Tag Archives: idioms

520. Idioms Game & Chat Part 2 (with Andy Johnson) + 18 More Idioms & Vocab Items Explained

The second part of my chat with Andy Johnson. Listen out for 18 more idioms which will be explained later. Topics include: Twitter abuse, the other Andy Johnson, training for the London Marathon + more. Transcripts and vocabulary definitions below.

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Introduction Transcript

In this episode you can continue to listen to a conversation I recorded with Andy Johnson just the other day. The language focus in this double episode is on idiomatic expressions.

In fact we’re playing a sort of idioms game. The rules of the game are that before having the conversation Andy & I had to prepare 3 idioms each. By prepare I mean to just think of 3 idioms, or flick through an idioms dictionary and pick 3 that you quite like. Then during the conversation we had to try and insert the idioms naturally, without drawing too much attention to them. Just to slip them in completely naturally. The challenge is that we both, at the end of the conversation, have to try and identify which expressions the other one had prepared in advance.

During the whole conversation lots of idioms just came up naturally. In part 1 I went through a lot of them – there were about 25 idioms in the first part. I explained them all at the end.

Do you remember them all? Here’s a quick reminder.

Idioms from last time:

  • to bring someone up to speed
  • to have beef with someone
  • to hold a grudge against someone
  • to have a score to settle with someone
  • to jump the gun
  • to be the butt of a joke
  • bad blood
  • to take something on face value
  • to be a piece of cake
  • not my cup of tea
  • to hit the nail on the head
  • to stick out like a sore thumb
  • to shoehorn something in
  • to do something on the spur of the moment
  • to be on the doorstep of
  • to be two/three sheets to the wind
  • to be half cut
  • to creep out of the woodwork
  • to feel peckish
  • to be jaw-dropping
  • to be eye-opening
  • to shine a spotlight on something/someone
  • to call someone out for doing something
  • to slag someone off

Again, I explained all of those at the end of part 1. Only 1 of those idioms was prepared in advance. All the others just came up on the spur of the moment.

So that means that in this episode there are still 5 more pre-prepared idioms left.

Having checked part 2, I can tell you that there are about 18 idioms in total. So, listen carefully to the rest of our conversation and try to spot expressions which you think might be the idioms I’ll be defining later. 5 of them were written down by us in advance and slipped into the conversation as part of the game, the others just happened naturally.

There’s also plenty more nice, useful vocabulary that you might not know coming up, so listen carefully – there’s a lot to learn from this episode.

In terms of the topics in the conversation, in this one you’ll hear us cover Andy’s experience of being abused or angrily criticised on Twitter, my experiences of facing audiences as a stand up comedian, how there is another Andy Johnson in London who also looks a little bit like Moby and who used to play football for England, Andy’s training for the upcoming London Marathon and then the results of the idioms game – with our comments about the idioms we noticed (or didn’t notice).

And as I said, I’ll also be explaining all the idioms and more vocabulary at the end of the conversation in the final part of this episode, so keep listening for some clarification of things you might not have understood or noticed.

But now, let’s carry on with the conversation and hear about Andy’s experience of facing criticism on Twitter because of a misunderstanding about his presentation about Millennials in the workplace. By the way, for more information about Andy’s talk on millennials and to find out what millennials are (if you don’t know) let me recommend that you listen to episode 424 in which I spoke to Andy and his colleague Ben about it in more detail.

424. With Andy & Ben from The London School of English (Part 2)

You can find the link on the page for this episode with all the other notes and stuff, or in the episode archive.


The conversation continues…

Luke & Andy’s Idioms Game – The Results

Ones Andy thought Luke had pre-planned: (actually, none of them were pre-planned)

  • Two sheets to the wind = drunk
  • To pull the rug from under you / to pull the rug from someone’s feet = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them

Luke’s pre-planned idioms

  • To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
  • To be a dead ringer (for someone) = to look exactly like someone else
  • To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger

Ones Luke thought Andy had pre-planned

  • It’s the cross I bear = a burden that you have to carry or live with
  • to be half-cut = drunk
  • To slag someone off = to abuse or criticise someone in quite a rude way

Andy’s pre-planned Idioms

  • It’s the cross I bear
  • To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    (Also – to put someone on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect)
  • Jaw-dropping / to make your jaw drop = surprising, amazing, astonishing (in Part 1)

…the conversation ends.


Sponsor Andy & help support The Christie Foundation Trust

Click here for Andy’s JustGiving page for his sponsored Marathon www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andybjohnson

Also via PayPal www.paypal.me/andybjornjohnson


Vocabulary List – Idioms and Other Expressions You Heard in this Episode

At least 18 Idioms and some other nice bits of vocabulary to learn

  • You are a bit of a dead ringer for Moby (I forgot to mention this one in part 1)
    To be a dead ringer for someone = to look exactly like someone
  • They’d all got the wrong end of the stick, but they were all slagging you off.
    To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a rude way
  • It was really eye-opening how quickly it can escalate and how people can latch onto something and they can completely turn it and twist it.
  • eye-opening = surprising and something you learn from (in part 1)
  • Jaw-dropping = amazing, astonishing (in part 1)
  • To latch onto something = to become firmly attached to something (physically), to strongly accept an idea with enthusiasm – just get fixed on one idea quickly and firmly
  • How did it feel to receive all that heavy-handed criticism?
    Heavy-handed (adj) = too strong, using much force than is necessary. E.g. heavy-handed policing.
  • I sent the guy a message, the guy whose tweet caused the kerfuffle
    A kerfuffle
    = A disturbance, a fuss, noise, a confusing and complex situation. E.g. She caused quite a kerfuffle when she sent out that letter accusing them of cheating.
  • I was thanking him for sticking up for me.
    To stick up for someone 
    = to defend someone, to back someone up.
  • If you stand on a pedestal and you give your opinion on things, you’re always setting yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    To set yourself up for something = put yourself in a position where something can happen. E.g. set yourself up for success, set yourself up for a fall, set yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    Heckling (see below)
  • Also – to put something on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect, to idolise or idealise someone
  • People react quite strongly to that especially when it’s posing some kind of threat to the status quo of their work
    to pose a threat to something (not really an idiom) = to present a possible danger to something
    The status quo = the present situation
  • People might feel like these new things are, like, pulling the rug from under them.
  • It’s like pulling the rug from under their feet.
    To pull the rug from under someone = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them
  • Heckling – meaning someone in the audience shouting out when someone is speaking publicly
  • I got an injury and it got worse and worse and worse throughout the week. I couldn’t run for 5 weeks. I had physio, I had acupuncture, I had ultrasound. (not idioms)
    To have physio  = physiotherapy
    ultrasound, an ultrasound scan = a sort of scan that uses sound as a way of seeing inside your body, as an alternative to an x-ray, to check for injury or maybe a baby (but not a baby in Andy’s case. “What seems to be the problem Mr Johnson? Well, my knee is really playing up. It’s very stiff and painful when I walk. Let’s have a look, if you’d like to just lie down here we’ll start the ultrasound. Oh, oh… Mr Johnson, it appears that you’re pregnant. What?? Yes, that’s right, you have a baby in your knee. But how is this possible? I’ve been using contraception! hahaha, etc)
  • The physio used to be the physiotherapist for Fulham Football Club. (person)
    A physio = a physiotherapist (person)
  • When I walked in he did a double take (thinking that Andy might be the other Andy Johnson, who used to play for Fulham FC)
    To do a double take = to look at something briefly, then look away and look back again very quickly! It’s really funny and comical! Also you can do a triple take and a quadruple take for maximum comic effect.

  • A bit of a mover and shaker in the world of football, this Luke Thompson
    A mover and shaker (in the world of …) = a powerful person who influences people and initiates events.
  • Any little problem gets exacerbated when you’re running a marathon.
    To exacerbate something = to make something worse (not an idiom)
  • It seems to be, touch wood, it seems to be OK.
    People say “touch wood” as a superstition to wish themselves luck or for protection against bad luck. It’s like saying “fingers crossed”.
  • Do you have a full slap-up breakfast or is it just a banana to keep the wolf from the door?
    slap up (adjective) = excellent, first class – used with food. A slap up meal. A slap up breakfast. It’s usually used in an enthusiastic and informal way to talk about a full meal.
    To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger, to stave off hunger
  • You go out too fast so after 6 or 7 km you’re knackered!
    Knackered (adj) = extremely tired (British slang)
  • Everyone’s in the same boat. They’ve trained for ages. There’s the music and the camaraderie, they’re running together. Everybody just goes off far too quickly.
    To be in the same boat = to be in the same situation
  • The charity is something that’s very close to my heart.
    It’s very close to my heart = it means a lot to me, it’s important to me
  • When you’re wishing someone luck you say “break a leg”.
    Break a leg = good luck! Have a good show!
  • The leg refers to a limb – an arm or leg, but also a large piece of wood like a beam, or branches of a tree. A large piece of wood can be a limb.
  • In comedy, when you have a really good show, you raise the roof. (the roof comes off because the audience are laughing and applauding)
    So, break a leg means “I hope you have such a great show that the roof comes off the building!”
  • I was using it in a very irreverent way, a very light-hearted way. (talking about the phrase “the cross I bear”)
  • I’m all at sea = I’m confused and not sure what to do

Come on!!! That must be useful to you! A huge slice of English learning cake there for you to feast upon. You could feed a whole family on that for about a week in some places!

Again, what do you think of the idea of this paid premium membership system?

Sign up to be a premium member for a nominal amount per month, per 6 months or per year.

Get access to a certain number of language-related episodes of LEPP (LEP Premium) per month. The episodes would be available in the app or on a website. Episodes would mostly deal with language that has come up naturally in conversations on LEP – like what I’ve done here, or in the recent grammar episodes. Yep, language related but with the usual funny examples and explanations. Also there would be more phrasal verb episodes and probably other things because I would want to reward my premium lepsters or PLEPSTERS, so I’d probably offer little videos and other things too. All for the price of a beer or a sandwich for me per month.

That’s something in the pipeline at the moment.

Why aren’t you just doing it now Luke?

Yes, good question. I’ve been talking about this sort of thing for ages. It’s slightly harder than you might think actually. The thing is, I really want it to work. I want it to be worthwhile. That means finding a model that works. I think now I’ve got the app and I can offer paid content in the app, that is the right platform. Now it’s just a case of making it happen. Enthusiastic responses from you would certainly give me a boost. I think it would be really great. I just hope you realise that too.

Anyway, you can contact me about it if you like, using the usual methods.

Join the mailing list.

Download the app.

Nice one for getting to the end of this episode. Imagine all that English that has gone into your brain. That’s good! Nice one. Give yourself a pat on the back. I think you can agree that your English is better now than it was before you started listening to this, can’t you? I think you can agree with that statement.

Alright, time to go.

Speak to you soon! Bye!!!

Luke

519. Idioms Game & Chat (with Andy Johnson) + 25 Idioms Explained

A conversation with Andy Johnson including loads of idiomatic expressions and their explanations. First you can listen to a rambling chat with Andy and then I’ll explain 25 idioms that came up during the conversation. Part 2 coming soon… Transcriptions, Vocabulary list & Definitions available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks – in this episode I’m talking again to Andy Johnson from The London School of English, and while we’re talking we’re going to play an idioms game, so you can practise your listening with this conversation and also learn some natural English expressions in the process.

Alright Andy? I’m going to do the introduction to this episode, with you here. Sometimes I’ll check in on you, just to see if you’re still there and to see if you’re ok with what I’ve said. OK?

Andy’s been on the podcast a couple of times before but if you haven’t heard those episodes here’s some intel on Andy J, to bring you up to speed. This is the Andy Johnson Fact File.

Andy Johnson started out working in marketing before becoming an English teacher. He’s been teaching English for … a number of years (I think it’s about 15 years now). He did the DELTA qualification at the same college as me (name of that college? That’s UCL in London) and has worked for The London School of English for over 10 years, first as a teacher and now as the Director of London School Online – that’s the London School’s online operation, and yes – I’m calling it an operation, which makes it sound either like they’re surgeons, or special agents and perhaps they are somehow a combination of both of those things – but for online English courses. London School Online offer various online courses for learners of English and other things of that nature. Get more details at www.londonschoolonline.com

Actually the correct link is www.londonschool.com/lso

Andy is a runner. He runs marathons, which is great considering he nearly lost a leg when he was younger, and when I say “lost” a leg I don’t mean that he just couldn’t find it for a while, like “oh where’s my leg? I put it down a earlier and I can’t find it… Ah, there it is! Oh, I nearly lost a leg there!” no, I mean he nearly had to have it removed permanently, which sounds like it was a very frightening and horrible experience. There’s an emotional and inspirational story that explains what happened, which you can hear if you listen to episode 472 when Andy talked about it.

472. Andy Johnson at The London School (Part 2) Why Andy runs marathons

So, despite an early issue with his leg, Andy is a runner and in fact at the moment he is training for the London Marathon which happens next month.

Andy is married and has two children who are boys. He sometimes steps on pieces of their lego, which I understand is incredibly painful. Lego comes from Denmark but Andy Johnson is half Swedish.

But Sweden and Denmark are both scandinavian countries, so the link still works somehow.

However, this does not lessen the pain he experiences when he steps on Lego.

Andy has a good joke about Swedish military ships having barcodes so that when they come into port they can “scan the navy in”, which sounds like “scandinavian”. It’s a good joke, despite the way I just told it just then.

As an English teacher Andy often attends teaching conferences where he presents talks to other English teaching professionals. Previously we talked about his talk on millennials in the English language classroom which he has done at various conferences including the IATEFL conference, which is like the Glastonbury Festival but for English teaching.

Andy also looks a bit like Moby (the American musician, DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, photographer and animal rights activist) but a better-dressed version. Sometimes people mistake him for Moby, with hilarious results, as we have heard on the podcast before.

So, Andy is like a better-dressed, half-Swedish half-English English teaching Moby look-a-like who runs marathons, steps on his kids’ lego and talks about teaching English to millennials at conferences. But he’s so much more than that.

Andy Johnson everybody…

Spot the Idioms

As well as having a conversation, in this episode we’ve also decided to play a game as a way of including a language-focus – in this case idioms. You have to spot at least 6 idiomatic phrases in this conversation, although there will definitely be more than 6.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms to include in our conversation.

What are idioms?

Remember – idioms are fixed expressions with a particular meaning – a meaning that might not be obvious when you take them on face value. The meaning of the phrase is different from the words used in the expression. They don’t have a literal meaning.

Really common idioms (which you probably already know) are things like “That was a piece of cake”, meaning “That was easy” or “It’s just not my cup of tea”, meaning “I don’t really like it”. Those two are really common and well-known ones that just happen to involve food. A third example might be “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there” – to hit the nail on the head, which we use when someone has made exactly the right comment – the sort of comment which perfectly explains or sums up the situation. “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there”.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms – but we haven’t told each other what they are yet. We’re going to play a little game while taking part in our conversation.

Idioms Game

The rules of the game are this:

  • We have to seamlessly include the idioms into the conversation. We should find a way to include the idioms in a natural way – so they are used correctly for the context of the conversation, and not too obviously. They shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, for example.
  • Both of us have to try and identify which idioms we chose, and when we hear them – write them down.
  • At the end of the conversation we will state which idioms we thought were the the pre-prepared ones. For each correctly identified pre-prepared idiom, we get a point.
    It is possible and indeed encouraged to slip in some other idioms as distractions, but these must not be pre-prepared. They can only be expressions that could naturally have come up in moments during the conversation.

So basically – I have to spot Andy’s 3 pre-prepared idioms, and he has to spot my 3 pre-prepared idioms.

A strategy could be – to insert your pre-prepared idioms into the conversation without them being too obvious, while perhaps attempting to distract each other or tempt each other with other idioms that we just include on the spur of the moment.

You can play too, ladies and gentlemen. Try to spot the 6 idioms we have pre-prepared. Also watch out for any other expressions that might not be on our lists, but which are worth learning too, like for example “to stick out like a sore thumb” or “on the spur of the moment”.

At the end I’ll go through all of the idioms and clarify them.


Conversation begins – and then pauses before Andy tells us about being abused on Twitter.


More Transcript…

Hi everyone,

I’m pausing the conversation right there. Andy is about to tell us about he got abused on Twitter, but you’ll have to wait until part 2 to hear that story and the rest of the conversation and the results of our idioms game.

But Luke, why are you pausing here?

The whole conversation went on for about 90 minutes and this time I thought I’d split it into two episodes – mainly because I want to take a bit of time to highlight certain features of language that you have heard already in the conversation, namely – all the idioms that have come up so far. We’re focusing on idioms in this one.

You know that we’re playing an idioms game in this episode and I wonder if you’ve been paying attention, trying to spot the idiomatic phrases that we prepared in advance.

But as well as the pre-prepared expressions, there are loads of other ones that are just coming up naturally.

So I’d like to highlight all the idioms which have come up so far. I’ve listened back to the conversation and made a list of all the idioms I could hear.

Let me now go through them. I’m not going to tell you which ones are the pre-prepared ones, except to say that only one pre-prepared idiom has been used in the conversation so far. That’s one out of the 6 pre-prepared ones. Only one has been used so far. The other 5 will come up in the next conversation.

So, I’m not telling you which one that is. What I am going to do though, is explain every idiom that has come up in part 1.

Here we go.

Vocabulary List + Definitions

Idioms and Expressions that you can hear in this episode (Part 1)

  • Here is some intel on Andy J to bring you up to speed.
    Intel = intelligence. This is just information but it’s a word used by the secret service. “Our agents have collected some valuable bits of intelligence.” “What’s the intel on the British Prime Minister’s security guards?”
  • To bring someone up to speed = to give someone the latest information so they are as informed as everyone else. “Hi, welcome back. Let me bring you up to speed on where we are with the negotiations.”
  • If Swedes have beef with anybody it’s with the Norwegians
    To have beef with someone = to have a complaint to make about someone/something, or to have a long running resentment or grudge against someone/something. E.g. you hear this a lot in rap music. Let’s say Notorious BIG insulted Tupac (maybe he said something about his mum) and then Tupac had a beef with him. (he also held a grudge against him and had a score to settle with him)
  • You’re holding a grudge against someone = you have an long running bad feeling against probably because of something bad that happened in the past. E.g. Mike stole Dave’s girlfriend, and so Dave’s had a grudge against him ever since. Murray has had a grudge against Nadal ever since he humiliated him in front of the crowds of spectators at Wimbledon a few years ago. Obama made a joke about Trump and so Trump had a grudge against him. He had beef with Obama.
  • You’ve got a score to settle with someone = you need/want to take revenge on someone
    Have you got your idioms Andy? I’ve already used one. I think I might have jumped the gun a bit there.
  • To jump the gun = to do something too quickly. Like runners who start the race before the gun.
  • Swedes use Norwegians as the butt of a joke
    The butt of the joke = the object of the joke. E.g. Years the Irish were the butt of a lot of jokes in England.
  • There’s some bad blood between the two of them.
    Bad blood = a bad feeling between two people because of something that happened in the past
  • A meaning that might not be obvious if you take them on face value.
    Take something on/at face value = you just accept something as the way it is, without realising there is a deeper meaning, or another aspect to it. E.g. if you take an idiom on face value, you might take it literally without realising it has another meaning. Or you might take a joke on face value, and not realise it’s a joke – take it literally.
  • That was a piece of cake = easy
  • It’s just not my cup of tea = I don’t really like it
  • You’ve really hit the nail on the head there = you said exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment
  • The idioms shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb = to be very obvious or different from the surroundings or other things
  • You shouldn’t shoehorn them in = force them in unnaturally
  • To include some unprepared idioms on the spur of the moment = on impulse, without planning in advance
  • The Notting Hill Carnival goes on just on the doorstep of the London School = very close to a building
  • The guy was clearly half-cut = drunk
  • He was sitting on the barrel, two sheets to the wind = drunk (also – 3 sheets to the wind)
    www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/three-sheets-to-the-wind.html
  • Did you ever have those socks with the days of the week on? Oh man, that was a minefield.
    A minefield = a very difficult situation in which failure or problems are very likely to happen so you need to take great care.
  • Wait, what’s a street walker? You’re going to have to spell it out.
    A street walker / A lady of the night = a prostitute
    To spell it out = to make it absolutely clear
    It made her look like a lady of the night.
  • What’s amazing is how many trolls creep out of the woodwork on international women’s day.
    to creep out of the woodwork = (a negative expression) when people who are previously hidden or silent, reveal themselves or their opinions.
  • If you’re feeling a bit peckish and you eat your thumb, the thumb will grow back.
    Peckish = a bit hungry
  • It’s jaw-dropping the amount of misogyny that comes out on days like this
  • It’s really eye-opening.
    Jaw-dropping = surprising and amazing. It makes your jaw drop open. Wow!
    Eye-opening = surprising and you learn something new from it
  • For him to shine a spotlight on these people and to call them out for their ignorance and their general dickish behaviour, while still raising money and raising awareness for the cause, I just thought it was really really good.
    to shine a spotlight on someone = bring attention to someone. Like pointing a theatre spotlight on someone on stage.
    To call someone out for something = to publicly bring attention to someone’s bad actions (Hey everybody – this guy criticised millennials!!)
  • Who is this guy to slag off a whole generation?
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a really unpleasant way. (a slightly rude expression)

Now that’s the end of the idioms in this episode.

There are more in part 2 and there should also be a bit at the end where I explain the vocabulary too.

I think this is really useful when I do this. What would really help you now is if you listened to the conversation again. Now that I’ve highlighted the idioms, listen to the conversation again and I 100% promise you that you will notice them more easily and you are also far more likely to remember them and be able to notice them again.

Listening to conversations I have on my podcast with my guests is definitely important, but I think that just highlighting some of the language you’ve heard by picking out certain phrases, repeating and explaining them – this can make a crucial difference in your ability to really learn English from my episodes.

It’s something I think is valuable and I’m looking at ways of introducing this sort of thing more permanently.

For example – an idea I’m thinking of and I’m nearly ready to do it – would be to introduce a paid premium service for just a few Euros a month, where you’d get regular language review episodes where I go through language you’ve heard in episodes. The episodes would be available to premium subscribers in the app and online via a computer.

Preparing language reviews is time consuming for me and adds a lot more work than just preparing a conversation, recording it, editing it and publishing it as a free podcast. I have to listen again carefully, note certain language features and then spend time clarifying them on the podcast.

A paid premium subscription option would allow me to do it more properly and regularly and would mean my time and work is being rewarded, and you’d get really valuable episodes in which I explain the language you’ve heard but might have missed in episodes.

Let me know what you think. From your end, it would be like this. You could sign up for LEP premium online via my host Libsyn. You’d need to pay a little bit of money per month, not that much – probably just the price of a pint of beer per month for me. Then you’d be able to sign into my app and get access to a certain number of premium episodes. Those episodes would be primarily about language. I do various types of episode on LEP – some of them don’t involve language teaching or a language focus although of course it’s all good for your English because you’re getting valuable exposure to the language and I’m here to help. BUt the premium episodes would all be about language and mostly they’d involve me explaining, clarifying and demonstrating English that you’d heard occuring naturally in normal episodes of LEP. So they’d be like Language Review episodes. You’d be able to listen to normal episodes of LEP and then several Premium episodes too which would explain, clarify and expand on the vocab, grammar or pronunciation you’d heard in the normal episodes.

I’m also planning to include other things for the premium package – including finishing off APVAD. I think the only way I can continue the phrasal verb episodes is if they’re part of a premium package.

And don’t worry – if you can’t get the LEP app, you’d still be able to access premium content from a computer on the premium page.

Anyway, this is in the pipeline. Things move a bit slowly here at LEPHQ but I’m getting there.

In the meantime, get the LEP app. More free extra stuff keeps popping up there. I recently uploaded Episode 518b which is part 2 of the grammar questions episode. Check it out.

Also, sign up to the mailing list on the website if you haven’t already done that.

Time to go now!

Speak to you again with Andy in part 2 of this episode where you’ll learn some more idioms and also find out what happens in our idioms game.

Cheers!

Bye.

Luke

479. Holiday Diary (Part 6) The Madness of Las Vegas / 11 Gambling Idioms

This episode includes anecdotes and descriptions of our short visit to Las Vegas, including stories of more rental car issues, Las Vegas craziness, winning and losing $$$ and 11 English idioms that come from gambling.

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⬇️ Episode script and notes (Idioms list below) ⬇️

Why Vegas?

It was just as a stopover between L.A. and other areas, and to have a one look in your life, see what all the fuss is about sort of experience.

Take the rental car back to the car rental company.

Remember them, from part 1 of this?

Wrong Cars™

When we picked up the car in LA – just a Nissan hatchback by the way, nothing fancy, at the start of the trip we had to go and wait in a boiling hot car park in Inglewood or somewhere, where I stood waiting on my phone for ages waiting to get through to someone to tell them we had arrived, standing there on hold with my arm going numb and the sun beating down on both me and my pregnant wife, and after about 40 minutes a guy in a rental car came and picked us up, and told us “oh yes, the shuttle busses are in the garage – they broke down on Tuesday”.

We drop off the car, pay the money, ask about the difference in price between the bill and the receipt –
“Sorry Mani, isn’t here today.”

“Can you do it?”

“Sorry, I can’t. He’s the manager.”

(We got fobbed off by the girl behind the counter)

There’s supposed to be a shuttle (bus) service back to the airport.

But it’s obvious that this is a crappy little rental car company that is cutting corners and fobbing everyone off with this talk of the “shuttle” that is mysteriously always in the garage.

Again we’re told that the shuttle is in the garage so we squeeze into another rental car with a German couple this time.

My wife is in the front, and I’m squeezed in with the Germans.

The Germans are quite nice, but it’s pretty clear they didn’t have the best experience with their car and they’ve driven a really long distance, without cruise control (which is standard for rentals usually) and they’re saying to the driver,

“Do you not have cars with cruise control? Because it’s very uncomfortable to drive 4,000 miles without cruise control, you know?”

I’m thinking – 4,000 miles! Without cruise control. His leg must be knackered.

The driver goes “Cruise control? Yes, there is cruise control.”

“No, there is no cruise control in this car.”

“This was your rental?”

Turns out the “shuttle” is just the same car the Germans just rented.

“Yes, there is no cruise control in this car. It was very difficult for us. Do you not have cars with cruise control?”

The driver is not interested in taking questions. He says “Some of them do and some of them don’t.”

“I think it would be good if your cars have the cruise control”

“I’m just the driver man”

I note in my head that our car had cruise control, and I never used it, not once, but I don’t say anything. I don’t think it would have helped.

“Well, our car had cruise control, and guess what we never used it! Ha ha, it would have been useful if we’d swapped, right? I bet you would have appreciated that after the first 3,000 miles!!”

But I didn’t say that. I just ‘enjoyed’ the really awkward vibe in the car, and the knowledge that my wife was pretty much steaming, but keeping herself under control.

After the Germans got out my wife chose to cross-examine the driver.

“So, where are the shuttles?”

“Oh, they’re in the garage, we had some trouble with them.”

“Both of them?”

“Yes, it’s just a coincidence.”

“OK. When did they go in the garage?”

“Oh just on Friday.”

“Well last week you said they broke down on Tuesday.”

“I’m just the driver”

“I know you’re just the driver but…”

“You’re getting driven there, I’m driving you personally…”

“I know but we just don’t appreciate being lied to, that’s all…”

At this point he got really angry and started making it personal.

“OK, you’re getting personal with me now, and I don’t appreciate you making personal attacks against me, ok?

As I was taking the bags out of the back, I was trying to say, “Look, it’s not personal we’re just commenting on the service. We were told one thing, we get another thing. It’s not you, right? it’s your management, right?”

He just went “Well I deliver you to the airport and you make it personal” and he just got in the car and drove off.

I couldn’t help feeling bad for the guy. I think he probably has no choice but to lie about the shuttle thing because the crappy management of this company keeps telling their customers there will be a shuttle. It’s written in their emails and stuff. I imagine he’s just trying to keep his job.

He couldn’t really say “Yes, well to be honest sir our company is lying to you. We don’t have any shuttles, it’s not worth it – you know? Because we don’t get enough customers to justify using a whole bus, and there’s obviously nowhere for us to park one anyway, so we just use these cars and I’m always dealing with these problems, but it’s because the management keep lying.”

He can’t admit that the company lies or is wrong. It’s unfair on him. I know, I’m making excuses for the guy, but what can he do?

The management should just say they have a personal car service, it would solve the problem.

That’s the solution. We don’t care about shuttles. Just say there’s a personal car service. The driver can introduce himself. “Hi, I’m Carlos, I’m your driver, where are you guys from?” Etc. That would solve the problem. Instead, Carlos (or whatever he’s called) is on the defensive and can’t start talking to the customers because he knows they’re not happy. Poor Carlos, and poor customers.

I wonder what’s really going on there – at this particular franchise of Wrong Cars™.

Anyway, after that we got on our plane for the short flight to Vegas. We could have driven but we planned this to make sure there was as little driving as possible, because when you’re pregnant it’s not good to sit in a vibrating car for hours on end, and anyway it sucks to be stuck in a car all the time.

We arrive in Vegas

It’s hot.

It’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert for goodness sake.

We rent a car from another company this time – more established. Enterprise. Admittedly, it’s a bit more expensive but we don’t want to risk it because we’ll be driving in some fairly deserted spots and we want a car that will not break down and that has customer service that’s actually available by telephone.

So we get to the car rental area – a massive building in airportland. Dazzling service. We’re in the car in a matter of minutes and it looks brand new. We rented a small SUV. The main thing was that it was comfy and could deal with bits of rough terrain if needed. We get a Jeep Renegade. It’s pretty cool. Wife is happy and in comfort. OK.

Staying at New York New York Hotel.

Vegas is completely insane and, honestly, not a great place. In fact it’s the most tawdry, sleazy, tacky place ever.

Pick the most touristy part of any town and amplify it by 1000. It’s like that.

It’s boiling hot outside but inside it’s freezing, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build this massive place with all these things like swimming pools, hotels and golf courses in the middle of the desert.

God knows how they get their water.

And it’s just a weird place cut off from reality in which you are constantly being seduced and distracted by flashing lights and big things and encouraged to gamble your money away. It’s like one huge sales pitch in the form of a city.

Inside the casinos there are no windows. They’re like huge circus tents on the inside, with big restaurant facades around the edge, tables for gambling – playing poker or roulette or the one where you throw the dice and there are loads of different numbers and letters and it’s a bewildering illusion of choice, big individual gambling machines, lamp posts (inside the hotel), fake little streets, massive Irish pubs (which is never really a bad thing in itself) but all this stuff and you look up to the sky and it’s the black ceiling of the hotel above you, quite high and in the background. It’s probably daylight outside, but you can’t see the desert sun. Inside the hotel’s gambling area there’s this black canopy of the ceiling above all this trashy fake stuff.

It’s so weird to come to the desert and then find yourself in this totally synthetic place all set against a black backdrop.

This is some people’s idea of a wonderful place – a vast plastic playground with so many attractions, but there’s something very unnatural and twisted about it.

Weird things

People smoke indoors and this feels wrong now after 10 years since the smoking ban. No big deal, but still… I think the reason is that they prioritise the gambling, so even though it fills the air with harmful smoke, it means people stay at the tables and don’t go outside to smoke their cigarettes.

There are tourists wandering around, families and stuff but also you spot these grizzled gamblers losing fortunes.

You see some old people who have travelled for miles to spend their money because they don’t really know what else to do with it, so it all goes in these machines.

There are some really drunk people, sitting at the bar.

But also families with kids walking around.

Even some bars have gambling machines built into them, so you can lose money (or maybe win) while you’re taking a break from the bigger tables.

In one casino, where we went to the theatre – there was a girl in suspenders dancing erotically on a table, and kids were wandering around.

Seriously weird.

It was like a strip club in Disneyland. It was like a cross between Disneyland and a lap dancing club. Adult Disneyland, but with families wandering around in it.

Our hotel had a rollercoaster going around it.

Yep, a rollercoaster, with tracks that actually went around the outside of the hotel.

You can stand in the bedroom and every now and then you hear the rumble of the rollercoaster and the muffled screams of people outside the window. This is from inside your hotel room..

If you part the curtains and look out you can see part of the track twisting around past the window and eventually you’ll see the rollercoaster race past, people screaming.

Take a look into the distance and there are the mountains, some desert and then closer to you just weird, big shiny bright buildings and Trump tower. A massive tower with his name at the top in huge gold letters.

“We’ve got the greatest buildings folks, all the best casinos. You’re gonna have fun, and you’re gonna make so much money. We’re gonna Make America Great Again. Believe me folks.”

And the house always wins.
That’s the thing with these casinos.
You have to enjoy the process of it, because you’re basically paying money to experience the excitement of possibility of having more money, even if the probable outcome is that you’ll end up with less.
You’re paying for the excitement of losing, it’s exciting because there’s a possibility that you won’t lose, but the fact is you will probably lose.
So the chances are that you’re going to lose
but you might win
and that’s what makes it exciting
to throw your money away.
The house always wins.
Sometimes somebody wins.
But most people are losing.
And the house is always winning.

Fair enough though, people choose to gamble and they probably enjoy it. People seem to enjoy it – that’s their choice, but it doesn’t appeal to me very much, beyond just having a go to see what the fuss is all about.

But there are some good things about Vegas, ok!

It’s not all awful! It’s fun for a night or maybe two, depending on what you do.

It is a big spectacle – some of the hotels look amazing and massive, and also there are some spectacular shows that you can see – like dance shows such as Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group and magic shows like David Copperfield or Penn & Teller.

We chose to go there as a stopover but also to experience it and we did have a laugh!
You have to just go with it a bit and just go ‘ wow, look at that, that’s ridiculous!’

A lot of the time we were walking around, couldn’t believe our eyes, saying “this is insane” “Look at that! It’s a massive Egyptian pyramid!

Our hotel was basically a recreation of the New York skyline. Other hotels have things like an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphinx, massive fountains and light shows.

It was pretty weird to see the Eiffel Tower considering we see it every day in Paris.

Also, it’s a very convenient place – in the sense that it’s really easy to access the airport, it’s not all that big, things are open 24 hours a day.

People are helpful and friendly.

There was a wholefoods there. In fact there are a few Wholefoods supermarkets there – say no more!

Some of the stuff is good fun.

So, that’s that then isn’t it.

Penn & Teller

Gambling in the Casino

We played some one of the “one armed bandits” – the fruit machines. It’s like one dollar to pull the arm and watch some things spinning around. We put aside about 50 dollars for fun. My wife enjoys the one armed bandits and she’s actually very lucky. I’m a lot more sceptical about it.

But she thinks she’s blessed with luck or something.
(Actually she’s blessed with Luke, but anyway… I’m not sure “blessed” is the right word – “married to” is probably better)

In England, when we had first met each other, we took a trip to Brighton, on the south coast, and we went to the pier (a wooden walkway that stretches out over the sea, wooden legs supporting it – a pier) where there are lots of arcade machines and gambling machines and other attractions, and she was convinced she would win money on the machines and I was going “ but the house always wins” and she was saying “no I’m magic!”.

I was shaking my head thinking “there is no magic, only the force” and she put one pound in a slot machine and promptly won £20, and said “I told you I was magic”. We walked away £20 richer. We didn’t continue gambling. I think she’s smart enough to know that you quit while you’re ahead.

The same thing happened years later, we were in a little resort in the north of France where you find some casinos. She’s not a gambling addict or anything. She just likes playing the machines a few times when we’re on holiday sometimes.

We went to a casino and chose to spend no more than 50E. A 50E limit. Ooh, big bucks, right?

We were walking around trying to find a good machine. There were some slightly sad looking people just sitting there plugged into these persuasive light shows – it’s a sort of low level basic addiction (or high level for some people) – an addiction to the sales pitch, basically.

I was being very sceptical, and making various sceptical noises.

We ended up leaving with 80E, 30E up from when we went in.
Not bad.

We quit while we were ahead.

In Vegas we did some gambling on the machines. I was thinking, “Well, she is magic. Maybe we’ll win enough to get a half decent dinner.”

We lost all the money we took in. All of it.

It was a steady one directional flow of us putting money into the machines and getting nothing in return. Las Vegas just ate our 50 dollars like a crocodile eats a chicken. One gulp, all gone, didn’t even chew. It didn’t even touch the sides as it went down.

We won nothing.

Well, almost nothing. We always seemed to win a few credits just before our money ran out, which I’m sure is a little trick to encourage you to put more money in because you think the machine is going to ‘start paying out’ at some point.

Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing. We had no clue and I’m sure those machines were the wrong ones to be playing, and some of the casinos are better than others, but anyway we weren’t really there for the gambling. We were more interested in playing it safe.

11 Gambling Idioms (that don’t just apply to gambling)

  1. to be on a winning streak (when you’re winning)
  2. to be on a losing streak (when you’re losing and nothing is going your way)
  3. to break even (when you take the same amount of money that you spent – in gambling or in business. No profit, no loss.)
  4. to quit while you’re ahead (stop when you’re winning)
  5. the house always wins
  6. to bet (to gamble) “I bet you £20 that Arsenal win the game” or (a challenge) “I bet you can’t throw this paper ball in the bin from there!” or (an expectation) “I bet all the tickets are sold out”
  7. to show your hand (show the cards in your hand / reveal your position)
  8. a poker face (a facial expression which reveals nothing – used while playing poker, or in any other situation where you keep a straight face)
  9. don’t push your luck (take a big risk and try doing something that could end in failure – it’s a bit like saying “watch what you’re doing” or “be careful”)
  10. to raise the stakes (the stakes = the money which you have to gamble in a round of poker. The expression is used to mean to increase the amount of money you can win or lose in a gambling game, but also to raise the general level of what you can win or lose – e.g. this line from a recent Daily Mail news article “Mr Trump raised the stakes in the escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear threats, suggesting drastic economic measures against China and criticising ally South Korea.”
    www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-4847836/North-Korea-conducts-nuclear-test-making-hydrogen-bomb-claims.html
  11. the chips are down (chips = the plastic coins you use while gambling. The expression means – when you’re feeling bad, or when the situation is bad) E.g. in cricket – “When the chips are down for England, Moeen is often the side’s most useful player.”

I once saw a great documentary by Louis Theroux about high stakes gamblers in Vegas. Some of them lose thousands of dollars, but they keep gambling because they think they’re going to eventually start winning it all back. I’ve put some videos from the documentary on the page for this episode. I love Louis Theroux’s documentaries. They’re fascinating.

The phrase that I take away from one of the videos: Louis and a high-stakes gambler are standing in the biggest hotel suite in the city, looking out of the window at the huge hotels and Louis says “Vegas – they didn’t build these casinos on winners you know” and the guy says “I think in the lifetime, everyone’s a loser. But the thrill of being able to win today, lose next month, win the year after. I think it’s the challenge. I think it’s the thrill. I think it’s the entertainment in this city.”

Louis Theroux Gambling Documentary – video clips

Louis hangs out with a high-stakes gambler in a very expensive hotel suite in Las Vegas

Here’s the same guy, after losing about $400,000 dollars in 3 days

Louis gambles with a couple of gambling “enthusiasts” (addicts?)

Louis plays the “one armed bandits” with Martha (these are the machines that took our $50 in just a few minutes) Martha says “I lost 4 million dollars in the casino in 7 years.”

Louis gets lucky playing Baccarat
“Because I resigned myself to failure that night, Lady Luck had decided to tantilise me by making me win.”

How gambling can be dangerous

It seems that this is how it goes:

  • You might begin by winning some money. Then you feel lucky so you bet bigger, but you lose it.
  • You then start digging yourself in deeper and deeper, expecting your luck to change but there is absolutely no certainty that it will.
  • Some people talk about ‘the law of averages’ – suggesting that in time any sequence will balance out. E.g. you might spend a certain amount of time losing, but ultimately this will be balanced out by the number of times you win.
  • But that’s assuming that gambling in a casino is random. Usually it is subtly weighed in favour of the casino so that the pattern is that the casino wins more often than you. Even if you win a lot, the casino can afford it because more people have lost overall.
  • Often these high stakes gamblers keep betting because they think they’ll eventually start winning. They often don’t and then leave utterly devastated by the loss.
  • The house always wins.
  • Then what might happen is that you’ve lost, you’re dejected. You resign yourself to failure but play another game because why not, and then you hit a winning streak.
  • What a powerful combination of defeat and then victory, all out of your control. You’re at the mercy of this external force, playing around with “luck”. (Not Luke)

And the house always wins.

We drove along the strip. It’s madness out there! Just all the flashing lights and the spectacle, it’s like Picadilly Circus on steroids and the steroids are also on steroids.

Unbelievably massive plate of pancakes for breakfast.

Then we got out of town.


I told you I would talk about nature and canyons, and big rocks! All that stuff I really loved seeing, but I got carried away – distracted by tales of gambling in Vegas.

Las Vegas – a place that seems diametrically opposed to somewhere like Bryce National Park or The Grand Canyon.

I’m glad we only spent an afternoon, one evening and a night there.

Natural beauty is so much more real.

Well, anything is more real than Las Vegas, I suppose.

Thanks for listening.

Join the mailing list.
Thanks to the Orion transcription team and Andromeda proofreading team.
Shout out to the comment section crew.
Shout out to the Long-Term LEPsters, you know who you are.
Shout out to the new listeners, I hope you stick with us.
Shout out to every single one of you all around the world, listening to this right now and united by the fact that you are all citizens of LEPland or Podland or whatever we are calling this community which crosses international boundaries.
Be excellent to each other and party on!

Speak to you in the next episode.

Luke

Photos

473. Explaining the Rules of Cricket (with Dad)

Everything you need to know about the world’s 2nd most popular spectator sport, cricket. I’m joined by my Dad, Rick Thompson and we describe the rules, the appeal of the game and also some expressions in English that come from cricket.

[DOWNLOAD]

It’s summer in the UK and at this time of year there are various sounds that you might hear in a typical English village, the sound of bees buzzing, kids playing in the playground, an ice-cream van and perhaps the smack of leather on willow (the sound of a cricket ball – a hard, heavy ball covered in leather, being hit by a wooden cricket bat made of willow) those sounds coming from a game of cricket on the local village green.

Also, the sounds of cricket make their way into your home during the summer months as people listen on the radio or watch the coverage on TV.

International test match cricket is a feature of the summertime in England and is somehow deeply rooted into English life. It’s one of those cliches of rural England – sandwiches, afternoon tea and cricket on the green.

But for many foreign people who don’t play cricket it can seem like a weird antiquated slow game with rules that nobody understands. People are surprised that a game of cricket can last several days. Americans are often horrified to discover that games often end in a draw with no winner at the end.

The fact is, cricket is a fantastic game which requires strategy but there are many moments of dramatic action and great skill and ability shown by the players.

My Dad is a big fan of cricket. He used to play it when he was younger and has always followed the matches on the radio. I’ve been threatening for a while to do an episode about cricket, to somehow achieve the impossible and explain cricket to the world, and my Dad is going to join me.

So sit back, have a cup of tea and some cake, and try to get your head around this wonderful game.

And stay tuned for some nice idiomatic expressions which we use in English and which originally came from the game of cricket.


Well, that was a valiant effort by us. I hope you agree! But I wonder if you managed to keep up with all of it! If you are listening all the way to the end and you’re still alive – well done!

You may have got lost at some point along the way, or did you follow all of it? Let me know.

In any case I hope you got something out of that conversation, even if it is a sense that cricket is worth getting enthusiastic about even if you don’t fully understand it, and that it’s a big thing in the UK and many other countries around the world.

I recommend that you have a look at some cricket being played. There are videos showing you different aspects of cricket on the page for this episode, so check them out.

Also, there was that vocabulary.

Let me just go through the vocabulary again here, just to make it clear.

Vocabulary

  • On a sticky wicket = in a difficult situation (We’re on a bit of a sticky wicket here because of the result of the EU referendum) (NYTimes “It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his supporters right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”)
  • To have a good innings = to have a good long life (How old was he when he died? 94? Oh, so he had a good innings)
  • It’s just not cricket = it’s not fair! (Getting queue jumped, it’s just not cricket, is it?)
  • It hit me for six = it surprised, shocked and stunned you. (When my ex-girlfriend told me she was getting married to my best friend it really hit me for six)
  • I was absolutely bowled over = I was really surprised and amazed (“Bowled over” actually comes from bowling not cricket – when a pin is knocked over by the ball) (We were really bowled over by your presentation, you did a fantastic job!)
  • I’m completely stumped. You’ve stumped me there. = I’m unable to answer that question because it’s too complicated. (I did ok in the listening part, but I was completely stumped by the grammar questions)
  • You’ve caught me out there. = You’ve asked me a difficult question which has shown that I’ve made a mistake. (What about the outstanding tax payments on your public accounting report? There’s 300 pounds missing! – Oh, you’ve caught me out there, hah, yes I forgot to include them!)

Videos

Stephen Fry explains LBW in cricket

Shane Warne from Australia – the greatest spin bowler ever

Great bowling

Excellent batting

Amazing catches

Thanks for listening!

[Website content] Luke’s Criminal Past (ZEP Episode 185)

Learn some crime-related idioms and find out some things about Luke’s back-story that may or may not be true. This is an episode of Zdenek’s English Podcast, originally posted by Zdenek on 4 August. Download available below.

[DOWNLOAD]

On 30 July I dropped in on the LEP meetup in London and spent an hour or two chatting to Zdenek Lukas, the English teacher from Czech Republic who is also the man behind Zdenek’s English Podcast.

Zdenek almost always has his voice recorder with him, and this was no exception. We ended up recording an episode of his podcast standing outside the pub together.

If you follow Zdenek’s podcast, you might have already heard it. In any case, I’m presenting it to you here as some extra website content that you might enjoy.

Crime Idioms

In this episode, Zdenek had prepared some crime-related idioms and decided to try and simulate some exchanges with me in order to use the idioms and present them to you. Can you notice the idioms? Do you know what they mean, and how to use them?

By the way, most of the time I was exaggerating, making up stories or playing along with Zdenek’s examples. I’m not really a murderer!

Thanks for listening. Watch out for more website content coming soon.

Luke

410. Teaching 12 Idioms in the Street / On the Set of Paul’s TV Show (with Amber)

Amber & I teach you 12 idiomatic English phrases while attending the filming of an episode of Paul’s TV show on the street in Paris. See below for videos and photos, and a list of the idioms with definitions.

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Introduction

In the last couple of episodes do you remember what happened? Do you remember what our plans were? Yes, Amber & I talked about Christmas and all that. But also, you might remember that we were planning to go and visit Paul on the set of his TV show and record a podcast while we were doing it, and that’s what we did last Thursday afternoon. We went to the 7th Arrondissement – a rather posh district on the left bank of the river Seine. We saw the film crew, a few scenes being filmed and Amber & I even appeared in one of those scenes as extras in the background. When the video is released you’ll be able to see us, briefly! It will be the one about French cinema, when that is released. By the way Paul’s TV show is broadcast on Saturday evenings on French TV station Canal+ and then released onto YouTube the following week. His YouTube channel is called “What the Fuck, France?”

Unfortunately they weren’t filming in the English pub as expected because they did that in the morning – so no beer or crisps or warmth or beer. Instead we joined them while they were filming in the street outside a little church. So, a street, a church and no warmth or beer.

Despite the harsh conditions and lack of beer I brought my recording equipment and we did a podcast while standing around with the film crew there, and all the local Parisian people in the street going about their lives, walking past us and even talking to us at certain moments.

You’re going to hear descriptions of what was happening during the recording, and some general chat with Amber. There were also a couple of moments where Paul stopped shooting and came over to join us, with a few other people too in some cases, including Robert Hoehn who you might remember from the “Have you ever…?” episode recently.

As well as the conversation and descriptions, there’s some English teaching in this episode because while standing there on the street I realised I had 12 idioms in my pocket, written on little bits of paper. Of course I did because as an English teacher that’s the kind of thing I have in my pocket – a bunch of idioms in pieces of paper. It pays to always be prepared as an English teacher! I sometimes have teaching materials in my pocket or up my sleeve! I actually had the idioms on me for another podcast episode that I’d planned ages ago but didn’t do – but the idioms came in handy this time and provided us with some teaching content for you.

All of the idioms you’re going to hear were taken from the Oxford Idioms Dictionary and I chose them quite carefully because I think they’re all expressions which are commonly used today.

You can find the list of those idioms on the page for this episode. I wonder if you know them all. You might know some, but do you know them all, and do you use them?

Now, I could list them all for you here in the introduction in advance, and even teach them to you in advance, but I’m not going to do that because I want to encourage you to notice them for yourselves. That’s a good skill to develop if you can. You should always be on the lookout for bits of language which you can identify and eventually make part of your active vocabulary. So, listen carefully to notice the idioms, and then keep listening because in the second part of the lesson Amber & I explain all the idioms for you.

So, that’s what you’re going to get – a podcast recorded in the street in Paris, with all the sound effects of what was happening around us, a couple of guest appearances, and then 12 common English idioms taught by Amber and me!

So, I hope you are feeling comfortable and that you’re cosy and warm – because it was bitterly cold on the streets of Paris when we recorded this! I recommend listening to this one when you are indoors, with the heating turned on and a hot drink nearby, or if you are outside make sure you’re wearing a pair of thick woolen mittens or gloves and a warm hat – unless of course you’re in a hot place like Australia or something, in which case you can just bask in the hot weather and try to avoid being bitten by a snake or spider or something. If you’re in Brazil then go to the beach or something like that and get ready for that big party you’re going to have on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, now let’s go back in time to last Thursday afternoon on the very chilly streets of the 7th Arrondissement of Paris with a film crew and rich old Parisian ladies walking around, and let’s begin the episode, and remember – can you spot the 12 idioms, do you know them and can you use them? Here we go.

The 12 Idioms

  1. To cost an arm and a leg = to be expensive (those cameras must have cost an arm and a leg)
  2. As a rule of thumb = as a general rule
  3. To flog a dead horse = to be futile
  4. To get back to the drawing board = to start again
  5. To be over the moon = to be delighted
  6. To hit the nail on the head = to say something which is totally accurate
  7. To drive someone up the wall = to drive someone mad / to make someone very annoyed
  8. To find your feet = to establish yourself
  9. Break a leg! = good luck! (for performers)
  10. Hold your horses! = hold on! Wait! Slow down!
  11. To go the extra mile = make an extra effort
  12. The ball is in your court = it’s your turn to make a decision

Also

  • To get fired / to be let go
  • A housewarming party
  • To see red
  • To have your cake and eat it too

Over to you!
What is your version of the idiom “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”?

Photos & Videos

Introduction

In the street

From left to right: Rob, Amber, Luke, Josephine (costume lady), Paul

From left to right: Rob, Amber, Luke, Josephine (costume lady), Paul

 

with Josephine (costume lady), Vlad (Director of Photography) & Robert Hoehn

The finished episode of WTF France

This is the episode that was being filmed during this episode. Check out the cameo apperances by Rob (2:26), Amber (2:30) & me (2:35).

Outro (with mistakes & no edits!)

Other stuff

Message from a Chinese LEPster about “Pudong” near China

I’d like to just clarify something that was said on the podcast in episode 408 when Paul and I made some silly jokes about the word “Pudong” and we talked about Pudong area near Shanghai in China. Paul brought it up when we were talking about pudding and none of us were too sure about the name Pudong and what it really means. I got a message which clarifies that.

Here’s the message from Sylvia from China. I was a bit worried that she was offended by our crappy jokes (particularly mine), but she assures me that she’s not offended and that she still loves us, so that’s alright. In any case I wanted to read this out because it’s got proper information about Pudong. If you remember, Paul said that he wasn’t sure exactly what the name meant and that one of our listeners could clear it up. Well, here is that clarification.

Dear Luke,

I want to make several things clear here in episode 408, in which Paul talked about Pudong in Shanghai. I live in Shanghai now, and the content of the conversation made me a bit uncomfortable.

1. It’s not ‘Pudong River’, it’s called ‘Huangpu River’.
2. It is ‘Pu’, not ‘Poo’.
3. ‘dong’ in Chinese means ‘east’, Chinese character ‘东’.
4. ‘Pudong’ is an area, which is on the east bank of the Huangpu River.
Pudong is situated on the east coast of the Huangpu River of Shanghai, and sits at the intersection of China’s coastal belt for international trade and the Yangtze River estuary. It is backed up by the Yangtze River Delta urban megalopolis and faces the boundless Pacific.

Pudong New Area (“Pudong” or the “New Area”), in eastern Shanghai, is named because it is located to the east of the Huangpu River.

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Now Pudong New Area has become the economic, financial, trade and shipping center regionally and internationally. In 20 short years, a dramatic change has taken place in Pudong, changing from farmlands into high buildings and from out-of-the-way villages into a prosperous urban area. Pudong has become the “Pearl of the Orient” with world attention, acclaimed as the “epitome of Shanghai’s modernization” and the “symbol of China’s reform and opening up”.

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Cruising on the Huangpu River, you can see many European style buildings on the western bank, because Shanghai used to be a foreign concession before 1949. At that time, Shanghai was known as the ‘paradise of foreign adventures’. Many foreigners, mostly Europeans, came to try their luck here. That’s why you can see buildings of different architectural styles here, Spanish, Greek, Roman and Russian. While on the other bank, skyscrapers in the Pudong New Area rear high into the sky, which were all built by Chinese people after 1990.

Luke, welcome to China, welcome to Shanghai, welcome to Pudong. And I hope when Paul comes to your place again, you can show him this, and let him make it clear.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Luke
I’m sorry this made you uncomfortable. No offence intended – I was just making a joke, and failing (as usual). I appreciate the information about Shanghai – would you mind if I read out your message on the podcast?

Sylvia
hello Luke
I knew it was a joke, that’s okay. It’s just that Pudong New Area has alway been a prosperous Area in my mind, but from now on everytime i think of it or come to there it will remind me of those jokes you made…Haha…
It would be great if you could read it on the podcast. Because i don’t want Paul to mislead people around the world thinking that China has a ‘poo dong river’. You can say my name, that’s okay.
And I know Amber And Paul didn’t mean any offence.
Always love you!
Sylvia

spoken_full_logo_transparentSPOKEN

Don’t forget to check out Spoken. 2 free lessons and then 20% off! English lessons for Professionals on WhatsApp, sent straight to your phone by an English teacher. www.getspoken.com/lep

345. ELTon Award Nomination / Phrasal Verbs & Idioms / Brooklyn / The Revenant / Museum of Natural History & More

Breaking News! LEP Nominated for a British Council ELTon Award for Digital Innovation.
In this episode you’ll hear me talking about what’s been going on since I recorded the last episode, including: LEP’s nomination in the British Council ELTon awards, Leonardo DiCaprio fighting a bear in The Revenant, my adventure to the American Museum of Natural History and more. Also – for all the vocab hunters out there – watch out for some phrasal verbs and idioms.

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Luke’s English Podcast is nominated for a British Council ELTon Award!

The first thing I’d like to say is that I have some great news for the podcast, and certainly great news for me, and I’d like to share it with you. I’ve been nominated for a British Council ELTon award. This is really fantastic and I feel absolutely delighted. The ELTons are basically the Oscars of the English teaching world. Really, they are. It’s a real honour to be nominated for one. It’s top-level stuff. The ELTons are run by the British Council and by Cambridge English – these are top institutions in the world of English teaching. The ELTons happen every year and they celebrate and reward innovation in English language teaching. I’m nominated in the Digital Innovation category along with 5 other nominees. englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/events/eltons/years-eltons/years-eltons

You might be thinking – can we do anything to help you win? Is there a vote or something? Nope. It’s all decided by a panel of judges and they are taking it very seriously, with judging being done following a very thorough and impartial method. I am aware that at this moment, some industry people might be investigating my podcast. Some of the judges might be listening to this right now in fact! If you are a judge in the ELTons or a bigwig of the TEFL industry – hello! Welcome to my podcast. I hope you like it. I hope you consider it to be a genuine innovation in the world of EFL, in its own way. I’m delighted to be nominated and to receive some recognition from the industry after working on this podcast for over 7 years! Let me introduce you to my audience. TEFL industry people, meet the LEPsters. Industry people – lepsters. LEPsters – industry people. There. You’ve been introduced! Everyone’s very nice and friendly around here so just make yourself comfortable. Pull up a chair. Can I take your coat? Feel free to have a biscuit or a cup of tea, or indeed both if you fancy that. Anyway, just relax and take it easy. This is a no-pressure zone. There are some bean bags over there if you want to get more comfortable. Mi casa su casa. That’s Spanish – I don’t normally do that. It’s pretty much 99% English here. Anyway, I’m rambling… but that’s the idea of this podcast as you will see if you stick around!

OK that was a little nod to the ELTons judges or any other high level industry executives listening to this.

There is a red-carpet award ceremony on 2 June and I’ll be going to that. I don’t think I’ll win – I’m competing with some excellent work by the other nominees and I wonder if my work on a podcast will be recognised – I have no idea. I do think podcasting is an innovation because I think it allows teachers to connect with learners of English in a new way and it allows learners to connect with the English language in a new way. I’ve got a sort of long-running relationship with my listeners that I think is tremendously important in allowing you, my listeners, to really plug yourselves into an authentic source of English. I could go on about that more, but I won’t here in this episode. I’ll just say I’d be surprised and completely bowled over to win because the other nominations are brilliant, but I really hope I do win of course because that would just be incredible and unexpected.

As I said – I’ve basically been working away on this podcast on my own for years and, well, you know the story. But anyway, I’m delighted to be nominated. Please keep your fingers crossed for the podcast. I think the more established it becomes the more I am able to do this podcast regularly, and I have so many plans for other entertaining online services for learners of English which I could work on if I had the chance.

So, back to this new episode of the podcast

I’ve been away from the podcast for about 3 weeks! I’m very happy to be back because there are so many things to talk about. Some of those things are about what I’ve been up to (which are not that important really) and other things are about what’s been going on in the world in general (more important), because it seems to be an intensely busy and dynamic time at the moment with all sorts of big events in politics, sport, entertainment and stuff like that.

5 Phrasal Verbs and 5 Idioms

What about Language? Will there be language teaching in this episode?
Well, mainly in this episode I’m just talking to you directly about some topics and anecdotes. But if you are in the mood to focus only on the language, and you couldn’t really give a monkey’s about what I’m saying (ha ha) then here is a little task.

During the course of the episode I am going to use (at least) 5 phrasal verbs and (at least) 5 idiomatic fixed expressions, at certain points.

I’ve randomly chosen these words and expressions from a couple of dictionaries that I have just lying around. This time I’m using the Cambridge Phrasal Verb dictionary and the Oxford Idioms dictionary. Both very nice dictionaries published by very lovely publishers, (hello industry people).
So your challenge is this: Try to notice the 5 phrasal verbs and the 5 idioms as they come up in this episode.
Got it? I’ve picked out 5 phrasal verbs, and 5 idioms and I’m just going to randomly include them in the episode as I go – that’s going to be difficult for me because I don’t want it to be too obvious and easy – and you just have to notice them.

So, as we move forwards you’ll be looking out for any phrasal verbs that come up, and you’ll be keeping your eyes peeled for idioms. I say keeping your eyes peeled – obviously, you’ll be trying to hear them not see them, but you know what I mean.

Don’t you?

Do you know the expression ‘keep your eyes peeled‘?
Well, that was an idiom. ‘To keep your eyes peeled (for something)’ means to be on the lookout for something – to be ready to see or notice something. It means ‘keep your eyes open’. You can imagine an orange – you know you peel and orange – remove the skin. Similarly you can keep your eyes peeled – keep the eyelids open. I like that one. In this case of course you’re listening not looking, but still… Perhaps the equivalent for your ears would be ‘prick up your ears‘ – like a wild animal in a field that hears something, its ears go up a bit – like a cat or a fox, you can imagine its ears suddenly standing to attention. It’s pricking up its ears. So, prick up your ears. If you’re reading a transcript of this then you can keep your eyes peeled. Look out for idioms and phrasal verbs, or listen out for idioms and phrasal verbs.
And yes, there were a couple of phrasal verbs. “Look out for” and “listen out for” – they’re quite easy ones really because the meaning of the phrase is quite obvious, quite literal. Others might be idiomatic – the meaning might be less obvious.

Phrasal Verbs

They’re very common in English. They’re not slang, but they are often a bit more informal than the longer equivalents. They are used all the time in many situations, and are absolutely essential if you want to learn natural English – British and American. Some of you know all about this because you listen to my other podcast, “A Phrasal Verb a Day” – and if you haven’t heard of that, just go to teacherluke.co.uk/pv to check out my phrasal verb podcast where you can learn a different phrasal verb in each episode – and I teach them to you properly, quickly, without any messing about or rambling.

Click here for my phrasal verb podcast: teacherluke.co.uk/pv

So we’ve already had 2 idioms and 2 phrasal verbs and the episode hasn’t even started yet. “To listen out for something”, “to look out for something”, “to keep your eyes peeled” and to “prick up your ears”.

So, I’ve set up a language challenge for the episode – just try to notice 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms. At the end I will tell you the answers – I’ll tell you which phrasal verbs and idioms I picked from the dictionary, and I’ll explain what they mean.

Now, there are so many things to talk about that I’m not sure how long this is going to take. I will just keep recording and when I get to about an hour I’ll pause and carry on in the next episode. IS that alright by you? Yes? I’m glad you said that because you haven’t got any choice really have you. No, you don’t.

Anyway, let’s get started properly. I’m going to now ramble on about various things including some personal news, some travelling stories, some world news, some politics, some movie-related stuff and probably some other things that just come to mind while I’m talking – and remember to watch out for those 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms.

*JINGLE*

Mayumi’s comment: “Hi, Luke. Hope you are well.”
Hi Mayumi, I’m fine thanks. In fact I’ve been really busy lately so it’s good to be back.

Columbo “My wife…”

The podcast episode continues…

Did you notice any phrasal verbs and idioms?

Do you remember that at the beginning of the episode I chose 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms from the dictionaries?

I only used 1 phrasal verb and 2 idioms from the list. Here they are:

to come up against something – “Leonardo DiCaprio comes up against all kinds of problems in the film” = to face difficulties www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/come-up-against

to be on the edge of your seat – “I was on the edge of my seat while watching The Revenant” = to be very excited and interested in something you are watching www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/on-the-edge-of-your-seat-chair

to get your knickers in a twist – “This guy was really getting his knickers in a twist in the museum” = to get upset or angry www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/get-your-knickers-in-a-twist

Part 2 – coming soon

283. Ten Fixed Expressions

Recently on FB I asked my followers to send me some fixed expressions (phrases, idioms or just individual words) that they like or think are worth learning. I ended up with about 200 phrases. The idea was that I’d do one episode with these phrases, but obviously I underestimated the number of responses that I’d get and now I have a huge database of nice, chunky and rather British fixed expressions which I can deal with in episodes of the podcast. I have vetted the list for any expressions that I don’t see myself using very much, so they’ve all been given the LEP seal of approval, meaning they’re all expressions which are perfectly valid and that you should know.

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What’s a fixed expression? It’s a collection of words (a phrase) which has one specific meaning. Those words are fixed together and it might have a particular idiomatic meaning, or at least a specific meaning which is

Episode 1 in the series – I’ve invited Paul Taylor to my place, and we’re going to do an exercise to help you to learn these phrases and give you some listening practice. What we’ll do is that I will explain the phrase to him and we’ll see if he can guess which phrase it is. Then we’ll give some examples and have a quick discussion based on the expression, before moving on to the next one.

What you can do is just try to guess the phrase I’m talking about, and then check out our discussion to hear the phrase being used naturally. All the phrases are listed on the page for this episode.

  1. A bad egg
    A person in a group who has a negative effect on the rest of that group. “He’s a bit of a bad egg”, or just simply a bad person.
    Have you ever had a bad egg in a training group at work?
    Were there any bad eggs in your group of friends as a child growing up?
  2. A cash cow
    An investment that brings in a reliable source of steady income. E.g. an apartment which you rent out, or shares that you purchased in a thriving business.
    What’s the most common form of cash cow?
    If you had 50,000 to invest, what would you invest it in?
  3. a fine line between x & y
    When there is a very subtle or small difference between two rather distinctly different things. E.g. “There’s a fine line between madness and genius”.
    www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/fine_line.html
    Do you think there is a fine line between madness and genius?
    Other fine lines?
    Stand up comedy and … ?
  4. a flash in the pan
    Something that is a very quick and sudden success, but it’s a success that doesn’t last. Brief success.
    Would you rather be a flash in the pan (make loads of money but then disappear from fame – become anonymous) or a long lasting success who is constantly in the public eye?
    Can you think of anything that we thought would be a flash in the pan but wasn’t?
    What do you think will be a flash in the pan now? Is the Apple Watch a flash in the pan?
  5. a pain in the neck
    Something really irritating or annoying. Something really inconvenient in your life.
  6. a shoo-in
    Someone who is certain to succeed, or certain to win a competition. Someone or something which we assume will be a success. For example, for an entrance exam to a university – we expect this girl to pass. In fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine that she won’t qualify for the course. She’s a shoo-in.
    I always thought it was spelled ‘shoe’ – like somehow there’s a shoe in something, or it’s really easy to throw a shoe into something.
    Where did you go to university? Were you a shoo-in for entrance? How about your exams?
    Do you follow football? Who do you think will qualify/win the 2018 world cup?
  7. A total cock up
    A complete mess – when someone messes something up completely. They tried to rob the bank but they forgot to load their guns and one of them got trapped in the vault and the other didn’t know what to do. They both were recorded by CCTV cameras and got arrested.
    Origin unknown (it doesn’t refer to a penis) – it’s more likely to refer to a bird, like perhaps the accidental startling of a woodcock during a hunt.
    What’s the biggest cock up you’ve ever made?
  8. Ace
    Great, brilliant, fantastic. British slang. Also the name of one of the picture cards in a deck of playing cards.
    When was the last time you said “That was ace!”
    What was the last film you saw that you thought was ace?
  9. All gone to pot
    It’s all gone bad. It’s deteriorated. Like, “it’s all gone to the dogs”.
    E.g. “My diet has gone to pot since coming home for Christmas.” or “London’s just gone to pot since Boris Johnson took over” or “The whole country is going to pot under this conservative government”.
    Has its origins in the idea that farm animals would be eaten (cooked in a pot) when they were past their best (for producing eggs or whatever).
    Do you think the world is going to pot?
  10. All hell broke loose
    When things suddenly become chaotic and out of control.
    E.g. When they announced a flash sale of Louis Vuitton handbags, all hell broke loose in the department store.

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255. Taken 3 / Expressions with ‘Take’

My response to the film Taken 3, plus 12 expressions with the word ‘take’. [Download]

The Film
*Spoiler alert* – I might give away some details of the story line, although I think you probably have a good idea what kind of thing you can expect. Someone did something to his family, and Liam Neeson will use his very particular set of skills to find them, he will hunt them down and he will kill them. There will be loads of high-octane action, some very questionable moral actions, and the usual offensive stereotypes of foreign people.

You should know that I’ve talked, at length, about Taken 1 already on this podcast.

Yesterday I went to the cinema and tweeted “I’m on my way to see Taken 3…” Naturally, some people wanted me to talk about it on the podcast, so here it is.

In a nutshell, this film is bad – it’s total pants, it’s piss poor, it’s lame, it’s cheesy, and frankly, it’s dull. It’s like a b-movie, but with Liam Neeson. It retains few of the redeeming qualities of the original, brings nothing new to the table and just looks like everyone involved is just doing it for the money. That’s not to say it was without enjoyment – I did enjoy it a bit, perhaps because I’d lowered my expectations before going into the cinema.

Expressions with Take
There are loads. Here are 12. Listen to the episode to hear full explanations and examples.

1. Take someone for a ride = to rip someone off
2. Take someone to the cleaners = to rip someone off, or to beat someone
3. Take something for granted = to undervalue something which is actually very valuable to you
4. Take it on the chin = to be strong and resilient in the face of criticism or adversity
5. Take it out on someone = to express your anger/frustration by being nasty or aggressive towards someone else
6. Take advantage of something = to make the most of it, to exploit it
7. Take it easy = relax
8. Overtake = to move in front of someone (e.g. in a car)
9. Take over = to take control of something (to acquire)
10. Takes one to know one = In order to know something you have to be that thing too
11. To have what it takes = to have the necessary qualities to do something
12. Give or take = approximately

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242. 11 Idioms Only Brits Understand (really?)

This is a slightly rambling and unprepared episode which I made up as I went along, and in the end I talked about a page I found on MatadorNetwork.com called “11 Idioms Only Brits Understand”. I don’t think that these are exclusively used by Brits, but nevertheless they are some pretty commonly used idioms, so I decided to talk to you about them in this episode. After that I ended up clicking on a few random YouTube videos, playing around with the cockney accent and listening to some music. Enjoy! [Download]

Small Donate ButtonHere’s the page from The Matador Network “11 Idioms That Only Brits Understand” (the idioms are also printed below)

The Idioms
1. Pop one’s clogs

You don’t get much more British than this. To pop one’s clogs is a euphemism for dying or death.

Example: “No one knew he was about to pop his clogs.”

2. That went down a treat

If something goes down a treat, then it was thoroughly enjoyed.

Example: “That cake went down a treat.”

3. Take the mickey

Us Brits love to make fun of and tease each other and that’s exactly what ‘taking the mickey’ means. You can also say ‘take the mick.’

Example: “Stop taking the mickey out of your brother.”

More like this 8 lies you tell yourself when you move to London
4. Itchy feet

This refers to when you want to try or do something new, such as travelling.

Example: “After two years in the job she’s got itchy feet, so she’s going to spend three months in Australia.”

5. At a loose end

If you’re at a loose end, it means you’re bored or you have nothing to do.

Example: “He’s been at a loose end ever since he retired.”

6. Another string to your bow

This means to have another skill that can help you in life, particularly with employment.

Example: “I’m learning French so I’ll have another string to my bow.”

7. As the actress said to the bishop

This is the British equivalent of ‘that’s what she said.’ It highlights a sexual reference whether it was deliberate or not.

Example: “Blimey, that’s a big one — as the actress said to the bishop.”

8. Bob’s your uncle (and fanny’s your aunt)

This phrase means that something will be successful. It is the equivalent of ‘and there you go,’ or as the French say ‘et voilà!’ Adding the ‘and fanny’s your aunt’ makes you that much more British.

Example:

A: “Where’s the Queen Elizabeth Pub?”
B: “You go down the road, take the first left and Bob’s your uncle — there it is on the corner!”
9. Cheap as chips

We love a good bargain, and when we find one we can’t help but exclaim that it’s ‘as cheap as chips.’

Example: “Only a fiver for a ticket — cheap as chips mate!”

10. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves

This is one that our grandparents have told us our whole lives. If you take care not to waste small amounts of money, then it will accumulate into something more substantial.

11. Nosy parker

This is for all the nosy people of the world. A ‘nosy parker’ is someone who is extremely interested in other people’s lives.

Example: “Stop being such a nosy parker! They’re having a private conversation!”

Gritty Brit Flick

Top Gear Parody

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