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0835 Getting Shocking News

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 835: Getting Shocking News.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 835. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Eslpod.com is our website. Go there, become a member, and improve your English faster than you ever thought possible.

This episode is a dialogue between Karla and Chris about some surprising or shocking news. Let’s get started!

[start of dialogue]

Karla: You look like you’ve had a shock.

Chris: Yeah, that phone call threw me for a loop. My ex-girlfriend is pregnant and she wants me to take a paternity test.

Karla: Wow, that’s quite a bombshell. Are you going to do it?

Chris: Of course. If the baby is biologically mine, I want to take responsibility for it. I wanted to start a family with my ex: get married and have children – the whole shebang. So if the baby is mine, I’ll provide child support, no question. I might even fight for custody.

Karla: Really? That’s astounding. Most guys would be hoping that the baby isn’t theirs. What did your ex-girlfriend say when you told her?

Chris: She thought I would be outraged or something. Instead, she was the one who was left stunned.

Karla: I’m surprised, too. Not many guys would want to have a child without being married.

Chris: One part of me hopes the baby isn’t mine, only because my relationship with my ex-girlfriend is over and I don’t want to rekindle it. But I’m not getting any younger and another part of me really wants to be a father.

Karla: Well, the DNA test will give you proof, one way or the other. Just cross your fingers...

Chris: I would, but I’m not sure which outcome I want more!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Karla saying to Chris, “You look like you’ve had a shock (shock).” A “shock” is a surprise – usually a negative surprise. A “shock” can also have other meanings in English. Take a look at the Learning Guide for some of those. Chris says, “Yeah,” meaning yes. “That phone call threw me for a loop.” The expression “to throw someone for a loop (loop)” means to surprise someone, often with negative or confusing information. When my neighbor told me he was buying a new cat, I didn’t realize that he was buying a lion, which of course is a large animal, not the kind of cat you would want to have at home, if you’d want a cat in the first place.

Chris says the phone call threw him for a loop. He says, “My ex-girlfriend,” meaning my former or past girlfriend, “is pregnant and she wants me to take a paternity test.” Chris says his ex-girlfriend is “pregnant” (pregnant). “To be pregnant” means that – for a woman only – you are going to have a baby, that there is a baby growing inside of you – that is to be pregnant. Most women are pregnant for about nine months before the baby is born, before it comes out of the woman’s body.

Chris’s ex-girlfriend is pregnant, showing Chris perhaps, not to have the best sense of judgment and responsibility. The ex-girlfriend wants him to take a “paternity test.” A “paternity (paternity) test” comes from the Latin word pater (pater) – meaning father. A “paternity test” is a test to see whether you are the father of the baby. Once again, we get a little bit more than what we need to know about the life of Chris and his ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend wants Chris to take this paternity test to see if he is the father of the baby that the ex-girlfriend is now pregnant with – okay, kind of like a soap opera today!

Karla says, “Wow, that’s quite a bombshell.” A “bombshell” (bombshell) – one word – here means a very important or surprising piece of news – something that everyone would go, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” Karla says this news is quite a “bombshell,” meaning it’s a very large bombshell. It’s a very important one. “Are you going to do it?” Karla asks, meaning are you going to take this test? Chris says, “Of course. If the baby is biologically mine, I want to take responsibility for it.” “Biologically” (biologically) refers to, in this case, the real father, if you will, the actual father, the father that contributed his half of the baby’s genetic code – that would be a baby that is biologically mine. You could also adopt a baby. Perhaps some woman or some couple is not able to take care of their baby, and so they give it to another family. And the family “adopts” that baby – we would say that that baby is adopted but not biologically from the new parents.

Chris wants to see if the baby is biologically his – meaning it’s his. And if it is, he wants to take responsibility for it. “I wanted to start a family with my ex, get married, and have children, the whole shebang.” Chris is saying that before he and his ex-girlfriend separated – before they broke up – he wanted to have a family with her. “To get married and to have children, the whole shebang” – the expression “the whole (whole) shebang (shebang)” is an informal phrase meaning everything – including everything. It’s a little less common now than it was probably 20, 30 years ago, but you’ll still hear it. “The whole shebang,” meaning everything – you could say this about a lot of things. It could be for something as unimportant as your hamburger at McDonald’s. You got to McDonald’s and you order a hamburger, and the person says, “Do you want everything on it? Do you want all the ingredients in it?” and you say, “Yes, give me the whole shebang.” I’m getting kind of hungry talking about hamburgers. It’s almost lunch time here in Los Angeles as I record this so, hmm, maybe time to go and get myself a hamburger. Anyway, back to our dialogue.

Chris says, “If the baby is mine, I’ll provide child support, no question.” “Child support” is money that one parent – usually the father – pays to the other parent – usually the mother – when the two of them are separated, divorced, or were never married to begin with. Legally, fathers – biological fathers – maybe required in many places to provide child support to the mother of the baby. It’s one of the unfortunate consequences of our modern society that this has become necessary – to legally require fathers to support their children. But that’s where we are.

Chris says, “I might even fight for custody.” “Custody” (custody) is a legal right to have the child under the age of eighteen living with you. Normally, when a mother and a father get divorced and there are children, it’s typical for the parents to have “joint-custody,” meaning the children spend some time with the mother and some time with the father. Sometimes, the woman is given “sole (sole) custody,” meaning basically, the father has very little right to see the children or to have the children come live with him. But it’s also possible for the father to get “sole custody.” So, “custody” is the right to have a child – usually your own child – living with you. And Chris says he might “fight for custody,” meaning he’s going to try to have the baby live with him.

Karla is surprised. She says, “Really? That’s astounding.” “Astounding” (astounding) – means very surprising, incredible. Karla says, “Most guys would be hoping that the baby isn’t theirs.” Most men would hope the baby wasn’t theirs so they wouldn’t have to support it. Karla says, “What did your ex-girlfriend say when you told her?” Chris says, “She thought I would be outraged or something.” “To be outraged” (outraged) means to be extremely angry, to be very mad. Chris says, “Instead, she was the one who was left stunned.”

“To be stunned” (stunned) means to be very surprised. Notice also the use of the verb “left.” “She was left stunned.” We would use that expression when you have told someone something and then you go away or you hang up the phone or you stop talking to them, and they remain there if you will, surprised. They’ve stayed surprised after that news. Karla says, “I’m surprised too. Not many guys” – here “guys” means men – “would want to have a child without being married.” Chris says, “One part of me hopes the baby isn’t mine.” “One part of me” means I have two different opinions. One opinion or one desire, really, is that the baby is not biologically mine. “Only because,” he says, “my relationship with my ex-grilfriend is over and I don’t want to rekindle it.” “To rekindle” (rekindle) means to kindle again. And to kindle means to start. Usually, we use that word in describing a fire. For some weird reason, there is a portable electronic reader called a “Kindle” sold by amazon.com that has to do with, of course, books. But in any case, “to rekindle” means to restart.

Chris says, “I’ not getting any younger and another part of me really wants to be a father.” So, he has these two different desires. One is to be a father and therefore he hopes the baby is his, even though he’s not married to the mother, which causes additional problems. But another part of him says, “I don’t want to be a father.” Of course, if he didn’t want to be a father, he probably should’ve thought about that a little earlier.

Karla says, “Well, the DNA test will give you proof, one way or the other.” A “DNA test” is a genetic test to determine, in this case, whether Chris is the actual father of the baby. “Proof” (proof) is evidence that something is true. The expression “One way or the other” means whichever result is correct. Here it means, more generally, there are only two possibilities, there are only two ways that this could happen, or two results. The two results are either he is the father or he isn’t. One way or the other, the DNA test will give him proof. Karla says, “Just cross your fingers.” “To cross (cross) your fingers” means to hold one finger over the other like you are making and “X” – the letter “X” – and that is to wish for something. You want something to happen. You hope you get a job and your friend says, “Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed,” meaning I will hope that you get the job. It’s sort of like good luck. Chris says, “I would,” meaning I would cross my fingers, “but I’m not sure which outcome I want more.” An “outcome” (outcome) – one word – is a result. So, Chris is not sure which result he wants.

Here’s an idea, Chris: how about the best result for the baby and not for you and your ex-girlfriend?

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

[start of dialogue]

Karla: You look like you’ve had a shock.

Chris: Yeah, that phone call threw me for a loop. My ex-girlfriend is pregnant and she wants me to take a paternity test.

Karla: Wow, that’s quite a bombshell. Are you going to do it?

Chris: Of course. If the baby is biologically mine, I want to take responsibility for it. I wanted to start a family with my ex: get married and have children – the whole shebang. So if the baby is mine, I’ll provide child support, no question. I might even fight for custody.

Karla: Really? That’s astounding. Most guys would be hoping that the baby isn’t theirs. What did your ex-girlfriend say when you told her?

Chris: She thought I would be outraged or something. Instead, she was the one who was left stunned.

Karla: I’m surprised, too. Not many guys would want to have a child without being married.

Chris: One part of me hopes the baby isn’t mine, only because my relationship with my ex-girlfriend is over and I don’t want to rekindle it. But I’m not getting any younger and another part of me really wants to be a father.

Karla: Well, the DNA test will give you proof, one way or the other. Just cross your fingers...

Chris: I would, but I’m not sure which outcome I want more!

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter doesn’t normally throw us for a loop – that’s 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
shock – a surprise, especially a negative one

* It was a shock to hear that the store is closing and going out of business.

to throw (someone) for a loop – to surprise someone, especially with negative or confusing information

* When Edna cut and dyed her hair, I almost couldn’t recognize her. It really threw me for a loop!

pregnant – expecting a child; the condition of a woman who has a baby growing inside her

* Heather felt sick quite often for the first three months when she was pregnant.

paternity test – a test of a man’s blood to determine whether his DNA matches that of a baby or child, used to demonstrate whether he is the father

* What will you do if the paternity test shows he isn’t the father?

bombshell – a very important and surprising piece of news

* When Slobodan announced he was going to marry a woman he had met only two weeks earlier, it was a bombshell for everyone.

biologically – related by blood, not through adoption

* Biologically speaking, Francine is Gerard’s mother, but he has never even met her.

the whole shebang – everything; without any exclusions; including all

* They had a really fancy party with catered food, an open bar, live music, fresh flowers – the whole shebang.

child support – money paid by one parent (usually the father) to the other parent (usually the mother) to cover some of the expenses of raising a child when the parents do not live together

* They had a bad divorce, but he has always been great about paying the child support.

custody – the legal right to have a child live with oneself

* Sharing custody can be emotionally difficult for the parents and for the children.

astounding – amazing and very surprising, usually in a good way; impressive

* That was an astounding speech! Everyone in the audience was captivated by your words.

outraged – very angry and shocked

* Oliver was outraged when he realized he had paid twice as much as the car was actually worth.

stunned – very shocked and unable to speak or react

* Harold was stunned when his daughter announced she was dropping out of medical school to work in a coffee shop.

to rekindle – to start something again, especially to re-start a relationship that had previously ended or almost ended

* Their therapist recommended taking a romantic weekend away from the kids to try to rekindle their marriage.

DNA test – an examination of a blood sample to determine whether the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) matches that of another person, to determine one’s identify or to determine whether two people are related

* The lawyers use a DNA test to prove that he was the killer.

proof – evidence; something that shows something must be true

* The fingerprints provided proof that Benny had been in the house that evening.

one way or the other – whichever outcome is correct; in one of two ways, with no other possibilities; describing something that must happen without exceptions

* One way or the other, you’re going to have to pay off all this debt!

to cross (one’s) fingers – to hold one’s middle finger over one’s index finger while saying something or wishing for something, used to show that one really wants something to happen

* We’re all crossing our fingers that the professor will decide to postpone the exam.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Chris mean when he says he wanted to “get married and have children – the whole shebang”?
a) He wanted to have a very large family.
b) He wanted to adopt a lot of kids.
c) He wanted to have a long-term, committed relationship.

2. What will the DNA test do?
a) It will show whether Chris is the father.
b) It will determine who should pay child support.
c) It will review the history of Chris’s relationship with his ex.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
shock

The word “shock,” in this podcast, means a surprise, especially a negative one: “The award announcement was a shock, as everyone had expected the other person to win.” An electric “shock” is the sharp, painful feeling experienced when one is exposed to an electrical current: “The little girl got a shock when she put her finger in the light socket.” Or, “Psychiatrists used to use electric shocks to treat mental patients.” “Shock” is a medical condition after someone has had an unpleasant or painful experience, when one becomes very pale (for one’s skin to turn a light color) and cannot breathe normally: “The medics treated Randall for shock as they took him to the hospital.” Finally, a “shock of hair” refers to a lot of thick hair, possibly just on one part of the head: “The baby was born with a shock of black hair.”

one way or the other

In this podcast, the phrase “one way or the other” means in one of two ways, with no other possibilities, and can be used to describe something that must happen without exceptions: “We’re going to have to find a solution one way or the another.” The phrase “(one’s) way or the highway” means that one will not compromise and things must be done as one wants: “Our boss never listens to anyone else. It’s always his way or the highway.” Finally, the phrase “to clear/pave the way” means to prepare something for another person to do something, or to make it possible for others to do something in the future: “Women like Marie Curie paved the way for female scientists.”

Culture Note
Types of Custody Arrangements

Today there are many types of “custody arrangements” for “couples” (pairs; groups of two people) who have children but have never been married or who have been divorced.

“Physical custody” means that a parent has the legal “right” (ability to have or do something) for the child to live with him or her. If both parents have the right to live with the child and they “alternate” (take turns), the arrangement is referred to as “joint physical custody.” If instead the child lives with one parent, but the other parent has “visitation rights” (permission to spend time with the child for short periods of time), then the parent who lives with the child is said to have “sole physical custody.”

“Legal custody” describes a parent’s right to make decisions for the child, such as where the child will go to school or what kind of medical care the child will receive. In most cases, courts try to award “joint” (shared) physical and legal custody, because most people think joint custody is “in the best interest of” (most beneficial for) the child. However, if the lawyers can prove that one parent is “unfit” (not able to serve as an appropriate parent), the court may award sole custody. Parents who are “deemed” (determined) to be unfit usually suffer from addiction or have a history of child abuse or “neglect” (not taking care of a child).

Joint custody can be very challenging, because the parents must “work out” (agree upon) a schedule for when the child will be with each parent. Some parents try to make things easier by using “bird’s nest custody” where the family has a home where the child stays all the time, and the parents move in and out between that home and their own home.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a