Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

1150 Avoiding Topics in Conversation

访问量:
Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,150 – Avoiding Topics in Conversation.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,150. 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. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. You can also like us on Facebook. Go to facebook.com/eslpod.

This episode is a dialogue between Lila and George about not talking about certain things. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Lila: Why aren’t you dating? I have so many friends who would love to go out with you.

George: Let’s change the subject. Talking about my love life isn’t very interesting.

Lila: But really, you’re not getting any younger and . . .

George: Moving on! Have you seen any good movies lately?

Lila: Listen, all of your friends are settling down and you don’t want to go through life alone and lonely . . .

George: That reminds me, didn’t you say that you were going to get another dog so that Rover isn’t lonely when you’re not home?

Lila: Forget about my dog. You remember Rachel, don’t you? She just broke up with her boyfriend and she’d be perfect for you.

George: Speaking of Rachel, how is her mother? Wasn’t she in the hospital?

Lila: If Rachel isn’t your type, how about Amina? She has great legs and I know you’re a leg man.

George: And now for something completely different . . . How is your diet coming along? Have you lost any weight yet?

Lila: I don’t really want to talk about my weight.

George: But I think you’re having trouble shedding those pounds, right? I have lots of suggestions on what you can do.

Lila: Anyway, as I said before, I don’t really want to talk about my diet . . .

George: You need to cut out sweets if you want to lose weight. Are you eating too many sweets?

Lila: That’s none of your business!

George: My sentiments exactly!

[end of dialogue]

Lila begins by asking George, “Why aren’t you dating?” “To date” (date) means to be involved in a romantic relationship but not yet married – so, to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Lila wants to know why George isn’t dating. “I have so many friends who would love to go out with you,” Lila says. “To go out with” means to go on a romantic date with someone.

Notice the word “date,” as a noun, means a romantic evening or afternoon with someone, spending time with someone, going to a movie or going to dinner. Those could be “dates.” You might consider a date a romantic appointment – an appointment with someone who you are romantically interested in. “To go out with” someone means to be dating someone. It could also mean simply to go out on a date with someone.

George says, “Let’s change the subject.” “To change the subject” (subject) means to stop talking about one thing and begin talking about something else, especially when you don’t want to talk about the first topic. If someone starts talking to you about his financial problems or his health problems and you don’t want to hear about it anymore, you may say, “Well, let’s change the subject.” You have to be careful, of course. You could insult someone. You could be rude to someone by saying that out loud. You might just want to change the subject on your own without actually announcing that.

But George does announce it. He says, “Let’s change the subject. Talking about my love life isn’t very interesting.” Lila says, “But really, you are not getting any younger and . . .” That expression “you’re not getting any younger” would be used in a case where the person is telling someone that he or she may soon be too old to do something, especially in the case of one’s love life. You may say that to someone who you think is getting too old to get married.

You may also say it about, for example, doing a lot of traveling. If you think that your health will be bad as you get older – and usually it is – you might say, “Well we’re not getting any younger. Let’s take that trip walking across Europe from Spain to Poland.” I don’t know – whatever thing that would involve your health that might not be possible in the future. Lila says, “You’re not getting any younger” to George.

George, however, is trying to change the subject. He says, “Moving on . . .” “Moving on” is a phrase to indicate that you want to stop talking about this topic and to talk about something else. George says, “Have you seen any good movies lately?” He’s trying to change the topic of conversation by talking about movies. But Lila doesn’t want to change the topic.

She says, “Listen, all of my friends are settling down and you don’t want to go through life alone and lonely.” “To settle (settle) down” is a two-word phrasal verb that usually means to get married, to find a home, and to start a family. That would normally be the definition of “to settle down.” If a father says to his son, “You need to settle down,” the father is usually referring to the fact that the son needs to get married, to buy a house, and to start a family – or at the very least, to move out of his house.

Lila says that she doesn’t want George “to go through life” – that is, to live the rest of his life – “alone and lonely.” “To be alone” (alone) is to be by yourself, without anyone else. “To be lonely” means to feel sad because you are by yourself or don’t have any close personal relationships.

You can be “alone” without being lonely. You can be by yourself in your house, for example, and not be lonely. You can be “lonely” and not be alone. If you are with someone but you don’t feel close to that person, you could still feel lonely even though you’re not alone, at least in the physical sense. There’s someone else with you. Lila is afraid George will be alone and lonely.

George again tries to change the conversation, or the topic of the conversation. He says, “That reminds me, didn’t you say that you were going to get another dog so that Rover isn’t lonely when you’re not home?” “That reminds me” is a phrase we use, once again, to suddenly change topics. Although it could be that you have suddenly thought of something – you’ve been reminded of something that you want to tell the other person. Here, however, it’s used by George to try to change the subject of the conversation again.

He asks Leila question about her dog. Again, Lila isn’t interested in changing the topic. She says, “Forget about my dog. You remember Rachel, don’t you? She just broke up with her boyfriend.” “To break up with” someone is to end a romantic relationship with someone. Usually we use that when we’re talking about ending a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, not a marriage. If you are ending your marriage, you would probably say you’re getting divorced or separated. Lila thinks that her friend Rachel would be perfect for George.

George says, “Speaking of Rachel, how is her mother? Wasn’t she in the hospital?” Notice again George is trying to change the subject. “Speaking of” is an expression we used to introduce a topic that is related to what the other person said but isn’t exactly the same. You may be talking about, say, going to Paris for a vacation, and someone may have just read a book about Paris. He could say to you, “Speaking of Paris, I just read this wonderful book about Paris.”

George tries to change the subject and talk about Rachel’s mother. Lila says, “If Rachel isn’t your type, how about Amina?” “Type” (type) here means the kind of person to whom you are romantically attracted, the kind of person in whom you are interested in. “What about Amina?” Lila says. “She has great legs and I know you’re a leg man.” The expression “leg man” is an informal one referring to a man who might be attracted to women who have long, beautiful legs.

George says, “And now for something completely different . . . How is your diet coming along? Have you lost any weight yet?” Here, George is getting impatient with Lila. He’s starting to get perhaps even a little angry. However, he uses the phrase “And now for something completely different” to change the topic of conversation, but also to perhaps make a little joke.

This expression, “And now for something completely different,” was made famous by a group of comedians from Great Britain called Monty Python. Monty Python was a group of comedians back in the 1970s and ’80s, and one of the famous phrases in their show in order to move from one part of the show to another was, “And now for something completely different.” It was always something very funny that followed. Here George is not saying anything funny, but he is using that expression as a way of changing the topic.

He asks Lila a somewhat personal question: “How is your diet coming along?” A “diet” (diet) refers to the kind of food you eat. Normally we use the word when someone is trying to lose weight. They’re trying to eat certain kinds of food in order to not be as heavy as they are right now, to weigh less. George asks Lila how her diet “is coming along,” meaning is she being successful, is she losing any weight? Leila says, “I don’t really want to talk about my weight.” Lila considers that a personal topic, just as George considers his love life a personal topic.

That’s why George is asking the question. He’s trying to get Lila to understand that this topic is personal and he doesn’t want to talk about it. But George then continues in order to get Lila perhaps a little angry and perhaps to get back at Lila – to do something bad to her because he feels she did something bad to him by continually asking questions about his love life. George says, “But I think you’re having trouble shedding those pounds, right? I have lots of suggestions on what you can do.” “To shed (shed) pounds” means to lose weight.

Lila now is the one who tries to change the subject. She says, “Anyway, as I said before, I don’t really want to talk about my diet.” “Anyway” is a word that’s very popular in American English. You will hear it a lot in daily conversation, and it is said usually to change the topic or to talk about something new. It’s important to listen to how the word is said. If it’s said at the beginning of a sentence in the way that Lila says it, “Anyway . . .” (“Anyway . . .”), usually that means the person wants to change the topic or is now going to talk about something different.

George says, “You need to cut out sweets if you want to lose weight.” “To cut out” something means to stop using it or stop doing it – in this case, to stop eating it. That’s true, of course. If you want to lose weight, it’s a good idea to cut out sweets, to cut out things with a lot of sugar in them. George says, “Are you eating too many sweets?” “Sweets” refers to anything that has a lot of sugar, like candy.

Lila says, “That’s none of your business.” That expression, “That’s none of your business,” is used usually in anger when someone is asking you about something that doesn’t concern them or that you think is too personal to talk about. Lila is now angry at George, and George did this of course on purpose, trying to show Lila how her questions about his love life were also too personal to talk about. Lila says, “That’s none of your business.”

George says, “My sentiments exactly.” The expression “my sentiments (sentiments) exactly” is a phrase used to show that you agree completely with the other person. You agree completely with what the other person has said. George agrees with Lila that asking about her weight is none of his business, because he wants Lila now to understand that asking about his love life is none of her business.

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

[start of dialogue]

Lila: Why aren’t you dating? I have so many friends who would love to go out with you.

George: Let’s change the subject. Talking about my love life isn’t very interesting.

Lila: But really, you’re not getting any younger and . . .

George: Moving on! Have you seen any good movies lately?

Lila: Listen, all of your friends are settling down and you don’t want to go through life alone and lonely . . .

George: That reminds me, didn’t you say that you were going to get another dog so that Rover isn’t lonely when you’re not home?

Lila: Forget about my dog. You remember Rachel, don’t you? She just broke up with her boyfriend and she’d be perfect for you.

George: Speaking of Rachel, how is her mother? Wasn’t she in the hospital?

Lila: If Rachel isn’t your type, how about Amina? She has great legs and I know you’re a leg man.

George: And now for something completely different . . . How is your diet coming along? Have you lost any weight yet?

Lila: I don’t really want to talk about my weight.

George: But I think you’re having trouble shedding those pounds, right? I have lots of suggestions on what you can do.

Lila: Anyway, as I said before, I don’t really want to talk about my diet . . .

George: You need to cut out sweets if you want to lose weight. Are you eating too many sweets?

Lila: That’s none of your business!

George: My sentiments exactly!

[end of dialogue]

We always appreciate the wonderful emails that we get here at ESL Podcast – and speaking of wonderful, I want to thank our wonderful scriptwriter, 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 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to change the subject – to stop talking about one thing and begin to talk about something else, especially when one is uncomfortable with the first topic

* Let’s not change the subject and stay focused. What’s the status of the Acme project?

love life – one’s involvement in romantic relationships; one’s relationship status

* Elise never talks about her love life with her parents because they have never liked her boyfriends in the past.

moving on – a phrase used to indicate that one wants to stop talking about one topic and quickly change to a different topic

* It was a terrible experience and I don’t want to talk about it anymore! Moving on, have you seen any good movies lately?

to settle down – to get married, find a permanent home, and start a family; to become involved in a committed and long-term relationship

* I want to travel and explore the world before I settle down and start having kids.

alone – by oneself, without other people

* Were you alone at the time of the accident, or was someone with you?

lonely – feeling sad because one is by oneself and/or does not have close relationships, but wanting to be near and connect with other people

* Hector was very lonely during his first few days in a new city.

that reminds me – a phrase used to suddenly change topics when something that another person has said makes one think of something else

* A: Have you ever tried cranberry lemonade?

B: No, but that reminds me, we need to buy some lemons on the way home.

speaking of – a phrase used to introduce a topic that is related to what another person has just said

* Yes, that was a great movie. And speaking of movies, do you know the name of that actor in the newest comedy?

leg man – a man who is very attracted to women with long, beautiful legs, and who is sexually excited by seeing them

* Blake has never been much of a leg man, but he really appreciates women with long hair.

and now for something completely different – a phrase used to introduce an entirely unrelated topic to change the conversation

* Thank you for that fascinating report on inflation. And now for something completely different, let’s hear from our newest reporter, who has a story about animal weddings.

diet – efforts to eat fewer calories and/or healthier foods in order to lose weight and/or improve one’s health

* Alina is on a special diet where she eats nothing but cabbage soup and lemon slices.

to shed pounds – to lose weight, especially through changes in one’s diet and an increase in exercise

* Once Brad stopped eating bread, white rice, and pasta, he started shedding pounds very quickly.

anyway – a word used to change the topic of conversation, or to express disbelief about what another person has just said

* That’s an interesting opinion, but anyway, back to what I was saying before….

to cut out – to stop using, having, doing, or eating something

* The doctor recommended cutting out foods with a lot of sugar and sodium.

my sentiments exactly – a phrase used to show one’s complete agreement with what another person has said

* A: This has been the most stressful week at work, ever!

B: My sentiments exactly!

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does George say, “Moving on!”?
a) Because he wants Lila to walk more quickly.
b) Because he just broke up with his girlfriend.
c) Because he wants to talk about something different.

2. What does Lila mean when she calls George a “leg man”?
a) He has very nice legs.
b) He is an expert on leg injuries.
c) He is attracted to women with nice legs.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
moving on

The phrase “moving on,” in this podcast, is used to indicate that one wants to stop talking about one topic and quickly change to a different topic: “Thanks for updating us on the project. Moving on, how have our sales been this past month?” The phrase “to move out” means to stop living in a particular home or apartment: “They had to ask their roommate to move out, because he wasn’t paying the rent on time.” The phrase “to move up in the world” means to improve one’s social and/or financial situation: “Grace got a great promotion at work. She’s really moving up in the world!” Finally, the phrase “to move over” means to move slightly to one side: “When the pregnant woman got on the bus, the other passengers moved over to make room for her to sit.”

to cut out

In this podcast, the phrase “to cut out” means to stop using, having, doing, or eating something: “If we cut out going to the movies each week, we should be able to save enough money to buy a new computer by the end of the year.” The phrase “to cut out” also means to use scissors to cut around a shape, keeping the shape itself: “How long did it take you to cut out all the pattern pieces for that new dress?” The phrase “to cut out” can mean for a sound or video image to be interrupted temporarily: “What did you say? Your cell phone is cutting out and I couldn’t understand what you said.” Finally, the informal phrase “cut it out” is used to ask someone to stop doing something that is annoying or silly: “Hey, cut it out! Stop painting the walls with your spaghetti sauce!”

Culture Note
Acceptable Conversation Topics

Topics of conversation “vary” (are different) by setting. Among close friends, Americans can talk about almost anything, except “perhaps” (maybe) weight, age, and “income” (how much money one earns). But in certain social and business “settings” (environments), “acceptable” (without causing offense, insult, or anger) topics are more “restricted” (limited).

On formal social occasions, and on most business “occasions” (times and events), it is “advisable” (recommended) to “avoid” (not have, make, or do) conversations about politics and religions. These are “controversial” (with people having different and very strong opinions) topics that can quickly “lead to” (cause) “heated” (passionate; with strong feelings) arguments.

“Likewise” (in the same way), businesspeople “tend to” (usually do) avoid questions about “personal matters” (things that relate to one’s private life). For example, they avoid asking about someone’s “sexual orientation” (whether one is sexually attracted to men, women, or both), “race” (identity related to physical characteristics such as skin color), and whether one is in a romantic relationship. These topics are “taboo” (not allowed; not acceptable), in part because the answers could be “cited” (referenced; referred to) as a reason for “discrimination” (treating one group of people unfairly) in future employment decisions.

Most people who are meeting people for the first time on formal social or business occasions “stick to” (focus on) “safer” (less likely to cause problems) topics, such as the weather, sports, interesting news stories, or local events. These aren’t “hard-and-fast rules” (rules that are followed by everyone), but people who “stray from them” (do not follow these unwritten rules) often find that their conversation partners are trying to change the topic or leave.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c