Talking to pod-pals Amber & Paul about diverse topics including organ harvesting (yes), favourite fruits (exciting), accent challenges, guess the punchline, British Citizenship tests, What the “great” in Great Britain really means, and Amber’s son Hugo’s astonishing fluency in English.
Hello listeners and welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. How are you doing today? Doing ok?
I won’t talk at great length at the start here, suffice to say that as the title of this episode suggests, Amber & Paul are on the podcast again, after a one year absence.
Yes, the tangential trio are at it again.
I’ve been wondering What on earth I should call this episode. As you will hear, the options I had for a snappy title for this one were a bit tricky because our conversation covers some pretty diverse topics, including some quite dark themes, some potentially controversial moments and the usual fun rambling nonsense. It’s hard to sum it up in one pithy clickbait title. I think I’m just calling it “Amber & Paul are on the Podcast” but that does seem like a bit of a cop out. Anyway, we will see what I ultimately choose as a name for this episode.
Here’s a quick hint of the diverse topics which we explore.
Organ harvesting – yes, that’s right, organ harvesting. To get this, you will need to have listened to the previous episode of this podcast (#718), which was a conversation with Michael the hitchhiking shaman from Poland. In that episode Michael explained how, when hitchhiking once, he almost got kidnapped by several people who he suspected were organ harvesters – people involved in the illegal trade of human internal organs. Amber heard that podcast and was sceptical.
This prompted nearly 30 minutes of conversation about the ins and outs of organ harvesting, including how, where, why and who would do this.
Then we go on to do various random questions & challenges from my list of random questions and challenges, so you will get some accent fun, a thrilling discussion of Amber’s favourite fruit and vegetables, a story about Amber’s son Hugo and his surprising articulacy in English, a joke about Spanish firemen, some British citizenship questions about Easter holidays, British overseas territories and why Great Britain is actually called Great Britain, and plenty more besides. So, other than organ harvesting, there isn’t just one theme for this episode, hence the rather generic title.
It’s a thrill ride of an episode which has everything you could expect from a a conversation with Amber & Paul. I hope you enjoy it. Nothing more needs to be said except that you are about to hear a rapid conversation between friends and it might be difficult to follow, so strap in, hold on tight and let the tangential chat commence…
Episode Ending Transcript
Well, there you have it. Amber & Paul reunited on the podcast once more. We’d been waiting for ages for that to happen, and I hope you were not disappointed.
Just in case you were wondering what “tangential” means (and you’re not a long-term listener)
A tangent or a conversational tangent is when someone starts talking about something that is unrelated from the main topic of the conversation. To go off on a tangent.
Tangential is the adjective and it refers to something different from the subject you were talking about. This is typical of all my podcast conversations, but especially those ones with Amber & Paul, and so we are the tangential trio.
As ever I am curious to know what you think about all of this.
Sometimes our conversations become quite rude and inappropriate, but I’m just presenting you a natural conversation between friends, and this sort of thing is normal when socialising in English.
Here are some questions for your consideration:
What do you think of Michael’s organ harvesting story? Do you believe it? Is it possible?
What is your favourite fruit or vegetable?
Why is Great Britain called Great Britain?
Did you hear about the Spanish fireman and his two sons?
Let us know your thoughts and comments in the comment section.
I’ve got a ton of episodes in the pipeline which will be coming out over the next few weeks and months.
Here’s a little taster of things to come:
Bahar from Iran
A couple of episodes about expanding your vocabulary using word quizzes and dictionaries with a returning guest
More episodes in the vague Beatles season including some stuff about the psychology of John Lennon, adjectives for describing personality traits and some analysis of Beatle song lyrics, with a sort of expert guest.
Various stories which I have been searching for and then reading out on the podcast, with YouTube versions (this is because the recent Roald Dahl story I read out was a popular one)
More special guests for interviews and collaborations, more bits of comedy analysed and broken down, and plenty of other things too…
I am still waiting for my shiny thing from YouTube but when it arrives I will be doing another YouTube live stream. Who knows, I might do one before it arrives, but I will let you know.
Premium subscribers, I have the rest of the “What did Rick say” series coming up, and then a similar series called “What did Gill say?” focusing on language from my recent conversation with my mum about The Beatles, following a suggestion from a listener.
So, new premium content is either being published, written or recorded all the time, so watch out for new episodes. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you’d like to find out more.
I will be back soon with more episodes, but for now it’s time to say goodbye…
A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!
This podcast is made possible thanks to donations from lovely listeners (click a yellow PayPal button on the website if you’re feeling generous) and also the premium subscription, which costs, per month, slightly less than a pack of 80 Yorkshire Gold Teabags from Sainsbury’s. So if you would like to make sure I never run out of tea, then consider signing up.
There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.
Shall we start the episode? OK.
Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)
I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.
The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.
This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.
Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.
Explaining this episode’s title
The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.
The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!
It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.
What is “a tangent”? Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.
In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.
It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.
“To go off on a tangent”
There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.
I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.
Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.
My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.
What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.
So you’ll have to focus.
Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.
So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.
The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)
We talk about
Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state”
If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.
Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.
Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.
Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.
Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)
Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).
How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.
I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?
I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).
I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many. Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).
Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?
I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.
In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.
I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.
Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.
I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…
Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.
Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.
Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)
OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.
I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.
Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…
This episode features a chinwag (that’s a conversation by the way) with Sebastian Marx – a friend of mine who is originally from New York (he’s an American) but who has been living in France for the last 15 years. Long term listeners might remember him from his past appearances on this podcast. You’ll see links to those episodes on the page for this episode.
Sebastian is a stand up comedian who performs both in English and French, and he was the one who first started doing stand up in English in Paris. So all of us comedians who perform on stage here in English, including Amber, Paul, Sarah Donnelly and others – we all have Sebastian to thank for originally giving us that opportunity as he is the one who got the whole scene started in the first place with the New York Comedy Night which he set up years ago.
I invited Seb onto the podcast just for a bit of a chat, but also to test his knowledge of British English slang. I’m always interested to see how much my American friends know about my version of English.
In terms of the general chinwag – we talk for the first 25 minutes or so about a few topics, including:
What he thinks of the Trump presidency
His learning of French
Speaking French or English to French people, like waiters in cafes
Then, after about 25 minutes of jibber-jabber, we decide to focus on language and you’ll hear me testing Seb’s knowledge of British English slang – informal spoken English phrases that most Brits know but which Americans are probably unfamiliar with.
This is slang so you should know that things get a bit rude later in the episode with some references to sexual acts – you know, sexual stuff, and also a few other fairly lewd and crude things like bodily functions and so on.
Some of you are probably delighted to hear that and have no problem with it at all but I feel I should give you a heads up about rude content, just in case you’re a teacher listening to this in class or something (I can imagine getting a message from a teacher who’s heard it, or perhaps even having a conversation, like this: Luke, I used an episode of your podcast in my young learners’ class the other day and oh, you started talking about… arseholes and chests, it was quite awkward — Oh dear I’m terribly sorry Mrs Crawly, I should have provided a warning of some kind. I trust that this will not affect my daughter’s entry into the Royal Academy in September. Perhaps you should come for tea and we can discuss it at length. I have one or two things to say to you about your conduct and how this is affecting your reputation among the staff at Downton. Oh, I’m terribly sorry to put you out Lady Crawley… etc… Sorry, I accidentally slipped into an episode of Downton Abbey there. Papa and Mama would be awfully disappointed, and we’ve just received a telegram that the first world war has started and we’re all terribly worried about how this might affect life at Downton and blah blah blah).
I dunno, maybe you’re a teacher or you’re listening to this with children, or maybe you just don’t like rude things of that nature. Basically – there’s some rude stuff in the second half of this episode. Alright? No big deal.
*it’s ok Luke – we fucking love rude stuff, don’t worry*
Alright, steady on…
OK, I promised myself I wouldn’t ramble too much at the start of this one so let’s crack on now, and here is the jingle….
The Slang you can hear in the episode
(listen to hear the full descriptions, examples and American English equivalents)
✔️= Sebastian knew it or guessed it correctly ❌= Sebastian didn’t know it or guessed it wrong
❌“Pants” (adjective) “That film was pants” = not great, rubbish ✔️“Knackered” (adjective”) “I’m absolutely knackered today” = exhausted, really tired / American English equivalent: “beat” ❌”Gobsmacked” (adjective) “I was absolutely gobsmacked” = shocked, surprised Also: “shut your gob” = shut up, stop talking (gob = mouth) ✔️“a slash” (noun) “Hold on, I’m going for a slash” = I’m going to go and urinate ❌“On the lash” (prepositional phrase) “I’m going out on the lash tonight” = to go out drinking alcohol ✔️“To pull” (verb) “Hopefully I’m going to pull” = to score, get lucky, to get laid, to have sex with someone “On the pull” = trying to ‘get lucky’ with someone “To go out on the pull” “To chat someone up” = to talk to someone to make them like you (sexually) to try to pull someone by talking ❌“To get off with someone” (phrasal verb) “I got off with her” = to kiss passionately on the lips (USA: to make out with someone) “To get on with someone” = to have a good relationship with someone, to “hit it off with someone” ✔️“A plonker” (noun) “You are such a plonker” (not a swear word) = an idiot ❌”A tosser” (noun) “Stop being such a tosser” (synonym of “wanker” but less rude) an idiot, a person you don’t like “a wanker” is a mean nasty unpleasant man that you’re angry with “To wank” = to masturbate “Asshole” (US English) “Arsehole” (UK English) ✔️“A fag” (noun) “I’m just having a fag” = a cigarette (in US English it’s a very rude term of abuse meaning a homosexual) ❌“A wind up” (noun) “He’s a wind up merchant” “Is this a wind up?” = a joke, a piss-take, teasing, making fun of someone, playing a trick on someone, a con, a prank, lying to someone as a joke “To wind someone up” = to annoy someone ❌“whingeing / to whinge” (verb) “Stop whingeing! You’re always whingeing.” = to complain, to moan, to whine, in an annoying way ✔️“Smart” (adjective) “You’re looking smart today. What’s the big occasion?” = to be well dressed, to be wearing formal clothing, to look clean and tidy (opposite = casual) (USA: smart = intelligent) ❌“Lush” (adjective) “Oh that’s lush” “Those trainers are lush” “Oh she is lush isn’t she?” = good, attractive (for a person), cool, great, awesome ❌“Grotty” (adjective) “I smoked a cigarette earlier and I’m feeling dead grotty now.” = unpleasant, dirty, feeling a bit unwell or under the weather ❌“Ta” (exclamation) “Could you pass me the sugar? Ta.” = thanks ✔️”A chinwag” (noun) “We’ve had a good chinwag” = conversation ❌“It’s all gone pear shaped” (idiom) “We did a Zoom call but everything went pear shaped because of technical problems” = to go wrong
Schlep (verb – US slang, from Yiddish) to carry something with difficulty, to carry something heavy – “I’ve been schlepping this bag around all day” Schlep (noun – US slang, from Yiddish) a long and arduous journey – “I work on the other side of town and getting there is a real schlep!”
Righty-ho, that was Sebastian Marx (thanks Sebastian) and 18 bits of British English slang.
How many did he get right? He predicted 50% I think. Well, out of 18 he identified 7. And my criteria for getting it right was whether he knew the word or phrase already or if he worked it out correctly, first guess, from my example. 7 out of 18. What’s that as a percentage? Some of the mathematicians are already on that, but I need a calculator to work that one out, unless you want to listen to me working that out in my head. Trust me, you don’t want to listen to that. I don’t think I can do it. Anyway, the result is… 38.88888888889 Let’s round that up to 39% which is a clear fail I think everyone can agree.
What does this mean? I’m not sure, except that it proves something about American and British culture and language. Sebastian made the point during the episode and I think I’ve said it before previously, like in that slang game I did with Jennifer from English Across the Pond last year.
Brits are way more familiar with American English than Americans (and of course I mean people from the USA) are with British English because we are exposed to a lot more American culture through TV and film than Americans are exposed to British culture.
America produces tons of TV and film of course and exports a massive amount too, but it doesn’t import as much TV and film as it exports. Basically, most Americans don’t get exposed to that much British English, certainly not the kind of local informal slang stuff that we touched on in this episode. Big surprise eh! Not really! We know this about the USA – big place, quite loud on the world’s stage, exports a lot of stuff, but to a large extent doesn’t look beyond its own borders all that much, relatively speaking. We all knew that though didn’t we!
Anyway, never mind all that geo-political stuff. I just enjoyed chatting with Sebastian in this episode and sharing some of my version of English with him. That is more interesting and fun for me.
What about you? How much of the slang in this episode did you know? I’ve definitely talked about some of those things before, but I bet there were one or two new things in there too. But how much of it did you know and how much did you learn from me in previous episodes? And if you didn’t get it from me, where have you learned British slang? Let us know in the comment section!
Also, feel free to add other bits of British slang that you think is especially, quintessentially British in the comment section.
All the slang I tested Seb on is listed on the page for this episode on the website, so check it out. That’s where you can see specific spellings of words and phrases, and you can check some example sentences and definitions that I’ve given for you.
Talking of British English expressions – I must finish that series I started last autumn – 88 English expressions that will confuse everyone. Remember that? I still have about 25 expressions left to cover I think! I must get round to doing that.
My podcast is a bit like a big, slow moving ship. Sometimes I miss something or forget something and kind of sail past it, but for some reason it’s very hard to stop the ship or turn it round and go back. So, if I don’t do a specific episode I was planning to do at one point, general momentum keeps pushing me forwards and it’s difficult to turn the ship around and go back. I’m not sure why this is.
Stuff to mention at the end
Lovely comments from listeners on the last episode (in different locations like YouTube, website, twitter, email) My wife said that the comments were cute and lovely.
Something evil this way comes… Episode 666 is next.
666 → often described as the number of the beast. The mark of the devil.
Lots of people have been asking if I’m planning anything special for that.
Listen to a funny story told in a Manchester accent, and learn various bits of English in the process including vocabulary and pronunciation. Improve your understanding of regional British accents. Story transcript & vocabulary notes available.
To understand a funny story in English to the same level as a native English speaker
To become more familiar with a Manchester accent (mancunian) and to practise listening to colloquial speech in English
To learn vocabulary relating to working on a building site, and more
Listen to the story – Monkey News / Builder
What are the main events in the story?
What’s going on?
What does the builder do?
What does he see?
A quick summary of the story
A man gets a new job on a building site. He’s just told to get to work and to not ask any questions. He sees another guy working at the top of the building who seems to work really well. He’s efficient, he doesn’t take breaks, he seems to take risks and be a hard worker. He asks the other builders and they say not to worry about it. Never mind. Don’t ask questions. He notices this guy at the top doesn’t have lunch, except for a bucket of nuts which is sent up to him. Peanuts. He gets v suspicious and asks the boss what’s going on. The boss just tells him to get back to work and not ask questions. Ultimately the guy clocks what’s going on and works out that it’s a chimpanzee working on the building and he complains, but the boss gives him the sack. So it turns out that a chimp was working on a building site and he was actually a more valuable worker than this experienced builder. Well, fancy that.
Go through it quickly, just giving quick definitions and pronunciation pointers.
A builder (person)
A building (noun)
To build / building (verb / -ing form of verb)
To get going on it = start doing something
To get on with it = hurry up, continue doing something
The spire = the pointed top part of a building
To take someone on
The work rate
Scared of heights (scared of the heights which are up there)
Riveting (adjective) “This is really riveting stuff, Luke”
Nuts (that you eat)
Nuts and bolts
To hook something (on)
To check someone out
To be wise to what’s going on
To clock something
It’s not on
Don’t get involved
You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
A good grafter
To graft (verb)
To let someone go
To be made redundant
To be laid off
A chip off the old block
Monkey News – Transcript
Ricky: Ooh, chimpanzee that! Monkey news, you fff…
Karl: There was this bloke who was a builder, right?
Steve: Oh yeah
K: And, er, you know what builders are like. They sort of move about, don’t they, from, from sort of building to building just building.
R: Well yeah. Once they’ve built it, the building’s done and they move on to build some more.
K: So he goes to his next job and that, right?
S: Who does, the builder?
K: The builder
K: He goes to, like, the boss of this building who’s building it.
S: OK, yeah. And he says what unto him?
K: Do you need anything building?
S: OK, yeah
K: So anyway, so he says, err, he says “Yeah yeah there’s plenty of work and that going about”. He says “We’re working on this one here”. He said, err, “Get going on it, like. There’s your bricks and your cement and stuff. Get on with it.”
R: Any plans? Nah, JUST BUILD.
S: Just start building.
R: GO UP
K: They’re getting on with it and stuff. It’s all going well. But he notices that there’s someone working high up, on the top bit.
K: Because you know how, like, there’s girders and stuff on these big buildings.
R: And he’s still building the bottom bit, which is weird.
K: And he’s still… Yeah well that’s, that’s the way they do it there apparently, just to sort of speed it up. Work from top to middle, from top to bottom.
S: Sure. And that’s where? That’s in imaginary land.
R: We put the spire on and then we’d better do the foundations, and then put some stuff in the middle to keep it up there.
K: So anyway, he’s saying to, like, the other workers, he’s going “What’s… Who’s that up there? …
S: Who’s that up there?
K: … He’s working on his own.
R: What? Little fella was he?
S: Little hairy fella up there.
R: The little hairy fella up there with the hard hat.
K: The other fellas are going “Look, you know, don’t ask questions, you know. The boss decides who he takes on. We’re happy to be getting paid here.”
R: [Laughing] DON’T ASK QUESTIONS?? Well I’ll see him when he comes down.
K: So he said, “Well he’s pretty impressive, you know. The work rate he’s doing, the way he’s getting from one girder to the other “
S: Haha, he’s swinging is he?
K: “He doesn’t seem to be scared of the heights of anything.” He said “no, we just let him get on with it, you know. We work well as a team.” Lunch time comes. They’re all sat there. Sat on a little wall having their sandwiches. He’s just thinking that he’ll come down in a bit. [But] He’s just carrying on.
S: Is he? He’s just still going.
K: He’s still going and that, right? So, the fella says to the boss man, he says “Isn’t that fella up there going to come down and join us for lunch?” He said, “Err, like I said mate, don’t worry about him, right?” So he said “Oh, anyway, you’ve reminded me that he’s up there. He’s doing a lot of riveting and stuff up there. He probably needs some more nuts, to err…
S: Right, sure, and what kind of nuts is that? Is that nuts the food, or…?
K: So he said “What? Nuts?” He says “Yeah, just… There’s a bag full of them there, just just put them on the hook. Send them up and he can get on with his job.” So, anyway, he picks these nuts up.
S: Nuts, yep.
K: Just hooks them on and thinks “They’re not that heavy, considering, you know, they’re normally pretty heavy aren’t they like nuts and bolts and stuff.”
S: A big bag of nuts, yeah.
K: Anyway, he has a little glance in.
S: Ah no, what’s in there?
S: What, you mean nuts you can eat?
K: Nuts that you can eat.
K: So they send the bag up and he’s thinking “What’s all that about?” He checks him out. Starts to stare. Worked it out. He can see that… It’s a little chimp running about. So he goes, “I’m not happy with this.”
R: Why isn’t he? Is the boss sitting in a tyre?
K: He said “All them lot out there might not be wise to what’s going on here, but I’ve clocked it, and you’re sending nuts up to it. It’s a monkey, it’s not on.” So he goes, “Look, you know, we’re all just trying to earn a living here.” He said, err “Don’t get involved in it. I’m happy to pay you, but I’m paying him. Don’t interfere.”
R: He’s paying him?
K: He’s saying “Look, I’m just not happy with this. It’s not allowed.” So the boss was saying…
R: We pay peanuts, we get monkeys.
K: He said “To be honest mate, you know, err, he’s a great worker. He’s known for doing what he does. He’s a good grafter. If one of you is going to go, right, I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go because he’s been here longer and that.”
S: Blimey. He was made redundant.
R: None of that happened.
K: He was laid off.
R: None of that happened.
K: He’s laid off and that. And that’s where that saying, about, err, you know how there’s a lot of tower blocks and that in America, it’s not like, err… ‘a chimp off the old block’, is where…
R: [Laughs hysterically]
K: So that’s monkey news.
Can I still listen to the Ricky Gervais Podcast?
Yes, you can.
Some episodes are still available on
The Ricky Gervais Podcast (find it on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts, and just scroll back through the archive to find some “best of” stuff)
The Ricky Gervais Show website www.therickygervaisshow.com/podcasts
YouTube (Search or Monkey News and you’ll find full compilations of them)
Another Monkey News – Chimp Goes Into Space
Links & More
A full page listing all instances of Monkey News, with summaries, and time codes for where they appear in episodes of the Ricky Gervais Podcast.
…but remember the best way to listen to these episodes is by using a podcast app on your phone. That way you can listen to a bit, pause the episode and when you choose to listen again your app will remember where you previously stopped. If you’re wondering which podcast app to use, let me recommend the Luke’s English Podcast App, which contains the entire episode archive and loads of bonus stuff. Just search for Luke’s English Podcast App in the app store for Apple devices or Google Play store for Android, and yes it’s completely free. Using a podcast app means that you don’t have to listen to an entire episode in one sitting, which is the best way to listen to longer podcasts like this one.
Introduction (after the jingle)
In this episode, let’s just ask each other a bunch of “do you ever?” questions.
This is going to involve using present simple tense a lot. This is the most basic verb tense we have in English, and we use it to talk about permanent facts and habitual behaviour.
In lessons at school this tense is often taught to students at low levels because it’s a really important foundation for general English, but it tends to be a little bit dull – not the way students deal with the tense, but the way it’s presented in textbooks. Usually, materials based around present simple tense just involve daily routines, what time you normally get up, eat lunch, go to bed etc.
Students at that level lack the vocabulary to be able to talk about habits and routines in a more complex way. When they do have more vocabulary at higher levels, the course books always focus on other tenses – e.g. past tenses for telling stories about the past, future tenses for making predictions about the future, conditional sentences and modal verbs for speculating and so on.
The poor present simple tense is left with this boring reputation of just being a low-level bit of grammar which we only use to talk about what time we get up in the morning and how often we go to the gym.
So, let’s come back to present simple tense and see if we can use it to talk about slightly more unusual and fun things.
As a teacher, the main problem I have noticed when students are using present simple tense is just remembering to add ‘s’ or maybe ‘es’ (which often adds another syllable to the word – like ‘I wish’ and ‘he wishes’ for example). Often it’s just missing 3rd person forms. Like someone saying “He go” when it should be “he goes”. It’s so basic but it’s worth self-correcting if it happens.
Anyway, this episode is called “Do you ever?” and I’ve prepared a big list of unusual behaviour which I think we don’t often talk about, but which I think many of us do, or maybe it’s just me.
Now, I don’t necessarily do all of these things. They’re just based on observations I’ve made. Also, some of the things in this list were written by my brother during a conversation we had ages ago about weird little habits that we have.
Let’s see what happens in terms of the language that comes out. Will we switch to other tenses at any point? What kind of vocabulary will emerge? And do you ever do these slightly unusual things?
I’m interrupting here because, before we go any further, I think it’s necessary to say a few things about this episode in order to help you understand it all a bit better.
First of all, you should know that this is quite a silly and rambling episode and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Most of what you’re going to hear is just for fun really and I hope you enjoy it.
There is quite a lot of rude language in the episode and by that I mean things like the F word (you mean the word “Fuck” – err, yes – OKay, thanks. Just checking. Wait – who are you? Never mind, carry on!) So there is some swearing but for me that’s quite normal in an informal situation but obviously – swearing is still not a good idea in polite company or at work for example. But for two people like James and me chatting informally at home, swearing might happen and, you know – I want this to be authentic, as if you’re sitting with us the whole time. So, that’s why there is swearing.
Also, I think it will probably be difficult for many of you to follow this conversation because we talk about some very specific and quite personal things, sometimes we talk quickly because we’re in a rush to say things before the other one interrupts us, we talk over each other sometimes and the topic of conversation changes a lot as we go through each question quite quickly.
So this is definitely going to be a difficult one, depending on your level of English of course. But sometimes you need a challenge!
Generally, I think I am quite easy to understand when I’m talking on my own, even when I’m speaking quickly. I just have a clear voice. But when I’m talking to friends on the podcast I think it becomes a lot more difficult to understand everything and that might demotivate you. But you need a bit of a challenge from time to time. I hope the bits that you understand will carry you through the bits that you don’t understand.
But I do want to help you understand as much as possible, so I’m now going to read out all the Do You Ever…? Questions that we answer in this episode. I’m going to read them all out now, just to give you a chance to understand them all in advance. This can make a big difference to your comprehension of this conversation.
If you have already had a chance to think about the different things that we talk about, you’ll be in a much better position to understand it all.
So, let me now go through this list of “Do you ever…?” questions and I’d like you to concentrate and just try to understand each one and then prepare to hear what we have to say about them in the rest of the conversation.
You should also consider whether you do these particular little things or not, and if you consider them to be normal, funny or weird.
Right, so listen carefully – these are the questions that James and I are going to discuss in this conversation. Here we go…
Do you ever…?
Get song lyrics stuck in your head (like an earworm)
Aim at things when you pee
Use a special system for getting to sleep
Have dreams or nightmares
Wave at people on boats
Look out of the window in a moving car and imagine that you’re running along next to the car like Mario or Sonic, jumping over obstacles, or that you’re cutting everything with a huge saw or laser as you move past
Shave your beard into a funny moustache for a moment when shaving
Talk to yourself in a different voice, when nobody else is around
Wipe while sitting or wipe while standing
Imagine doing an amazing performance in front of your old school during an assembly or something
Avoid stepping on the cracks in the pavement, or live by any other superstitions
Go to the hairdressers and have a really bad time but say nothing about it
Drink loads of tea or coffee at work just so you get more toilet breaks
Smoke cigarettes because you’re bored, or decide to smoke a cigarette because you see someone in a movie smoking
Imagine what you would do if a zombie apocalypse happened right now
Count the number of steps it takes you to get up a flight of stairs or go from the sofa to the toilet
Flip something, like a remote control, in the air over and over again until you drop it
Do fake bets with yourself or your friends
Badly need the loo on the way home
Listen to songs and completely misunderstand or mishear the lyrics
Fugzi – Waiting Room
The lyrics are, “I am a patient boy. I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait.”
James thought it was, “I am a pastry boy. I weigh, I weigh, I weigh, I weigh.”
Open toilet doors with your elbows
Use the back of your hand or certain fingers for touching your face, as if the back of your hand or your knuckle are ‘totally safe’
Think “that would be a good name for a band”
Fall asleep in public and then suddenly wake up because your head has suddenly moved, you’ve snored or you’ve made another noise, or your head has moved back and your mouth has hung open, or you’ve drooled out of your mouth
Throw a ball of paper at the bin, miss, pick up the ball and try again from the exact same spot as before
Eat any parts of yourself – e.g nails, dead skin or bogies
Tap your foot to the beat of other people’s music which you can overhear from their headphones, in order to show them that you can hear it (or because the music is actually good)
Walk past someone you know in the street and go to say hello, then realise they’ve chosen to blank you (to ignore you)
Not move down in public transport even though you could, because you want to save space for yourself and because you generally hate other people
Fall in love with a stranger on public transport and yet do absolutely nothing about it other than glance at them and hope they don’t notice
Add your own voiceover track to films or TV shows
Doodle particular things with a pen while you’re on the phone
Hate strangers on public transport for no reason
Put toast in the toaster, it comes up not done properly, then you put it back and then it’s burnt
Lie on your back and throw a ball or maybe an orange into the air, and fail to catch it
Walk for ages with a stone in your shoe – it feels massive, then you take it out and it’s tiny
Find everything totally fascinating, just before bedtime – especially if you promised yourself earlier in the day that you’d have an early night
That was the LEP Jingle Megamix that you heard at the end there. I haven’t played that on the podcast for a while. If you’d like to know where all those little samples in that jingle come from, check out the Jingles & Music category in the LEP App. There’s a full episode there in which I go through all the samples and explain where they all come from. It’s called “Deconstructing the LEP Jingle Megamix”.
Well done for listening to all of that. I wonder how many of you have made this far, and how many people just couldn’t handle it any longer for whatever reason, and how many skeletons there are with headphones on right now – skeletons that were perfectly healthy fresh-faced humans when they started listening to this, who slowly perished as the episode went on.
But not you – no, you made it all the way through and there’s a good chance you laughed with us, and perhaps were struck by a profound sense of shared experience when you realised that you also do some of the things we talked about.
But well done to you, in any case and I hope you also picked up some English along the way – because, after all, that is the main purpose of this whole thing, of course. I expect the lower level listeners or the more serious listeners probably stopped listening because they couldn’t keep up or because they felt that they didn’t have time. I’m not going to get into all the stuff about the pros and cons of long episodes vs shorter episodes and things like that. Anyway, the point is – if you made it this far then “nice one” and I wonder what your favourite moments were from this episode. You could share your thoughts in the comment section of course.
Let me thank James again for being on the podcast. I always enjoy our episodes together and I hope that that comes across in the recording.
Right, time to stop talking. There’s no time to mention that you should sign up to LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium. No time to that, but you should anyway. There are now over 60 premium items available and more premium episodes are coming, I promise. They just take quite a lot of work and preparation. But there will be more coming before Christmas.
All I’ll say now is thank you again for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now – goodbye!
What’s the music at the end of the episode, Luke?
The music you can hear at the end is called Wonderland and it was produced by James on his Akai MPC2000. You can check it out (and his other tunes) on his Soundcloud page here soundcloud.com/jt-2000
Every version of every language has slang and also cultural reference points that are unique to that language. English is no exception of course and because it is such a diverse language in terms of the number of different dialects it has, it is quite possible for there to be slang in certain dialects that other speakers of the same language don’t understand. For example, Americans might not understand certain things said in British English. Of course it’s also difficult for learners of English to deal with slang. It’s not normally the language you encounter in the coursebooks and so on, and yet slang is very commonly used.
So, a dialect of English like British English might be difficult to understand for anyone who wasn’t born or grew up there.
That’s what this article was all about and the 88 bits of English (either words or expressions) listed, reflect this uniquely British version of English that might be confusing for everyone else in the world.
But I am here to try to lessen that confusion with my explanations and examples.
You can use this episode series to quickly learn a whole world of slang, which will help you understand and be understood by Brits more easily.
And even if you’re not planning to get chatting to some British people any time soon, you can consider this series just to be a chance to broaden your horizons as far as the English language is concerned and learn yet more of this precious vocabulary – because vocabulary probably is the most precious stuff of all. This is the difference, often, between intermediate English and advanced or proficient English – knowing how to adjust your style of English to meet various different situations. A knowledge of slang is essential, I think, in order to know all the possible light and shade in this language.
As ever with these articles, there are always a few little words or phrases that I dispute or at least don’t know. Last time it was “dench” which neither my brother nor I use, ever. (I made several edits to the episode after initially releasing it, with some comments that my brother sent to me via text). Let’s see if there are other similar words and phrases that I don’t use, perhaps because it’s a regional thing and not said in my area growing up.
As we go through the list I will let you know which ones I actually use and which ones I don’t. If you’re using me as a model for the type of English you want to speak, you can perhaps disregard any of the ones which I don’t use. But of course you should always be listening carefully to the English language as it is used and if you spot any of these expressions being used on TV, in music, films or just in normal life then that’s worth noting.
Also, I think that sometimes I use these expressions but in a knowing, ironic way. For example, if I called someone “the bee’s knees” I think I’d be doing it largely because I like the sound of the expression, but knowing it’s a bit old-fashioned. It can be fun sometimes just to use these different expressions for a laugh as a way to add colour or humour to your speaking.
So I will also let you know if I think I use these expressions with a bit of irony.
In part 1 I did 30 of these. Let’s see if I can do the next 30 and then the final 28 in part 3.
I’m going to have to be quick, so pay attention!
Text in italics has been pasted from the original article (link above).
to faff about/around
To “faff” is to waste time doing very little.
“Faff” comes from the 17th century word “faffle,” which means to flap about in the wind.
“We were just faffing about.”
Stop faffing around. Come on, let’s go!
How much time in your typical day do you spend just faffing around?
What do you actually do when you faff around?
A “fag end” is also the ratty bits towards the ends of a reel of fabric, which are the worst and the cheapest bits of the reel. Historically, “fags” were the cheaper cigarettes made of lower grade tobacco, however, the slang has spread to encompass all cigarettes.
“Could I scrounge a fag off you, please?”
In American English it’s a gay person (very offensive word) so watch out for that. – “Can I bum a fag off you mate?”
What’s the nickname you give to cigarettes in your language?
A fag butt, to stub out a cigarette, to ask for a light, a ciggie
“She’s really fit though, isn’t she?”
When I was a kid we all thought our maths teacher was really fit.
Used to describe someone physically attractive, usually referring to their physique.
“She’s got a fit body”
Obviously it also means to be in good physical condition, like an athlete.
Which actor or actress do you think is quite fit/fit/really fit?
To “flog” means to sell something — usually quickly and cheaply.
“I’m trying to flog my old sofa. Do you know anyone that might be interested?”
What is the last thing that you flogged?
Flog It (TV show)
5. “the Full Monty”
The entire thing, with all the extras included.
After “The Full Monty” film was released in 1997, there was some international confusion over the phrase in which it was taken as a euphemism for stripping. However, “the full Monty” actually refers to pursuing something to the absolute limits.
“The full Monty” historically refers to an old tailor called Sir Montague Burton. Going “the fully Monty” meant purchasing a full three-piece suit, a shirt, and all of the trimmings.
“Our Christmas dinner had everything from sprouts to Yorkshire puddings. If you’re going to have a roast, have the full Monty!”
I’m going to go for the full monty. A full English breakfast.
I very rarely use it.
Have you ever had a full English breakfast? Did you go for the full monty? How about a Sunday roast? Full monty?
6. “Full of beans”
Someone that’s energetic, lively, or enthusiastic might be described as “full of beans.”
This phrase could be a reference to coffee beans, although these claims have been disputed.
Beans generally give you energy (and gas) so the meaning is pretty clear for me.
“Goodness, you’re full of beans this morning!”
How do you feel right now? Do you feel full of bean? Or are you feeling knackered?
Where do you want to do it? Your gaff? My gaff?
“Gaff” is an informal word for “home.”
It sounds cockney to me.
“What are you up to this weekend? We’ve got a party at our gaff, if you fancy it?”
I’d use it ironically because it sounds really cockney. It’s the kind of thing you hear in Eastenders.
Have you ever seen Eastenders?
Withnail &a I?
To “gallivant” means to roam, or to set off on an expedition, with the sole intention of having some light-hearted fun. I imagine someone skipping through a forest or a hilly meadow.
You’re supposed to stay and be a princess, not go gallivanting after pirates!
I would only use this in a kind of sarcastic way, in order to complain about someone doing other things when they should be focusing on something more serious.
Off he goes, gallivanting around the South of France when he should be at home sorting out all the problems.
A “geezer” is a man that could be described as “suave” or “dapper,” and is often suited and booted. Men from east London are also commonly referred to as “geezers.”
A geezer is a slang word for a man, like a bloke.
“That guy’s got such swagger — he’s a proper geezer.”
I use this one quite a lot although it does sound quite cockney (other regional dialects use it too). You can also say “bloke”.
10. “Give me a tinkle on the blower”
“Give me a call” or “ring me.” The phrase is sometimes shortened to “give me a tinkle.”
“Tinkle” refers to a phone’s ring, while “blower” is slang or telephone and refers to the device that predated phones on Naval ships. Sailors would blow down a pipe to their recipient, where a whistle at the end of the pipe would sound to spark attention.
“Give me a tinkle on the blower.”
I never say it.
Astounded; bewildered; shocked.
“Gob” is slang for mouth, so if you’re gobsmacked, you’re shocked to the point of clasping your jaw in disbelief.
“I was gobsmacked!”
It’s a good word which everyone should know.
When was the last time you were gobsmacked? Have you ever felt gobsmacked while watching a film or TV show, like when a character dies unexpectedly?
Not to be confused with literally being disembowelled, someone that says they’re “gutted” is devastated or extremely upset.
“I was absolutely gutted.”
It’s one of the most common and recognisable bits of UK slang, along with knackered and chuffed.
How would you feel if you got invited onto Luke’s English Podcast? Would you feel gutted or chuffed?
13. “Half past”
While Americans are more likely to say “seven thirty” or “five fifty,” Brits will more often than not refer to times in “minutes past” the hour (or minutes to). Eg, “half past seven,” and “ten to six.”
It’s unclear why Brits appear to favour analogue time-telling while Americans go for the digital format. (we don’t do it so much any more)
“It’s twenty past eleven.”
On the right hand side of the clock, it’s past (including half past).
On the left hand side of the clock, it’s to.
1:10 “ten past one”
2:15 “a quarter past two”
3.20 “twenty past three”
4.25 “twenty five past four”
5.30 “half past five”
6.35 “twenty five to seven”
7.40 “twenty to eight”
8.45 “a quarter to nine”
9.50 “ten to ten”
10.55 “five to eleven”
Sometimes these are abbreviated to “half past” “quarter past” “ten to” etc.
What time do you get up?
What time did you start listening to this?
What time do you go to bed?
What time does your lunch end?
14. “Hank Marvin”
“Hank Marvin” is Cockney rhyming slang for “starving.”
“I’m Hank Marvin” means “I’m hungry” or “I’m ravenous.”
“When are we going to eat? I’m absolutely Hank Marvin.”
I do use this one, and my wife has learned to understand it.
How are you feeling right now? Full, stuffed, fine, a bit peckish, hungry, absolutely Hank Marvin?
“Innit” is an abbreviation of “isn’t it” most commonly used amongst teenagers and young people.
You can add it as a tag question on the end of a sentence, no matter what the auxiliary verb is.
He hasn’t done his homework, innit.
He ain’t done his homework innit.
You ain’t done your homework innit.
It can also be used as a response as a way to confirm something.
“It’s really cold today.”
I think also we use “Is it?” as a way to show surprise.
“My mum won the lottery”
“Is it?” or “Yo, is it fam!?”
Sounds terrible when I say it.
I use “innit” quite a lot, but ironically, meaning I know I’m not normally the type of person who uses it and I’m kind of imitating Ali G.
16. “Leg it”
Make a run for it; run away; scarper.
“That’s when all of the lights came on, and so we legged it.”
We used to say this all the time when we were kids.
I never say this and if I did it would be embarrassing. It’s the sort of thing I’d hear from schoolkids on the bus in London.
The same people who’d say things like “innit” and “blud” or “fam”.
Something that takes a lot of effort and probably isn’t going to be worth all of the effort, either, could be described as “long.” This could be due to the lengths that the person will have to go to in order to complete the task.
Something that is “long” is probably also annoying or aggravating.
“Cleaning the kitchen is long.”
18. “the Lurgy”
If someone’s “caught the lurgy,” they’re suffering from cold or flu-like symptoms.
“She’s come down with the dreaded lurgy.”
When was the last time you got the lurgy? Did you take time off work or college? How do you protect yourself from the lurgy? What’s a cure for the lurgy?
19. Making random words past-tense to mean drunk
Brits are known for favouring a drink or two, so much so that almost any noun can be used as a substitute for “drunk.”
In his stand-up show, British comedian Michael MacIntyre said: “You can actually use any word in the English language and substitute it to mean drunk. It works.”
Examples include “trollied,” “smashed,” and “gazeboed.”
I’ve never heard or used this phrase (except the “I’m on it” part).
This colloquialism might be said by someone that has the situation under control.
“I’m on it” is definitely a phrase.
“How’s the report going, Steve?”
“Don’t you worry, Alan, I’m on it (like a car bonnet).”
Alan thinks “That would have been alright if he hadn’t said ‘like a car bonnet at the end’….. He’s going to have to go.”
“Don’t worry Alan. I’m on it!”
26. “On the pull”
Someone that’s “on the pull” has gone out, usually on a night out, with the intention of attracting a sexual partner.
“Pull” can also be used as a verb. If you’ve “pulled,” you’ve kissed someone.
“You look nice. Are you going on the pull?”
“Get your coat, you’ve pulled.”
Also: on the lash
27. “Over-egg the pudding”
“Over-egging the pudding” means embellishing or over-doing something to the extent that it’s detrimental to the finished product. Going over the top.
Basically though, it means going too far, doing too much, pushing a situation to the max, but it is said in a pejorative and disdainful way, like “Don’t over-egg the pudding Luke”.
“We get it — you’ve injured yourself. Don’t over-egg the pudding.”
Do you think they over-egged the pudding at the end of Avengers Endgame? Too many superheroes?
Rubbish; terrible, really bad. Poor quality.
“This is pants.”
“That film was total pants.”
How was the film? Pants
What about the match? Pants
How was England’s performance? It was pants
What about the pub where they showed the game? Pants
The beer? Pants
How about your pants? They’re pants.
Actually no, my pants are great. They’re the only thing that isn’t pants, my pants.
That’s ironic isn’t it, that your pants are great but everything else is pants, but not meaning great.
I think it’s because pants in general are bad, but my pants just happen to be great so they’re
The exception that proves the rule.
Yes, but I’ve never understood that phrase. How can an exception prove a rule? Surely it should be the opposite?
29. Par (diss)
I never ever use this. I’m much more likely to say “diss” as in “disrespect”. So let’s replace “par” with “diss” instead.
A “diss” is a disrespectful comment.
“Diss” can also be used as a verb, eg, “You just got dissed.” “Are you dissing my English?”
It comes from the word disrespect or disrespected.
“I don’t mean this as a diss, but did you remember to wash this morning?”
I don’t think I would use it unironically.
Are you dissing me?
A situation which has quickly evolved into an accident waiting to happen might be described as “gone pear-shaped.”
The phrase is reportedly old slang from the Royal Air Force and was used to described awry expeditions and flights.
“Well, this has all gone a bit pear-shaped.”
Simon, where have you been?
Well, I went out to buy some milk but things got a bit pear shaped and I ended up going to Area 51.
An episode about British English slang and culture, featuring expressions that Brits know but everyone else finds confusing. Here are the first 30 expressions in a list of 88 that I found on independent.co.uk. Includes plenty of funny improvised examples to make you laugh out loud on the bus.
He’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, isn’t he?
I’m a bit of a Beatles anorak.
Bagsie the front seat! Shotgun!
4. The bee’s knees
He’s the bee’s knees.
5. Bender (go on a)
I went on a 3-day bender last weekend. I feel rough as f*ck right now.
6. Blinder (to pull a)
You pulled an absolute blinder in that negotiation.
My brother has chipped in here with a comment, saying that he thinks the most common collocation with Blinder is “to play a blinder” and I admit that he’s right. Thinking about it, I’ve definitely heard “play a blinder” more than “pull a blinder”.
A quick internet search shows us the same thing.
Collins says it’s when a sports player or musician plays something really well but it’s also applied to when anyone does anything well. For example, you played a blinder in that meeting.
Or You played an absolute blinder getting us front row tickets for this show.
OK, so let’s say “play a blinder” more often than “pull a blinder”.
7. Bloody / Bleedin’
Bloody hell Harry! Bleedin‘ Heck!
8. Bob’s your uncle
Put the bag in the mug, add hot water, then some milk and Bob’s your uncle.
We’re staying in a bog-standard hotel up the road.
Put the money in theboot of the car.
11. Botch(ed) job
You did a real botch(ed) job on that chair. It is a real death-trap. You really made a botch of that, didn’t you?
Do you need a brolly?
13. Budge up
Come on, budge up a bit. I don’t have much room.
14. Builder’s tea
I like a nice cup of builder’s tea, me.
Give us a butcher’s at that! Have a butcher’s at this.
I’m really cack-handed today. I don’t know what’s the matter with me.
You’re such a cheeky little monkey!
18. Chinese whispers
It must have been Chinese whispers.
Let’s get together and have a good old chinwag.
I tell you what. It’s absolutely chockablock out there. Absolutely chocka.
You must be really chuffed!
You dropped an absolute clanger at the dinner party.
What a load of absolute codswallop.
24. Cost a bomb
Those new iPhones cost an absolute bomb.
I am absolutely cream-crackered. I think I’m going to go straight to bed.
26. Curtain twitcher
Our neighbour is a bit of a curtain twitcher.
I’m going to make some tea. Dench. (?)
I just want to add something about the word “Dench”.
I said that I didn’t know this and that I don’t use it.
My brother reckons the word is “fake”, by which I think he means that this one isn’t really used.
He’s never heard or used it either.
I don’t know why the Independent would add a fake word in their list, but let’s just say that you can probably avoid the word “Dench” and not worry about it at all.
If you’ve heard or seen the word being used, add a comment to the comment section.
I’ve just done a quick google check and there are entries for the word in Collins (but not an “official” definition – it was added by a user) and Urban Dictionary – both confirming that the word basically means “nice” or “Awesome” but there aren’t that many entries for it.
So I think we can conclude that it is a new phrase, probably only used by a few people, particularly younger generations.
Tim’s a jolly good bloke. A bit dim though.
That exam was an absolute doddle.
30. Dog’s dinner
You made an absolute dog’s dinner of that.
Follow me on Twitter @EnglishPodcast
For me, this is British humour and music at their finest, and it's part of a European absurdist art movement that started 100 years ago, and which runs through a lot of Britain's best TV and radio comedy. 2/12
Here is another episode of this podcast for people learning English.
This time we are dissecting the frog again as we are going to be looking at top jokes from this year’s Ed Fringe. I’m going to read all the jokes to you and then dissect them for vocabulary which can help you learn English really effectively.
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.
So let’s dissect the frog again!
A challenge for you:
Can you understand the jokes the first time you hear them?
Can you repeat the jokes, with the right timing, intonation and stress, to make the joke funny?
The Culture of Joke-Telling in English
Remember, when someone tells you a joke there are certain normal responses you should make. You shouldn’t give no reaction.
You have to show that you see that a joke has happened. Don’t just give no reaction or respond to the question on face value.
So when someone tells you a joke, you have to show that you’ve noticed it.
go “awwww” or something
Say “I don’t get it”
Heard it before
You also have to respond to certain jokes in certain ways.
Knock knock – who’s there?
Any kind of question, especially “What do you call a…?” or “What do you get if you cross xxx with yyy?”
You answer: I don’t know. Then the answer is the punchline.
Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2019
I did one of these last year – episode 547. A whole year has gone by. So I did 64 episodes of the podcast, plus all the premium ones. Quite a productive year for LEP!
Right now stand up comedians all over the UK are having a welcome break and a chance to think about how their Edinburgh run was and what they can learn from it.
The rest of us are reading articles in the press about the best jokes from this year’s fringe, and which new comedians to look out for over the coming year or two.
What’s the Edinburgh Fringe again? (I’ve talked about it a lot on the podcast. Never actually been there.)
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (also referred to as The Fringe or Edinburgh Fringe, or Edinburgh Fringe Festival) is the world’s largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the month of August. It has been called the “most famous celebration of the arts and entertainment in the world” and an event that “has done more to place Edinburgh in the forefront of world cities than anything else.
It is an open access (or “unjuried“) performing arts festival, meaning there is no selection committee, and anyone may participate, with any type of performance. The official Fringe Programme categorises shows into sections for theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events. Comedy is the largest section, making up over one-third of the programme and the one that in modern times has the highest public profile, due in part to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
Every year hundreds of stand up comedians go to the Fringe to do their shows. It is a sort of make-or-break experience.
Have you ever done it Luke? What’s it like?
I did something about different joke types in the last one of these episodes. I talked about things like “pull back and reveal” and “then I got off the bus”.
Here are about 5 different joke types, or stand-up techniques.
Puns (word jokes) – one word or phrase means two things at the same time, maybe because one word can sound like two words – homophones. [Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9. —> “8” sounds exactly like “ate”]
Pull back and reveal – the situation radically changes when we get more information. [My wife told me: ‘Sex is better on holiday.’ That wasn’t a nice postcard to receive.” Joe Bor 2014]
Observational humour – noticing things about everyday life that we all experience, but haven’t put into words yet. [What’s the deal with airline food, right?]
Similes – Showing how two things are similar in unexpected and revealing ways. [Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog…]
Common phrases, reinterpreted. This time it seems that most of the jokes are based on well-known common phrases and how they could mean something else if you change the context. It’s like a pun but for a whole phrase. [Conjunctivitis.com – now there’s a site for sore eyes. Tim Vine]
The top 10 jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 have been announced, with comedian Olaf Falafel taking the coveted top spot. Check out the full list below.
After previous triumphs from the likes of Tim Vine, Stewart Francis and Zoe Lyons, Falafel scooped the prize with a snappy vegetable themed one-liner.
He took ‘Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe’ with the gag:
1. “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
Florets are chunks of broccoli or cauliflower
Tourette’s is a condition in which people shout out the rudest and most taboo thing in any situation, particularly stressful ones.
The two words sound quite similar.
It’s not the best joke in my opinion.
What makes a really good joke?
If it’s a pun, it should work both ways.
You’re looking at a sentence that means two things at the same time. Ideally, both of those things will make overall sense.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
So, one sense here is that he has a type of tourette’s which only involves shouting out broccoli and cauliflower. That makes sense, sort of.
But the other meaning doesn’t. Why would he be randomly shouting out the words broccoli and cauliflower if he had some florets in his hand?
So, for me it doesn’t quite work.
Here’s a joke that works both ways
I broke my finger last week. On the other hand, I’m ok.
On the other hand means “But” (the whole sentence still makes sense) He broke his finger but overall he’s ok.
On the other hand means “literally on his other hand” (the whole sentence makes sense again) He broke his finger on one hand, but his other hand is ok.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
It came from Falafel’s show It’s One Giant Leek For Mankind, which was performed at the Pear Tree.
The comic, who won with 41% of the vote, claims to be “Sweden’s 8th funniest” comedian. He also works as an acclaimed children’s book author.
(This is like a democratic election in which the one that 59% of people (the majority) didn’t vote for, is the one that’s picked.)
Falafel said: “This is a fantastic honour but it’s like I’ve always said, jokes about white sugar are rare, jokes about brown sugar… demerara.”
(How is that like winning this list?🤷♂️)
Check out the rest of the top ten below.
2.”Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy” – Richard Stott
Listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, but there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.
This is LEP episode 610. and it’s called British Comedy: James Acaster.
In this one we’re going to listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, and there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.
James Acaster is a popular stand up comedian from the UK who has won various awards, done Netflix specials, Edinburgh shows and who appears on panel shows and TV comedy programmes all the time. He’s now a very popular and well-known stand up in the UK.
I’ve got a clip of one of his performances from the New Zealand Comedy Gala in 2013 on YouTube.
I’m going to play the video in about two parts.
You have to try to understand it – not just what he’s saying, but why is it funny?
Then I’ll go back through the clip, sum it up, go through it line by line, breaking it down for language.
You can then listen again using the video on the page for the episode.
Who is James Acaster? (Wikipedia) James Acaster is an English comedian originally from Kettering, Northamptonshire. (accent?) He has performed for several consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won two Chortle awards in 2015. He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe. Acaster has appeared on several panel shows, including Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? He has a 2018 Netflix show entitled Repertoire, consisting of four hour-long stand-up comedy performances. He has also written a book, James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, consisting of true stories, most of which were originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM. He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.
He’s originally from Northamptonshire which is in the east midlands. He doesn’t have a strong northern accent or a brummie accent, although I do think he would say “podcast” instead of “podcast” and “bath, grass, laugh” with that short a sound too.
The main thing is that he drops all his “T” sounds and also “TH” sounds.
So, “bring them” sounds like “bring em”
“Sitting in a tree, eating all the apples” sounds like “si’in in a tree, ea’in all the apples”
“Theft” becomes “Feft”
He also says “Raver” instead of “rather”.
All very common features of local English – dropping Ts and TH sounds is common all over the country.
What is his comedy style?
Whimsical (unusual, strange and amusing)
Thinking of things in a different way, unconventional (quite normal in stand up)
Acting a bit cool even though he isn’t
Geeky looking, wears sweaters, clothes even a granddad might wear
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker
James bought some ‘ready-to-eat Apricots’ and he went on a lads’ night out
You get these bags of fruit in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) of fruit which is ready to eat.
It’s been cut up, washed, prepared. It’s ready to eat.
For example, you might get “ready-to-eat apricots”. That’s what James is talking about here.
Also, the expression ”You are what you eat?”
Play the clip:What’s the joke about apricots?
Stop and explain it
What kind of apricots are these?
They are ready-to-eat apricots.
How do you feel?
I feel ready. Ready to eat apricots.
In fact, you could say I was ready to eat these ready-to-eat apricots.
Maybe you’re not ready to eat apricots.
Maybe you just want some, which is why they’re in a resealable bag.
So, they should be renamed ready-to-eat-some-apricots.
A lads’ night out / You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard
James went on a night out with a bunch of lads.
For James, this was not an enjoyable night.
It wouldn’t be for me either. I’ve never been one of those guys who likes to go out on a lads’ night out.
Lets me explain what a lads’ night out is like.
Lads are usually English young men, together, doing male things and generally being aggressive, overly sexual, crude, rude and competitive.
Lots of alpha male behaviour
Taking the piss and general one-upmanship and aggressive, laddish, competitive behaviour
Spending time in bars and clubs that you hate but they think are brilliant (terrible, terrible music, awful people, loud, smelly, horrible)
Trying to pick up girls and the general lack of a moral code – cheating, lying, using alcohol – all in an attempt to get lucky with a girl. This includes cheating on your girlfriend if you have one.
Medieval-level sexual politics – being openly judgemental about women’s appearances, giving women marks out of ten, saying whether or not you would shag any of the women around, looking at their bodies and comparing notes etc.
You get sucked into it through peer pressure and become part of it even though you hate it.
One of the lads, who has a girlfriend and yet plans to pick up a girl at the club, when asked why he didn’t bring his girlfriend, says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”
An orchard is a place where apples are grown. It’s full of trees and there are apples everywhere. You might pay to access the orchard and pick the apples.
You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard. Presumably because you wouldn’t need to bring one because there are loads there anyway.
How about bringing your girlfriend to a night club. Is it the same?
This leads James to kind of question the logic of that statement and go off an a monologue about bringing an apple to an orchard and how that compares to bringing your girlfriend to a nightclub.
To be an accessory to something (like a crime)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Play the clip:Do you understand all the comedy about the nightclub and bringing an apple to an orchard?
Stop and explain it
Going to a nightclub with a bunch of lads
One of them cheats on his girlfriend and you become an accessory to it, like it’s a crime and now you’ve become pulled into it. You’re involved in it, without intending to be, and you could go down, like you’re an accessory to a crime.
In this sense, you just have to keep a secret, you’re being expected to lie on behalf of someone else. The guy is a twat basically.
This lad says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”.
But then James deconstructs this analogy in a brilliant way.
This is nuanced comedy which is subtly making fun of stupid lad culture in a clever and funny way, with some weirdness and surrealism.
Go through it line by line
One of the reasons I like it is that a lot of people might just say James is being weird and that he’s some sort of loser, but he’s absolutely right in my opinion and he’s just clever and not afraid to be himself and he embraces the slightly weird things in life, because let’s face it, life is weird.
Types of humour / how nuanced & subtle humour can be all about changing the context of the situation in order to reveal new perspectives.
This acknowledges the fact that there are many different perspectives or layers to any situation and a good comedian can make you realise a whole different underlying meaning by just changing one bit of perspective.
Despite the fact that I like this a lot and so do many other people, I’m sure plenty of others don’t find it funny because it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough dynamic changes (he doesn’t change his voice a lot, a lot of the jokes are left to the audience’s imagination), it’s pretty low energy, maybe little things like (I can’t get into it – I just don’t like his hair cut or his shoes or something) and also some people just don’t really want to look at the world from a different point of view. Some people prefer more direct humour, perhaps with a more obvious target or more relatable things, like observational comedy or something.
As usual, I’m worrying that nobody will get it, but what’s the point of that? Some people just won’t get it because “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
And it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t find it funny, that’s totally fine. At least you’ve learned some English in the process. :)
They say “you are what you eat”
A resealable bag
A lads’ night out
Check out the arse on that
Normal people perv solo
To outnumber someone
A dented suitcase
To cheat on someone
An accessory to a crime
Eloquent use of language
A little bit miffed
This godforsaken pisshole of an orchard
Who in their right mind compares women to apples?
Another saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
Here’s another short clip of James Acaster, this time talking about Brexit and comparing it to a tea bag in a cup.
Should you take the bag out or leave it in?
James Acaster Brexit Tea Bag
Now explain that Luke!
Tea / Brexit
Should you leave the bag in or not?
If the bag stays in, the cup as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the bag is getting weaker in some way but it’s actually part of a good strong cup of tea.
If you take the bag out, the tea is actually quite weak, and the bag goes straight in the bin.
Do I even need to explain how that analogy works with Brexit?
Should the UK stay in or go out?
If the UK remains, the EU as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the UK is getting weaker in some way, but it’s actually part of a good strong union of nations.
If the UK leaves, the EU gets weaker and the UK goes straight in the bin.
Quite clever really.
You can watch James Acaster clips on YouTube.
You can see his Netflix specials “Repertoire” on Netflix
You can read his book “Classic Scrapes” from any half-decent book shop.
Amber & Paul join me to talk again about poshness, posh accents and posh celebrities. This episode is full of different British accents – posh, RP and regional differences. It’s also full of comedy and I found myself laughing out loud while editing this, especially the interview with the football player that Paul tells us about. I hope you enjoy it.