A scene from a film – Pulp Fiction – Big Kahuna Burger

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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. 

These podcasts are graded from A2  which is around lower intermediate all the way to C2 which is advanced. I’ll also cover some slang and some exam English.

I hope you find these  podcasts useful. If you do, please leave me a rating and review as this will help other learners find these podcasts.  

Introduction

This podcast is C1 which means it’s for advanced learners. Last week, I looked at some song lyrics and today I’m going to do something similar. I’m sticking with popular culture, but going back in time a bit. I’m looking at a scene from a film from 1994 called Pulp Fiction. It’s Quentin Tarantino’s second film and my favourite of all his films.

The scene I’m looking at is near the beginning of the film. In this scene, two hitmen, played by Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta visit an apartment to pick up a briefcase. I’m going to include a few clips from the film because I think they fall under fair use and I will share a link to the Miramax clip of the film on youtube so after the podcast, I suggest you watch the clip if you can.

I’m going to look at the language in the order it is uttered in the film. At the end, I’m going to return to three questions that Samuel L Jackson’s character Jules asks to highlight the pronunciation. 

Clip one

Here’s the first clip.

Hey kids, how’ you boys doing?

Hey – keep chilling.

Chilling – normally means frightening. If you watch a really scary film, you could say it’s chilling. That’s what it says in the Cambridge learner’s dictionary if you look up chilling. However, to understand Tarantino’s meaning, you need to turn to the urban dictionary which covers more colloquial uses. In the urban dictionary, chilling is described as a cool way to say you sat around doing nothing. It’s short for the informal phrasal verb to chill out which means to completely relax. 

Clip two

Let’s hear the next clip.

You know who we are? We’re associates of your business partner Marsellus Wallace.

Associate can be a verb or a noun. The word comes from a latin word that means friend and you can find loads of related words. Social, society, socialist, sociopath. All of these words are related to connections between people. If you connect two things in your mind, you make an association. You associate one thing with another. If you are connected to another person, you are an associate of that person. It’s quite a formal word that means that you know someone but you’re not really friends. It’s also quite neutral which is why Jules describes himself and Vince as associates of Marsellus Wallace.  

Clip three

Time for the next clip.

Now let me take a wild guess here.

A wild guess is a guess without any certainty. If you ask someone to make a guess and they say they have no idea, you can say ‘take a wild guess’. Or if you guess right and are surprised to find that your guess is correct, you might say ‘ that was a wild guess’. In this scene, Jules is using the term sarcastically. He’s looking for the leader of the group and by looking at the characters in the room, it’s clear to him that there’s only one real possibility. When he guesses who Brett is, he’s pretty confident that he’s right.

Clip four

In the next clip, there are two pieces of C1 vocabulary.

Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.

The cornerstone of something; this is a nice metaphor that’s used to say that everything depends on whatever the cornerstone is. So you might read the right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy. The next word is nutritious. This is an adjective that is used to describe a food that has all the nutrients or contains the things you need to live and grow. When Jules describes hamburgers as the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast, he is being sarcastic, again.

Clip five

Big Kahuna burger … that’s that Hawaiian burger joint.

A joint in this case is a bar or a restaurant. It’s more commonly used in American English and refers to a bar or restaurant that is not very expensive. You often hear a burger joint or  a fast food joint.

Clip six

Me, I can’t usually get them ’cause my girlfriend’s a vegetarian which pretty much makes me a vegetarian.

I like this expression. Pretty much means almost completely. It’s quite informal and in my experience, it’s often a lie. Have you finished your homework? Pretty much. No, that’s a lie. You have barely started. Perhaps that’s my bias. When Jules says that he’s pretty much a vegetarian, it means that he very rarely eats meat.

Clip seven

That hit the spot!

That hit the spot. This is another cliche that I think is a bit old fashioned. It’s almost always or pretty much always used to talk about food or drink and it means that the food or drink has satisfied a craving. So on a really hot day, when you are really thirsty, a long cool drink of something could be said to hit the spot. 

Now, I want to look at three questions. I’ll play them in order and I want you to try to work out what they are.

Three questions

What are you having?

Do you want a bite?

What’s in this? 

The first is what are you having? This is short for what are you having for breakfast. It’s so contracted, though that the automated subtitles on youtube came up with javan. I think there’s slight pause. Je aven. Listen again.

What are you having?

The second was do you want a bite. This is often contracted to jewanna bite. In this case, it’s contracted even further and Jules just says one bite. Listen again.

Do you want a bite?

The last is when Jules is asking about the soft drink that Brett is having with his hamburger breakfast. He asks what’s in this. Again, the contraction is massive and the words what is almost completely disappear. Tsin this? Sin this? Listen again.

What’s in this? 

Conclusion

OK – now I advise you to watch the scene on youtube. You can either search for Pulp Fiction Big Kahuna Burger or you can click on the youtube link in the podcast description or you can watch the video embedded on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk.

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a review and don’t forget that you can read the transcript for this podcast and complete some language activities on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk.

Thanks for listening.

Watch the scene

Fill in the gaps with the language from the scene.

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