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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bad News Travels Fast



GET READY:

1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. Do you agree that "people like to gossip about things"?

READ THIS:

James sees another teacher, a woman named Betty, in the admin building.

James: Howdy, Betty. What's happening?
Betty: Oh, did you hear? Celia left school; her grandma's really sick.
James: Yeah, I heard. That's a shame.
Betty: You already knew it? But I just found out this second!
James: Yeah, "Bad news travels fast."
Betty: For sure. But why is that? I mean, why do you think it travels faster than good news?
James: I don't know. It seems like people prefer negative gossip to positive.
Betty: True. And look at the newspaper. It's always full of bad news.
James: Bad news sells. And what about the TV news?
Betty: Forget about it!

NOTES:

Today's proverb, "Bad news travels fast," may be more a matter of perception than reality. I mean, it may SEEM that bad news travels faster than good news; but I doubt that this has ever been tested scientifically!

More notes:
  • admin building: The administration building, the main building for the business (as opposed to the teaching) of a school.
  • Howdy: This is "cowboy slang" for hello. Originally it was "How do ye" (an old-fashioned way to say "How do you do?") People who say "Howdy" for "Hello" often say "Adios" for "Goodbye."
  • What's happening? Like "What's up?" and "What's new?" a casual way to say, "How are you?"
  • That's a shame: A way to express mild sympathy, like "That's too bad." It probably wouldn't be appropriate in the case of really bad news, where we might say, "I'm so sorry to hear that."
  • I just found out this second! "This second" is, of course, an exaggeration. It means "very recently."
  • For sure: A way to agree completely. "Do you like Mexican food? "For sure!"
  • negative gossip to positive: Sometimes when comparing two things, you can use this form: "Adjective noun to adjective." Example: "I prefer sunny days to rainy."
  • look at the newspaper: "look at" here means "think about," or "take…for example."
  • what about the TV news: "what about" is another way to introduce an example.
  • Forget about it! This is a humorous expression. It has a truly magnificent range of meaning, from "I really believe this" to "No way!" Agreement: "I love spicy food. And chilis? Forget about it!" Disagree: "What? You think bland is better than spicy? Forget about it!" Here, Betty uses it to agree with James.

PRACTICE:

Fill in the expressions in the dialogue. Then practice.

A: (1) __________, Jane! What's happening?
B: Not much. I was just in the (2) __________ to see the Dean.
A: About what?
B: Oh, I may have to take a leave of absence.
A: (3) __________.
B: Not really--I'm pregnant!
A: Oh! Congratulations! That's really good news.
B: (4) __________! But I hate to say "(5) __________" to my students.
A: You're not leaving (6) __________, are you?
B: No, I'll stay another few weeks. I (7) __________ busy days to lazy.
A: I hear you. (8) __________ the health benefits of staying active, too.
B: And (9) __________ the money?
A: Right. But seriously: you like work more than relaxing? (10) __________!

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Do you like gossip? What's good about it? What's bad?
2. Do you believe bad news travels faster than good news?
3. do you think "Bad news sells"? Why or why not?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. Howdy; 2. admin building; 3. That's a shame; 4. For sure; 5. adios; 6. this second; 7. prefer; 8. look at; 9. what about; 10. Forget about it

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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