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0993 Doing Spring Cleaning

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 993 – Doing Spring Cleaning.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 993. I’m your host, Dr Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod, and follow us on Twitter at @eslpod.

This episode is a dialogue about cleaning the house. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Malcolm: Do we really need to start doing spring cleaning today?

Lorna: We really should. The drapes need to be washed, the walls need to be wiped down, and the attic needs cleaning out. And we really should clean the upholstery on the sofa and dining chairs.

Malcolm: That’s a lot of work for two people.

Lorna: And I haven’t even mentioned what needs to be done in the kitchen. We need to defrost the freezer, clean the oven, clean out the cabinets, and scrub the floors.

Malcolm: I’m not sure I have the energy for all that.

Lorna: We also need to wash the windows, window screens, and windowsills, steam clean the carpets, and sweep out the garage.

Malcolm: If we hope to do all of that this weekend, then I think we need reinforcements.

Lorna: What do you have in mind?

Malcolm: I’m not the high school football coach for nothing.

Lorna: You mean . . .?

Malcolm: I think the guys need an extra-hard workout this weekend.

[end of dialogue]

We begin this episode with Malcolm asking Lorna, “Do we really need to start doing spring cleaning today?” “Spring cleaning” is something that Americans traditionally do in the springtime. It means to clean your entire house – to give a very thorough, detailed, if you will, cleaning of your house and organizing of things before summertime, I guess. We tend to do it in the spring – at least, that is what has traditionally been the case – but really the expression refers to a very thorough cleaning and organization of your house.

Malcolm wants to know if they have to start doing spring cleaning today, and Lorna says, “We really should” – we really ought to. “The drapes need to be washed, the walls need to be wiped down, and the attic needs cleaning out.” The “drapes” (drapes) are the coverings, that are typically made of cloth, that cover your windows. You can have a lot of different things that cover your windows. You could have shades, you could have blinds, or you could have drapes. Drapes are made of cloth, usually – a thick material that hangs down and covers the window when you want it covered.

“To wipe down” something is to clean it, usually by using a paper towel or a cloth that is wet. You take the cloth or the towel and you move it in an up-and-down direction in order to clean something. In this case, we’re wiping down the walls, which are probably dirty.

Finally, Lorna mentions the attic that needs cleaning out. The “attic” (attic) is located at the very top of a house, immediately below the roof. Not all houses have attics. If your roof is flat, you don’t have an attic. But if your roof comes to a point, then you typically will have some space between the wall and the top of the house, whatever floor that is.

If you have a two-story house, a two-level house, there’ll be space between the ceiling of the second floor and the top of the roof. That space is called an “attic” and is typically used for storage, for keeping things – boxes and other things – that you don’t need to have out to use, but want to keep. In some big houses, the attic is actually finished off – that is, walls are put up so that you can actually sleep there. In my house that I grew up in as a child, our attic was finished, which meant that you could go up there and sleep – and indeed, that’s where four of my brothers slept when I was growing up, and I eventually slept there when I got older.

But enough about me – back to Malcolm and Lorna and the attic that needs cleaning out. “To clean out” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to clean completely. The “out” is used mostly for emphasis here to indicate that you are doing something very thoroughly. “I need to clean out my desk.” I need to get everything out of my desk. That actually is a phrase that you might hear if you are fired. You may tell someone to clean out their desk, meaning take all of your things with you because you don’t work here anymore. Here we’re just talking about cleaning out the attic in the house.

Lorna continues, “And we really should clean the upholstery on the sofa and dining chairs.” “Upholstery” (upholstery) is the cloth that covers the chair or the couch or some place where you sit. You have upholstery in your car, for example, over the seats that you sit on. You have upholstery on a sofa or a couch. You have upholstery, typically, on nice chairs. If the chair is made of wood and there is no cushion on it, then it doesn’t have any upholstery, typically. But if there is a cushion that makes it soft and nice to sit on, then usually that will have upholstery on it – that chair will have upholstery.

Malcolm, who obviously doesn’t want to work very hard, says, “That’s a lot of work for two people.” Lorna continues, “And I haven’t even mentioned” – I haven’t even said anything about – “what needs to be done in the kitchen. We need to defrost the freezer, clean the oven, clean out the cabinets, and scrub the floors.” “To defrost (defrost) a freezer (freezer)” is to turn the freezer off and let all of the ice – if there is ice inside of the freezer – melt in order to clean it out thoroughly.

A “freezer” is a place where you put food that you want to keep frozen – below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. “To defrost” means to clean out all the ice. And the old freezers – and I don’t think this is as common anymore – you used to have to defrost your freezer every few months or so if you wanted to clean it, because it would collect all sorts of ice inside of the freezer. At least, when I was growing up, that was the case with the freezer we had.

“Cabinets” (cabinets) are also called “cupboards” (cupboards). They’re basically wooden boxes with a door on them that are in your kitchen or other parts of your house where you keep things. “Kitchen cabinets” usually have dishes and pans and probably some food in them. Lorna is talking about cleaning out the cabinets – taking everything out of them and cleaning them. She also mentions “scrubbing the floors.” “To scrub” (scrub) usually means to rub something very hard in order to clean it – to move a cloth or perhaps some other instrument in order to clean something that is dirty and that requires that you use some physical force to get it clean.

Malcolm, again, seems to question whether he really has the strength to do this. He says, “I’m not sure I have the energy for all that.” But Lorna continues, “We also need to wash the windows, window screens and windowsills, steam the carpets, and sweep out the garage.” The “window screens” (screens) are basically thin pieces of wire or plastic that are put up in your window to allow you to open the window without having insects and other things from the outside come inside your house. So you open up, say, your glass window, but you don’t want bugs or mosquitoes or something to fly into your house, so you put up a metal screen that allows the air to come in and out, but nothing else.

Lorna says they have to wash the “window screens and windowsills” (windowsills). A “windowsill” is a flat piece of wood at the bottom of the window. It’s sort of the bottom part of the window. Lorna mentions “steam cleaning the carpets.” “To steam (steam) clean the carpets” is to use a machine that cleans the carpets or other cloth furniture that you have using water vapor, which is what steam is. If you take water and you heat it up, you will create water vapor, or steam. These are machines that used to be popular – I’m sure you can still find them today; they’re still used today – that clean carpets quickly and thoroughly by using hot steam as part of the process.

Lorna also mentions sweeping out the garage. “To sweep” (sweep) is to use a broom in order to push dust and dirt on the floor into something called a “dustpan” in order to clean the floor. The use of the word “out” here is once again mostly for emphasis. “To sweep out” means to clean and sweep very thoroughly.

Malcolm says, “If we hope to do all of that this weekend, then I think we need reinforcements.” “Reinforcements” here refers to other people who can help you. Normally, we use that term in the military when we’re talking about fighting a war and you need more soldiers, you need more troops. You bring in new men and women to help you fight. Those would be reinforcements. Here, Malcolm is using it sort of as a joke. He’s not actually talking about fighting a war. He’s talking about doing the cleaning.

Lorna says, “What do you have in mind?” Malcolm says, “I’m not the high school football coach for nothing.” We use an expression such as this, “I’m not a high school football coach for nothing,” to indicate that there is some benefit to this situation – some additional benefit, in this case, to the situation. What Malcolm is suggesting is that, because he is the coach of the local high school football team, he can get the boys from the football team to come over and help do the spring cleaning.

Lorna says, “You mean . . .?” Malcolm then replies, “I think the guys need an extra-hard workout this weekend.” A “workout” (workout) is a period of time when you exercise, which for me is usually never. What Malcolm is saying here is that he’s going to bring the members of the football team into his house to help him clean it.

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

[start of dialogue]

Malcolm: Do we really need to start doing spring cleaning today?

Lorna: We really should. The drapes need to be washed, the walls need to be wiped down, and the attic needs cleaning out. And we really should clean the upholstery on the sofa and dining chairs.

Malcolm: That’s a lot of work for two people.

Lorna: And I haven’t even mentioned what needs to be done in the kitchen. We need to defrost the freezer, clean the oven, clean out the cabinets, and scrub the floors.

Malcolm: I’m not sure I have the energy for all that.

Lorna: We also need to wash the windows, window screens, and windowsills, steam clean the carpets, and sweep out the garage.

Malcolm: If we hope to do all of that this weekend, then I think we need reinforcements.

Lorna: What do you have in mind?

Malcolm: I’m not the high school football coach for nothing.

Lorna: You mean . . .?

Malcolm: I think the guys need an extra-hard workout this weekend.

[end of dialogue]

I’d like to thank our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, for her wonderful scripts.

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
spring cleaning – in-depth, detailed cleaning and organization of an entire home, traditionally performed each spring

* This year, Melissa wants to do her spring cleaning with all-natural products and no chemical cleaners.

drapes – window coverings made out of cloth, used to block light and to provide privacy

* Thick drapes can improve the energy efficiency of your home, because less heat will escape through the windows.

to wipe down – to move a cloth or paper towel over a surface to clean it

* Quick! Wipe down the counters before our guests arrive.

attic – the top section of a home, immediately below the roof, often used for storage

* The attic is filled with boxes of family photos and baby clothes.

to clean out – to organize a space by getting rid of everything that isn’t needed and placing the remaining items so that there is some logic to how they are stored

* We need to clean out the garage so that we can park the car inside.

upholstery – cloth that is permanently attached to cover a seat

* Kaiden often eats in the car, so a lot of the upholstery is stained.

to defrost the freezer – to remove the ice from the inside of a freezer (the coldest part of a refrigerator)

* Where can we put the frozen meat and ice cream while we’re defrosting the freezer?

cabinet – a cupboard; a wooden box with a door in front and shelves inside, used to store items, especially in a kitchen or bathroom

* The rice is in the cabinet to the right of the stove.

to scrub – to clean something by rubbing it very hard and repeatedly, usually with a sponge or a cloth

* Turn on the fan while you’re scrubbing the bathtub so that the chemicals don’t make you sick.

window screen – a flat surface made of many vertical and horizontal thin pieces of wire or plastic, placed over a window and used to keep insects out, but let air and light through

* The window screen isn’t strong enough to protect children from falling out of the apartment window, so make sure you install some metal bars for safety.

windowsill – the flat piece of wood at the bottom of a window

* That plant would grow a lot better if you put it on the windowsill where it could get more light.

to steam clean – to use a machine that cleans carpets or cloth furniture with the use of steam (water vapor)

* If we steam clean the carpets, do you think it will get rid of the smell of the dogs?

to sweep out – to use a broom on the floor to push all the dirt out of a room

* Please shake out the rugs before you sweep out the laundry room.

reinforcement – backup; someone who can come to provide additional support and assistance

* When the police officers realized that the men had guns, they called for reinforcements.

to not be the (something) for nothing – a phrase meaning that something has purpose and meaning and can provide some benefit in a particular situation

* Of course the surgery will be successful! They don’t call him the king of plastic surgery for nothing.


coach – trainer; a person who assists an athlete or a sports team to perform as well as possible

* The coach wants all the soccer players to run at least 10 miles per week outside of practice.

workout – an exercise session; a period of time when one engages in intense physical activity to maintain or improve one’s health

* Cardiovascular workouts are important, but don’t forget to also lift weights.

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these things cover windows?
a) Drapes.
b) Upholstery.
c) Cabinets.

2. What does Malcolm mean when he says, “I think we need reinforcements”?
a) He thinks they need more time.
b) He thinks they need the help of other people.
c) He thinks they need to pay professional cleaners.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to wipe down

The phrase “to wipe down,” in this podcast, means to move a cloth or paper towel over a surface to clean it: “Wiping down the table can make it look cleaner, but it doesn’t disinfect it.” The phrase “to wipe (something) up” means to use a cloth or paper towel to pick up a liquid: “If something spills, please wipe it up before it dries and becomes harder to clean.” The phrase “to wipe (someone) out” means to make someone feel very tired: “A 10-mile run would wipe me out!” Finally, the phrase “to wipe (something) away” means to make something disappear or no longer exist: “If people continue to cut down the forests, they’ll wipe these animals away forever.”

to scrub

In this podcast, the verb “to scrub” means to clean something by rubbing it very hard and repeatedly, usually with a sponge or a cloth: “No matter how much I scrub this pot, I can’t get rid of that burnt soup.” A “scrub brush” is a sponge or a similar tool with a rough edge used to remove dried food or other substances from dishes or pots: “Are you sure this scrub brush won’t scratch the wine glasses?” When talking about cosmetics, a “facial scrub” or a “body scrub” is a product that cleans the skin while removing dirt and dead skin cells: “This facial scrub is supposed to make you look 10 years younger.” Finally, “scrubs” are the loose clothing worn by medical professionals: “The pediatrician often wears scrubs with cartoon characters that her young patients like.”

Culture Note
Types of Cleaning Professionals

Many people “earn a living” (make money) by cleaning other people’s homes and businesses. The people who clean “commercial buildings” (buildings used for business, not homes) are often called “janitors” or “custodians.” A “school janitor” is responsible for cleaning classrooms, hallways, and bathrooms after the students have left for the day. The term “custodian” is often considered more polite, but it has the same meaning. A custodian cleans a school or office buildings after the other workers “have left for the day” (have gone home after a day of work).

A “housecleaner” is someone who cleans other people’s homes. Most housecleaners come into a home every week or every other week and perform basic cleaning services. Some housecleaners might “assist” (help) with laundry, too, but this would be “beyond the scope of” (more than) what most house cleaners do. Sometimes housecleaners work in “pairs” (groups of two) or small teams, especially when they work for an “agency” (a company that matches housecleaners with homeowners who need help). The homeowner usually provides the “cleaning supplies” (chemicals and tools used for cleaning) and detailed instructions regarding how the home should be cleaned.

Very wealthy “households” (homes and the people living in them) might “employ” (give a job to) a part- or full-time “maid,” or a woman who cleans the home. A maid typically works for only one family in one house and provides services that other types of housecleaners wouldn’t be expected to do. For example, a maid might also be responsible for purchasing cleaning supplies and/or groceries, or possibly even assist with childcare.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - b