[00:07.64]Now it’s time for Words and Their Stories, a program from VOA Learning English.
[00:13.97]On this program, we explore common words and expressions in American English.
[00:21.64]Sometimes we tell you their origins, but we always teach you how to use the words in conversation.
[00:29.70]Today, we are going to talk about something bad; in other words, something naughty.
[00:37.15]Have you ever listened to a private conversation?
[00:42.03]Maybe you were standing by a door or in a hallway and you heard people talking about someone else you know.
[00:51.05]And you could not help it. You paused … you perked up your ears … and you listened.
[01:01.01]You knew, of course, that these people were not speaking to you.
[01:07.69]They did not invite you to be part of their conversation. You invited yourself.
[01:17.15]To eavesdrop means you secretly listen to the conversations of others.
[01:24.65]Some types of people are very good at eavesdropping.
[01:29.88]Nosy people, people who like to gossip and spies are all good eavesdroppers.
[01:37.65]The only difference among my examples is that spies get paid and could get killed for getting an earful.
[01:46.58]Originally, however, the word “eavesdrop” had nothing to do with spying or listening to private conversations.
[01:56.91]When it was first used in the 1600s, “eavesdrop” was the water that fell, or dropped, from the eaves of a house.
[02:08.59]Eaves are the parts of the roof that hang over the walls and shade the outside of a house.
[02:15.98]After more time passed, “eavesdrop” came to mean the ground near the house where the water fell.
[02:24.57]After even more time passed, “eavesdropper” described someone who stood near a house to secretly listen to a conversation happening inside.
[02:36.92]These days you can be standing anywhere to eavesdrop.
[02:42.19]The word simply means "to listen secretly to something said in private."
[02:48.99]English has another expression related to eavesdropping and the home:
[02:55.91]the walls have ears.
[02:58.76]This means be careful what you say as there might be people listening.
[03:05.44]Some word experts say this expression may come from story about an ancient Greek ruler (430–367 BC) who had an ear-shaped cave cut and connected between the rooms of his palace.
[03:20.21]This allowed him to listen to conversations in other rooms.
[03:25.35]This form of eavesdropping became common practice with rulers from many cultures.
[03:32.59]In English, the phrase "the walls have ears" was first recorded in its present form in the mid-1600s.
[03:43.81]Now, if you like (or hate) learning English phrasal verbs, there’s a great one for eavesdropping – to listen in on.
[03:55.02]Usually our phrasal verbs have only one preposition.
[03:59.50]Not this one. It has two!
[04:03.10]When you listen in on something, you listen to people speaking without joining in, usually secretly.
[04:12.26]But not always.
[04:14.16]You can listen in on a class at university or listen in on a meeting at work.
[04:21.56]These examples do not suggest that you were listening secretly.
[04:25.99]But if you are listening in on a private conversation, chances are you are listening to something private that does not concern you.
[04:36.91]You are not minding your own business.
[04:40.66]Now, maybe you were minding your own business.
[04:45.27]Maybe you just happened to have overheard a private conversation.
[04:50.67]Overhearing is more innocent than eavesdropping.
[04:55.56]You can overhear something by being in the wrong place at the right time.
[05:01.13]Now, let’s listen in on two people talking to learn how to use these words and expressions in a conversation.
[05:12.37]We're not eavesdropping.
[05:14.31]I've given you permission!
[05:16.32]So, Amy, I was listening in on the management meeting today.
[05:22.24]Our manager said that he’s putting your project on hold.
[05:26.30]You’re thinking about leaving the company, aren’t you?
[05:30.03]I haven’t told anyone that except Ann Marie.
[05:34.31]Did she spill the beans to you?!
[05:37.04]No. She didn’t tell me anything.
[05:39.72]I just happened to overhear you two talking in the cafeteria yesterday.
[05:45.12]Were you eavesdropping on our conversation, Alex?!
[05:49.43]No! I was walking behind your table and accidentally overheard what you guys were talking about. Honest.
[05:58.09]Alex, it was a really long conversation.
[06:04.15]Unless you were purposefully listening in on us I don’t see how it could have been an accident.
[06:11.54]Okay, I was standing behind your table.
[06:15.23]When I overheard you and Ann Marie talking about your project my ears perked up.
[06:21.62]So, I stayed there and listened for a little while … okay, for a long while.
[06:29.02]Alex, you’re such a snoop! Look, don’t tell anyone.
[06:34.15]I didn’t accept the other job offer yet. So no one knows, okay?
[06:40.05]No one except Ann Marie … and me and …
[06:45.55]And that brings us to the end of this Words and Their Stories.
[06:50.59]I'd like to know how you talk about listening to private conversations in your language?
[06:57.62]Let's talk in the Comments Section ... where the whole world is able to eavesdrop!
[07:05.16]I’m Anna Matteo.