Exercise 1

A. Listen to people talk about superstitions. What superstitions are they talking about? How is each superstition explained?

B. Listen again. Answer these questions.

1   How did the woman with allergies react to the man’s explanation?

2   Why did the son feel it was necessary to say that he was only kidding?

3   Why does the man suggest not telling Mr. Wilson that being left-handed was once thought to be suspicious?



 Saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes: People would bless a person who sneezed as a way to ensure the return of life or to encourage the person’s heart to continue beating.

2   Breaking a mirror causing seven years of bad luck: Once a mirror is broken, the person can’t see himself or herself as a whole person in it, so people thought something really bad was going to happen to them for seven years, since this was the time they believed it would take for the body to become whole again.

3   Getting up on the wrong side of the bed: Since most people are right-handed, people in the past thought being left-handed was suspicious.


1   She seemed unconcerned by the explanation.

2   He joked that his mother was going to have seven years of bad luck, and his mother reacted with concern.

3   Mr. Wilson is left-handed, and since he is in a bad mood, he might not like being called suspicious.



Woman 1:   Ah-choo! Ah-choo! Ugh! Excuse me.

Man:   Bless you!

Woman 2:   Bless you!

Woman 1:   Thanks! Ugh! These allergies are so annoying. You all must be tired of saying, “Bless you.”

Woman 2:   No, that’s all right. But isn’t it funny how we automatically do that when someone sneezes? It’s some kind of superstition, isn’t it?

Man:   Yes. You know, a long time ago, it was commonly thought that when people sneezed, their heart stopped beating. You would bless them as a way to ensure the return of life or to encourage their heart to continue beating.

Woman 1:   Well, uh, you know, thanks, but it’s really just my allergies!


Mom:   Oh, no! Oh, I can’t believe I dropped that mirror. What bad luck!

Son:   Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll pick it up for you.

Mom:   Oh, thanks. But, you know, I can just hear my grandmother’s voice saying, “Now you’re in for seven years of bad luck.”

Son:   Why would she say that?

Mom:   Oh, you know. She was very superstitious. She believed that once a mirror is broken, you can’t see yourself as a whole person in it, so something really bad is going to happen to you.

Son:   Yeah, but why . . . why seven years of bad luck?

Mom:   Well, I guess a long time ago, people thought it took seven years for the body to repair itself. So, I guess it would take seven years to fix a “broken” body.

Son:   Seven years is a really long time. I guess I’m glad I didn’t break that mirror.

Mom:   Oh!

Son:   Mom, I’m only kidding! I mean, you don’t really believe that somebody . . .


Man:   Don’t bother going in to see Mr. Wilson right now. He’s in a really bad mood today.

Woman:   Oh, no, he probably got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Man:   What do you mean by that?

Woman:   You never heard that expression?

Man:   No.

Woman:   Well, you know, it’s an old superstition from when some people believed that the right side was good and the left side was bad.

Man:   Why did they believe that?

Woman:   I don’t know. I guess since most people are right handed, they felt like being left-handed was suspicious.

Man:   Well, don’t tell that to Mr. Wilson.

Woman:   Why?

Man:   He’s left-handed!

Exercise 2

A. Listen to a conversation about a journalistic hoax that affected many people in Belgium. What was the hoax?

B. Listen again. Which events actually happened? Choose the correct answers.

1   The king and queen left the country.

2   People panicked.

3   A television station website crashed.

4   Foreign ambassadors called the Belgian authorities.



A TV station reported that the northern/Dutch-speaking half of Belgium had declared independence.


2, 3, 4


Tonya:   Hi, Sam!

Sam:   Hi, Tonya! How was your journalism class today?

Tonya:   Oh, it was so interesting. Dr. Wagner spoke about journalistic hoaxes. A lot of them were like harmless April Fools’ pranks, done just for fun, but some were meant to make a point. And some of the hoaxes really took people in and scared them.

Sam:   Oh, how well I know that! I experienced a frightening journalistic hoax in Belgium firsthand when I was a student there.

Tonya:   In Belgium? Dr. Wagner didn’t mention anything about a hoax in Belgium. What happened?

Sam:   Well, it was the middle of December. We were watching TV when it was reported that the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium had declared independence.

Tonya:   You mean, it had become a separate country?

Sam:   Well, that’s what the guy on TV said, anyway. He seemed perfectly credible, and we all thought he was, you know, trustworthy. I mean, there’s always been some tension between the north and south of Belgium. And the report even showed King Albert II and Queen Paola getting on a plane as if they were leaving the country.

Tonya:   That must have been scary.

Sam:   Oh, definitely. People were frantic. Thousands of viewers called the TV station trying to find out what happened, and so many people went to their website that it crashed.

Tonya:   Wow, people were really in a panic, huh?

Sam:   Yeah, but get this. It was all phony, just a hoax cooked up by the TV station. After about a half hour, they put up a message saying, “This is fiction,” but it was too late – the damage had already been done.

Tonya:   So, why did they do it?

Sam:   The station claimed to have broadcast the phony story to call attention to the political and economic issues between the north and the south. The story was so believable that some foreign ambassadors in Brussels called authorities to find out what was going on.

Tonya:   Gosh, what an incredible hoax!

Sam:   It really was, but eventually things calmed down. But even the head of news at the TV station admitted that the hoax had scared more people than they had expected.

Tonya:   Wow, what an amazing experience. I can’t wait to tell my class about it tomorrow!

Exercise 3

Listen to a conversation between two friends. Then check (✓) the correct answers.

1   The baseball pitcher ________.

      a   cuts his hair before games

      b   does a dance before pitching

      c   goes dancing before games

2   The soccer player ________.

      a   shaves his head before games

      b   calls himself the “rabbit guy”

      c   cuts his hair every four years

3   Karl makes a wish ________.

      a   whenever he sees the times is 11:11

      b   every day at 11:11

      c   when he sees a clock

4   Jill says ________ keeps her healthy.

      a   listening to “I Feel Good”

      b   going to the doctor

      c   listening to music in the car


1 b   2 c   3 a   4 a


Jill:   Did you see that baseball game last night, Karl? The pitcher was so weird?

Karl:   I know. He always does that little dance before each pitch.

Jill:   I guess he’s pretty superstitious.

Karl:   A lot of athletes are, Jill. You know that basketball player, the one with the shaved head?

Jill:   Uh, are you talking about the rabbit guy?

Karl:   Yeah, that guy! He believes that if his pet rabbit isn’t at every game, his team will lose.

Jill:   Oh, and what about the soccer player who won’t cut his hair until after the World Cup? He gets one haircut every four years!

Karl:   At least he saves some money that way!

Jill:   Do you have any superstitions, Karl?

Karl:   Let me see. I guess making a wish every time the clock says 11:11 is superstitious.

Jill:   Do you really do that every day?

Karl:   No, not every day. It’s just when I happen to look at the clock and it says 11:11.

Jill:   Wow!

Karl:   What about you, Jill?

Jill:   Hmm, yeah, here’s one: Before every checkup at the doctor’s office, I listen to a particular song on my MP3 player.

Karl:   Why do you do that?

Jill:   I don’t know, I guess I think it keeps me healthy.

Karl:   What’s the song?

Jill:   Uh, it’s “I Feel Good,” by James Brown.

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