Learn from natural English conversation – You killed it

killed it
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Would you ever guess that to kill something could mean to do it well? In English it can mean exactly that! In this episode, we’re looking at expressions that mean to do something very well. They’re casual expressions that can be used to talk about a big performance or a small school project. Check out this episode if you want to give someone a high compliment in a natural way!

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Andrew: So our first expression is to kill it.
Maura: Mmhmm. It sounds so violent. To kill it.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s very violent, I guess, when you think about it. But in reality, this just means that you performed well when you were doing something.
Maura: Right. So, when a person does something really well, you can say that that person killed it.
Andrew: Mmhmm. And it does sound gruesome, I agree. But this just means that this person did an excellent job on a certain task.
Maura: Right. It could be also maybe a performance or something like that, where you could say that somebody killed it. And again, it’s not violent. It just means that someone did something very well. They succeeded in some way.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To reach peak something To kill it
Gruesome A hit
Harsh Ultra
To nail it An antique
To be down someone’s alley To go easy on someone
A prodigy To rock it
To pull off a look To cross someone’s mind

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Movers and Shakers

movers and shakers
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In these times of international business, many movers and shakers find it important to be able to speak English! In today’s episode, we talk about people who have ambition and drive, and can make things happen. Some people are really motivated to innovate, make changes, and work hard, so we’ve got names for them. Check out this episode to learn some terms that describe these kinds of people. Are you a go-getter?

sample dialog

Andrew: Usually we call people who are very successful, who are rich or good businessmen or politicians, these are movers and shakers. These are, like, really big figures in society.
Harp: Yeah. Rich and powerful people. We call them movers and shakers. And with this expression, when I think of a mover and a shaker, I think of someone who’s really energetic and actually physically moving a lot to try to get things done.
Andrew: Yeah. And we should warn you that when you use this expression, you have to use both mover and shaker together. You have to say somebody is a mover and a shaker. If you say they’re just a shaker or just a mover, it doesn’t work. Both together.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

An outlet A mover and a shaker
To move (on) up the ladder Drive
A go-getter To give your all
What a/an… Quicker or more quickly
To float around To pick up
A self-starter Thanks for having me
To pull the trigger

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Let’s just play it by ear

Play it by the ear
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Are you the kind of person who likes to plan everything? Or would you rather just play it by ear? This episode is about being in the moment, not planning too much, and accepting what happens. To play it by ear is a very common expression used when people are deciding not to make plans. Listen in to hear more about this expression and some similar ones.

sample dialog

Maura: Andrew, do you have any guesses about the origin of this expression?
Andrew: Hmm. To play it by ear. It sounds musical to me.
Maura: Yes. That’s why I asked you, because you’re a musician. So I thought you would probably figure it out.
Andrew: Mmhmm. Yeah. When I play music, actually, I play a lot of different instruments, and I’ve always been really bad at reading music. And music theory is not something that comes easily to me. So usually when I play music, I play it by ear. I just listen and try to figure out what I’m doing while I’m playing.
Maura: Exactly. So that’s where this expression comes from. That people would play music without looking at any notes and they just improvise the music in the moment. Maybe they’re jamming with some other musicians. And so it’s the same idea, except now we’re not talking about music anymore. We’re talking about plans for something.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To take things as they come To play it by ear
Set in stone On the spur of the moment
To come easily (to someone) To be down (with something)
Or what To pull it off
To go with the flow To roll off the tongue
A big step When in doubt
To roll with the punches It’ll happen for you

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Interview with Jade

Jade
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A Culips listener on Facebook recently requested that we do more interviews, so here’s another one! This time it’s our friend Jade who’s talking to you. In this episode, Andrew asks her about her life growing up in the province of British Columbia, about going off to university, and about what she’s up to now. Listen in to learn about Jade and the dynamic life of another Canadian!

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Andrew: Did you have any special farming jobs? Like, I know some country kids have to wake up at the crack of dawn every day and go and milk the cows. Did you have any special farm chores?
Jade: Well, we actually didn’t have the farm for too long. It was a pretty-short lived hobby, I think, of my parents’. So when I was maybe three until seven was the only years our farm was really that active, so I mean, a three-year-old isn’t that functional as a farmhand. But I did really like helping slaughter the chickens. I don’t know. Does that count?
Andrew: OK. That’s a little strange. Yeah, that definitely counts. That’s part of country life. Right? So I guess I wanna skip forward a little bit now. And when we first met was when we were both living on Vancouver Island, in Victoria. And we both moved there to go to the University of Victoria.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

I wouldn’t miss it for the world At the crack of dawn
A farmhand Does that count?
UVic and UBC Guess I wouldn’t have met you
To bounce all over the place To branch out
The common denominator To hold something in a very special place in your heart
To move on to bigger and better things If you will
Shoot A morning person or a night owl

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Secrets

Secrets
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Do you have many secrets to hide? Don’t worry, we won’t make you share any of them! But that’s what we’re talking here. What should be kept secret and what do you share with people in your lives? Everyone has a different answer, and in this episode Andrew and Maura give their opinions on secrets and privacy. Shh!

sample dialog

Maura: So let’s start with keeping secrets. First I would like to know Andrew, do you think that you’re good at keeping secrets? If someone told you a secret, for example me, if I said, Andrew, I gotta tell someone something and then I said please don’t tell anybody, could you keep it?
Andrew: This is a good question. I think I’m a good secret keeper, yeah. I think I’m good at keeping secrets. Absolutely.
Maura: OK. So if someone told you something and they said don’t tell anyone you would really just keep it to yourself?
Andrew: Yeah. I would lock it up. It would stay inside. I wouldn’t tell anyone for sure. But, to tell you the truth I don’t like it when people tell me secrets, you know. You have this special responsibility to hide something and it’s a lot of pressure.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Shh I would lock it up
To tell you the truth On the other hand
To air Themselves
To unload on someone Everybody and anybody
Dirty laundry The thing is
To put someone on the spot To be juicy
To be a good call

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Tickets and scalpers

scalpers
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Whether you go to a show once a year or once a month, there’s some fun vocabulary related to going to one, and we’ve done an episode all about it! In this episode, Andrew and Harp also share their experiences of going to concerts and buying tickets. Listen to this episode to find out whether you’ve ever sat in the nosebleed section. Have you ever bought tickets from a scalper? And did you know that Harp was a fan of Puff Daddy?

sample dialog

Harp: When I think about tickets and going to an event, I always think about the people who get the box seat tickets.
Andrew: Yeah. The people in the box seats. Those guys are super lucky because the box seats are absolutely the best ticket you can get.
Harp: Yeah. It’s usually a bit higher up, so you have a really good vantage point of whatever you’re watching, whether it’s a concert, or if you’re watching a hockey game or a football game. You have, like, pretty much the perfect view to be able to see the whole field or the complete concert stage. And usually you have a waitress in there so you’re getting drinks and food served to you. It just seems so luxurious.
Andrew: Yeah. Absolutely. You have a little table where you can eat food, and, like you said, there’s the waitress bringing you your order, and it just seems like the best way to enjoy a concert or a sporting game is in the box seats.
Maura: Yes. And I’m sure they probably even have their private bathrooms, so that you don’t have to line up with everyone else.
Andrew: Yeah. I was actually doing a little research into the cost of a ticket for a box seat, and they are super expensive.
Harp: I’m sure. ’Cause oftentimes, it’s companies that actually own the full box and they take their clients there. So they’re quite expensive.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

My jaw dropped The best seat(s) in the house
Nosebleed seats Nuts
A free-for-all Back in the day
Sketchy A scalper
The last resort On the side
A markup Underground
A horror story To miss out (on something)

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Travel stories

Thailand
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This episode we’re all here sharing our favourite stories from some of our journeys abroad. Andrew talks about an interesting place he visited outside Berlin, Harp tells us about her search for tigers, and Maura shares a story about being lost in Thailand. We take turns interviewing each other to bring the stories to life. We dare you not to get the travel bug after listening to this episode!

sample dialog

Maura: And do you remember how you heard about this place?
Andrew: It was just my friend that was living there. She recommended that we go, and it took us maybe an hour and a half to bike it there. It was a really beautiful day and we biked through the German forest, and it was nice.
Maura: Ah nice. You know by the end of this episode, I’m sure I’m going to feel like booking a ticket and travelling somewhere again.
Andrew: Yeah. Definitely. You’ll get the travel bug.
Maura: Yeah. That’s right. All right. Good story.
Andrew: Yeah. Thank you.
Maura: So, Harp, are you ready?
Harp: I am.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

While you’re at it… Little travel story
Teufelsberg To get up to
Man-made To listen in
A music guy The travel bug
To backpack Sundaraban forest
To hook up WWOOF
To cross your fingers In the middle of nowhere

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That’s sick!

A sick guitar player
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There are tons of negative words that are used as positive slang. We’re looking at a few of the more popular ones in this episode. Andrew and Maura give you their take on sick, mean, and wicked. If you look these words up in the dictionary, you might not find these definitions, but if you’re travelling around Canada or the U.S., you might just hear them being used.

sample dialog

Maura: And the thing about these kinds of words is that they’re always changing. Every few years there’s like a new one of these that emerges and some of the other words we don’t use anymore and depending where you’re speaking English, different kinds of words are more popular.
Andrew: Mmhmm. That’s the funny thing about slang. It’s always changing with each new generation.
Maura: Yeah. When I was thinking about this episode, when I was preparing it, I thought about Michael Jackson. And you know in the 80s, he had that song “Bad”. And that’s really a prime example of this kind of slang.
Andrew: Exactly. Because “Bad” didn’t really mean bad. It meant good in the context of that song.
Maura: Yeah. Right. So he was singing about being bad, but he didn’t mean that he was negative or something was really bad. He meant that it was cool and awesome and, yeah, kind of maybe exciting.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Time flies (by) A prime example
Sick – a sick guitar player – can be used on its own To be meaning
Break dancing To be mean – must be used with the object that is being described as mean
A lift Where ya going?
Wicked – as in intensifer Fresh powder
No doubt To be sold

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Word

Word
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This time we’re looking at casual ways to agree with a person. The expressions in this episode are cool casual slang, more often used by younger people. But if you’re older, don’t worry! These expressions can be found in music, movies, and on TV. Listen in to this episode to learn all about word, to be game, and to be down. Are you game for learning English?

sample dialog

Andrew: Yeah. It’s just a one-word expression, which is word.
Harp: Yeah. And so you use this expression to say yes when someone has said something. You say word.
Andrew: Right. So if you want to agree with a statement that somebody has made you can say word. And this expression is really a shortened form of a longer expression, which is my word is my bond.
Harp: My word is my bond.
Andrew: And this means that what you’re saying is true. You’re being honest. If your word is your bond, you’re telling the truth.
Harp: Exactly. So when you say word, you’re casually agreeing with what the person has said.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To be laid back Word
My word is my bond To handle something
To grab To be a nightmare
To take on To be down
No way José Wine and cheese

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Money

USmoney
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Every place on earth has some sort of money system, but everyone does it a little bit differently. Listen to this episode where Harp and Andrew talk about their experiences with money in Canada. They talk about hourly pay and salary, the two major ways to be paid for work, and they also talk about how to spend money in the two most common ways: with card and cash. Another important thing to do with money is save it! Harp and Andrew share their budgeting strategies. Check it out!

sample dialog

Harp: Yeah. You like to use Interac or credit cards?
Andrew: Yeah. I’m in love with my debit card.
Harp: I have to agree with you. It’s so rare that I have cash on me now.
Andrew: Well, we should explain. A debit card is a way to pay for something automatically withdrawing the money from your bank account. So it’s a direct debit out of your account to pay for whatever you buy.
Harp: Exactly. And I would say almost every single store in Canada now has a little machine where you put your card in and then you put in your PIN number, which is a personal identification number it’s usually four numbers long or eight numbers max, and the money goes directly out of your chequing account.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Money makes the world go round Salary versus hourly wage
To be at the bottom of the ladder To crunch numbers
To put your time in Interac and debit
To have cash on you A PIN number
Cheques and checks An allowance
A passbook Post-dated cheques
A budget RRSPs

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