Learning Vocabulary: A Halloween History
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Rich interviews Jack and Rowan about Halloween. How much do they know about this scary celebration? Why do we make jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins? Why do children go 'trick or treating'? Why do we dress up in scary costumes and try to frighten people? The language focus is on words and phrases connected to Halloween. In this week's task, we want you to play a fun trick on a neighbour. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Learning Vocabulary: A Halloween History
Jack: Hello my name’s Jack
Rowan: My name’s Rowan
Rich: and I’m Rich
Rowan: And welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast.
Jack: In the Premier Skills English podcast, we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rowan: Don’t forget you can find the transcript for all our podcasts on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: In this week’s roleplay, I’m going to interview Rowan and Jack about Halloween and see what they know about the UK’s spookiest celebration.
Rowan: I’m sure you all know it’s Halloween next week. It’s on the 31st of October - next Saturday.
Rich: We’re doing this Halloween podcast a little early because we know that a lot of teachers listen to this podcast and use the roleplays in class. We want to give you time to prepare your Halloween lessons.
Jack: If you go to the Premier Skills English homepage, and click on this Halloween podcast you will also find lots of other Halloween lessons, activities and worksheets on the side of the page.
Rowan: We’re going to talk a little about where Halloween comes from, pumpkins, fancy dress costumes and the custom of trick or treating.
Rich: After that we’ll have a quiz for you to test your knowledge of Halloween vocabulary.
Jack: Your task this week is to imagine a fun trick to play on a neighbour.
Rowan: If you are listening to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcast platform, you should also check out our website.
Rich: On the Premier Skills English website you’ll also find the transcript, examples and activities to help you understand the language, and a task for you to complete.
Jack: You’ll also find a community of friendly listeners to interact with, in our comments section.
Rowan: And that includes us - we’re always around to answer questions and join in the discussions.
Rich: But if you listen on Apple Podcasts you can always write your answers to our questions or any other comments in the review section.
Jack: Before we do the roleplay let’s look back at last week’s football phrase.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Rowan: If you didn’t hear our football phrase last week we’re going to give you one more chance to guess now.
Jack: The phrase was ********* *******. This is the person who looks after the team temporarily, for a short period of time, when the person who was in that position leaves or loses their job. This person looks after the team until a new person is found to train and coach the team.
Rich: Daniel Baron from Colombia was the first with the correct answer last week. Well done Daniel! You beat your brother again!
Rowan: Did anyone else get it right last week?
Jack: Yes. A big well done to the following listeners who also got the right answer: Max Alex from Vietnam, MoBeckham and HSN from Turkey, Ahmed Adam Mamado from Sudan, Wsanta from Argentina, Jhon Baron Oliveros from Colombia, Emmanuel from France, Robert Tavares from Brazil, Elghoul from Algeria and Owenluk from Hong Kong.
Rich: And unlucky to those of you who said temporary manager, interim manager or acting manager - they all mean the same as the phrase we were looking for.
Rowan: Remember we’ll have the answer and a new football phrase at the end of the show.
Introduction to Roleplay
Rich: As we said earlier, this week’s roleplay is all about Halloween.
Rowan: Which we celebrate on the 31st of October.
Rich: Rowan is a big fan of Halloween. She thinks it’s lots of fun. Jack is less keen. He thinks it’s a bit silly.
Jack: A little bit, yes.
Rich: Anyway, I asked them to do a bit of research to find out a little more about Halloween, its origins, what we do on Halloween and more importantly - why.
Rowan: So, you’re about to hear Rich interview Jack and me about things we do at Halloween in the UK.
Jack: We’ll stop the interview at different points and each time we stop the interview we want you to answer a question.
Rowan: Why do we celebrate Halloween?
Roleplay: Part one
Rich: OK, brilliant. I think this interview is going to be really helpful for our listeners. Lots of people know that we dress up as ghosts and children eat loads of sweets at Halloween but there’s lots more to it than that.
Rowan: Yes, I think Halloween is one of my favourite events of the year. It’s just so much fun - going out at night with everyone. I love dressing up and there’s only one thing I love more than dressing up and that’s scaring people. Boo!
Rich: So, you like making people jump?
Rowan: Yes, making people jump, scaring the living daylights out of people, frightening people out of their wits …
Jack: Scaring people, frightening people, terrifying people - it’s not really my idea of fun.
Rich: Jack. You’re not a fan of Halloween, then?
Jack: Not so much. It’s for children. It can be fun for kids.
Rich: I asked you both to do a little bit of research about Halloween.
Rowan: Yes, I’ve been reading and researching about ghosts, witches, pumpkins, and everything connected to Halloween. I stayed up until the witching hour last night reading by candlelight with the wind howling outside.
Jack: Really? Scary stuff. I found Wikipedia helpful.
Rich: Well, let’s hear what you found out. Let’s start with the basics. Why do we celebrate Halloween?
Rowan: Many people think Halloween comes from the USA but actually its traditions come from the British Isles and modern-day countries such as Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Rich: And it’s not new is it?
Rowan: No, far from it. Halloween has its roots in pagan traditions and dates back many centuries. The festival back then celebrated the autumn harvest and the arrival of winter.
Rich: So, that’s where the idea of darkness may come from?
Rowan: Yes, it’s definitely related.
Rich: Was it called Halloween? and what about ghosts?
Rowan: In Celtic countries such as Ireland the festival was known as Samhain and in addition to the idea of celebrating the harvest of crops and the end of the growing season it was also thought that it was a special time when spirits and fairies could cross over into our world.
Jack: Ghosts. Spirits, fairies, ghosts, demons, goblins all of these supernatural beings. I’m really not sure about all this stuff, but this is where the idea of Halloween comes from.
Rowan: It’s another link and an influence on why and how we celebrate Halloween today.
Rich: I suppose that is why we dress up as these supernatural beings like ghosts and demons.
Rowan: Before we started the interview we asked you why we celebrate Halloween.
Rich: The answers given were to celebrate the harvest which is the time of year when crops are collected and to celebrate the arrival of winter.
Jack: We also said that in the past people thought it was a time when mystical beings could come to our world.
Rowan: Celebrating these things have very little to do with how we celebrate Halloween today. Most people would say that it is just an excuse to have a party.
Rich: Listen to the next part of the interview. This is your question:
Jack: What are jack-o-lanterns?
Roleplay: Part two
Rich: What about pumpkins? Did you find anything out about pumpkins? Why do we carve faces into them and put candles inside?
Rowan: OK, pumpkins, well, as we’ve said, the celebration of Halloween or festivals which preceded it such as Samhain or alternative names such as All Hallows Eve which highlights the link between Halloween and the Christian celebration of All Saints Day on the first of November, celebrated the harvest of crops. So at this time of year, there were lots of vegetables around but no pumpkins.
Jack: No pumpkins! What do you mean?
Rowan: Well, not in the UK or Ireland. Pumpkins are originally from Mexico and the south of the United States.
Jack: So, this is an American tradition?
Rowan: No, not at all - it’s just that we used other vegetables - turnips and swedes and other root vegetables. We only started using pumpkins as Jack O lanterns about thirty or forty years ago.
Jack: Why are these things called Jack-o-lanterns? Why not Rich-o-lanterns or Rowan-o-lanterns?
Rowan: Actually, there is a story about this - there’s an Irish legend called Stingy Jack who made a deal with the devil. It’s thought that the name may come from this story.
Rich: Wow. You have done your research, Rowan. Stingy Jack - I like this name. We should do a podcast about Stingy Jack.
Jack: I think it’s a rubbish name - you were telling us why we use jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, Rowan.
Rowan: Yes, jack-o-lanterns, whether they are carved turnips, swedes or pumpkins were and are used by people who want to scare away evil spirits. They may be carried in the streets or put in windows to keep evil away from our homes.
Rich: Yes, but these days it’s just a fun activity to do with children at Halloween - making jack-o-lanterns.
Jack: You can even buy electric ones. That’s not much fun. I don’t think it’s really in the spirit of Halloween. Halloween has become totally over-commercialised.
Rich: Children usually carry their jack-o-lanterns when they go trick or treating. Did you find anything out about this tradition?
Rowan: Before we started this part we asked you what are jack-o-lanterns?
Jack: The answer is hollowed pumpkins or even turnips with faces carved into them.
Rich: They are put in people’s windows or form part of children’s costumes at Halloween.
Rowan: Let’s listen to the third and final part of the interview. Your question this time is: Where does the phrase ‘trick or treat’ come from?
Roleplay: Part 3
Rich: Children usually carry their jack-o-lanterns when they go trick or treating. Did you find anything out about this tradition?
Jack: You mean the tradition of knocking on people’s doors and asking for sweets and if they don’t you will throw eggs at their windows?
Rowan: I love trick or treating and I think it’s a great activity - all the community comes together. Kids wander the streets with their friends with their parents keeping an eye on them, of course, and nearly everyone opens their doors and gives the kids some sweets or even a healthy option occasionally.
Rich: There was always one family when I was a kid who gave out apples and oranges. I remember being so disappointed.
Jack: Did you ever play a trick on them?
Rich: No, way. They’d have known it was me. I’d have got into so much trouble
Rowan: But trick or treating has quite a long tradition. Again many people have seen trick or treating in American movies at Halloween but its origins are not American.
Rich: Where and when did trick or treating start?
Rowan: There are examples of people dressing up in costumes and knocking on people’s doors to ask for food and drink from Roman times but in connection with Halloween we can again look at Celtic countries such as Scotland and Ireland.
Jack: I did do some research. I read about this. It wasn’t called trick or treating. It was called ‘guising’ in Scotland because the kids would wear costumes - disguises.
Rowan: Yes, it goes back as far as the 16th century where kids would ask for food. If none was given they may threaten to play a trick of some kind.
Jack: But it’s called trick or treat everywhere now - people don’t say guising any more.
Rowan: Yes, the phrase ‘trick or treat’ is something that has come back from the USA but the tradition went to America with emigrants from Ireland and Scotland.
Rich: You have done a lot of research on this. Before I finish the interview why don’t you tell me what you’re going to do this Halloween?
Rowan: I’m definitely going to make a jack-o-lantern and put it in my window - I’d go out trick or treating too and there’d probably be a fancy dress party to go to, but not this year. COVID.
Jack: I know it’s so annoying. If it wasn’t for COVID -19. I’d be dressed up as a goblin or ghost or something and I’d have pumpkins all over the place.
Rich: That’s not true is it, Jack?
Jack: No. Pumpkins are for eating. Pumpkin soup is very good. Ghosts don’t exist - why would I want to cut holes into my bed sheets?
Rich: You’re not going to do anything then?
Jack: I might watch a horror movie. That’s something, isn’t it?
Rowan: Before we started this part we asked you where the phrase ‘trick or treat’ came from.
Rich: Well the answer is the USA. This Halloween tradition might have come from Scotland or Ireland originally but it has been changed over time and the phrase ‘trick or treat’ is one that was coined in America.
Jack: In the roleplays, we were speaking about Halloween and used lots of words and phrases connected to this celebration. We’ve now got a little quiz to test your knowledge of some of that language.
Rowan: If you heard our podcast about game shows a few weeks ago you will know how to play this quiz.
Rich: The quiz is based on a gameshow called Blockbusters and the answer to each question begins with a letter that the contestant chooses.
Jack: We’re going to read out 10 questions and you have to think of the correct Halloween word or phrase that begins with that letter.
Rowan: All of the words and phrases were mentioned in the roleplays.
Rich: We’ll tell you the answers after the quiz so you might want to go and get a pencil to write them down. Ready?
Rowan: Question one: What ‘P’ is a big, round, orange vegetable that is originally from Mexico and the United States?
Jack: Question two: What ‘G’ haunts castles and other old buildings? You may need to ruin bedsheets if you want to go to a Halloween party dressed as one of these.
Rich: Question three: What ‘W’ is the time, late at night when magical things can happen? Dark magic is at its most powerful at this time.
Rowan: Question four: What ‘S’ describes things that involve magic and can’t be explained by science? Beings such as demons, fairies and vampires are described as this.
Jack: Question five: What ‘F’ is used to describe parties where guests wear costumes and dress up as different characters?
Rich: Question six: What ‘C’ is produced by the burning flame at the end of a stick of wax? You might need this if you’re electricity gets cut off.
Rowan: Question seven: What ‘H’ is a type of film that is designed to frighten viewers? A Nightmare on Elm Street is my favourite.
Jack: Question eight: What ‘T’ is what children say when they knock on neighbour’s doors at Halloween? You should always have some sweets ready.
Rich: Question nine: This is a tricky one. What ‘D’ falls when the sun sets?
Rowan: Question ten: What ‘J’ is a pumpkin that has been hollowed out, a face carved into it and a candle put inside to scare away evil spirits at Halloween?
Jack: OK, there are your ten questions. We’ll just let you think about them for a few seconds. Did you write down all the answers?
Rich: Have you got all ten? OK, shall we read out the answers. Tick the ones you got right. Rowan?
Rowan: The correct answers were: one: pumpkin, two: ghost, three: witching hour, four: supernatural, five: fancy dress, six: candlelight, seven: horror, eight: trick or treat, nine: darkness and ten: jack-o-lantern.
Jack: In this week’s task, we want you to play a fun trick on a neighbour.
Rowan: Play a trick on a neighbour. That sounds a bit mean.
Rich: We said a fun trick - nothing mean and we don’t really want you to do it, we want you to think about what you could do and explore the language you could use to explain this trick.
Rowan: That’s not so bad then I suppose. So, this is connected to the custom of ‘trick or treating’ when children wear fancy dress, knock on doors, say ‘trick or treat’ and the person decides to give them some sweets or a treat of some kind or not.
Jack: Yes, and the idea is that if they don’t give the children some sweets then the kids will play some kind of trick or prank on that person.
Rich: So your task is to go back to your childhood and imagine that you are going trick or treating with friends. A neighbour doesn’t give you anything. What trick do you play on them?
Rowan: We want you to think of a trick that you could play that is funny - your neighbour would think this is funny and not be super upset.
Rich: So, it could be a tiny bit mean?
Rowan: Maybe a tiny bit because they were a bit mean not giving you any sweets.
Jack: So, that’s your task - tell us a fun trick that you could play on a neighbour.
Rich: Write all your answers in the comments section on the Premier Skills English website or Apple Podcasts if that’s where you listen to us.
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us, Jack?
Jack: This week’s football phrase is a ***** ****. A ***** **** is either a goal that is scored and awarded even though the ball didn’t cross the line or a goal that is not awarded despite the ball crossing the line. England scored a ***** **** in the World Cup Final in 1966 - many thought the ball hadn’t crossed the line. Sheffield United scored a ***** **** in the Premier League last season even though we’ve got goal-line technology now.
Rich: A nice Halloween touch to this week’s football phrase.
Jack: Let’s see who can get it right. If you are still wondering what the answer was to last week’s football phrase it was caretaker manager.
Rich: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Rowan: If you have a question for us about football or English you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack: or you can leave your questions and comments on the website in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
Rich: or you could give us a rating and a fantastic review on Apple Podcasts.
Rowan: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
Here is the vocabulary you saw at the top of this page and how Rowan, Rich and Jack used it in the roleplay. Do you know the words in bold?
So, you like making people jump?
Many people think Halloween comes from the USA but its traditions come from the British Isles.
The festival back then celebrated the autumn harvest and the arrival of winter.
There’s an Irish legend called Stingy Jack who made a deal with the devil.
Halloween has become totally over-commercialised.
If no treat was given they may threaten to play a trick of some kind.
Listen to the roleplays again to hear how Rich, Rowan and Jack used these words and phrases.
In the podcast, Rowan, Rich and Jack used lots of language connected to Halloween. Take a look at the words in bold below and then listen to the quiz in the podcast again or do the quiz at the bottom of the page.
I stayed up until the witching hour last night reading by candlelight with the wind howling outside.
I suppose that is why we dress up as these supernatural beings like ghosts and demons.
Pumpkins are originally from Mexico and the south of the United States.
Jack-o-lanterns may be carried in the streets or put in windows to keep evil away from our homes.
I love trick or treating - all the community comes together.
I’d normally go out trick or treating too and there’d probably be a fancy dress party to go to, but not this year.
Ghosts don’t exist - why would I want to cut holes into my bedsheets?
I might watch a horror movie. That’s something, isn’t it?
The Language of Fear
Here's some extra language that you might find useful to speak about scary things. If you want to learn this language in more detail go to Learning Vocabulary - Halloween.
Halloween is not that scary.
Liverpool's defending is absolutely terrifying.
Some horror films are absolutely petrifying.
Wow! Really? How creepy?
There are lots of words we can use to describe something that is frightening but you can use these words in different ways.
Gradable and extreme adjectives
Some adjectives are gradable which means that you can change how strong they are by using 'very' or 'a bit'. Look at these examples:
The house down the road is a bit creepy. Nobody has lived there for years.
The film was very frightening. I hid behind the sofa for most of the scary bits!
Extreme adjectives are not gradable. The only adverbs you can use are ones such as: 'completely' and 'absolutely'.
Some horror film are absolutely petrifying.
When my friends made me jump I was completely terrified.
In this activity, take a look at the sentences and decide if you should use a gradable adjective or an extreme adjective.
Trick or Treat?
In this week’s roleplay, we spoke about Halloween and the tradition of 'trick or treat'. This week’s task is to think of a fun trick to play on a neighbour. We want you to think about what you could do and explore the language you could use to explain this trick to other listeners.
- Your task is to go back to your childhood and imagine that you are going 'trick or treating' with friends. A neighbour doesn’t give you anything. What trick do you play on them?
- Your trick should be funny but not too mean!
Write all your answers in the comments section below and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!