BBC 6 minute English-Sighing

BBC 6 minute English-Sighing

BBC 6 minute English-Sighing


Transcript of the podcast

Note: This is not a word for word transcript

Dan: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English – the programme where we bring you an interesting topic and six items of vocabulary. I’m Dan. And today we’re talking about

Catherine: Sighing. I’m Catherine

Dan: Now – was that a real sigh – or just one to demonstrate the meaning

Catherine: That one was just for educational purposes, of course, Dan

Dan: We’ll be looking at why we sigh, and learn how sighing keeps us alive

Catherine: Yes, very interesting. And it’s not just humans that sigh, is it, Dan

Dan: Indeed, most mammals sigh. And that brings me to today’s question. How many times does a mouse sigh in an hour, on average? Is it

a) Twice

b) 10 times

c) 40 times

Catherine: I’m going to say the poor little thing will sigh about 40 times an hour

Dan: OK. Let’s find out if you’re right later on in the programme. Now, what is a sigh, exactly

Catherine: Let’s hear from Dr Lynne Barker, a cognitive neuroscientist from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK

INSERT Dr Lynne Barker, Cognitive Neuroscientist, Sheffield Hallam University

It’s a typically cardio-respiratory kind of resetting mechanism, and most mammals will engage in sighing of some kind. Because people who don’t sigh would eventually die. It is a survival mechanism

Catherine: So sighing keeps us alive

Dan: Dr Barker called it a survival mechanism. To survive means to continue living, especially in difficult circumstances. A mechanism, here, means a system of behaviour

Catherine: So, a survival mechanism is something the body does automatically in order to survive. But, Dan, why is sighing a survival mechanism

Dan: It’s because sighing can reset the lungs. To reset is to return something to its original settings. We often use this verb when talking about technology. You can reset a computer or a phone

Catherine: OK, that’s fine. But how does a sigh reset the lungs

Dan: Well, scientists from UCLA, that’s the University of California, Los Angeles, found that a sigh is a special kind of very deep breath that keeps the tiny sacs of air in our lungs, called alveoli, working properly

Catherine: And without sighing, these alveoli would collapse and we would die. We need the alveoli to transfer oxygen from our lungs to our blood

Dan: Thankfully, we don’t have to think about this need to reset our lungs. Sighing is in fact a reflex

Catherine: Boo

Dan: Argh

Catherine: There – you jumped! And that was a fabulous reflex, Dan! It’s something our bodies do without thinking, something you do unconsciously or automatically

Dan: I meant… argh… like a man. Thank you for that, Catherine

Catherine: You’re welcome

Dan: Do you sigh a lot

Catherine: Well, I sigh when I’m tired, and I sigh when I’m relieved. I breathe a sigh of relief

Dan: To breathe a sigh of relief – that’s a great expression. It means what you think it means – to sigh when you feel good that something bad has not happened – but it’s often used metaphorically. It relates more to the feeling of relief than the act of sighing

Catherine: That’s right. Now, I breathed a sigh of relief when I found my mobile phone the other day. I thought I’d lost it. It was new. I was so pleased when I found it! What about you, Dan

Dan: I tend to sigh to show frustration. And sometimes resignation

Catherine: Now, frustration is what we feel when things aren’t going well, when things are annoying us and they don’t work. When things are frustrating

Dan: And resignation is what we feel when we finally accept that something bad has happened, that we can’t change. We feel resigned to something

Catherine: So, relief, resignation, frustration, resetting our lungs. It sounds like we humans never stop sighing

Dan: Well, actually, we humans sigh on average 12 times an hour. But what about… mice

Catherine: Well, I said, I reckon they sigh about 40 times an hour

Dan: Well, in fact, it is 40 times an hour. The hearts of mice beat faster – so they need to regulate their lungs more than humans

Catherine: Let’s review today’s vocabulary

Dan: We had the phrase survival mechanism. Something we do without thinking that keeps us alive

Catherine: We often use this phrase, and the related phrase defence mechanism, when talking about what people do to cope with difficulties in life

Dan: Next, we had reset. You can reset a computer, or a machine – to make it work again. This usually means switching it off and on again

Catherine: And you can reset a password – this is a little bit different. It means to set – or choose – a new password

Dan: We also had the word reflex. This is a physical action or reaction that you can’t control. For example… Catherine

Catherine: Yes

Dan: There, you closed your eyes. Another reflex

Catherine: And we had to breathe a sigh to relief. Which means to feel better after something bad doesn’t happen. I breathed a sigh of relief when my friend recovered from her illness

Dan: But we sigh for other reasons too. Two useful sighing words were: frustration and resignation

Catherine: Frustration is the state of being frustrated. We can say something is frustrating. It’s frustrating when the boss doesn’t listen to me

Dan: But let’s say you move beyond feeling frustrated and start feeling resigned

Catherine: Yeah, and that would be when I finally accept the boss will never listen to me. And that’s when I’ll resign

Dan: To resign also means to voluntarily leave a job! Please, Catherine, tell me that’s just another vocabulary example

Catherine: Of course it is, Dan. I love my job! I only ever sigh, what, 12 times an hour

Dan: Which is perfectly average. And that’s it for today’s 6 Minute English. Please join us again soon

Catherine: And we are on social media too. Make sure to find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

Both: Bye

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