AE 449 – Expression: Get Cold Feet

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I teach you how to use the expression to GET COLD FEET like a native English speaker.

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AE 448 – Expression: Get Cold Feet

G’day, guys. What is going on?

I hope you’ve been having a ripper of a week. I’m back again. It’s another Sunday and it is another expression episode, guys, and today’s episode is going to be a ripper. So, it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to be talking about penguins. That was the intro scene there that you had at the start. It was a video clip from BBC Earth’s YouTube channel. So, there’ll be a link in the transcript for that. If you love wildlife, definitely go check out that channel. But that was David Attenborough speaking.

I’m a massive fan of David Attenborough and it was his 92nd birthday probably two weeks ago on the 8th of May. He was born and a few days after the Queen of England. So, he’s 92 years old. Pretty crazy.

Anyway, a quick anecdote. Yeah. I grew up always watching David Attenborough films. So, my parents were both zoologists and they met at Melbourne University, I think, in the 70s, maybe the late 70s is when they met, and yeah, obviously got married, had kids, and we grew up with a heavy dose of wildlife. So, we would watch docos, we’d go camping, we’d go to the zoo. Absolutely loved animals. So, that was my sort of upbringing and obviously why I ended up going to university, the same university that they met at, and studying the same thing they did zoology.

Anyway, guys, this is the Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast for anyone who wants to learn Australian English. Whether you want to understand it or you want to speak like an Aussie, this is the podcast for you, and it is brought to you by the Aussie English Classroom, which you can sign up for at Remember that it’s only a dollar for the first month at the moment. You can get in there for one buck. What is that, like three and a half cents a day? And you can try the Aussie English Classroom. You can use all the materials in there. You can complete this episode as of course with bonus videos, learning vocab, expressions, there’s quizzes, there’s all sorts of good stuff in there if you want to take your English to the next level. So, this podcast is brought to you by the Aussie English Classroom.

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Anyway guys, let’s dive into today’s episode. We’ll be covering the expression ‘to get cold feet’, and this was suggested by Dan in the Facebook group. So, we’ll get into that.

But First let’s do a joke. So, the joke here is related to penguins. You know, had to connect these two things.

What Do penguins eat for lunch? So, penguins, the small little birds that live in the ocean. What do they eat for lunch? ‘Ice-burgers’. ‘Ice-burgers’. Do you get it?

So, Obviously, icebergs are those large pieces of ice that break off in Antarctica or in the Arctic, in the north… northern hemisphere.

And ‘burgers’ are obviously, you know, hamburgers or chicken burgers. They’re a kind of food where you have lettuce and cheese, bacon, other kinds of meat, and you have bread on top. That’s a burger, right? So, the joke here is ‘ice-burgers’.

Anyway, guys, today’s expression, ‘to get cold feet’, and you may also hear this as ‘to have cold feet’. So, let’s go through and define these words guys.

‘To have’. If you have something, you possess something, okay? You own the thing, you have the thing, you possess the thing.

‘To get’. If you get something you acquire that thing. So, you didn’t have it to begin with and then you got it, you acquired it, and now you possess it. And this can be physical things like, you know, a burger or it can be, I guess… well, still physical, but not like an item, okay? Like, you can get cold. You can get hot. You can get wealthy. You know? It doesn’t have to be something you can hold in your hands.

‘Cold’. ‘Cold’. I’m sure you guys know it’s the sort of… the temperature that is incredibly low. It’s not hot. If you’re shivering, if you’re out snowboarding in winter, you’re probably going to get cold.

And The last one here, guys, ‘feet’ the plural of ‘a foot’. This is the lower extremity of the leg below the ankle and you would usually stand on your feet. You would walk on your feet. You would run on your feet, right? Your foot, each foot, has five toes, a big toe, a little toe, and the three toes in between.

Anyway guys, what does the expression ‘to get cold feet’ mean? So, if you ‘get cold feet’ it means that you lose your nerve, that you lose your confidence, that you become timid, and it’s usually used as a polite way of saying… well, not necessarily polite, but a nice way of saying something like ‘to chicken out’, ‘to wuss out’, or ‘to bail on’ something and these are sort of phrasal verbs that mean to abandon something because you got too nervous, right? You wussed out, you chickened out, you bailed out.

So, where did this originate from? We’re not really sure but it originates from about the 19th century, the late 19th century, though again, the exact origin isn’t known. However, experts suspect that this expression may have something to do with the military, an environment which certainly offers a plethora of things to fear, situations to run away from, to bail on, to get cold feet from, and you would also imagine that there are plenty of situations where you could get cold feet, literally, in the army, you know? You’re running around in your boots and it rains, you got cold feet.

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So, as usual guys, let’s go through some examples of how I would use the expression ‘to get cold feet’ or ‘to have cold feet’ in day to day life. Okay?

So, example number one. Example number one is that you are at a wedding. Okay? And there’s a bride and groom, there’re two people who are about to get married. I mean, well, in Australia there’s gay marriage so it could be two grooms or two brides, but I imagine it’s a bride and groom in this example.

So, the bride hasn’t shown up. She hasn’t come to the wedding ceremony. And this is a classic example of where you’re likely to hear this expression. So, maybe she’s running late because of photography. You know, they’re trying to take photos of somewhere and she’s not happy with the photos. Maybe she is trying to do her makeup still or get her wedding dress on. Or maybe there’s transport issues, you know? Maybe they’re getting delayed because of that, the bridal party is getting delayed. Or maybe she’s changed her mind. Maybe she doesn’t want to get married to this guy anymore. So, she’s decided, “I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m not confident about this decision. I’ve got cold feet.”. Okay? So, she’s got cold feet. She’s changed her mind. She’s lost her nerve, her confidence. She’s got cold feet. And if the crowd start murmuring, maybe they’re gossiping. It’s been a long time. She hasn’t shown up yet. They might be thinking, “Is she going to leave the groom standing at the altar because she’s got cold feet?”.

Example number two. Alright so pubs in Australia, these are places you can go and drink, and you can eat food, usually alcoholic beverages, and you’ll often see things like bands or single musicians playing at these venues. Pubs in Australia often have events called ‘Open mic nights’. So, ‘an open mic night’ is where you have the microphone for someone to sing into or play into… is it’s open for anyone to use. You just have to get in line. Right? You have to put your hand up and say, “I want to sing. I want to read out some poetry. Maybe I want to do some stand-up comedy.” Right? So, you’re a performer. You’ve gone to a pub. It’s a… it’s an open mic night, and you’ve told all your friends to come with you, because you want to get up and do some stand-up comedy or maybe you want to read a poem or maybe you want to sing a song. If your turn comes up, though, and you freak out, you get a little nervous, you lose your confidence, and you become timid, you might decide not to get up on stage and sing the song, read the poem, do some stand-up comedy. You’ve got cold feet. You have cold feet, because you’ve wussed out, you’ve chickened out, you’ve got cold feet.

Example number three here, guys, and this was something that I used to get faced with all the time. When I was doing jiujitsu my coach would always be hassling us, always asking us, always pestering us, trying to sort of guilt trip us into competing, because obviously he wanted the team to compete as much as possible and do really well. So, he would always be like, “Everyone needs to compete!”. I’m the kind of person that despite, you know, being able to create these kinds of podcast episodes and videos, I don’t like really being in front of a lot of people, to be honest, especially, when it’s like you fighting someone and there’s half a thousand people watching you. Okay? So, he would ask us to do this and quite often I would chicken out of entering the competition. I would wuss out. I would get cold feet. So, I would get too nervous. It would… the thought of standing in front of all these people and fighting someone else and potentially losing in front of all these people would give me cold feet. It would make me nervous. But imagine, okay, I did end to this competition. You could also use this expression if the time came to get on the mat and fight, so, they’ve said “Pete and…”, you know, the other guy “…Tim! It’s your turn to fight. Come out on the mat!”. If I ran away, if I didn’t show up, if I chickened out, if I wussed out, I’d gotten cold feet. I had become too timid and lost my nerve. Okay?

So, I hope you understand the expression, guys, ‘to get cold feet’ or ‘to have cold feet’. It is just to lose nerve, to lose confidence, and not do something. To bail on something. And then, if you want to kind of belittle the person a little bit and make it a little bit more sort of like you’re judging the person and making fun of them, you can say ‘to wuss out’, ‘to chicken out’, and then, just in general you can say ‘to bail on something’, which is just to leave something, to avoid something.

So, hopefully, those are some good phrasal verbs you can use when talking to your friends.

So, as usual, let’s go through a listen and repeat exercise, guys. This is your chance to practice your pronunciation. So, just listen then repeat after me, guys. Whether you want an Australian accent, whether you just want a prefect an American accent, a British accent, or just work on whatever accent you have, just try and say these words after me. Okay? Let’s go.


To get

To get cold

To get cold feet x 5

A lot of stop consonants in their sentence, guys, when we’re talking about connected speech. A lot of stop consonants.

So, we’ll do this now using the conditional, guys. So, we’ll say “I would never get cold feet”. We’ll conjugate through that. And I’m going to contract a ‘would’ on to the respective pronouns for each sentence, right? So, instead of saying, ‘I would’, I’ll say ‘I’d’. Okay? So, listen and repeat after me.

I’d never get cold feet

You’d never get cold feet

She’d never get cold feet

He’d never get cold feet

We’d never get cold feet

They’d never get cold feet

It’d never get cold feet

Great job, guys. Great job. Remember, if you would like to learn the pronunciation of Australian English in much more depth. I really recommend signing up to the Aussie English Classroom, guys, where you will get a video breaking down all of the connected speech, the pronunciation, and other aspects of spoken English from this exercise as well as previous exercises in the podcast episode. So, sign up to the Aussie English Classroom, guys, and give it a go.

Anyway, before we finish up, I want to talk about fairy penguins or little penguins. Okay? So, today, we had at the very start of this episode a scene where David Attenborough was at Phillip Island talking about the smallest penguin in the world, the little penguins.

Now these guys weigh only about a kilogram and they only stand about 30 centimeters tall. They’re incredibly small and they are the world’s smallest penguins.

You can find these little penguins in southern Australia and in New Zealand in scattered colonies along the coastlines of these countries. And in Australia, you’ll find them all the way from out west in the city of Perth all the way east to Sydney, and then in the south, you’ll find them around Melbourne and in Tasmania. Okay?

So, if you come to Melbourne, though, they’re very easy to see, and you will see them at Phillip Island at night. This is probably the best place to go if you want to see them coming out of water and walking up the beach to their burrows. You can go to the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island and you can also see them at the St Kilda pier in Melbourne.

There are estimated to be about a million penguins left, these small penguins, little penguins, 32,000 of which live at Phillip Island. So, that’s pretty crazy. I guess, that’s only about 3.2%.

How do you tell the difference between a male and a female? That’s a good question. Well, you can’t ask them. So, you have to look at beaks. The adult females have a thin beak, much thinner than males, and the males have a distinct hook on the end of their beaks.

What do they eat? Every day, little Penguins have to go into the water, into the ocean, into the sea, and they eat up to 25% of their body weight, which is about 250 grams. And they’re eating fish like Barracouta, Anchovies, Red Cod, Pilchards, and even cephalopods like squid.

They can swim about two to four kilometres an hour, and for reference, humans can swim about six kilometres an hour.

Little penguins live in holes in the ground and we call these holes ‘burrows’, and this is a place where they can rest, they can nest, they can moult, and they can obviously get protection too from things like predators and extreme weather in Australia. Like, quite often it gets to about 40 degrees in summer and the best way to avoid that is going underground.

So, depending on the season, they can spend anywhere between 1 and 30 days at sea. That blows my mind. Imagine swimming around for a month. So, while breeding they return regularly to incubate the eggs and feed their chicks. So, that would be during the summer season. But during the winter season, they spend most of their time out to sea hunting for fish and squid for food.

These penguins don’t mate for life and if the breeding success of a couple of penguins is really low, they might look for new mates.

Little penguins lay two eggs similar in size to a chicken’s and both parents take turns incubating these eggs, which takes about 35 days.

Both parents then feed the chicks by regurgitating fish and squid caught at sea, and the chicks leave their parents and head out to sea for the first time at 7-11 weeks of age.

Their parents don’t teach them anything. They don’t learn how to swim. They don’t learn how to catch food. They don’t learn when they have the nest. It’s all based on instinct.

Penguins spend about 80 percent of their lives in the ocean. So, what’s that? One out of every five days on average they get out of the water. And on average, every single day they swim between 15 and 50 kilometres.

They’ve been recorded diving as deep as 72 metres. However, an average dive is between about 5-20 metres when they’re hunting prey.

Little penguins also have some really cool adaptations. Like all penguins, they have modified wings, which are called ‘flippers’, and the only flying they do is through the water.

They have a gland to spread oil on their feathers when they’re preening in order to keep the outer feathers waterproof so they don’t get soaked, they don’t get drenched and then get cold.

They have a streamlined shape, waterproof feathers on the outside of their body, a layer of down next to the skin to trap air and keep them warm under those waterproof feathers, and they also have a salt gland above their eyes, which helps them filter salt from seawater so they get access to freshwater.

Anyway, guys, that is the episode for today. I hope that you think little penguins are as bad-arse as I think they are.

Don’t forget to jump over to YouTube guys and check out the Aussie English YouTube Channel. Come to Facebook. Join the community and just take part, guys. Start using your English. Come and say ‘G’day’.

I’ll chat to you soon and hope you have an awesome weekend. See ya!

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