Isn’t that a question? (audio version)

Photo by Bryan Catota on Pexels.com

We’re back again! Here’s an audio recorded version of my original post “Isn’t that a question” where I go over a few English phrases or terms. Please take a listen and test how much you can understand! This page just contains the audio for listening, but you can follow this link to read and listen at the same time if you want. Let me know if this listening practice helped you to understand the words better. Is there something you want me to explain or record next? Tell me in the comments or send me an email! Ready? Happy listening!

isn’t that something?_how about that?_what do you know?_i’m telling you

society + Doctor Sleep [2019]

curtesy of YouTube

This post is going to be a little different than what you’ve seen before. We’ve looked at music, American society, and even a couple of slang terms. I figured well, I also love movies, so why the heck not do a movie section? Of course, movies tend to be a lot longer than songs and so I’m not going to analyze every line from the screenplay of Doctor Sleep (but you wish!). Instead, I’m going to focus on some elements and imagery from the movie and explain how these things relate to American society, or maybe what they reveal about the culture.

Sound interesting? Sure it does! So let’s keep reading.

I’d also like to point out that this is mainly for English students or foreign people who are curious about American society, just as a warning that some things may sound redundant if you are an English-speaker or American. Though, of course, anyone is welcome!

Doctor Sleep — not to get confused with Doctor Strange — is a supernatural horror movie written and directed by Mike Flanagan. It was made in 2019 and is a sequel to The Shining from 1980. Well, that took long enough! Besides the fact of it being a sequel, I want to mention this because The Shining has been a definitive cultural event since it came out. Not everyone has seen the movie — in fact, lots of people I know haven’t, which is mind … POOSH — but pretty much everyone recognizes at least some of the scenes from this movie.

credit from Fandom, here

The sinister opening music from the score … the waves of splashing blood pouring through the halls … the twin girls staring down the hall with their evil eyes … Jack Nicholson screaming “Here’s Johnny!” as he axes down a door. I mean, there are just too many iconic scenes to go on. The popular impact of The Shining makes today’s subject so significant too, even if it’s a mere sequel.

Just like with its predecessor, Doctor Sleep has several iconic scenes and shots, including a girl running her hands through the mental “files” of her witch foe, people flying in and out of each other’s minds, and the iconic “REDRUM” spelling itself so ominously on the cracked walls. But back to the topic: What does this movie say about America? Well, let’s see…

One noticeable aspect of the movie is the different regions of the country we see the characters going to. Stephen King, who is the author of the books, is from Maine, a state in New England. If you notice in the movie they’re mostly in some town in New Hampshire. There are little brick buildings, central church chapels, and cute little parks in the middle of town. This layout is of the classic New England town. Given the fact that Danny, the lead character, goes there to cleanse and heal from alcoholism, you can tell that these places are considered locations where you can live peacefully, get away from the noise of the city, and enjoy the fall leaves. On the other hand, when Danny is in Florida, he gets high on drugs and alcohol all the time and sleeps around with strange women, which lets you know how other Americans might view Florida. That’s also where the creepy True Knots are first seen attacking that little girl. Sorry, Florida. Harsh.

a field like you might see in the Midwest, Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

Later on, they go to Colorado which is full of mountains, forest, and pretty lakes, while we go to Iowa and see nothing but cornfields and baseball diamonds. This probably wasn’t on accident, because Iowa and the Midwest, in general, are seen as centers for agriculture and farming, especially corn. They are also seen as the “heartland” of America, which is why you get such an important symbol like baseball there. A poor boy gets abducted in Iowa, and what happens to him also has something to say about our society.

I don’t know if this started in the U.S. or was brought here by Eastern Europeans, but gypsies are a controversial topic from this movie. Sometimes as kids, people are told to watch out for gypsies because they eat children or some nonsense. True to the myth, that’s pretty much what happens in the movie. Gypsies are based on the ethnic Roma or Romani people, but often any group of people that travel around together without any kind of direction or stability are generally considered gypsies. Especially if they’re in a trailer.

a trailer-home, Photo by John Mark Jennings on Unsplash

Trailers have a lot of importance in America. People use trailers to travel long distances, go camping, and to live in, amongst other things. A popular notion too is that “gypsies” or just people without any stable home roam around the country in a trailer. The scene of the True Knot picking up the boy in Iowa as well as the scene where Danny arrives with Abra, the other main character, at her home, shed light on this. Abra’s dad has a little freak-out session and nearly tries to kill Danny.

These two scenes show how kids in America are taught to deal with strangers (Don’t get into a car with them) and how parents react when they see their children, especially daughters, with strange adults. This seems logical, but I have seen in some other countries that kids interacting with unknown adults is not the most outrageous thing that could happen. No one wants their child to get abducted, but I notice in America, parents seem to be especially cautious in this sense compared to some other countries. Maybe this is because there are tons of cases of child abduction, child molestation, and child abuse that parents become especially protective. Children are a lot less likely to talk to strangers, even if they are genuine and nice people, because of this worry that American parents tend to put into their heads. I blame investigative shows like 20/20 and channels like Investigation Discovery (ID) for this, but I guess they have good reasons.

classic neon movie theater, Photo by Jeff Pierre on Unsplash

I don’t have too much else to say. You could see how Abra’s house was really big and nice, a sort of “classic American home” at least nowadays. We also saw some racial diversity in the movie, kind of lending to the push for more diversity in movies and media in recent years. I think that’s cool. Danny works at a convalescent home (commonly an “old folks home” or “retirement home”) helping the seniors go to sleep … forever. This is more of a Western thing, I think, where it’s acceptable and even pretty common to send old people to live in these care facilities instead of taking care of them at home. The movie theater where the girl, Andi I think, gets recruited to the True Knot team of vagabonds is a kind of classic American movie theater. You get the big neon sign out front with the movie titles on it, a ticket booth, and a big theater house full of seats and balconies and whatnot. Other than that, many Americans like a good scare, a good thrill, a mystic tale of spirit-suckers that get defeated by a living mansion burning to the ground. Or was it a hotel? Those hats the True Knot were wearing are kind of in style with certain hipster communities. I’ll talk about them another day.

I left the trailer up top if you’re interested. Also, did you notice anything else about Doctor Sleep that speaks on American society or society at large? And if any of you saw this movie, what did you think of it? Tell me in the comments, or email me at tietewaller@gmail.com. Stay well!

A handful (audio version)

Photo by Bryan Catota on Pexels.com

So I had the idea of recording some of the content here on CultSurf so that you could listen to it. If you’re learning English, you will now be able to listen to the stories and some of the content, and practice your listening skills as well! I will provide a link to the original story here so you can go back and read it in case you get lost. Thanks for listening, and remember to comment below. How did I do?

grip_host_wild

Try a wild monster

Words like savage and beast have been flying around on the internet and in music for a while now. Today, we’ll “test” our English by looking at those as well as some phrases that use test and try in the slang sense. We’ll also look at some dialogues with Charles to see how they can be used. Starting off!

(Don’t) Try

Try normally means “to attempt” to do something. For example, maybe you tried to learn how to play the piano like Mozart but never quite reached that level. In slang, try pretty much has the same sense as “to attempt,” with a small difference. If I say, “Try me,” it means to attempt to explain something to me. We can also say “try” to mean to attempt to do something bad or is a kind of bad behavior. Mom’s can tell their children, “Don’t try it,” which means the same as “Don’t do it.” “Don’t try me” then is like telling someone not to attempt something bad against you. Here’s an example:

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Charles —Hey, look at those two kids. They’ve been staring each other down for a few minutes now.

Sheila —They do look pretty angry. I wonder what their issue is.

The two teens suddenly start to argue with one another.

Teen 1 —What? You’re trying to come at me, huh? I’m not scared of you.

Teen 2 —Oh, you think you’re tough. I bet you won’t try to hit me, though. You’ve been trying me ever since I got here.

  • Teen 1 has been attempting to scare Teen 2 or be mean to him ever since he arrived.

Teen 1 —Ha! You’re the one who wanted to fight me. I see your fists are balled up. Don’t try it.

  • Don’t attempt anything bad or stupid (against me).

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(Don’t) Test

Now, test you may know as an exam you sit and take to prove your knowledge. To “test” as a verb usually means to examine something or try a new experience. You can “test” a new flavor of ice cream, so it’s very similar to the word try. It’s the same way in slang, since “test” or “don’t test” can be used in the same way we saw “try” above. Another common phrase is to “test someone’s nerves.” This means to annoy someone, like you’re testing how much their brain can handle. I’ll save “nerves” for another day.

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Teen 2 —Look, don’t test me, bro. Today’s not a good day.

  • Don’t try to do anything bad or annoy me anymore.

Charles —Sheila, what are they fighting about, anyway?

Sheila — I don’t know. These kids are weird to me.

Charles —They must be mad for some reason. I mean, I doubt they just started an Old West showdown in the middle of the street for nothing.

Sheila —Well, all I know is that the one guy bumped into the other. He said, “Yo, I’m tired of you. You’ve been testing it all semester. Now I’m gonna beat you down.” Pretty much.

  • You’ve been pushing the limits, picking on me, being mean to me, all semester.

Charles —Wow. This is wild.

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You tried it

Again, the same concept as before. This phrase applies after some bad, mean or undesirable action has already taken place. It’s usually used to discourage any more of those actions from happening.

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Charles —Look! I think they’re really gonna fight.

Teen 2 throws a punch at Teen 1’s head and misses.

Teen 1 —Woah, you tried it, huh? You don’t even know how to throw a punch.

  • You attempted something bad or foolish against me.

Teen 2 —I was just warming up. Wait...

Teen 2 throws another surprise punch and lands it. He hits Teen 1 in the face and makes him fall down. Everyone standing around them starts to talk and scream.

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Savage – Beast

These are two very common slang terms these days, and for good reason. A savage and a beast normally are creatures that live in the wild. They act like monsters or ferocious animals and have no conscience or remorse. The same goes for the slang meaning. Calling someone a “savage” or “beast” is like saying they are really good at something, like they are the best at something. They dominate, they kill (which is another slang that means doing really well at something), and they do other things that we associate with savages and wild beasts. Of course, we mean it in a positive way, like we’re complimenting the other person.

Lots of people, especially in music and sports, consider themselves savages or beasts, just like Megan Thee Stallion. A similar term used is “monster,” which is also a positive compliment. Think of Kanye West (listen to Monster here). “Savage” can also mean doing things without caring about the consequences. Instead of being negative, it is almost used in admiration, like the other person is cool for being this way.

Sheila —Dang! Did you see that hit? Man, these kids are savage nowadays.

  • These kids are reckless, don’t care about consequences, but are kind of cool because of it.

Charles —Yeah, I know.

Teen 2 —That’s right! I’m a savage, you heard?

  • I’m the best. I’m reckless. I don’t care. But I’m really cool.

As everyone around yells and laughs, Teen 1 gets up and reaches out his hand.

Teen 1 —Yo. I got respect, bro. That was a good hit you got me with.

Teen 2 —Thanks.

Teen 1 —You know, I do MMA down at the gym. You would be a beast in the octagon if you wanted to fight with us.

  • You would be great, one of the best, a fearsome fighter.

Teen 2 —Sounds like a plan. I’ve always wanted to try out MMA fighting. Hey, are we cool?

Teen 1 —We cool.

Sheila —Aww. How cute! They made up.

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Like with many slang words, savage and beast can be perceived as positive or negative, compliment or insult, depending on how they are used and depending on the speaker’s tone. Generally, these days they are used as compliments and are a way to show admiration for a person or for yourself, but there are always exceptions. Try and test are used usually in more intimate settings and you might say it with a friend, a family member, or another person that is trying to be mean or act badly in some way. Try/test it are acting badly in general situations, while try/test me is acting against you (or whoever is speaking). These terms can be a little tricky, so try to pay attention to cues from others and see how they use them. Otherwise, even if you don’t want to use them (I don’t use these terms too often) you will at least be able to understand when other English speakers say them. Someone definitely will.

Hey everyone! Could you use these terms in your own sentences? In what other situations could you imagine someone saying these? Have you heard these terms in English-language songs? Let me know in the comments! If you have suggestions for words or phrases that you would like explained, tell me here or send me an email: tietewaller@gmail.com. Thanks and take care!

“Carnies” [Martina Topley-Bird]

Flag of England.svg
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A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
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Fun and games are coming to town … and all the crying and drama that go along with them. Read the lyrics and explanations of “Carnies” song by Martina Topley-Bird, and learn some new English terms! And don’t forget to read a fuller explanation, comment, and watch the music video below–>

Ferris wheels and cotton candy

  • I’ll stick some images here in case you don’t know these.
A Ferris wheel, Photo by Amanda Cottrell on Pexels.com

The folks try to stall as the kids get antsy

  • “Folks” is another word for people in general. Usually used to talk about a certain group of people together. It can also be used to talk about one’s parents. “I’m going to visit my folks this weekend.” To “stall” is to hesitate or stop completely. In a more figurative way, it also means to distract from the main point. “Stop stalling and just tell the story!” And “antsy” means restless, like when someone can’t sit still.

They sit there complaining there’s nothing else to do

So we pick up our coats and go down to the fair

  • Just a note, “fair” as a noun usually refers to a kind of carnival with rides, games, and snacks. For example, in many places in America, we have county fairs. The biggest kinds are World’s Fairs.
Some cotton candy, Photo by Mariana Kurnyk on Pexels.com

Who knows what we’ll find when we get there?

Eyes will be streaming, faces split in two

  • “Eyes streaming” has the sense of a river or stream flowing. This probably means that kids will be crying, probably because they don’t want to leave. “Faces split in two” reminds me of the classic symbol of theater or drama with a mask that is half happy and half sad. This imagery tells how people at the fair will be a mixture of happy and sad faces.
classic comedy/tragedy masks, at Foundry Brothers

Carnies have come to town

  • “Carnies” is the same as a carnival or fair. It is more of a British slang, if I’m not mistaken, since we don’t use it as much in the U.S. Saying something “has come to town” means that it has come or arrived in your area. Whether you’re talking about a town, city, or rural area, you can always use “come to town” to talk about an event coming to your area.

If they stay, will you hang around?

  • To “hang around” just means to stay or remain somewhere. She could also say “Will you hang?” and it means the same thing. A similar phrase is “stick around.” “Will you stick around for Christmas too?”

Lately where have you gone?

  • “Lately” is such a good word! I think it could be a little confusing for English learners. It is basically the same as recently, or in recent days. “What’ve you been doing lately (in recent days)?”

I’ve been waiting for so long

When will you come back?

Say what you want life’s too good to be true

Jump start me after I’m through the sunroof

  • To “jump-start” something is to give it a big push, almost like you’re so excited to start or to go somewhere. The idea comes from track racing. When someone jump starts, they start running before the race even begins. A “sunroof” is the part of a car’s roof that opens up so you can see the sky. The idea is of Martina jumping out of the roof of her car.
Someone “jumping thru their sunroof”, Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Soon I’ll be home but I don’t know if you will too

Carnies have come to town

If they stay, will you hang around?

Lately where have you gone?

I’ve been waiting for so long

When will you come back?

Carnies is such a fun word. As I said above, it’s more of a British slang from my understanding, since fair or carnival are more common in the U.S. Regardless, I feel like this song really captures the mysterious, fun, and dramatic sense of being at a fair. Fun, games, candy and rides go together with whining children and stressed parents. Besides all that, Martina seems to be missing someone in her lyrics, wondering where they went and if they’ll come back. Part of her wondering might be about the fair itself and when it will come back to her town. But she also seems to be remembering specific experiences with this “mystery person” of when they used to go to carnies, maybe when they were kids. It’s a song full of magical vibes and nostalgia, for sure.

Tell me what you think! Have you ever been to a carny? Is there something from your childhood that you feel nostalgic about? Let me know if you liked this song, and if there is another song you want to see here. Just shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!

And watch the video people 🙂

Not smart inferno

Today I’m going to explain using the words hell (as in hell yes/no), hella, and dumb and mad as modifying adjectives. As before, I’ll give example dialogues using Charles as our main character. Ready? Here it is.

1. Hell

H-E-double hockey sticks. So here, we’re not talking about that terrible place of punishment underground where the world’s most evil folks go to burn for eternity … though, that is the origin. Hell is such a bad place that it turned into a curse word. Examples of this are “go to hell,” or “what the hell?” These uses are still very common in English, though by most they aren’t seen as curses anymore. Over time, and with uses like “hot as hell,” or “big as hell,” that word became a synonym for “very/really.” So, when we start to use “hell” to negate something or assert something, it has the effect of a big YES or a big NO. Check this out:

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Charles— Hey, bro. You wanna go to Big Berry with me?

Jonah— Huh? What the hell is a “big berry”?

  • A general curse of confusion.

C— You haven’t heard? Big Berry is an amusement park. You want to go with me? I have season tickets.

J— What do you mean, “do I want to go?” Hell yeah! I love roller coasters.

  • An excited assertion, a big YES.

C— Sweet! I do too. They have some really big rides there, I think, the biggest in the country.

J— Right? And their elevator drop ride goes high as hell. And you got season passes? Oh, we’re gonna have some fun.

  • “As hell” meaning very or really.

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2. Hella

Another variation of hell is “hella.” I have no idea where this comes from, but it pretty much has the same meaning as “as hell.” So when you hear it, it’s usually used to say very or really. Some examples from pop culture are “hella good” and “hella cheddar (money).”

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J— What day do you wanna go? Maybe next week is better.

C— I mean, we can go this Saturday if you want.

J— Hell nah! I’m not going to an amusement park on a Saturday.

  • A strong negation, a big NO. “Nah” is another way to pronounce “no” in some accents.

C— Why? Isn’t it more fun on the weekends? That’s when all the people go.

J— Exactly. Trust me, you do not want to sit in some hella long line all day trying to get on one ride. Forget that. Let’s go on the Monday after next.

  • As you can see, “hella” here just means really. “Really long line.”

C— Why then?

J— They’re doing maintenance on the classrooms that day, so we don’t have class.

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3. Dumb, Mad (very)

These two words usually have a negative meaning, as you can imagine. But, we can also use these words to mean “very” or “really” in an exaggerated way, almost like saying “super.”

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C— Well, that makes sense. It’s just so far away. I was looking forward to going this weekend.

J— It’ll be better on the other Monday anyway since fall is coming. If we went this weekend, it’d be mad hot. You don’t wanna wait in a line when it’s 90 degrees out, do you?

  • A strong REALLY. “Really hot.”

C— Nah, you’re right. It’s better to stay inside. Or better yet, we could get a frozen lemonade. You know Chick-fil-A has some good ones.

J— Oh yeah! There’s one right down the street too. Their lemonades are dumb good, and ice cold too. Great idea!

  • In the same way, “dumb” here means really. “Really good.”

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You’ll notice you can use both “dumb” and “mad” in positive or negative situations. Either way, they add big emphasis to the word really, almost like saying “super.”

*Cultural note: “Hell,” “hella,” and other words like it are pretty common in today’s English, although for some religious people it can still be interpreted as a curse (bad) word. “Mad” and “dumb” are usually not offensive, but the tone of voice and context matter. For example, you don’t want to direct these at a specific person or it could sound like you are calling them “dumb.” Also, all of these words are hella informal, so you don’t want to use them in formal settings or with people you should respect, like someone’s parents. Of course, pay attention to social cues. If other people are using them, it’s a good signal that you can in that situation too.

Can you think of your own sentences using today’s words? Do you think it’s offensive to say “hell” or “dumb”? In what situations have you heard these words being used? Tell me in the comments! I can also give you a personal explanation by email! I’m always open to explaining more and hearing what you want to learn. tietewaller@gmail.com

“B.Y.O.B.” [System of a Down]

Flag of Armenian SSR
Armenian USSR
Flag of Lebanon
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Flag of the United States
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View video & explanation below–>

You!

  • Since the lyrics talk about war, this “You!” feels like a call to go and fight. It’s like the famous Uncle Sam recruiting posters, written “I want You!”
Poster I Want You, no QueroPosters.com
Classic “I want you” poster, from here

Why do they always send the poor?

  • Usually, by majority the poor, lower class, or undereducated are sent to fight wars, at least historically.

Barbarisms by Barbaras with pointed heels

  • “Barbarisms” are acts of extreme cruelty, like what barbarians (wild and uncivilized people) would do. Barbaras could be a reference to a specific group of barbarians. It also seems like a plural of the name Barbara, which could be a shot at certain women in power, such as Barbara Bush (George W. Bush’s mom). The “pointed heels” makes me think it’s about these kinds of women, too.

Victorious victories kneel for brand new spanking deals

  • “Kneel” usually means to bend down to pick something up off the ground. It can also mean to bow down in front of a leader. “Brand spanking new” means the same as brand new, or very new.

Marching forward, hypocritic and hypnotic computers

  • Talking about how governments and their intentions are often hypocritical and turn their citizens into “hypnotized computers” willing to do everything they ask, almost like robots or zombies.

You depend on our protection, yet you feed us lies from the table cloth

  • Saying how the government needs us (the public, the common people) to protect the nation. Yet, they “feed us lies from the tablecloth,” or since we are born. To “feed lies” is a common way to say that someone is being lied to or giving lies to another. A “table cloth” is often what parents use to clean a baby’s mouth.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, ooh-ooh

  • This “la-la-la” reminds me of a happy, silly kid’s song. It’s like a lullaby (children’s song) used to make everything look okay and happy.

Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time

  • This line shows how governments try to make going to war seem like a big party, a lot of fun, and how “everyone” is doing it. It’s the cool thing to do.

Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine

  • Knowing this song is about war, we can guess that “dancing in the desert” is a reference to America’s recent wars in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and parts of Africa, and how the fighting often happens in desert climates. “Blowing up sunshine” references big bombs that look like the sun when they explode.
Nuclear explosion - Wikipedia
blowing out the sunshine, from here

Kneeling roses disappearing into Moses’ dry mouth

  • Kneeling roses can be a reference to dead soldiers, since people usually leave flowers at graves. Moses can be a reference to Israel or the Middle East in general, since that is where Moses and most of the Bible’s characters lived. These soldiers “disappear” into the dry desert, dying during these wars.

Breaking into Fort Knox, stealing our intentions

  • Fort Knox is a famous American military gold reserve. To “break into” something is to force your way in with intentions to steal or do something bad. The intentions of most people who go to war is good, to protect the nation, fight for freedom, etc. This line shows how the government just uses wars to make more money and corrupts the good intentions of the common people.

Hangars sitting dripped in oil, crying, “Freedom”

  • A “hangar” is a storage building for aircraft. This could mean that war planes are sitting and waiting with their engines full of oil, ready to attack and protect their “Freedom!” at any minute.

Handed to obsoletion, still, you feed us lies from the table cloth

  • “Obsoletion” I’m not sure if it’s a real word, which is fine. To be “obsolete” means to lose value or purpose. To “hand in” means to give something up or give it away. So the common citizens are being turned obsolete, or useless, by governments and big corporations. But we’re still lied to from the time we’re babies.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, ooh-ooh

Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time

Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine

Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time

Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine

Blast off, it’s party time

  • “Blast off” is what you might say before traveling in a space ship, or before doing something really extraordinary on Earth. Again, they refer back to the “party in the desert.” Now it’s time to take off in our planes and go have fun in the desert (go to war).

And we don’t live in a fascist nation

  • “Fascism” is a kind of extreme right- or left-wing government that oppresses any opposition and practices strict control over the economy, society, and other social functions. The tone here makes it sound sarcastic, and the sentiment is that they do live in a fascist nation.

Blast off, it’s party time

And where the f*** are you?

  • Before, “You” was pointed at citizens, calling them to go fight the wars. Now, they turn the question back at leaders, asking “where are they?” When leaders send people to fight, the soldiers are often forgotten when they come back. You can see a lot of veterans in America suffering physical and mental injuries and who don’t receive the help they deserve.

Where the f*** are you?

Where the f*** are you?

Why don’t presidents fight the war?

Why do they always send the poor?

And … the lyrics repeat.

B.Y.O.B. is a very radical and anti-government/establishment song, common for this genre. “BYOB” usually is an acronym for “Be Your Own Boss,” or take care of yourself, start your own business, etc. For this song, it is an acronym for “Bring Your Own Bombs,” referring to the subject of war and destruction. The lyrics are very critical of bureaucratic leaders who make war and corruption seem fun, like a party. In reality, they often leave behind the people who fight and forget about them, making them useless in society. This recalls so many veterans who get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or lose limbs, for example, and can’t function normally in society when they return from battle. Ultimately, it’s a criticism against the U.S.A.’s corrupt nature making people do what they want, telling them it is heroic and for freedom, but ultimately using these people for their own gain. Deep stuff! And best of all, it doesn’t just apply to America!

Did you understand the lyrics of this song? Do you feel this way about the U.S. or your own country? Do you think it’s noble to fight for your country? Please comment below or send me an email directly. I’m always open to topic suggestions, critiques, or positive reinforcements! tietewaller@gmail.com

Watch it here!

Shooting the buzz bang

Today’s terms: hit / slam / bang / rock / hit me up / give a ring, buzz / shoot a message

No, I’m trying to get you to meet my buddy. He’s a producer.

Jonah was trying enthusiastically to calm Charles down on their way to the music studio.

—Come on, man. You know I don’t like to be around these kinds of people. I get nervous.

Jonah reassured him; —Yeah, Mike is a real scary kind of guy. A real gangster off the streets! Come on, bro. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll hold your hand.

Charles tapped Jonah’s hand away as he reached for it.

—Nobody likes sarcasm, bro, Charles protested.

—Everybody does!

Eventually, they drove up to the studio parking lot. There were a group of teenagers smoking in the front, maybe add the smell of spilled liquor on the floor. Everyone looked calm but suspicious. Although, when they saw it is Jonah, they all smiled and signaled “hello” to him.

—What’s up everybody! Are y’all rocking today?

Everyone nodded, made mumble sounds, and they turned back to their joints. Charles gave them a shy nod. Then the two friends strolled inside.

Once inside the studio, there were strong musical beats coming from all over the place. Smooth instrumentals blended with fast rhythms. The noise was chaotic but artful, all the same. Jonah saw one of his colleagues coming towards them.

Yo, my brotha! What’s happening with ya? Y’all just got all the beats banging today.

—Well, you know how I rock, Jonah. Who’s your friend?

Charles felt a quick pain in his belly.

—Oh, my name’s Charles. What’s up?

The man reached out his hand and gave Charles a mixed handshake and hug in a friendly manner.

—Classic Mike. Gotta show them love. This is my buddy, Charles. He comes from another country, but he knows a lot of English.

—He seems like he can handle his business, isn’t that right, Charles!

They all laughed for a few seconds. Charles then spoke up.

—Yeah, I get by pretty well out here. I just didn’t understand when you said “banging” and “rock.” I didn’t really get it.

—No prob, man. Banging is what I say when something is really good, especially when it comes to music. I can say, “This song bangs.” It’s the same with Hit or Slam for something that’s really good, like a piece of music, some good food, or even a cute girl, for example. All my music slams and hits.

Charles was reminded.

—Oh, right. You are the producer!

Correct-o! But that’s different from banging, like to be a part of a gang. I don’t bang. But, those kids outside, I don’t know. All of them look like they bang. Now, Rock is basically the same thing. If something rocks, that means it’s really good, amazing. And what’s cool is you can rock something, like a song, a test, or a sport. It all means that you do really good in it.

—Yeah, my buddy Mike here rocks as a producer, by the way, Jonah added in.

As they talked, a young lady appeared from one of the recording booths and made her way towards the exit.

—Sheila?

She turned around. Yep, it was the same Sheila that Charles had been out with.

—Charles! Woah, I didn’t know you were into music.

Charles puffed up his chest.

—Oh, yeah. I’m really into music. Recording, he coughs, Really into recording. What do you do here?

—I’m a singer, remember? I thought I told you when we were texting a few days back.

Charles scratched his head.

—Anyway, I gotta go. Nice seeing you here! Exciting, am I right? Hit me up tonight, okay?

In a hurry, Sheila left from the studio and into her busy life. Charles looked confused.

—Why did she want me to hit her up? Is that, like, sexual?

Jonah and Mike stormed with laughter.

—You wish!

Jonah then explained.

Hit me up, man! It means the same as “send me a message,” or “give me a call.” It’s not sexual at all. Well, I guess not.

Mike added, —Yeah, it’s the same as saying give me a ring, shoot me a message, or give me a buzz. It all means “call me” or “message me.”

—Oh, I guess that makes sense.

—Charlie’s got a girlfriend!

All three of them laughed and pushed each other around playfully. Oh, guys.

—So, are you gonna hit her up tonight? Jonah asked Charles.

—You know I will!

Despite his outward confidence, Charles still felt pretty nervous. Not to mention guilty, having forgotten so quickly that Sheila was a singer. He dug for a little more information.

—So, Mike. Sheila records her songs here?

—Yeah. Just a few samples for SoundCloud. Why?

—Is she any good?

—For sure, bro! Sheila slams in the recording booth!

Saying that something slams, hits, or bangs is saying it’s really good to the senses (That food looks slamming! That rhythm hits hard! This song is banging!) These are more colloquial slang, so not all communities across the country use them. Otherwise, “hit me up,” “give me a buzz/ring,” and “shoot me a message” are all pretty common nationwide to tell someone to send you a message or to call, though these terms are very informal. Using “bang” to talk about being in a gang can be a problematic word, so I underlined it. It’s best not to use it unless you really know what you’re saying, and most people don’t even have to use it. Do you know why the other terms are underlined? Can you use today’s terms in your own sentences? Share with me down below!

*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. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

“Lazaretto” [Jack White]

Watch video below–>

Oh, my veins are blue and connected

  • Having “blue blood” means to be privileged, an aristocrat, or well-off. There also might be a connection to Blues music.

And every single bone in my brain is electric

  • This reminds me of the phrase “hard-headed” or “having a hard head.” This means that the person doesn’t listen or follow directions, and they like to do things their own way. Having “bones in my brain” might be a reference to having a hard head.

But I dig ditches like the best of ’em

  • Adding “like the best of them” to an action means that you can do it as well as the best. “He’s a great guitarist. He can play it like the best of them.”

Yo trabajo duro

  • For those that don’t speak Spanish/Castilian: “I work hard”

Como en madera y yeso

  • “Like in wood and plaster.” Like he’s a construction worker, basically.

Como en madera y yeso

And even God Herself has fewer plans than me

  • Referring to God as a “Her” in English is not common, but it’s a rebellious way to break the idea that God is a male figure. A biblical reference, but he’s saying he has even more plans than God has. Very busy.

But she never helps me out with my scams for free, though

  • A “scam” is some plan that is discreet, undercover, or malicious, usually trying to trick someone or to do something you’re not supposed to. Again, referring to God as a female.

She grabs a stick and then she points it at me

  • This is like people who are outcasts or have severe diseases. People are too afraid to touch them with their hands, so they only touch them from far away with a stick. It’s like being disgusted or frightened by those who are different than us. It also reminds me of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, for some reason.

When I say nothing, I say everything

Yeah, when I say nothing, I say everything

Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos - The Plainspoken  Scientist - AGU Blogosphere
some of the symptoms of leprosy, from here

They threw me down in a lazaretto

  • “Lazaretto” was a special kind of quarantine for people with a disease called leprosy. Historically, people with leprosy were secluded from the rest of society. This relates to him feeling like people threw him away into isolation, maybe because of his style or ideas.
Long before coronavirus, Philly ran a quarantine center for another deadly  contagion
An example of an old lazaretto, found here

Born rottin’, bored rotten

  • To “rot” is to go bad, like when a fruit or piece of meat is left out of the fridge for too long. If he was “born rotting,” this means he was born into this state of quarantine, or he’s never fit in with others since he was a kid. To be “bored rotten” is to be extremely bored. Similarly, a kid that is “rotten” is spoiled, or gets whatever they want even if they act bad. There are a lot of mixed meanings in this small lyric.

Makin’ models of people I used to know

Out of coffee and cotton

And all my illegitimate kids have begotten

  • An “illegitimate child” is one born out of a relationship that is not approved of or outside of marriage, for example. To be “begotten” is to be forgotten and left alone. It’s not such a common word in English nowadays and has more of an archaic or biblical feel to it.

Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin’

  • “Thrown to the wolves” is a popular phrase for when someone is thrown into a situation that they obviously have no chance to win. A similar phrase is “thrown to the lions.” “Feral” means wild or like a wild beast. Also, he pronounces “nothing” like “nuttin,” which is common in certain regions and accents.

Quarantined on the Isle of Man

MICHELIN Isle of Man map - ViaMichelin
Isle of Man between Great Britain & Ireland, from here
  • The Isle of Man is a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

And I’m trying to escape any way that I can, oh

7 Reasons you should visit the Isle of Man
Isle of Man is actually quite pretty, here

Any way that I can, oh

Damn, I have no time left, time is lost

No time at all, throw it in a garbage can

And I shake God’s hand

I jump up and let Her know when I can

This is how I’m gonna do it

They wanna burn down the prison

They’re lighting fires with the cash of the masses

  • With the public’s money.

And like the dough, I don’t fall down

  • “Dough” is a slang term for money. Real dough (used to make bread) rises in an oven. “Bread” is also slang for money.

I’m so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

  • “I’m so…” is a way to compare yourself to something else. “I’m so Los Angeles, always hot and sunny!” Detroit is known for suffering a huge economic crash but has been steadily rising in importance again. This image of “rising from the ashes” comes from the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that burns and rises again from its ashes. Figuratively, it means to reinvent yourself, grow, learn new things, and come back better after failing.

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This song centers around the idea of a societal outcast, like someone with a terrible disease like leprosy. His quarantine, as if on a lonely island, doesn’t come from a physical illness, but from his ambitions and personal style. The fact that he feels isolated turns out to be positive, since all this makes him unique. There are lots of references from the Bible or that could relate to religion, since leprosy is a disease that was prominent in the Bible. There’s this idea that he was born with some privilege, but he acknowledges this, accepts it, and it doesn’t stop him from working hard or getting his hands dirty. Him saying he works hard like a construction worker in Spanish is kind of a reference to many hard laborers in the U.S. having Mexican heritage, or Latin American heritage in general. What are your thoughts on this song? Do you understand why he would compare himself to a lazaretto? Share your thoughts!

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Also, watch the video. It’s really cool!

Candy raw go sick

Today’s terms: dope / sick / ill / raw / sweet

Charlie. What’s up! You have a ride?

Charles looked at his friend, Jonah, rolling by in an old car. Not old and ugly, broken, or raggedy. Jonah took good care of his car, a vintage antique from times long passed, an age that has long been forgotten.

—No, dude. You know I ride the bus everywhere.

—Agh, that’s too bad!

Jonah revved up his engine as if he were about to speed away and leave Charles behind. Before he could go five feet, he hit the break, shifted gears, then reversed.

—You know I couldn’t leave you behind like that, poor thing. Get in.

Charles shrugged his shoulders and got into the car.

—Sorry for hesitating. I was waiting for you to open my door for me.

—Ha! Don’t push your luck.

They went along in the car, not rushing or anything, just cruising. After all, they had nowhere to go. A traffic light quickly turned red without showing yellow first. Jonah screeched to a stop, passed the crosswalk, then scooted back again. While they were stopped at the light he looked into his car mirrors.

—Yo, Charles … You see them?

He nodded in the direction of the corner where there were a couple of young ladies waiting to cross. Charles looked quickly at them, then away, hoping they didn’t notice him. Jonah smoothly turned the dial on his car radio and found a station he liked. Suddenly a loud song with deep bass and a quick rhythm started to burst out of his speakers. The ladies got kind of nervous and secured their purses. The light turned green and Jonah pressed on the gas again.

—What was that all about? Charles asked his friend.

—I was trying to impress those girls, man. Didn’t you see them?

—Yeah. But I don’t think it worked.

Jonah laughed.

—Well, you don’t know.

They rode for a little while longer, enjoying the music. Well, Jonah was loving it, but Charles’s ears were starting to hurt, if I’m being honest.

—Oh! This is my song. The beat is so sick! You’ve heard this one, right?

No answer. Charles was quite confused.

—You haven’t heard this? It’s too dope.

—Bro. What in the world are you talking about?

—You know what I mean by “dope?

Charles gave a look like he needed a bit more explanation. Jonah turned the volume down.

Dope, man. It means really cool, like, “That song is dope!” I love that song. And it’s the same with sick. I don’t mean sick with the flu, with corona, you know. I mean it’s really cool.

—Hmm, I guess it makes sense.

—I could say the same with ill. Ill means sick in bed anyway, but I can use it to talk about something that’s really cool, real good, like that song. Raw is the same. Not raw, like uncooked food. But raw like, “Bro, the beat on this song is raw!”

—I don’t know why being sick and raw turned into being cool, but that’s language, huh?

Sure is.

Another car passed them by. It had a red body, spinner rims, and bottom lights; it must have been brand new.

—Woah, that is a sweet car, my dude.

—I don’t know how you can taste a car. Does it have candy in the exhaust pipe?

Jonah smiled and tapped his friend on the back of the neck.

—Not that kind of sweet! Sweet is the same as dope. It means I want about five of those awesome cars for myself.

—I never knew there were so many ways to say something is cool.

There’s probably many more, my friend. Just learn as you go.

Charles nodded and agreed.

—Hey, who’s that girl you met that one time? She tell you her name yet?

—Oh, uh … You mean Sheila. Why? You feel like taking me to her place?

Jonah thought for a minute.

—Eh, why not. But when you get your license you’ll have to drive her around in your dope new ride.

—If you could give me a loan, that would be sweet!

Jonah rolled his eyes and revved his engine again.

—So, funny man, what’s her address?

Charles paused and realized something.

—Oh, crap.

  • Like in many other languages, there are lots of ways to express that something is cool, interesting, or that you really like it. You don’t have to use all of these expressions above to express that idea, but use one that you feel comfortable with. Saying “dope” and “sweet” usually feels more relaxed, while saying “sick,” “ill,” or “raw” feel more excited or enthusiastic. So, it depends on the personality of the speaker. Do you now understand how to use these words? Give me some example sentences in the comments!

*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. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?