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0927 Being Tidy and Messy

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 927 – Being Tidy and Messy.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 927. 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 of ESL Podcast by going to our website.

This episode is a dialogue about being tidy and messy – referring to how you organize your things and, perhaps, your life. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Carole: It is beyond me how you and Oscar can be roommates. You’re very tidy and he’s, well, a slob.

Felix: It’s not always easy, but we’re making it work.

Carole: Isn’t Oscar really messy all the time? Whenever I see him, his clothes are rumpled and his hair is unkempt.

Felix: His room is really cluttered, but he keeps the common areas in passable condition. I do have to straighten up fairly often, and I sometimes have to pick up after him, but that’s because I’m pretty nitpicky.

Carole: That’s very tolerant of you.

Felix: Well, we have set up a system so that if things get too messy, I have some recourse.

Carole: Really, what’s your system?

Felix: Oscar and I agreed that every time he leaves a big mess, I can fine him.

Carole: That seems kind of drastic, but maybe it works for you guys.

Felix: Yeah, it keeps the place pretty clean.

Carole: Still, knowing Oscar, you must have had to fine him a lot.

Felix: Let’s just say that my next vacation will be in Monte Carlo!

[end of dialogue]

Carole says to Felix, “It's beyond me how you and Oscar” are roommates. When something is “beyond you,” you mean it's impossible for you to understand, or it is very difficult for you to understand. “It's beyond me how someone that ugly has a girlfriend that beautiful.” “It's beyond me” – I don't understand it. Actually, here in Los Angeles, that's because he has a lot of money.

Carole says it's beyond her how Felix and Oscar “can be roommates.” “To be roommates” means to be two people who are living together in the same apartment, or who are in the same home, and who are not in a romantic relationship with each other. They're not married. They're not boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re simply two people – perhaps friends, perhaps not – who are living in the same apartment. Here in Los Angeles, it's very common for people to move here and look for a roommate – look for someone who will help them pay the rent on the house or the apartment that they’re renting. You may know this person from some job or some class you take in school, but it may be someone you have never met before. It's always a little difficult trying to find the right roommate.

Carole says, “You’re” – meaning “you, Felix” – “very tidy and he's, well, a slob.” “To be tidy” (tidy) means to be very neat and organized. Everything is where it's supposed to be. Everything looks very organized. The opposite of that would be “messy” (messy). Someone who is messy is someone who is “disorganized” – someone who is not neat, not organized. The noun for a person who is messy is a “slob” (slob). It's a pretty insulting term to call someone a “slob.” “To be a slob” means to be messy, perhaps even dirty – someone who is very disorganized.

Felix says, “It's not always easy, but we’re making it work.” That is, we’re making it functional. We’re managing to succeed, even though it's difficult. Carole says, “Isn't Oscar really messy all the time? Whenever I see him, his clothes are rumpled and his hair is unkempt.” When we say your clothes are “rumpled” (rumpled), we mean that they are not smooth. The other word we would use here is “wrinkled” (wrinkled). If you have a shirt, for example, that's wrinkled, it has sort of like lines in it. It's not smooth and flat the way it should be. That's what Carole is referring to when she describes Oscar’s clothes as being “rumpled.”

Carole also says that Oscar’s hair is “unkempt” (unkempt). “To be unkempt” means that you haven't taken care of your hair. It's messy – maybe it's dirty. It's not combed or brushed so that it looks nice. I don't have this problem anymore, but when I did – have hair, that is – I would make sure that I combed it in the morning, at least. By the end of the day, however, my hair was probably looking pretty unkempt – not taken care of very well.

Felix says Oscar’s room “is really cluttered.” “To be cluttered” (cluttered) means that you have a lot of things in a small amount of space. A lot of unnecessary objects that make a space, an area, seem very disorganized, very messy. That's “clutter.” Some people have closets where they put things they don't know where to put somewhere else, but they don't want to throw them away. So, they keep them. They “store” them, we would say, in a closet. The closet, then becomes very cluttered. It's full of all sorts of things. It's disorganized. My guess is most of us have a closet like that somewhere.

Oscar has a very cluttered room, “but he keeps the common areas in passable condition.” Felix and Oscar each have their own bedroom in this apartment. In addition, there are “common areas.” “Common areas” are areas in an apartment, or a house, or a building where everyone can go, areas that anyone can use – the living room, the kitchen, the dining room. These would be examples of common areas in an apartment.

Felix describes the common areas as “passable.” When we say something is “passable” (passable), we mean it's acceptable. It's satisfactory, but it's not great. It's not wonderful; it's okay. Felix says, “I do have to straighten up fairly often, and I sometimes have to pick up after him, but that's because I'm pretty nitpicky.” “To straighten up” is a phrasal verb meaning to organize, to make neat. We might also use the verb “to tidy up,” using “tidy” as a verb instead of an adjective.

So, Felix says he has to straighten up “fairly often,” meaning very often – a lot. “And,” Felix says, “I sometimes have to pick up after him.” “To pick up after” someone means to clean up someone else's mess – basically, to put away the other person's things. If you have a three-year-old child or a two-year-old child, the child may play with some toys and then fall asleep. Well, then you have to pick up after the child. You have to pick up his clothes, pick up his toys, and put them away. In my house, growing up, my mother told us we had to pick up after ourselves. Everyone had to pick up their own mess. When you have eleven children, that becomes necessary.

Felix sometimes has to pick up after Oscar, but that's because he's “pretty nitpicky.” “To be nitpicky” (nitpicky) means to be very demanding, to want to have things in a very specific way. Someone who is nitpicky is looking for very small errors, very small mistakes – someone who wants everything to be absolutely, 100 percent perfect. That is how Felix describes himself. Carole says, “That's very tolerant of you.” “To be tolerant” (tolerant) means to accept things that you don't like or accept people whom you don't like. Carole thinks Felix is being very tolerant of Oscar.

Felix says, “Well, we have set up a system so that if things get too messy, I have some recourse.” Felix and Oscar have set up some sort of system – some sort of agreement – where if things get too messy, Felix has some “recourse” (recourse). “To have recourse” means to have something that helps you in a very difficult situation or something that protects you in a difficult situation.

Carole says, “Really? What's your system?” Felix says, “Oscar and I agreed that every time he leaves a big mess,” – a large mess – “I can fine him.” “To fine” (fine) means to demand that someone pay you money for something they did wrong. If you drive too fast on the freeway, the police will give you a ticket. Basically, they're giving you a fine. They're saying, “You have to pay money because you were driving too fast on the freeway.”

Carole says, “That seems kind of drastic.” “Drastic” (drastic) means extreme – having very . . . what we might call “far-reaching consequences.” If, for example, you discover there's a problem with your phone bill, and you decide that you're going to throw your phone into the river or into an ocean because you're just so angry about this problem, that would be a very drastic action, something that would be very dramatic – something that would be too dramatic, in a way, something that would be too extreme. I mean, why don't you just call the telephone company and fix the problem? Carole thinks that Felix and Oscar's system is a little drastic.

She says, “But maybe it works for you guys” – for you two men. Felix says, “Yeah, it keeps the place pretty clean.” Carole says, “Still, knowing Oscar,” – “because I know Oscar” – “I know that you must have had to fine him a lot.” Felix says, “Let's just say that my next vacation will be in Monte Carlo!” Felix has had to fine Oscar many times. That's what Carole is referring to. In fact, he's had to fine Oscar so much that he's gotten a lot of money. That's why he says, at the end of the dialogue, that his next vacation will be in Monte Carlo. “Monte Carlo,” as many of you may know, is a famous part of Monaco, in Europe, where people go to gamble. The idea here is that you would have to have a lot of money in order to go to Monte Carlo.

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

[start of dialogue]

Carole: It is beyond me how you and Oscar can be roommates. You’re very tidy and he’s, well, a slob.

Felix: It’s not always easy, but we’re making it work.

Carole: Isn’t Oscar really messy all the time? Whenever I see him, his clothes are rumpled and his hair is unkempt.

Felix: His room is really cluttered, but he keeps the common areas in passable condition. I do have to straighten up fairly often, and I sometimes have to pick up after him, but that’s because I’m pretty nitpicky.

Carole: That’s very tolerant of you.

Felix: Well, we have set up a system so that if things get too messy, I have some recourse.

Carole: Really, what’s your system?

Felix: Oscar and I agreed that every time he leaves a big mess, I can fine him.

Carole: That seems kind of drastic, but maybe it works for you guys.

Felix: Yeah, it keeps the place pretty clean.

Carole: Still, knowing Oscar, you must have had to fine him a lot.

Felix: Let’s just say that my next vacation will be in Monte Carlo!

[end of dialogue]

She's one of the tidiest people I know. I speak of our wonderful scriptwriter, 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 was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
beyond (someone) – impossible or someone to understand; too difficult, complex, or foreign for one to comprehend

* It’s beyond me how you can work two jobs, take care of three kids, and still get enough sleep each night.

roommates – people who live together, sharing a home, but are not related to each other and are not involved in a romantic relationship

* Are you still in touch with your college roommate?

tidy – neat and organized, liking order and knowing where everything is because one always puts things back where they belong

* Shelby’s room is very tidy. Her bed is always made and her books are stacked on the shelf in alphabetical order.

slob – a person who is very messy and disorganized, and does not take the time to clean or put things back where they belong

* Hank is such a slob that you can’t even see the top of his desk or the floor, because everything is covered with papers and used coffee cups.

to make it work – to have something function well; to manage to make something succeed, especially if it is difficult

* It’s challenging to have my in-laws stay with us each summer, but somehow we make it work.

messy – disorganized, unordered, and dirty, with many objects out of place

* Darci won’t let her children go outside to play until they’ve cleaned up their messy rooms.

rumpled – wrinkled; crumpled; not smooth or polished

* Make sure you take the clothes out of the dryer and hang them up right away, or they’ll be rumpled.

unkempt – with an uncared-for appearance; looking as if one’s appearance is unimportant; not polished or sophisticated in appearance

* Why would anyone show up for a job interview looking so unkempt?

cluttered – with many unnecessary objects in a small space so that it appears disorganized and uncomfortable

* The kids’ small bedroom was very cluttered until they got some bins and baskets to organize the toys and clothing.

common area – an area in a home or another building that is shared by many people, such as a living room or family room, not a bedroom or bathroom

* They want to buy a home with small bedrooms and large common areas, because they think that will encourage their teenagers to spend more time with the family.

passable – acceptable and satisfactory, but meeting only the minimal requirements and not very impressive

* The students’ performance was passable, but it’s clear that they could do better if they studied more.

to straighten up – to tidy up; to organize a room by putting things away

* I understand that you didn’t have time to dust and vacuum, but could you at least straighten up the house before our friends come over?

to pick up after (someone) – to clean up another person’s mess, especially putting away that person’s things

* Do you think a woman’s job is to pick up after her husband and children, or should everyone be responsible for putting their own things away?

nitpicky – very picky and demanding, wanting to have things in a very specific way; difficult to please

* Adele’s piano teacher is nitpicky. Whenever she makes a mistake, he makes her start over from the very beginning of the song.

tolerant – accepting of unpleasant situations and/or things that other people do and say when one does not like them

* Even if you don’t agree with their beliefs, you need to learn to be more tolerant so that they feel welcome.

recourse – something that offers help or protection in a difficult situation

* If the tenants’ check bounces, we can charge a $25 fee as recourse.

to fine – to demand that someone pay an amount of money as a punishment for something bad that he or she has done

* The library fines people $0.25 per day per book that is overdue.

drastic – extreme; dramatic; having far-reaching consequences

* Selling your home just because you don’t want to clean it anymore seems a bit drastic.

Comprehension Questions
1. Who would be messy?
a) Someone who is very tidy.
b) Someone who is a slob.
c) Someone who is nitpicky.

2. What happens when Oscar leaves a big mess?
a) Oscar has to pay money to Felix.
b) Felix can ask Oscar to move out.
c) Oscar asks Felix to clean it up.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to make it work

The phrase “to make it work,” in this podcast, means to have something function well, or to manage to make something succeed, especially if it is difficult: “Sales have been lower than expected for the past year, but we’re determined to make it work.” The phrase “to work (something) out” means to reach an agreement or find a solution: “They had a big fight, but hopefully, they’ll be able to work it out.” The phrase “to have (one’s) work cut out for (one)” means to have a lot of things to do, especially when it is very challenging: “This garage is a mess! We really have our work cut out for us.” Finally, the phrase “to make short work of (something)” means to do something quickly and easily: “Having an electric drill would make short work of this furniture building project.”

to pick up after (someone)

In this podcast, the phrase “to pick up after (someone)” means to clean up another person’s mess, especially putting away that person’s things: “I’m tired of picking up after you. Do it yourself!” The phrase “to pick (someone) up” means to meet someone at the end of an activity and give him or her a ride somewhere else: “Can you pick up the kids after school today?” The phrase “to pick on (someone)” means to unfairly tease or blame another person so that he or she feels bad: “Why are the other kids picking on Jenna during recess?” Finally, the phrase “to pick at (something)” means to eat only a little bit of food, usually because one does not like it or is thinking about something else: “The children ate too many cookies and then only picked at their dinner.”

Culture Note
The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple is a 1965 play written by famous American playwright (person who writes plays) Neil Simon, which was “adapted as” (made into) a film in 1968 and as a television series in the 1970s. The main characters are two roommates who are very different from one another. Felix is very controlled, “disciplined” (in control of one’s actions and behaviors), and “neat” (tidy). His roommate, Oscar, is very “laidback” (relaxed), “lazy” (not wanting to work or do challenging things), and disorganized.

The two men are “thrown together” (forced to spend a lot of time together due to life circumstances) when Felix is “kicked out of the house” (forced to leave a home) by his wife, and Oscar lets him move in. Oscar continues to live his “slovenly” (lazy) life and is annoyed when Felix “continuously” (without stopping) “cleans up after him” (takes care of his messes).

Felix also has many “annoying” (bothersome; unlikeable) “habits” (things that one does regularly without even thinking about them). For example, he “clears his sinuses” (uses breathing and noises to try to remove obstacles in one’s nasal (nose) passages, usually caused by an illness or allergies) very loudly in a coffee shop. And he “ruins” (destroys) a “double date” (a date where two couples go out together at the same time) by talking about how sad he is that his relationship has ended with his wife.

Eventually, Oscar “throws out” (makes someone leave a home) Felix, but then realizes that his friend has taught him many things. At the end of the film, they “apologize” (say they are sorry) to each other and “make up” (end their disagreement) “despite” (even though they still have) their differences.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a