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1169 Being Talkative and Reserved

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,169 – Being Talkative and Reserved.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,169. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful
Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website. (Okay, I’ll stop.) Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and get the Learning Guide for this episode. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store and our ESL Podcast Blog. You can also like us on Facebook – why not? Go to facebook.com/eslpod.

This episode is about someone who talk too much, and someone who doesn’t talk enough. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Marcia: Phew! I thought they’d never leave.

Artem: I enjoyed their company, didn’t you?

Marcia: Jessie is fine, a little reserved and soft-spoken, and on the shy side. Kelly, on the other hand, talked our ear off. No one could get a word in edgewise with her.

Artem: I thought Kelly’s anecdotes were funny. She was a little long-winded, I’ll admit, but I enjoyed talking to her more than trying to make conversation with Jessie. She is so closemouthed and guarded that it was like pulling teeth.

Marcia: I’d rather talk to someone who is a little reticent than a loudmouth.

Artem: Ooh, that’s a little harsh.

Marcia: Maybe you’re right, but I don’t like the blathering, gossipy type.

Artem: I wonder . . .

Marcia: What?

Artem: I wonder what they’re saying about us.

[end of dialogue]

Marcia begins by saying, “Phew! I thought they’d never leave,” meaning they stayed a very long time. Marcia is referring to two guests that they had over, two women from work, I think. Artem says, “I enjoyed their company, didn’t you?” “Company” (company) here means something different than you may expect. “Company” means the time that you spend with other people. That’s what it means here – the presence of another person.

If someone says, “I’m very bad company,” he means I’m not a good person to be with; I’m not a good person to spend time with. It’s a very different meaning than the one you may be thinking of normally, which would refer to a business. But here, “company” means the presence of another person. Marcia says, “Jessie is fine, a little reserved and soft-spoken, and on the shy side.” So, there were two women who were visiting them. One of them is Jessie.

Marcia thinks Jessie is “fine,” meaning okay. She describes her as being “a little reserved” (reserved). “To be reserved” means to be quiet, not to talk a lot, but also not to share your opinions – not to tell other people what you are thinking or feeling. Jessie is also described as being “soft (soft) – spoken (spoken).” A person who is “soft-spoken” doesn’t speak very loudly. Sometimes it’s hard to hear what they’re saying. I have never been called “soft-spoken.” I wonder why.

Jessie is soft-spoken and “on the shy (shy) side.” “To be shy” means to be perhaps uncomfortable being around other people or talking to other people. We might use the adjective “timid” (timid) to describe a person who is shy. “On the shy side” (side) means that she’s a little bit shy, maybe not all that much. Marcia describes the other woman, Kelly, as being someone who “talked our ear off.”

She says, “Kelly, on the other hand” – meaning in comparison to, or in addition to – “talked our ear off.” “To talk someone’s ear off” means to talk a lot, to talk too much. “No one could get a word in edgewise with her,” Marcia says. “To get a word in edgewise” (edgewise) means that you are almost unable to talk because the other person is talking so much. “To get a word in edgewise” would mean to give your opinion, or simply to say something, to someone who is talking so much, it’s very difficult to get a chance to talk.

Artem, however, says that he thinks Kelly’s anecdotes were funny. An “anecdote” (anecdote) is a funny, or humorous, story about something that really happened. It’s not the same as a joke. A “joke” is often something that is imaginary, that never took place. An anecdote is a story that is funny but that did take place. Artem describes Kelly as being “a little long-winded.” A person who is a “long (long) – winded (winded)” is a person who talks too much, who talks too long, so long that you begin to get a little bored by the person.

Artem says, “I enjoyed talking to her,” meaning Kelly, “more than trying to make conversation with Jessie” (the other woman). “To make conversation” with someone is to try to talk to a person. Americans, in some parts of the country, often make conversation with strangers – people whom they’ve never met before.

That doesn’t happen very often in Los Angeles or New York. In fact, if you try to make conversation with someone – say, at a grocery store or waiting for a bus – the person might think you’re a little weird, might even try to get away from you because that’s not what people do in big cities in the U.S., but in smaller towns and in certain areas in the United States, it’s very common for people “to make conversation,” even with people they don’t know very well.

Artem had difficulty making conversation with Jessie. That’s because, in Artem’s words, “she is so closemouthed and guarded that it” – making conversation – “was like pulling teeth.” “To be closemouthed” means to not be willing to speak. It’s similar to being shy. But it refers specifically to someone who doesn’t like talking.

“To be guarded” (guarded) means that you are careful and cautious, usually because you don’t want to tell someone something you don’t want them to know, a secret. Someone who is very guarded is someone who doesn’t tell you what he’s thinking, perhaps because he doesn’t want to tell you something that he thinks is a secret or wants to keep a secret. That’s why Artem found talking to Jessie “like pulling teeth.” This is a common expression, “like pulling (pulling) teeth.”

Something that is “like pulling teeth” is something that is very difficult to do, something that is very challenging, often because the other person doesn’t cooperate. The other person you’re trying to do this with doesn’t do what you want them to do, especially when it comes to talking. “Getting an answer from our lawyer that we could actually understand was like pulling teeth.” Our lawyer was always using these long words, these legal terms we didn’t understand. Or, “Trying to get my brother to answer a question is like pulling teeth.” It’s very difficult.

Marcia says, “I’d rather talk to someone who is a little reticent than a loudmouth.” “To be reticent” (reticent) means to be unwilling to share your opinion, to be unwilling to talk about a certain topic – perhaps because you don’t want to, perhaps because you don’t think the other person needs to know.

A “loudmouth” (loudmouth) – one word – is, as you might guess, a person who always talks very loudly and often too much, someone who perhaps tries to impress other people by bragging, by saying how good he is. A loudmouth is, in general, a person who we consider somewhat “obnoxious” – that is, not a very likeable person. Marcia prefers to talk to someone who is a little reticent than someone who’s a loudmouth.

Artem says, “Ooh, that’s a little harsh.” “To be harsh” (harsh) means to be a little mean, a little cruel, too unkind. Marcia says, “Maybe you’re right, but I don’t like the blathering, gossipy type.” “To blather” (blather) means to use a lot of words but not really to say anything. Someone who “blathers” is someone who maybe doesn’t know what they want to say but keeps talking anyway, or isn’t very intelligent and therefore simply talks without really thinking about it before he opens his mouth. So, “blathering” would be a person who is like that, who blathers.

“Gossipy” (gossipy) refers to someone who enjoys talking about other people and mentioning things that may or may not be true. “Gossip” is something that people talk about, often things that are bad about the other person that may be true or may not be true. Many magazines and newspapers publish gossip – things that may be true, but they may not, too. Another word for these things is “rumors” (rumors) – information that people tell other people even though they aren’t sure that the information is correct.

Marcia doesn’t like the “blathering, gossipy type,” meaning that kind of person. Artem says, “I wonder . . .” Marcia says, “What?” “I wonder what they’re saying about us.” Artem is wondering what their friends Jessie and Kelly might be saying about Artem and Marcia. The answer is probably nothing. People often think that other people are more interested in their lives than they really are, and we’re guessing their friends from work aren’t really all that interested in Marcia, Artem, and their particular relationship.

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

[start of dialogue]

Marcia: Phew! I thought they’d never leave.

Artem: I enjoyed their company, didn’t you?

Marcia: Jessie is fine, a little reserved and soft-spoken, and on the shy side. Kelly, on the other hand, talked our ear off. No one could get a word in edgewise with her.

Artem: I thought Kelly’s anecdotes were funny. She was a little long-winded, I’ll admit, but I enjoyed talking to her more than trying to make conversation with Jessie. She is so closemouthed and guarded that it was like pulling teeth.

Marcia: I’d rather talk to someone who is a little reticent than a loudmouth.

Artem: Ooh, that’s a little harsh.

Marcia: Maybe you’re right, but I don’t like the blathering, gossipy type.

Artem: I wonder . . .

Marcia: What?

Artem: I wonder what they’re saying about us.

[end of dialogue]

There’s nothing blathering about our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. She always knows what she’s saying and how to say it.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. I’ll stop talking your ear off now. Thanks for listening, though. 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
company – the presence of another person; companionship; time spent with others

* Thanks for coming along with me. I really enjoy having company on a long drive like this.

reserved – not sharing one’s opinions, thoughts, or feelings easily; quiet and calm

* No, I don’t think Hannah was bored. She’s just reserved and doesn’t talk very much.

soft-spoken – speaking in a very quiet, unassertive voice

* Adam wants to be a professional public speaker, but he is too soft-spoken to maintain the audience members’ interest.

shy – timid; not wanting to interact with other people, and uncomfortable doing so; introverted

* Sidney is so shy that she didn’t even say ‘hi’ to any of her classmates during her first week of school.

to talk (one’s) ear off – to talk excessively; to speak so much that other people do not have an opportunity to speak and cannot end the conversation

* It’s good to be talkative and friendly during an interview, but be careful not to talk the interviewer’s ear off!

to get a word in edgewise – to be able to speak when another person is doing almost all the talking; to insert one’s opinions or words when someone else is speaking constantly

* Kevin had so much to say about his vacation that none of us could get a word in edgewise.

anecdote – a funny or humorous story about something that really happened

* Nancy was surprised and amused when her boyfriend’s mother started sharing anecdotes about his childhood years.

long-winded – speaking for a long time, using many words, in a tiresome and uninteresting way

* The speech was on an interesting topic, but the speaker was too long-winded, so many people left the room before she had finished.

to make conversation – to find something to talk about; to engage another person in a conversation

* I dread parties where I don’t know the other people, because it is so hard to make conversation with strangers.

close-mouthed – not speaking, or unwilling to speak about something

* Becca is so close-mouthed about her personal life. She never tells us anything about what she does outside of work.

guarded – careful and cautious, not wanting to expose, show, or share something

* The management team is very guarded when it comes to sharing financial information with potential partners.

like pulling teeth – very difficult to do; very challenging and tiring

* Sometimes getting a politician to openly answer difficult questions is like pulling teeth.

reticent – reluctant and hesitant to do something, usually to speak; not eager or enthusiastic to speak or to have a conversation

* Why was Justin so reticent about his childhood growing up in France?

loudmouth – very loud and obnoxious; speaking too loudly and/or too frequently

* That loudmouth was so annoying! Everyone in the restaurant could hear his conversation.

harsh – mean or cruel, especially because it is too direct or straightforward

* This sounds harsh, but that was the worst movie I have ever seen.

blathering – using a lot of words, but not really saying anything meaningful or significant

* Is he still blathering about the final episode of that TV series? He has to find a new interest.

gossipy – frequently enjoying the act of spreading rumors, or stating things about other people that may not be true

* Shelby is so gossipy, always sharing bad news about other people when they aren’t in the room.

Comprehension Questions
1. Who speaks the most?
a) Someone who is reticent
b) Someone who is close-mouthed
c) Someone who is blathering

2. What does Artem mean when he says, “Ooh, that’s a little harsh”?
a) Marcia is very funny.
b) Marcia is insightful.
c) Marcia is being mean.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
company

The word “company,” in this podcast, means the presence of another person, or time spent with others: “If you enjoy her company so much, ask her out on a date!” The phrase “two’s company, three’s a crowd” means that two people would rather be with each other, without anyone else, especially if those people are involved in a romantic relationship: “It’s nice of you to invite me to go out with you and Jake, but two’s a company and three’s a crowd.” The phrase “to be in good company” is used to reassure someone that other people have done the same thing: “Don’t worry about what you said. Famous politicians and celebrities have said much more embarrassing things during interviews, so you’re in good company.” Finally, the word “company” also refers to a business: “Which companies have you applied to?”

guarded

In this podcast, the word “guarded” means careful and cautious, not wanting to expose, show, or share something: “The nurses are trained to be very guarded about the patients’ health when speaking with their family members.” A “guard” is someone whose job is to protect a person or place: “The guards are asking everyone to show a piece of government-issued identification before entering the building.” A “guard dog” is a dog that is trained to bark at and/or bite unknown people to prevent them from entering the building: “All the neighbors are frightened by the Harrisons’ guard dog.” Finally, a “color guard” is a person who carries a flag representing an organization in a parade or ceremony: “Each high school marching band follows the school’s color guard.”

Culture Note
Chatty Cathy

Between 1959 and 1965, a well-known toy company called Mattel produced the Chatty Cathy dolls, which became almost as popular as “Barbie dolls” (slender, beautiful dolls; see English Café 140). The doll had a “pull-string” (a small string with a hook or circle on one end, and the other end inside a toy) that, when pulled, caused the doll to “talk.” She “randomly” (unpredictably; not knowing which one would come next) “spoke” phrases, which included, “I love you,” “Let’s play school,” “Please take me with you,” “Tell me a story,” and “May I have a cookie?”

The doll was originally a “Caucasian” (with white skin) doll with blue eyes and blonde hair. Later the company introduced Chatty Cathy dolls with darker hair, as well as an African American doll. Children could dress her in “outfits” (sets of clothing) that were sold separately.

7The doll was very popular and soon many other toys with “outfitted” (equipped) with similar pull-string devices so that they could “talk.” As Chatty Cathy’s success grew, Mattel introduced other dolls in the “line” (a group of related products), such as Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, “Charmin’” (very appealing) Chatty, and Singin’ Chatty.

Although the dolls are no longer being produced today, we sometimes hear people refer to a woman as a “chatty Cathy.” This is to indicate that she talks too much, but of course this is not a polite phrase.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c