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0766 Describing Shapes and Sizes

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 766: Describing Shapes and Sizes.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 766. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast; help support this podcast. If you do, you can also download a Learning Guide for each of our current episodes that will help you improve your English even faster.

This episode is a dialogue about describing how big something is, as well as the shape of that thing. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Carson: Your apartment is going to look fabulous once I’m finished decorating it!

Brooke: I really appreciate you taking the time to help me choose some furniture, but I’d really like to keep the look conservative and traditional.

Carson: Nonsense! You have a fabulous new apartment and I’m going to help you make the most of it. Look at that oval mirror. It’ll look fantastic in your hall.

Brooke: That mirror is gigantic! I don’t think I want anything that size. How about this rectangular one?

Carson: That’s too puny for that space. Oh, look at this triangular bookcase. It would really complement the fireplace in the den.

Brooke: I don’t think that bookcase is very functional. The shelves are so narrow and it’s an odd shape. It really looks nice, but I need furniture that I can actually use. I like this one better.

Carson: How boring! You need something that makes a statement. How about this chair? It’s fabulous!

Brooke: It’s a humongous circle on the floor with a cushion on top of it. I don’t think anyone would ever sit on it.

Carson: Yes, but in design, you have to consider form before function.

Brooke: That’s where we differ. I actually have to live in this apartment, remember?

[end of dialogue]

Carson begins by saying to Brooke, “Your apartment is going to look fabulous (or wonderful) once I’m finished decorating it!” “To decorate” (decorate) means to make something more attractive, especially a room in a house. People sometimes talk about “redecorating,” taking a room and changing it, decorating it again. Putting different colors on the walls, maybe different furniture, all this could be part of decorating a room. You could also decorate a tree, like a Christmas tree, by putting things on it, making it look pretty.

Brooke says, “I really appreciate you taking the time to help me choose (or select) some furniture, but I’d really like to keep the look conservative and traditional.” Brooke is saying that she wants the room to look traditional – traditional and conservative, she says. Here it would mean not something with bright or wild colors or crazy looking chairs. She wants something that is more like you would typically find in someone’s home, nothing too wild, nothing too crazy, something more conservative – safe.

Carson says, “Nonsense (meaning I don’t agree with you)! You have a fabulous new apartment and I’m going to help you make the most of it.” The expression “to make the most of (something)” means to do something in order to get the most benefit, the maximum benefit from something. “I’m going to London and I want to make the most of it.” I’m going to the British Museum; I’m going to see all of the great historical sites; I’m going to have lunch with the Queen – well, probably not lunch with the Queen! But, I’m going to make the most of it by doing as much as I can, that’s what Carson means here. He says to Brooke, “Look at that oval mirror.” “Oval” (oval) is a shape; it’s like a circle, but a long circle. It’s sort of the shape of an egg. It’s circular, it’s round, but it is a little longer, it’s not a perfect circle; that’s oval. Carson and Brooke, I guess, are at some sort of store looking at things to buy for the apartment. Carson says that mirror “will look fantastic (wonderful) in your hall.” The “hall” is a place in a house usually to get from one place to another – from one room to another you go through a hall, we sometimes call a “hallway.” A hall might actually be a small room, especially when you first walk into a house; that’s probably what Carson is talking about here. I’ll have to ask him!

Brooke says, “That mirror is gigantic!” “Gigantic” means very large; we might also say “enormous” or “huge.” There’s a funny word that people have started using more recently, which is “ginormous.” That’s not a real word in English. It’s a combination of “gigantic” and “enormous” to mean really, really big. Brooke says, “I don’t think I want anything that size (meaning that big). How about (or what do you think about) this rectangular one?” “Rectangular” is in the shape of a rectangle, which is something that has 4 90 degree angles in each corner, so it’s like a square. A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle could also be like a longer square, where the four sides are not equal. In a square, all four sides are equal. In a rectangle, you have two sides that are equal, and then two other sides that are equal, but they don’t necessarily equal each other in length. That’s a rectangle.

Carson says that the rectangular mirror is too puny for that space. “Puny” (puny) is the opposite of “gigantic,” it’s a way of describing the size of something that is very small. It could also mean something that isn’t very important or some person who isn’t very important. But here, it just means too small. It’s too small for that space, meaning that area. He says, “Oh, look at this triangular bookcase.” A “bookcase” is a place where you put books. “Triangular” refers to the shape of a triangle; it has three straight sides on it. There are lots of different kinds of triangles. If you think of the Pythagorean theorem, the notion that A squared plus B squared equals C squared, then you’ll understand a little bit about triangles, or at least remember a little bit of your geometry, that part of the study of math that looks at things like triangles. Carson says, “It would really complement the fireplace in the den.” He’s saying that this triangular bookcase would really complement the fireplace. “To complement” (complement) means to look good next to something or to look good with something. It can here also mean to match; it looks nice with something else because it has a similar color or a nice color that “goes with,” we might say, that other color. “Complement” has the word “complete” in it, and that’s one way of remembering what it means. It means that it goes with or completes something else. There’s another word, “compliment,” sounds the same but has an “i” in the middle (compliment), that’s when you say something nice to someone else about their shoes or their hair or how well they did on their geometry test.

Brooke says, “I don’t think that bookcase is very functional.” “To be functional” means that you can actually use it for something; not just something that looks pretty – that looks nice, but you can have some practical use from that particular object. Brooke says, “The shelves are so narrow.” To say something is “narrow” (narrow) means that it is very thin, it’s not very wide. We sometimes talk about narrow streets, streets where it’s very difficult to have two cars going in different directions because there isn’t enough room, that would be narrow. Well, this is a narrow bookcase. Brooke also says, “it’s an odd (odd) shape.” “Odd” here means unusual, strange, not common. There are other meanings of the word “odd,” take a look at our Learning Guide for some of those. Brooke says that this bookcase that Carson likes really looks nice, but she needs furniture that she can actually use. “I like this one better.” Carson doesn’t like the other one better. He says, “How boring (how uninteresting)! You need something that makes a statement.” “To make a statement” here means to express yourself in some unusual way, especially when we’re talking about fashion or design. You’re doing something that other people will notice; they’ll go, “Oh, wow! That’s different.” They may not like it, but they’ll pay attention to it; that’s making a statement.

Carson says, “How about (what do you think about) this chair? It’s fabulous!” Brooke says, “It’s a humongous circle on the floor.” “Humongous” (humongous) is a somewhat informal word meaning huge, large, enormous, gigantic, ginormous, very big. “A humongous circle” – a “circle,” you probably know, is a round shape like an “O,” that’s a circle. Brooke says that this chair is a humongous circle on the floor on the floor with a cushion on top of it. A “cushion” (cushion) is another word for a pillow, something that you would sit on on a chair or on a sofa. Brooke says, “I don’t think anyone would ever sit on (this chair).”

Carson says, “Yes, but in design (in the world of design and fashion), you have to consider form before function.” “Form” is the way that something looks, the way that it is designed, how pretty it is for example. “Function” is how useful or practical it is. Brooke says, “That’s where we differ.” “To differ” (differ) means to have a different or opposing opinion or view of something, or simply to be different from someone or something else, usually in regards to your opinion or your viewpoint about something. She says, “I actually have to live in this apartment, remember?”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Carson: Your apartment is going to look fabulous once I’m finished decorating it!

Brooke: I really appreciate you taking the time to help me choose some furniture, but I’d really like to keep the look conservative and traditional.

Carson: Nonsense! You have a fabulous new apartment and I’m going to help you make the most of it. Look at that oval mirror. It’ll look fantastic in your hall.

Brooke: That mirror is gigantic! I don’t think I want anything that size. How about this rectangular one?

Carson: That’s too puny for that space. Oh, look at this triangular bookcase. It would really complement the fireplace in the den.

Brooke: I don’t think that bookcase is very functional. The shelves are so narrow and it’s an odd shape. It really looks nice, but I need furniture that I can actually use. I like this one better.

Carson: How boring! You need something that makes a statement. How about this chair? It’s fabulous!

Brooke: It’s a humongous circle on the floor with a cushion on top of it. I don’t think anyone would ever sit on it.

Carson: Yes, but in design, you have to consider form before function.

Brooke: That’s where we differ. I actually have to live in this apartment, remember?

[end of dialogue]

You can make the most of our wonderful scripts by Dr. Lucy Tse by looking at the wonderful, fabulous Learning Guides.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to decorate – to make something more attractive, interesting or beautiful, especially by adding pieces or changing the color

* Sofia wants to decorate her room so that everything is pink.

conservative – very safe and traditional, meeting other people’s expectations and not taking risks

* Tracy wore a very conservative blouse and skirt to the interview.

to make the most of (something) – to do something in order to get the maximum benefit or greatest impact

* They’re trying to make the most out of the rising wheat prices by waiting a few more weeks to sell their wheat.

oval – a shape that is an elongated circle, like a photograph of an egg;

* This round table can be expanded into an oval when we have guests over to our house for dinner.

gigantic – huge; very large; enormous

* Aack! Did you see that gigantic spider?

rectangular – in the shape of a rectangle, with four 90° angles and four straight sides, with two shorter sides of the same length and two longer sides of the same length; 

* Why are television screens rectangular instead of square?

puny – very small and unimportant, without any power or impact; tiny

* There were more guests than we had expected, so we had to serve puny portions to have enough for everyone.

triangular – in the shape of a triangle, with three straight sides; D

* Tents used to be triangular and very simple, but now they can be round or even have multiple rooms.

to complement – to match; to look good next to something else; to work well with something else

* Bradley’s analytical skills complement Vladimir’s programming skills.



functional – able to be used for some purpose; having some use; serving a purpose

* The office would be more functional if the photocopy machine were closer to the employees’ workspaces.

narrow – thin; without very much width or depth

* Ryan wouldn’t like this narrow trail around the mountain, because he’s scared of heights and he would be worried about falling.

odd – unusual; strange; not common

* They painted their house an odd shade of green, and none of their neighbors like it.

to make a statement – to express oneself and receive attention by doing something unusual, especially related to fashion, appearance, or behavior

* The bride made a statement by wearing a bright red dress on her wedding day.

humongous – huge; very large; enormous; gigantic

* The first computers were humongous compared to today’s laptops.

circle – a round shape where every point on the line is the same distance away from a center point; O

* The teacher asked the students to sit in a circle so that everyone could see each other.

cushion – pillow; a soft object made of fabric and filled with feathers or a similar soft thing, used to support one’s body while sitting, leaning, or lying down

* These wooden chairs would be more comfortable with cushions on the seats.

form – the way something is designed; the shape and appearance of something

* The airport is built in the form of a capital H.

to differ – to be different from someone or something else, especially to have a different opinion; to be unlike someone or something else

* This necklace differs from that one in the size of the diamonds.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Brooke like the oval mirror?
a) Because it’s too expensive.
b) Because it’s very ugly.
c) Because it’s too big.

2. According to Brooke, what’s wrong with the bookcase?
a) The shelves are too small.
b) The shelves aren’t level.
c) The shelves are the wrong color.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
conservative

The word “conservative,” in this podcast, describes someone or something that is very safe and traditional, meeting other people’s expectations and not taking risks: “They used very conservative slides for their presentation, without any animation or bright colors.” The word “conservative” also describes someone who doesn’t like new ideas: “The school board is too conservative to consider changing the history curriculum.” A “conservative estimate” is a guess about the value of a number that is probably lower than the actual number, because one does not want to risk being wrong as a result of stating a number that is too high: “We expect sales to increase 15% as a conservative estimate, but we hope the actual number will be even higher.”

odd

In this podcast, the word “odd” means unusual, strange, or uncommon: “Jacques has an odd habit of touching his elbows when he is nervous or worried.” When talking about mathematics, an “odd” number is a whole number that is not a whole-number multiple of two: “The students are learning to recite the odd numbers: one, three, five, seven, nine….” The phrase “-odd,” when following a number, means a little bit more than that number: “He worked as a veterinarian for 15-odd years before deciding to become a travel writer.” Finally, the phrase “odd jobs” refers to many small, unrelated jobs or tasks that need to be done but aren’t very important or noteworthy: “Could you please help me with some odd jobs around the house this weekend?”

Culture Note
Home Makeover TV Shows

In recent years, “home makeover” (the process of dramatically changing the appearance of a house) shows have become increasingly popular on television. One of the better-known shows, Trading Spaces, has families trade homes with their neighbors, so that each family decorates one room in the home of the other family under the “direction” (advice; guidance) of a professional “interior designer” (a person whose job is to improve the appearance of indoor spaces). The families are not allowed to see the makeover “in progress” (while it is happening). Instead, the new room is “revealed” (shown) to them at the end of the TV show.

Another popular home makeover show is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In this show, the “renovations” (improvements to the structure of a home) and decoration are done for a “needy” (without very much money; needing help) family. The show presents information about the family’s “circumstances” (situation, especially financial situation) and explains why that family needs or “deserves” (should have) a new home. On this show, the renovations are “extensive” (very large, covering a lot of things), including the “exterior” (outside part of a building) and “interior” (inside part of a building), as well as the “landscaping” (the plants around a building).

Other home makeover shows focus on specific needs. For example, Small Space, Big Style helps people who live in small apartments or homes to find good ways to “organize” (store things where they can be found and accessed) their “possessions” (the things one owns) in a “stylish” (nice-looking) way. Design on a “Dime” (a 10-cent coin) helps people decorate their homes without spending very much money.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a