Today's expression is “to leave without a trace.” Remember earlier you heard that a monolith appeared in the desert. It was a large, metal formation. Its appearance at a remote location was strange. Just as mysteriously as it appeared, it disappeared without a trace. A “trace” is like a clue. It disappeared without a trace. After it disappeared, there wasn’t much evidence saying how or why it was removed.
You might remember, though, that there was a witness. Someone saw four people take the mysterious metal sculpture away. What did one of the men say to the witness? He said, “Leave no trace.”
This is a bit mysterious. In this case, “Leave no trace” can have two meanings. It might mean that the men wanted to leave no evidence that they had been there. Like a criminal at a crime scene, maybe they wanted to leave no evidence that could connect them to the removal of the monolith.
But there is another way to use “leave no trace,” and that is to leave no impact on the environment. When you go out into nature and you “leave no trace,” you leave no impact on the environment. And that is probably what the men meant when they were removing the monolith. We later find out that the people who removed the monolith were interested in environmental preservation. So they probably meant “leave no trace” in the environmental sense.
You don’t have to be removing a monolith to use the term “leave no trace.” For example, when people go camping, they take food, drinks, and other items with them that they need during their trip. Okay, fair enough. But to preserve the beauty of the place and to allow others to enjoy it, they take those things with them when they leave. They don’t want to leave trash behind. It’s important to nature-lovers to leave the site as it was when they arrived and to maintain the natural beauty of the places they visit. They want to leave without a trace so the next campers, and the ones after that, can all enjoy the same natural beauty.
There’s a famous art and music festival called Burning Man in the United States. Its mantra is “leave without a trace.” Festivalgoers leave the “playa” as they initially found it. The “playa” is what they call the festival grounds; it’s where the festival takes place. Leave the playa without a trace. The name must be someone’s idea of a joke: the festival is in the desert and “playa” means “beach” in Spanish! But I digress. At the end of the festival, people walk around and pick up anything left from humans. They are living up to their mantra, “leave without a trace.”
There’s a crime show on TV called “Without a Trace.” The show is about a special missing persons' investigation team at America’s FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Their job is to investigate a person who has disappeared without a trace. There is never any obvious evidence as to why or how this person has vanished. The FBI team investigates the case, trying to find out what happened to the missing person. Did they truly leave “without a trace” or were there clues to be discovered? That’s the idea—check that show out on Hulu in the US or Amazon Prime.
Here’s a sad example. You might know someone whose pet didn’t come home one day. The dog or cat left without a trace. When this happens, the owners usually put posters up in the neighborhood, ask neighbors if they have seen the pet, and provide their contact information. But pets sometimes have a mind of their own. They might leave without a trace—they might leave without giving you any signs about where they went—but they might re-appear someday, too.
You can use this in a light-hearted manner too, if you want to say someone left or disappeared unexpectedly—not in a serious way like in the FBI case, but if someone left without saying goodbye. Imagine a guest at a party wants to leave without saying goodbye because they are tired or simply aren't having a good time. In this way, leaving a party without saying goodbye or thank you can be called “leaving without a trace.”
I’ve been known to leave without a trace. I would never leave a party at someone’s house without a trace: I would always say thank-you to the host and goodbye to my friends. But if I find myself in a place where I don’t really know anyone and I’m not sure what I’m doing there—like a business networking event for work or something—I hate those—then I might leave without a trace. I don’t think I’m cut out for networking events!
JR’s song of the week
Today’s song of the week is “Put Your Records On” by Ritt Momney. The name of the artist is a play, I think, on the name of an American politician called Mitt Romney, a Senator from Utah, where the monoliths were found. There’s a line in the song that says, “Just go ahead, let your hair down.” That’s an expression for, “Relax and be yourself.” See if you can spot that in the song, “Put Your Records On” by Ritt Momney, JR’s song of the week.
See you next time!
And that brings us to the end of today’s lesson. Remember, there’s even more on the web site at PlainEnglish.com/323. The video lesson today is about how to introduce a general question. For example, “Where were you last night between 7:00 and 7:30 pm?” That’s a specific question. But sometimes you just want to introduce a general question, something less specific. Less of a question, and more of a prompt or an invitation: that’s what we talk about on the video lesson. That’s at PlainEnglish.com/323.