Wall Street

The Economist

Full Transcript - Episode 7


Airport rankings, mystery mogul, Rapunzel Syndrome and more dung...plus someone who actually knows more about the Brazilian economy than two gringos!

G: …what this button does? Ah, looks like we’re recording. Um, well I don’t see Jay around. May-maybe I should start? Hang on. Let’s…er…let’s just take a look…no. My goodness. What’s this? Ooh, no, I don’t like… Ooh, Jay, Jay I never knew! That’s…that’s…ooh, my goodness! No, I tell you what, um, I won’t start now. Let’s…let’s have a little bit of music and I’ll be right back.

J: What? Get out of there! That’s not for you!


J: Hello, and welcome to the first pod from 2020!

G: Indeed. Welcome from 2020 – The Future!

J: The future. So Gee, how was, er, Christmas and New Year’s?

G: Christmas was great, actually. I-I ate too much and drank too much.

J: Oh. I just…I just ate too much. I didn’t really drink that much this time.

G: Oh. Well. You…you obviously failed then, yes?

J: Yes, I did. Anyway, let’s go straight to business and let’s, er, talk about the news from the week because we have a lot…a lot…a lot on our schedule today. First of all, in the beginning of the year, there’s usually a lot of economic forecasts coming out and, er, a lot of new data from the previous years, and we have…

G: We have the long-promised economist! He’s finally coming in.

J: The economist…ooh…

G: The economist. Not from the magazine but somebody who’s an economist.

J: An actual economist – who actually earns money doing economy.

G: He’s been an economist for fifteen years or more.

J: Yeesh. This guy, he must have a boatload of experience.

G: He knows more than two gringos.

J: Alright. And what else do we have?

G: And I guess we’ll have our regular sections. We’re gonna have, er, ‘What Caught My Eye’, which we’ll kick-off shortly, and maybe a little bit of guru at the end.

J: A little bit of guru…some news… So let’s kick off the news to start with cos I’m actually…I’m raring to go. I have some really good stories today.

G: Excellent! I’ll look forward to those.    



J: What do you…what do you have for us? What’s your top story of the day?

G: I’m going to start with a little, brief piece of local news, actually.

J: Ok.

G: Have you ever heard of the OAG?

J: No, I have no idea.

G: I-I don’t know what it is, actually. It’s…it’s…it’s actually an English acronym. OAG is what it’s called in Portuguese, actually. But basically, they are the people who evaluate the performance of airports.

J: Ah, interesting. Ok.

G: And they have produced and published their figures from last year.

J: But…but they evaluate airports how? In…in what way?

G: In terms of punctuality. So basically, they classify each airport depending on size. So you’ve got small, medium, large, very large and mega. And then they look at the number of planes that leave on time, as a percentage, each year.

J: Ok.

G: And then they rank the airports based on that percentage.

J: So but…it’s not…so, just to be clear – it’s not based on safety. It’s not based on acts of terrorism, or anything else. It’s simply the…the…if they depart and arrive on time?

G: It doesn’t say if the planes arrived or not, no. It just says that they departed on time, at least.

J: Ok. Ok, so…

G: Anyhow, I thought you’d be curious to know that…

J: Well, that-that’s nice that you talk about airplanes while an airplane is going overhead at the same time!

G: Yes. Who knows if that will be safe? I-I’m sure it will.

J: As long as they don’t hit me, I’m ok.

G: Alright, so, the…you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know… Where…where would you expect Garulhos to be on this list – our main airport in São Paulo?

J: I would say somewhere in the middle.

G: Well, in the ‘very large’ category – it’s a bit like the Oscars, this…

J: Ok.

G: …in the ‘very large’ category they came fourth, no less.

J: Fourth?

G: Fourth, for punctuality.

J: Push…puxa vida!

G: They came fourth with 81.39%.

J: You know, that’s interesting.

G: That’s quite surprising, that.

J: By the way, I know th…I know the person who’s responsible for the design of that new airport. No, a-act…that’s not a joke! I know that person.

G: I’m sure he can take credit for that, then. That’s great. Would you like to know the 3 airports that finished in front of Garulhos?

J: Ok, ye-c-can I guess as to what they are?

G: You can have a guess, but remember they are not ‘mega’, they are just ‘very large’, so it’s difficult to know... So probably Frankfurt’s not in there because it would be mega, wouldn’t it? Or…

J: I-I don’t know. I’m going to say Tokyo’s up there somewhere. And other punctual cities, I would estimate that-that Britain, or what-what’s the main airport? Heathrow. I would say Heathrow is up there somewhere.

G: Well, Heathrow would be in the mega category, too.

J: Oh, that’s mega. Ok, that doesn’t count. Erm, so…

G: Actually, you’re not going to get these. Two of them are American. Guess…guess two large, but not mega, airports that would be reliable in the US.

J: Dallas. Dallas is one.

G: That’s probably another mega one.

J: Dallas is a mega? Ok, Atlanta.

G: That’s another mega one.

J: Bloody hell.

G: They’re huge.

J: Er…

G: They’re all…they’re all hubs.

J: JFK. That’s also a hub.

G: That’s all mega. No, no, basically, then the large…

J: I don’t know!

G: …in the large category, you’ve got Minneapolis and Detroit.

J: Ok.

G: They…they finished second and third and Istanbul was top of that particular category.

J: Istanbul?

G: Yes.

J: So, go Turk!

G: Go Turk.

J: Ok.

G: I have to say, I didn’t look to see who won the mega category. I’ll have to go back and take a look.

J: Interesting. Ok.

G: And some of the other airports in Brazil also performed respectably. Um, Congonhas came 12th in the ‘large’ category, and Brasilia 4th in the ‘large’ category.

J: Oh, way to go.

G: So, um, things are better than you (sic) seem. But then again, it’s all about Statistics isn’t it? Because…

J: Yes. It’s perception.

G: You say 81% were on time. That means nearly 20% were not on time, doesn’t it? Which is like 1 in 5, so…

J: Yeah. It th-then again it comes down to perspective.

G: It comes down to perspective. Anyhow, I thought I’d share that with you. What-what do you have for this week? What caught your eye this week, Jay?

J: Well, I tell you what, I’ll…to-to introduce my story this week, let’s play a little game to start with.

G: Ooh, I love games, yes.

J: And the name of this game is – ‘What’s My Name?’

G: Ok.

J: So I’m going to give you some tips…

G: Yes.

J: …and then you tell me who you think this individual is.

G: Ok.

J: Ok, so I-I will be very clear – it-it is one individual. It’s not a corporation. It’s not an entity. It’s a person.

G: Are you going to tell me which region of the world they come from?

J: No.

G: No, that’s completely…

J: Because that might give it away.

G: Alright, let’s go.

J: Ok. Er, ‘I believe…’ Sorry this…this is what I’m saying about this person. ‘I believe there is or was a government conspiracy, and say prosecutors have withheld evidence in my benefit.’

G: Hm.

J: So, then, m-meaning they know something that might free me but, er, they are not telling other people.

G: Ok. That might free you?

J: Um, well, er, let-let’s say that would…er…might make the charges against me irrelevant.

G: Ok. But they’re not sharing it with anybody?

J: But they’re not telling anybody.

G: So they’re against you, yeah?

J: Yes. So almost…

G: Oh, I don’t know. This is…sounds quite hard.

J: We’re talking conspiracy here.

G: Well conspiracy – I mean it’s got to be American politics. It’s got to be Trump, always.

J: Ok.

G: Trump is the answer to every question, isn’t it?

J: Ok. I will go to number…tip number two.

G: Ok.

J: I have…I have four tips here. Tip number two: I have done radical moves to escape local authorities. Tip number two!

G: Well again that could be a lot of people but again Trump could also classify (sic) for that one.

J: Tip number three! Tensions have mounted between two countries as a direct result of my actions.

G: Hm, well now I’m pretty confident in my answer! It can be only one!

J: And tip number four. I will hold a news conference on January 7.

G: January 7?

J: Yes.

G: Hm. I don’t know. I don’t know now.

J: Now, that’s tomorrow.

G: Ok. Well, if…if it’s the man I think it is, then um, he holds a lot of new…news conferences, actually, so, but yes, it could be him, couldn’t it?

J: So you think it’s Trump?

G: Obviously it leads…you’ve led me down that path…the…the clues, the trail leads there. The breadcrumbs lead me there but maybe it’s not.

J: Gee, you are a genius! You are absolutely, positively, 100% incorrect!

G: Yes, great.

J: Yes.

G: So who is it then?

J: Carlos Ghosn.

G: Ah, him. Yes, yes.

J: Carlos Ghosn. Who was Carlos Ghosn? Carlos Ghosn’s wife is currently under investigation for financial misconduct in Japan. That came out today.

G: Yes.

J: Ghosn is the fa…former Nissan owner and Renault chairman, and he is currently accused of financial crimes.

G: His wife is Brazilian, isn’t she?

J: I…I imagine. He’s Brazilian, so…

G: No, he’s…he’s Lebanese, I believe.

J: Is he Lebanese?

G: And his…his wife is Brazilian.

J: Ah, ok. Anyway…

G: That’s why he has a Brazilian passport.

J: Ok.

G: Along with his French passport.

J: So, anyway, his…he has lawyers, of course. Er, his lawyers – Ghosn’s lawyers – say he has documents of a governmental plot to remove him as CEO, and he escaped to Lebanon. Now…where they do not typically extradite people accused of crimes.

G: Yes.

J: Ok.

G: And especially not to Japan.

J: Especially not to Japan. And Japan has said that it…it is necessary to consider the legal systems of both countries to avoid escalation of the current situation.

G: Ok.

J: So, basically Ghosn ran home to Mommy and Daddy, and he’s hiding out there, and now his wife might be arrested.

G: His wife’s going to be arrested?

J: Well, th-the Japanese prosecutors have, let’s say, issued…er…er…a document calling for her arrest, because they accused her of, er, lying to investigators – so, er, withholding evidence from investigators...

G: But is she in Japan?

J: I don’t know where she is.

G: I think she’s in Lebanon.

J: I-I-I don’t know. Anyway…

G: She should come back to Brazil.

J: Yeah, anyway…

G: No-nobody gets extradited from Brazil!

J:  No-nobody gets extradited from Lebanon, either, er…accordingly. I dunno. So, anyway, that’s the situation.

G: Excellent. Well, rather him than me. But I’d rather have his money, at least. I don’t mind being in his situation with his money.

J: Yeah, I dunno about that. But anyway, what else do you have for us?

G: I got a story from your country, actually. Um, have you ever heard of trichophagia?

J: What?

G: Yes. It’s a condition. There was…there was a lady in Arizona, she was 38 years old…

J: 38?

G: …and she wasn’t feeling well. She was losing weight. She was feeling nauseous. So, the…she took some tests and she went to the doctor, and the doctors, they couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with her. So they noticed from her blood test that her protein levels were low.

J: Low proteins.

G: So they concluded that they poss…that she possibly had a blockage of the digestive tract.

J: Ok.

G: So they decided to operate and see what they found. They found…

J: What did they find?

G: They found a hairball six inches by four inches!

J: Oh my go…a hairball?

G: A hairball.

J: Was she kissing her cat?

G: She was somebody who suffers from Rapunzel Syndrome.

J: What?

G: Have you ever heard of Rapunzel Syndrome?

J: Never heard of this in my life!

G: Rapunzel, obviously, is the…the character from the Fairy Tale who had very, very long hair, and she used to let it down from her castle tower…

J: Ok.

G: …etc. And apparently there are certain compulsive behaviors where people like to cut their hair and they eat it. And over…

J: She was a hair eater. She’s-she’s a cat! She is a cat.

G: She ate her own hair.

J: What the D… but I mean does she do…now, does she do this consciously or unconsciously?

G: A bit of both, I think. Cos they say…they say with these compulsive behaviors, you often are not aware that you are doing them, so…

J: I know a personal stylist that she should probably contact.

G: Yes, I definitely would think so. Apparently there has (sic) been 88 reported cases of this.

J: Of Rapunzelitis?

G: Of Rapunzel Syndrome, yes.

J: Ok.

G: And there was a girl in England who even died from it, unfortunately, so…um…

J: Well, yeah, I mean if-if you want to…if you eat enough of your hair, I imagine you’ll just choke on it and – ergh.

G: Well, it-it’s the complications you get. You get horrible things like, um, hemorrhaging and inflammation and infection eventually, and all that stuff.

J: Well cats get it because they clean themselves but, I mean, she just does it because she likes her own hair.

G: Yes. So, can you imagine – 6 inches by 4 inches – that’s a…that’s a large lump of hair. And unfortunately I saw the photo too, which is not something...I’m glad…I’m very happy I can’t share that with you on the pod, actually.

J: No, I think…I think it’s better that we can’t see that, yes.

G: So…er…yes, beware if you are compelled to eat your own hair, because it’s not a good idea.

J:  It’s a hairy story.

G: It’s a hairy story, it is.

J: Ok.

G: And what about you? What are…what are you, er, rounding off with today?

J: Well I…I have this thing. This makes me laugh every time I think about it. I’m sorry. This is just so…  Anyway, do you remember a couple of pods ago – I don’t remember which pod it was – we talked about the use of elephant dung?

G: Hey, we did, yes, yes. There are many uses, I’m sure.

J: So, have you noticed here, walking in São Paulo that you…you see…

G: Any elephant dung? No.

J: Elephant dung no…

G: I’ve stepped in a few things but I don’t think it’s been elephant dung, no.

J: But you’ve stepped in some excrement, some poop, some dog poop, right?

G: Well, yes, unfortunately that happens, yes.

J: And here in São Paulo there’s quite a bit of it. It turns out that actually this d…this poop, this dog poop could actually have a different use than only making gin.

G: Ok.

J: Because, er, Philippines secondary students – so, people from the Phillipines – and we’re talking about children, er, 12 to 14 years old.

G: Hm.

J: They have found a way to convert dog poop in… er, into a mixture that you can use for bricks. So you can use this for construction purposes.

G: Wow.

J: So, we’re ta…we’re talking about actually it’s possible you see something lying there on-on the ground – here they say dejetos…dejetos do seu…seu animal. It’s possible that actually is quite useful. And it could help to lower construction costs in the future.

G: So this is going to substitute for concrete, is it?

J: Well, it’s not a substitute. But it’s…it’s…it’s something that…, it’s a cheaper way to build, let’s say, er, your garden walls, your streets, your pavements. These kinds of things. Er, the students, they claim that their bio-bricks, as they call them – they call them bio-bricks – that they’re ideal for sidewalks or, let’s say, structures don’t…don’t have to support a lot of weight.

G: Ok.

J: So apparently you can…you can walk on it but you can’t put, let’s say, your…a whole lot of weight on it because otherwise the poop might break.

G: Well yes, it might, yes. I’ve never thought about that.

J: Well any…anyway, they say each brick contains about 10g of dog poo and 10g of cement powder. And students say that over the passage of time, that the odor will eventually go away. So…

G: So you’re not going to line your bedroom with it then, no?

J: No, I just…I just kind of fee… When I read this, I thought – ‘Oh my God, I feel kind sorry for the pedreiro that has to do this because now the…the guy, he literally has his hands in…in shit.

G: Or even how the first person discovered this was even possible, yes? I mean, how do you stumble across this…that sort of thing?

J: Well they…now you can literally stumble across it, yes.

G: Yes. So that’s The Future?

J: So that’s The Future.

G: We’re going back to living in mud huts.

J: I don’t know but it’s…

G: Poop huts.

J: Yeah. Anyway, that’s my news of the week.

G: That sounds exciting and lots of potential there.

J: Yes, lots of potential. I don’t know about the potential smell but that’s a different story.

G: Well, thanks for sharing that with us.

J: Thank you.

G: I’m going to rush out and get a dog.

J: Ok.     


                                                                                                                       End of Part 1 



G:  So today I’m delighted to say we have a very special guest. We are joined by Tales Rabelo, or ‘Ha-belo’ I guess you’d pronounce it.

T: Yes.

G: Welcome Tales!

J: Welcome Tales! Our first economist!

T: Hi.

G: We’ve been promising you for weeks, actually.

T: Yes.

J: Or we…or maybe we’ve been threatening with (sic) you for weeks, I don’t know.

T: Yes.

J: So welcome to The Samba Buzz. Thank you for your time.

T: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me. I work as an economist in a hedge-fund firm here in São Paulo.

G: Uh-huh.

T: So I’ve been working as an economist for 14 years.

G: 14 years?

T: 14 years.

G: Wow.

T: So, a lot of time.

G: Do you have any area of specialization?

T: Yes, yes, er…I spend most of my time covering Brazilian economies for other countries. I…I’m responsible for the coverage of (the) European economy as a whole, er, and also (the) United Kingdom, Sweden…and these kinds of things, so…

G: Very nice. So, let’s…what…seeing as you mention Europe, let’s start with the Brexit. I…

T: Ok.

G: I read a figure from the Confederação Nacional de Industria and they calculated that the Brexit was going to cost Brazil $736m per year. Does that figure surprise you?

T: (It) is a very small part of the…of the exports of Brazil. In fact I’ve been talking to a Brexiteer enthusiast some months ago and he was in Brazil, er…trying to…to discuss a business agreement, a trade deal with Brazil, and the idea of the British, er, people, (is that) they want to make a quick trade deal with Brazil but it’s something far from today because, er, first of all, United Kingdom should, er, set the divorce things with the European Union.

G: How much bigger (sic) do you think that will increase trade between, er, Britain and Brazil, then, in theory?

T: I think that, er, this probably can be a little bit more meaningful if the…the relationship between Britain and Brazil can open the market of, er, British, er, agricultural and cattle goods for Brazilian products. You can have a huge impact from there, but…

G: So, basically you’re saying the net potential Brexit for Brazil could be positive then?

T: Yeah, (it) can be positive if, er, Britain believes that the Brazilian farmers and Brazilian cattle raisers are…er…eligible to sell their products to the British market.

G: Ok, let’s talk about the Selic. Um, the Selic has recently been lowered to 4.5%. Um, but let’s…but the banks’ spreads are still very high.

T: Yes.

G: Um, how…how do the banks justify that? Because in other countries you don’t have these sort of spreads you get here. This is a pet topic of mine, in case you hadn’t gathered.

T: Yes, in fact, er, the Central Bank of Brazil made, year after year, many studies explaining the composition of bank spreads in Brazil, to explain to the general public why spreads in Brazil are so high. Er, 30% of the spreads are…are related to taxes, 30% related to, er, delinquency rate in the credit operations…

G: Is the rate much higher than in other countries?

T: Yes.

G: H-how does it compare to, say, Britain?

T: Er, I would say that average spreads in Brazil probably are… average interest rates for…for a credit operation…fifteen…between 15% to 20%. So 10-12 percentage points of spreads. In other countries probably, (it) can be eight. Brazil, you can say, is much higher. Beyond that, what is much higher in Brazil than in other countries is the difficulty for the…the creditors, or the banks, to recover their assets. And the judicial system…the law system in Brazil is less favorable for creditors. And beyond that, I also agree, that, er…you have a more concentrated banking system in Brazil versus other countries.

G: It seems to me that only now are they regulating the banks’ behavior by putting a limit of 8% on the interest rates on the cheque especial – the overdraft limit.

T: Yes. In fact the government and central bank, they justify this measure – that’s illiberal, not (a) liberal measure, but because you have a disfunction here. In fact the product is not well designed because everybody has a limit to use the…the…this cheque especial, this overdraft account but only the poorest guys take the account because the…the credit’s very expensive. But the bank, as a capital charge, needs to pay for all to use, so you have a cross-subsidy here with the poor people paying for the…for the wealthy people that does (sic) not use the product. So the-the Central Bank decided to make a cap in the…in the interest rates in the products.

G: So that’s actually hit the…the reduction in the Selic has hit the wealthy quite hard because they’re the ones with the savings and they’re the ones who are going to get much less on their savings now, isn’t it (sic).

T: Yes. In…in other countries, especially in Germany, you see the savers are the most punished people, because of...because they have to…to save more to have the same income in the future – income from savings, and especially in countries with negative rates.

G: So, one of…one of the consequences of the…the lower Selic is that investors are changing asset class. They’re moving out of the fixed income more, into assets like shares and stocks and, as a consequence, we are seeing the stock market go up a lot, here in Brazil. Do you think this is, um, sustainable? Do you think it’s a bubble, because it’s not happening in the rest of the world, is it?

T: In fact it’s…it’s happening in the rest of the world. You can see that in Europe, with negative rates, you have the construction side of the economy in a boom…er, in the last four to five years. And in the case of Brazil, that’s the intended purpose of the monetary policy, to reduce rates, take money out of the safe deposits and put this money to invest in the house...housing sector, erm, apartments…and also to revive the stock market deals in the capital markets area.

J: You’re saying that part of Bolsonaro’s fiscal policy was to…to take the money out of savings and reinvest that money into, let’s say, other areas that might, er, help the economy a little bit more?

T: Yeah, it’s not fiscal policy, it’s monetary policy.

J: Oh, monetary policy. Ok.

T: Yeah, monetary policy. In Brazil, as Paulo Guedes likes to say, traditionally we had a very restrictive monetary policy to counterbalance a-a very loose fiscal policy with the government spending, and increasing the…the current expenditures at a high rate for a long period. This time, as the government hit a wall, the…the fiscal side of Brazil is totally broken and we are fixing it through the…the fiscal rule of the spending ceiling, we are opening the space to-to make a more loose fiscal – er, monetary – policy. Sorry. So, the idea is that – the idea is to reduce rates, er, and join the-the space created by a much lower inflation in Brazil, and to stimulate the economy through this (sic) cyclical sectors, such as construction, stock market and all.

J: Ok.

G: Talking of which, um, Paulo Guedes has got quite a…quite a good agenda, I think, in terms of reforms. How many of those reforms do you think he’s going to be successful in implementing over the next year or two?

T: Yes, in fact, up to now, Paulo Guedes has been very smart to take the good…the good ideas of the previous government – the Temer administration – keeping the…the fiscal rule of the spending cap that has been crucial to this idea of improving fiscal accounts, and also embrace (ing) the idea of social security reform, that was, er, approved this year in (the) Brazilian congress. Beyond that, er, what Paulo Guedes has been facing a challenging environment in congress is to approve the privatization and the deregulation of the economy, and we know that is a very tough agenda.

J: Is…is that necessary?

T: For sure.

J: Let me rephrase this. What would you say to somebody that said – ‘but he’s selling the country? He’s selling our country to foreigners.’ Do you agree with that or disagree?

T: Yeah, it’s something that…this speech is something that is difficult to…to…

J: Because that’s…that’s, let’s say, you have the economic argument but then you have also the political arguments.

T: Yes, you have this political argument, but this political argument is difficult to…to make opposition, because, er, this argument is very old and was always present in Brazil. But assume (imagine) that Brazil was not able to sell the telecoms market in the mid 90’s.

J: Ok, that’s fair.

T: Now we have (a) phone for everybody. If the privatization of the telecoms were…weren’t done, probably the…the phone in Brazil (would be) much more…much more inefficient than (it) is today, as (it) is in other countries that did not this privatization.

J: And probably we…we wouldn’t even have this podcast!

T: Yes. For sure. We would see…

G: S-so in simple terms, then, do you think he will be successful in implementing his agenda, or do you think he’s going to find it almost impossible with the congress?

T: I think that the government…

G: Yes or no.

T: …has been able to…

G: Yes or no answer!

T: Yes.

G: You think he will. What’s the worst forecast you’ve ever made?

T: Ah, many, many, many ‘worst forecasts’.

G: What’s the one that caused you the most problems, in terms of the consequences?

T: Yeah, we did (sic) a very wrong forecast, probably twelve years ago, about Brazilian inflation, that Brazilian inflation would be very low, when in fact, after a global commodity shock, commodities boomed, and inflation was much higher than that, with a significant impact over our scenario.

G: So did people give you a lot of stick about that? Did people give you a hard time?

T: Yes. It was not a good time!

G: Alright, last quick question. Is it a bubble or not – stock market?

T: In Brazil?

G: Yes.

T: No. It is a normal movement related to lower interest rates, high…er, better prospects for the economy…

G: So you think…you think this record high for the BOVESPA is going to continue and carry on?

 T: You can belong (own) stocks, expecting better days. We…we have more…more to run.

J: Ok, so Tales, thank you very much for…for having, let’s say, the courage to come to face us here at Samba Buzz.

G: Yes, thank you indeed. It’s been great, Tales. Thanks for coming in.

T: Oh, I…

J: I enjoyed it a lot.

T: Me too. And thank you so much for inviting (me). It was a really nice time.


                                                                                                                            End of Part 2 


G: So now we are back to our regular segment – The English Guru.

J: The Guru.

G: The English Guru.

J: The American Guru!

G: Erm, we’re going to start with you, Jay. What have you got for us this week?

J: Well, I’ve…I’ve got something. It’s common and short but there’s still…a lot of people still make mistakes with it. Erm, what’s the difference between the article ‘a’ and ‘an’?

G: The letter ‘n’.

J: Ah, yes, true. There’s one letter different. And how about in terms of use? When do you use ‘a’ and when do you use ‘an’?

G: This is all about vowels and consonants.

J: Yes and no.

G: Well, there are one or two exceptions, but please explain.

J: Ok. So, in-in-in, let’s say, the British concepts or, let’s say… Wh-when do you use ‘a’ and when do you use ‘an’?

G: Well ‘a’ typically is used in front of a consonant. So, in other words, ‘a cow’.

J: Ok.

G: And ‘an’ is typically used in front of a vowel, such as ‘an orangutan’.

J: Ok, good. And…and I would…I would say…I agree with that. The only difference that I would make is – that we…we typically use ‘a’ in front of, let’s say, er, a consonant sound, whereas I would distinguish that ‘an’ is used in front of a vowel sound.

G: Ok.

J: And then to…to your point. You say that there are some exceptions to…to your rule.

G: Yes.

J: And I would say basically with the sounds, let’s say, at least as far as with American English, you’ve pretty much covered that.

G: The one interesting exception is the word ‘university’.

J: Yes.

G: Because, um, it’s ‘a university’ but then it’s ‘an umbrella’, no?

J: Yes.

G: So, with the vowel ‘u’, you’d expect it to be ‘an’ but of course it’s not.

J: So, I have here a couple of little examples…

G: Ok.

J: …we can run through.

G: Let’s go.

J: And then you can give me the thing. Er, you have ‘an opportunity to attend a one-time event’. Correct or incorrect?

G: That sounds good to me.

J: Ok. ‘He made a mistake but it was a honest mistake.’

G: Here it’s ‘an honest mistake’.

J: An honest, yes. Now, the word honest actually begins with the letter ‘h’…

G: Yes.

J: …H-O-N…but that has the particular sound of ‘o’ – on – honest. Ok? There we go. Er, two more examples and then I’ll stop. ‘It’…er…’It is an honor to be a guest at such a important celebration.’

G: Ok.

J: ‘It is a honor to be a guest…’

G: An honor, did you say?

J: No, I said ‘a’.

G: Oh, I, er, misheard you. Should be ‘an’ in that case. Again, the ‘h’ in ‘honor’ is not enunciated usually.

J: Ok. ‘…to be a guest at such ‘a’ or ‘an’ important celebration.’

G: An important celebration.

J: Ok. Er, one more. Is this ‘a usual occurrence’ or ‘a unusual occurrence’?

G: A usual or a…that sounds correct to me.

J: Is it…is it…

G: A usual and an unusual, yes.

J: Yeah. An unusual?

G: Yes.

J: Ok. There you go. Good.

G: Another interesting one is also with acronyms, too, because, um, when you’re spelling acronyms, the letters themselves may be consonants but the pronunciation of the letter is often like a vowel. So, if you take the, erm, letter ‘m’, for example, then it would be ‘an m’, wouldn’t it?

J: An ‘m’.

G: So, I-I…you study for an MBA, for example.

J: Hm. There we go.

G: Which is, er, interesting too, or not, depending on your interests.

J: Ok, anyway. That’s…that’s what I had for the guru.

G: Excellent. Well, my…mine is very short. Erm, what’s the difference between ‘hope’ and ‘wish’, Jay?

J: Hope and wish?

G: Yes.

J: A wish is something that’s impossible, whereas hope is something that’s possible.

G: Right. So, I always relate these to the conditionals. The first conditional…

J: Ok.

G: ‘If you call, I will go.’ And then hope relates to the first conditional – ‘I hope you call.’

J: I hope you call.

G: Whereas the second conditional is – ‘If you called, I would go.’ And then you would use wish. ‘I wish you called more often.’

J: Ok.

G: So then wish fi…

J: I had some ex-girlfriends that were kind of like that!

G: Yes. They were always on at you, were they?

J: Well, that’s kind of why they are ex’s, maybe, cos they never called.

G: So, that’s my…that’s my contribution to the guru this week.


J: Great. So that pretty much wraps up this week’s session of The Samba Buzz podcast.

G: It does. So what have we got? We’ll be back…well, we’ll be back soon. I’m not sure about next week.

J: We’ll be back soon. I…I have a week vacation and I’ll be back in full force next week. But that’s when you take off, I think.

G: That is true. I’m away for a week too. So, there will be at least one more pod before the end of the month, I think.

J: Yeah, probably at least one. So, we’ll try to do that as soon as possible. Of course, we need vacation as well, so…

G: And we’ve more guests coming up, I believe.

J: And we have more guests. Let’s give a short little preview of some of the…the…the super guests that we have lined up. We have the…the current global HR representative for ABI – that’s Ambev, for those of you…

G: wow.

J: …so the beer company.

G: Can she…can she bring some beer? Is that possible?

J: I’ll ask her. Er, I don’t know.

G: I think…I think it’s only fair we should try her samples.

J: Although the beer is welcome. Er, and we also have Peter Harris coming up. He’s a musician.

G: Sounds interesting.

J: An American musician. And he plays a particular instrument that’s not common for Brazil.

G: Which is?

J: The violin.

G: The violin! Ok.

J:  Yeah. Er, and so those are the…the two…two guests that we have lined up…that are coming up. So viewers can…that listeners can…can…

G: Yes. I want to know who those viewers are! They have got some camera in here, spying on us.

J: So, that’s pretty much it. Er, once again, I think, Gee, you had a couple of things you wanted to say about the website.

G: Um, yes…it…please, if you want us to talk about anything about English guru, or any topics that are of interest you’d like us to talk about, please write in. Um, you can get us on our website – www.thesambabuzz.com and we have a form there. Or, you can write to us at –

J: mailbox@thesambabuzz.com

G: Exactly. I wanna point out on our website, too, for those of you who have enjoyed the interviews, we do include a full version of the interviews with our guests on our website.

J: That’s true because what we put on the pod is actually a shortened version, due to time restrictions.

G: Exactly.

J: Er, so we put a shortened version of the entire interview. If you are interested in a particular individual, please, er, check out the website and then you can get the entire interview…

G: …under the page called ‘Guest Corner’.

J: Yes, Guest Corner. And you can actually even see a photo of the people that come in here, so that you know that they’re actually real people.

G: Exactly.

J: I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

G: Well I…you’ll notice you won’t see many photos of me on there, so…

J: Ok. Er, you’re a bit like Banksy, aren’t you?

G: Oh, I’m just as talented as Banksy, yes. I’m gonna sell my banana for whatever…no, actually…my yes, whatever.

J:  I don’t wanna know about your banana, and what you are selling it for! Anyway, here we go.

G: Ah, so…so till next time!

J: Until next time and have a, er, nice vacation for those of you on vacation.

G: Well…well that…that includes you. So have a nice vacation, Jay.

J: Well, thank you very much. See you and bye-bye!

G: See you next time!



  * Note re-airports: for anyone interested in the full results of the OAG survey: https://www.oag.com/on-time-performance-airline-airport-star-ratings

(curiously, the numbers don’t quite match those reported above, which were taken from a Brazilian media website – São Paulo is actually showing only 77.6%, while Viracopos is at 82.6% and Congonhas at 81.4%)     

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