Expression: Bells and Whistles

If you would like to access the second part of this audio in which we talk about The Story of Jingle Bells, click here.


Welcome back to the American English Podcast. In today’s episode, we’ll be talking about another expression. We’ve been doing a lot of these recently, and they’re fun because there are two parts.

In today’s episode, you’ll hear about the expression bells and whistles, which is a common expression in American English. You’ll also hear a joke and some pronunciation exercises. In part two, which I try and keep related to the expression, we’re going to be learning about the popular Christmas song Jingle Bells. I’ll tell you the story about where it came from, and then we’ll go through the lyrics so that you can learn some new English vocabulary.

Stay tuned for Part two, the story of Jingle Bells is short, unexpectedly interesting, and it sets the mood for the holidays.

Are you in the mood for the holiday season?

By holiday season, I’m referring to all of these secular and non-secular holidays in December; so Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas to even New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, right, on December 31st and the 1st of January.

In my area of California, it already feels pretty festive. Colorful lights are being strung or hung around town, decorations are being put up, like wreaths and bows. Trees are being bought, gifts are being sought, in other words, searched after. And just this week I went to the store and bought an advent calendar!

Do you know what an advent calendar is? It’s a special calendar that allows you to count the days until Christmas, and what’s great about it is that each day comes with a treat, so either a sweet, a small gift or a task.

Advent calendars were originally from Germany, – they were invented in the 20th century – and in recent years they’ve become popular in the United States. You can find them at many grocery stores, convenience stores, just any sort of store, actually. And they’re normally large, flat boxes with Christmas images on one side and little doors for each day so that you can open them and pull out a chocolate or candy.

Some advent calendars are more elaborate than others. I’ve seen some that are made of cloth or wood, I’ve even seen banners that people hang up on their walls, each day with a specific hanging number and something inside of that, so it’s like a pocket!

The point is, this is all new for us and I have some questions about it: For those of you who did grow up with advent calendars, what did you do when there was more than one kid in a family? Does each child get an advent calendar? Do you split the chocolate or candy inside between two kids? Like cut it in half with a knife? I find it very confusing.

Let me know on Instagram at @americanenglishpodcast.

Today, as usual, we’re going to start with a joke. Are you ready?


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