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.
Today, I am going to try to respond to a request by a listener called Nina who has asked me to make a podcast about the TV show Supernatural. The first season of this show aired in 2006. I was living in Indonesia then and you could buy whole seasons of DVDs and I did watch some of the first season but I’m afraid I didn’t keep watching it and can’t remember much so I’m going to use the description on imdb.com to start and then I’m going to give you a quiz about supernatural creatures which are often the subject of the show.
On the supernatural page on IMDB, it says:
Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as hunters, fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds, including monsters, demons and gods that roam the earth.
Right away, we have some interesting language. I’m going to start with the title: Supernatural. This adjective can be used to say that things, objects or actions cannot be explained by science. Super in this sense means more than or over. Aeroplanes that travel faster than the speed of sound are supersonic. There are supercomputers that are really powerful computers, much more powerful than normal computers. There are superstars, people who are really famous – far more famous than regular stars and superman who is a man with superpowers. Supernatural is used to describe things that are more than natural or beyond what you would normally find in nature.
Another word and idea that is important here is folklore. Folk means people and lore means tradition and cultural knowledge. So in all cultures, there will be religion and also folklore. In the UK, there are nationwide and regional examples of folklore. For example, near where I live, there is a place called Stiperstones. There is a big hill with rocks at the top in the shape of a chair called the Devils Chair where the ghost of an English warrior sits whenever England is threatened by war.
Folklore is normally closely connected to religion and many aspects of folklore in the UK are older than Christianity and relate to paganism and the pre-Christian past.
To follow in someone’s footsteps
In the show, two brothers follow in their father’s footsteps. I quite like this idiom. It means to do the same thing as someone else, but it’s usually used to talk about family traditions. It can be used in a positive way when children end up doing a similar job to their parents or older siblings, an older brother or sister or in a negative way when children make the same poor choices as their parents or older siblings. My dad was a teacher in primary schools and then at a university. Although teaching English is very different from his teaching, I’m kind of following in his footsteps.
In the show, the two brothers who are called Sam and Dean are hunters. Their father was a hunter. Normally, a hunter is someone that finds and catches or kills animals for food or sport. I have never been hunting apart from going fishing a few times with a friend when I was a kid. In the show, Sam and Dean don’t hunt animals. They hunt evil supernatural beings.
Evil can be an adjective or a noun. The adjective is used to describe something that is very morally bad. The pronunciation is interesting because it is a good example of how unstressed syllables are usually schwas or the ə sound. Evil. The opposite of evil is good. And the contrast between good and evil is often shown by talking about god and the devil.
Dean and Sam hunt evil supernatural beings such as monsters. A monster is any scary creature. Generally, monsters are big and people sometimes call big examples of natural creatures monsters. I once saw a huge saltwater crocodile. It was an absolute monster. Supernatural monsters are usually giant creatures that want to kill and eat you. They are normally wild beasts and not intelligent, though some people have been described as monsters for doing evil things.
Dean and Sam also hunt demons. These are like monsters, but they are usually smaller and more intelligent. There are all sorts of demons that come from different religions and folklore. Sometimes, the demons that Sam and Dean fight come from a Christian tradition and are a bit like the devil’s helpers, but in other stories, they fight demons from other traditions. Perhaps Ancient Egyptian demons or demons from Chinese folklore.
In the description on IMDB, it says that the two brothers fight evil supernatural beings of many kinds, including monsters, demons and gods. Now, normally gods are not described as evil supernatural beings. I think that in Ancient Greek and Roman times, there were lots of gods and some of them might not have been good. In Teutonic mythology, the beliefs of Vikings and people from the North of Europe, there were definitely gods that weren’t always good. The character Loki is often described as a prankster and might possibly turn up as a character that Dean and Sam have to fight.
To roam the earth
The last part of the description of the show says that the supernatural beings that Dean and Sam fight roam the earth. I really like the word roam. It means to travel about freely. It doesn’t just mean to travel though. It’s got a sense of power or control to it. We talk about the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I don’t think we’d use the word to talk about small creatures. So you might say that the lions are free to roam around the nature reserve, but I don’t think you would say that the rabbits are free to roam around.
If you say that a person is roaming around the world, you are saying that they are travelling and that they have some power to move. They are not moving for work, they have the freedom to move wherever they want.
Now it’s time for a quiz. I have made a list of 10 supernatural beings. I’m going to describe them and I want you to try to work out what the supernatural being is and to see if you know the word in English. Some are really famous, but a couple are less well known and might only relate to UK folklore so don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them.
Supernatural being number 1.
What being is a spirit of a person that is trapped on earth and has to stick around after they have died. Often, these beings are said to haunt old buildings. If you know what this supernatural being is, then here’s a bonus question. What do you call one of these that is invisible, but that moves things around.
Do you know the answer? The supernatural being number 1 is a ghost. And the bonus being is a poltergeist. When I was younger, I really wanted to see a ghost and used to go wandering about at night, but I don’t think I ever saw anything. I once asked a class of adults in Indonesia if anyone had seen a ghost and half the class raised their hands. So I guess they are more common in Indonesia than in England.
Supernatural being number 2
What monster is famous for attacking people and drinking their blood? These monsters can sometimes turn into bats. In some stories, they are very strong and can also mesmerise people or put them into some sort of trance. The most famous of these monsters was written about in a great book by Bram Stoker and is called Count Dracula.
Do you know what sort of supernatural being I am describing? The answer is a vampire.
Supernatural being number 3
This monster is famous and there are examples in folklore all over the world. I think that the most famous example of this type of monster in the UK is in a fairy tale about a boy with the same name as me. These monsters are scary because they are really really big. Otherwise, they are just people, normally mean people, but just big mean people.
Have you worked this one out? The fairy tale I mentioned is Jack and the beanstalk and the monster is a giant.
Supernatural being number 4
These supernatural beings are very popular and there are lots of films about them. These are people who turn into monstrous wolves when there’s a full moon. There is another hill near where I live called the Wrekin which had a fort on it that was named after this monster as if a tribe of these creatures lived there long ago.
I think that this monster is so famous, you will all be able to work out what creature I’m describing. The answer is werewolf. When the Romans came to Britain nearly 2000 years ago, they established a town called Uriconium which means the city of the werewolves.
Supernatural being number 5
This one is going to be a bit tricky because it’s not famous all around the world, but I have chosen it because there’s an important word I can talk about and because when I was seven years old, I was absolutely terrified of this monster.
This monster is a large dog that roams the countryside and is an omen of death. This means that if you see this creature, someone you know is going to die. An omen is a symbol or sign that something is going to happen. I read about these creatures when I lived in Scarborough in the North of England. There was a local version called Padfoot that was as big as a horse that lived on the moors. The moors are areas of countryside with short plants. There are no trees on a moor, just lots of little bushes and ferns and grasses. There is a lot of moorland around Scarborough and whenever we went out in the car, I would hide my head under a coat so I wouldn’t see Padfoot.
Do you know what supernatural being I am talking about? The answer is probably going to be disappointing because these types of monsters are just called black dogs, but there are loads of them in British folklore.
Supernatural being number 6
These supernatural beings come from the middle east and the deserts of the Arabian peninsula. I think in most of the world, they are like spirits or demons and they are not naturally good or evil, but some can be. The most famous of these beings in the UK is in the story of Aladdin and is very powerful and a bit mischievous, but not evil/
Do you know what I’m describing? The answer is djinns or genies.
Supernatural being number 7
These monsters are very popular in American films. I saw a programme recently that said the legend started when someone was poisoned by the venom of a pufferfish. When the poison started to work, it was like the person was dead. However, after a while, the person seemed to come back to life. In popular culture, these monsters stagger around on wobbly legs. Their skin is grey and they usually look like they are rotting. Oh, and in some films, they eat brains.
Have you worked out what supernatural being I’m describing? The answer is zombies.
Supernatural being number 8
These beings are common in folklore around the world and they have different names. I’m going to talk about the Scottish version because I think it’s the most famous. These creatures take the form of horses that live in water. Sometimes they can change their shape and take different forms. Normally, if they are not horses, they are beautiful women. In different myths, they have been caught and saddled and then mad to work, but these efforts to control them usually end up badly for the people who try it. Sometimes they appear with saddles, but if you try to ride them, they will run to the water to drown you.
Do you know the name of the Scottish or any other water horse beings? In Scotland, they are called kelpies and there’s an impressive statue in Falkirk.
Supernatural being number 9
OK – I’m not sure how supernatural these mythical beasts are. I don’t think there is that much magic in the stories with these monsters, but they are very common in folklore all over the world, though more so in China. These mighty creatures are described as giant reptiles that can fly and breathe fire. I think this one is very easy.
Do you know what supernatural being I’m talking about? I’m talking about dragons, of course. Time for the final supernatural being.
Supernatural being number 10.
This time, the being I’m describing might not be supernatural. Stories about these creatures originate in the Himalaya mountains. These creatures are described as big and tall and very hairy with large broad feet and long limbs. There are similar creatures described in folklore in Russia and in North America.
Do you know what I am trying to describe? The answer is a yeti or abominable snowman. In America, they have bigfoot which is a very similar sort of creature.
So Nina, I hope you have enjoyed this podcast and that you managed to guess all the supernatural beings I described in the quiz.
Now, I have a couple of questions for you. You see, I am a reluctant materialist. I would love to see a ghost or even a demon. I am afraid that I have no beliefs in the supernatural or anything really and I would like to. So can you tell me your stories of the supernatural and share some supernatural beings from your folklore? Do you believe in ghosts or djinn or vampires or werewolves? Have you ever been pestered by a poltergeist?
Please let me know your supernatural stories in the comments section on the Learn English Vocabulary website page for this podcast.
If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a rating or a review. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. Tomorrow, I’m going to make a podcast on a song called Ghost of You for Brian. If there are any topics or songs or scenes from a film that you would like me to talk about or anything else you would like to hear, I would be delighted to make a podcast for you. So please visit LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk and say hello.
Thanks for listening.