Creep out

If something creeps you out, it makes you afraid or nervous--and uncomfortable

Today's story: Bedbugs in Paris
Explore more: Lesson #620
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Creep out

Oh, this is perfect. Creep out is the phrasal verb I’m going to tell you about today. This is almost always used with a person—you almost never say “creep out” by itself. You put a person in there: “That creeps me out” or “I don’t mean to creep you out.”

I don’t mean to creep you out, but bedbugs can live in your mattress , come out at night, suck your blood, leave an itchy rash, and go back to hiding in your mattress. Oh, and each female will lay ten eggs in your sheets.

Are you creeped out yet? To creep someone out is to cause that person to be nervous, disgusted, or afraid—and uncomfortable. That’s key. So when we talk about bedbugs, we’re talking about something that makes us nervous, disgusted and highly uncomfortable. Your brain is telling you, something is not quite right.

Bedbugs are not life-threatening. They’ll give you an uncomfortable rash. That’s bad, but you’ll live. Bedbugs creep you out because you’re vulnerable—sleeping—and something is sucking your blood! Something is not right about this! This is uncomfortable to think about.

The key here is “uncomfortable.” That’s usually the dominant emotion with “creep out.” If someone comes running at you with a knife—you’re just afraid. You’re not creeped out by that. If you have a major presentation at work, in front of a lot of people—you’re not creeped out by that. You’re just nervous.

But if you’re afraid plus uncomfortable, or nervous plus uncomfortable, or if you’re disgusted, and if something just seems not right, then you’re creeped out. And we usually say, “That creeps me out.”

One category of things that can creep you out is physical. Bugs, snakes, rodents, things like that. Most snakes won’t hurt you. But some will! And that’s bad—we’re afraid of that. But we’re uncomfortable, too, just thinking about snakes. It’s that doubt—it’s the not knowing how or if they’re going to get you—that makes you uncomfortable and that’s what creeps you out.

I know it’s not this way everywhere, but in the U.S., we tend to take our trash out and leave it outside in large trash cans with lids. And it will stay there until the garbage collectors come, usually once a week. And that means that your trash is outside, in a trash can, for a few days. Sometimes, you’ll wake up and go outside and find the top is open and the trash is strewn all over the driveway.

A raccoon has gotten into the trash. It creeps you out to think that while you were sleeping, a raccoon was so close to your house. And that while you’re awake, walking around the in the garden, somewhere close by—you don’t know where!—a family of raccoons is sleeping. That’s creepy. That creeps you out.

Some people get creeped out by graveyards . Someone might say, “It just creeps me out to think that below my feet are the coffins and bodies of dead people.” That’s a combination of being uncomfortable and nervous.

Being in a place can creep you out. If you go into a basement of an unfamiliar building, there isn’t a lot of light, there are spiderwebs, it’s damp. You don’t know what’s in there. That can creep you out. You imagine a mouse, a rat, an insect, water on the floor—it creeps you out to be there. It’s a strange combination of being afraid and uncomfortable.

A person’s behavior can creep you out. If someone stares at you for just a little bit too long—that person might not be a direct threat, but it’s uncomfortable and makes you nervous. “That guy is really creeping me out,” you might say.

Or if someone makes sexual or suggestive comments in an inappropriate way—that can creep you out. Here’s something you might say: “His comments were completely over the line. They were starting to creep everyone out.” That means, everyone started to feel uncomfortable hearing the comments.

Sometimes people will just stand too close to you in a conversation—that can creep you out. Or if you talk to someone and that person brags about how good he is at picking locks—and then casually mentions he knows where you live. That would totally creep me out.

See you next time!

Bedbugs—yikes. Sorry to creep you out with this one. But on Thursday, we have a new topic that will not creep you out at all—Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist and sculptor has died. I have been to the Botero museum in Bogotá and his paintings and sculptures, both there and at another museum in Medellín, made such an impression on me. So on Thursday, I’ll share a little more about his work. He really was a unique figure in the world of art.

But for that, you have to wait until Thursday because we have reached the end of today’s Plain English. This was lesson number 620, so you can find the full lesson at PlainEnglish.com/620. That is where you’ll find the full transcript and the rest of the resources for today’s lesson. PlainEnglish.com/620.

See you right back here on Thursday.

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Story: Bedbugs in Paris