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0879 Saying No

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 879: Saying No.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast number 879. 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. Go there and take a look at our ESL Podcast Store which has some additional courses in English I think you will like.

This episode is a dialog between Liang and Christian about telling someone that you don't want to do something, telling them “no.” Let's get started.

[start of dialog]

Liang: I have a favor to ask.

Christian: Uh oh, what is it?

Liang: I’m doing a project for my class in culinary school and I need a volunteer to taste some of my creations.

Christian: Not on your life.

Liang: But, why?

Christian: You don’t remember the last time I was your guinea pig? I was sick for two days.

Liang: That was a stroke of bad luck. Come on, please.

Christian: Count me out. No amount of pleading is going to change my mind. I bet I’m not the first person you’ve asked.

Liang: Well, no.

Christian: Who else has turned you down?

Liang: Jacob said no.

Christian: I bet he said something stronger than no.

Liang: He said that he would let me cook food for him over his dead body.

Christian: That’s what I thought. Did you ask Mele, too?

Liang: Yes, and she said she’d rather not.

Christian: Who’s next on your list of victims, I mean candidates?

Liang: You’re my last resort. If you won’t do it, then I’m sunk.

Christian: The answer is still no, but I know someone who won’t turn up his nose at your cooking.

Liang: Who?

Christian: Come here, Fido!

[end of dialog]

Liang says to Christian, at the beginning of our dialogue, “I have a favor to ask.” I have something I want you to do for me. Christian says, “Uh oh, what is it?” “Uh oh” is an expression that we use when we believe something bad is going to happen. In this case, Christian isn't sure what Liang is going to ask him. He's a little afraid. Liang says “I'm doing a project for my class in culinary school and I need a volunteer to taste some of my creations.” A “project” is an assignment, something the teacher told them to do. “Culinary (culinary) school” is a school that teaches people how to cook, how to become a chef. Liang needs a volunteer – someone who will do it willingly – to taste some of her creations. “Creation” is normally something that you make. It’s sometimes used by artists. Here it's being used by Liang to talk about the food that she is going to prepare.

Christian says, “Not on your life.” “Not on your life” means “no way.” It's a phrase we use to say very strongly that you are not going to do something or something is not going to happen. Liang says, “But why?” Christian says, “You don't remember the last time I was your guinea pig?” A “guinea pig” is literally a small animal, like a hamster. However, in English we use it to mean someone who is asked to try something to see what will happen, someone who is being used in an experiment. You're not really sure what's going to happen. This is probably because guinea pigs were used in medical experiments – and perhaps still are, I don't know. But the expression “to be a guinea pig” means to be someone who is being experimented on, perhaps something that might be dangerous or something that might hurt you. Christian says, “I was sick for two days.” The last time he was Liang's guinea pig, he was sick for two days.

Christian isn't very interested in helping Liang. Liang says, however, “That was a stroke of bad luck.” A “stroke of bad luck” means it was a negative experience but it probably won't happen again. It was just bad luck. It was just an accident. It was something that happened that will probably not happen again. She then says, “Come on, please.” “Come on” is often used in English to get someone to agree with you or to go with you. In this case, Liang wants Christian to agree to taste her creations. Christian says, “Count me out.” This is another way of saying “no.” “Count me out” means don't include me in that activity. I don't want to participate. Christian says, “No amount of pleading is going to change my mind.”

“To plead” (plead) means to beg someone, to ask them repeatedly, perhaps in a somewhat sad way. Your children might plead with you to buy them an ice cream cone or take them to the circus or a carnival, “Oh Dad, please, please, I really want to go, Dad.” That was me when I was younger. Well, Christian says, “No amount of pleading is going to change my mind.” “No amount of” is a phrase we use to emphasize that this thing is not going to happen. It doesn't matter what the other person says. So, we put those two together “no amount” and “pleading,” and we get the idea here that it doesn't matter what Liang says or how much she pleads with Christian. He's not going to change his mind. He's not going to change his opinion, change his decision.

Christian says, “I bet I'm not the first person you’ve asked,” Christian knows that Liang has gone and asked some of her other friends perhaps, to do what she wants them to do and they probably said “no” too. Liang says, “Well, no…” – no, you're not the first person I've asked.

Christian says, “Who else has turned you down?” “Who else” means what other person. “To turn someone down” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to say no to someone’s request. Someone asks you to do something and you say “no.” The President of the United States asked me to become an ambassador, an official representative of the United States, but I turned him down. I said “No, Mr. President, I'm very busy here doing ESL Podcast, much more important than anything you have for me.”

Christian wants to know who else has turned Liang down. Liang says “Jacob said no.” Christian says, “I bet he said something stronger than no.” “To say something stronger than no” means to say something with more emphasis, not just to say, “Oh no, thank you,” but to say something that would really indicate that he didn't want to do it. Liang says, “He said that he would let me cook food for him over his dead body.” That's a popular expression – “to do something over my dead body” or “over his dead body.” The idea is that you will not let this happen. You will not allow this to happen under any situation, under any circumstances. I would have to be dead before I allow that. In other words, I would die rather than allow you to do that. So, it's a very strong way of saying “No, I'm not going to permit this.” I'm not going to allow this. I'm not going to say yes to this.

Christian says, “That's what I thought. Did you ask Mele, too?” Liang says, “Yes, and she said she'd rather not.” “Rather not” is a polite way of saying “no,” when someone asks you to do something. Someone says, “Would you go to the movie with me?” And you say, “Well, I'd rather not. I'm kind of tired.” It's a more polite way of saying no.”

Christian then asks, “Who's next on your list of victims. I mean, candidates.” A “victim” (victim) is a person who suffers because of some sort of crime or disease or bad situation – that would be a victim. Christian also uses the word “candidate.” A “candidate” is someone who's being considered for a job or for a position, something positive, some sort of opportunity. A candidate could also be someone who wants to be elected to a government position. Christian says, “Who's next” – who's the next person – “on your list of victims, I mean, candidates.” He's making a joke. When you want to say something bad about someone or criticize something, you may use this form of criticism, or of making a joke that has some sort of criticism in it.

For example, you're talking to your neighbor and the neighbor has a big dog. It's a huge dog and you’re a little afraid of it. So, you may say, “So, John how is your lion, I mean, dog?” A lion, of course, is a big, mean, ferocious animal. You are comparing the dog to a lion, and then you act like it was a mistake. “Oh, I mean” – I meant to say, what I should have said was – “a dog.” That's how we use that particular structure.

Christian says, “Who's next on your list of victims, I mean, candidates?” Liang says, “You're my last resort.” “To be the last resort” (resort) means you're the only remaining option, the only possibility left. Liang says, “If you won't do it” – if you will not do it – “then I'm sunk.” “To be sunk” (sunk) means that you are in a very difficult situation, a situation in which you will probably not succeed, in which you will probably fail.

Christian says, “The answer is still no,” meaning he is not going to do it, “but I know someone who won't turn up his nose at your cooking.” The expression “to turn up your nose at something,” means that you are going to say no to something because you think you're too good for that offer, that what the person is offering you is not good enough. “I offered him a thousand dollars to come and fix my car and he turned his nose up at my offer. He thought that was too low.” It wasn't good enough for him.

More commonly, we use this expression when someone thinks their new better than another person. So, she said no to the man at the bar. She turned his nose up at his offer to go dancing. She thought she was too beautiful for him. That would be a more common use of that expression.

Well, Christian knows someone who will not turn his nose up at the cooking of Liang. Liang says, “Who?” Christian then says, “Come here, Fido.” “Fido” (Fido) used to be a common name for a male dog. What of course Christian is saying is that his dog will eat Liang's food, but he won't. That's not a very nice thing for Christian to say. I feel sorry for poor Liang. “I feel sorry for her” means I feel badly for her. I hope she finds someone to taste her cooking.

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

[start of dialog]

Liang: I have a favor to ask.

Christian: Uh oh, what is it?

Liang: I’m doing a project for my class in culinary school and I need a volunteer to taste some of my creations.

Christian: Not on your life.

Liang: But, why?

Christian: You don’t remember the last time I was your guinea pig? I was sick for two days.

Liang: That was a stroke of bad luck. Come on, please.

Christian: Count me out. No amount of pleading is going to change my mind. I bet I’m not the first person you’ve asked.

Liang: Well, no.

Christian: Who else has turned you down?

Liang: Jacob said no.

Christian: I bet he said something stronger than no.

Liang: He said that he would let me cook food for him over his dead body.

Christian: That’s what I thought. Did you ask Mele, too?

Liang: Yes, and she said she’d rather not.

Christian: Who’s next on your list of victims, I mean candidates?

Liang: You’re my last resort. If you won’t do it, then I’m sunk.

Christian: The answer is still no, but I know someone who won’t turn up his nose at your cooking.

Liang: Who?

Christian: Come here, Fido!

[end of dialog]

Her dialogs are wonderful creations. I speak, of course, of our own Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, thank you for listening. Come back and listen to is 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
culinary school – a cooking school; a school that teaches people how to cook, usually because they want to get a job as a chef

* The culinary school specializes in baking, including fancy cakes and pastries.

creation – something that one has made, especially something that one has created without a model or guide

* What do you think of my latest creation? It’s a robot that matches and folds socks.

not on your life – no way; a phrase that strongly means something will not happen and that one absolutely does not want to participate in it or become involved in it

* A: Would you help me move on Saturday?

B: Not on your life! Your piano is way too heavy and I have a bad back.

guinea pig – a small animal like a hamster; someone who is used in an experiment; someone who is asked to try something just to see what the results will be like

* Is it ethical for scientists to use people as guinea pigs when they’re testing new drugs?

stroke of bad luck – a negative experience or happening that was the result of bad luck, but presumably would not happen again

* They saved up money to go on a tropical vacation, but in a stroke of bad luck, there were two hurricanes and flooding while they were there.

to count (someone) out – to not include someone in an activity; to not ask someone to participate; to assume that someone will not participate

* The next time you want to go to that restaurant, count me out! The food was terrible.

no amount of – a phrase used to emphasize that something will not happen, no matter how much another person wants it

* I’m sorry if my decision makes you upset, but no amount of crying will change my mind.

to plead – to beg; to repeatedly ask for something in a sad, slightly annoying way

* If you’re going to ask your boss for a raise, don’t plead. Instead, tell her why you deserve it and then wait for her answer.

to turn (someone) down – to say no to someone’s request

* Shawn has asked three girls to the dance, but they’ve all turned him down.

over (one’s) dead body – a phrase used to emphasize that something definitely will not happen under any circumstances, at least as long as one is alive

* A: “Mom, I’m thinking of dropping out of school.”

B: “Over my dead body! Now go to sleep and be ready to go to class in the morning, or I’ll take you there myself!”

rather not – a polite phrase used to show that one would prefer not to do something

* Samuel really wants to buy a new flat-screen TV, but his wife would rather not.

victim – a person who suffers as the result of a crime or disease; someone who is robbed or murdered; someone who has an illness

* People were shocked to learn that the shooting victims were young children.

candidate – someone who is being considered for a position or opportunity, especially someone who wants to be elected for the job

* The company received hundreds of applications for the job, but they’ve identified four candidates for interviews.

last resort – the only remaining option; the only possibility left

* The business is failing, but we’re still hoping we can turn it around. Our last resort is to start working for free and asking our employees to do the same.

sunk – in a very difficult position, probably going to fail at doing something; without any hope

* If we lose this client, we’re sunk!

to turn up (one’s) nose – to decide not to accept an offer or to decide not to have or do something because one thinks it is not good enough

* Mariah was really offended when you turned up your nose at her offer to help you improve your website.

Fido – a common name for a male dog

* Sit, Fido. Let’s put on your leash and go to the park.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Christian want to taste Liang’s creations?
a) Because he thinks her food might make him sick.
b) Because she isn’t paying him enough.
c) Because he is on a diet and doesn’t want to gain weight.

2. What did Jacob mean when he said that he would let Liang cook food for him over his dead body?
a) He is a vegetarian and won’t eat any dead animals.
b) He will never eat anything that Liang cooks.
c) He is afraid that eating Liang’s creations might kill him.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
would rather not

The phrase “would rather not,” in this podcast, is a polite phrase used to show that one would prefer not to do something: “It has been a long week, so I’d rather not go out tonight, if that’s alright with you.” The phrase “or rather” is used to correct or provide more information about what one has just said: “Everyone thought it was a brilliant, or rather, profitable idea.” The phrase “rather (someone) than (someone)” means that one is glad someone else is doing something, and one does not have to: “Did you hear that James has to give the presentation? Rather him than me!” Finally, the word “rather” can mean somewhat or fairly: “The movie was rather slow and uninteresting.”

sunk

In this podcast, the word “sunk” means in a very difficult position, probably going to fail at doing something, and without any hope: “If this doesn’t work, we’re sunk!” A “sinking feeling” means an unpleasant feeling that one believes something bad will happen: “Chad says he has a sinking feeling that the project is off to a bad start.” If someone’s “heart sinks” or “spirits sink,” that person starts to lose confidence or optimism: “Vicky’s heart sank as the doctor told her his diagnosis.” Finally, the phrase “to sink so low” means to be so selfish or cruel that one does something very bad: “Sheila never trusted Carl, yet she never expected him to sink so low as to cheat on his wife.”

Culture Note
The Use of Guinea Pigs in Science Experiments

Scientists began “conducting” (carrying out; implementing) experiments on guinea pigs in the 1600s, and they continued to be popular “laboratory” (place where experiments are done) animals until the late 1900s. Some guinea pigs are still used for experimentation, but their use is “declining” (decreasing). Today, mice and rats are more common animals for experimentation.

Guinea pigs are a popular choice as laboratory animals because they are “docile” (tame; calm), they don’t mind being “handled” (held by humans), they are easy to feed, and easy to care for. They also “reproduce” (have babies) quickly.

Guinea pigs have been used to study “anatomical structure” (the structure of bodies), to understand how “calories” (units of energy from food and fat) are used to produce heat, and to understand the “spread” (transmission) of “infectious diseases” (illnesses that are passed among people). They have also been sent into outer space several times on experimental “spacecrafts” (vehicles that fly into space). Guinea pigs have been particularly useful in studying “scurvy” (a disease produced by a lack of Vitamin C), because they cannot make Vitamin C on their own, but instead must get it from food, like humans.

However, there is always “controversy” (disagreement) over the use of animals in scientific experimentation. This is particularly true for “cuddly” (cute and fuzzy) animals like guinea pigs, which some people “keep” (take care of) as “pets” (animals that are kept for fun, not for food). Some people are “appalled” (shocked and horrified) by the use of guinea pigs in laboratories, and some organizations fight against experimentation on animals, including guinea pigs.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - b