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0995 Proper Behavior at a Formal Event

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 995 – Proper Behavior at a Formal Event.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 995. 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 and become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. You can also like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod.

On this episode, we’re going to talk about how you should act – how you should behave – at a formal event. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Rodney: Ha-ha! Did you hear what I said? Funny, right?

Samantha: Behave yourself! This is a serious and solemn occasion, not a time for levity.

Rodney: Loosen up. We have to endure two hours of this ceremony.

Samantha: It’s indecent the way you’re behaving. Don’t you have any sense of decorum?

Rodney: Lighten up. You’re such a stick-in-the-mud. There’s nothing unseemly about cracking a few jokes when everybody here is taking themselves too seriously.

Samantha: Your problem is that you have no sense of dignity. Don’t you realize that your stupid jokes cheapen the occasion? You’re a disgrace.

Rodney: Don’t get all huffy. All right, if you won’t join in, I’ll try to be serious.

Samantha: That’s better.

Rodney: I would seriously like a drink. Bartender!

Samantha: [Groans]

[end of dialogue]

Rodney begins our dialogue by laughing, which we normally write as “Ha (ha) – ha (ha).” Rodney says, “Did you hear what I said? Funny, right?” meaning “Am I not right? Wasn’t it funny?” Samantha is not happy. She says to Rodney, “Behave yourself.” When you tell someone to “behave” (behave) himself or herself, you’re telling them to act in a way that would not bother other people, to act in a way that is what we would call “socially acceptable.” So if you’re at a funeral, you’re not going to be going around laughing. If you’re at a wedding, you’re not going to go around crying. Those are not socially acceptable behaviors in those situations.

You may also say this to a young child who is yelling or doing something that he shouldn’t be doing. You may say the child, “Behave yourself.” My mother used to say that to me a lot. Samantha continues, “This is a serious and solemn occasion, not a time for levity.” “Solemn” (solemn) means serious, respectful – something that would describe a formal occasion about something that was very serious. Samantha says, “This is not a time for levity” (levity). “Levity” is the opposite of solemn. “Levity” is related to humor, of making jokes about things.

Rodney doesn’t agree with Samantha. He says, “Loosen up.” This phrase “loosen (loosen) up” means be relaxed. Don’t be so serious. He says, “We have to endure two hours of this ceremony. “To endure” (endure) means to tolerate or put up with something that is difficult or unpleasant – to suffer through something patiently. You can endure a difficult time in your life. You could endure watching a terrible movie for two hours with your wife because you love her and you told her that you would go and watch the movie with her – just an example. Rodney is talking about having to endure two hours of this ceremony. We’re not quite sure what the ceremony is for.

Samantha says, “It’s indecent the way you’re behaving.” “Indecent” (indecent) is the opposite of “decent.” “Decent” would be proper, correct – something that is socially acceptable. “Indecent” would be something that is not correct, not appropriate for the situation. “Indecent” also has the meaning of being perhaps sexually inappropriate in a situation. Maybe telling jokes, for example, that are not appropriate.

Samantha says, “Don’t you have any sense of decorum?” “Decorum” (decorum) refers to behavior that is considered socially acceptable, especially in formal situations, in formal circumstances. Samantha is asking Rodney if he has any sense of decorum, meaning does he really even understand what it means to behave properly in a situation such as this. Once again, Rodney disagrees with Samantha’s opinion. He says to her something similar that he said just a minute ago, “Lighten up.” “Lighten up” is the same as “loosen up.” It means, again, to stop being so serious, stop being so sad, perhaps.

He says, “You’re such a stick-in-the-mud.” The phrase “stick-in-the-mud” refers to someone who isn’t very adventurous, someone who is dull, someone who is boring. Rodney continues, “There’s nothing unseemly about cracking a few jokes when everybody here is taking themselves too seriously.” “Unseemly” (unseemly) again refers to behavior that is not appropriate for a certain setting, a certain situation, especially a formal one. Rodney says that he’s “cracking a few jokes.” “To crack (crack) a joke” is to tell a joke, to say something that is funny.

Rodney says, “Everybody here,” wherever they are, “is taking themselves too seriously.” “To take yourself too seriously” is to worry too much about how you appear to other people and to think that what you say and what you think are very important to everyone else. “To take yourself too seriously” is to think that you are more important to other people than you really are. Samantha says, “Your problem is that you have no sense of dignity.” Samantha is once again criticizing Rodney, saying he has no sense of “dignity” (dignity). “Dignity” refers to having a serious manner, causing other people to look at you with respect.

She continues, “Don’t you realize that your stupid jokes cheapen the occasion? You’re a disgrace.” “To cheapen” (cheapen) is to lower the quality of something, to cause something to be seen as worse than it really is. “To cheapen the occasion” would be to take a formal or serious situation and make it less serious, but also less respected. Samantha says to Rodney, “You’re a disgrace.” If you call someone a “disgrace” (disgrace), you’re saying that they are very bad because they have done something bad or unacceptable and you no longer respect them. You no longer think well of them.

Rodney isn’t all that interested in Samantha’s opinion. He says, “Don’t get all huffy.” “To be huffy” (huffy) is to be annoyed, to be bothered, to be irritated. We would describe someone is being “huffy,” or “in a huff,” when we don’t think they have a good reason to be angry and upset. It’s a criticism of someone to say something like, “Don’t get all huffy.” “Alright,” Rodney says, “if you won’t join in, I’ll try to be serious,” meaning if you don’t want to have fun with me, I’ll try to be serious. Samantha says, “That’s better.” She’s happy. Then Rodney says, “I would seriously like a drink. Bartender!”

And then Samantha “groans” – she makes a sound that indicates that she’s really unhappy. Rodney says he’s going to be serious, but then he makes a joke and says, “I would seriously like a drink.” Here, he’s using the word “serious” to mean very much, or really. He’s not being serious in the sense of being solemn or respectful. He’s using the adverb “seriously” to mean really. Then he calls for the bartender, which is the person whose job it is to mix and serve you alcoholic drinks at a bar, or perhaps at some formal reception or ceremony where they have alcohol.

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

[start of dialogue]

Rodney: Ha-ha! Did you hear what I said? Funny, right?

Samantha: Behave yourself! This is a serious and solemn occasion, not a time for levity.

Rodney: Loosen up. We have to endure two hours of this ceremony.

Samantha: It’s indecent the way you’re behaving. Don’t you have any sense of decorum?

Rodney: Lighten up. You’re such a stick-in-the-mud. There’s nothing unseemly about cracking a few jokes when everybody here is taking themselves too seriously.

Samantha: Your problem is that you have no sense of dignity. Don’t you realize that your stupid jokes cheapen the occasion? You’re a disgrace.

Rodney: Don’t get all huffy. All right, if you won’t join in, I’ll try to be serious.

Samantha: That’s better.

Rodney: I would seriously like a drink. Bartender!

Samantha: [Groans]

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter is no stick-in-the-mud. She’s the wonderful, witty 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 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to behave (oneself) – to act in such a way that is socially acceptable, not doing anything that would offend or bother other people

* Although Christina is only two-years-old, she always behaves herself at church.

solemn – formal and with the proper level of seriousness and respect

* The funeral was solemn, with many people attending to show their respect for Uncle Luis.

levity – humor; treating a serious matter in a humorous way, without showing the proper respect

* It’s not appropriate to attempt levity in the middle of an important business negotiation.

to loosen up – to become relaxed; to become less serious and anxious

* Try to loosen up before your job interview so you won’t sweat so much.

to endure – to tolerate something that is unpleasant or painful; to suffer with patience

* Josephina endured a bad marriage for 15 years so that her children could grow up with both parents in the home.

indecent – not proper; action or behavior that is not socially acceptable and that causes offense and shock in other people

* Wearing a dress that shows that much skin is indecent, even if you’re going to a party.

decorum – behavior that is considered good taste and socially acceptable, especially during formal or serious occasions

* We welcomed the new company president at a reception with decorum and good taste.

to lighten up – to stop being sad or serious; to become more cheerful

* Global warming is a serious issue, but let’s lighten up and talk about something else while we’re at lunch.

stick-in-the-mud – dull and not adventurous, not liking or wanting change

* Bob is such a stick-in-the-mud. He only wants to go see movies on the weekend and never wants to go to a dance club.

unseemly – behavior that is not proper or appropriate in a specific situation or setting

* That couple hasn’t stopped kissing since they arrived, and it’s unseemly in the middle of a fancy restaurant.

to crack a joke – to say something humorous to make others laugh; to make a funny statement

* The speaker cracked a few jokes during his speech to make it more interesting to the audience.

to take (oneself) too seriously – to worry too much about oneself and how one appears to other people, believing that one’s opinions and actions are very important

* Sean takes himself too seriously, writing down every idea he has and presenting them to others as though they’re the best ideas in the world.

dignity – with a serious manner or style, causing others to view one with respect

* When Sally heard about the new budget cuts, she didn’t wait to be fired, but resigned her job with dignity.

to cheapen – to lower the character or quality of something; to cause something to be seen as worse than it is

* That is a nice suit. Don’t cheapen it by wearing those worn out shoes.

disgrace – having done something bad or unacceptable that causes others to lose respect for one

* Nicola was caught stealing from the school and left her job in disgrace.

huffy – annoyed; bothered; irritated

* Don’t get huffy just because I finished the milk and forgot to buy more.

seriously – very much; greatly

* The music is too loud and I have a headache. I would seriously like to leave now.

bartender – a person whose job is to mix and serve drinks, especially alcoholic drinks, at a bar

* We ordered two beers and a glass of white wine from the bartender.

Comprehension Questions
1. Samantha would like Rodney to
a) Be more serious.
b) Get her a drink.
c) Tell her a few jokes.

2. If you’re feeling huffy, you’re
a) Happy.
b) Angry.
c) Hungry.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to loosen up

The phrase “to loosen up,” in this podcast, means to become relaxed or to become less serious and anxious: “Ariana was nervous about attend a party by herself, but she loosen up when she started dancing.” “To loosen” means to make something less tight, less restraining: “Can you help me loosen this shoelace so I can take this shoe off?” “To loosen (one’s) grip” means to stop holding something tightly: “The boy was able to escape the villain when he loosened his grip on the boy’s arm.” Finally, “to loosen (someone’s) tongue” means to cause someone to speak freely: “Evan was the only criminal caught in the robbery, but the police could not loosen his tongue to get him to tell them who the other robbers were.”

to cheapen

In this podcast, “to cheapen” means to lower the character or quality of something or to cause something to be seen as worse than it is: “Let’s not cheapen our gift by wrapping it in newspaper.” Something that is “cheap” is inexpensive, either not costing very much money or is of poor quality: “These shoes are on sale and very cheap, so let’s buy three pairs.” Or, “These sunglasses are so cheap that the first time I dropped them on the floor, they broke.” You can describe something as “dirt cheap” if it is very inexpensive: “These older cell phones are dirt cheap, because most people prefer newer models.”

Culture Note
The Chief of Protocol of the United States

When dealing with other countries, the United States must make sure that it is following “protocol” (official rules and procedures). That is the job of the Chief of Protocol of the United States, who “advises” (gives guidance to) all government officials dealing with other countries, including the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and the President of the United states.

To help the Chief of Protocol do his or her job, the department is divided into several “divisions” (parts; sections). The “visits” division is in charge of arranging the “itineraries” (scheduled route or stops) of “foreign dignitaries” (high-level officials from other countries) that visit the United States.

The “ceremonials” division organizes the events and “ceremonies” (official events) that take place. These events include the signing of “treaties” (official agreements between countries) and “swearing-in ceremonies” (official ceremony welcoming someone to a high-level job) for “ambassadors” (top-level officials and a country’s representatives in another country).

The “diplomatic partnerships” division helps to establish cultural exchanges and “goodwill” (positive feelings and opinions) between nations. This division helps plan and promote opportunities for the U.S. and other countries to exchange ideas and share cultural information and traditions.

Finally, the other divisions are in charge of managing the “staff” (people who work within an organization or business) of the Chief of Protocol’s office and to help “house” (provide a place to sleep and rest) for visiting officials.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - b