Friday, May 27, 2011

Video lesson - The Long Johns and the Subprime Crisis

This video lesson will be of particular interest to students of Business and Financial English, or just to anyone who likes good satire
The US subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 was one of the first indicators of the late-2000s financial crisis, characterized by a rise in delinquencies and foreclosures among subprime mortgage borrowers. (Wikipedia)
Subprime mortgages were primarily given to Black people (BrE), Afro-Americans (AmE), many of whom suffered considerably as a consequence. The collapse of very complicated financial instruments based on these loans in part led to the crisis of 2008.
A satirical video featuring the actors John Bird and John Fortune, also known as the Long Johns, is often seen as one of the most accurate analyses as to what went wrong. It is done as an interview with an investment banker (who looks very pleased with himself). It is very funny (in an intelligent way) and if you complete all the exercises before you watch, the dialogue shouldn't be too difficult. You might want to print off the exercises to look at while you watch the video.

I have seen it suggested that the phrase 'unemployed black man ...' is somehow racist, although I don't think anyone in the UK thought that. This is partly because 'black people' is the normal phrase in the UK, used by both white people and black people alike - phrases like African-Caribbean never really caught on. And secondly that we are used to satire. The actors have chosen an extreme example in the same way as a caricaturist does. They have set the scene in the rural South, for example, whereas the subprime foreclosures were mainly in the Northern cities. Having watched the work of these two actors over the years, and the hammering they have given the establishment, I have absolutely no worries on this front.
Click and drop - Where you see the sign, mouse over for instructions

Vocabulary 2 - Join the beginnings and endings

1. you have your fingers righta)(market) sentiment
2. the markets are made up of sharp andb)companies will pay huge salaries for
3. the financial markets are driven byc)sophisticated people
4. suddenly out ofd)that kind of mature wisdom
5. shall I jumpe)sell on the news
6. to buy on the rumour andf)on the pulse of the financial markets
7. and this is the kind of rigorous analysis thatg)the blue
8. no price is too high forh)out of the window

Vocabulary 3 - Join the beginnings and endings

1. granting vast number of mortgagesa)on a crumbling porch somewhere in Alabama in his string vest
2. an unemployed black man sittingb)the faintest idea
3. without going intoc)debts
4. this package of dodgyd)start to ring
5. a structurede)to people who can't afford them
6. I haven't gotf)into a financial meltdown
7. alarm bells mightg)investment vehicle
8. stop the crisis turningh)much detail
Now watch the video on YouTube


  • Ex 1l, f, i, e, b, a, k, g, c, j, h, d
  • Ex 2f, c, a, g, h, e, b, d
  • Ex 3e, a, h, c, g, b, d, f


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