I talk about hair and body hair. I share movie references, image issues relating to body hair and hair removal methods.
Hi. How’re you? Welcome to the Along Came English Podcast. You’re listening to Alena.
As you can tell, I’m still sick, which I mentioned last episode. My voice is still a bit husky but I am recovering.
So I did actually try to record this yesterday but when I listened back to it, my voice was pretty bad. So this is take 2.
All right, well I do have some updates. I have started a new YouTube channel also called Along Came English. And I’ve released about 3 videos so far with 1 more due to be released in a few days.
The videos are tips about grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary. Kind of breaking down how native speakers use English as a way of helping English learners.
The videos are short and sweet, and developed from tips I’ve shared with students about subtle differences between synonyms, words that have other meanings than is commonly taught in English classes or textbooks. And just things I’ve observed about English that I think, well I hope, might be helpful for an English learner. But we’ll see… we’ll see how the channel develops over time.
At the moment, I’m aiming to upload 2 videos and 1 podcast episode a week. And I’m being a bit more deliberate about my weekly schedule to achieve this. So… so yea, now you can expect both podcast and video resources from Along Came English.
Also, I started a twitter account so I can tweet about new uploads and such. So if you would like to get updates about the podcast and videos, you can follow me there.
So there’s a lot going on in this space at the moment. It’s pretty exciting. If you have any suggestions or ideas for future podcast episodes or videos, please let me know.
So today’s episode, being the 10th episode is a mini milestone for me (<- I’ve since removed an episode). “Milestone” just means a significant event or stage in the development of something – so in this case, the podcast.
So I didn’t… I didn’t actually want to do anything too serious and then decided on hair.
So when we talk about hair, we usually tend to refer to the hair on a person’s head. Now I will be talking about that, but I’ll also talk a bit about body hair.
As… you know, research for this episode, I googled hair, and pretty much everything was about getting a haircut, hairstyles, maybe something about facial hair. And then there’s 1 article on Breaking News English about the shocking news that a TV ad showed a woman shaving real body hair.
So yea, it kind of made me realise… or remember that talking about body hair from the neck down is not really a topic for small talk, and you probably won’t hear about it in an English lesson.
And you know, as I thought more about this topic, particularly the topic of body hair, it can lean into more serious territory but I’ll try to keep it fairly light. And when it comes to body hair or hair in general, I do have my own personal preferences in terms of what I personally think is okay or not, what I find attractive as well but I don’t really have any strong opinions about it in general.
This episode is probably going to more vocabulary-intensive and what I plan to do is have a part 2, kind of like the driving episodes that I did where I talked and shared a bit more in the second one.
Hair (on the head)
Well let’s start with the hair on the head. Like I said earlier, when we use the word “hair” by itself, we generally refer to hair on the head.
The “scalp” is the skin covering the head, where the most of the hair is attract… sorry, attached to, or growing out of, which excludes the face.
A person’s natural or real hair colour is determined by genetics of course. Naturally, I have very dark brown to black hair because I am of Chinese descent. There are a variety of natural hair colours, so I’ll give you the vocabulary for them here.
Just be aware that the variety of hair colours here are really for people who are of Caucasian descent. Yea, all right.
So “blonde” is very fair or light-coloured hair.
“Brown hair,” well, is just brown, but it can range from light-brown to dark-brown.
A “brunette” is actually a gender-specific term for a woman with dark brown hair. So you wouldn’t use this to describe a man.
“Red hair,” which is also called “ginger hair,” actually looks orange to me. And I only learnt this much later that it was because the word “orange” didn’t exist as a word for colour. So it was adopted from the name of the fruit to become a word to describe the colour. So apparently back in the day, anything that was orangey in colour was considered red. And funnily enough, red hair just stuck I guess.
I remember in high school my teacher asked me to look for her daughter who had red hair and I was literally looking for someone who dyed her hair bright red. Yea, so I was pretty confused.
Yup, and you can call someone a “redhead” or a “ginger” as a term for someone with red hair.
I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Being Ginger,” which is a mix documentary, romantic comedy about the filmmaker’s struggles as a ginger. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know that there was a discrimination thing concerning people with red hair. The filmmaker details some of the bullying he went through growing up as a kid, even from his own teacher. And as an adult, he feels he’s struggling to find a girlfriend because of his hair colour.
Now I’m speaking as an outsider, you know, of Chinese descent – I naturally do not have red hair. And I don’t remember any redheads in my school that was bullied or anyone that was bullied because of their hair colour.
So when I see famous celebrities rocking the red hair, I don’t really understand what the discrimination is about.
So you know, I had a lot of sympathy for him because… well, I mean, who wants to be bullied or discriminated against just because they were born with a certain hair colour.
Anyway, on a lighter note, did you know that there is a Redhead Day? This was something that was featured in the documentary. It’s a Dutch summer festival that takes place on the first weekend of September in the city of Breda, in (the) Netherlands.
Moving onto dyeing hair. So “dye” as in D-Y-E to change your hair colour. Not “die,” as in D-I-E, to stop living.
Personally, I don’t regularly dye my hair, but I have dyed it a few times over the years. So the first time I dyed it was when I was about 16, I got the lower half of my hair dyed red. The red-red colour and that was quite fun.
Because of the darkness of my hair, there are only certain colours I can go for without bleaching my hair. So I’ve tried dying it like a… a sort of redder brown when I was in university.
If I want to dye it a lighter colour, like blonde or bright red, I actually have to bleach it first, and then dye it with the colour I want.
And I remember one time, I tried bleaching my entire hair by myself, and it came out looking all yellow.
And then I dyed it red, which was great for like a week, and then it turned orange. And I just couldn’t be bothered with it after that and just let it grow out.
So almost 2 years ago, I dyed the bottom half of my hair green. Now these kinds of hair colours tend to be semi-permanent. So I bought a tub of green dye so I could do it at home. But, after a few times, I just gave up.
My sister regularly dyes her hair. Not that much lighter. She doesn’t really go for the crazy colours like bright green or blue or anything like that. So yea, so sometimes it’s red toned, sometimes it’s got a green tone to it.
And it’s quite common for women from South East Asia to dye their hair brown, or a type of brown colour without having to resort to bleaching.
And then in Australia, I actually meet a lot of caucasian women who like to dye their hair blonde. I actually had an ex-colleague who told me she said she felt like she was a blonde even though she was… she had naturally brown hair.
Again, I’m speaking as an outsider. There seems to be this perception that blondes are hotter, or that they have more fun and that men are more attracted to blondes. Which, I can’t really prove because I’ve never been a blonde and don’t really have any intention to go blonde.
And then there also seems to be this general trend of female celebrities who go blonde after a while. Like Nicole Kidman for example. She’s a very famous Australia actress who was a natural redhead actually and is now a blonde.
Now there is also this unfortunate stereotype about dumb blondes – there’s even a Wikipedia page bout it. And apparently it’s the very unfortunate perception that blonds rely on their looks more than their intelligence.
Which, personally, I don’t believe, when I was in high school the person who was the top of my class was blonde. So you know, at the end of the day, it’s just a stereotype. There really is no proof or truth to it in my opinion.
And there’s a movie actually called Legally Blonde. It’s a pretty old movie now, from 2001, starring Reese Witherspoon. And it’s based on this stereotype – it’s a comedy about a “dumb blonde” who tries to win back her ex-boyfriend by getting into Harvard, and she graduates. It’s actually a really fun movie, I do recommend it.
Now apart from natural hair colour, you can also talk about whether it is “curly,” “straight,” “fine” or “coarse.”
I have naturally straight, very very straight, coarse hair. And the word “coarse,” according to the dictionary, refers to something harsh or rough in texture, but for hair, “coarse” is a word to describe the thickness of a strand of hair.
In comparison, caucasians may have a variety of different hair colours, but most would have “fine” hair, or very thin hair strands as opposed to coarse hair like mine.
“Curly” hair means that the hair strands form a spiral shape or a coil.
And “wavy” is when the hair looks like it has wave-like curves.
Again, these types of hairs are determined by genetics or you can get them permanently changed or do it at home. So you can straighten your hair with something called a “hair straightener,” and curl your hair with a “curling iron” or a “curling wand.“
The words “hairstyle,” “haircut,” and “hairdo” are synonyms referring to the styling of hair, but there are subtle differences.
Usually “hairstyle” implies arranging your hair in a certain way but not necessarily cutting your hair.
A “haircut” usually refers to the the actual cutting of your hair, which may include some styling.
And a “hairdo” is understood by native speakers, but is not that commonly used nowadays. So if you google… if you google hair tutorials on YouTube, usually the videos will be called “hairstyles,” or “hairstyling.” “Hairdo” doesn’t come up as much for these videos.
So for me, growing up, I had short hair. This was, and probably still, pretty typical in South East Asian households. Girls would have this bob hairstyles, which is sort of like a very straight cut that sort of ends, usually anywhere between your ears and the shoulders – preferably above the shoulders.
And the fringe just cut above the eyebrows. So “fringe” is what you describe the hair that hangs over your forehead. Some have a “straight fringe,” like I did when I was a kid, which is when your fringe just falls straight down. Some have a “side fringe,” and this is when the fringe is swept to the side.
So to clarify, “fringe” is British English and it’s also called “bangs” in American English.
I then got a boy cut when I was a teenager and had this hairstyle until I was in university and finally grew out my hair for the first time.
And since then, I’ve kind of changed between short and long hairstyles. Of course, it takes a few years to grow out my hair, but it’s not like I can change my hairstyles whenever I feel like.
I’ve had interesting experiences where I’ve had to convince hairdressers to chop off my hair. Apparently sometimes girls with long hair who decide to spontaneously get short hair cuts cry when they see the result. Yea.
A “boy cut” is a hairstyle for females that’s well… short. I don’t think it’s meant to confuse the girl’s sexuality or anything. I don’t know why it’s called a “boy cut.” Maybe because the way it’s cut is similar to male hairstyles. But anyways, it’s just a term to refer to a short hairstyle on females.
Of course there are different lengths of hair. “Short,” “long,” and then we have “medium” length, where the hair ends around the shoulders.
Short vs long hairstyles
Having had both short and long hairstyles, there are pros and cons for having either.
When I had short hair, it was easy to wash and dry. It was also more economical because I used less shampoo and conditioner. And I don’t really do much with my hair in general, people with short hairstyles would usually style their hair with gel or wax, but I never really bothered with that.
The problem I had with short hair was “bed hair.” And this is when you wake up in the morning, and your hair sticks out in funny directions and you can’t really fix it without actually washing your hair.
Now with long hair, I don’t think I’ve ever really had bed hair with it, which is pretty good.
I do have a lot of cons though for having long hair. My hair feels drier. It gets tangled and knotted quite easily. I use a lot more shampoo and conditioner. And I also started using more hair products because of how dry my hair is.
And it also takes ages to dry my hair after washing it. So when we talk about drying hair, it’s usually either with a hairdryer or with a towel. So I will try to absorb most of the moisture with a towel first and then blow dry my hair, which takes about 20-30 minutes now. Yea.
Even though I have long hair now, I also don’t really style my hair that much. And I usually have it up in a ponytail, so sometimes I do leave it down. And I tried following some hairstyling tutorials on Youtube but because I have very coarse hair, it just doesn’t quite sit the same way. Yup.
So yea, at the moment I would still like to keep the long hair. I have considered cutting it short again but… you know, but for now I’ll keep the long hair despite all the cons.
More vocabulary related to hair
Now there are some more terms related to hair, or the lack thereof.
A person who is “bald” just means that they have no hair, either because they are balding or in the process of losing their hair, or they shaved it.
So you might notice someone who has no hair on the top of their head because hair no longer grows there anymore, but has hair on the sides. That’s also considered bald.
Otherwise, there are certain religious practices where some of the hair is shaved as a sign of religious devotion or humility.
Now both my brother and my dad are both bald. So my brother is bald because he shaves his head. And my dad is bald because he’s lost most of it over the years.
A “receding hairline” is another common term. The “hairline” is the edge of a person’s hair on the forehead. “To recede” is a verb to mean that it’s moving further away from a previous position. So a “receding hairline” is to really say that one’s starting to bald. But not every loses all their hair. Maybe the line recedes with age, but doesn’t go that much further.
So for example, Jack Nicholson, a very famous Hollywood actor who’s been acting for decades really. Although I wouldn’t consider him bald, but his hairline has visibly receded over the years.
A movie that I would recommend is As Good As It Gets, which is a romantic comedy.
“Dandruff” is a condition of the scalp resulting in white flakes collecting in the hair. And this is a pretty common issue and it’s very obvious on dark hair unfortunately.
Although it doesn’t look good and can be embarrassing, it’s not because of poor hygiene although washing your hair more often can help to manage it. Treatments include managing stress and using dandruff shampoo like Head and Shoulders.
“Let your hair down” is an informal expression to mean allowing yourself to behave more freely than usual, and just to enjoy yourself. This expression tends to be used for people who are uptight, self-conscious, maybe conservative.
There’s an animated movie called Tangled, which is an adaption of the fairytale, Rapunzel. And in the movie, Rapunzel is locked up inside a tower without a door or stairs by a witch. And Rapunzel is a beautiful girl with long blond hair and whenever the witch visits her, she will then call out, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,” and then the witch would use her hair to climb up into the tower.
This was a Walt Disney adaption from 2010 – also highly recommended.
So although the expressions “let your hair down” and “let down your hair” are very similar, they aren’t really used interchangeably, so you should get the phrase correct.
Jobs related to hair
And as for professions, a “hairdresser” and “hairstylist” tend to be used interchangeably and both work at hair salons. However, when it comes to higher end salons, the hairstylist tends to be in charge of a client’s overall vision for the hairstyle, so they seem to be in a higher position compared to hairdressers.
A “hair colourist” is actually… hairdressers that specialises in dying or colouring your hair.
A “barber” works at a barber shop and refers to a person who cuts men’s hair and shaves or trims beards.
Another movie reference is Hairspray, which is a musical romantic comedy from 2007, based on the broadway musical of the same name. The movie is more of a commentary on the racial segregation in the United States but because it’s set around the 50s and 60s, there is an emphasis on hair and the amount of hairsprays used for styling their hair.
Okay, let’s move onto body hair.
Now “body hair” really just describes the rest of the hair on the body apart from the scalp. So when you are referring to the hair on a particular area or region, you usually use the name of the area, followed by the word “hair.”
So for example, “facial hair,” which includes the moustache, which is the hair over the lip, and beard around the face and chin.
I think eyebrows might be considered facial hair but I could be wrong. Same with eyelashes. I’m really not sure about those ones.
“Chest hair.” “Back hair.” “Arm hair.” “Leg hair.” “Armpit hair” – also called “underarm hair.“
And for purely educational reasons, “pubic hair,” which is also lovingly known as “the bush.” Just to be clear, “bush” is actually a plant, which is also a nickname for hair down there.
Then there are other types of hair that don’t really have names – like hair on the toes, hair on the fingers or knuckles.
And as I mentioned earlier, body hair from the neck down is not… is not really considered a topic for small talk. And in general, it’s not really something people comfortably discuss and I would imagine for most cultures that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with.
Different regions do have different levels of negativity associated with them.
So if you… But if you listened to episode 6 where I talk about addiction, I explain that “stigma” means something that is viewed as deeply negative and there is a strong sense of disapproval within a society.
So I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t describe body hair as a stigma. I wouldn’t consider it to be that serious. But what can make it a negative thing is that it’s a part of a person’s appearance and how individuals and a society perceive appearance and attractiveness, and what’s acceptable for hair, body hair in general, that is highly subjective.
And the thing is, you know, there is a perception, particularly in Western societies for women to have little to no body hair.
So The Breaking News English article I mentioned earlier about a TV ad that showed real hair being shaved. And that was a big deal because for decades, these kinds of shaver ads tend to feature women already shaved.
Body hair and men
And also beauty perception for men has also changed a lot over the years. So David Hasselhoff was considered really sexy with chest hair in the 90s, when he was in Baywatch. And now, most male actors who are half-naked in movies don’t really have any chest hair. Hairy men nowadays are perceived and portrayed not to be as attractive as men who shave or have less hair.
Oh, and this removal of body hair for men is called “manscaping ” by the way.
And I don’t know if you get Eurovision where you live but this is a song contest between European countries. But for the last few years Australia has been allowed to be a participant – I don’t know why.
And the reason why I bring this up because… is because the winner of Eurovision 2014 is a bearded lady called Conchita Wurst. Great singer, by the way. Highly unusual look and I also think her appearance also boosted her popularity and therefore her points actually.
All right. Moving along.
I should mention the different methods of hair removal.
To “shave” is to cut hair off with a shaver or electric shaver. And to help with shaving, individuals would usually apply shaving cream first to the area and then shave the hair off with a shaver.
Interestingly enough, when I was in Malaysia, they would sell women’s shavers with hair conditioners as a set because apparently you can use the conditioner as a type of shaving cream.
There are also issues with shaving, of course, like getting cuts. And something called a “shaver burn,” which is a kind of skin irritation. I’m not sure how or why it happens, it just happens sometimes if you shave.
There’s plucking with an “epilator,” which is an electrical device similar to an electric shaver but is used to pull out hairs instead. You can also pluck hairs with a tweezer, which you would usually do with eyebrow hair, but that’s not practical with the rest of your body.
And there are also “hair removal creams,” or “depilatory creams” which is a cream or lotion you apply to the area and it breaks down the hair proteins. And after a few minutes, you can wipe the cream away and the hairs are gone.
There’s also “waxing,” which is when you apply warm wax to the area and then with a cloth strip, rip the hairs off. You can do this at home, but you can also get it done at waxing salons.
Now I’ve actually never been to be a waxing salon before, but my girlfriends who have gone usually go to get a “brazilian wax.” Now traditionally, a “brazilian” wax” is the complete removal of the female bush, but apparently there are variations now if you don’t want to go completely bare.
And the term “brazilian wax” is pretty ubiquitous in English speaking countries. Like most men are pretty ignorant when it comes to women’s beauty regime, but this, this, they would’ve come across. And for some reason waxing salons are not discreet when it comes to advertising brazilian waxes. So yea.
And the final hair removal method is “laser hair removal.” And this is a medical procedure where laser light is used to remove hair by destroying the hair follicle. Now it’s actually not permanent, but effects can last for years. And it’s also not effective for everyone because it depends on the colour of your hair and skin. Yea and it’s also become a really big industry in recent years.
And the problem with all these hair removal methods that I’ve mentioned so far is that they can lead to skin irritations like shaver burn and something called “ingrown hair,” which is when the hair grows back into the skin and causes inflammation.
All right. Anyway, I think that’s all about hair. I know I ended that on a funny note.
I hope you found it interesting. Don’t forget to follow this podcast and look for the vocabulary list on the website. And checkout my YouTube channel if you like to watch videos.
Alright! Have a good day. Have a good week! Catch you later! Bye!