Season 2 Episode 12

Happy 2023 everyone! After a two week hiatus, that is break, I’m back with another episode of Ethos English, the world’s favourite podcast for advanced English learners and those who teach them. Now, if you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me in two weeks, the answer’s simple. As I mentioned in my last episode, I was nursing a cold, that is, I was at home resting to get better. And I’m only just starting to feel better after two weeks. Last week my voice was so hoarse from coughing that I pretty much lost my voice altogether.

Speaking of nursing a cold, one of my listeners got in touch to remind me of another useful collocation that is quite common in English. They pointed out that just as you can nurse a cold or injury, that is stay at home until you recover, you can also nurse a hangover. A hangover is the feeling of sickness often accompanied by a headache the day after drinking too much alcohol. Obviously this time of year, after all the new year’s parties there were loads of people around the world nursing hangovers, probably telling their family members, partners or housemates to keep their voices down.

While I was nursing a cold this year over the holidays, I was not nursing a hangover. In fact, it’s been more than two years since my last drink of alcohol. Now, I’m not trying to convince anyone to do anything in particular. I definitely don’t want to get on a soapbox and tell anyone how to lead their life. Besides which, who will listen to me anyway? By the way, if you get on a soapbox you tell people your opinions in a loud and aggressive way. 

Now, if you’re interested in learning more about what led me to give up drinking, I discuss it in Season 1 Episode 6, which is linked in the show notes at In that episode I talk about a book that inspired me to see drinking in a whole new light, called This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace, which was inspired by a classic bestseller on giving up smoking by Allen Carr called The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. If there’s anyone you know who wants to give up smoking, which I’ve also done, this book is also a must read.

The thing is, chances are you’re probably more sensible than I’ve been in my life and don’t need help quitting alcohol or tobacco. But I want to make a bigger point. The real takeaway from both of these books is simple – how you frame a situation, how you use your mind, and language I might add – makes all the difference. Without a doubt there’s something you want to do more of in your life or that you want to change. It might be as simple as a more consistent exercise routine, a healthier diet, or who knows, better English?

Both Annie Grace and Allen Carr insist on the tremendous power of belief. If you talk about making a change, whether it be giving up a harmful substance or taking up a sport, if you frame it as a sacrifice it will be much harder to change in a way that’s sustainable. Changing your habits is far easier if you examine your beliefs first.

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to be an armchair psychologist this week, but here I am, doing exactly that. If I’ve piqued your interest and you want to listen to a longer podcast in English, I would highly recommend an episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain called Who do you want to be? Unlike most stuff on personal transformation and new year’s resolutions, this episode doesn’t go into how we change, but why. At one point the guest psychologist Ken Sheldon discusses extrinsic versus intrinsic motivations and how external rewards can end up making something that used to be fun into a chore, that is a task you have to do on a regular basis, usually related to cleaning your home.

To be honest, this part of the show was a bit of a wake up call for me, that is, an experience or event that shocks you and makes you realise that you have to do something to change a situation. In my case it’s this podcast. I realised that I’ve become more concerned about my show becoming popular and getting lots of downloads rather than enjoying the process. And as might be expected, by times it has come to feel like a chore. So, I want to get back to enjoying myself more and doing this as a labour of love, that is something that is hard work but that you want to do.

Now, before I go through today’s vocabulary, let me remind you of a few things.
Firstly, you can follow me on Instagram at EthosEnglishWithSean. If you go to the show notes at and click on today’s episode you’ll be able to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Once a month I send out a summary of that month’s episodes and share a Quizlet flashcard set to study that month’s vocabulary. If you like the show a review on Apple Podcasts would be particularly helpful, especially if it included the adjectives wonderful, funny, entertaining, brilliant, educational… anyway you get the idea. So let’s look at today’s vocabulary.

a hiatus: (formal) a break in an activity, or a time during which something does not happen or exist
Example: Talks between the two countries have resumed after a six-year hiatus.
hoarse: if you are hoarse, or if your voice is hoarse, you speak in a low rough voice, for example because your throat is sore
Example: He was hoarse from laughing.
nurse a hangover: recover physically the day after having drunk too much alcohol
Example: Many people spend New Year’s Day nursing a hangover.
get on a soapbox: (informal) if someone is on their soapbox, they are telling people their opinions about something in a loud and forceful way
see something in a new/different light: if someone or something is seen or shown in a new or different light, people can see them or it in a new way.
Example: I suddenly saw my father in a new light.
takeaway: a main message or piece of information that you learn from something you hear or read.
Example: The takeaway from the conference was how competitive the tourism industry has become.
I might add: (spoken) used for emphasising a new piece of information
Example: I’ve had an offer – a very generous offer, I might armchair psychologist/critic/gardener: used to refer to a person who knows, or says they know, a lot about a subject without having direct experience of it, synonym: amateur
Example: Ever since the covid outbreak the world is full of armchair epidemiologists who think they have figured out this disease.
pique someone’s interest or curiosity in something: (especially American English) make you feel interested in something or someone
Example: He was surprised at the length of the symphony and its unusual style, and his interest was piqued.
a chore: a job or piece of work that is often boring or unpleasant but needs to be done regularly.
Example: I find writing reports a real chore (= very boring).
be a wake-up call: an experience or event that shocks you and makes you realise that you must do something to change a situation
Example: The success of extremist groups in the elections should be a wake-up call to all decent citizens.
a labour of love: hard work that you do because you enjoy it and not because you will receive money or praise for it, or because you need to do it:
Example: He’s always working on his car – it’s a labour of love.

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