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1004 Being Modest and Boastful

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1004 – Being Modest and Boastful.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1004. 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. Technically, it’s http://www.eslpod.com, just in case you were confused. What you shouldn’t be confused about is the Learning Guide. There is a Learning Guide for all of our current episodes, and you can get them by becoming a member of ESL Podcast on our website.

This episode is a dialogue between Hans and Freddie about being modest and boastful. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Hans: Well, I think the choice is clear. I think we should hire Clark.

Freddie: To me, the choice is clear, too, but I think that choice is Paul. Both Paul and Clark are qualified for the job, but Clark is a blowhard. He was too full of himself.

Hans: Clark may come off as a little overconfident, but he makes a good impression. He would make a much better rep than Paul. Paul was just too low-key and timid.

Freddie: Paul wasn’t timid at all. He was modest and self-deprecating, but he also had a quiet confidence. He wasn’t trying too hard to impress, like Clark was.

Hans: Clark is the kind of person who stands out in a room and gets noticed. That’s what we want in a rep trying to get new clients.

Freddie: I found Clark to be overbearing. Paul, on the other hand, had a way with him. He exuded confidence without having to resort to blowing his own horn.

Hans: I see we’re at loggerheads about this. What do you suggest?

Freddie: Let’s ask them both to lunch and ask Monique to join us. She’s done a lot of hiring and has good judgment.

Hans: You mean you want Monique to make the call so neither of us will be blamed for picking the wrong person.

Freddie: I always thought you were quick on the uptake.

[end of dialogue

Our dialogue begins with Hans saying to Freddie, “Well, I think the choice is clear” – I think the person we should pick is obvious. “I think we should hire Clark.” “To hire” (hire) means to give the job to someone. Hans thinks they should give the job to Clark. Hans is talking with Freddie. Normally, when you hear the name “Freddie” in English, you think of a boy or a man. “Fred” (Fred) is definitely a man’s name, but some women with names like Frederica might use – as a nickname, or short name – “Freddie,” and that’s the case here.

Freddie says, “To me, the choice is clear too, but I think that choice is Paul.” Freddie doesn’t agree with Hans. She says, “Both Paul and Clark are qualified for the job, but Clark is a blowhard.” A “blowhard” (blowhard) – one word – is someone who likes to talk a lot, but who’s very arrogant and who likes to, we would use the verb, “boast” (boast). “To boast” means to talk about how great you are, how wonderful you are.

Normally the word “blowhard” is an adjective used to describe someone who talks too much, and often in an arrogant way. It’s definitely an insulting term. You would never, ever, ever, ever, ever want to call your boss a blowhard, at least not when your boss is listening. Freddie thinks Clark is a blowhard. She says, “He was too full of himself.” “To be full of yourself” means to think that you are better than other people. It means that you think you are wonderful, great, better than the other people around you.

Hans says, “Clark may come off as a little overconfident, but he makes a good impression.” “To come off as” something means to give the impression of being a certain way – to do or say things that give people a certain idea about who you are. If someone “comes off as friendly,” he or she is acting in a way that makes you think that he or she is friendly. Hans says that Clark comes off as “a little overconfident.” The prefix “over-” (over) usually means too much. “Overconfident” would describe a person who thinks he’s better than he really is.

Hans, however, thinks Clark “makes a good impression,” meaning he is a good person perhaps to represent the company. He says, “He would make a much better rep than Paul.” A “rep” (rep) is a representative, often someone who is selling something for the company, selling services or products for the company. Your rep is often the same as your salesperson, but not always. Sometimes your rep in a company is merely the person who you contact if you have problems.

Hans says, “Paul is just too low-key and timid.” “To be low-key” (key) means to be calm, to be quiet, to be very relaxed – maybe a little too relaxed. “Timid” (timid) is someone who is shy, who doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence. To describe someone as “low-key” is not necessarily to criticize him or her. However, “timid” is definitely a more negative way of describing a person, especially someone in a business environment. You don’t want someone representing your company to be timid. You don’t want them to be shy. You don’t want them to show a lack of confidence.

Freddie disagrees. She says, “Paul wasn’t timid at all,” meaning he wasn’t timid even a little bit. “He was modest and self-deprecating,” but he also has “a quiet confidence.” “To be modest” (modest) means to be humble – not to talk about how great you are, or think that you are more important than everyone else. “Self (self) – deprecating (deprecating)” means critical of yourself, often in a funny way. Someone who is self-deprecating is someone who makes fun of himself, who doesn’t think that he is very important or more important than the people around him. We like people who are self-deprecating and modest, who don’t think that they are better than the rest of us.

Freddie says that Paul has a “quiet confidence.” The term “quiet (quiet) confidence” is used to describe someone who realizes they – he or she – has abilities, but doesn’t brag about it. If you say this woman has a quiet confidence, you mean she knows that she can do the job. She’s confident she can do the job, but she doesn’t brag about it. She doesn’t boast about it. “To brag” (brag) means the same as to boast – to tell people how important you are, how good you are at something.

Freddie says, “Paul wasn’t trying too hard to impress.” “To try too hard” at something means to be doing it too much. “To impress” (impress) means to try to get other people to think that you are good, to try to get other people to have a good opinion of you. Hans says that “Clark is the kind of person who stands out in a room and gets noticed.” If you “stand out,” you are someone who other people notice, other people see, especially in a good way.

We may talk about a “standout student,” using the expression “standout” as an adjective. A “standout student” would be a student who does better than any of the other students in the class. “To stand out” as a verb means to act in such a way that other people notice how good you are. Sometimes you can stand out in a bad way, I suppose. There’s an expression in English, “He stands out like a sore (sore) thumb.” “To stand out like a sore thumb” means to be very noticeable, but in a bad way.

Here, however, Hans is using it in a good way to describe Clark. He says, “That’s what we want in a rep to get new clients.” So, now we see the rep more as a salesman, because Hans wants the rep to get new clients. “Clients” (clients) are customers, usually customers that you have for some service you provide.

Freddie disagrees. Freddie says, “I found Clark to be overbearing.” Someone who is “overbearing” (overbearing) is someone who is perhaps a little bit too aggressive or too forceful in a situation. Someone who is “overbearing” would be someone who talks a lot and perhaps doesn’t let you talk, or gives their opinions a little bit too strongly in such a way that no one else really wants to talk with this person in the room.

Freddie says, “Paul, on the other hand, had a way with him.” This is an expression you might use when you’re not quite sure why you like someone, but you like the way they act. You like the things they do. Freddie says that Paul “exuded confidence without having to resort to blowing his own horn.” “To exude” (exude) means to display some quality or some emotion. “To exude confidence” means to show other people that you are confident.

“To resort to” something means to have to do something even though you don’t really want to, but you think it’s necessary in order to accomplish what you want to get done. “I don’t want to resort to violence.” That means I don’t want to have to use violence. We always use “to resort to” for actions that you don’t want to do, but you may think necessary.

Freddie says Paul doesn’t have to resort to “blowing his own horn.” “To blow (blow) your own horn (horn)” means to brag or to boast – to say good things about yourself. Hans and Freddie don’t agree. Hans says, “I see we’re at loggerheads about this.” “To be at loggerheads” (loggerheads) means to be in a disagreement in such a way that you don’t think you’re going to be able to solve the problem or to come to an agreement.

Hans asks Freddie what she suggest they do. Freddie says, “Let’s ask them both to lunch and ask Monique to join us.” Freddie’s idea is to have the two people come to lunch and have a third person from the company join them so that she can give her opinion. Freddie says, “Monique has done a lot of hiring and has good judgment.” “To have good judgment” means that you are good at deciding whether something is good or bad.

Freddie’s solution is to ask Monique to go with them to lunch and basically to have her make the decision. Hans understands what Freddie is doing here. He says, “You mean you want Monique to make the call so neither of us will be blamed for picking the wrong person.” “To make the call” means to make the decision, especially a difficult decision. Freddie is suggesting that Monique make the decision so that if it’s the wrong decision, Freddie and Hans won’t be blamed. That is, people won’t say it was their fault for hiring this person.

Freddie says, “I always thought you were quick on the uptake.” The phrase “to be quick on the uptake” (uptake) means to understand something very quickly, to be a fast learner. Freddie is saying that Hans has understood the reason for inviting Monique to lunch and making the decision for them very quickly. It is, of course, so that Freddie and Hans won’t get into trouble for making the wrong decision.

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

[start of dialogue]

Hans: Well, I think the choice is clear. I think we should hire Clark.

Freddie: To me, the choice is clear, too, but I think that choice is Paul. Both Paul and Clark are qualified for the job, but Clark is a blowhard. He was too full of himself.

Hans: Clark may come off as a little overconfident, but he makes a good impression. He would make a much better rep than Paul. Paul was just too low-key and timid.

Freddie: Paul wasn’t timid at all. He was modest and self-deprecating, but he also had a quiet confidence. He wasn’t trying too hard to impress, like Clark was.

Hans: Clark is the kind of person who stands out in a room and gets noticed. That’s what we want in a rep trying to get new clients.

Freddie: I found Clark to be overbearing. Paul, on the other hand, had a way with him. He exuded confidence without having to resort to blowing his own horn.

Hans: I see we’re at loggerheads about this. What do you suggest?

Freddie: Let’s ask them both to lunch and ask Monique to join us. She’s done a lot of hiring and has good judgment.

Hans: You mean you want Monique to make the call so neither of us will be blamed for picking the wrong person.

Freddie: I always thought you were quick on the uptake.

[end of dialogue]

Thanks to the always-modest 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. Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
blowhard – a person who boasts or brags in a rude, arrogant way

* James is a blowhard who thinks he should always be the center of attention.

full of (oneself) – very impressed by oneself and believing that one is better than others in some way

* Marcos is so full of himself! He thinks he’s smarter than all of us combined.

to come off as – to give the impression of being a certain way; to do or say things that give other people a certain perception of oneself, possibly unknowingly

* Heather comes off as very energetic, but really she just has a habit of talking quickly.

overconfident – believing that one is better than one actually is, especially that one’s skills are better than they actually are.

* Shane was overconfident when the competition started and didn’t try as hard as he should have, so he ended up losing.

low-key – calm, quiet, and restrained; not highly excitable, tense, or forceful

* They wanted their wedding to be a low-key event, but their parents kept doing things to make the ceremony more elaborate.

timid – shy; tentative; showing a lack of confidence or bravery

* Randall is very intelligent, but he’s too timid to speak up in class.

modest – humble; underestimating one’s abilities or the importance of one’s achievements, or at least acting as if one has not done anything special

* Linus is too modest. If you hadn’t told me, I never would have known that he won a prestigious scholarship.

self-deprecating – critical of oneself in a funny way

* A lot of comics use self-deprecating humor, sharing funny stories about silly or foolish things they have done.

quiet confidence – aware of one’s abilities to do things well, but not bragging about it to others, because one believes in oneself and doesn’t need to be the center of attention

* In an ideal world, the employees with quiet confidence would be rewarded for their work, but unfortunately, only the loudest employees are recognized for their efforts.

to impress – to do or say things to make others notice oneself and think good things about oneself

* We’re all impressed by the new hire’s ability to learn new skills very quickly.

to stand out – to be noticed for doing something better than others or for being different than others, especially in a good way

* Each year, one or two students stand out from their classmates.

overbearing – too strong or forceful, having too much influence over a situation or over others

* Hannah’s mother-in-law used to seem so nice, but she became very overbearing as soon as they had kids.

to have a way with (one) – to be very good at something, but in an undefined way; to give a very good impression

* She just has a way with her, making others feel comfortable around her.

to exude – to emit; to display some quality or emotion; to produce something so that it flows from oneself

* Helena was exuding happiness when she announced that she was pregnant.

to resort to (doing something) – to be forced to do something that is undesirable, because no other options remain

* Would you resort to stealing to feed your hungry children?

to blow (one’s) own horn – to brag or boast; to say good things about oneself or what one can do

* Camilo loves to blow his own horn and tell everyone how important he is, but most people just think it’s annoying.

at loggerheads – in a disagreement or in an argument without an easy resolution; in a dispute with someone

* They’ve been at loggerheads over the expansion for months now.

to make the call – to make an important decision, especially when not everyone agrees

* The CEO listens to advice, but in the end, she has to make the call.

quick on the uptake – understanding something very quickly; a fast learner

* Normally we have to train new customer service representatives for at least two weeks, but Mureet is really quick on the uptake and only needed three days of training.

Comprehension Questions
1. According to Hans, which candidate seems the shyest?
a) Clark.
b) Paul.
c) Monique.

2. What does Hans mean when he says, “Clark is the kind of person who stands out in a room and gets noticed”?
a) Clark is extremely tall.
b) Clark has very good posture.
c) Clark attracts attention easily.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to come off as

The phrase “to come off as,” in this podcast, means to give the impression of being a certain way, or to do or say things that give other people a certain perception of oneself, possibly unknowingly: “James tries to be funny, but he comes off as immature.” The phrase “to come by (something)” means to obtain something that is rare or difficult to get: “How did you come by front-row seats for the concert?” The phrase “to come down with (something)” means to get sick: “Shane came down with a cold last week and wasn’t able to make the presentation.” Finally, the phrase “to come down on (someone)” means to criticize someone harshly: “Yes, she made a mistake, but you didn’t have to come down on her so hard.”

to make the call

In this podcast, the phrase “to make the call” means to make an important decision, especially when not everyone agrees: “Who makes the call regarding whether or not schools stay open when there’s a snowstorm?” The phrase “to make a good/bad call” means to make a good/bad decision: “I wish we hadn’t bought that house. It was a bad call.” The phrase “to be on call” means to have to work if/when one is needed: “Caroline doesn’t have to go to the office today, but she’s on call in case there are any emergencies at work.” Finally, the phrase “the call of nature” is a funny way to talk about needing to urinate or pee: “Answering the call of nature is so much easier for men than for women, because they can pee anywhere.”

Culture Note
Résumé Padding and Résumé Inflation

When applying for a job, many people are “tempted” (made to want to do something one should not do) to “pad” their résumé, making their “qualifications” (the training, experience, and education that prepares one to do something) seem more impressive than they actually are. The act of “résumé padding,” also known as “résumé inflation,” may take a more “benign” (not too harmful) form of “exaggerating” (making something bigger or more extreme that it really is) one’s qualifications, such as stating one increased sales by 20% instead of 10%, or it may take a more “severe” (more extreme, especially in a bad way) form such as listing a “degree” (diploma; certificate earned from an educational institution) that one never actually earned.

Résumé inflation “made headlines” (was an important news story) in early 2012 when it was discovered that several of Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson’s “bios” (biographies; brief summaries of one’s experience) stated that he a degree in accounting and in computer science, but “in fact” (truthfully; in reality) he had only one degree, in accounting. He lost his job as a result of the “scandal” (a negative occurrence that shocks people in a bad way and generates a lot of public interest). Thompson was criticized for lying about his qualifications, and Yahoo! was criticized for not having performed “due diligence” (appropriate research before making a major decision) when hiring a CEO.

Most “HR” (human resources; the job function related to hiring and maintaining relationships with employees) professionals have learned to expect a certain amount of résumé padding. But they also have to “guard against” (protect themselves against) it by “verifying” (determining whether something is true) basic information on applications and “checking references” (speaking with people who have worked or studied with the applicant in the past).

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c