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0986 Buying and Selling Family Heirlooms

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 986 – Buying and Selling Family Heirlooms.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 986. 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. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. This episode is about buying and selling things that belong to your family that are usually old and valuable. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Anne: Where are you going with that?

Ivan: I’m taking this clock to an antique dealer. Rather than having it gather dust on the mantelpiece, I thought I’d get it appraised and maybe sell it.

Anne: You can’t sell that! It belonged to our grandfather. It’s a family heirloom.

Ivan: It’s not a family heirloom. It’s just a clock that Grandpa had in his house. He didn’t mean for it to be passed down from one generation to another. I don’t even know if it’s valuable or collectable. These clocks could be a dime a dozen.

Anne: But it’s valuable to me. It has sentimental value. As a little girl, I remember visiting Grandpa and seeing that clock on his shelf. If I had inherited it, I know I wouldn’t be looking to sell it to make a quick buck.

Ivan: I’m not looking to make a quick buck, but what if Grandpa left it to me because he knew I would be able to put the money that it would fetch to good use.

Anne: Well, are you? Are you going to put the proceeds to good use?

Ivan: Sure, of course I am.

Anne: Are you going to tell me what you’re spending it on?

Ivan: Not on your life!

[end of dialogue]

Anne begins this dialogue by saying to Ivan, “Where are you going with that?” Ivan says, “I’m taking this clock to an antique dealer.” “Antique” (antique) refers to something that is very old. An “antique dealer” (dealer) is someone who buys old things such as jewelry, pieces of furniture, artwork, or other things that are old and perhaps valuable. An antique dealer, of course, tries to buy things at a low price and then sell them at a high price just like any good businessperson. “Antiques” with an “s” at the end is used to describe these items – the things that you would bring to an antique dealer.

Ivan says, “Rather than having it gather dust on the mantelpiece, I thought I’d get it appraised and maybe sell it.” Ivan has taken a clock to an antique dealer in order to “get it appraised,” he says, “rather than having it gather dust.” “To gather dust” (dust) means to sit unused for a long time. “Dust” refers to the little pieces of dirt that accumulate, that collect, on top something if you don’t move it for a very long time. That’s why every week or two, you may need to dust your house. You may need to go around and clean the little bits of dirt off of your tables and other things that would collect dirt.

If something has a lot of dust on it, it hasn’t been moved or used in a long time, and that’s the real meaning of this expression, although in the case of an old clock, it might have literally – actually – been gathering dust. A “mantelpiece” (mantelpiece) is a shelf, a place to put something above a fireplace usually in the living room, or sometimes it might be called the “family room,” of a house. A mantelpiece is a place where you might put old photographs and an old clock.

Ivan says he wants to get this clock “appraised.” “To appraise” (appraise) means to assess or to give a value to something – to give an opinion about how much something is worth. You could have your house appraised. If you were trying to get a loan, someone would come and tell you how much your house is worth. When you go to an antique dealer to get something appraised, you’re asking the antique dealer how much money you could get if you sold that item. Anne does not like this idea at all. She says, “You can’t sell that. It belonged to our grandfather” – our grandfather owned it. “It’s a family heirloom.”

A “family heirloom” (heirloom) is something that belongs to your family that has been passed on, or given, from one generation to another. Usually, it’s something that’s considered valuable. So, for example, if your grandfather had an expensive ring, or your grandmother had some nice jewelry, that might be considered a family heirloom. Your grandmother gave it to your mother, and your mother gives it to you, and you give it to your daughter, and so forth. Those are family heirlooms, valuable things, but sometimes are valuable not because they’re worth a lot of money; sometimes they’re valuable for what we might call “sentimental reasons,” and we’ll explain that in a second.

Ivan says, “It’s not a family heirloom. It’s just a clock that Grandpa had in his house. He didn’t mean for it to be passed down from one generation to another.” Ivan says “Grandpa didn’t mean for it” – meaning he wasn’t intending, he wasn’t planning for it – “to be passed down.” “To be passed down” means to give one object, usually something that is old to someone younger than you are – to the next generation. For example, when I die, my microphone that I use for podcasting will be passed down to one of my nieces and nephews. It’s going to become a family heirloom, I’m sure.

“Generation” refers to a group of people who are born at approximately the same time. In a family, a generation would be all of the brothers and sisters in a family. Your father and mother are another generation, and your grandparents are another generation, and your nieces and nephews are a younger generation. You have younger generations and older generations. Ivan says this clock was not meant “to be passed down from one generation to another.” He says, “I don’t even know if it’s valuable or collectable.” “To be collectable” (collectable) is to be something that people want to own. Things that are collectible are usually things that are worth some money, that have some value.

Ivan says, “These clocks could be a dime a dozen.” That expression, “a dime (dime) a dozen,” refers to something that is very common, very popular, and therefore not worth a lot of money. A “dime” is 10 cents in American currency. A “dozen” is 12 of something. So, if you can buy 12 of something for a dime, it’s probably not a very valuable item. We usually use this expression to refer to things that are not rare – of which many have been made.

Anne objects. She says, “But it’s valuable to me. It has sentimental value.” “Sentimental (sentimental) value” refers to your emotional attachment to some object. It might not be worth anything to anyone else. It might not be very valuable in itself, but it’s something that means something to you. So, the first love letter that your husband wrote you or the first rose that you gave your wife – these would be things that might have sentimental value. No one else is going to buy an old rose or a piece of paper that has a love letter on it. These are things that are valuable to you. They have sentimental value.

Anne continues, “As a little girl, I remember visiting Grandpa and seeing that clock on his shelf. If I had inherited it, I know I wouldn’t be looking to sell it to make a quick buck.” “To inherit” (inherit) is to receive money or objects from someone who has died. You can inherit something from your parents. For example, they may give you things or give you money when they die. “To make a quick buck” (buck) means to try to make money quickly and easily. A “buck” is a dollar. It’s an informal term for one American dollar. “To make a quick buck” is an old expression meaning to try to make money quickly and easily.

Ivan says, “I’m not looking” – I’m not trying – “to make a quick buck. But what if Grandpa left it to me because he knew I would be able to put the money that it would fetch to good use.” “To fetch” (fetch) here means to bring money or to bring something to you. When we talk about what price this will fetch, we mean how much money will we get, what price it will be. What Ivan is saying here is that Grandpa may have left this clock to him because Grandpa knew that Ivan would put the money that he would get from it – the money he would fetch – to good use. “To good use” here means for a good purpose.

Anne says, “Well, are you? Are you going to put the proceeds to good use?” “Proceeds” (proceeds) is money that you get from selling something. There’s always an “s” on the end if it’s used as a noun in this way: “proceeds.” Ivan says, “Sure. Of course I am” – of course I’m going to put it to good use. Anne says, “Are you going to tell me what you’re spending it on?” Anne wants to know what Ivan is going to do with the money he gets from selling the old clock.

Ivan, however, refuses to tell her. He says, “Not on your life!” That expression, “not on your life,” means no way. It’s a phrase used to show that you are not going to do that, no matter what happens. Of course, we suspect that perhaps Ivan is not going to put the money to good use, but is going to go gambling, or perhaps go drinking with his friends, or something that we would not normally consider to be a good use.

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

[start of dialogue]

Anne: Where are you going with that?

Ivan: I’m taking this clock to an antique dealer. Rather than having it gather dust on the mantelpiece, I thought I’d get it appraised and maybe sell it.

Anne: You can’t sell that! It belonged to our grandfather. It’s a family heirloom.

Ivan: It’s not a family heirloom. It’s just a clock that Grandpa had in his house. He didn’t mean for it to be passed down from one generation to another. I don’t even know if it’s valuable or collectable. These clocks could be a dime a dozen.

Anne: But it’s valuable to me. It has sentimental value. As a little girl, I remember visiting Grandpa and seeing that clock on his shelf. If I had inherited it, I know I wouldn’t be looking to sell it to make a quick buck.

Ivan: I’m not looking to make a quick buck, but what if Grandpa left it to me because he knew I would be able to put the money that it would fetch to good use.

Anne: Well, are you? Are you going to put the proceeds to good use?

Ivan: Sure, of course I am.

Anne: Are you going to tell me what you’re spending it on?

Ivan: Not on your life!

[end of dialogue]

We hope you put our dialogues to good use. They’re written by our wonderful scriptwriter, you know, 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 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
antique dealer – someone who buys old jewelry, artwork, pieces of furniture, and similar items for low prices and sells them for higher prices as a business

* The antique dealer says these plates are worth thousands of dollars, but they don’t seem that special to me.

to gather dust – to sit on a shelf and be unused for a long period of time, especially referring to something that is just meant to be looked at

* Their kids don’t want to take piano lessons anymore, so now the piano is just gathering dust in the corner of their living room.

mantelpiece – a shelf above a fireplace in a living room, often used to display framed photographs and other decorative items

* Every December, they hang stockings from the mantelpiece in anticipation of Christmas.

to appraise – to assess the value of something; to give an official opinion about how much something is worth and how much others would pay for it

* The bank requires that we get the home appraised before they’ll give us a loan to purchase it.

family heirloom – an object that is given from one generation to the next, especially an object of value; an object that is given from grandparents or parents to younger members in a family

* These candlesticks are family heirlooms that originally belonged to my great-grandmother, and someday when you get married, they’ll belong to you.

to pass down – to give a used object to a younger member of one’s family, especially when that object is valuable

* Yevgeny was shocked when his father sold the gold watch instead of passing it down to him.

generation – a group of people born at approximately the same time

* Last thanksgiving, we were able to get a family photo with female members of five generations: Great-Grandma, Grandma, Mom, me, and my baby girl.

collectable – an object that people like to have, especially because it is rare (uncommon), valuable, and expected to increase in value over time

* So many of the toys Grandpa played with as a little boy are collectables now. I wish he had kept them!

a dime a dozen – very common and with little value; not rare

* Most landscape paintings are a dime a dozen, but these ones are truly beautiful.

sentimental value – with a lot of emotional attachment and memories making an object valuable to a person, even though it does not have any financial value and nobody else would want to buy it

* These ticket stubs might just look like pieces of paper, but they have a lot of sentimental value for Clarabelle.

to inherit – to receive money or an object from an older family member when he or she dies

* Who’s going to inherit Greta’s jewelry?

to make a quick buck – to make money very quickly and easily, with little or no effort

* Shane thought he could make a quick buck by selling lemonade on the sidewalk, but it was much more difficult than he’d expected.

to fetch – to bring something, especially money from the sale of something

* How much do you think we can fetch for that old boat?

to good use – useful and helpful, with a purpose

* Sergey has studied medicine for 10 years and now he’s eager to put that knowledge to good use by helping patients.

proceeds – revenue; money received from the sale of something

* This company promised to donate 5% of the proceeds to charitable organizations.

not on your life – no way; a phrase used to show that something will not happen, that there is no chance of something happening

* A: Would you help me move on Saturday?

B: Not on your life! I almost broke my back helping you move your piano last time.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Ann want Ivan to sell the clock?
a) Because it isn’t worth very much money.
b) Because it doesn’t belong to him.
c) Because she is emotionally attached to it.

2. What does Ivan mean when he says, “Not on your life!”?
a) He won’t use the money to pay Ann’s medical expenses.
b) He has no intention of telling her what he’ll use the money for.
c) He thinks she’s asking about things that aren’t her business.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to fetch

The verb “to fetch,” in this podcast, means to bring something, especially money from the sale of something: “Amazingly, they fetched more than $400 for that old chair.” The phrase “to fetch a pretty penny” means to make a lot of money or to be sold for a lot of money: “His singing abilities could fetch a pretty penny with the right recording contract.” When talking about a dog, the phrase “to play fetch” means to throw an object so that a dog follows it, catches it in its mouth, and brings it back: “Fido loves to play fetch for hours and hours, but nobody wants to throw the ball to him for that long.” Finally, if someone is “fetching,” he or she is very attractive: “Wendy looks fetching in that new dress.”

proceed

In this podcast, the word “proceeds” means revenue, or money received from the sale of something: “The event proceeds far exceeded their expectations.” As a verb, “to proceed” means to continue to do something, or for something to continue to happen: “Once you’ve submitted a copy of the birth certificate, we’ll proceed with application process.” The phrase “to proceed to do something” means to do the next step of something, or to do something after another thing has finished: “Once we decide which museums we want to see, we can proceed with finalizing our itinerary.” The word “proceedings” refers to things that are happening: “Thousands of people watched the proceedings live on TV.” Finally, when talking about law, “proceedings” refer to a legal case in the courts: “When will they finalize the divorce proceedings?”

Culture Note
Places for Antiquing

Some people go antiquing as a “hobby” (something enjoyable that people do in their free time). They look for interesting or valuable “antiques” (old objects that are not made any more). Some people collect the antiques for their own use, while others try to purchase valuable antiques at a low price so that they can sell them at a higher price and make a “profit” (money that one gets to keep in a business transaction).

There are many “antique shops,” or stores that specialize in antiques, but many people who enjoy antiquing enjoy the “hunt” (the process of looking for something). Instead of shopping at antique stores, they prefer to find the “pieces” (objects of interest) on their own. These people often go to “garage sales” (events where people put used objects in front of their home to sell them) and “estate sales” (garage sales that are held after people die), hoping to find a great “bargain” (something that is sold for less that it is worth).

Other people go antiquing at “flea markets,” which are large outdoor markets where many people bring objects that they want to sell. The prices at flea markets “tend to be” (are usually) higher than the prices at garage sales, but less than the prices in antique stores, because the flea market “vendors” (salespeople) do not have to pay the “overhead” (fixed costs, like rent and utilities) associated with a store location.

People who are “in the market for” (wanting to buy) higher-priced antiques generally shop at “auctions,” where more expensive objects are common. An auction is an event where many people “bid on” (say how much they are willing to pay for) objects, which are then sold to the “highest bidder” (the person who is willing to pay the most for something).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - b