Season 2 Episode 24

Hello, this is Sean. Welcome to Ethos English, the podcast for advanced English learners and the people who teach them. In just a few minutes a week you’ll boost your vocabulary and become a more confident English speaker. Want to learn more? Head over to and sign up for my monthly newsletter, which includes a fun Quizlet flashcard set covering all the key vocabulary from each episode. And don’t worry if you miss anything during the show, because at the end of every episode, I provide clear definitions to help you truly understand and apply your new vocabulary. Let’s get started!

First of all, if you’re an English teacher whose first language isn’t English, make sure to listen until the end of the show because I have an announcement about a free, interactive online event at the end of the month. But first, let’s get to this week’s story.

Last Saturday the man we used to know as Prince Charles was crowned King not only of the United Kingdom but also of 14 Commonwealth realms such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The word realm in this sense of a country ruled by a king or queen is quite old-fashioned – it’s the kind of word you might come across in a fairy tale. Here it’s used more specifically to describe former colonies of the UK which still have the English monarch as their head of state. But interestingly the word has a secondary meaning which is actually quite useful. A realm, apart from the territory of a kingdom, is also used to refer to an area of interest or activity. 

For example, until recently artificial intelligence was an idea that belonged in the realm of science fiction. And bringing this back to the monarchy, we often talk about an event being within or beyond the realm of possibility. If something is within the realm of possibility, it’s possible though not likely. So, for instance, while there are no imminent plans for Canada, my home country, to do away with the monarchy, imagine that, Charles is our king too and he doesn’t even live on the same continent… Anyway, according to recent polls it’s within the realm of possibility that Canadians would vote to get rid of him. Not so long ago that would’ve been beyond the realm of possibility, that is inconceivable, unthinkable.

It almost makes you feel sorry for Charles. He finally gets to be King and now the whole institution of monarchy just looks increasingly silly. Even in the UK support for the monarchy is on the wane, that is in decline. Last week The Guardian reported that just under 3 in 10 Brits think the monarchy is important. 

Now, although I’m not a monarchist I do have to admit that English has loads of idioms related to the monarchy which are definitely worth learning.

Recently I mentioned the chunk not be fit for human consumption, as it is not appropriate or safe to eat. Well, there’s the saying that something is fit for a king, meaning that it’s suitable or good enough for a king. In other words, it’s something of extremely high quality. 

A kingmaker is a person who influences the choice of people for powerful positions within an organisation. For instance, in the realm of politics that might mean a businessperson who helps a candidate access donations for an election campaign. So a kingmaker is someone who exercises a lot of influence behind the scenes and has connections.

Another great idiom is when you say something is king, which is used to say that someone or something is the most important part of something or has the most influence.

Here are some examples:

In mergers and acquisitions, cash is king.

They all followed the principle that the customer is king.

Media executives are fond of saying that content is king.

Another monarchy idiom that’s quite common is to call someone a royal pain, that is someone who’s really annoying. If you want to be a bit more vulgar you can say someone’s a royal pain in the ass. 

A nice collocation for formal writing and speaking is crowning achievement or crowning glory to talk about the best or most important thing that a person has done. 

These are just a handful of the many expressions to do with monarchy. And before I finish, I wanted to teach you a great word to talk about something we think is obsolete, old-fashioned, that we should get rid of. It’s the adjective anachronistic. Critics of the monarchy claim, quite rightly I think, that it’s an anachronistic institution. It no longer fits with society’s values. We could also say it’s an anachronism. But then again, maybe that’s precisely why some people like it. 

As I mentioned at the top of the show, I’m holding a free online event for English teachers who want to improve their English while also developing their teaching skills. It’s on Saturday 27 May and it’s open to all teachers with at least a C1 level of English. I’ll be talking about my new membership, Ethos English Lab. The session will be on cognitive biases and how our beliefs shape the world. You’ll be working in breakout rooms with other teachers and I think you’ll find the event very rewarding. To subscribe to my newsletter go to And in case you’re wondering, the membership fee will be 19 euros a month for those of you who sign up for the July 1st launch. Let me repeat, the event on 27 May is entirely free and you’ll have the chance to ask me any questions you have about the membership.

Now, let’s go over today’s vocabulary.

realm: A realm is a domain or area with specific boundaries, often referring to a kingdom, territory, or field of activity or knowledge.

The realm of physics has expanded significantly with the discovery of new particles and phenomena.

be within the realm of possibility: To be within the realm of possibility means that something is feasible or likely to happen.

With the rapid advancements in technology, colonising Mars is now within the realm of possibility.

Be beyond the realm of possibility: To be beyond the realm of possibility means that something is highly unlikely or impossible to happen.

Teleportation, although an exciting concept, is still beyond the realm of possibility in our current understanding of science.

Be on the wane: To be on the wane means to be in a state of decline or decrease in strength, intensity, or importance.

The popularity of traditional landline phones is on the wane as people continue to adopt smartphones.

To be fit for a king means to be of extremely high quality or luxurious, suitable for someone of great importance or royal status.

The extravagant meal, complete with caviar and champagne, was truly fit for a king.

A kingmaker: A kingmaker is a person or group that holds significant influence or power, allowing them to decide who will hold a position of authority or leadership.

The influential media mogul acted as a kingmaker, using his power and resources to back the winning candidate in the election.

Be king: To be king means to be the best or most important in a particular area or activity, holding a dominant position or authority.

In the world of smartphones, Apple continues to be king with its innovative designs and cutting-edge technology.

A royal pain: A royal pain is an informal expression used to describe someone or something that is extremely annoying, difficult, or bothersome.

As much as she loved her students she had to admit they could be a royal pain.

Crowning achievement / crowning glory: A crowning achievement or crowning glory refers to the most significant or impressive accomplishment in someone’s career or life, often representing the pinnacle of their success.

After years of hard work and dedication, winning the Nobel Prize was Alice Munro’s crowning achievement.

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