Bragging rights

“Bragging rights” is the right or ability to brag about something.

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Bragging rights

Today’s English expression is “bragging rights.” This is about as informal as we get in the audio lessons: most of the informal expressions and slang are on the web site in a feature called “Learn the Lingo .” But I did want to explain “bragging rights” to you since it’s so important to understand the main lesson.

First things first: to “brag” means to talk about yourself in a way that talks too much about your strengths or achievements. I hate people who brag. I say, let your actions do the talking. You don’t need to constantly talk about how great you are. You could brag that you have the most expensive car in your neighborhood. You could brag that you’re the best cook in your family. You could brag that you scored a record number of points in your high school basketball team. You could brag that you’re bigger or stronger than your wife’s ex boyfriends. Whatever. Bragging is arrogant and it’s not a great thing to do.

However, there is one thing about bragging: it’s usually true. Maybe it’s not fun hearing someone talk about how he’s got the most expensive car in the neighborhood, but he does have it. So if you brag about something, it’s a legitimate thing about yourself that you are loudly, clearly, for everyone to hear, talking about. But it is true, as distasteful as it might be to talk too much about it.

So what are “bragging rights”? Bragging rights is just what it sounds like: the right or the ability to brag about something. The right or ability to say something good about yourself. Now, this is an example where the meaning changes just a little bit. Bragging rights is not necessarily arrogant; it can be, but it often isn’t.

We often say bragging rights when the only prize for something is the ability to say you won. I mentioned on an earlier lesson that I don’t gamble. If I play cards, the only thing at stake is bragging rights. That means there’s no bet: nobody wins any money. If I win, or if you win, the only thing you get is bragging rights. The only thing you get is the ability to say that you won, the ability to brag about your win. Nothing more, nothing less.

Let’s say you’re at the local basketball court and you and some friends are playing against some other people you meet there. There are a couple of other teams and you arrange a mini tournament to see who’s the best team out there. What does the winner get? There’s no trophy. There’s no money for the winner. Nobody’s name is going to be carved on the wall of the gym. Nobody’s jersey will hang from the rafters high above the court. The only thing the winner gets is bragging rights—the ability to say they won. Bragging rights usually only last until the next game, by the way!

So let’s go back to this lesson today. Digital art: buyers of non-fungible tokens get an entry in a blockchain ledger that proves they are the owner. That’s it. They have proof they are the owner. But the artwork is digital, it can be enjoyed and reproduced all over the world, in exactly the same form that you, the true owner, can enjoy it. The only difference is, you have bragging rights if you buy the token. You can say you’re the owner—and that will be true.

The owner of the first Tweet ever is no longer Jack Dorsey. He sold it. The new buyer has bragging rights as the owner of the first-ever Tweet. That new owner can’t take the Tweet down. He can’t hide it from anyone else. He can’t change it. He can’t tell Twitter what to do with it. He can’t add an emoji to it. He—the rightful owner of the tweet—can’t do anything with it. But, he has the bragging rights. He’s the owner. Congratulations! He has the bragging rights. Nobody can take that away.

Bragging rights is almost good-natured. You might find yourself in a situation where you might place a bet. It could be a card game, a friendly sports contest, a race, a competition, a friendly bet. I’m watching the NCAA basketball tournament now, in the US, and a lot of people bet on who can guess the winners of the most games. Some people bet money, but a lot of people make it friendly.

So let’s say you and a friend disagree about who’s going to win the next two games. Your friend asks, “What are we playing for?” What’s at stake? What does the winner get? But maybe you don’t want to bet anything. You don’t want to put actual money at stake. So when your friend asks, “What are we playing for?” You can simply respond, “Bragging rights.” And that just signals that you don’t want to bet any real money; the winner will get the right to brag about being the winner, that’s all. It doesn’t mean you will brag; it doesn’t mean you’ll act arrogantly. Bragging rights is just the ability to brag—even if you don’t do it.

Quote of the Week

Time for the quote of the week: we’ll go quick, since we’re already a little longer than usual. I was reading an essay by the psychologist Esther Perel. She’s got a podcast series and a few books out. She wrote an essay in an American newspaper about the effects of the pandemic and lockdown on mental health and anxiety. And I just liked this quote, so I chose it for today. She said, “Freedom in confinement comes from the imagination.”

How true that is. If we can’t be out there in the world, we still do have our imaginations. It reminds me of when my family got a new refrigerator when I was like five years old. I got weeks of enjoyment out of playing in the box after my parents discarded it; to this day, I remember it. So keep that spirit alive until we can get out and enjoy the world again. As Esther Perel said, “Freedom in confinement comes from the imagination.”

See you next time!

OK, here’s my plan. We’re going to grow Plain English so that it’s extremely popular all over the world. And then we’ll create a non-fungible token for the first episode, the hundredth episode, all the big milestones. That hundredth episode will sell for more since JR appears at the beginning! What do you think about that?

I’ll keep dreaming! Speaking of dreaming, one of my dreams looks like it might come true. At the end of Lesson 313, I dropped a little hint saying something I wish would happen someday—and it looks like it might be happening. That’s going to be Thursday’s topic. If you want a hint, go back and listen to number 313. Listen carefully. Listen to where I say what I wish someone would do, what I wish someone would do. And someone appears to be doing it—and that’s what we’ll talk about on Thursday.

See you then!

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Story: Digital art sales