So, over the last few weeks we’ve been talking TV, and different types of TV shows.
As I said last time, as a general rule, not every series is the same, but comedies tend to be easier to understand than dramas. In a comedy series, they want you to understand the dialogue and get the joke. Often the dialogue sounds less realistic. It sounds more like it’s read from a script.
So I’m going to walk you through a clip from one of my favourite sitcoms which is “How I met your mother”. This is a series about a young architect, Ted Mosby, who’s the guy on the left here, and his search for love. In the series, you hear future Ted telling his kids about how he met their mother.
So we’ve got the voiceover of the old Ted. Sometimes we see the kids sitting there listening to his stories. Other times the stories that he tells are the action in the series –with his young self and his four friends, Robin, Barney, Lily and Marshall. Very often they all meet up at a bar called Mc Claren’s to see each other and talk about their lives.
This scene is taken from the 6th season of the series, and that’s actually where I started watching it. I jumped in at the end. We’re going to work on the first minute together. There are no subtitles unfortunately for this clip, but I’m going to walk you through and explain the listening difficulties and any vocabulary that’s tricky.
So just for some context – Ted is an architect as I mentioned, and he’s supposed to be designing the new headquarters for Goliath National Bank, which is the bank that his friend Barney works for.
The new headquarters are going to be built on the site of an old hotel. Ted decides suddenly that he doesn’t want to design the new building and his friends are surprised because this was supposed to be his big break. So, a big career opportunity for him and a chance to become a well-known architect.
“I wanna ask the board at GNB to move the site for the new headquarters so we don’t have to tear down a classic old building”.
So there’s a lot going on in the first seven seconds. One of the things that happens is that Ted mentions the name of the bank, but he uses an abbreviated version. So he calls it GNB. That’s the initials for Goliath National Bank.
The first time that I heard this, I thought he was saying G&B, because often when we say the word “and” in fast speech we reduce it to ‘n’. But no, it’s the initials of the name of the bank. Not G&B. That makes me think of G&T – gin and tonic! So when we shorten that, it sounds like G ‘n T.
Ted says “so we don’t have to” Here everything is very squashed together because we have lots of unstressed words. Instead of sounding like “so – we – don’t – have – to”, it sounds like “so-we-don’-hav’t” Here he’s deleting some sounds and joining some together. That’s a really good example of the squashed expression you would hear in fast speech.
We’ve also got some good examples from his friend Barney in the next bit.
“I still don’t get this. Why, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, do you wanna ruin…Wait a minute!”
So here there are lots of expressions that get linked and shrunk together. We started off with “all of a sudden” The first three words in that expression all get joined together and shrunk down “all’v’a”.
There was also “out of nowhere” and Barney pronounced it as “outta nowhere”. So that’s classic for the expression “out of something”. So “out of nowhere” means that it’s a surprise.
There was also “d’you wanna ruin” and instead of “want to” he says “wanna”. That’s pretty classic.
Then at the end he uses the expression “wait a minute.” In his American accent, he makes the T on “wait” sound like a D, so it becomes “waid’a minute”.
“Who’s the girl?”
So Barney asks the question “who’s the girl?”
The series is all about Ted’s search for love and his friends know that a lot of his decisions are motivated because of women! So that’s why Barney makes this comment!
“What? I, there’s no girl! Why would you even…”
So it’s funny in this section. All of his friends are accusing him of wanting to drop the Goliath National Bank project because of a girl. Ted starts hesitating and repeating himself and stumbling over his words as you might do in a normal conversation.
“Her name is Zoe”
“Boobs?” So this is an informal word for breasts, as Barney is the womaniser of the group and he is obviously interested in the physical features of this new person that Ted has met.
We’re going to see her next:
“Beautiful building, right?
Look, Mr, you are very convincing, and I’m very flattered, confused even, but I’m not looking for
I’m not a drag queen!”
So there are a couple of things we need to explain. This is Ted meeting this new woman, Zoe, for the first time. They are standing opposite the Arcadian, which is the hotel that the bank wants to destroy so that Ted can build a new building for the bank headquarters on the site.
What you need to know is that the area where the hotel is situated is full of transvestite prostitutes. So that’s why Ted says to Zoe “sorry Mr” because he assumes that she’s a transvestite. That’s why she replies “I’m not a drag queen”.
“but you definitely have me rethinking this eye shadow.”
What she says next is very hard to catch. She says “but you definitely have me rethinking this eye shadow”. She reduces the first two words to sound like “bu’yu”, pretty classic for those words.
On “definitely” she drops some of the syllables. So it goes from “definitely” to “defnly” We do that quite a lot in English with certain adverbs like “actually”, which we pronounce more like “ashly” when we’re speaking very very fast. Zoe does something similar here.
“Have me” is reduced as well, and also “this eye shadow” joins together to make “thiseyeshadow”. Eye shadow is what you put on your eyes to make them look pretty.
The whole transvestite joke also explains Ted’s line in the next section:
“Not only is she funny, hot, and genetically female, but get this!”
Ted just did a few things. He said that Zoe’s hot, which means sexually attractive, and also genetically female, because he learned that she’s not a transvestite prostitute as he initially thought!
Just before we cut back to the scene with Zoe and Ted, Ted said to his friends “but get this!”
“Get this” is an informal expression in English that means “pay attention”. You usually use it when you have something surprising to tell people. It’s a bit like saying “guess what?” It functions in a similar way.
In this next bit, Zoe is going to use some difficult vocabulary that to be honest I didn’t recognise because she’s drawing Ted’s attention to the architectural features of the Arcadian hotel.
“The windows. The rusticated stonework. The marble cornices.”
So she mentions Palladian windows – I don’t know what that is – a type of window. Rusticated stonework and marble cornices. Even if you don’t know what those terms mean, you’re not surprised by what Ted said next, which is:
“She’s an architecture nerd!”
So he’s really pleased because he’s an architect and she must be into architecture because she uses this kind of really specific terminology to describe the building.
“An architecture nerd! That’s the dream!
So it’s a dream according to Ted, although Barney is a bit more skeptical. He’s not such a fan of architecture.
So, if you want to know more about this episode, I’m going to link to the clip. You can also find the full transcript of the clip on Genius.com. There’s also a How I met your mother wiki, which is really useful for checking the plot of the episode to make sure you understood.
If you have any other questions about the clip, or anything I’ve talked about, you can ask me in the comments! Thanks for reading!
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