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0873 Avoiding Giving an Opinion

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 873: Avoiding Giving an Opinion

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 873. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

This episode like all of our episodes has a Learning Guide. You can get that by going to our website: www.ESLPod.com.

This episode is a dialog between Ariel and Paolo about trying not to give your opinion. Let’s get started.

[start of dialog]

Ariel: I know you’ll give me the inside scoop. What’s going on between Sam and Matt?

Paolo: You’re asking the wrong person.

Ariel: Don’t be like that. You know both of them really well, and I know that Sam confides in you. Don’t you think Matt is being unreasonable?

Paolo: I really couldn’t say.

Ariel: Why are you being so close-mouthed? I’m sure you have an opinion.

Paolo: I’ve never given it much thought, to be honest, and I don’t think it’s any of my business.

Ariel: But they’re both friends of yours. You must have at least speculated on what’s happening. It’s only human. Do you think Sam is going to leave Matt?

Paolo: Your guess is as good as mine. I really don’t know anything and don’t have an opinion either way!

Ariel: That’s just not possible. Okay, okay, what do you think is going on between Michaela and Carlos?

Paolo: Ugh!

[end of dialog]

Ariel begins by saying to Paolo, “I’ll know you’ll give me the inside scoop.” The expression “inside scoop” (scoop) means secret information that not everyone else knows. “Scoop” can sometimes be used in the world of journalism, in newspapers, for example, to describe a story that one newspaper gets before any of the other newspapers get it. That would be a scoop. An “inside scoop” is some secret about some situation that no one else knows about, but that someone tells you. Ariel wants Paolo to give her the inside scoop.

She says, “What’s going on between Sam and Matt?” “What’s going on” means what’s the problem, what’s the story, what is happening. Paolo says, “You’re asking the wrong person.” When someone says, “You’re asking the wrong person,” they’re telling you that you don’t have any information about that situation. You are not the person to ask or simply, you don’t know.

Ariel says, “Don’t be like that.” That phrase “Don’t be like that” is used to change someone’s behavior or attitude or to stop someone from doing something, usually something you don’t like. You want the person to be more helpful to you. In this case, Paolo does not want to answer Ariel’s question and Ariel is asking him to change his attitude, to change his behavior – “Don’t be like that.”

“You know both of them really well,” she says, “and I know that Sam confides in you.” “To confide (confide) in someone” is to trust someone, to tell that person your secrets, your personal thoughts. Ariel says that Sam confides in Paolo. “Don’t you think Matt is being unreasonable?” she asks. “To be unreasonable” is to be not reasonable. “Reasonable” is rational, logical; not reasonable, “unreasonable,” is illogical or irrational.

Paolo says, “I really couldn’t say.” This expression “I really couldn’t say” again means I don’t know or I’m not sure. We use it when we don’t really want to answer someone’s question. Someone asks us a question and we don’t really want to give them the answer, but we don’t want to lie to them. We might say, “I really couldn’t say.” That doesn’t exactly mean you don’t know. It may really mean that you don’t want to say but you’re implying that you’re not really sure.

Ariel says, “Why are you being so close-mouthed?” “Close-mouthed” (mouthed) means you do not want to give someone information. You don’t want to talk about a certain topic. Paolo is being close-mouthed with Ariel. She says, “I’m sure you have an opinion,” meaning I’m sure you have an idea, something that you think about the situation.

Paolo responds, “I’ve never given it much thought, to be honest.” When you say you’ve never given something much thought, you’re saying that you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. It hasn’t been something that has been worrying you, and therefore you don’t really have an opinion about it. “I haven’t given it much thought” can mean “I haven’t thought about it enough to make a decision.” Or it could mean “I don’t really know, I don’t care that much, and therefore I don’t have a strong opinion about the situation.”

Paolo says, “I don’t think it’s any of my business.” This is a very important phrase – “to be of your business,” as in when someone says, “It’s not any of your business,” or “It’s not any of my business,” means it’s not something that you should be concerned about. It’s not something that affects you personally, and therefore it’s not something you should be talking about or asking about. The related expression here is, “It’s none of your business.” That’s a very strong thing to say to someone who’s asking you about something that you don’t think they have any right to know. It’s not something that concerns them. It’s a rather strong statement, however, when you say, “It’s none of your business.” That is really saying, “You are doing something you should not.” It’s definitely a criticism of someone. When you say, “It isn’t any of my business,” however, you’re just saying, “Well, that’s not my concern and therefore I don’t know anything about it and I don’t think I should know anything about it.”

Ariel says, “But they’re both friends of yours. You must have speculated on what’s happening.” “To speculate (speculate) on something” means to think about something and to have an opinion about it even though you don’t have any evidence, even though you don’t have any strong what we would call “proof” (proof) – something that tells you for sure whether this is true or that is true. “To speculate on something is to think about it without having all of the information you really need in order to have an opinion. It’s a guess about what is happening. Often, that is of course, a very bad idea.

Ariel says, “It’s only human.” “It’s only human” here is used to talk about negative things that everyone does, even if they don’t want to or aren’t supposed to. It’s only human that you get angry when the waiter is not nice to you. We’re not saying that it’s a good thing to get angry at the waiter. It isn’t, but it’s only human. We can understand because that’s what happens to us weak human beings.

Ariel says, “Do you think Sam is going to leave Matt?” (Sam can also be short for Samantha, a woman’s name.) Ariel wants to know if Sam is going to leave Matt. “To leave someone” here means to end a romantic relationship with that person. “To break up with someone” is another way of saying that.

Paolo says, “Your guess is as good as mine.” The expression “Your guess is as good as mine” means that you don’t have any more information about it than the person you’re talking to. “I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.” You don’t know. I don’t know. We’re both guessing. Either of us could be right.

He then says, “I really don’t know anything and don’t have an opinion either way. “Either way” here means either for or against something. There could be two possibilities but you’re not sure which is correct. We might say, for example, of a game, “It could go either way.” Team A could win or Team B could win. You’re not really sure. In this case, Paolo doesn’t have an opinion either way, meaning he doesn’t know whether the two people are going to stay together or break up.

Ariel says, “That’s just not possible. Okay. Okay. What do you think is going on between Michaela and Carlos?” Immediately Ariel asks Paolo’s opinion about another couple, another two people, and wants to know what Paolo thinks of them. Paolo just says, “Ugh,” which is a sound that you would make when you are frustrated or upset or tired of this person asking you this question or talking to you about this situation. And that definitely is what is happening to Paolo.

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

[start of dialog]

Ariel: I know you’ll give me the inside scoop. What’s going on between Sam and Matt?

Paolo: You’re asking the wrong person.

Ariel: Don’t be like that. You know both of them really well, and I know that Sam confides in you. Don’t you think Matt is being unreasonable?

Paolo: I really couldn’t say.

Ariel: Why are you being so close-mouthed? I’m sure you have an opinion.

Paolo: I’ve never given it much thought, to be honest, and I don’t think it’s any of my business.

Ariel: But they’re both friends of yours. You must have at least speculated on what’s happening. It’s only human. Do you think Sam is going to leave Matt?

Paolo: Your guess is as good as mine. I really don’t know anything and don’t have an opinion either way!

Ariel: That’s just not possible. Okay, okay, what do you think is going on between Michaela and Carlos?

Paolo: Ugh!

[end of dialog]

I won’t be close-mouthed about my opinion of who the greatest scriptwriter on the Internet is. I think it’s Dr. Lucy Tse.

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

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
inside scoop – secret information that is not being shared publicly

* What’s the inside scoop on the merger? Is it going to happen?

you’re asking the wrong person – a phrase meaning that one does not have the information another person has asked one for; I don’t know

* A: What’s that man’s name?

B: You’re asking the wrong person. I’ve never seen him before.

don’t be like that – a phrase used to ask someone to change his or her behavior or attitude, or to stop doing something, usually used to encourage someone to be more optimistic or helpful

* I know you’re disappointed, but don’t be like that. Try to smile and think happy thoughts.

to confide in – to trust someone and share one’s secrets and personal thoughts with that person

* If you want me to confide in you, you have to promise not to share what I say with anyone else.

unreasonable – not rational or logical; demanding too much; unfair or outrageous

* It seems unreasonable to ask new employees to attend Saturday training meetings without pay them.

I really couldn’t say – I don’t know; I’m not sure; a phrase used when one cannot answer or does not want to answer

* A: How long will it take the agency to process the application?

B: I really couldn’t say. It depends on how busy the office is right now.

close-mouthed – not wanting to share information; not speaking about a particular topic

* Don’t be so close-mouthed during an interview! If you don’t answer their questions openly and thoroughly, they’ll think you’re hiding something.

opinion – a perspective or view on something; a judgment about something; what one believes or how one feels about something

* Geraldo and his wife have very different opinions on how to raise children.

I’ve never given it much thought – a phrase used to mean that one has never spent time thinking about something and does not have a strong opinion about it

* Before he became a parent, Piotr had never given much thought to the cost of diapers.

any of (one’s) business – something that affects oneself personally and needs to be considered or dealt with

* What our soldiers do during their free time isn’t any of our business – unless they’re wearing their uniform at the time.

to speculate on – to wonder and think about something and form a belief or opinion about it without any evidence or proof; to conjecture

* A lot of economists are speculating on future housing prices, but nobody knows for sure what will happen.

It’s only human – a phrase used to talk about negative things that all people do, even if they don’t want to or intend to

* We’ve all made mistakes. It’s only human. The important thing is that you apologize and try not to do it again.

to leave (someone) – to break up with someone; to end a romantic relationship

* Quentin left Dynee when he found out that she had been dishonest with him.

Your guess is as good as mine – a phrase used to mean that one does not have any information about something and does not know any more or less than another person

* A: What’s the weather going to be like next weekend?

B: I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine.

either way – either for or against something; with either of two options being equally likely

* If the weather is nice, the reception will be on the beach; if it’s rainy, it will be inside the hotel. Either way, we’ll have a great time.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Ariel think Paolo is being close-mouthed?
a) Because he won’t talk about the break-up.
b) Because he’s speaking very quietly.
c) Because he has very bad breath.

2. What does Ariel mean when she says, “You must have at least speculated on what’s happening”?
a) She thinks Paolo has bet on the outcome.
b) She thinks Paolo has shared information with other people.
c) She believes Paolo must have spent time thinking about the relationship.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to leave

The phrase “to leave (someone),” in this podcast, means to break up with someone or to end a romantic relationship: “Heather was just four years old when her father left her mother.” The phrase “to leave (someone) in the dark” means to not share information with someone, especially when many other people have that information: “Benny missed an important meeting this morning, and now he feels that he has been left in the dark regarding the newest client.” Finally, the phrase “to leave (someone) in peace” means to let someone be alone so that he or she can relax or concentrate on something: “Doctors and nurses have been coming in and out of the hospital room all day. Can’t they just leave her in peace so that she can rest?”

either way

In this podcast, the phrase “either way” means either for or against something, with either of two options being equally likely: “You can decide whether we go to the movies or the theater. I don’t care either way.” The phrase “either way” can also mean a certain amount of something: “The chemistry students have to measure very carefully, because a few grams either way can cause the experiment to fail.” The phrase “could go either way” describes a situation where two outcomes are equally likely and one does not know which one will happen: “The two armies are equally powerful, so the battle could go either way.” Finally, the word “either” can be used to mean both: “Start at either end of the fabric and sew a seam.” Or, “There’s a pharmacy at either end of the street.”

Culture Note
Ways of Avoiding Speaking to the Press

When the “press” (newspapers, magazines, TV news shows, and the reporters associated with them) is “investigating” (researching) a “controversial” (with many strong opinions for and against something) or “scandalous” (involving inappropriate behavior) story, the people involved in the story may not want to speak to the “media” (press). One of the strategies that people can “employ” (use) to avoid speaking to the press is to simply say “no comment.” For example, in a “breaking” (happening at the moment; still developing) story, news reporters might surround an individual, holding up microphones and shouting questions. If the individual does not want to speak, he or she can say “no comment,” meaning that he or she does not want to say anything. Or the individual can just be quiet and not say anything at all.

In other “instances” (cases; situations), people might be willing to speak to reporters, but they may not want to be “quoted” (have one’s words shared with other people) or have their comments “attributed to them” (with an indication of who has said something). They might want to speak to the reporters “anonymously” (without sharing one’s name), but the reporters normally want to know who they are speaking too. So instead, the people might ask to speak “off the record.” This means that they are willing to share information with the reporter, but the reporter will not be able to share their name or any other “identifiable information” (information that can be tied to a specific person). So in the story, the reporter might attribute the information to a “knowledgeable source” (person who knows important information) without indicating who that person is.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c