Many have cherished memories of their grandparents, from listening to their stories to feeling loved and supported throughout childhood. In this Simplified Speech episode, Andrew and Kassy share stories about their grandparents. Today’s conversation might tug on your heartstrings!
The Simplified Speech series features clear, easy to understand conversations between native English speakers. This helps improve your English listening skills and, by listening, helps you speak English naturally. The topics covered are relevant to everyday life, so you can use what you learn right away.
Several countries celebrate Grandparents Day (like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day). The United States even has an official song for the day, A Song for Grandma and Grandpa by Johnny Prill, and an official flower, the forget-me-not.
The name stuck is used when someone gives a person or thing a nickname, and people continue to use that name. For example, if your parents called you “honey” instead of your name as a child and they continued to do so as you grew up, you could say that the name stuck. People often use this idiom when explaining how they got their nickname.
When it’s obvious that the conversation is about a name, you can say simply it stuck. In this episode, Kassy says her cousins “liked calling [their grandmother] Bear better than Gram, and it stuck. So now everybody calls her Bear.”
Here are a few more examples with the name stuck:
Eric: So I just found out that your name is actually Penelope. It’s not Penny?
Penelope: Nope! It’s Penelope.
Eric: Why does everyone call you Penny, then? Isn’t that kind of annoying?
Penelope: Not at all! I’m used to it. My family has called me Penny for my entire life.
Penelope: Yeah! I guess when I was born, my brother couldn’t say Penelope so my parents switched to calling me Penny so he could, you know, say my name and stuff. And, yeah, the name just kind of stuck. I probably wouldn’t even respond to Penelope!
Samiya: Oh! Candy-beansies! I’m going to get a whole bag of these.
Brett: What? Candy-beansies? You mean jelly beans? Why are you calling them that?
Samiya: That’s what my mom called them when I was little and by the time I found out they’re called jelly beans, it was too late. The name stuck in my head!
Reckon means to think, suppose, believe, or expect, depending on the context. You can make it a statement, showing that you agree or that you think a specific way. You can ask others “you reckon?” as a way to see what they think. Overall, reckon has gone out of style. So, to many native English speakers, it sounds old-fashioned and archaic.
The meaning and frequency of its usage depend on where you are in the world. In some southern American states, it’s part of the regional dialect. There it means to suppose, to think, or to decide. So “I reckon I’ll head out” would mean “I suppose I’ll head out” or “I’m going to head out.” However, in the United Kingdom and British English, reckon is used in its more serious context. In the United Kingdom, I reckon means to take account of, consider, or calculate.
Here are a couple more examples with reckon:
Fern: Mamma says there’s more of those tomatoes out toward the back of the field. She needs us to go out there and grab her a bushel.
Billy-Bob: Wasn’t she out there this afternoon?
Fern: She was, but she forgot to get ’em.
Billy-Bob: I reckon we’d better get a move on, then, if we’re gonna have time to wash up before dinner.
Fern: I reckon you’re right.
Rais: So, we’ve got everything on our list, right?
Nicole: I think so. Diapers, baby wipes, bottles, burping blankets.
Rais: And a new outfit.
Nicole: Of course a new outfit! Look at this. Little Sherry is going to look so cute!!
Rais: Right, of course. And I agree. Sherry will look adorable. Now, how much do you reckon this will cost?
Nicole: Oh, I dunno. Around $80, I’d guess.
Rais: Well, that’s OK. It’s in our budget. Let’s go before we see another cute outfit.
My heart burst means to be so emotional that you can’t contain it. The feeling is overwhelming. Usually it’s a positive emotion, like happiness or joy. Your heart expands with excitement, happiness, or joy. Sometimes it can be a negative emotion, like sadness, though that is less common. The idiom comes from the way bubbles or balloons burst if they’re filled too full.
Kassy mentions listening to her grandfather play songs and starting to cry. “It was so nostalgic and my heart just burst hearing it,” she says. Kassy was both happy and sad, and the feelings were overwhelming.
Here are a couple more examples with my heart burst:
Gabriella: Christmas is only 3 days away! I can’t wait. I’m so excited.
Xiang: I’m looking forward to the time off. I need a break.
Gabriella: Does your family celebrate Christmas?
Xiang: Not really, no. We exchange gifts, though. And since we moved here, we do the whole family dinner thing.
Gabriella: It’s a great holiday, I think! My favourite part is when the kids open their gifts. My heart bursts at the sight of them opening their presents and their eyes lighting up. It’s wonderful.
Ali: You have that meeting with the director today, right?
Dominic: Yeah. I’m so nervous, man. If this goes well, I’ll get the promotion. Ginny and I will be able to buy that house we’ve been looking at!
Ali: Listen to me. You can do this! You’ve totally got this. I’ll be there, so anytime you get stuck, look at me.
Dominic: Thanks, man. That means a lot. Like, my heart’s bursting right now, knowing you’ve got my back.
To tug on [one’s] heartstrings means to stir one’s emotions. When something tugs on your heartstrings, it makes you feel sympathy, empathy, pity, or sadness.
This idiom is used for things that elicit very strong feelings. For example, an advertisement that makes you cry or tear up tugged on your heartstrings. The idiom comes from the medieval ages; they believed tendons supported the heart. They called these tendons heartstrings.
You can replace tug with pull or pluck: pull on one’s heartstrings, or pluck at one’s heartstrings. You can also remove the preposition on: tug one’s heartstrings.
Here are a couple more examples with tug on [one’s] heartstrings:
Victoria: Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from the movie trailer.
Troy: What do you mean?
Victoria: It was all action! Like, way more action than they put in the trailers, or the books for that matter.
Troy: Sure, it wasn’t a movie that tugs on your heartstrings, but it was still good! The action made it better, I think.
Victoria: Yeah, yeah. It was good. But it wasn’t what I expected, you know?
Noora: I’m really looking forward to the concert tonight.
Hidayat: Me too. I haven’t heard Rosa play live before. I’ve heard her music, and her piano playing is fantastic.
Noora: It really is. I don’t know why, but her playing always plucks at my heartstrings.
Hidayat: I like to listen to her music when I’m meditating. It puts me in this Zen-like state.
Waterworks is a slang term for tears. Waterworks can describe any stage of crying. It can refer to the source of tears, tearing up (starting to cry), or weeping. Waterworks is always plural.
In this episode, Kassy shared a story about listening to her grandfather’s song. Andrew asked, “So is that the one that really tugged on your heartstrings and got the waterworks going?” He’s asking if it made her emotional and if it made her cry.
Here are a couple more examples with waterworks:
Henry: Whoa, what’s with the waterworks?
Elizabeth: It’s this book. This great character died, and it’s just so said. I can’t stop crying!
Henry: Oh, no. That sucks. I’ll grab you some tissues.
Elizabeth: That would be great, thanks. I got tears on my book!
Arata: Ugh, I can’t stand Karen from the billing department!
Sung-Min: Karen? The bossy one who started 3 months ago? What did she do this time?
Arata: We got into an argument in the break room. She took the hot chocolate packet I’d set aside while I was boiling my water. Just took it, right in front of me. When I demanded she give it back, she yelled at me! The manager came in when I yelled back, and Karen started to cry! She said I was bullying her. Me!
Sung-Min: That’s sounds like Karen. She turns on the waterworks whenever the managers are around so she’ll get her way.
Arata: It’s so manipulative! And I’m so angry that it works!
Sung-Min: Same here.
Hop on the [adjective] train means to join an activity or group described by the adjective. In this episode, Kassy says, “I’ve had grandparents just hop in the family train throughout the years.” She means that new people have joined her family and filled the role of grandparents throughout the years. You could also say hop in the [adjective] train or ride the [adjective] train.
There are a few versions of this expression. A popular one is hop on the gravy train. This means to experience ease, success, or profit, especially if it is undeserved. Another is hop on the bandwagon, which means to join an activity that has recently become popular.
Here are a couple more examples with hop on the [adjective] train:
Alexander: What are you doing tomorrow night?
Kira: Nothing, why?
Alexander: I got invited to ride in a hot air balloon and I can bring a friend. Want to come?
Kira: Uh, I don’t know. Being suspended in the air with just hot air keeping us up sounds crazy to me.
Alexander: I think you should hop on this crazy train with me. At least then I’ll have someone to grab when I’m terrified.
Kira: Ha, OK, I’ll go with you for support.
Minato: I finally bought some yeast!
Wu: Yeast? You gonna bake some bread or something?
Minato: Yup! I’m hopping on the bread-making train, finally.
Wu: You’re only a year late, but, hey, at least you’ll get bread out of it.
Minato: It’s never too late to learn how to make bread!
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1. Which of the following means crying, weeping, or tearing up?
2. If something tugs on your heartstrings, that means it:
3. Which of the following might you say after explaining how someone got a nickname that is still used to this day?
4. If someone says, “I reckon it’ll rain today,” what do they mean?
5. If something fills you with joy, which of the following could you say?
Hosts: Andrew Bates and Kassy White
Music: Something Elated by Broke For Free
Episode preparation/research: Andrew Bates
Audio editor: Kevin Moorehouse
Transcriptionist: Heather Bates
Study guide writer: Lisa Hoekstra
English editor: Stephanie MacLean
Business manager: Tsuyoshi Kaneshima
Image: Christian Bowen (Unsplash.com)