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0991 Describing Distances

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 991 – Describing Distances.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 991. 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 today, won’t you? If you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode, an eight- to 10-page guide that includes a complete transcript of everything I say – and sometimes sing.

This episode is a dialogue between Sandra and Roger that will include vocabulary we use in English to describe distances. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Sandra: Where will we be staying when we visit Trumanville?

Roger: We’ll be staying in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the town, but a stone’s throw from some of the major sites we’ll want to see.

Sandra: I hope there’ll be a lot of taxis around. You know I hate to walk.

Roger: Trumanville is a very walkable city, and we’ll be within walking distance to everything. We’ll be able to go nearly everywhere on foot.

Sandra: I told you. I hate to walk. At least we’ll be within close proximity to the beach.

Roger: Actually, the areas near the beach are too expensive, and we can’t afford it. And plus, the beach is in a remote part of town, and staying there would mean being in the boonies for our entire trip.

Sandra: But we could take taxis.

Roger: Taking taxis everywhere would be really expensive.

Sandra: Tell me that we’ll at least be in the vicinity of good shopping areas.

Roger: It might be a bit of a hike to the shops, but it won’t be too onerous to walk.

Sandra: Read my lips. I don’t want to walk everywhere. Maybe we can rent a car or hire a driver.

Roger: Are you out of your mind?! This is supposed to be a budget vacation, not a luxury trip. I’m not made of money, you know.

Sandra: And I didn’t know you were such a cheapskate!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Sandra saying to Roger, “Where will we be staying when we visit Trumanville?” Sandra wants to know where they are going to be staying – overnight, we assume – when they visit this town called Trumanville. Roger says, “We’ll be staying in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the town.” The “outskirts” (outskirts) are the edges of the town – not in the center of the town or city, but way out where the city is about to end, basically.

Roger says they’re going to stay in a neighborhood on the outskirts of town – in an area on the outskirts of town, “but a stone’s throw from some of the major sites we’ll want to see.” The expression “a stone’s throw” is a somewhat old one to describe a distance that is very small. Something that is very close, something that is nearby, could be described as being “a stone’s throw” from where you are, or “a stone’s throw away.” A “stone” is a rock, so if you think of how far you can throw a rock – and most of us can’t throw a rock very far – that gives you an idea of why we use that expression for something very close.

Sandra says, “I hope there’ll be a lot of taxis around. You know I hate to walk.” Sandra is hoping there’ll be a lot of taxicabs that they can take so she doesn’t have to walk very much. Roger says, however, “Trumanville is a very walkable city.” When we call a place or a city “walkable” (walkable), we mean the city is small enough so that you can walk from one place to another. You don’t need to take a car. Los Angeles is not considered a very walkable city because everything is spread out. Everything is far away from the next thing you want to go to.

A place like New York City, however, is typically more walkable, meaning you can find all the things you want just by walking around. You don’t have to take a car to get to, say, a grocery store or the museum. Trumanville, according to Roger, is a very walkable city. He says, “We’ll be within walking distance to everything.” “Walking distance” is the distance that you can walk. Of course, everybody has a different tolerance for walking. For some people, walking distance could be a mile. For some people, like me, it’s more like a hundred meters.

Roger says, “We’ll be able to go nearly everywhere on foot.” “On foot” just means by walking, by using your feet. Sandra says, “I told you. I hate to walk.” Roger doesn’t apparently understand, and so Sandra is trying to be very clear with him. She says, “I told you,” which is something you might say to someone who you are perhaps a little angry with because the person doesn’t seem to understand something you have already told them.

Sandra says, “At least we’ll be within close proximity to the beach.” “To be within close proximity (proximity) to” something is to be close to something, to be near something. It’s just another way of saying nearby. Roger says, “Actually, the areas near the beach are too expensive.” Roger is saying that if they plan on staying near the beach, in a hotel or area near the beach, it will be very expensive. It will cost a lot of money. Roger says, “We can’t afford it,” meaning we don’t have enough money. We can’t afford it.

“And plus,” meaning additionally, “the beach is in a remote part of town.” “Remote” (remote) means far away from everything else, very difficult to reach or to get to. Roger says the beach is in a remote part of Trumanville, “and staying there would mean being in the boonies for our entire trip.” The expression “the boonies” (boonies) refers to a very rural, undeveloped part of a state or a country, away from the city, away from where most people are. The term “the boonies” is an insulting one to describe the place that is far away from civilization, if you will – far away from where most people are.

Sandra says, “But we could take taxis.” Roger says, “Taking taxis everywhere would be really expensive.” Sandra says, “Tell me that we’ll at least be in the vicinity of good shopping areas.” Sandra wants to be able to take taxicabs, and Roger says that’s going to be too expensive. So, Sandra then says, “Tell me” – meaning please tell me – “that we will at least be in the vicinity of good shopping areas.” “Tell me” here is really used to mean, then, “this better be true,” or “I hope it is true.”

Sandra hopes that they will be “in the vicinity” (vicinity) of good shopping areas. “To be in the vicinity of” something is to be near something. It’s just another way of saying nearby. Sandra wants to be in the vicinity of “good shopping areas” – places where she can go and buy things. Roger says, “It might be a bit of a hike to the shops, but it won’t be too onerous to walk.” “A bit of a hike” (hike) means a somewhat long distance. If someone says, “It’s a bit of a hike,” they mean you can walk there, but it’s going to take a while to walk there. It’s going to take a long time to get there.

The verb “to hike” (hike) means to walk, but typically to walk a long distance and often to walk in areas that are outside of the city, such as a park. Here, it’s used as a noun – a “hike” – to mean a distance that you can walk. Roger says that it might be a bit of a hike to the shops, to the stores, “but it won’t be too onerous to walk.” “Onerous” (onerous) means very difficult, requiring a lot of energy and effort. Roger says it will not be too onerous to walk; it won’t be too difficult.

Sandra again is not very happy with Roger, and she uses an expression that indicates that she’s not happy and that she believes Roger is not paying attention to what she’s saying. She says, “Read my lips. I don’t want to walk everywhere.” “Read my lips” is a phrase that you use when you are unhappy, perhaps, with someone and want them to pay very close attention to what you are about to say. It’s another way of saying, “Pay close attention to what I’m about to tell you.”

The phrase “read my lips” became quite popular after George H. W. Bush, the first Bush, used it to tell people that he wasn’t going to raise taxes. He said “Read my lips. No new taxes.” He wasn’t going to increase the amount of taxes that the federal government would have. After he was elected, what happened? Well, he raised taxes. He wasn’t elected a second time.

Back to our story, however. Sandra says, “Read my lips. I don’t want to walk everywhere. Maybe we can rent a car or hire a driver.” “To hire a driver” would be to pay someone to drive you around in their car. Roger says, “Are you out of your mind?” The phrase “to be out of your mind” means to be crazy, to not be thinking rationally or logically.

Roger says, “This is supposed to be a budget vacation, not a luxury trip. I’m not made of money, you know.” A “budget vacation” would be a vacation that doesn’t cost very much money. A “luxury (luxury) trip” would be a trip that does cost a lot of money – a very expensive vacation. Roger tells Sandra, “I’m not made of money,” meaning I don’t have a lot of money. We use this expression when we don’t have a lot of money to spend and somebody wants us to spend a lot of money.

Sandra says, “And I didn’t know you were such a cheapskate.” “To be a cheapskate” (cheapskate) is to be a person who doesn’t like to spend a lot of money. To be a cheap person is to be a cheapskate. “To be cheap” means you don’t like spending money. You don’t like spending money even in cases where you probably should spend money. That’s the idea. The word “cheapskate” is an insulting adjective to describe a person who doesn’t like to spend very much money, and that’s what Sandra is doing here.

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

[start of dialogue]

Sandra: Where will we be staying when we visit Trumanville?

Roger: We’ll be staying in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the town, but a stone’s throw from some of the major sites we’ll want to see.

Sandra: I hope there’ll be a lot of taxis around. You know I hate to walk.

Roger: Trumanville is a very walkable city, and we’ll be within walking distance to everything. We’ll be able to go nearly everywhere on foot.

Sandra: I told you. I hate to walk. At least we’ll be within close proximity to the beach.

Roger: Actually, the areas near the beach are too expensive, and we can’t afford it. And plus, the beach is in a remote part of town, and staying there would mean being in the boonies for our entire trip.

Sandra: But we could take taxis.

Roger: Taking taxis everywhere would be really expensive.

Sandra: Tell me that we’ll at least be in the vicinity of good shopping areas.

Roger: It might be a bit of a hike to the shops, but it won’t be too onerous to walk.

Sandra: Read my lips. I don’t want to walk everywhere. Maybe we can rent a car or hire a driver.

Roger: Are you out of your mind?! This is supposed to be a budget vacation, not a luxury trip. I’m not made of money, you know.

Sandra: And I didn’t know you were such a cheapskate!

[end of dialogue]

Our thanks to Dr. Lucy Tse for all of her wonderful scripts, including this one.

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
outskirts – the edges of a city or town, far from the center

* They’re moving to the outskirts of town where housing is cheaper, even though it means paying more to commute to downtown every day.

a stone’s throw – very close; close by; nearby

* If you need anything while we’re gone, please call the neighbors. They’re just a stone’s throw away.

walkable – describing an area where places are close together and there are paths or sidewalks where people can comfortably and safely walk from one place to another, without too many fast cars or dangerous intersections

* We used to live in a walkable neighborhood where we could easily walk to the post office, the grocery store, the library, and restaurants from our home.

walking distance – a short distance that is comfortable for walking; not too far; not so far away that one needs a vehicle for transportation

* How many liquor stores are within walking distance of the university campus?

on foot – by walking, without the use of a wheeled device

* Do you usually go to class on foot or by bicycle?

within close proximity to – near; not far from

* Sheila is looking for an apartment within close proximity to a subway station.

remote – far away; not easily reached; not easily accessible; not in the central area

* The anthropologists are studying the religious beliefs of people living in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest.

the boonies – a distant, rural, undeveloped area far from cities; a remote area

* Heather grew up in the boonies where her nearest neighbor was more than 20 miles away.

in the vicinity of – near

* Are there any affordable hotels in the vicinity of the Seattle space needle?

a bit of a hike – a moderately long distance covered by walking, further than one would normally or comfortably walk

* The festival is a bit of a hike, but walking there will be easier than trying to find a parking space if we drive there.

onerous – very difficult, requiring a lot of energy and effort

* Why is figuring out the tax system so onerous?

read my lips – a phrase used for emphasis when one wants another person to pay attention and really listen to and understand what one is saying

* Read my lips. This is a bad idea and I don’t want to be involved in any part of it.

out of (one’s) mind – crazy; not thinking rationally or logically; mentally unstable

* If you think anyone is going to pay you $7,000 for that old car, you’re out of your mind.

budget vacation – a trip intended for fun, relaxation, and enjoyment, but with carefully controlled and limited expenses so that one does not spend too much

* Camping is a good option for a budget vacation, because a tent is always cheaper than a hotel room.

luxury trip – a trip intended to provide relaxation and enjoyment through the use of very nice things and comfortable transportation that is expensive

* For years, they have been saving up their money to take a luxury trip to Western Europe.

I’m not made of money – a phrase used to mean that one has limited financial resources and cannot spend a lot of money, especially when another person has asked to have some of one’s money

* A: Dad, can you give me $20?

B: No, I’m not made of money. If you need cash, get a job.

cheapskate – a person who does not like to spend money; a cheap or frugal person; a person who spends as little money as possible

* Wallace is a cheapskate who takes extra paper napkins from restaurants so that he doesn’t have to buy any from the store.

Comprehension Questions
1. What will they be closest to?
a) Tourist sites.
b) The beach.
c) Shopping areas.

2. Why does Sandra say, “Read my lips”?
a) Because she thinks Roger has misunderstood her.
b) Because she wants Roger to pay attention to what she’s saying.
c) Because she thinks Roger cannot hear her.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
remote

The word “remote,” in this podcast, means far away and not easily reached: “Each winter, they rent a remote cabin where they can ski for days without seeing anyone else.” When talking about technology, a “remote” or a “remote control” is a device that allows one to control or operate something from a distance: “I can’t find the remote for the television.” A “remote-controlled car” is a toy car that one can steer and start or stop with a handheld device: “Victor thinks it’s funny to tease his cat and dog with his remote-controlled car.” Finally, the phrase “to work remotely” means to telecommute, or to work without being in the physical office where other workers are: “Nick comes into the office each Monday, but he works remotely the rest of the week.

hike

In this podcast, the phrase “a bit of a hike” means a moderately long distance covered by walking, or further than one would normally or comfortably walk: “The meeting is a bit of a hike, but if we hurry we should be able to get there on time.” A “hike” is a long walk in a natural area: “Last weekend, we went on a beautiful hike to Multnomah Falls.” The phrase “take a hike” is an informal and rude way to tell someone to leave: “We don’t want you here. Take a hike.” Finally, a “hike” is an increase in something, especially when talking about money: “How are local businesses responding to the tax hike?” Or, “The price hike is upsetting airline customers.”

Culture Note
Methods Used to Encourage People to Walk and Bike to Work

Many cities across the United States are trying to “encourage” (help someone want to do something) residents to walk and bike to work. There are cost savings associated with the “health benefits” (things that make one healthier) of greater physical activity and the reduced demand on public “infrastructure” (systems such as roads and public transportation).

Many cities focus on making it safer and more comfortable for people to walk and bike to work. For biking, this might mean “installing” (putting in) “bike paths” (narrow, paved roads for bicycles, but not for cars), “bike lanes” (a lane on a road just for bicycles, not for cars) or at least a “bike shoulder” (enough room at the edge of a road for bicycles to be ridden safely). Cities are also providing safe bike parking, including bike parking with covers in rainy areas. In many cases, cities may need to educate cyclists and drivers about bicycle safety, such as the use of “hand signals” (movements of the hand that indicate when one is stopping or turning).

To encourage more “pedestrians” (people who walk), cities sometimes need to install sidewalks, create “paved” (with a hard surface) paths through parks, and improve the labeling of “crosswalks” (where people cross the street) for safety. In very cold climates, cities might consider investing in “underground tunnels” (paths below the ground) for “foot traffic” (people who are walking). And where there is a lot of traffic, cities might need to invest in “pedestrian bridges” (paths built over a road for people to walk on to safely cross roads). Cities may also need to install additional lighting so that pedestrians feel safe even in the evening.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - b