Cut corners

'Cut corners' means to do something that saves you time, effort or money at the expense of quality

Today's story: Kia and Hyundai thefts
Explore more: Lesson #580
Keywords:

Be your best self in English

Move confidently through the English-speaking world

Listen

  • Learning speed
  • Full speed

Learn

TranscriptQuizYour turn
Simple TranscriptEspañol中文FrançaisPortuguês日本語ItalianoDeutschTürkçePolski

Cut corners

Today’s expression is “cut corners.” This means to do something in a way that saves you time, money, or effort. When you cut corners, you save time, effort, or money at the expense of quality.

So for example, JR and I save time by producing two episodes at a time . I write two at a time, I record two at a time, JR edits two at a time, he uploads two at a time to the web site. So everything we do, we do it twice in a row. This saves us time. But this doesn’t reduce the quality of the product. So it’s not “cutting corners.”

If I started using ChatGPT—believe me, I won’t—but if I started using ChatGPT to write the second half of every lesson, that would be cutting corners. It would save me time, sure. But that time savings would come at the expense of quality. It would be a lower quality result because I used ChatGPT to write the lesson. That would be cutting corners.

Turkey suffered a devastating earthquake in February; you heard about it in Lesson 554. The earthquake was bad enough. But what made it worse was the fact that a lot of buildings were not built according to the latest safety standards. Contractors would submit plans for new buildings. They would get approved. And then they would cut corners: they would build with lower-quality materials, or they would put less reinforcement into the building. This saved them money. But it came at the expense of quality. And in the case of Turkey, it came at the expense of many lives, too.

It’s not easy to build a car. It wouldn’t be easy to build a car with an unlimited budget. But carmakers don’t have an unlimited budget. They have to make a car for $20,000 or $25,000 or whatever the number is—they have to make a car that consumers can afford. So if they have a budget, they have to decide where to put time, effort, and money.

That’s why sometimes cars that drive really well have materials on the inside that feel cheap. If you’ve been listening for a while, you know I loved my Mazda3. I loved the way it drove, I loved the way it felt on the road. The interior was good, but not amazing. If you looked at the interior, you were never going to say “Wow.” Mazda put its budget toward mechanics. I was perfectly happy with that.

Other times, you might be in a car with a luxurious interior, but you can hear a lot of road noise as you drive. The carmaker put its budget to the interior and not soundproofing. And so on.

Hyundai and Kia are economy brands; they sell for a relatively low price, so they have to make hard choices about where to put their budget. And they often have nicer interiors, leading to sacrifices in other parts of the car. Fine. But you don’t expect a carmaker to cut corners with safety features like anti-theft technology.

But that’s exactly what they did. For many years, they simply didn’t include an engine immobilizer , a basic safety feature to prevent car theft. They saved money by not including this part, and that came at the expense of quality. That’s why we say that Hyundai and Kia cut corners with the design of these models.

I think you probably see people cut corners in restaurant kitchens. There are strict safety rules about surfaces, temperatures, hair nets, things like that. I think if you take a peek into a typical restaurant kitchen, you might see people cutting corners when there aren’t any inspectors nearby.

Safety, law enforcement, and medicine: three areas you don’t want people cutting corners. If police are gathering evidence, they have a specific procedure to follow. If they cut corners—if they don’t follow the procedure because they want to save time—then it’s possible the evidence can’t be used in court.

An American doctor was accused of cutting corners. He was using unapproved, cheaper versions of Botox in his treatments—and billing for the real thing.

Quote of the Week

Tina Turner died last month. She had an incredible life—she was raised in a family she describes as “comfortable” in a rural farming community. Ike Turner, a blues singer, discovered her voice—and eventually married her. They sang as a duo. But Ike Turner was an abusive husband; Tina Turner divorced him and then launched her own solo career. She became one of the biggest pop music stars of the 1980s. Janet Jackson called her an “elegant powerhouse.”

Here’s a quote from Tina Turner. “I never said ‘Well, I don’t have this and I don’t have that.’ I said, ‘I don’t have this yet, but I’m going to get it.’”

Tina Turner died in Switzerland at age 83.

See you next time!

And that’s all for today’s Plain English. I want to say a special congratulations to the many hundreds—and this number frankly surprised and delighted me—many hundreds of listeners who participated in the Plain English ChatGPT Challenge.

The main activities were last week, but we’re still wrapping things up as a group, and I had so much fun interacting with all of you and learning from you as well. The WhatsApp group was lively, too. I was a little nervous creating a WhatsApp group; I didn’t really know what to expect. But all of you in the challenge made it such a fun experience, so thank you for that.

Now if you missed it, but you’re still curious about ChatGPT—that’s okay. Still go to PlainEnglish.com/GPT and leave your name there. We will definitely come back with something for the future. We had too much fun to just end things here. So if you missed the ChatGPT challenge this month, you can still visit PlainEnglish.com/GPT to see what we have coming up for you in the future.

Remember on Thursday we’re continuing today’s topic—the fallout from all those car thefts. See you then.

Learn more expressions like this

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

We speak your language

Learn English words faster with instant, built-in translations of key words into your language

Starter feature

Test your knowledge

Take a 4-question quiz to make sure you understand today’s Expression

Plus+ feature

Write a sentence with this Expression

Get personal, human feedback on the examples that you write. Build the confidence to use this Expression in the real world

Story: Kia and Hyundai thefts