Real English Conversations: What was he thinking?

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Warning: some of you might find today’s conversation topic somewhat offensive, because Michael and I talk about a rather vulgar and disturbing video that we saw on the Internet, and a related story on the BBC website. It’s about people doing amazingly stupid things to their own bodies, and involves talking about a body part that is considered rather vulgar. So if you are sensitive or easily offended, you should not listen to this conversation. For those of you who are not easily offended, there are links to the video and the BBC article on the website. And as always, the full conversation transcript and accompanying vocabulary notes are also available on the website.

So hey ho, let’s go!

Conversation transcript

Lori: Do you remember a while back there was this horrible video going around, you know one of these, umm, video links that friends pass around in email forwards?

Michael: Mmm hmm

L: And the video was of…I think it was a teenage guy who took a rocket…

M: a firework

L: a firework rocket, and put it in a very, very sensitive area and actually lit it, and you could just see him running around and screaming and, and the flame and…do you remember that?

M: That, I have, umm, the image of that is burned in my memory, no pun intended.

[link to video: warning, it is rude and vulgar watch at your own risk]

L: Yeah, and it makes you, you know, the whole Darwin Awards thing, like, so that?

M: That was actually…Interestingly enough it was Bonfire Night, November the fifth, as we call…Bonfire Night in England just recently, and I saw on the BBC a news report that somebody had done something similar just recently. I mean this is, what, you know…ten or eleven days ago… that someone had done the same thing with a firework, a rocket, and, uhhh, inserted it into, uhhh…

L: An area that doesn’t normally see the sun.

M: Yes! That’s a good way of putting it. But the difference here… and I remember the video that you mentioned, I remember seeing that, where the rocket as it was, the firework was facing outwards.

L: Uh huh.

M: Okay? This guy had put the rocket facing inwards.

L: Oooooh!

M; I think the idea was…yeah the idea was…

L: To shoot it?

M: Well, I think he wanted to make it look like “Hey, look I’ve got, ummm, I’m a rocket-powered guy!?? You know…

L: Oh dear!

M: …it was propelling him forwards, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out and the rocket propelled itself into him.

L: Okay so he wanted to make it look like he was shooting flames out of his nether regions

M: That’s right, that’s right but…

L: And it actually went inside and…

M: It went inside him, yeah.

L: Oh my gosh!

M: And this, I mean, this was on the national news in England, I mean how embarrassing would that be?

L: Oh yeah, did they have his name?

M: Ummm…

L: Can you imagine applying for a job after something like that, if your name had been…? And, umm, ‘cause that’s the kind of thing people will pass around as well, “Oh look at the stupid thing THIS guy did!??

M: Well I’m never going to forget that, that’s

L: Yeah that’s horrifying. I mean even the first one was horrible, I mean…how, why do people do such stupid things?

M: That was the…yeah…The thing that really struck me is “What were they thinking???

L: Yeah, what were they thinking? And how can you even get past the age of… three… and not understand that sticking a firecracker or rocket, you know, up your…

M: Up your bum.

L: Yeah! That’s just not a good idea! How does this happen?

M: Well, I don’t know I think, ummm, I mean, it’s okay in cartoons!

L: Is that it? That they can’t, that they really just don’t have a concept of, “Wow, these are flames and, and, you know, flames can burn you, and this is a sensitive area, and even a tiny, tiny little flame would just really not be very nice to have…???

M: Well, when you were, when you were young, at sch- I mean at school, ummm didn’t you ever have, ummm, things like the fire brigade come and tell you about these things? Because…

L: Oh yeah, yeah, the firefighters would come.

M: Because we have, ummm, Bonfire Night every year, traditional for letting off fireworks November the fifth… Just a few days before, the fire brigade for the different local fire brigades would go around to all the schools in Britain and you would have a lecture and they would show a video or slides, a slideshow, showing you the dangers of fireworks. And they would really hit it home. I mean we were told year after year after year that you…all these ground rules…and I can still remember them now. I mean, that you never hold a firework, you know, when you light… you don’t…If you light a firework and it doesn’t go off, you don’t go back to it.

L: Oh right, yeah.

M: You know, you leave it, because, just because you can’t see the flame burning on the blue touchpaper doesn’t mean it’s not going to go off.

L: Right

M: You never carry fireworks in your pocket. You never throw fireworks.

L: Right

M: This stuff, you know, they couldn’t have been stricter about it. I guess they still do that now; they must do that now.

L: Mmm

M: But maybe people just think they’re invincible.

L: Yeah, I guess so, because that to me is just so obvious that that’s just not a good idea.

M: Sure, I mean, the guy in the video actually pulled his pants down, and…

L: Yeah I remember.

M: Terrible.

L: That was, it was so horrifying to watch, I remember…

M: Yeah yeah

L: …just thinking, “Oh my god,?? and “What happened to the poor guy??? And at the same time it serves him right, you know, for being such an idiot.

M: I still can’t believe he actually did it.

L: I know, me neither!

Final words

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Stupid bum rocket video (view at your own risk, it’s vulgar and disgusting)

BBC article about a stupid idiot and what he did with a rocket on Guy Fawkes night

See the Darwin Awards website for a compendium of human idiocy.

Vocabulary list

going around
If something is going around it is being passed from person to person or from place to place.

email forwards
emails that people copy and send to their friends, usually because they are funny, entertaining, or interesting

burned in my memory

If something is burned in/into your memory (or mind), you have a strong, vivid memory of it.

no pun intended

If what you say is a pun that you didn’t intend, you excuse yourself by saying “no pun intended.??

Darwin Awards
The Darwin Awards are given by an organization that “salute[s] the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it…ensuring that the next generation is one idiot smarter. Of necessity, this award is generally bestowed posthumously.” See In short, an award for killing yourself by doing something ridiculously stupid, thus removing yourself from the human gene pool (so you can’t pass on your stupid gene to your children).

Bonfire Night

Another name for Guy Fawkes Night. “In Britain, the evening of November 5th when models of men, called guys, are burned on large fires outside and there are firework displays. This is in memory of the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605 with explosives.”

If you insert A into B, you put A inside B.

see the sun
In this context, to see the sun means to be exposed to sunlight. In Western culture, the buttocks (bum (Br. E), rear end, posterior, derrière, butt, etc.) are usually covered by clothing (that is, not exposed to sunlight). Because the buttocks are usually not considered polite to mention, there are lots of euphemisms for talking about that body part. You might also hear the phrase “stick it where the sun don’t shine.” This does not mean “put it in your pocket”; it is a rude and vulgar way to angrily disagree with someone.

If A is facing B, is turned toward(s) B.

To propel something means to push it or move it somewhere, usually with a lot of force.

work out
In this context, to work out is a phrasal verb meaning to be successful or to achieve the desired result.

nether regions
A euphemism for the male and female body parts that are usually covered by underwear (the buttocks and genitalia).

Oh my gosh!
An informal exclamation of surprise or other strong feelings.

did they have his name?

Did they have his name? in this case means Was the man’s name published in the news article?
In authentic, natural conversations, speakers often omit details because they assume that their interlocutor (the person they are speaking to) has enough background information to fill in the blanks.

pass around

In this case, pass around means be inclined to talk or gossip about.


If something is horrifying, it makes you feel a strong sense of horror or shock.


If something is horrible, it is very unpleasant or bad.

(From the verb strike) If something strikes you, it causes you to feel strongly about it, to think deeply about it, or to remember it.

sticking (sth up)

In this context, to stick something up something means to insert it into certain bodily orifices. The man in the BBC story stuck a rocket up a bodily orifice where it did not belong. You often see little children sticking their fingers up their noses. But you stick something in your mouth or ear.


Usually funny or amusing films made using animated (drawn) characters and images rather than real actors.

fire brigade

(Br. E). The organization that is responsible for stopping unwanted fires. In Am.E, fire department)

(Am. E.) A firefighter is a man or woman whose job is to stop unwanted fires (usually as part of the fire department or fire brigade). It is the gender-neutral form of fireman. Apparently, the term fireman is still quite common in Br. E.

letting off

To let off a firework or rocket means to fire it or make it explode.

go around
To travel from place to place

hit it home
If you hit something home it means you make your point about something in a way that makes people understand it. If something hits home for you, it means that caused you to realize and understand it.

ground rules

Basic principles or rules about something, usually about how you are supposed to behave.

go off
In this context, to explode. If a firework doesn’t go off, it doesn’t explode.

go back
To go back to something means to return to it

(Br. E.) a small piece of (usually blue) paper on one end of a firework, which you light in order to start the firework burning. In Am. E this is usually called the fuse.


If you are strict about something, you make it very clear that there will be severe consequences if someone disobeys you or doesn’t follow your rules.

impossible to defeat, harm or injure


In this case, an adjective that shows that you think the person (or thing) you are describing deserves sympathy.

it serves him right
If you say it serves somebody right, it means that you think the person deserved what happened.