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0822 Having a Frightening Experience

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 822: Having a Frightening Experience.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 822. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at eslpod.com to get the Learning Guide for this episode. If you need to improve your English as fast as possible, well, the Learning Guide is what you need.

This episode is a dialogue between Oliver and Alena about being scared, or having a frightening experience. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Oliver: I had the most hair-raising experience of my life this past weekend.

Alena: What happened?

Oliver: You know that George bought an old house, right? Well, he’s been telling us that it’s haunted, so for a lark, a few of us decided to spend the weekend there to see if we would have any supernatural experiences.

Alena: Are you telling me that you saw ghosts?

Oliver: I’m not sure what we saw, heard, or felt. Everything was fine when we got there, but then we started hearing strange noises and I started to get goosebumps. The other guys tried to play it off, but I know they were scared, too.

Alena: What did George say about the noises?

Oliver: He laughed when he saw us jump out of our skins, and told us we were wusses. He said he heard those noises every night and they didn’t have him quaking in his boots.

Alena: Did anything else happen?

Oliver: Well, when we went to bed, the house got very cold and drafty, like there was something passing by me very closely, but I couldn’t see it. That sent me over the edge.

Alena: Has it ever occurred to you that George was playing a prank on you guys?

Oliver: A prank? It was no prank. In the middle of the night when we saw the strange faces in the windows, even George was scared stiff. By that time, all of us were petrified. It was no prank. That house is haunted.

Alena: Ooh, a real haunted house. I’d love to spend the night there, too. Do you think George would let you stay there again and let me come, too?

Oliver: You want me to go back to that house? Forget it! Wild horses couldn’t drag me within 50 miles of that place again!

[end of dialogue]

Oliver begins by saying, “I had the most hair-raising experience of my life this past weekend.” I had the most hair (hyphen) -raising experience. Something that is “hair-raising” is something that is very scary, something that makes you afraid, something that is frightening. It’s so scary, so frightening, that the hair on your arms or on your neck begins to stand up – begins to be affected somehow. The idea is when you’re very scared somehow your hairs on your hands or your arms or your neck or your nose – well, maybe not your nose – they become affected because you’re so scared. Oliver had a hair-raising or scary experience this past weekend, meaning the weekend that just ended.

Alena says, “What happened?” Oliver says, “You know that George bought a new house, right? Well, he’s been telling us that it’s haunted.” When we say something is “haunted” (haunted) we mean that it is being visited by ghosts, or spirits of dead people who’ve been dead for a long time; that’s haunted. On Halloween, on October 31 st, we have haunted houses where children go and the idea is that the house has ghosts and other spirits in it that try to scare the children. It’s a lot of fun!

Well, George says his house is haunted, “so for a lark,” Oliver says, “some of us decided to spend the weekend there to see if we would have any supernatural experiences.” The expression “for a lark” (lark) means for a joke, to be entertaining or funny. So, Oliver and his friends stayed at this house to see if they would have any supernatural experiences. “Supernatural” means not explainable by science, something that seems impossible; something that is above nature, above the way things are supposed to work according to scientific laws.

Alena says, “Are you telling me that you saw ghosts?” A “ghost” (ghost) is the spirit of a person who has died. Usually in the movies or on television you see this person as being sort of, I don’t know, sort of cloudy, sort of unclear; that’s a ghost.

Oliver says, “I’m not sure what we saw, heard, or felt. Everything was fine when we got there, but then we started hearing strange noises and I started to get goosebumps.” So, Oliver and his friends go to this house as a joke because their friend George said it was haunted, and now when they get there they actually hear some strange, unusual noises. Oliver says he started to get goosebumps (goosebumps – one word). “Goosebumps” are when you’re either very cold or very frightened you have these little bumps, these little areas of raised skin that you can feel on your arms and on your legs. That’s goosebumps. Goosebumps could be, uh, a negative thing; it might also be a positive thing. You might hear someone singing, and it was so good you get goosebumps. It’s like your body is somehow affected by it physically. Goosebumps was also the name of a popular book series for mostly young boys – fourth grade, fifth grade boys, was very popular in the 90s and perhaps still is.

Oliver says, “The other guys (the other men) tried to play it off, but I know they were scared, too.” “To play it off” means to pretend that something is not important. You’re trying to show how brave you are, how calm you are, and so you’re not paying attention to it. We might also say, perhaps a little more commonly, “to laugh it off,” to say oh, that’s nothing; you make a joke about it. Well, Oliver says that he thinks the other guys were scared or frightened or afraid, just like him.

Alena says, “What did George say about the noises?” Oliver says, “George laughed when he saw us jump out of our skin.” The expression means to be very frightened, to be very scared. Oliver says that George told them that they were wusses. A “wuss” (wuss) is an informal insult, somewhat vulgar, that means that you are not brave, that you are very scared, that you don’t have any courage. It’s usually something a man would say to another man, or perhaps a boy would say to another boy: “Oh, you’re a wuss.” You’re not brave; you’re not strong; that’s the idea. Another word would be a “coward” (coward). That’s probably a more polite and common word – well, not polite; if you’re insulting someone you’re not trying to be polite. But it’s a little more acceptable in conversational English to say someone is a “coward,” and that’s the word you would find in the newspaper or in a book that talked about this same idea.

Oliver continues by saying that George said he heard those noises every night and they didn’t have him quaking in his boots. “To quake” (quake) means to shake. “To quake in your boots” means to be very frightened, to be very scared; your “boots” are like big shoes that you have to cover your feet. Well, “to quake in your boots” means to be so scared that you’re shaking; that’s the idea.

Alena says, “Did anything else happen?” Oliver replies, “Well, when we went to bed, the house got very cold and drafty, like there was something passing by me very closely, but I couldn’t see it.” So when they went to bed, when they went to go to sleep, Oliver says that the house got very cold and drafty (drafty). “Drafty” means there’s a lot of air moving through the building, a lot of cold air, almost as though the walls have holes in them. Oliver said it was as if is something were passing by him, coming very close to him. He says, “That sent me over the edge.” “To send (someone) over the edge” (edge) means that you become very frightened or perhaps very angry; it’s when you lose control of your emotions – of your thoughts, sort of like going crazy.

Alena says, “Has it ever occurred to you,” have you thought about this possibility? “Has it ever occurred to you that George was playing a prank on you guys?” “Prank” (prank) is a trick, sometimes called a “practical joke,” where you do something that is funny, but you are doing it with someone else to make them look foolish or to make them look silly.

Oliver says, “A prank? It was no prank,” meaning no, it was not a joke. “In the middle of the night when we saw the strange faces in the window, even George was scared stiff.” “To be scared stiff” (stiff) means to be very frightened, to be very scared. So, Oliver says they saw some strange faces in the window late at night and this made them scared stiff, even George. “By that time, all of us were petrified.” “To be petrified” (petrified) here means to be very scared, to be very frightened. Oliver says, “It was no prank,” he repeats, “That house is haunted.”

Alena says, “Ooh, a real haunted house.” Now when she says this, she’s being sarcastic; she’s making fun of Oliver. Or, perhaps she’s just interested in haunted houses! She says, “I’d love to spend the night there, too (I’d like to go there and sleep there overnight). Do you think George would let you stay there again and let me come, too?” meaning I would go with you. Oliver says, “You want me to go back to that house? Forget it! Wild horses couldn’t drag me within 50 miles of that place again!” Oliver’s saying no, I’m not going back to the house. He uses an old expression “wild horses couldn’t drag me.” The phrase is used to emphasize that something will not happen under any circumstances, something that you absolutely will not do. “Wild horses could not drag me to go see the movie by Adam Sandler.” Wild horses couldn’t drag me. “To drag” means to pull someone, usually against their will. They don’t want to do something; but you pull than physically, perhaps by the arm, so that they will come when you. If you had wild horses running very fast dragging you, that would be a lot of force, that would be very difficult to resist. So, the expression is used to show that even if you did something terrible to me or forced me, I would not do this thing. In this case, for Oliver it’s going back to George’s haunted house.

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

[start of dialogue]

Oliver: I had the most hair-raising experience of my life this past weekend.

Alena: What happened?

Oliver: You know that George bought an old house, right? Well, he’s been telling us that it’s haunted, so for a lark, a few of us decided to spend the weekend there to see if we would have any supernatural experiences.

Alena: Are you telling me that you saw ghosts?

Oliver: I’m not sure what we saw, heard, or felt. Everything was fine when we got there, but then we started hearing strange noises and I started to get goosebumps. The other guys tried to play it off, but I know they were scared, too.

Alena: What did George say about the noises?

Oliver: He laughed when he saw us jump out of our skins, and told us we were wusses. He said that he heard those noises every night and they didn’t have him quaking in his boots.

Alena: Did anything else happen?

Oliver: Well, when we went to bed, the house got very cold and drafty, like there was something passing by me very closely, but I couldn’t see it. That sent me over the edge.

Alena: Has it ever occurred to you that George was playing a prank on you guys?

Oliver: A prank? It was no prank. In the middle of the night when we saw the strange faces in the windows, even George was scared stiff. By that time, all of us were petrified. It was no prank. That house is haunted.

Alena: Ooh, a real haunted house. I’d love to spend the night there, too. Do you think George would let you stay there again and let me come, too?

Oliver: You want me to go back to that house? Forget it! Wild horses couldn’t drag me within 50 miles of that place again!

[end of dialogue]

There’s nothing scary about our wonderful scripts written by our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

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
hair-raising – frightening; scary; making one feel alarmed and worried

* Lyle drives too fast. Being his passenger is a hair-raising experience!

haunted – inhabited or visited by ghosts or spirits of people who died a long time ago

* People say this building is haunted because a lot of strange things have happened here.

a lark – a joke; an entertaining and funny or humorous experience

* That movie is a lark! We laughed through the whole thing.

supernatural – not explained by science; seemingly impossible events or actions that require extra powers

* During an emergency, people sometimes appear to have supernatural powers, like when a woman is able to lift a car to pull her child out from under it.

ghost – the spirit of a person who has died, sometimes seen as a cloudy or unclear white figure

* James never believed in ghosts until he saw one late at night after his grandmother had died.

goosebump – one of many small areas of raised skin, caused by being very cold or frightened

* I have goosebumps! Could you please turn up the heat?

to play it off – to pretend that something is not important, especially to show that one is very brave and calm and not frightened or intimidated

* When Warren lost his job, he tried to play it off, but we all knew he was worried.

scared – frightened; feeling anxious and worried about what is happening

* We were really scared when we heard Maggie had been in an accident, but fortunately she wasn’t hurt badly.

to jump out of (one’s) skin – to be very frightened, scared and alarmed

* A loud noise woke me up last night and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

wuss – coward; a person who is not brave; a person who is very scared and reluctant to try new things

* I invited Shane to go skydiving with us, but he’s too much of a wuss.

to quake in (one’s) boots – to be very frightened and scared, not wanting to do something

* During the bombing, they were all quaking in their boots.

drafty – with a lot of air moving through a building; with air movement caused by holes in walls and around windows and doors

* This is a beautiful old home, but it is drafty and we need to seal the holes around the windows.

to send (someone) over the edge – to make someone lose control of emotions, thoughts, or actions, especially when one is very frightened or angry

* Little kids do a lot of things to make their parents angry, but when Benny played with and then lost his mother’s wedding ring, it sent her over the edge.

a prank – a trick; something that is done to make another person look silly or foolish and to make other people laugh

* When we were kids, we played a prank by calling people and saying, “Is your refrigerator running? If so, you’d better go catch it!”

scared stiff – very frightened and scared, unable to do anything

* When the company announced that it would close the office, all the employees were scared stiff about losing their job.

petrified – very frightened and scared, unable to move

* I would be petrified to see a great white shark while swimming in the ocean!

wild horses couldn’t drag me – a phrase emphasizing that something will not happen under any circumstances and that nothing anyone says or does could make one do something

* Wild horses couldn’t drag me to see that movie. I heard that it’s terrible!

Comprehension Questions
1. What happened to Oliver last weekend?
a) He got a haircut.
b) He changed his hairstyle.
c) He was very frightened.

2. What does Oliver mean when he says, “That sent me over the edge”?
a) He tripped and fell.
b) He climbed mountains.
c) He became very scared.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to play it off

The phrase “to play it off,” in this podcast, means to pretend that something is not important, especially to show that one is very brave and calm and not frightened or intimidated: “Ingrid tried to play it off when she didn’t get the award, but everyone knew that she was disappointed.” The phrase “to play out” means to happen or to take place, especially when one doesn’t know how it will end: “Let’s wait and see how the meeting plays out before we make any decisions.” Finally, the phrase “to play (something) down” means to minimize the importance of something, or to pretend that something is not as important as it actually is: “Scientists are accusing the government of playing down the effects of global warming.”

to send (someone) over the edge

In this podcast, the phrase “to send (someone) over the edge” means to make someone lose control of emotions, thoughts, or actions, especially when one is very frightened or angry: “Paulina was already nervous about speaking in public, but learning that the audience was twice as large as she had expected really sent her over the edge.” The phrase “on edge” means nervous and anxious: “The family was on edge in the hospital’s waiting room, waiting for the doctor’s report.” The phrase “to take the edge off (something)” means to make something less negative, less painful, or less bad: “Take these pills. They’ll take the edge off your pain until we can get to the doctor’s office.” Finally, the phrase “on the edge of (one’s) seat” means very excited about something: “Has she had the baby yet? I’ve been on the edge of my seat all day!”

Culture Note
Famous Haunted Houses

There are many “supposedly” (said to be true, but not proven) haunted houses in the United States and some are “stranger” (weirder; more unusual) than others. One of the strangest haunted houses is the Winchester House in San Jose, California. Sarah Winchester, the wife of the man who created Winchester “rifles” (guns), built a home to “ward off” (keep away) “evil” (bad) “spirits” (what remains of a person after death). Construction “ensued” (happened afterward) in 1884 and continued for 30 years until her death. The home is like a “maze” (labyrinth, many routes that make it difficult to find the right way out) with “dead ends” (routes that stop without connecting) and staircases to nowhere. The ghost of Sarah is “said to” (people say it happens, but it may not really happen) haunt the house.

The Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts is another famous haunted home. Lizzie’s father and “step-mother” (the wife of one’s father, but not one’s mother) were “murdered” (killed) with an “ax” (a tool used for cutting wood), and Lizzie was the “prime” (most likely) “suspect” (a person believed to have committed a crime). We talked about this in English Café 265. Today, people say that Andrew and Abby Borden haunt the home where they were murdered.

Another “notable” (worth mentioning) haunted house is the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a beautiful “mansion” (a very luxurious, expensive, and large home), but Madame Delphine LaLaurie used it to “torture” (treat very badly and cause pain) and kill her “slaves” (people who are owned and forced to work without pay). After a large fire, firefighters and police found “horrific” (terrible; awful) “scenes” (what one can see) of what the slaves “endured” (lived through). For years, people have said that the spirits of the tortured slaves haunt the home.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c