Dead talk close ahead

Terms: dead (serious, wrong, ahead, -ass) / fisho / fasho

You’re so round … and floppy. How’d your legs get so slippery? What a strange creature! Silly you.

Charles’s turtle looked up at him with blank admiration. The apartment walls surrounded them both as the little animal stared fixedly at its owner.

—You know, I love to talk with you when I’m alone. It’s good to vent, isn’t it? It helps me to get my thoughts all together in one place. You’re just a sweet little— ah!

The reptile almost fell to the floor.

Crap! I almost dropped you, __

Charles wanted to blurt out a name, but he remembered.

—Ha, that’s right. Sometimes I wonder if I should give you a name. But, names are for people, right? You’re fine as the little turtle you are.

BUM, BUM, BUM, from the door.

The turtle flew in fright out of Charles’s hands and flopped on the floor for a bit. As Charles went to grab the door, the nameless turtle was able to flip onto its legs before sliding itself safely under the bed.

—Who is it? Charles wondered.

He knew it was better to check the door before opening it. It could have been a school girl selling cookies; it could have been a mobster with a gun pointed at his nose. It happened to be something between the two extremes.

Yo, man, I told you to stop with these notices all over my door.

Charles responded to the man outside his doorway, confused.

The man persisted, though; —Like, dead-ass, if you’re not gonna quit it with those posts on my door, we’re gonna have some problems, I’m- I’m dead serious.

—Oh, man. I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t have anything to do with that. Did you try asking the landlord?

—Wait, you’re not the landlord?

Charles shook his head, No.

—Then who are you?

—I’m Charles. I moved here from out of town. Well, out of the country.

The man then laughed at his own mistake.

—Oh, you the foreigner. My bad, man! I thought this was the landlord’s suite for some reason. Let me … Oh! He’s in two-fifty. This is two-O-five. That was embarrassing …

—No, it’s cool. Forget it. Hey, tell me something. What did you mean by “dead serious?” Were you wishing for me to die?

—Ah, no way, guy. I just wanted you to know I was super serious. When we say dead with something, it means it’s “straightforward, serious, just one way.” If I say, “You’re dead wrong,” that means you are “very wrong,” no question about it. Or if you’re asking directions, and I tell you to keep going dead ahead, that means “straight ahead of you.” Same if something is dead in front of you, or dead in your face. It’s not really dead. It just means that it is “directly ahead of you,” without a doubt. Dead-ass is similar, but you’re saying that something is true or serious.

—So, if I say, “I’m going to buy some dead-ass new shoes,” that means I really am going to do it?

—Well, you’d say it the other way: “I’m gonna buy me some new shoes, dead-ass.”

Got it!

They could hear a rustling noise from under Charles’s bed.

—Oh, I forgot about my turtle. I have to save him … or her.

Fasho. I gotta go find this crazy landlord of ours anyway.

—Fa-what? What did you say? Charles asked him.

—You ain’t ever heard of “fasho?” The same as “for sure.” It’s just a confirmation. Or, I always use it to tell people “goodbye,” like a closing statement. Like just now, you said you had to go do something, so I said, “Fasho. I gotta go too.” Sometimes I say, “Fisho,” but it’s the same thing. It means our conversation is about to be through.

Fasho. Well, I’ll see you around here. Good luck with those posts all over your door. Now, I just have to find my little turtle.

Charles’s neighbor pointed down to the floor at a dark object moving around clumsily.

—Isn’t that him? Or her, I mean?

Charles looked.

—Yeah! There he is. He was dead in front of me this whole time.

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.

A stoning fight

Terms: get light / get high / get stoned / get wasted / get faded / get baked / fade

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.

Skies were blue with those thin strips of white like ripped white pillow feathers painted all around. The birds sang and the sun burned a little on the arms. It was a perfect day to sit in a park — or so thought Charles. In fact, it was a great day for the park for another reason. The sun and birds are fine and all, but what Charles really was looking for was music.

He had recently went to a concert with some work buddies of his and he loved it! Now, Charles was itching for more of the live music experience. He wanted to feel the beat vibrate inside his ribs. He wanted to enjoy the energy of people jumping and singing all around him. He wanted to smell the sweat of the singers as they yelled their lyrics at the crowd. Charles would have never guessed it, be he was radically in love with live concerts. And to his luck, there would be one today at the park.

After walking for some time, he finally found where the stage was. Charles found a quiet, clean spot to lay his coat down in the grass and kicked his shoes off. He stretched his feet, closed his eyes, and let the sun sizzle his arms just a little bit. He was nearly falling asleep when the mechanical screech of a microphone pulled his attention back to life. There was a middle-aged lady on stage tapping on the mic as if to test it.

Hello all, she said, greeting the crowd of park-goers. —I hope you are having a wonderful Sunday. My sponsors and I are here to get the show started off tonight. How about that? Are you all excited?

The people around the stage sitting in the grass all yelled and cheered in approval. They were, in fact, all excited. The sun was starting to go away, and the mood was getting set.

Excellent! Well, we’ve got a great show planned for you all tonight. A$AP Rocky and Tyga are here.

Yo, where they at? some guy yelled out impatiently.

A$AP? Aw man. I thought this week was Twenty One Pilots. You’re kidding me, right? another guy moaned.

Yes, the lady from before said, We will get on with the show in just a minute. Firsthand, I want to talk about the “big M.” Mari-what?

Oh, no! We don’t wanna hear it, lady! someone else yelled.

Charles was confused and looked around for someone to help him understand.

What a buzzkill, right? They always bring these old-timers trying to keep us from getting stoned in public. It’s a waste of time. That’s why I stopped coming to public concerts.

It was a young woman about the same age as Charles.

What do you mean? They throw stones at people in public? he replied.

Oh, God no! Haha, ain’t you ever heard of someone getting stoned? Like, high?

Charles shook his head to say No.

Well, to tell you what it means, it’s what happens when you smoke weed. You know, cannabis. Some people say they get faded or get baked. It’s all the same thing.

A guy sitting next to the lady had been listening and made a sound that meant he agreed.

He then told Charles, —Yeah, sometimes we say we get wasted or we get light. Wasted’s a little more for drinking, though. Most people just say high, when in doubt.

Another lady nearby complained, —Don’t teach him that stuff! Poor guy. He was so innocent until you told him all that junk.

The lady next to Charles turned to the complainer and told her, —Shut up, yo. Or do you want to fade?

She got quiet and turned away. The lady next to Charles laughed and bumped her friend to laugh together.

She told Charles, —Don’t worry, I wasn’t really gonna fade. It was just a threat.

Charles asked her, —A fade is a hair style, right? Or were you talking about smoking?

She said “No” and, —By fade, I mean … and she moved her arms around like she was punching someone invisible. —I wasn’t gonna fight her, you know?

Fade can mean fight, then? Charles asked.

Yeah. And if you catch a fade, you end up fighting someone. Or worse, they try to fight you.

Sounds like a heavy hand tapping on the microphone bumbled from the stage once more.

And without further ado, here is your concert! the woman on stage announced. And several people sitting in the grass simultaneously sighed Finally!

Charles looked over and whispered at the pair he’d been talking to.

I’m glad she stopped telling us not to get high, or she was gonna catch a fade from somebody in this crowd.

The three laughed at his comment and invited him to stand up and dance. The sun had gone down, the big lights were turned on. Everyone started to vibrate as the first pounding beats rolled out from the massive speakers.

Bright light pop show

Terms: popping / show out / turn out / turn up / lit / light up

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.

Squeaky wheels filled the high walls of the theater with the sound of rubber rolling on the hardwood. The stage lights sprayed all across the room leaving little shadows over the shoulders of the chairs. In front of it all was Charles, front and center on the big stage.

Well, he wasn’t performing, you can bet; he was putting up props, vacuuming the giant curtains, mopping and polishing the smooth stage.

If I mop this up quickly, he thought, I can lay out the carpets for the set design.

In the back of the theater hall were two other young employees watching Charles’s every move.

Look at him go! one said.

I wonder why he likes stage design so much. Doesn’t it seem weird to like stage design so much? asked the other.

It pays the bills. I mean, if I were from another country like he is, I’d be happy to set up stages for some extra bucks.

Hey you guys! What do you think?

Charles yelled out across the hall to the two nosey workers on break. They put up two big thumbs of approval, nodding their heads to say it was good.

Good job! The stage is popping, man. You sure like to show out on your designs.

Charles waved at them to say “Thanks.” He sat down on the edge of the stage and wiped his forehead of dusty sweat.

—But what do you mean by show out? I’m not showing anything. Or popping anything.

The guy who had made the confusing comment sat down in the closest chair to him in the back row. He then explained;

I know you didn’t break anything. I was saying your stage designs are popping. If anything is popping, it means it’s “really cool, exciting, fun,” and whatnot. Kinda like when you show out, which means “to do really well at something,” almost like show off. They’re pretty much the same.

Charles tilted his head and said, —So, if I’m popping or showing out, I’m doing really good at something. So, basically, you gave me a compliment?

Yeah, bro! I’m always impressed by your designs and how much work you put into all this stage stuff. You always turn out when it comes to the theater. And before you ask, turn out can mean the same as “show out.” Or you can say turn out to tell “how something finished.” Your designs always turn out nicely. Then he laughed. Viki here admires your hard work too, don’t’cha?

He turned around and nodded at his co-worker, Viki, so that she would say something nice. She sighed as if she were annoyed by the conversation, then she went to sit next to the other employee.

Oh, yeah. I love the theater. It’s great to clean gum off of the bottom of people’s seats twice a week.

Quit it with the sarcasm, Viks! Look on the bright side. We have that concert we’re going to tonight.

Viki responded, —Whoop! Chris … I’m so glad you said it. We about to turn up out there. The whole block is gonna be lit, for real.

What is she talking about? Charles yelled out again from across the theater.

Nothing, Charles! Just this lit party we ’bout to go to tonight.

Oh, I like parties when they turn up a bunch of lights! It’s so fun.

Viki and Chris laughed while hitting each other.

Chris turned to her and said, —It’s your turn to explain, bro.

Then Viki said, —I mean, turn up just means we’re gonna “have lots of fun.” In fact, we’re gonna show out with how much fun we’re gonna have. And lit has nothing to do with light. It means that the concert is gonna “be really fun, like a big party.” You know, the usual partying vocab.

Chris added, —Yeah, but to light something up can also be “to hit it a bunch of times.” Like in a fight, someone can get lit up by punches. Hopefully no one gets lit up tonight at this concert.

You said that right, Viki replied, and then, —You wanna come with us? It’s just a hip hop concert.

Chris gasped in shock.

What? Did you just invite someone to a concert? Victoria, that is so unlike you!

Shut up, fool. We gotta get going now ’cause the venue is gonna fill up quick. What do you say, Charles? You coming?

Charles hesitated, then jolted out a quick, —Yeah! Let’s go turn up!

They all laughed, and Chris said, —That’s a boy! Man, it’s about to be the most popping night you’ve had all year.

Charles then remembered something.

I’m just gonna finish cleaning the stage real quick. You guys go ahead.

They nodded at him and left out of the theater for the night. Charles opened up the paint buckets and started to experiment with some brushes.

Just a few strokes before I go.

Shady fish drawing

Terms: shady / throwing shade / dis / fishy / sketch / sketchy

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how some Americans might naturally express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.

Yo, Jonah!

Well, well. We going today?

Charles’s friend from school, Jonah, had invited him to go practice skateboarding. Jonah was usually reluctant to teach anyone anything, but he figured it was worth the effort. Charles always helped him out with any financial issues at the college. It was the least he could do to repay Charles for all his helpful efforts.

You have to teach me an ollie. And to grind, for sure how to grind. Oh, and a kickflip!

Wait, you have to learn how to get on the board, first, Jonah teased.

They walked along until they came to a dark alley. Strange artwork was stained on all four walls of the alleyway, with grotesque graffiti figures winding and bending into a whirlpool of confusion. It was enough to make anyone sick just following the blotched lines of paint.

Well, there’s a couple of loose pipes and a metal box. What do you say we practice here? Charles suggested.

Jonah looked around, swearing he could see a few rats and cockroaches scurrying inside the dark cracks.

I donno, this place looks pretty sketch to me.

Charles shrugged his shoulders as if to wash the comment away. However …

Looks like what? A drawing? Is that because of all the creepy paint?

He felt good about himself to have remembered the word “creepy.” But his pride was cut short by comic laughter from Jonah.

Not a sketch, like a drawing. I mean this place is sketch. It’s the same as “creepy,” or something is not right about it. Maybe there’s a serial killer in there awaiting a new victim. I’m out.

Come on! Charles yelled.

He pulled the skateboard playfully out of Jonah’s arms and set it on the ground to use. He took a huge pause before getting on.

Before too long, Jonah exclaimed, —You don’t even know how to get on! Gimme back my board

Two bums brawling in an alley. Where have I seen this scene before?

The words came from a familiar mouth … The same girl that Charles had met a few times before.

Hey! What are you doing in the alley?

No, I was just walking by when I saw you two fighting. Why are y’all in this alley? Looks fishy.

No fish here, Charles told her.

Nah, bro, his friend replied. She said fishy. It’s the same as sketchy, basically. Creepy. Something’s not right. Think of a bunch of smelly old fish that went bad.

Jonah then hit Charles lightly on the head. The lady was disturbed by his action.

Unless y’all are brothers, you shouldn’t let him dis you like that.

Dis? I don’t get it, Charles’s mind was spinning.

Jonah spoke for her, —She means I be throwing shade at you.

Charles’s confused look made the lady want to cover for him.

Look, dis is the same as “being mean” or “pointing out someone’s faults.” Sometimes it’s meant as a joke, though. Throwing shade is almost the same but in a more indirect way. Dis comes from “disrespect,” I think. People who like to throw shade, like your buddy here, are shady.

Yeah, but being shady can just be “doing bad stuff under cover.”

The lady, Charles’s acquaintance, walked over to give him a kiss on the cheek.

Your friend’s an idiot. Y’all do know each other, right?

Charles gurgled out his words and nodded with a strange, nervous smile.

See you, boys! She then made a gesture with her hand as if she were talking on an old mobile phone. And, call me later. We’ll get some coffee again, smiling.

When she left, Jonah did a kickflip on his skateboard.

Man, I didn’t know you was such a little boy around these girls.

You must love being shady, don’t you? Charles responded swiftly.

Funny! You know what is shady, though? This alleyway. Let’s get up out of here.

They gave each other a bump on the fists and left the dark inner walls behind; Jonah on his board, and Charles following steadily on foot behind him.

“Where” I go?

Terms: my bad / There you go / There it is / There you have it

Charles had butterflies in his stomach. He’d just left a very pleasant date with a young lady … What was her name? Oh, did it matter? He’d find out soon enough. They had gone out with each other three times already, yet they’d never asked for each other’s names. It felt like a game they were playing, pretending they didn’t care when they were dying to know! They had to find out eventually. If anything, at least they wouldn’t turn into secret stalkers on each other’s social media.

Still, Charles couldn’t get her image out of his mind. Her unique voice led to her strong perfume and led to her strong expressions then …


A careless man bumped into Charles while he was daydreaming, seemingly on purpose. “Rude!” he thought, but he didn’t say anything out loud. The man was wearing earbuds. When he noticed he’d bumped into Charles he unplugged his ear holes.

Oh, man. My bad, I didn’t mean to run into you like that. 

Charles accepted his apology with a nod which made him feel a little better. The man went back to his normal expression and touched the signal to get off the bus. As he heard the signal, Charles replayed the little encounter again in his head. 

“Now arriving … Twelfth Street and Main … DING.”

Wait, Charles whispered, and he followed the “music man” off of the bus. 

Once they were off Charles poked him and said, —Excuse me!

The man took out his earbuds again.

Hey, bro. I said I was sorry–

No, it’s not that. I heard you say something I’ve been hearing a lot lately. But, I don’t know what it means. My bad?

What? I hope you didn’t get off at the wrong stop just to ask me a question. 

Charles shook his head “No.” 

Okay. Yeah, I mean, my bad. It’s the same as, “I’m sorry.” Or worse, “Forgive me.” It’s a good way to say it without sounding too serious, without sounding too sorry. It’s smooth and easy, but it can also be heartfelt. “My bad, man.

Charles was elated. 

Thank you! I have been trying to understand this phrase since forever. I finally know it! 

Haha, well, there you go. No need to thank me. Google knows the same things.

There I go?

Whoop, did I confuse you again?

Charles nodded.

Figures. There you go is kinda like, “You’re welcome,” but especially after I gave you something, like information. I guess a physical object too. It can be like, “Here it is.” 

So, I can give someone some cereal they’re reaching for on a high shelf and say, “There you go.” It doesn’t sound like I’m asking him to leave?

No way! It’s super polite and kind. Though, if someone is acting weird or bad, you can say There you go, again! It’s like that song. “There she goes again.” 

Charles laughed at his singing voice.

The girl in her song probably did something she didn’t like, so she says, “There she goes, again!” Or if someone does something you like, you say, “There you go! Good job.” It’s different from, There you have it, which we say when something is ending or being decided. “Manchester won the game. Well, there you have it.” Same with, There it is. That’s the result.

I get it. Wow, I guess there’s a lot for me to learn still. My bad for stopping you at the bus stop like this.

No problem, my man! Anytime. Well …

Then the two laughed at the man’s mild sarcasm. 

Do you need some change for the next bus? It’s the least I could do after ramming you like I did.

No, it’s not necessary. I have it in my pocket. 

Suits me! Take care, man. I’m gonna head on. 

He reached his hand out to bump Charles’s fist.

There it is! See you around.

Charles gave the man a smile and watched him leave. Then he started walking down the long avenue that would take him home.

Hateful balls

Terms: haters / to hate on / rolling / roll out


Thunder and hail ripped the sky apart as the particles of dust and water chased each other around in mid-flight. When the first drop touched it was like a prison alarm; everyone panicked like little ants into their homes and any other building that would shelter them. Charles was among these people, as he always was. He ran and ducked for cover, hoping to God his hood would protect his head from the falling balls of ice. His search for safety was more like a city-wide rejection since every place he went was too full. Eventually, he found cover under a bus stop and decided it best to stay there until the storm passed.

Man! Can you believe this weather, though?

It was a strange voice from behind him. Charles was shocked by her screechy timber.

Really? To me it seems normal. We’ve had bad weather almost every week now.

I know, right? It usually isn’t this cold and wet here. Usually hotter than this. And hail … Well, never!

I guess, Charles responded to the young lady. She was wearing a beanie and looked like she was on her way to work, or class, or something like that. 

It’ll pass soon, though. It can kinda suck sometimes living in this town.

She was referring to the weather, but Charles was reminded of his hard time getting used to being alone in a new country. 

Yeah, it really can suck. Sometimes people don’t understand you. Sometimes they say harsh things. It’s normal though, eh? 

He almost asked if she was passing through the same difficulties. She seemed to understand. 

Forget other people is what I say. They’re just a bunch of haters, hating on nice people. You know what I mean?

Charles thought a little and decided he didn’t quite know what she meant. 

Haters are people that hate you, right? Like they’re coming after you to hurt you?

Well, I mean, some haters do really want to hurt you, I would guess. Mostly, they’re just a bunch of unhappy people who don’t have a happy life and they want to sabotage others. That is, make them feel bad for no good reason. You get me?

Right, so they don’t really hate you, necessarily. They just say negative stuff.

Uh-huh. And if they hate on you, that’s their negativity in action, basically. No one likes a hater, so don’t hate on nobody.

The young lady laughed at this idea. Maybe she was remembering a song or some funny meme she saw about haters. Charles noticed her double-negative, but it sounded like an error she didn’t care to make.

That’s cool. I always heard that word but never knew how to use it.

Welp, now you know. 

The hail and drizzle started to slow down and a ray of sunlight was finally poking out from between some clouds. A rainbow was sure to follow.

Ahh, there’s the sun! Rolling. You wanna come with? I’m gonna meet some of my buds at the coffee shop. 

Charles’s head tilted in confusion. Not only did she forget to say, “come with me,” but she also seemed to randomly drop the word “rolling” into the middle of her sentence. 

Rolling? Does that have to do with wheels, like a ball or something?

Well, maybe. It’s like a car, if you think– The car rolls away, so me rolling is like “going somewhere.” 

I see.

The lady continued, — I guess it was a little confusing how I said it. Rolling, it’s the same as if I’d said, “I’m going,” or, “Let’s go.” It’s the same as saying, “Let’s roll out.” It shows that I wanna move away from here, haha. 

Okay, so it’s like saying you want to go somewhere. I get it. 

Exactly! So what do you say? Wanna get a tall, bubbling-hot coffee? 

Yeah! Let’s roll.

They both laughed, then left the protection of the bus stop to face a roaring storm … and a bubbling hot cup of coffee.

Cakes for breakfast

Terms: word / griddle / hot cakes

You can also listen and watch at the same time with this audio version:

It was the day of the great Municipal Marathon. All the best athletes in the region had come down to the city to participate in the famous event. You had everything from decorated Olympians to fit grannies showing they could still run with the young crowd, and, as the saying goes, everything else in between. One of these participants happened to be Charles. He was an avid track-and-field runner at his high school back home. But this was his first big marathon, as well as his first run, outside of his home country.

Well, he ran and got tired like everyone else did. The fact that he wasn’t as dead as some of the other runners made him feel a boost in his confidence. He actually came out ahead of one of the Olympian runners! But all his effort still put him behind two grinning grannies. 

How is that possible? he said to himself. They didn’t even break a sweat!

Regardless of his time in the race, his mind only wanted to know about his next meal.

Where should we go? Charles asked to his growling belly. Somewhere where the food is as fat and seasoned as possible.

Without even thinking of a shower he went off down a long avenue in a central neighborhood where all the best-known restaurants in town were. He walked past one and then another, testing the worth of each place by its smell, appearance, and wait line outside the building. It couldn’t smell or look too good or it would be too expensive. As for the line, he didn’t feel like waiting half a day to fill his needy stomach. He had to have food now! 

One place caught his nose’s attention and wouldn’t let go. 

Remember the rule of smell, he reminded himself, but his nose wouldn’t let him turn away.

He walked into this restaurant, still dressed in his running attire, and it looked kind of average, yet very busy. Nothing too high class, that is. He sat at an empty table and checked the menu: Chicken and waffles?

Hmm. Now, that’s an odd combination. 

Hi, welcome to the famous house of chicken and waffles! Can I get your drink, or would you like to order already?

Wow, your service is great! I actually just sat down. I’ve never been here before.

No problem! I can start you with a drink …  

I guess I’ll order the orange drink– juice. Sorry. 

Haha, sounds good. 

Then the waiter noticed Charles’s running clothes. 

I can suggest some combo plates for you. I see you got your running gear on.

Oh, right! I forgot to change. I was so hungry I just came looking for food as quickly as I could. I ran in the Municipal Marathon, actually.

Word? I forgot that that was today. Awesome, man. I bet you came in first?

Charles blushed.

Ah, well, not exactly. You’re kind, though. Umm, I just don’t quite understand–

Sure, what’s that?

When you said “Word.” Were you asking me to say a specific word?

The waiter’s face clicked as though he understood immediately what Charles wanted to say.

Sorry, sometimes my slang gets into my work. I meant Word, which is like me asking, “Is that right?” or, “Really?” Do you see? 

Okay, word is just a way to say “really?” almost like you’re a little surprised. 

Precisely. Let me check this other table real quick. I’ll be right back. 

He watched the waiter leave and stamped the word “word” into his memory. Scanning over his menu he saw lots of tasty-sounding dishes; sausage this and waffles that and buttery this and lemony that. Everything sounded and looked amazing. One item he saw didn’t make much sense to him, though. When his waiter came back, Charles thought to ask. 

Hi again. I just have a doubt with this here. How do I say it? Girdle?

Right, the hot cakes on the griddle. A griddle is just a little cooking stove with a flat surface where we pour the hot cakes over. It makes them cook a lot faster.

Okay, I see now. But, hot cakes?

Oh, I’m sorry. Hot cakes are the same as “pancakes.” You’ve seen pancakes, right?

Of course! I just never heard that name before. 

It’s more of a nice, down-home way to say it. Hot cakes on the griddle. Sounds like from your grandma’s house, doesn’t it? More homey.

Charles definitely liked the sound of that.

So I’ll get the hot cakes on the griddle with a wing and thigh on the side.

Now we’re talking! We actually have a Marathon Day Deal, where all pancake dishes are half price.

Charles’s face lit up. 

Word? I’ll order two then!

Isn’t that a question?

Today’s phrases: I’m saying / I’m telling you / Isn’t that something? / How about that? / What do you know?

Listen to the audio version while you read, or click here to listen to just the audio for a challenge and practice your listening skills!

Charles lived in a city where sports touched everyone’s lives. Football, baseball, and even hockey were the sources of everyone’s joy, not to mention the logos on their clothes. The time of the season was basketball, and the entire city was excited about tonight’s game. The citizens were all one big mob of die-hard fans waiting for the next game to cheer on. Charles didn’t really have enough contacts to get him into a game, or even a tailgate, for that matter. But he did have one place that he could retreat to when his sporting vein started to pump. The bar.

Pearl Street was the main road near his house. Along the street were dozens of cool restaurants, bars, and eateries to choose from. He decided to go to this quiet looking sports bar at the end of Pearl. Once he got there, much to his surprise, the place was filled to the brim with fans yelling and cheering for their team. Charles nearly closed the door and left.

I’ve gone too far. If I leave now I’ll look like a lost idiot.

So, he decided to go in and have a seat at the bar. His stool was a little wobbly, but, what did it matter? Everyone’s eyes were glued to the TV screens set up throughout the place. The energy there was electric, and it seemed like the local team couldn’t score one basket without the whole block exploding into excruciating applause. Charles looked on in agony; basketball wasn’t a popular sport in his home country, and he was completely lost about the rules of play. 

Number 3 dribbled down the court … he faked a pass, making the defender fall on his back … he shot the ball up … and he scored a critical three-point shot! The crowd of spectators nearly tore down the bar with their excitement. The celebration was so strong that the lady sitting next to Charles spilled a bit of her drink in his lap. 


Charles made an annoyed sound at her.

Oh, my– I’m so sorry! Isn’t that about a b–, the lady started to say.

No, that’s okay. Everyone’s excited so, no worries, Charles replied.

But the lady shook her head in protest.

No, it’s not okay. I didn’t mean to spill my beer on you, dude. Please, I’m so sorry. Every time I come to this place I end up spilling my drinks on someone. Ain’t that something?

Charles watched as she turned her head back to the game. But didn’t she just ask him a question?

Excuse me, he caught her attention once more. —What was I supposed to answer to your question? I’m not sure.

Huh? The woman looked confused. —Did I ask a question? 

Then her bell rang. 

Oh! I asked, Isn’t that something? It’s just a silly way to confirm what I already said, I guess because it was a little ironic, or maybe just a foolish thing I did. I guess it has no real meaning. I could look at this game and, after number 3 shoots a three-pointer, I could say, “Isn’t that something?” It’s just a way to show something is a coincidence, ironic, or a little silly, abnormal even. Some people say, How about that? or, What do ya know? It’s all kinda the same. 

So if I tell you my name is Charles, and you say, “Hey, I have a brother named Charles,” then I could say, “Well, isn’t that something?” Or, maybe, “Well, how about that?” 

-Wow, you learn quick! 

At that moment, a man who appeared to be a stranger made a comment about number 22’s performance so far in the game. It could have only been a criticism since that player hadn’t done anything good the entire game. 

I’m saying … 

What’s that? Charles asked again.

Huh? Oh, forgive me my man. I was just answering this guy over here. 

I know, but it sounded like you told him, “I’m saying,” and you didn’t say anything else after. I have a feeling I didn’t understand it right.

Sounds like I’m gonna be your teacher today! I used to study pedagogy before I went to state college, so I guess I’m qualified. 

The man next to the lady laughed lightly at her comment, repeating, —Oh no. She said “pedagogy.” Ha.

I’m saying. My momma woulda said, I’m telling you. It’s just another way to agree with someone when they speak. My momma also woulda used it to say that something is a shame, but I don’t use it like that. If you say that number 15 has some really nice shoes, I might say, “I’m saying …” Just ‘cause I agree with you.

I get it now. 

Charles sat up happily and grabbed a sip of free iced water. Another three-point shot was scored, and the spectators shook the entire building once again. He might have gotten a little beer spilled on his arm, but who cares? The home team was on top!

Can I get a Sprite with tonic? he asked the bartender. 

Hey, are you a Jehovah’s Witness or what? the lady asked while giving him a playful nudge in the ribs. 

No. I used to drink too much, actually. I just decided to quit last week.

Hmm. Well, isn’t that something?

Fun time shoes

Today’s terms: wack / wacky / for kicks / kicks / get a kick out of

It was a chilly evening, crystals forming on the light posts – unusual for this time of year. Charles thought it better to get out of the streets. As he walked under the spots of the lamps high above him, his shivering cheeks turned his attention to a big dull building. 

What’s in there? he thought.

Normally, these things wouldn’t catch his attention. There was a hum coming from inside this place that looked like a massive shoe box. Written on the side was a big “World Maxum.” 

In we go … And through the doors he went.

Upon stepping in, he was struck by an outer-space rhythm with a pounding bass and electric sounds. Strobe lights and disco balls glowed on his shoulders and, occasionally, into his eyes. Ladies were rolling here and there on skates with notepads or menus in their hands; boys were everywhere with helmets and knee pads on. A small pod of adults could be seen in the faraway dark corners. It was a setting like nothing he’d ever seen before.

Woah, dude! Get your board and a helmet. Stop looking around in the sky like you’ lost! 

Jonah, what? You skate? 

Jonah was a classmate of Charles’s. They talked usually while getting lunch or before heading home. It was a surprise to see him in this noisy hole at the center of the action like this.

Hell yeah, man. Look over at those guys. They’re some of the best skaters in the whole city. Well, that’s if you ask the experts. To me they look kinda wacky, I mean, I got better tricks than they do. 

Charles agreed but with a hint of doubt. 

I’m sorry, it’s a little loud in here. You said they look tacky? 

Nah, man. They look wacky. Like, “wack,” “silly,” “goofy,” Jonah tried to explain. 

Sorry …

They look stupid, bro. Wacky or wack is, like, a way to say something looks “silly” or kinda “dumb”. My parents say “goofy”, but it’s the same thing. I guess you kinda use it to say something is off, like it isn’t all the way right. 

But you mean stupid and dumb, like, not smart? Charles suggested. 

Jonah giggled at the statement. 

Nah, I mean, sometimes if something is stupid or wack, it doesn’t make good sense. Most of the time, it’s just not right, not cool, not good in some way. Like these so-called “pro’s” here. Most people skate just to get a kick out of it, but these fools do it for the attention. Bunch of …

Wait. You mean they skate to kick people?

Goodness man, where are you from? 

He didn’t allow Charles to answer. 

They get a kick out of it, I mean, they “have fun.” Why do we skate? For kicks, I mean, for me I do it “for fun.” You get me? It’s just for fun. 

Ah, I see, said Charles, distracted now by a cute woman with a plate of sizzling food whizzing past him on skates. He nearly fell trying to grab a piece off the speedy dish. 

But not like kicks, as in “shoes”. I don’t let anybody step on my kicks, you get me? 

So, kicks can be your shoes, and for kicks is for fun, I think. 

–Exactamundo, correcto, and yes, sen-yor! 

The two guys laughed together while taking in the lively vibe of the venue. 

Enough talk! Let’s get you some gear so we can show off to these wack bunch of fakers. You skate, bro?

Charles shook his head as a definitive “No”.

Welp, I guess you’ll be doing it for kicks, then.

A handful

Today’s terms: grip / host / wild

Charles went to the market, like he normally does. He was new to the neighborhood — to the whole country, in fact — and so he wanted to make a good first impression, you know, to test his new English skills. He’d studied for years and was finally going to get his chance. On the way he was scratching his chin, trying to recall all the names of produce items. 

Apple, hmm … Squash. Pomegranate. What is a pomegranate, again? 

As he continued to walk, a middle-aged man with a thick coat and beanie bumped into Charles. But Charles was cool about it. 

I’m so sorry, man. So sorry! 

Don’t worry about it, Mister. It was my fault. I hope you have a good day!

Charles noticed the man was pushing a shopping cart. 

Are you coming from the store?

The man made a confused look, then the information hit him. 

Ah, yes! I went to buy my groceries for the month. But I’m gonna stay with the cart. Not all of us have cars, I’m sure you’ve noticed. 

Sounds good! I was just on my way to the store, he tells the man. 

You should get yourself some greens. They’ve got a sale on the whole section. I went and grabbed me a grip of greens. Now all I need’s the bacon.

I’m sorry, you said “grib”?  

The man chuckled. 

Nah, I said grip. You know, like a host of greens? Gotta get them now before they run out. 

But he could tell that Charles was confused. 

I mean “a lot” of greens, bro. 

Oh, I see. So, a grip and a host can both mean “a lot”?

That’s right! A host is supposed to be someone who gives their space or time up for someone else. For some reason, it can be used to say a group of stuff, or a lot of stuff. Like, there was a whole host of people at that party! 

Charles nodded at these tips. 

Grip is supposed to be when you have a firm hold on something in your hand. I guess when people used to count money, they’d count it by the handful, or the “grip”. Now people just say it to mean “a lot” of something. It’s wild, huh?

Wild? Like, wild animals?

Haha, I got you again! Well, that’s the right idea. Wild just means “crazy” or “abnormal”, like, That movie was wild. The visual effects were like from another world! 

-It is wild! There’s so many words I don’t know yet. I’m not from here, you know.

Well, hey. Welcome. A lot of people don’t like to hear foreign languages here, but there’s still a grip of those who are interested in other cultures. I’m glad you’re learning.

Thanks for the tips! I’m going to keep on.

For sure, man! Take care. And don’t forget to grab a grip of greens when you get there!