Today’s expression is a “stepping stone.” This is an interesting one. A stepping stone is almost like something that’s halfway to where you’re really going. So picture yourself on a walk in the woods and you come to a stream. A stream is like a small river. You come to a stream and you need to get to the other side. But you can’t quite jump all the way over to the other side. It’s just a little too far to jump or to take in just one stride. So you look for a stone or a rock in the middle of the stream to step on as you cross the creek. And that is a stepping stone.
These days, we say something is a stepping stone if it helps you take a large step in life that maybe you didn’t want to do all at once. The way I used it in the main lesson was that many couples use pet ownership as a stepping stone toward becoming parents. Maybe they’re—I don’t know—26 and they want to have kids someday, just not right away. But they also do want to have some of the benefits of having an expanded family, so they use pet ownership as a stepping stone to having kids. They start by getting a dog and in two or three years, they’ll have a kid.
It’s a little bit of a joke to say that pet ownership is a stepping stone toward having kids, but there is definitely some truth to that!
I suspect some of you use Plain English as a stepping stone. You probably had English classes, maybe you did the apps, maybe you had a teacher—maybe you still do. One day, you want to be able to speak and understand English at full, native speed. But you’re not quite there yet. So you listen to slower-speed programs like this as a stepping stone. This is going to help you get to where you’re going. You’re using this as a stepping stone.
College or university life is often considered a stepping stone toward full adulthood. In America, at least, it’s common to enter university at age 18 and to have more independence, more personal responsibility—but, for many people, this is not true adulthood. They are not making all their own money, paying all their own bills, supporting themselves totally. But neither are they under the constant care and watch of their parents. So sometimes we say that university life is a stepping stone toward full adulthood. It helps you get there.
Let’s say you’d like to start an expensive hobby like photography or cycling. Eventually, you want to have a nice camera or a nice road bike. Let’s say photography: you want to take beautiful, artistic photos, and possibly even make this a career. This is what you think you want, but you don’t have any equipment yet. Is it a good idea, right away, to buy an expensive camera?
I would say probably not. I would say, maybe buy medium-quality camera: buy something a little better than your phone’s camera, but not quite like a professional camera just yet. Use that medium-quality camera as a stepping stone. Learn some techniques. See if you really like photography as much as you think you will. See if you have any talent for photography whatsoever! Use that medium-quality camera as a stepping stone. Then, when you’re ready and know more about photography, you can get better equipment.
JR’s song of the week
JR’s song of the week is “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. Originally recorded in 1965, the song has been covered by a number of artists, including George Michael, Avicii, John Coltrane, Michael Bublé, and others. It was written as part of a musical about civil rights. At the beginning of the song, you hear Simone sing, “It's a new dawn; It's a new day; It's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good.”
“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone is the song of the week, thanks to our producer JR.
See you next time!
I need a pet in my life. That’s what I’ve concluded from this pandemic. I grew up with dogs—golden retrievers—but I haven’t had one myself because of my job, my travel. For a long time I lived in really small apartments that weren’t conducive to pets. But I might be coming around…we’ll see.
That’s it for number 299. We’ve covered a lot of ground in 299 lessons, lots of different topics; hopefully you’ve found a lot of the lessons interesting. And remember you can always read more—in English!—about your favorite Plain English lessons by looking at the bottom of the transcript.
You do have to be logged in to see that, but it’s included in the free membership. So there really is no excuse not to be signed in as a free member—you can explore our whole lesson history, and when you find one you like, you can read even more about it in the English-language articles that I used to prepare the lesson. So sign up for free, if you haven’t already, at PlainEnglish.com.