A scene from a film – Skyfall – A tale of two rats

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. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.

In this podcast, I am going to talk about a speech from Skyfall, the James Bond film with Daniel Craig as Bond and Javier Bardem as Raoul Sliva, an ex-MI5 agent who has become a master criminal. Skyfall is my favourite James Bond film. It’s got a great theme song. It was made by Sam Mendes, a brilliant director and Roger Deakins was the director of photography so it looks great. Judi Dench is wonderful as M and Javier Bardem’ Silva is one of the greatest Bond villains.

The scene I’m going to talk about is when we first meet Silva. Bond has been caught and tied to a chair in a large building full of computer equipment. As Silva approaches Bond from across the building, he tells a story from his childhood. I will play clips from the monologue and pause to talk about the language.

Here’s the first clip.

Hello, James. Welcome! Do you like the island?

My grandmother had an island. 

Nothing to boast of, you could walk along it in an hour. But still it was…it was a paradise for us. 

The first bit of language I want to talk about is the phrase nothing to boast of. To boast means to speak proudly about something. People who boast about themselves or something they have done want to make other people think highly of them. I’m sure you know someone who is boastful, someone who is always talking about how great they are or how much money they have. 

Now, if you tell someone that your grandmother had an island, that sounds a bit like a boast. I mean, an island! I wish my grandmother had an island. Silva doesn’t want to sound like he is showing off so he says that the island is only small. He says it’s nothing to boast of. So you can use this phrase to say that something is not as important or impressive as it sounds. 

There’s a similar phrase that’s a bit more common: nothing to write home about. This is used in a very similar way, but not about something that you own, specifically, rather about something you have seen. The idea is that if you were on holiday and you saw something amazing, you would want to write home, write a letter to tell your family about it. If something is not that impressive, you can describe it as nothing to write home about. For example, I went to a concert to see a really famous singer, but it was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t great.

The next piece of vocabulary is paradise. This is a beautiful word that has a very long history. It comes from an old Persian word meaning walled garden. It was adopted by the Greeks and came to mean a royal park and then made it to English vial Latin and old French and now mean a place where everything is perfect. This means that paradise is different for different people. For some people, it might be a tropical beach, for others, a city of culture. For many, it was a place that they visited in their childhood where they were really happy. 

Let’s listen to the next clip.

One summer, we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats. They’d come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut. 

The place had been infested with rats. If a place has too many animals, usually insects or small animals, we can say that the place has been infested. We normally use this to talk about animals that people don’t like. You might hear about somewhere being infested with spiders or cockroaches. So, to infest somewhere means to cause problems by being there in large numbers. We also use the noun infestation. 

The rats had gorged themselves on coconut. To gorge yourself means to eat so much that you can’t eat anymore, to stuff yourself. It’s usually used about treats like cakes and biscuits. The boys gorged themselves on cream buns. 

In the next clip, Silva starts to talk about a solution to this rat infestation. 

So how do you get rats off an island? Hmm? My grandmother showed me. We buried an oil drum and hinged the lid. 

Then we wired coconut to the lid as bait and the rats would come for the coconut and…boing, boing, boing, they would fall into the drum. And after a month you’ve trapped all the rats. 

An oil drum is a big metal barrel that’s used to store or transport oil. 

Silva said that they hinged the lid. The word hinge is more often used as a noun and it means one of the metal connectors that supports a dor and allows it to open and close. You get hinges on doors, windows and gates. To hinge something means to add a connector that allows it to open and close.

To wire something means to connect something up with wires. When I was a kid, if you bought something electrical, it wouldn’t come with a plug and you would have to wire the plug before you could plug it in and turn it on. Nowadays, you don’t have to wire much. In the quote from the film, Silva really means they tied the coconut to the underside of the lid of the oil drum with wire. 

Listen to what happens next.

But what did you do then? Throw the drum into the ocean? Burn it? No? You just leave it. And they became to get hungry. And one by one, they start eating each other, until there are only two left. The two survivors. 

This is a bit gruesome. He said they left the rats in the barrel until they got really hungry and started eating each other until there were only two left, two survivors. To survive means to live through a situation in which many people died. A survivor is a person that survives. You often hear people talk about survivors after a plane crash. Too often, you hear that there were no survivors. 

Now, listen to the last clip.

And then what? Do you kill them? No. You take them and release them into the trees. But now they don’t eat coconut anymore. Now they only eat rat. You have changed their nature.

The two survivors, this is what she made us.

To release someone means to set someone free. People are released from prison or from captivity. Hostages are relased by kidnappers and animals that have been caught are released into the wild. 

The last bit of vocabulary is nature. This is taught to mean the original environment of plants and animals and you will probably know the adjective natural, meaning not changed or artificial, in the state as is found in nature. Natural things are usually more positive or healthier than artificial substances. In this scene, Silva is talking about a person’s nature which means the type or defining characteristics of a person. Sometimes people say; it’s not in his nature to lie, meaning that the person is normally honest. In chemistry, you can denature substances which means you take away their characteristics. And if a person or a rat is put through an extreme situation, you can change their nature and make them into a cannibal or killer.

This is just the beginning of the scene. You can watch the whole scene on youtube and I have embedded the video on the Learn English Vocabulary website with an activity and the transcript for this podcast. I hope you have found this discussion of the vocabulary from this scene useful. 

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 and complete the task

Your turn

Answer the questions in the comments.

Do you like James Bond films?

What is your favourite James bond film?

Who is your favourite film hero or heroine?

Who is your favourite film villain?

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8 Comments

  • Nicole Epp
    Posted 18/10/2020 at 6:32 pm 0Likes

    Mesmerizing podcast!
    Very useful vocabulary that I will add to my vocab list right away!
    You are being very helpful with my English journey
    I cant thank you enough
    Kind regards
    Nicky 😊

  • soza
    Posted 20/10/2020 at 1:38 pm 0Likes

    ur way of teaching vocabulary is life saver and very professional,,,,,,,,million thanks

    • Jack
      Posted 24/10/2020 at 12:00 am 0Likes

      Thanks Soza – that’s very kind of you

  • anna
    Posted 21/10/2020 at 7:45 pm 0Likes

    Thank you. It was very useful

  • Horacio
    Posted 27/10/2020 at 9:35 pm 0Likes

    Hi, Thank you for your podcast and by the recommendation of the movie. I’ve never seen a james bond movie.

  • Yve
    Posted 21/11/2020 at 2:00 pm 0Likes

    Please continue to produce podcasts! I love your website too, it is versy useful for improving your English skills!

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