Hi and welcome to another edition of Real English Conversations here at Better at English dot com. My name is Lori, and it’s a grey October day here at the Better at English studios in southern Sweden. Now, I’m really sticking my neck out with today’s podcast, because this informal conversation between me and Michael reveals some of my bad speaking habits. The worst offender: when I’m telling a story, I use the word “like” to introduce reported speech, a mannerism that “careful users of English” really don’t approve of. I also use some expressions that could be considered slang, such as score, gig, office-supply porn, and honking, yet more reason for the watchful guardians of all things good and proper in English to wrinkle their brows, harrumphing in disapproval.
But I’ll stick my neck out even farther and say that the vast majority of first-language speakers are probably not “careful users of English.” At least not in their informal conversations with their friends. And the whole point of Real English Conversations is to provide you with examples of informal, everyday conversations between first language speakers of English — the kind of language you don’t usually get in mass-market English teaching materials, but that you are very likely to get out in the real world, when you’re using English with real people.
I’ve not conducted a scientific study on this, but in my experience, the way I use “like” to introduce reported speech is a very common feature of informal conversation between American English speakers from my generation, the so-called Generation X. Your listening skills benefit from understanding this common feature. But I don’t suggest that you use “like” the way I do here, simply because it is frowned upon by careful users of English.
You’ll notice that I also repeat words and pause to search for words, just like most native speakers do when they are speaking about a topic they haven’t prepared in advance. Remember, this is an informal CONVERSATION between two good friends, not a formal speech that was prepared in advance and practiced to be given in front of an audience!
As always, you will find the full transcript of this podcast and a vocabulary list on our website, www dot betteratenglish dot com.
Lori: Yeah, something kind of funny happened to me when I was shopping for office supplies today.
Michael: OK, what happened?
L: Well, my boss had, had given me a list of office supplies to buy on my way home from a teaching gig, because I drive right past the office supply shop.
And I’m always happy to do it, ’cause, as you know, I LOVE office supplies — it’s almost like my, my “office-supply porn” — I can go in and get my daily fix of all the nice things for, you know, keeping organized, and folders and notebooks, and…I had a whole list of things to buy.
And when I got up to the register and the clerk was ringing me up, the total came to over a thousand Swedish crowns. Which is not a problem, I mean, they just just send us an invoice; it wasn’t like I had to worry about money. But then he said, “Because you spent so much money here today, you can go pick one of those rolls of toilet paper over there.”
M: Toilet paper!
L: Yeah, toilet paper! And, I mean, we’re always happy to get free toilet paper; you know, it’s one of those useful things that, that, you know, a business has to buy…
M: You can never have too much.
L: Yeah, exactly. But the thing is, I looked at where he was pointing, and it was these HUGE, GIGANTIC, industrial-sized packages, all shrink-wrapped in plastic, of toilet paper…I mean, it was HUGE, I could NOT BELIEVE that I was getting one for free.
M: OK, like a year’s supply of toilet paper.
L: At least.
L: I’m serious! When…standing on end, the thing comes up almost to my chest.
L: I mean, it’s huge. I, I forgot to count the rolls, but it was…it had to be…maybe… At least 20 packs of six rolls each.
L: Seriously, it was one big, honking supply of toilet paper. And it was GOOD toilet paper as well!
M: And this is free?
L: Yeah, free just because I’d spent, you know, in one, you know, one purchase, we had spent over a thousand crowns. And I, but I could not believe they were giving away for free, and so I had to ask the guy, “Really? Are you kidding? You mean I get to take one of these?”
And he was like, “Yeah, yeah.”
I’m like, “No!”
He was like, “Yeah!”
And he says that, “You know, you can look, see the sign up above…it says…I can show you.”
I’m like, “No no, it’s not that I don’t believe you, I just can’t believe you are giving away such a huge supply of toilet paper!”
I was REALLY happy. And of course there was a line of Swedes standing waiting to pay for their things, and they were raising their eyebrows at me, you know, someone getting SO excited about getting a huge supply of toilet paper. But you know, I thought that was just a really really cool thing…
M: Mmm, definitely.
L: …for or the company to do.
L: ‘Cause say they had just given away one little pack, or two little packs. Like, oh, wow, 12 rolls of toilet paper. [rolls eyes]
M: Right, right
L: For spending a thousand crowns…
M: Yeah. No, free stuff is good!
L: Yeah, and the good news is, you know here at home we’re on our last roll…
L: And because I scored this huge supply of toilet paper for my boss, she’s like, “Take some, take some!” And…
M: NOW I see why you’re so happy.
L: That’s why today I came home with that, you know, with…
M: Your arms full of toilet paper.
L: Exactly, exactly.
- Something is funny if it makes you laugh, or if it is strange or unusual.
- Your boss is the person you work for, your manager, the person you report to. It’s an informal way to refer to this person.
- Here, Lori means a teaching assignment out at a company.
- office supplies
- Goods and materials that you need in an office, e.g, paper, paper clips, folders, binders, printer ink, coffee. In the USA there are huge stores that specialize in office supplies, such as Staples or Office Depot.
- office supply porn
- Porn is short for “pornography.” Here, Lori doesn’t mean real pornography, of course. She is using the word “porn” in a playful way to describe the unusual (perhaps even unhealthy!) pleasure she gets from shopping for office supplies.
- my daily fix
- Lori talks about her “daily fix” of “office supply porn.” Again, this is a playful use of language. A fix is ” a supply or dose of something strongly desired or craved” usually said about addictive drugs. But people often use it in a humorous or playful way, e.g. “my daily fix of coffee” or “my chocolate fix for the day.”
- a cash register. The machine that records the transaction when you buy something, and where the cashier or clerk keeps the money
- ringing me up
- To ring someone/something up means when the cashier pushes buttons on the cash register to record the items you are buying.
- When you buy something from a company but don’t pay right away, they send you an invoice, like a bill, that tells you how much money you must pay and when you must pay it.
- huge, gigantic
- Synonyms for “extremely large”
- large packages of goods for businesses and industries
- Informal slang for “very large,” often used in combination with big: I can’t believe I ate that entire big, honking piece of chocolate cake!
- Are you kidding?
- This is an informal way to ask “Are you serious?” or “Is this really true?” We usually say this when we’ve heard something that we find hard to believe.
- raising their eyebrows
- If you talk about someone raising their eyebrows at someone or something, it means that their facial expression is showing disapproval of that person or thing. The stereotypical Swede is known for being quiet and reserved, so Lori’s open (and somewhat loud) enthusiasm about getting the huge packet of toilet paper for free was probably breaking a Swedish social taboo
- on our last roll
- To be “on one’s last X” means that you are using the last item in your supply of something. For example, “We’re on our last carton of milk; could you buy a carton when you go to the shop later?”
- To score something in the sense Lori uses here means that you manage to buy or receive something that you find very attractive.
Thanks very much for tuning in to this edition of Better at English. Before I sign off, I’d like to mention two things. Firstly, we have a new feature on our website that lets you use your computer and a mic to record your questions in a 2-minute voice mail message. Just click the “record a question” button at the top of the sidebar on the website. This will open a window to the Mychingo online recorder. You may need to click “OK” to allow the Mychingo recorder to access your mic, but don’t worry, they aren’t doing anything evil to your computer. Please don’t be shy about asking questions: maybe your question will be a “guest star” of a future podcast!
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That’s all for now! Here’s hoping that soon, very soon, something will happen to make you as happy as that big honking package of free toilet paper made me. See you next time here at Better at English dot com.