Tag Archives: english

746. Karl Pilkington’s 3-Minute Wonders / Manchester Accent

Understand English as it is spoken by native speakers. Let’s listen to Karl Pilkington rambling about life, the universe & everything, and see what we can understand and learn. Karl is from Manchester, so we’ll be looking at some features of his accent, picking up plenty of vocabulary and having a bit of a laugh along the way.

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Full Episode Transcript

Hello LEPsters,

Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing today? 

In this episode we’re going to do some intensive listening and use it as a chance to learn some vocabulary and pronunciation.

This episode should be a bit of a laugh as we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of Karl Pilkington and listen to his thoughts on some big issues like health, food, animals, holidays and just existence itself.

We’ll be looking at the different features of his Manchester accent, and there will be lots of vocabulary to pick up too as we are covering a range of different topics. You can also consider this as a little intensive listening test, as I will be setting questions that you have to find answers to, then going through each clip in detail and breaking it all down for language.

We last heard about Karl Pilkington on my podcast in episode 656 in which we listened to a couple of his Monkey News stories about a chimp that works on a building site and another chimp that pilots a space rocket. 

Do you remember that? If you don’t, then get the LEP app and listen to episode 656. It was a very popular episode and it should make you laugh out loud on a bus maybe. 

That was pretty funny stuff, and Karl is very funny even though he’s not actually a comedian.

Who is Karl Pilkington?

To be honest, Karl Pilkington was most well-known about 10 years ago
and these days he’s not in the public eye as much as he used to be,
but he’s still a fairly well-known person in the UK, especially for Ricky Gervais fans.

Karl is just an ordinary bloke from Manchester who met comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant when he worked for them as a radio producer in London. 

Later, Ricky invited Karl to be on his podcast in order to broadcast his weird ideas and inane ramblings to the whole world, and the rest is history. 

The Ricky Gervais Podcast became a world record-breaker with over 300,000,000 downloads.

In episodes, Ricky, Steve & Karl would talk about big topics like religion, evolution, philosophy, nature, birth and death and Karl would often say some bizarre and hilarious things, apparently without intending to be funny.

Ricky was always slightly obsessed with Karl, and he always described him as “an idiot with a perfectly round head like an orange”. 

After being on Ricky’s podcast, Karl went on to become a fairly well-known figure in the UK, doing more podcasts with Ricky, then TV shows, books and documentaries like “An Idiot Abroad”.

Karl is known for his funny and slightly odd musings and observations about life. 

He comes from a working class background in the Manchester area, and his accent has many of the features that you would expect from that. 

Accent / Pronunciation

We will be going into the specific features of his accent in more detail as we go and this kind of follows on from episode 682 which was all about common features of pronunciation in England which are different to RP.

Which accent should you have?

So this episode is about one of the UK’s regional accents.

You might be thinking – Luke, by doing this episode are you saying that we should all learn to speak like Karl?

I’m not saying that. You can choose your accent, and many learners choose a neutral accent to learn, but it’s not all about learning an accent, it’s also about learning to understand different accents, and learning about the varieties of English that are out there.

So, you might not want to speak like Karl, but I certainly want you to understand Karl and the many millions of other people who speak English in a non-standard way.

So this episode is all about understanding an accent, rather than copying it. But of course you can copy Karl’s Mancunian accent if you like.

Vocabulary

There will also be plenty of vocabulary coming up too as we pick apart the things that Karl says and the way he says them.

You’ll find it listed on the screen on the video version and also presented in text form on the page for this episode on my website.

Video

We’re going to be using a series available on youtube in which Karl ponders certain big questions in just 3 minutes of video, originally broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK as part of their “3 Minute Wonders” series. 

These are short videos in which Karl talks about his fridge, health, food, animals and holidays, covering each topic with his usual ramblings, all delivered in that Manchester accent, know what I mean?

I have about 6 recordings, which are about 3 minutes each (this could become two episodes).

Before I play the recording I’ll give you a little bit of context and I’ll set some questions. 

Then you listen and try to get the answers. 

Then I’ll break it down – listening to each bit again, with some explanations if necessary.

We’ll also pay attention to pronunciation – specifically his Mancunian accent. I’m going to break that down too, exploring the main features of that particular accent.

And I’ll sum up some of the vocab from each clip before moving on to the next one.


#1 Karl on Life

Karl goes around a museum looking at meteorites, dinosaur skeletons and endangered animals (stuffed ones or models) and muses about life in general medical science.

  1. What does Karl wonder about the big bang?
  2. What makes the meteorite room a bit disappointing?
  3. What’s Karl’s main criticism of humanity today?
  4. What does Karl think would happen if a dinosaur got loose and started to “run riot”?
  5. What’s Karl’s main point?

Vocabulary

  • The big bang
  • Did it only seem big because there was no other noise to drown it out at the time?
  • Meteorites (on earth)
  • Meteors (flying in earth’s atmosphere)
  • Asteroids (flying in space)
  • The edge is taken off it because that isn’t the only one.
  • I’m not surprised they went extinct, they’re all in here.
  • Enough’s enough. If your body is that done in, call it a day.
  • The more we know, the more we interfere.
  • Don’t interfere with nature and that.
  • Even if it was going round running riot they’d go “We don’t want it to go extinct
  • The panda is dying out.

Notes on Karl’s accent

Here’s a summary of the main points regarding Karl’s Manchester accent. 

Many of these features are common in people from the Manchester area, although not all people from Manchester will speak like this, and there are different degrees of it. 

This is certainly Karl’s Manchester accent in any case. 

A lot of what I’m about to say will include things brought up in the episode I did about Key Features of English accents, episode 682.

PRONUNCIATION #1

H dropping

  • Look, how many do you need?
  • I’m not surprised they went extinct, they’re all in here.
  • She’d had a new lung, a new heart
  • He puts his hand in and goes “Yep, it’s broke”
  • They weren’t doing anything. They weren’t jumping through hoops. (talking about animals in a zoo)
  • I don’t know if it’s cruel or not, to have them in there.
  • I’m 32, I think I’ve got the hang of it.

Glottal stops (/t/ sounds get replaced by /ʔ/ )

  • I’ll have a look at the meteorites.
  • If you’re going to eat a live animal, don’t eat one that’s got eight arms that can get hold of your neck.
  • Let me see them again when they’re better.

Go back to my episode called 682. Features of English Accents, Explained to find out more about glottal stops.


#2 Karl on Health

Karl recounts a conversation he had with a woman about going to the gym.

  1. Does Karl go to the gym?
  2. What does he think of the idea of breathing classes?
  3. What does he think of drinking 7 pints of water a day?
  4. What’s Karl’s argument for not going to the gym? Heart beats, tortoise

Vocabulary

  • I know what’s probably putting you off – the fact that it’s hard work.
  • Breathing classes – I’m 32 I think I’ve got the hang of it
  • My Dad’s like 60-odd. I’ve never seen him drink a pint of water, yet they’re telling us we should have, like, 7 pints a day or something, and then they wonder why there’s a water drought on.
  • They keep coming up with daft ways of keeping fit.
  • Chucking paint at each other. 

PRONUNCIATION #2

/æ/ not /ɑː/ (the “bath/trap split”, again)

Short A sound /æ/ in bath, podcast 

(gas and glass have the same vowel sound in Karl’s Manchester accent).

This is normal across all northern accents, and many accents in the midlands. I would use /ɑː/ because although I lived in the midlands for many years (half my childhood), my accent is mostly from the south because I’ve lived there more and my parents don’t have strong regional accents.

Come to my class. We do breathing classes.

/ʊ/ not /ʌ/

The U sound in but, enough and much.

I pronounce it /ʌ/ but Karl pronounces it more like /ʊ/

Do you go to the gym much? 


#3 Karl on Food

Karl talks about a new trend – eating things which shouldn’t be eaten. 

Coming from England, Karl thinks it’s weird to eat certain things that might be eaten in other cultures, like live octopus, insects, frogs, snails, probably raw meat, raw fish and sushi.

  1. What is the danger of eating a live octopus?
  2. What’s Karl’s issue with kids and food today?
  3. What does Karl think about eating dog?

Vocabulary

  • They choke you. Why would you want to eat that?
  • If we’re eating octopuses, why are dogs getting away with it?

END OF PART 1 – TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2

745. Mental Factors in Learning English (with Ray Addam) [English with Ray SwapCast]

Talking to English teacher Ray Addam from Glasgow in Scotland about mental factors in learning English, such as anxiety, confidence, stress and motivation. Video version available on YouTube.

Audio Version (with extra ramble + song)

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Introduction Transcript

Hello dear listeners,

This is a swapcast between LEP and English with Ray, which means we are both uploading this to our podcasts/youtube channels.

Ray is an English teacher from Glasgow in Scotland (and you’ll be able to notice his accent, which is not the strongest Glaswegian accent I’ve ever heard but it’s definitely noticeable – which is great, because I love Scottish accents). Ray has recently started making videos on YouTube for learners of English. 

One of his students – Ivan (from Russia I think) who is also a LEPster, suggested to Ray that he start doing that and that he also contact me for an interview, so that’s what you’re going to listen to or watch here. This is Ray Addam interviewing me for his channel.

This is a fairly relaxed and free-ranging conversation, and after chatting a bit about playing music and performing in front of people, we ended up talking about the psychology of learning English, particularly how to manage anxiety or nerves when using English in stressful situations, and then our comments about how to work on your confidence and how to have the right mental approach to learning a language, which is one of the most important steps to take.

So listen on for some comments and tips about how to manage your stress levels in English, how to become more confident in English and how to take control of your communication skills in general.

Thanks to Ray for sending this recording to me. You might want to check out his channel on YouTube, which is called English with Ray. He only has a few videos there at the moment, but everyone’s got to start somewhere. I’ve noticed that Ray also speaks fluent Arabic so any Arabic speaking LEPsters might be particularly interested in Ray’s content as he might have some insights into differences between Arabic and English. I haven’t actually asked him about that yet, but maybe it’s something he could work on in a future video.

Anyway, that’s it for this introduction and I will now let you listen to this conversation with Ray Addam, firstly about playing music in front of audiences of people, and then about the challenges of managing your confidence when using English in stressful situations. I will probably speak to you again briefly at the end of this chat, but for now, let’s get started.

Links for Ray

Take online English lessons with Ray Addam on Preply preply.com/en/tutor/447455/

English with Ray on YouTube www.youtube.com/c/EnglishWithRay/featured

Song (audio version only) – “Questionnaire” by The Rutles genius.com/The-rutles-questionnaire-lyrics

743. Give me Tea, Please – Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language (with Natasha V Broodie) + ramble / song

Talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English understand the subtle codes of polite language when making requests and giving information in professional and personal contexts. In the conversation we explore the topic and consider some tips for making your language more culturally appropriate.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English to find the right tone in their speaking and writing. Tone is something which is very much affected by culture and often relates to things like being direct, indirect, formal, informal, the use of modal verbs and phrasal verbs and so on. In English the general tone is often quite friendly, indirect and polite, and this can sometimes cause problems for English speakers coming from different places where codes of politeness or professionalism are different.

Natasha has worked as an English teacher and has also worked in international contexts for the UN and so she has direct experience of observing people communicating in English and not quite getting the tone right.

So in her book, “Give me tea, please. Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language” she lays out a sort of style guide with theory, practical tips and a glossary of defined vocabulary at the back.

It sounds like an interesting book which could be a worthwhile read for my listeners, so I thought it would be good to chat with Natasha a little bit and explore some of the ideas presented in her book.

“Give me tea, please” is currently available on Amazon but from 24 September should be available from all other providers too.

Right, so now you know what sort of thing we’re going to be talking about, let’s meet Natasha Broodie and find out some of those practical tips for tasteful language.


Give Me Tea, Please on Amazon


Ending

So that was Natasha V Broodie, talking about her book Give me tea, please – available from all good bookstores. Go ahead and pick up a copy and if you like it, leave a review on Amazon.

Thanks again to Natasha for her contribution in this episode.

A Short Ramble

T-shirts
Design comp – link here for details teacherluke.co.uk/2021/09/22/742-new-lep-t-shirts-merch-lep-design-competition-2021-with-james/
Premium
YouTube

Sneezing caused me to take a trip to tangent town…

Song – “Trouble” by Coldplay

tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/coldplay/trouble-chords-16491

742. NEW LEP T-SHIRTS & MERCH + LEP DESIGN COMPETITION 2021 with James

LEP merch is now available, including t-shirts, mugs and more featuring special LEP designs made by James Thompson. Luke and James discuss the new designs and launch a new design competition to give you the chance to get your design in my merch store and a cash prize of £80.

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VISIT THE TEE-PUBLIC MERCH STORE 🌎 (Everywhere else)

VISIT THE RED-BUBBLE MERCH STORE 🇷🇺🇨🇳 (Russia & China)

Introduction

Hello listeners, it’s nice to be talking to you on this fine morning. I’m also joined by James, my brother.

If you’ve seen me on YouTube in a t-shirt with a magnificent LEP logo on the front of it, or drinking tea from a lovely looking mug with an LEP logo on it, or perhaps writing something down on my special LEP notepad, then you might be thinking…

Where can I get one of those t-shirts?
Where can I get one of those mugs?

Where do I get one of those amazing pads?

Or even: How can I get one of my designs on some LEP Merch?

Your questions are finally being answered today, because the LEP merch store is back open, and I am launching a design competition to give you the chance to get your design on an LEP t-shirt, and a special cash prize of £80!

The merch store is now open. That’s where you can get t-shirts, sweaters, mugs, stickers and loads of other things with the LEP logo on, but also there are various other new designs which you should love if you are a LEPster. 

I suspect that you’re going to want more than just one of the things on offer for you today – In fact I’ve already ordered some and I am wearing one now.

In this episode I’m going to talk a little bit about the different merchandise available just to make sure it’s clear and that you understand everything.

Also in this episode I am launching a design competition – this is your chance to have your design on an official LEP t-shirt. Not only that, but there are cash prizes available too for the winners. I will explain more later.

My brother James is the one who did all the design work to produce the various images which are available across a range of products, so he is joining me for this one.

We’re going to talk about each design one by one, I’ll give you a little tour of the store to make sure you can use it properly, I will give you the full details of the LEP Design competition and then we’re going to open things out to have a larger conversation about merchandising and stories related to that.

Tips for Using TeePublic – tee.pub/lic/LEP

Click on the design you like, then choose the products using the list on the left.\

Some t-shirts are double sided.

Check the different types of t-shirt available using the little drop-down menu (classic, heavy, tri-blend, etc)

TeePublic often does sales and discounts on their website.

Tips for Using RedBubble – www.redbubble.com/people/LEPLuke/shop?asc=u

I opened this store so Chinese & Russian LEPsters could buy merch too. The website is simple enough. It shows t-shirts in the thumbnail pictures, but check the list on the left to see all available products.

Various types of t-shirt are available.

RedBubble doesn’t do double sided t-shirts.

Avoid buying dark designs on a dark colour t-shirt (although personally I think an LEP Ninja design on a black tri-blend t-shirt looks really cool)

Let me know what other ideas or changes you’d like to make to the store, and I will see what I can do. So, if you have any other design ideas, or suggestions for things you’d like to see in the store, or changes you’d like to make – let me know. luketeacher@hotmail.com

LEP DESIGN COMPETITION 2021

We are looking for cool t-shirt designs by LEPsters, for the LEP Merch Store.

  • Think of a t-shirt that LEPsters would want to wear
  • PRIZE: The winning design will be put on t-shirts, mugs and other merch, and the winner will also win £80!
  • SPECS: A high-resolution transparent .PNG at 150dpi.  Minimum dimensions of at least 1500px by 1995px (not including outer transparent pixels).
  • CLOSING DATE: 22 October 2021
  • Send your t-shirt designs to podcastcomp@gmail.com

James and I will consider all designs which are sent to me, and a selection of designs will be displayed on the website so you can leave your comments. James and I will also discuss them in a podcast episode.

Ultimately, James and I are the judges and we make the final choice on the winner(s).

741. Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021, Explained

Learn English from some jokes in this episode as we go through 9 jokes chosen as the best of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe stand up comedy scene this year (2021). Let me tell you the jokes, see if you understand them, and then I will break them down for language learning opportunities. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Episode Transcript / Notes

Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021, Explained

Hello listeners, hello video viewers. How are you? How is the world treating you today? Not too badly I hope. 

Here’s a new episode. So stick with me. Listen closely. Pay attention. You can definitely learn some new English from this. Let’s get started.

Introduction

It’s time to dissect the frog again as we look at some of the most popular jokes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of this year 2021. I’m going to read them to you and then explain them so you can understand them fully and also learn some new vocabulary in the process. 

This is something I’ve been doing every year at the end of the Ediburgh Festival when the list of the most popular jokes is published in the newspapers. 

Last year I didn’t do one of these episodes because Ed Fringe got cancelled due to Covid-19. 

But the festival was back this year, so here we go again. Let’s find some popular jokes told by comedians at the fringe and use them to learn English.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Just in case you don’t know, the Edinburgh Fringe (full name: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe) is a huge comedy festival that happens every August in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.

Sometimes it’s called The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, The Edinburgh Comedy Festival, Ed Fringe, just The Fringe or simply Edinburgh.

It’s one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world, and every August comedians travel to the city in order to perform comedy to the large crowds of people who travel there. 

For comedians August in Edinburgh is a huge opportunity to get exposure and experience, but it is very tough, especially at the beginning when you have to drum up an audience of people to come to your shows every day.

Just in case you didn’t know, stand-up is a form of entertainment that involves one comedian standing on stage with a microphone telling stories and jokes in an effort to make the audience laugh. It is an extremely popular form of entertainment in the English speaking world.

This episode is about specific jokes told by comedians during the fringe this year, but stand-up comedians don’t really just go up and tell individual jokes one after the other (except in the case of some specific comedians), rather they fit their jokes into stories, observations about the world or confessions about themselves.

However, this list of the “best jokes from the fringe” just picks simple one or two line jokes from people’s performances.

Lower Your Expectations Now 😅

I expect that taking these jokes away from their original performances will not help the jokes. 

They will probably be less funny outside the comedy show that they came from because we’re going to remove the context of the joke, the attitude and personality of the comedian who told the joke and what was happening in the room that particular evening. All those elements have a huge impact on how funny the joke will be.

So, it’s not very fair to judge these jokes on their own like this, outside of their original context, but this is still an interesting experiment in learning English, so here we go.

Here’s how we’re going to do this

  1. First I will read each joke one by one. 
  • There are 9 jokes in total. 
  • How many jokes do you “get”?
  • If you “get” a joke, it means you understand why it is funny.
  • Ideally you will laugh, but you can also groan.
  • If you don’t understand it you need to say “I don’t get it!
  • The main thing is: You have to notice and acknowledge that a joke has been told to you.

So, listen to the jokes, do you get them all?

  1. Then I will go through each joke one by one and I will break them all down, explaining exactly how they work, showing you double meanings, explaining any specific vocabulary or cultural reference points and giving you all the information you need to be able to understand these jokes properly.

There is a lot of vocabulary to be learned from this, which I will highlight as we go through and recap at the end.

So, get ready, it’s time to dissect the frog again.

Of course, I have to say the quote: 

Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.

I expect I will be killing all these jokes by explaining them. 

You’re not meant to explain jokes, and if you do, the joke suddenly becomes less funny. 

Most jokes work by surprise. 

Getting the double meaning instantly is usually the only way to find a joke funny. 

So I can’t guarantee that you will laugh at these jokes, but this is certainly going to be good for your English in any case.

Joke types

A lot of these jokes use 

  • synonyms (different words with a similar meaning),
  • common fixed expressions and sayings
  • homophones (different words that sound the same)
  • similies (finding similarities between otherwise different things), 
  • pull back & reveal (revealing extra information to change the situation)

Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021

I’m getting this list from the website Chortle.co.uk which is the UK’s number 1 comedy website.

www.chortle.co.uk/news/2021/08/22/49087/masai_graham_wins_the_dave%2A_joke_of_the_fringe

1. “I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”

– Masai Graham 

2. “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.” 
– Ivor Dembina

3. “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.” 

-Tom Mayhew

4. “The roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.”

– Adele Cliff

5. “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.”

– Leo Kearse

6 “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.”

– Will Mars

7. “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.” 

– Sameer Katz

8. “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.” 

– Rich Pulsford

9. “People say zoos are inhumane. But that’s because they’re for animals.” 

– Sameer Katz

Vocabulary Focus

Now let’s go through those jokes again and break them down so you can understand them fully, picking up bits of vocabulary along the way.

Broken down versions (sorry frogs)

1. “I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.” 

– Masai Graham

Vocabulary

A caesarean

A C-section


2. “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.” – Ivor Dembina

Vocabulary

Common phrase: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”

Quid

Halved (verb)


3. “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.” – Tom Mayhew

Vocabulary

To be into role play

Role play – pretending to be someone else, often during sex to make it more interesting.

To pretend to be someone / to do something

He pretended he was James Bond

She pretended she still loved him.


4. “The Roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.” – Adele Cliff

This is a pun – a word joke and it’s just that one thing sounds like something else.

“Julius Caesar” sounds like Julius sees her, which is why his wife hates playing hide and seek because Julius always sees her. Julius Caesar. I think you get it.

Vocabulary

To play hide and seek

5. “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.” – Leo Kearse

Oooh, this is a bit of a groaner. That’s where you go Oooooh like it almost hurts. 

“Heard it through the grapevine” is one of Marvin Gaye’s most famous songs.

“Herd” can mean to move a group of animals in a certain direction, like sheep or cows. You herd your sheep into a field.

Marvin used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. A vineyard is a place where you grow grapes for wine. 

The grapevine is where the grapes grow, but there’s also an idiom “through the grapevine” meaning when you hear people gossiping about something, or you over hear people talking about something. 

In the case of the song, he hears that his girlfriend is cheating on him and he hears it through the grapevine. 

He heard it through the grapevine. He heard rumours or gossip about it.

He’d herd it through the grapevine. He attempted to move the sheep around through the grapevines of the plants in the vineyard.

Vocabulary

To herd sheep

To hear something on/through the grapevine

Vinyard

This is too much of a stretch and if you get the joke please let me know. Write a comment in the comment section – do you get the Marvin Gaye joke?


6. “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.” – Will Mars

This is quite a clever little joke. Everything took longer in the past – travelling, communicating etc. 

Marriages seemed to last longer, but everything took longer back then.


7. “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.” – Sameer Katz

This is quite funny and of course it hits two of my favourite notes, well three in fact: Star Wars, France and speaking English. 

There is a common misconception that French people arrogantly refuse to speak English in Paris let’s say, 

but I find that French people are more willing to speak English than it seems, and in fact they’re a bit more shy than arrogant, and if a French person in Paris speaks French to you, that’s quite normal as you are in France. 

Also, rather than being arrogant, a lot of French people just feel quite self conscious about their accent and certain common mistakes that French people often make. They also might have bad memories from English lessons at school which knocked all the confidence out of them, and they’re afraid to be judged by each other. So it’s more likely to be shyness than arrogance.


8. “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.” – Rich Pulsford

This is a clever little joke. 

To have an inkling means to have a suspicion or an idea of something.

“I don’t know who stole the last biscuit, but I have an inkling. Or I have an inkling of an idea who took that biscuit, and I think it was you!”

But an inkling does sound like a small spillage of ink from a pen. A small puddle of ink, or ink on your hand. An inkling. 

What do we call that? I don’t know, but I have an inkling!”

Vocabulary

To have an inkling

A spillage


9. “People say zoos are inhumane. But that’s because they’re for animals.” – Sameer Katz

I’m not sure I have to explain that, do I?

Being humane means treating people in reasonable and humanistic manner. 

Treating people with respect, dignity, justice. 

Inhumane is the opposite – and although it includes the word human, we do use this word to refer to the cruel treatment of animals.

Keeping animals in a cage is inhumane. 

Even though they’re animals, we still use the word inhumane, and this is just a funny little thing that can make you laugh when you notice it.

Vocabulary

Humane

Inhumane


Vocabulary Review

  • A caesarean
  • A C-section
  • “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
  • Quid
  • Halve (verb)
  • To be into role play
  • To pretend to be someone / to do something
  • To play hide and seek
  • To herd sheep
  • To hear something on/through the grapevine
  • Vinyard
  • To have an inkling
  • A spillage
  • Humane
  • Inhumane 

739. The Escaped Man by CT Platt (Learn English with Short Stories)

Reading a short story presented on Commaful.com. The Escaped Man is a mystery full of tension and intrigue. Listen closely as I break it all down and explain the vocabulary fully. YouTube video version also available.

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Introduction Transcript & Links

Hello listeners and video viewers,

It’s time to do another story on the podcast. This time I’m going to be reading a story called The Escaped Man which was written by CT Platt and is presented on the Commaful website.

Commaful.com is a website where you can find short stories, fan fiction and other reading texts and it’s all presented in quite a nice and easy-to-read format.

I’m going to read the story to you once and all you have to do is follow it, and hopefully enjoy it. I have a couple of questions for you to help you stay focused on your listening.

Then I’ll read through the story again and break it down line by line, explaining, pointing out and teaching you bits of vocabulary and grammar as I go.

Learning English through stories is a great idea and tends to work because it places language in a vivid context and is generally quite entertaining and fun.

So listen to the story and then let me break all the language down for you bit by bit.

Just before I read the story, here are a couple of questions for you.

Where does the story take place? How do you know?
Is this American English or British English? How do you know?
What is going to happen next?

OK, let’s start.

commaful.com/play/lisa/the-escaped-man/

Full Script of the Story

www.wattpad.com/543021670-suspense-stories-the-escaped-man-c-t-platt-2017

736. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 3] Learn English with Stories

The final part of this series in which I am reading from the classic story The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, while explaining and clarifying the English which comes up. Full transcript available and YouTube video version too.

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Full Transcript

Please watch parts 1 and 2 before watching this. Links in the description.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Recap of the story so far

Without realising it, the people of earth have been attacked by an aggressive alien species from Mars, with the intention of colonising our planet while escaping their home planet which has become uninhabitable.

The Martians are vastly superior to us in terms of their intelligence and technology. They are also unfriendly. Very unfriendly. Humans are now reduced to mere animals or insects in the presence of these things.

Human society has quickly turned to chaos and destruction as the Martians begin their campaign to take our planet.

The aliens first landed in a cylinder which fell from space with a green flash. After the cylinder opened, revealing the visitors to be awkward and clumsy in our atmosphere, their technology proved to be devestatingly powerful. They are armed with a heat-ray which they have used to clear out all life surrounding the fallen cylinder.

The narrator of the story witnessed the Martians emerging from their cylinder and the ruthless destructive power of their heat ray, but still does not yet realise the full scale of the invasion. He decides to escape the area and travel in the direction of London.

During the night, he sees another cylinder landing, and then sees the first Martian tripods striding over the countryside. These are the vehicles the Martians use and they are colossal and formidable. Suddenly the clumsy Martians are mobile and far more physically powerful than in their normal, naked form.

Reading an extract from chapter 12 (action packed stuff)

Summary of Chapter 11 (next part of the story)
From the upstairs window of his study the narrator observes the destruction of his village and the fires all around the common, as well as the outlines of three creatures moving in the pit, which he can see from a distance.

He hardly recognizes his surroundings. The narrator begins to comprehend that the creatures from the cylinder operate the tripods, comparing them to a human-driven steam engine.

He invites a soldier outside the house to hide inside. The man recounts the futile military efforts against the Martians, who easily destroyed both companies and their weaponry before emerging as tripods from the pit and destroying the railway station and a train. The artilleryman managed to escape.

The two men look again from the window to see three tripods at the pit. As the sun comes up the narrator sees destruction “so indiscriminate and so universal” as to be unprecedented in human warfare.

HG Wells describes the horrific feeling of realising that these Martians are far more powerful than humans. Each cylinder contains at least three tripods, and each tripod is armed with a heat ray. Later we learn more about the martians and their technology as the narrator manages to observe them more, but they are still completely mysterious.

Meanwhile, people have become like refugees from a warzone and there is general chaos as people attempt to escape, get resources, look after themselves etc.

Shepperton Station has become a target for the Martians in their tripods and they have been destroying it, the railway lines and trains. This is especially poignant because they are targeting our infrastructure and our technology seems infinitely primitive to that of the Martians, and we are often compared to animals, insects, bugs or even microorganisms in comparison to our alien visitors.

HG Wells makes a point of observing how society reacts to a moment like this and how fragile it is, while also contrasting the familiar cosy surroundings of the English home counties, with the bizarre, grotesque and strange images of these very bad aliens from Mars.

The narrator and the soldier he met choose to leave the house. The soldier wants to go to London and the narrator wants to go back to his wife in Leatherhead.

They end up in Weybridge which a town just on the river Thames, with London to the east and the Thames Valley to the west.

This is a place where the Thames meets The Wey, another river. It’s a sort of port where you can get a ferry across to the other side. Crowds of people are gathered there, hoping to get on a ferry. The army have placed rows of large artillery guns behind some trees as they expect the tripods to come from a nearby town that is currently under attack. This all happens close to the edge of the water and is full of really precise and specific vocabulary to describe the action that takes place.

XII.
WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON. (extract)

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

“What’s that?” cried a boatman, and “Shut up, you fool!” said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud—the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.

“The sojers’ll stop ’em,” said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A haziness rose over the treetops.

Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.

“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.

At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd near the water’s edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck. There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet—a splashing from the water. A man, too frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden. A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get under water! That was it!

“Get under water!” I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the surface.

The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no more notice, for the moment, of the people running this way and that, than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked.

When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian’s hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton.

Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh and glittering metal.

“Hit!” shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.
I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.

The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer heeding its steps and with the camera that fired the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton. The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling to destruction. It drove along in a straight line, incapable of guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smashing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tremendous force into the river out of my sight.

A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam, mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge muddy tidal wave, almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly above the seething and roar of the Martian’s collapse.

For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need of self-preservation. I splashed through the tumultuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so, until I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves. The fallen Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river, and for the most part submerged.

Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air. The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless purposelessness of these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling for its life amid the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.

My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our manufacturing towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed. Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey. The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.

At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until movement was an agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as long as I could. The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.

When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians altogether. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of grey, magnified by the mist. They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Laleham. The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way and that.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises—the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.

Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came down to the water’s edge not fifty yards from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.

In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death.

I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a score of yards of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and lifting again; of a long suspense, and then of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between them, now clear and then presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of river and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped.

Summary (AKA – what the hell just happened?)

The two men reach a chaotic scene in Weybridge as people crowd the railway station and the ferry in an effort to leave.
Suddenly they hear gunfire and a large explosion, and four tripods come into view across the river.
The narrator hides in the river.
Six guns hidden in the woods fire on the nearest tripod.
One shell strikes the tripod and gruesomely kills the Martian inside.
Unguided but still moving, the tripod smashes into a church and falls into the river.
The other Martians come to the fallen tripod, shooting their Heat-Rays at the village and destroying the opposition.
The Heat-Ray from the fallen tripod heats the water in the river and scalds the narrator before he manages to escape.

Final comments and analysis

It’s possible to see various interpretations of this story, or subtexts to the story.

Here are some.

The complacency of humans
As the dominant species on earth for hundreds of thousands of years, we have become complacent about our position in the natural hierarchy, and this is a mistake. Humans could easily be removed from this dominant position by things we aren’t even aware of. In the story this means intelligent creatures from another planet. In reality this could be something like the coronavirus or just something else we don’t usually think about.

How would human society cope with a crisis like this?
This is a common theme in disaster movies, zombie films, science fiction etc. All it takes is for something to disrupt our carefully organised society and things can descend into chaos quite easily, and this often brings out the worst in people. Normal citizens can quickly become immoral and do bad things, when the structure of society collapses and we end up having to fight for our survival.

Treatment of Animals
The story makes us think about the way we treat animals, which are below us in the power hierarchy on earth. Perhaps we should be more compassionate and kind to animals. In fact this is one of the only conclusions the narrator reaches in this story, as he suddenly understands what it means to be ruled over by a superior species.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Microorganisms and viruses might be the most powerful forces on earth.

More themes here including technology, fear, power, and Familiar versus Strange
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/themes/

A sample from coursehero.com
Technology
The benefits, possibilities, and potential threats of technology—represented in the Martian tripods—make technology a pervasive theme in the novel. Following the Industrial Revolution, technology changed society dramatically—from travel, to work, to communication. Virtually no part of life was untouched by new inventions. The benefits provided by these new machines meant people could accomplish tasks faster, easier, and often independently.

But as ever with modern science fiction stories, there is an element of fear regarding advancements in technology and how we may ultimately be surpassed by technological innovations.

This is where we’re going to stop.


I seriously hope you enjoyed this!

If you’re still listening or watching, then “hello”. Thanks for sticking with this. I guess it must mean you’ve been enjoying it.

I’m sure it’s been challenging at times, but to be honest I also feel this is difficult to follow when I read it. There’s a sense that things are just beyond your imagination, and that your mind has to do quite a lot of work to understand the fairly complex descriptions being given. This is not quite the same as watching a film where everything is shown. Or maybe it’s like watching a really well-directed film where you never quite see clearly what is happening, and this adds to the drama and excitement.

Anyway – thank you for sticking with this and listening all the way through.

Let me know what you think of this, and I highly recommend reading the rest of the story. There’s a lot more action and a few more close encounters with the Martians and their tripods, and of course the ending is very clever. I won’t spoil it. The book is better than the film though, I assure you!

In terms of English, I hope you have found it interesting to hear some samples of old fashioned English from the 19th century. I would say it is broadly modern English, but with a more formal style. It’s really enjoyable though. I love the descriptiveness and the general command over the language is a joy to behold.

Don’t forget you can get the full text for this episode printed right there on the page for this episode, and there’s the YouTube video version as well to enjoy where you can see text on the screen as you read it.

Listen to LEP wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

Leave a positive review on iTunes and check out my free app.

And consider signing up to LEP Premium to get specific lessons on vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Thanks for listening.

All the best,

Bye bye bye bye

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.

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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…

733. A Summer Ramble

A pre-holiday ramble in which I talk about learning English, moving to a new flat, the podcast over the next few months, football, being on Other People’s Podcasts, a recording of my daughter speaking English and a couple of songs. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Video Version

Notes

There’s no script for this episode. All I have is a list of one-word prompts to help me remember what I should be saying.

  • YouTube 
  • Beard
  • English
  • Moving
  • Holiday
  • Premium
  • Football
  • OPP
  • Daughter
  • Music

Luke on Other People’s Podcasts

The Level Up English Podcast with Michael Lavers

English 2.0 Podcast with Al Slagle

Glass Onion: On John Lennon by Antony Rotunno

Luke on the Stories of Language Learners Podcast

Luke on other podcasts  (coming soon)

731. Beatles Song Lyrics / Idioms & Expressions (with Antony Rotunno)

Learn English with The Beatles as we explore lyrics from Beatles songs and pick out some idioms, descriptive language and other vocabulary for you to learn. Featuring Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everyone,

In this episode you can learn English with The Beatles as we look at specific bits of English which appear in the lyrics of their songs.

I’m joined again by Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion on John Lennon Podcast. Antony is also an English teacher and something of a John Lennon expert. He is also a musician, and a lot of the credit for this episode goes to him, because he did most of the preparation, going through lyrics of Beatles songs and picking out specific use of English, including certain phrases and idioms.

This is like a quiz actually. Can you name the songs when Antony plays them? 

Can you beat me?

Can you name the songs from the lyrics and from the music?

There are a few references to The Rutles and Neil Innes of course, but for us those songs are all part of The Beatles extended universe.

I’ll chat to you again at the end of the episode and will sum up some of the bits of language that come up, but now let’s get started.


Phrases / Vocabualry

  • Using lots of pronouns, me, you, us, I etc
  • Using more imagery in the lyrics
  • I’m going to love her until the cows come home
  • A chip on my shoulder
  • My heart went boom when I crossed that room
  • Buzz, hum, boom (Onomatopoeia)
  • It won’t be long ‘til I belong to you
  • I don’t know why she’s riding so high
  • To be on your high horse
  • I’ll make a point of taking her away from you
  • I sat on her rug biding my time, drinking her wine
  • This bird has flown
  • Please don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away, and after all, I’m only sleeping
  • If she’s gone I can’t go on, feeling two foot small
  • Feeling 10 foot tall
  • Ouch, you’re breaking my heart
  • To upset the applecart
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way
  • He was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • Or an iron hand in a velvet glove
  • Working like a dog
  • Sleeping like a log
  • Sleeping like a baby
  • If you need a shoulder to cry on
  • To give someone a shoulder to cry on
  • To open up the doors
  • My independence seems to vanish in the haze
  • It was another string to their bow

Colours

  • There is a place, where I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue
  • To feel blue
  • Everybody’s green because I’m the one who won your love
  • Green = 1. Jealous 2. inexperienced 
  • Oh dear what can I do, baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue

Imagery

  • When the sun shines they slip into the shade, and sip their lemonade
  • With tangerine trees and marmalade skies, cellophane flowers of yellow and green
  • No-one I think is in my tree
  • Nobody is on my wavelength
  • Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower
  • The clouds will be a daisy chain, so let me see you smile again
  • Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering, in the sun
  • My mother was of the sky, my father was of the earth but I am of the universe and you know what it’s worth
  • Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
  • Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
  • Don’t need a gun to blow your mind
  • No longer riding on the merry go round, I just had to let it go
  • Mother, you had me, but I never had you

Links to Antony’s Podcasts

Glass Onion: On John Lennon

Film Gold

Life and Life Only