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0935 Showing Signs of Age

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 935 – Showing Signs of Age.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 935. 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 to download a Learning Guide for this episode. You can also take a look at some of our special courses in business and daily English.

This episode is a dialogue between Julian and Vera about getting old. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Julian: What is that, another gray hair?! My hair is already thinning on top. I don’t need more gray hairs.

Vera: I think salt and pepper hair looks great on men. It makes them look distinguished.

Julian: It makes them look old. Thank God I don’t have a receding hairline – yet.

Vera: When you get to be my age, you won’t worry so much about graying hair. There are a lot of other things to worry about.

Julian: Like what?

Vera: Forget I mentioned it. Showing signs of age isn’t something to be lamented. It’s natural and part of maturing as a person. It gives you character.

Julian: Stop being evasive. Like what?

Vera: Okay, like wrinkles and age spots, deafness and memory loss.

Julian: Gee, thanks. If I ever need to talk someone off a ledge, I’ll give you a call!

[end of dialogue]

Julian begins by saying, “What is that, another gray hair?” A “gray hair” is a hair that has changed color because someone is getting old. It's usually not gray; it's more like white hair. If you have a lot of white hair or gray hair, it may mean – not always – but it may mean that you are getting old.

Julian says, “My hair is already thinning on top.” The verb “to thin” refers here to hair that is falling out of your head – out of the top of your head, what we would call your “scalp” (scalp). Your “scalp” is the skin on the top of your head. As you get older, sometimes the hair begins to fall out and doesn't grow back. So, you have less hair on the top of your head than you did when you were younger. This is certainly true for people like me.

Julian says, “I don't need more gray hairs.” Vera says, “I think salt and pepper hair looks great on men.” The expression “salt and pepper hair” refers to hair that is both black and white. Some of it is black or brown. Some of it is white due to the graying of the hair. “Salt,” of course, is white. Pepper is black. So, that's where we get the expression “salt and pepper hair.” That's what Vera is talking about.

She thinks that salt and pepper hair “looks great on men. It makes them look distinguished.” “To be distinguished” means to be dignified. If you are distinguished, you get respect from other people. It looks like you are someone of importance, someone who has authority. Julian doesn't agree with Vera. He says, “It makes them look old,” meaning the salt and pepper hair makes men look old.

He says, “Thank God I don't have a receding hairline – yet.” Your “hairline” (hairline) is what separates, on the top of your head, the part where you have hair and the part where there is just skin. So, if you start at your eyes and you move up on the top of your head past your forehead, most people eventually will have hair somewhere at the top of the head. The line that separates the hair from the skin that has no hair is called your “hairline.”

The verb “to recede” (recede) means to move back. A “receding hairline,” then, is a hairline that appears to be moving back, because you're losing more and more hair on the front part of your head. Julian says he does not have a receding hairline yet. That word “yet” means that he expects probably, someday, that that will happen as well.

Vera says, “When you get to be my age” – when you are as old as I am – “you don't worry so much about graying hair. There are a lot of other things to worry about.” Julian says, “Like what?” He means, “Give me some examples of other things I have to worry about as I get older.” Vera says, “Forget I mentioned it.” She says, “Forget I mentioned it,” because she's communicating to Julian that he doesn't really want to know – that the news is very bad and he will probably be better off not knowing this bad news.

She says, “Showing signs of age isn't something to be lamented.” “To show signs of age” means to see changes in your physical appearance that indicate that you are getting older. That could mean getting gray hair. It could mean losing your hair. It could mean that your skin is not as soft as it used to be. It could mean that you are not able to run as fast as you used to. There could be a lot of signs of old age. It could mean repeating things that you just said a minute ago. There could be a lot of signs of old age. It could mean we . . . wait a minute, am I repeating myself?

Vera says that “old age is not something to be lamented.” “To lament” (lament) means to feel sad about something, especially something that you may have lost. Another word we use here would be “to mourn” (mourn). Usually, mourning is something you do when someone dies. You feel sad that you have lost that person. “Lamenting” is a more general term that could be used to describe the loss of anything or the feeling of sadness because something has been lost or something bad has happened.

Vera says it's a natural part of “maturing as a person. It gives you character.” Vera is talking about showing signs of age. She says, “It's natural and part of maturing as a person.” She’s saying that it's a normal part of getting older and wiser. “To mature” (mature) means to become older, but also to become wiser – to know more than you did when you were young.

Vera says, “It gives you character” (character). “Character” here means personality, something that makes you different from other people. In this context, it's a positive thing. “To have character” means to be a good person. It's a compliment to say that someone has a lot of character. Vera says that showing signs of age “gives you character.”

Julian then says, “Stop being evasive.” “To be evasive” (evasive) means to hide something – to not give a clear, direct answer to someone's question. Julian repeats the question, “Like what?” He's asking for examples of other things one has to worry about as one gets older. Vera says, “Okay, like wrinkles and age spots, deafness and memory loss.” “Wrinkles” (wrinkles) are small “folds,” we call them, in your skin. They're sort of like small lines on your skin that form as you get older. I have lots of wrinkles already and I'm only 29.

Another thing you get when you get older, according to Vera, are “age spots.” “Age spots” are small areas on your skin that have a different color than the skin around it. It's often caused by being out in the sun too much. If you live in a place like Los Angeles, you may be out in the sun more than people in other parts of the country, which is why you may see more people with age spots in California than you do in Minnesota, where it is less sunny.

Vera says a couple of other problems of getting old are “deafness and memory loss.” “Deafness” (deafness) is the inability to hear. When you can't hear anything, that is a sign of deafness. Beethoven, the great composer, was partially deaf and got more deaf as he got older, I believe. “Memory loss,” we've already talked about, is when you forget things, when you can't remember something. That's memory loss.

Julian says, “Gee, thanks.” That expression, “Gee, thanks,” is used sarcastically here. Julian isn't really thanking Vera. He's not happy that Vera told him this information, but to be fair to Vera, she did tell Julian that he didn't want to hear this bad news. That's why she was being evasive.

Julian says, “If I ever need to talk someone off a ledge, I'll give you a call.” A “ledge” (ledge) is something you see on some buildings, outside of a window or somewhere on the wall on the side of the building. A “ledge” is a horizontal space that comes out from the wall. It's at 90 degrees from the wall. The wall is vertical; it goes up and down. A ledge is horizontal. It goes out from the side of the wall. Sometimes the ledge is big enough that you can actually walk on it.

Now, if you are out on the ledge, however, you may be trying to kill yourself. You may be trying to jump off the ledge and kill yourself. So, that's the meaning behind Julian's statement here, “If I ever need to talk someone off a ledge.” “To talk someone off a ledge” would be to convince someone not to kill himself – to come away from the ledge, to come back into the building to be safe.

Julian is making a joke here. He is saying that Vera is very depressing. Her news is very depressing, and he would not want her to be talking to someone else who was depressed and who perhaps was trying to kill himself, because she is so depressing.

That's why he says, “If I ever need to talk someone off a ledge, I'll give you a call.” He's being sarcastic again. He's making a joke. He’s saying, really, “I will not call you because you are so depressing.” The person will probably want to jump off the ledge after talking to you instead of coming back into the building.

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

[start of dialogue]

Julian: What is that, another gray hair?! My hair is already thinning on top. I don’t need more gray hairs.

Vera: I think salt and pepper hair looks great on men. It makes them look distinguished.

Julian: It makes them look old. Thank God I don’t have a receding hairline – yet.

Vera: When you get to be my age, you won’t worry so much about graying hair. There are a lot of other things to worry about.

Julian: Like what?

Vera: Forget I mentioned it. Showing signs of age isn’t something to be lamented. It’s natural and part of maturing as a person. It gives you character.

Julian: Stop being evasive. Like what?

Vera: Okay, like wrinkles and age spots, deafness and memory loss.

Julian: Gee, thanks. If I ever need to talk someone off a ledge, I’ll give you a call!

[end of dialogue]

She is a woman of great character, our scriptwriter. I speak, of course, of the wonderful 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 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
gray hair – hair that has changed color due to being very afraid or old age, becoming white or gray

* Why do so many women want to dye their gray hair?

to thin – for hair to fall out so that there is less hair covering one’s scalp (the skin on the top of one’s head)

* Is there anything men can do to prevent their hair from thinning?

salt and pepper hair – hair that has two or more colors, a combination of one’s natural hair color and gray or white hair

* A lot of men in their fifties have salt and pepper hair. Once they get a little older, it becomes mostly gray or white.

distinguished – dignified; getting respect from others; showing authority

* Wow, you look so distinguished in that business suit!

receding hairline – hair that, over time, is moving back on one’s head so that one’s forehead becomes larger

* Marcus is embarrassed about his receding hairline, so he often wears a baseball cap to cover it up.

to show signs of age – for one’s physical appearance to change over time so that one appears older than before

* Lydia is still healthy, but her skin is showing signs of age.

to lament – to mourn; to feel sad about something, especially something that one has lost; to regret

* The writer of this song laments the lost of his first love.

to mature – to become older and wiser; to become older and behave like an adult

* As a teenager, Tait was an unsafe driver, but as he matured, he became more cautious.

character – personality; distinctive characteristics or traits that make one different from other people

* I want to live in a house with a lot of character, rather than one with rooms that look like plain white boxes.

evasive – elusive; not clear, direct, or straightforward; hiding something

* Why are companies so evasive about the salary ranges for the jobs they’re trying to fill?

wrinkle – a small fold in one’s skin or a piece of fabric; lines on one’s skin

* Having a lot of exposure to the sun as a young child can result in wrinkles in old age.

age spot – a small, discolored area on one’s skin that appears when one is older, usually caused by sun damage

* The dermatologist looked at my arms, but said those marks are just age spots, not signs of skin cancer.

deafness – the inability to hear

* Georgio blames his deafness on the fact that he worked at an airport as a young man, without wearing any protection over his ears.

memory loss – a decrease in one’s ability to remember what has happened

* Is it true that doing crossword puzzles can help to prevent or slow memory loss?

to talk (someone) off a ledge – to say things that prevent another person from committing suicide by jumping off of a tall building

* How many of our police officers have been trained to talk people off a ledge?

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Julian mean when he says, “My hair is already thinning on top”?
a) He is losing his hair.
b) His hair is changing color.
c) His hair is too short.

2. Why does Julian say that he’ll call Vera if he ever needs someone to talk another person off a ledge?
a) Because he thinks she’s very honest and direct.
b) Because he thinks she’s a good communicator.
c) Because he’s being sarcastic and actually thinks she would make someone feel worse.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to thin

The verb “to thin,” in this podcast, means for hair to fall out so that there is less hair covering one’s scalp (the skin on the top of one’s head): “One side effect of this medication is that it may cause your hair to thin.” When talking about gardening, “to thin” means to pull out certain plants that are growing too closely together, so that the ones that remain have room to grow: “Let’s remember to thin the lettuce this weekend.” The phrase “to thin down” means to dilute something or to make a liquid weaker: “The soup is pretty salty, but I think it will be good if we thin it down with some more water.” Finally, if someone is “thin-skinned,” he or she is very sensitive and easily offended or hurt: “Vince is very thin-skinned about his weight, so please don’t mention it when you see him tonight.”

character

In this podcast, the word “character” means personality or distinctive characteristics or traits that make one different from other people: “This room has a lot of character!” A “character” is also one person in a story: “Talented actors enjoy playing many different types of characters.” If an actor is “in character,” he or she is acting well, without reverting to his or her own reactions: “It must be so hard to stay in character when the other actors do something funny!” When talking about a keyboard or typing, a “character” is one letter or symbol: “This form only allows us to type in 400 characters.” Finally, if something is “character-building,” it is an experience that teaches people to be stronger or to develop good ethics or resilience: “Volunteering at the homeless shelter was a good character-building experience for Miko.”

Culture Note
Methods Men Use to Appear Younger

In American society, it is common for women to do things to “appear” (seem to be) younger than they actually are. But it is becoming “increasingly” (more and more) common for men to “adopt” (use) methods to appear younger, too. Some “work” (are successful), but others are not.

Many men struggle to “accept” (tolerate; learn to live with) “baldness” (the loss of all hair on the head). Some men “fight it” (try to not let something happen) with a “combover,” a hairstyle where men who do not have hair on the top of their head brush hair from one side over the top and onto the other side. Usually it looks “odd” (strange) and does not “fool” (trick) anyone except for the man who is doing the combover.

Other men try to make their hair grow back. They purchase expensive chemicals that promise to make their hair grow. Others even have surgery to “implant” (put in) “hair plugs” (hair that is placed on a different part of the body so that it might grow) on their scalp. Some men say that it works, but others “don’t see results” (it is not successful).

Some men are even “turning to” (deciding to use or have) “plastic surgery” (cosmetic surgery; surgery intended to improve one’s physical appearance). For example, they might choose to have a “face lift” (a surgical procedure in which the skin on one’s face is lifted upward to reduce wrinkles), which is much more common among women. Other men choose to have “Botox injections” (a substance placed under the skin with a needle to reduce wrinkles).

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c