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0788 Being Conservative and Daring

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 788: Being Conservative and Daring.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 788. 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 today, and download a Learning Guide. You can do both by going to our website.

This episode is a dialogue about someone who is conservative, not politically, but someone who doesn’t like to take chances, to be risky. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Wendy: I really don’t think Monty is the right person for this project. He’s too conservative in his thinking. We need someone who’s a risk taker.

Burt: Monty will get the job done. That’s the most important thing.

Wendy: Not if the finished product is staid and boring. Our client won’t be happy with that.

Burt: Okay, who do you have in mind?

Wendy: I was thinking of giving the project to Lorenzo.

Burt: Lorenzo? Well, he certainly likes to push the envelope, but he’s also a loose cannon. Sometimes his ideas pan out and sometimes they fall flat.

Wendy: But Lorenzo is bold and daring. Did you see what he did on his last project? It was genius!

Burt: It was reckless. It was only through sheer luck that everything worked out. I know that Monty’s ideas are more conventional and low-key, but they’re also tried-and-true. But, in the end, it’s your call.

Wendy: In that case, I’m going with Lorenzo. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.

Burt: I hope so. I wouldn’t want us to end up with egg on our face.

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Wendy saying to Burt “I really don’t think Monty is the right person for this project. He’s too conservative in his thinking.” “Conservative” here means someone who is traditional or probably a better way of saying this is it’s someone who doesn’t like to take risks, who’s very careful, who doesn’t like to take chances. Wendy says, “We need someone who’s a risk taker.” “Risk” (risk) is sort of like danger; something good or bad could happen, you don’t know. A “risk taker” is someone who will do things that might not have been tried before, and they may or may not be successful. It’s sort of the opposite of the conservative person that Wendy doesn’t want for this project.

Burt says, “Monty will get the job done (he will complete it; he will finish it). That’s the most important thing.” Wendy says, “Not if the finished product (the thing that he does, that he accomplishes) is staid and boring.” “Staid” (staid) means old fashioned, uninteresting; really, it’s the same as “boring.” Wendy says, “Our client (the person who hired their company; the person who is paying the company) won’t be happy with that.” Burt says, “Okay, who do you have in mind?” meaning who are you thinking of for this project. Wendy says, “I was thinking of giving the project to Lorenzo.” Burt says, “Lorenzo? Well, he certainly likes to push the envelope.” The expression “to push the envelope” (envelope) means someone who is a risk taker, someone who goes to the limits or goes beyond the normal limits of something. “To push the envelope” would be to do something that no one has done before, but also to do something that is probably somewhat risky, perhaps even dangerous.

Wendy says she wants Lorenzo, but Burt says Lorenzo is also a loose cannon. A “cannon” (cannon) is a big gun that was more popular in, say, the 19th century or 18th centuries. It’s a big gun; you might find it on a ship, and it, instead of bullets, uses a big, round, ball of metal called a “cannon ball.” But the expression “loose cannon” means someone who is unpredictable, maybe dangerous, someone you can’t control. It’s definitely a negative way of describing someone. Burt says, “Sometimes his ideas pan out and sometimes they fall flat.” “To pan (pan) out” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to be successful, to result as you wanted it to result, to turn out as you intended it to turn out. The opposite of “panning out” would be “fall flat.” “To fall flat” means to be unsuccessful, or to do something that other people don’t like and therefore to fail.

Wendy says, “But Lorenzo is bold and daring.” “To be bold” (bold) means to be brave, to be courageous. Here, probably, it means someone who’s not afraid to take risks; someone who will do something different, even if other people aren’t doing it. “To be daring” is very similar: taking risks, doing things differently than the way other people do thing, doing something even when it’s dangerous. That’s daring. Wendy says, “Did you see what he did on his last project? It was genius!” “Genius” (genius) is very intelligent, very smart, very wise. It’s a very high compliment. Here, Wendy means it was intelligent, but it’s more of a general term to say it was wonderful; it was excellent. “It was genius.”

Burt says, “It was reckless (reckless).” “To be reckless” is a critical, negative way of describing someone. It means someone who’s not careful, who’s not paying attention, someone who is perhaps even dangerous. You can be successful and reckless, but being reckless means that you are not careful and something bad could happen to you if you have some bad luck. So if you drive a motorcycle, and you don’t wear a “helmet” on your head, something to protect your head, that’s reckless. Although, I guess if you fall off a motorcycle going at high speeds you’re not going to be in very good shape anyway; it’s not going to be a happy ending. But you may save if your life by wearing a helmet. Well, not wearing a helmet would be reckless. Burt thinks that Lorenzo was a reckless in his last project. Burt says, “It was only through sheer luck that everything worked out.” “Sheer” (sheer) here means complete or total. “It was sheer luck,” it was complete luck, nothing but luck; that’s all it was. “Sheer” has a couple of other meanings in English; take a look at our Learning Guide for those.

Burt says, “I know that Monty’s ideas are more conventional and low-key, but they’re also tried-and-true.” “Conventional” means traditional, standard, nothing unusual, nothing exciting. “Low-key” (low-key) means calm, not attracting a lot of attention, not very exciting. Monty’s ideas are conventional and low-key, but they’re also tried-and-true. This expression “tried (tried) -and-true (true)” means that they have been tested and shown to be successful; we’ve used them before and they work. Burt says, “in the end, it’s your call.” When you say “it’s your call” or “it’s my call” we aren’t talking about a telephone call, we’re talking about a decision. It’s your decision; it’s my decision – it’s your call; it’s my call. In sports the “referee,” or the person who decides whether the players have broken the rules or not, has to make a decision, and we call that decision a “call” (call), as a noun.

Wendy says, “In that case, I’m going with Lorenzo.” “I’m going with” here means that’s the person I’m going to hire or that’s the person I’m going to use. In general, “to go with (something)” means I’m making a decision to use this thing or this person. “To go with” can also mean to actually leave with someone: “I’m going to go with my girlfriend to a bar this afternoon. Don’t tell my wife.” I’m kidding, I mean you can tell my wife, ‘cause I actually don’t have a girlfriend; it’s just a joke – really!

Wendy says, “I’m going with Lorenzo. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.” Burt says, “I hope so. I wouldn’t want us to end up with egg on our face.” “To end up” is a very common phrasal verb in English, it means to be in a certain situation after you have done a number of different other actions – after you have followed a plan. So, “I’m going to work every day for two hours for one week, and at the end of one week I hope to end up with a good project.” That’s the situation I want after I finish going through my plan; that’s the idea of “to end up.” “To end up” can also mean, simply, to result after certain actions; it can be a negative thing, it could be a positive thing. “He stole money from his boss, and he ended up in prison.” That was the result of his actions. Burt says, “I don’t want us to end up with egg on our face.” This is an old expression; “to have egg (egg) on your face” means to have made a major mistake and then you look stupid; you’re embarrassed because you made a big mistake and everyone sees it or everyone knows about. That’s “to end up with egg on your face.”

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

[start of dialogue]

Wendy: I really don’t think Monty is the right person for this project. He’s too conservative in his thinking. We need someone who’s a risk taker.

Burt: Monty will get the job done. That’s the most important thing.

Wendy: Not if the finished product is staid and boring. Our client won’t be happy with that.

Burt: Okay, who do you have in mind?

Wendy: I was thinking of giving the project to Lorenzo.

Burt: Lorenzo? Well, he certainly likes to push the envelope, but he’s also a loose cannon. Sometimes his ideas pan out and sometimes they fall flat.

Wendy: But Lorenzo is bold and daring. Did you see what he did on his last project? It was genius!

Burt: It was reckless. It was only through sheer luck that everything worked out. I know that Monty’s ideas are more conventional and low-key, but they’re also tried-and-true. But, in the end, it’s your call.

Wendy: In that case, I’m going with Lorenzo. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.

Burt: I hope so. I wouldn’t want us to end up with egg on our face.

[end of dialogue]

Our script today was sheer genius. That’s because it was written by the bold and daring Dr. Lucy Tse.

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
conservative – not liking change; preferring older, more traditional, or more common ways of doing things

* When conservative medical treatments don’t work, some patients turn to alternative medicine.

risk taker – someone who is willing to do things that have not been tried before and that may or may not be successful

* Vladimir is a risk taker, so he invested all his money in stocks for technology companies, even though he might lose everything.

staid – boring; old-fashioned; uninteresting; serious

* Why would they publish such a staid article about fashion? It doesn’t have any new information about today’s trends.

to push the envelope – to try to extend the limits or go beyond the maximum point of something; to exceed expectations

* They were pushing the envelope, trying to make the car go faster than ever before, but then it broke down.

loose cannon – someone who is unpredictable, possibly dangerous, and cannot be controlled

* Orien is such a loose cannon. Nobody wants him in a client meeting because they don’t know what he’ll do or say.

to pan out – to be successful; to turn out as one had intended

* Pierre is studying accounting. That way, if his dreams of becoming a musician don’t pan out, he can always become an accountant.

to fall flat – to be unsuccessful; to not be well-received by an audience

* The speaker’s presentation fell flat, and many members of the audience left early.

bold – brave; courageous; not afraid to take risks or to do things differently from the way other people do things

* Expanding into other countries was a bold decision, but it worked.

daring – willing to take risks; willing to do things differently from the way other people do things; willing to do something even if there is danger involved

* Shania is really daring in her art, even when she knows other people might not like it.

genius – very clever, wise, or intelligent; something that was very impressive because it was creative, unusual, and successful

* Letting the kids play with a roll of tape on the airplane was genius! It kept them busy for hours.

reckless – not careful or cautious; without paying attention to the negative results or consequences of one’s actions; unsafe or dangerous

* The teenagers thought reckless driving was fun – until they got in an accident.

sheer – complete or total, without anything to limit or make it less

* The smile on her face was a sign of sheer joy.

conventional – traditional, commonplace, and standard; not creative, new, unusual, or exciting

* College admission officers get tired of reading conventional essays, so it’s important to write something creative that catches their attention.

low-key – calm; without attracting much attention

* They’re planning a low-key wedding with just a few guests.

tried-and-true – tested and proven successful, without any doubt that something will work and be successful

* This book describes a tried-and-true method for starting a small business.

(one’s) call – a decision belonging to a particular person; with someone having the authority to make a decision

* I prefer the first option because it’s safer and less trouble, but it’s your call.

to end up – to be in a particular situation or set of circumstances after performing certain actions or following a certain plan

* If Ezekiel keeps eating so much unhealthy food, he’ll end up with health problems.

egg on (one’s) face – very embarrassed, especially when one has made a major mistake; appearing stupid or naive

* If nobody attends the press conference, we’ll all have egg on our face.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Wendy want to assign the project to Monty?
a) Because he’s too unpredictable.
b) Because he’s not creative enough.
c) Because he’s very unreliable.

2. What does Burt mean when he says that Lorenzo “likes to push the envelope”?
a) He likes to try new things.
b) He likes to send his ideas to other people.
c) He likes to be low-key.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to fall flat

The phrase “to fall flat,” in this podcast, means to be unsuccessful or to not be well-received by an audience: “The comedian’s performance fell flat and nobody laughed at her jokes.” The phrase “to get a flat” means to get a flat tire, so that a hole in the tire allows all the air to come out: “Troy accidentally biked over some pieces of broken glass, so he got a flat.” The phrase “flat on (one’s) back” means sick and forced to stay in bed: “I was flat on my back with a bad cold all last week.” Finally, the phrase “a flat denial” means a very strong “no” or rejection: “All of Gregorio’s book proposals were met with a flat denial, so he’s very discouraged.”

sheer

In this podcast, the word “sheer” means complete or total, without anything to limit or make it less: “The candidate’s promises were sheer lies. He never followed through on any of them.” The word “sheer” can also be used to emphasize the size or weight of something: “The sheer cost of attending a university can be frightening for students and their parents.” When describing fabric, “sheer” means very thin and delicate, so that one can almost see through it: “The skirt is beautiful, but it’s too sheer to wear to work.” Finally, when talking about geography, “sheer” refers to a very steep, almost vertical surface: “Aren’t you scared to walk on a path right next to such a sheer cliff?”

Culture Note
What Color is Your Parachute?

Richard Nelson Bolles wrote a book called What Color is Your Parachute? in 1970. It was originally “self-published” (published, marketed, and sold by the author, without a publishing company), but “it has since” (since then it has) become a bestseller, with more than 10 million copies sold worldwide. A “parachute” is a piece of cloth used to slow down objects falling from the sky, like people who jump out of airplanes, or space shuttles as they return to earth.

The book is a “job-hunting” (the process of finding a new job) guide, with “tips” (suggestions for how to do things) for “networking” (interacting with professionals in your area of interest) and presenting one’s own skills, abilities, and experience “in the best light” (in the most favorable way possible). But, perhaps more importantly, the book helps people understand their true interests and identify what type of work with be most “fulfilling” (satisfying).

The book argues that the secret to finding a satisfying job “lies in” (is found in) knowing ourselves. The book helps people identify and understand their passions, desires, strengths, and weaknesses, and then identify how they can apply their skills in different fields and industries.

The book has been updated many times to address the changing “job market” (how people find jobs and how businesses find employees). The newest versions include tips for using “social media” (Internet tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube) in a job search. In 1995, the Library of Congress put the book on a list of the 25 Books that Have “Shaped” (influenced) Readers’ Lives.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a