled podcast is all about climate denial and the fossil fuel industry. 

This is the theory (and I guess this as well) I mentioned about why we haven’t come into contact with aliens. I first heard about it on the Sam Harris podcast. 

This article by George Monbiot explains the environmental impact of meat and dairy really well. 

This explains the CO2 impact of flying really well.

Ending

So there you have it. Just a conversation about the climate crisis.

I’m not sure what else to add here so I would like to throw it over to you and to invite you to make comments in the comment section for this episode.

What do you think?

Have you noticed changes in the climate where you are living? How are these changes having an impact on people’s lives?

Have there been any climate crisis marches, strikes or other events where you are?

What is the political climate regarding climate change where you are?

Are there any things that you’re doing these days in an effort to play your part in the fight to reverse climate change?

And generally, what are your thoughts? I would very much like to know.

Leave your comments below. Share your thoughts on this subject.

565. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 5) 2018 with Amber Minogue

Talking to my friend Amber about some trending vocabulary and hot topics from 2018, like plastic pollution, dance crazes and the Brexit backstop. Includes discussion, language explanations, David Attenborough impressions and more. Notes available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello! How is Podcastland at the moment? How is LEPland? Does it look like Lapland at the moment? (It’s Christmas at the time of recording)

*Luke rambles a little bit about Lapland (a part of Finland where Father Christmas comes from) and LEPland (an imaginary place, populated by LEPsters – listeners to this podcast).*

This is episode 565 and it’s called The Collins Words of the Year (Part 5) 2018 with Amber Minogue. So…

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series about the words of the year. I expect you’ve already heard parts 1-4, which were about the words chosen from 2017. It’s now time to move on to the words from this year, from 2018.

Just a reminder – these are words selected by the makers of the Collins Dictionary for a list that they publish every year, their Words of the Year. The words are chosen because they’ve been used a lot this year and because they touch upon some big issues of the moment. So, this is interesting for LEP because of the vocabulary involved but also because it gives me a chance to talk about some trending issues of the moment, on this podcast.

Check out the page for this episode on the website where you’ll see the words (so you can be sure you know how they are spelt), and also various other notes, links and videos. The notes in particular contain other words and phrases that you will hear in these episodes, and this can help you to learn those bits of language too.

So now let’s move on to the words from 2018, this year. Just two more episodes to go in this series. I’m very happy, in this one, to be joined by Amber, so I hope you enjoy listening to the two of us wittering away, and going off on various tangents and telling little stories and so on, as we discuss the Words of the Year for 2018.

So, here we go…


Amber is raring to go! = she’s ready and eager to start

Single-use

Adjective: made to be used once only, and then thrown away or destroyed

It’s almost always followed by the word ‘plastic’

  • Single use plastic
  • Single use plastic bags
  • Single use plastic cutlery
  • Single use coffee cups
  • Single use straws
  • Single use hypodermic needles

In many cases “single-use” is the way the industry says “this is designed to be used once and then just thrown away”. It means “disposable”.

Vocabulary: Verbs for what you do with rubbish

  • to get rid of something
  • to throw something away
  • to chuck something away/out
  • to discard something
  • to dispose of something

Also

  • rubbish (UK) / trash (US)
  • litter (rubbish thrown on the floor)

Have you seen Blue Planet 2? It’s one of the UK’s most-watched documentary series. It’s incredible. It featured a whole episode about how the oceans are being devastated by pollution of various kinds, particularly plastic and it really brought the message home to viewers in the UK.

9 ways to reduce your plastic use (Greenpeace UK)
  • Carry a reusable bottle. In the UK we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day! …
  • Say no to plastic straws. Plastic straws are bad news for our oceans. …
  • Avoid excessive food packaging. …
  • Use refill stations for detergents. …
  • Say no to disposable cutlery. …
  • Get your milk delivered. …
  • Avoid microbeads. … (tiny bits of plastic often used in exfoliating products)
  • Carry a shopping bag.

Just a few small changes by everyone can make a big impact on this problem.

9 ways to reduce your plastic use

Reduce – reuse – recycle

Backstop

Noun: a system that will come into effect if no other arrangement is made

We think of Brexit and the Northern Ireland problem, and the fact that everyone keeps saying that we need a ‘backstop’ in the event of a no-deal. A backstop then is a kind of fallback position or a plan B that we can use if no other arrangement is made.

  • The Irish backstop
  • The border backstop
  • The Brexit backstop

This comes from baseball originally, but it’s been used so much because of Brexit and the Northern Ireland border issue.

Can you explain the Northern Ireland border issue?

*The following notes about the Brexit backstop were not actually said in the episode*

Ireland/N.Ireland is where the only land border between UK and EU will/would be. This is an issue because nobody wants a hard border there. It brings back painful memories of the troubles, when border posts were often the targets of bombs. We just don’t want to go back to those times in any way. Things are still sensitive there and we all want to maintain the peace. Putting a hard border there with border posts might trigger the conditions for conflict again.

So, the UK and EU have both agreed to a guarantee that there won’t be a hard border there. This arrangement is known as the backstop. It’s a safety net to prevent a hard border. As far as I can tell, it’s not very well-defined and it’s not really a good solution because it effectively guarantees some kind of soft border and various advantages for Northern Ireland in which people and goods there will be able to move across the border without having to stop and be checked thoroughly.

Even though Theresa May is guaranteeing that the border issue won’t be a problem because we’ll find a solution and we have this backstop guarantee, The UK and EU are both unhappy with this. The EU are unhappy because it’s essentially like leaving the back door open. You can’t really have an open spot in one part of the EU’s border without it compromising an essential aspect of EU membership, which is the protection of the free trade zone. The UK aren’t happy because Scotland will feel it’s unfair. “We want special treatment too. How come people of N Ireland get this soft deal (moving in and out of the EU freely, while not being part of it) and we don’t? We don’t even want Brexit in Scotland.” This could be a flashpoint for Scotland leaving the UK and the breakup of the UK. It’s just another crack in the whole Brexit shitplate. (Shitplate isn’t really a word. I just came up with it, and I think it means a plate made of shit, which now has a crack in it)

(the) Floss

Noun: a dance in which people twist their hips in one direction while swinging their arms in the opposite direction with the fists closed

This is the latest dance craze.

Describe it

Swing your arms with fists clenched in front and behind your body, while swinging (not twisting) your hips from side to side. It’s more difficult than it looks.

A Brief history

Some time in 2016 a kid with a backpack posted a video of himself doing the floss. It went viral. Then in 2017 Katy Perry filmed a video featuring the floss and it went stratospheric. She then featured backpack kid in a performance on SNL and loads of people posted videos of themselves flossing, tutorial videos and all that, and everyone started doing it.

It completely passed me by, I’ll be honest! Because I’m both too old (because it’s not part of my world) and too young (because I don’t have kids at the right age to know about it).

Other dance crazes from history

The twist, the loco-motion, the mashed potato, the watusi, the funky chicken, the hitch hike, the YMCA, the running man, the robot, the moonwalk, the macarena, Gangnam style, etc etc.

Gammon

Noun: a person, typically male, middle-aged, and white, with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union

A pejorative term describing a certain type of person. What’s the profile of a typical ‘gammon’?

Appearance
They’re called gammons because of the way they look – they’ve often got these pinkish faces, flushed skin, maybe it’s because of age or drinking or something, but the term is used because they look like gammon.

What’s gammon? It’s a kind of cooked ham, which is a standard pub meal. Gammon steak with chips, maybe egg and a slice of pineapple too.

Attitudes
You often see them on the TV, particularly on shows like Question Time asking angry questions and generally acting like stereotypical small-minded little Englanders. They’re always disgusted, outraged, angry, shocked, and seem to imagine that Britain was best when it was bombing or being bombed by the Germans. 

“We got through WW2, we can get through Brexit!” (a lot of people didn’t get through WW2 though, did they?)

BBC Question Time “Gammon of the Week” (Welsh edition)

The gammon backlash
There is a backlash to this term, from the people targeted by this word. They’re now saying it’s a form of racism.

Is it a racist term?

Arguably the word “gammon” is a form of racist abuse, targeting a certain type of lower-middle class or working class, middle-aged white male. It’s a form of name-calling, which is never good in a civilised debate.

Gaslight

Verb: to attempt to manipulate (a person) by continually presenting them with false information until they doubt their sanity

This word has come up on the podcast before! It’s almost as if us talking about it brought it back into the popular consciousness.

Have you ever been gaslighted? Do you know any cases of it?

MEL B said she was gaslighted by her husband (see link)

www.theguardian.com/music/2018/dec/01/mel-b-i-got-used-to-lying-i-didnt-want-anyone-to-find-out

Gaslighting / Hobson’s Choice / Burlap Sack – Do you remember when Amber and I talked about these words before? 

Amber and I have discussed gaslighting before on this podcast. We also talked about some other phrases we’d noticed a lot. That was in episode 431 of this podcast.

431. Restaurants & Hotels / Really Strange TripAdvisor Reviews (with Amber)

MeToo

Adjective: denoting a cultural movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace

Talked about it on the podcast with Jessica from Honestly English.


If you don’t know what plogging is and you would like to know, you’ll have to listen to the next part of this series, which will be part 6 in fact – that’s episode 566, coming very soon (possibly available now in fact, depending on when you’re listening to this).

So that was us talking about single-use, the Northern Ireland backstop, the floss, gammons, gaslighting and MeToo.

Not much conversation between us about #MeToo there, mainly because I’ve already talked about it on the podcast recently and I don’t want to go over the same ground again. You can go back to episode 556 if you want to hear more. We talked positively about it. Obviously, #MeToo is a complex issue which has its critics as well.

For example, I’ve put a video on the page for this episode in which a few comedians from the States talk  about the #MeToo movement (Bill Burr is one of them) in a more critical manner, not just ranting against it for whatever reason, but having an intelligent conversation expressing some degrees of scepticism and all that.

So, if you want, have a look at the video, it’s on the page for this episode. (below)

Otherwise, just stick around for the next part in which we talk about plogging, (and explain what it is – and there’s nothing sexual about that, I think!) and tons of other stuff.

Thank you for listening to my podcast. That’s pretty much the end of this episode. Just a couple of reminders before we finish…

Become a Premium LEPster and get access to the growing library of Premium episodes of this podcast. The premium episodes all focus on language. Often I use conversations I’ve had on the podcast, mine them for vocabulary and grammar (I dig out the vocab and grammar) and then present that language to you in the clearest and most helpful way that I can. They’re basically English lessons from me, with pronunciation drills, PDF worksheets and everything. When you sign up for Premium you get access to all those episodes, plus all the new ones which come out every month. A Phrasal Verb a Day is now in the premium package, which means new mini phrasal verb lessons on a regular basis, plus little bonuses here and there like video versions of some episodes of the podcast and so on. That’s all available for the price of a coffee, tea or beer once a month, and by the way I don’t necessarily use that to drink coffee, tea or beer – the money helps to support this podcast and the time I spend on it. To sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Sign up to the mailing list on my website to get a link in your inbox whenever I upload normal episodes of this podcast. You can use that link to go straight to the episode page where you’ll find the notes, scripts, videos and the comment section. Also, if I post website-only content, you’ll get emails for that too, and sometimes I do upload website-only stuff, including music mixes, DVD commentaries and other stuff that doesn’t go on the podcast. Just go to the website and sign up for the mailing list there, it’s free.

Also, check the episode archive for everything I’ve uploaded to this website.

That’s it then, I’ll speak to you again very soon in the 6th and final part of this episode and then you can hear all about plogging and what the hell it actually is!

Thanks finally to Amber for being my guest in this episode.

Speak to you in the next part. Bye!


563. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 3)

More vocabulary explanations & discussion of big issues, including how social media affects our worldview, the pros and cons of fidget spinners and debates about gender identity, including thoughts on the new female Doctor in Doctor Who. Transcript available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Part 3 – Transcript (99% complete)

Welcome back to part 3 of this series I’m doing about the Collins Dictionary Words of the Year. I’m going through the list of words from 2017 and then the plan is to move onto the words for 2018 and talk about them with Amber. She’s coming round here tomorrow morning actually.

So the Words of the Year – Collins select these lists of words every year, based on which words they’ve noticed being used a lot in this 12 month period. They’re not necessarily new words, and they might be phrases made from existing words. The main thing is that these words have risen in use significantly during the period and as a result they tap into issues, events and feelings that are very current.

Talking about the words of the year on the podcast is both a way for me to explore some vocabulary and also just talk about some issues of the moment.

Check the page on the website for this episode in order to see a lot of the things I’m saying written there, as transcripts and for other information.

Talking about these words, and discussing them also involves using various other useful bits of vocabulary that you can learn from me. Listening to episodes of this podcast can help you raise your level of English, starting with your listening skills – but the benefits to your English can be many, including developing your awareness of pronunciation, expanding your vocabulary, noticing aspects of grammar and all of this helps you with your speaking skills too. That’s the plan. Certainly, listening regularly, listening for longer periods and listening to something that I hope holds your attention – this is all really healthy for your English, so let’s keep going.

I have 6 words/phrases to deal with in this episode, so let’s not hang about.

In part 1 of the series I talked about how Collins uses data to make its dictionaries and other language reference books and I talked for quite a long time about the phrase fake news which topped their Words of the Year list for 2017.

Then in part 2 I talked about other words in the list for 2017, including antifa, corbynmania, and cuffing season. 

I’ve got 6 words left. Let’s see if I can deal with them all in part 3 here. Let’s go.

Echo chamber

noun: an environment, especially on a social media site, in which any statement of opinion is likely to be greeted with approval because it will only be read or heard by people who hold similar views .

The concept is, that if you live in an echo chamber, you only ever hear your own opinions coming back to you.

Echo (a verb and a noun) is when you make a sound and it travels away from you and then bounces off a surface and comes back to you. It’s like if you’re in a huge hallway and you go “hello!” and you then hear your own voice coming back to you, saying “hello!”

Hello hello hello ? ? ?

Echo echo echo ! ! !

So the echo chamber idea – when you live in a world in which you only ever hear or read your own ideas.

Nowadays there is so much media content out there, including news and just different opinions and comments about the world, and we have the ability to filter out certain things.

Eventually, if you only choose to see or hear things that you like, you’ll never hear about any conflicting opinions, you’ll never face disagreement, contradiction, challenge or other points of view. This can be quite dangerous. It makes you soft and unprepared for your ideas to be challenged. It can make you small minded because you only get a blinkered view of the world – you don’t get exposed to different opinions and it makes you unaware of what’s really going on in the world. It’s like living in a bubble. When something big happens, it can seem totally shocking and unbelievable.

Weirdly, in this super connected world, we are less and less connected and more and more divided, as we put ourselves into these more carefully defined personal categories and only receive information that fits with that category, we become more separated from the experiences of other groups of people.

That’s the theory behind the expression, echo chamber. Generally, this expression is a buzz word for this whole phenomenon.

Filtering out opposing viewpoints and living in a bubble.

These circumstances can push us away from each other, and make it harder to understand different opinions.

The results of the Brexit referendum and US presidential election in 2016 were both greeted with disbelief and shock by some people. The people on the losing side could not understand how their opponents refused to have their opinions changed by apparently reasonable arguments, while the winners remained convinced of the rightness of their own cause.

Basically, we were surprised and shocked by the existence of other points of view. Experts said that this situation was due to many people living in an ‘echo chamber’, where they only hear the views of people who share and reinforce their own opinions. This is increasingly possible when people form online communities that exclude any voices that challenge or threaten them.

For example, a lot of people no longer read newspapers or get their news from the TV. Instead they perhaps just look at Twitter to see what’s going on, but on Twitter you choose each and every account that you follow so you cherry pick the content, rather than just receiving the same information as everyone else.

Also it’s quite common to block people who disagree with you or argue with you. The result is an echo-chamber. And it’s not just for people who didn’t vote for Trump or Brexit. There are right-wing echo chambers too, including social media sites that welcome the types of opinions that are not really accepted by more conventional social media. So everyone is capable of living in an echo chamber.

The term ‘echo chamber’ originally referred to a room that scientists constructed to create echoes for use in sound recording or experiments.

Echo chambers are used to create real echoes which can be used for music or sound recording, instead of relying on digital echo (delay) effects.

Often the best echo chambers for music are bathrooms because they have those shiny ceramic tiles that let the sound bounce around nicely. That’s one of the reasons it’s nice to sing in the shower. Your voice echoes off the tiles and it sounds pretty good!

The idea of an environment where you can hear your own voice repeated back to you made this a perfect metaphor for the world of social media, where many people only talk with those who agree with them, thus creating a rather distorted picture of what the world is really like.

Do you live in an echo chamber?

A real echo chamber in a music studio. Actual echo chambers are used to create genuine echo and reverb effects. Check it out! What a cool studio!

Fidget spinner

noun: a small toy comprising of two or three prongs arranged around a central bearing, designed to be spun by the fingers as means of improving concentration or relieving stress.

This is so 2016/2017. I don’t know if people still use them or talk about them. Perhaps kids these days have moved on and talking about fidget spinners is not cool at all.

They look a bit like little wheels and you hold them between your fingers, flick them and they spin around and around quite satisfyingly. They’re fun to just fidget with, and fidgeting with them is quite addictive.

So, it’s just a fun toy that spins in your hand, right? No arguments and politics here, right? Nope – even fidget spinners divide people too!

Let’s look at the for & against.

For
It’s fun!
People say they’re good for kids with ADHD and autism.

From iheisthmus.com www.theisthmus.com.au/2017/06/fidget-spinners-the-for-the-against-the-important/

The biggest argument from the pro-spinners side is that they are a useful tool for kids with ADHD, autism, anxiety, and other similar conditions. Occupational therapist Sandra Mortimer said “It can help with emotional regulation for children feeling anxious, worried and nervous.”

While there is no academic research about fidget spinners in particular, fidget tools (such as putty and stress balls) have long been known to help with this. The lack of specific academic research is to be expected though– fidget spinners are only a few months old, and research takes literally forever (well, a really long time at least).

There are some pretty cool creative uses for it (although as far as I can see this just means letting them spin in different places). E.g. balance a spinner on your fingers, make them spin on a table and see how long it spins, throw them between your hands while they spin, spin them and switch them onto different fingers, spin it and put it onto your nose, etc…

Against
As a fidget tool – it’s not a very good one. It’s big, it requires hand eye coordination so kids have to look at it – so it’s actually very distracting. It’s hard to just spin it in your hand and not look at it. So you can’t use it while working for example, or just have it in your pocket. It tends to use all your concentration.

It’s just an annoying trend and they’ll probably be forgotten in a few years until they come back as the latest nostalgia toy.

Have you ever used one?

Do your kids have them?

Gender-fluid

adjective: not identifying exclusively with one gender rather than another

So, it means when people don’t feel they have a fixed gender. They might feel male sometimes and female at other times and perhaps even feel like they belong to some other gendered category that we don’t even really have the language to describe.

Oh no, we’re back on difficult territory again! This is another minefield of a topic.

Now I remember why I kept putting off doing this episode! Too many trigger warnings, potential problems and complexity! But it’s a big subject at the moment, so let’s have a look…

This word relates to people who don’t identify as having a fixed gender.

Noun: gender fluidity

Some quick examples from a Google News search for “gender fluid”.

Pearl Mackie: It’s 2017- the Doctor is gender fluid
PinkNews-Dec 15, 2017
Outgoing Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie has responded to the backlash against a female Doctor, saying that the Doctor is gender fluid and the gender of the actor doesn’t matter.

Loki will be pansexual and gender-fluid in new Marvel novel
Washington Blade Dec 13, 2017
Marvel is releasing a series of three novels focusing on anti-heroes in 2019. One novel will focus on Loki, Thor’s adopted brother and nemesis. Author Mackenzi Lee took to Twitter to answer questions about the project and informed fans that Loki is “canonically a pansexual and genderfluid character.”

Men in skirts: gender-fluid fashion is no longer a novelty
Times LIVE-Dec 14, 2017
The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Zulus, Scots and countless others didn’t wear trousers and no one thought of them as effeminate. [Luke: I challenge anyone to find a bunch of Scottish men in kilts and to tell them they are effeminate! Ha! Good luck with that pal.] The same could be said of jewellery and many other fashion items. We spoke to a couple of experts to find out why gender-fluid fashion is trending.

Some people see this as progress, others see it and just get really angry. They get ‘triggered’ by it, using that expression again from part 1 of this series.

I’m just not going to get into it at great length because I exhausted myself with “fake news” and “antifa” and I’m going to take a pass on this one.

Do you have an opinion on this?

It’s complex. It’s not just – do you mind that people define their identity outside the traditional binary gender roles. It’s not just that. It’s also things like how this affects various changes in society. Some people think it’s all progress, others are really losing their minds about it, other people are just putting their foot down and saying “wait, I don’t mind how you identify – you’re free to be whoever you want, but don’t force me to change my world” – that type of thing.

Gender-fluid people or transgender people are saying “Hey, it would be really nice and respectful if you could just acknowledge my identity and perhaps make a few changes to make me feel like I belong in this world – like maybe you can use different language to make me feel accepted – in fact, we’re working on making it illegal to refuse to do so”, and those who disagree are saying “you can’t force me to do things like use certain language by law”  – and then other people are far less respectful and reasonable in their dialogue, and there’s just a lot of abuse and hate speech flying around too. And then there are people like me who are going “what? Sorry, what? Who said… wait? Who’s right? What’s going on? What year is it???”

Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning Doctor Who again.

The 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker

So, as you may know, Doctor Who is a British science fiction TV show that’s been on television longer than a lot of people have been alive. I think it has the record as the longest running TV series ever, having started in 1963 and still going strong today.

In a nutshell, Doctor Who is about a time-travelling alien (who looks human and speaks English and everything) who travels around in a blue police box, generally saving the earth. It’s a lot of fun and is very inventive, creative and funny and many generations of people in the UK grew up as children watching the show. My parents grew up with it, my brother and I grew up with it, our nieces and nephews are growing up with it.

The character, called The Doctor, has actually died lots of times, but every time the Doctor dies – usually when he comes to the end of his current life-span, he regenerates in a new form.

Basically, at the end of a season the Doctor dies and then is reborn but with a new actor in the next season (or series as we usually say in British English actually!)

It’s a really cool way of keeping a TV series going. Each new incarnation of the Doctor is different in that they have a certain look, they have certain characteristics – brought by the different actor in the role each time, but also the Doctor always maintains certain core characteristics like charisma, leadership, strength, courage, eccentricity, humour, love for the humans and a desire to protect us, certain human companions and the blue spaceship or TARDIS (actually a craft that travels through both space and time).

There have been loads of actors playing the doctor over the years, and millions of us are very affectionate towards this character and the actors who have played him (or her).

Then this year, the producers of the show decided that the new Doctor would be played by a woman. Jodie Whittaker was chosen – a good British actress. So now, The Doctor is a woman. It turns out, the Doctor is a gender-fluid character. She doesn’t always regenerate as a man, she can regenerate as a woman too. Naturally, a lot of people were really pissed off, saying things like “The Doctor is not a woman! You’ve ruined this character and my memories of childhood! Stop this PC nonsense from infecting everything! This is just the loony left at the BBC trying to infect everything with poisonous feminism! Leave our TV characters alone!”

I read some comments saying things like, “It’s The Doctor, not The Nurse – he should be a man!” A lot of it is just sexism. I understand that people don’t like change, and this character is very close to people’s hearts, but there’s actually no reason why The Doctor can only be male. It’s a fictional time travelling alien from another planet, that changes shape when it dies. I think it can turn into a woman, that’s fine!

I haven’t actually seen any of the episodes in their entirety. I must admit that these days whenever I watch Doctor Who, I’m just completely confused! It’s great and there’s something very comforting about the fact that the show still going after all these years, but the storylines always confuse me completely. I have seen clips of the new Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker and it looks good. She’s funny and a bit weird and charismatic and that’s the spirit of the character. I personally don’t mind that the doctor is a woman at the moment. I think the writers can do whatever they like with the character.

As long as the writing is still good, the acting is good, the general hallmarks of Doctor Who are still the same, I think it’s ok.

I’d be more upset if the writers of Doctor Who changed something more important about the character – like deciding she now shouldn’t have a sense of humour, or that she should stop caring about people, or that she loses the Tardis or something like that. That would be worse. The Doctor becoming a woman – doesn’t really change the spirit of the character that much and if anything it brings something fresh to the role, and it looks like Jodie Whittaker is great and loads of fun, like the Doctor should be.

So, female Doctor Who – why not?

But I don’t think this really counts as proper gender fluidity actually, because it’s a fictional alien character. I think gender fluidity is more likely to impact our lives in more real ways than this. Like for example how it is affecting language and conversations about language.

For example, what pronouns do we use to refer to people who have different gender identities, like people who identify as neither a woman nor a man, or some other gender which is a combination of both somehow. People might say “I feel that I am neither a man nor a woman” “I’m both and the language doesn’t have the words to reflect that, so we need to introduce some new words to include us, because if we’re not included in the language, then the culture is extremely prejudiced against us.” Also, trans-gender or gender-fluid people can feel very rejected or unrepresented or offended when their identity isn’t recognised by people, specifically when the wrong pronouns are used.

Pronouns – words like he, she, her, his and so on.

So some people want to introduce new pronouns to reflect the diversity of gender identities out there and they want to introduce new laws which say it’s technically a hate crime to use the wrong pronouns. 

I don’t know if this kind of thing has ever happened before and there are several debates combined in this. There’s the “Do people have the right to change their gender if they feel that way?” and in my opinion I kind of think, well, why not I think people should be allowed to do what they want. But a second debate is, “Do they get to legislate what language we can and can’t use?”

Forcing people to use certain forms of language by law – I just don’t know what to think about that. That does seem a bit like controlling people’s freedom to use language, but this whole thing exists in a very fuzzy and grey area involving freedom of speech and also the problem of hate speech and so on… It’s a moral maze.

And so, that’s where we’ll leave this subject. I’d like to think it’s ok for me not to have an opinion on some things. That’s my “I have rights” card here – I claim the right to just not have an opinion, thanks very much. I’m not ready to decide what I think about it all yet, and that’s ok. I’m allowed to do that, and so are you.

I know, you’re not even asking for my opinion, right? And I have no duty to give you my opinion.

Anyway, it’s interesting and you’re hearing all the words I’m using to talk about it, right?

This is the end of part 3! This series is longer than I expected. Part 4 coming soon…

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers