Speak English Like an American » LESSON 15 - Nicole Practices Her Election Speech

Nicole Practices Her Election Speech

Nicole is running for student body president. She must give a speech next week. She discusses the speech with her mother.

Susan: What's up, Nicole?

Nicole: I pulled an all-nighter working on my election speech.

Susan: No wonder you look like a basket case! Did you finish your speech?

Nicole: Yes, at 6 a.m.

Susan: That must be a load off your mind!

Nicole: It's not. I've got to give the speech tomorrow in front of 1,500 people. I'm a nervous wreck!

Susan: Just remember the old rule of thumb: Imagine your audience naked.

Nicole: That's gross. Why would I want to do that?

Susan: According to conventional wisdom, it'll make you less nervous.

Nicole: Only practice will do the trick.

Susan: Okay, let's hear the speech.

Nicole: Good afternoon, everyone. There are four candidates running for president. You think you have several choices. In reality, you have just one choice: me!

Susan: You can't say that. You'll turn off your audience immediately.

Nicole: It sounds like I have a big head?

Susan: I'll say!

  • basket case
    someone or something in a useless or hopeless condition
    EXAMPLE 1: After working a 12-hour day and then coming home and cooking dinner for her family, Tanya felt like a basket case.
    EXAMPLE 2: After running the marathon, Brian felt like a basket case.

    NOTE: You may also see the expression "economic basket case" to describe an economy that is doing very poorly. Example: After years of dictatorship, North Korea is an economic basket case.

  • (to have a) big head
    arrogant; too proud of oneself
    EXAMPLE 1: Stop bragging so much about the award you got at work! People will think you've got a big head.
    EXAMPLE 2: Jenny has such a big head. No wonder nobody wants to be friends with her!

    SYNONYM: to be full of oneself. Example: Joan is really full of herself. She's always talking about how smart she is.

  • conventional wisdom
    a widely held belief
    EXAMPLE 1: According to conventional wisdom, a diet high in salt can cause high blood pressure.
    EXAMPLE 2: Challenging conventional wisdom, the psychologist said that sometimes it's healthy to be in a bad mood.
  • (to) do the trick
    to achieve the desired results
    EXAMPLE 1: Juan changed the light bulb and said, "That should do the trick!"
    EXAMPLE 2: My house is difficult to find, so I'll put 10 large balloons on my mailbox on the day of the party. That should do the trick.
  • I'll say!
    yes, definitely!
    EXAMPLE 1: "Did you enjoy the Madonna concert?" - "I'll say!"
    EXAMPLE 2: "Your sister must've been very happy after winning $50,000 in the lottery." - "I'll say!"
  • in reality
    in fact; actually
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted thinks it'll be easy to become a rock star. In reality, it will take years of hard work.
    EXAMPLE 2: I know you think it'll be easy to get cheap tickets to a Broadway play. In reality, we'll have to wait in line for hours!
  • load off one's mind
    a relief
    EXAMPLE 1: When Amber called Ted to tell him that she arrived home safely, it was a big load off his mind.
    EXAMPLE 2: Finishing her English essay was a load off Nicole's mind.
  • look like
    have the appearance of
    EXAMPLE 1: Before agreeing to go out on a date with her, Keith wanted to know what my cousin Maria looked like.
    EXAMPLE 2: Please tell me what the cover of that new book looks like so it will be easier for me to find it in the bookstore.

    NOTE: The expression "it looks like" can mean "it is likely that..." Example: It's snowing, so it looks like the schools will be closed today.

  • nervous wreck
    a person feeling very worried
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted was a nervous wreck before his chemistry test.
    EXAMPLE 2: Whenever Nicole rides on the back of her friend's motorcycle, Susan is a nervous wreck.
  • no wonder
    it's not surprising
    EXAMPLE 1: Brian's entire body is in pain. It's no wonder since he ran a marathon yesterday!
    EXAMPLE 2: No wonder you're cold — it's January and you're walking around outside without a coat!

    SYNONYM: small wonder

  • (to) pull an all-nighter
    to stay up all night to do work
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted pulled an all-nighter to study for his chemistry test and ended up falling asleep in class the next day.
    EXAMPLE 2: I've got a 20-page paper due tomorrow morning, and I haven't even started writing it yet. I guess I'll be pulling an all-nighter!
  • rule of thumb
    a useful principle
    EXAMPLE 1: When cooking fish, a good rule of thumb is 10 minutes in the oven for each inch of thickness.
    EXAMPLE 2: "Ted, as a rule of thumb, you should always plan to study for your chemistry tests for at least two hours."
  • (to) turn off
    to cause to feel dislike or revulsion
    EXAMPLE 1: I used to be friends with Monica, but she gossiped all the time and it really turned me off.
    EXAMPLE 2: At first, Sara really liked Jacob. But when he started talking about all his ex-girlfriends, she was really turned off.

    NOTE: The noun form, turn-off, is also common and usually describes something that causes the opposite sex to respond negatively. Example: When Jake started talking about all his ex-girlfriends, it was a real turn off for Sara.

  • what's up?
    What's going on? What's new?
    EXAMPLE 1: What's up? I haven't spoken to you in a long time.
    EXAMPLE 2: You never call me anymore. What's up with that?
Practice The Idioms

Choose the best substitute for the phrase in bold:

  1. Ted didn't start studying for his chemistry test until the night before. Then he had to pull an all-nighter.
    • a) get plenty of rest before an exam
    • b) stay up all night studying
    • c) sleep late
  2. After working on it for months, I finally gave my presentation this morning. That was certainly a load off my mind!
    • a) a relief
    • b) difficult
    • c) easy
  3. Nicole was turned off when Todd, her date, started picking his teeth with a toothpick during dinner.
    • a) left the room
    • b) became interested
    • c) lost all interest
  4. According to conventional wisdom, you shouldn't ask about salary on your first interview.
    • a) accepted beliefs
    • b) outdated beliefs
    • c) smart people
  5. Ted had to perform his music before one of the most important talent agents in the country. It's not surprising that he was a nervous wreck.
    • a) confident
    • b) very worried
    • c) exhausted
  6. Girls cheered and blew kisses whenever Ted performed his music. Amber worried that he'd get a big head.
    • a) get a headache
    • b) become arrogant
    • c) find a new girlfriend
  7. People keep telling Fred that he looks like a basket case. Maybe it's because he hasn't slept in weeks.
    • a) really great
    • b) angry
    • c) terrible
  8. Do you have a headache? Here, take two aspirin. That should do the trick.
    • a) make you feel better
    • b) perform magic
    • c) make you feel worse
Answer Key
Practice The Idioms
  1. b
  2. a
  3. c
  4. a
  5. b
  6. b
  7. c
  8. a
Answer Key
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