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Is There Any Wiggle Room with That?

Announcer: This is an All Ears English podcast Episode 1019: “Is There Any Wiggle Room with That?”


Announcer: Welcome to the All Ears English Podcast, downloaded more than 50 million times. We believe in Connection NOT Perfection ™, with your American hosts Lindsay McMahon, the ‘English Adventurer’, and Michelle Kaplan, the ‘New York Radio Girl,’ coming to you from Boston and New York City, U.S.A.


Announcer: And to get your transcripts delivered by email every week, go to AllEarsEnglish.com/subscribe.


Announcer: When you are working across cultures and things are done in a certain way in your home culture, how can you check in and find out what the norms are in your culture? Is there more flexibility or less? Get the vocabulary you need to have these conversations today.


Michelle: Hey (hi) Lindsay, how’s it going?

Lindsay: Hey (hi) Michelle, it’s going pretty great. How about you?

Michelle: Good. I have a question. Can we record tomorrow in the afternoon?

Because I know you said you can only record in the morning, but I’m wondering if there’s any wiggle room on that.

Lindsay: That’s a good question. There’s not a ton of wiggle room, actually, in my schedule these days. I mean, God, things are just, I’m just packing things in here into my calendar, but I could record on Friday.

Michelle: Okay. You know what? I can do tomorrow, that’s okay.

Lindsay: Alright.

Michelle: Okay guys, I hope you like that little skit in the beginning of the episode.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes). Skits are fun. [laughter]

Michelle: Ohh yeah (yes), for sure, for sure. So, really, how are you, Lindsay?

Lindsay: I’m doing well, I’m doing well, yeah (yes). I mean, here we are, almost getting into late September, I can’t believe it, and I had a nice weekend. I actually watched this crazy movie over the weekend, Michelle, it was called Her, and it was a movie set in the future in L.A.

Michelle: Her, I saw that movie.

Lindsay: You saw it too? Ohh my God, it was crazy, it was crazy.

Michelle: Yeah (yes).

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), so, just to summarize for our listeners, the story is that, basically, I don’t know what year it’s supposed to be set in, I guess it’s modern day, but, like, it’s imagining a futuristic possibility where they develop an operating system that is so realistic that the guy falls in love with his operating system. It’s, like, a personal assistant but it’s, like, got this real voice and it’s a woman and he falls in love with her. [laughter] Michelle: Yeah (yes).

Lindsay: It’s interesting, right?

Michelle: Yeah (yes). I saw it a long time ago, so I don’t remember that much, but I remember I really liked it. I remember I thought it was a very interesting movie.

Lindsay: It’s a good movie.

Michelle: I saw it before things like Siri.

Lindsay: Ohh, you did?

Michelle: Not Siri, but, like, Alexa, like, I saw it before those things. So, I wonder how it was to watch it now, like, knowing that all of these things are a little bit more widespread, because I saw it in, like, maybe 2014.

Lindsay: You saw it in 2014? Okay. I saw it this past weekend.

Michelle: I think so.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), so, it’s been out for a while. Okay, so, they were really imagining the future. I mean, speaking of Alexa, guys, she’s going to perk up here right here next to me, but you guys know that you can now go to All Ears English, by the way, on Alexa, if you’re in the U.S. or Japan, you can go grab your Alexa and say, “Alexa, open All Ears English.” Say it in Japanese if you’re in Japan, you’ll get All Ears English to share with your family in the kitchen, for example. So cool. But yeah (yes), that was a crazy movie, Michelle. So crazy.

Michelle: Yeah (yes), yeah (yes), yeah (yes), yeah (yes). Ohh, I want to see it again now. Yeah (yes), I remember it was really… When you say “crazy” do you feel like it was good crazy, did you enjoy the movie?

Lindsay: A little scary. [laughter]

Michelle: It was a little scary.

Lindsay: I really enjoyed it, but a little scary just because now we do have things like Alexa and we do have these personal assistants that are getting more and more effective and smarter. And so it’s kind of hitting home a bit more, but I think we’re still obviously very far from that point where someone could fall in love with their operating system that it’s that realistic, but I don’t know what could happen in the future.

Michelle: You never know, you never know. But yeah (yes), I agree. I think it would be interesting for me to see that now that, like, there’s Alexa. I don’t remember when I saw it, there must have been Siri, I don’t know if that’s long ago, but, like, certainly no Alexa at that time. So, very interesting. So, yeah (yes), okay, good movie. Lindsay, we want to remind our listeners to get the transcripts, right?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), guys, just a quick reminder. You can subscribe to the transcripts, you can get them by email every Monday if you go to AllEarsEnglish.com/subscribe, and you also save fifty percent on the price.

Really good deal, guys. Alright, cool.

Michelle: Okay, great. Okay. So, Lindsay, I don’t know if you remember, but in the beginning when I was asking you about the schedule, I asked you a question. I said, “I’m wondering if there’s any wiggle room that.”

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), yeah (yes).

Michelle: “Wiggle room”. Did that sound natural to you?

Lindsay: It sounded very natural, definitely sounded like a question you would have asked, for sure. Right? Like, is there any flexibility, you know?

Michelle: Right, right, right, exactly. And the reason I wanted to talk about this phrase is because yesterday this phrase came up three times in my conversations. One was in an article that I used with my students, twice was with my husband. Like, I think I said it once and he said it once.

Lindsay: Ohh wow.

Michelle: Maybe we heard it… Ohh no, you know, we also heard it on TV. I think.

Lindsay: Ohh my God.

Michelle: I’m not sure, I’m not sure. I don’t remember now, but, like, we were… It came up constantly that day. Do you ever have a day like that where you like just recognize this?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Yeah (yes), it’s crazy.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), so, you felt like, “We have to teach our listeners this phrase.” Right?

Michelle: Ohh yeah (yes), I was just, like, “Okay, we’ve got to do something. Because if this is going to come up all the time, we’ve got to know what it is.” Yeah (yes), yeah (yes). So, Lindsay, you mentioned a little bit what this phrase means. But, yeah (yes), basically, it’s about if changes can be made to something or not. Right?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), mhh hmm.

Michelle: So, when I said, like, “Is there any wiggle room? Can we change the schedule?” Right? Also, flexibility, of course.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), I like this because it’s a casual way of asking if the person is flexible around something. You know?

Michelle: For sure.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), it’s just so natural and native, guys, such a good one.

Michelle: Yeah (yes), and this is a skill that’s definitely helpful to have, right, if you need to change a schedule. It makes me also think of, like, I don’t know, I was thinking of scenarios when you use it, like, at work, like, scheduling meetings or something, or, like, maybe paying for something, maybe if there’s any… I mean, of course, really, here we don’t do so much of negotiation, but we do, like, on big things like cars and things like that. So, it could be for paying for something or, you know, just schedules in general. Right?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes). It could be useful in a lot of different situations.

Michelle: Right, right. I mean, I think that it could also be very cultural. Like, you know, like, Lindsay, do you think there’s a lot of wiggle room in American culture? Like, for, you know, timing and things like that?

Lindsay: That’s a good question. I think it really depends on the person. But, I mean, I think definitely, like, your standard kind of advice, right, like we’ve talked about this on the show before, you know, don’t be more than five minutes late if you’re meeting, or don’t be late. But don’t be more than five minutes late if you’re meeting for, like, a business meeting for sure, and you know, there are always, like, standard expectations in the culture.

So, probably we have more wiggle room than other parts of the world, but less than others. You know? We probably fall somewhere in the middle.

Michelle: Somewhere in the middle. Yeah (yes), interesting, interesting. Yeah (yes).

So, “wiggle room”, so, let’s get into it. So, I think it’s a very cute-sounding phrase that makes me, like, think of, like, having room for dancing or actual physical movement, Lindsay. It’s really common, so I just I have this image of dancing in my head now, so that’s good. So yeah (yes), what do you think of this phrase? I mean, I think it’s very common, very useful.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), I agree, let’s do it. Do we have a little role play today that we should go for?

Michelle: Let’s do. Yeah (yes), we have a couple, so go for it.


Announcer: Guys, mark your calendar because you don’t want to miss our next webinars, where Jessica and I will show you how to become a conversation magnet in English in 60 days; that means that people want to keep talking with you, you’ll always know what topics to bring up, and how to go deeper into interesting English conversations and build connections.

To sign up now go to AllEarsEnglish.com/magnet. That’s AllEarsEnglish.com/MAGNET and we can’t wait to see you on the webinar next week.


Lindsay: Okay. So, “Hey, is there any wiggle room on that deadline, Michelle?”

Michelle: “No, sorry, we need it by the end of the day.”

Lindsay: That’s you.

Michelle: Hold on, hold on. I think that’s a separate role play.

Lindsay: Ohh. [laughter] Okay.

Michelle: There are three little ones. Okay. So, “No, sorry. We need it by the end of the day.” Okay, there we go. Okay. Or you can say, like, so that’s, like, about, kind of, work. So, this next one, “It’s important that we get some wiggle room on the price or we aren’t going to put in an offer.”

Lindsay: “Okay, I’ll talk to the owners.” Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Okay, great.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), so, the next one.

Michelle: So, maybe buying a house, something like that. Yeah (yes).

Lindsay: Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Okay, and here we go, another one.

Lindsay: “Hey, we have an opening at 4.”

Michelle: “Is there any wiggle room on that? I can be there at 4:30.”

Lindsay: “Sure, that’s fine. We can do 4:30.” Okay.

Michelle: So, there you go, “wiggle room”. Right? Room for flexibility. Right?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), so, you’re talking about flexibility in terms of the price, flexibility in terms of the meeting time, right, and then flexibility in terms of a deadline. So, that’s great.

Michelle: Right, right. So, it can be used in many different ways, just anything where you need some extra space. Right?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), you got it, you got it. Alright.

Michelle: Alright. What’s another word that we can use in a similar situation, Lindsay?

Lindsay: So, this means the same thing. It’s not as cute as the first one, though. I like the phrase “leeway”, “leeway”, so “LEEWAY”, guys. Right? So, means the same thing. Right?

Michelle: Right, right. Do you use this one?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), I would say I do. Yeah (yes), I use it, I use “wiggle room” and I use “leeway”.

Michelle: Yeah (yes).

Lindsay: “Is there any leeway?” Yeah (yes), I like that. Let’s show our listeners how it’s done.

Michelle: Let’s do it.

Lindsay: Okay. So, “Hey, I want to go to the party but my boss isn’t giving me any leeway on this report. I have to finish it.”

Michelle: Right. “Ohh, that’s no fun. Too bad.”

Lindsay: Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Right.

Lindsay: Too bad.

Michelle: So, he’s not being flexible or she’s not being flexible, right, on this report.

So, I can’t make it out tonight. Right?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), exactly. Okay.

Michelle: Right, okay. And then another one is, “Is there any leeway on the payment schedule?”

Lindsay: “Yes, you can pay interest-free over ten months.” Wow. That’s a lot of leeway, cool.

Michelle: Yeah (yes), that’s a lot of leeway, that’s right.

Lindsay: [laughter]

Michelle: I like it, I like it. Yeah (yes), so, this one sounds very natural to me. I’m very comfortable with it, and I think it’s a good one. So, Lindsay, and the last one is kind of the one that’s overarching for all of it, which is what?

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), flexibility. So, this is kind of the more objective word. I mean, “leeway” and “wiggle” room are kind of fun, cultural words, like, specific phrases, but “flexibility” is the more objective definition of both of these.

Right? “Flexibility”.

Michelle: Right, right, right, exactly. So, you could say, like, “I wish I could commit, but there’s no flexibility on his end, so I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Lindsay: “I know. He can be so stubborn.” Okay.

Michelle: Okay, yeah (yes). So, you could say that. You could have said, “There’s no wiggle room.” Right? You could have kind of used different phrases here.


Lindsay: Yeah (yes). I mean, I can see this, just for our listeners here, for the takeaway, I mean, I could see this being important if you guys come from a workplace culture or just a culture where there’s a lot more flexibility in terms of deadlines, in terms of time of meeting. You want to check in.

Let’s say you’re working in the U.S. or an English-speaking country, and you want to check in on your expectations, your assumptions. Right? So, using this and saying something like, “I know we were talking about meeting at 3 for a business lunch, but is there any wiggle room on that because, you know, I might need a little extra time to drop off my kids at school.” Whatever it is, but you want to use these phrases to check in.

Don’t assume that it’s the same as it is at home. Right?

Michelle: Right, right. definitely. So, these phrases are really good to use in those situations. Yeah (yes), you definitely want to make sure so that you don’t do the wrong thing. Right?

Lindsay: Ohh my gosh, completely, completely. I feel like a lot of misunderstandings could start around time and expectations around time, deadlines, meeting times, that kind of thing, big gray zone. [laughter] Right?

Michelle: Yeah (yes).

Lindsay: When we go and we work abroad. For sure.

Michelle: Right, right, right. Yeah (yes). I mean, I wonder if I would say, like, “Is there any wiggle room on that?”, like, in, like, a formal situation to a boss?

I’m not sure that I would.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Maybe. I don’t know.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes). So, it’s a little bit casual, it’s a little cute, that phrase. So maybe “is there any flexibility on that”, or maybe check in with your colleagues and just get a sense of the culture.

Michelle: That’s what I think.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes).

Michelle: That’s what I was thinking more than going to the boss about it. Because, you know, if you say, like, “Is there any wiggle room on coming in on time?”, you know, they might not like that question.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), you might get off on the wrong foot. Right? Get off on the wrong foot.

Michelle: Right.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), for sure, for sure.

Michelle: Right, right. So, I would stick to, you know, like, a colleague that you can trust or something like that. Like, just asking kind of about, like, the general feel of the office. Yeah (yes), I think that might be a good idea.

But yeah (yes), guys, I think the takeaway from today is that it’s important to have the language to talk about flexibility, right? So, you might need to ask someone, like we talked about, if there’s wiggle room on a schedule or on a price, and you know, these phrases can help you connect over these situations. I mean, also it just comes up tons of times in my natural conversation, and that’s why I brought it up today.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes). I mean, just the fact that, I mean, that’s where this episode was inspired. And I love episodes like these where they’re inspired by us realizing that we’re saying something all the time, and then we say, “Let’s teach our listeners this phrase.” Because you obviously said it two or three times in different contexts in your life in New York, so that’s huge. I mean, this is real English, guys, that again, you’re not going to get in a textbook.

Michelle: Right, right.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), this is awesome. Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Definitely. Real, real English.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes).

Michelle: Alright, well, this has been fun, Lindsay. Thanks for hanging out today, and guys, thanks for listening.

Lindsay: Yeah (yes), this has been good. And hey, Michelle, before we finish up, guys, I want to remind you, if you’re taking the IELTS exam this year, it’s September, time to get back to business, get ready to go abroad, right?

Where you want to go to live your dream life, if you want to immigrate somewhere, go over and subscribe to the show, IELTS Energy podcast.

Because we give you very hot tips three times a week to pass the exam over there. Alright? Awesome.

Michelle: Awesome.

Lindsay: Okay, Michelle, thanks for hanging out today. It’s been fun, good topic.

Thanks a lot.

Michelle: Thank you. Alright, have a good one.

Lindsay: Talk to you soon, bye.

Michelle: Bye.


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