AE 542 – Expression: Touch Base with Someone
It was the largest single attack on Australia soil, but for many the Bombing of Darwin remains a silent legacy.
Nobody says anything about what happened to Darwin, and Darwin was a battle. Ask the blokes who were in the ships being pounded. And as far as I’m concerned, the name should be “The Battle for Darwin”.
Jack Mulholland is one of few surviving veterans from that day. He was 20, an anti-aircraft gunner, with the 14th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, when Japanese bombs rained out of the morning sky.
G’day, guys. G’day, you mob. G’day, everyone listening to this podcast. How’s it going? How is your day going? What are you up to? And welcome to this episode of the Aussie English Podcast.
So, that’s seen at the very start there, guys, that scene was a story from the ABC News channel on YouTube, which I’m always encouraging you to go and check out, it’s a great way to get exposed to many different Australian accents as well as learn about, you know, current affairs in Australia, history in Australia, culture here, everything like that.
So, this story was about the Bombing of Darwin, and the journalist reporting on it there was Alexandra Fisher. It’s a good little four-minute story that sums up what happened and it talks about the sad fact that many Australians know very little about this event, including myself, until today, when I did quite a bit of research to talk about it in the Aussie English Fact.
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Anyway, guys, today’s expression is “touch base with someone”, “to touch base with someone”, and this was suggested by Emad and Sarah. They both suggested this expression in the Aussie English Classroom. And it is a good expression. I use this quite often in business English as well as in formal English when chatting with friends and family.
But before we get into that, let me tell you a joke and this joke is about baseball, right. The expression was “to touch base with someone”, which is a reference to baseball. It comes from that. So, I thought I’ll try to find a joke related to baseball, and this one is a whopper. This one is… It’s truly horrible, but I hope you like it. It’s another dad joke, right. It’s another really dumb joke.
What did the baseball glove say to the ball? What did the baseball glove, that glove that you wear on your hand, you know, that you used to catch the ball when you’re playing the game baseball, what did the baseball glove say to the ball?
Are you ready?
Catch ya later! Jesus… Catch you later. Right. “Catch you later”, as in, I will literally catch you later on. You know, you will be going through the air after someone playing baseball has hit you with the bat and I will catch you. But obviously, we use the expression “catch ya later” to mean, “see you later”, as in, “good bye”.
Anyway, the expression is “touch base with someone”, but you can also use this as “to just touch base”. You know, you might just say, “I just wanted to touch base”.
So, let’s go through and define the words.
“To touch”. “To touch” means to come into contact or be in contact with something, right. You might touch your face with your hand. You might touch someone on the shoulder with your hand. If something falls on the ground, it’s touching the ground, right. “To touch”.
“A base”. Now, “a base”, if you look this up in the dictionary, there are many different meanings. It can be a noun or a verb, and it can mean things like the lowest part or edge of something. It can be a bass, as in, a military base, a place used as a center of operations for armed forces, right, like the headquarters. It could be also used in cooking. A base in cooking is the main or important element or ingredient to which something is added, right. So, vegetables might be the base of a soup. But in this sense, we’re talking about basses such as those in baseball, where they are each of the four stations that must be reached by someone trying to score a run, right? Each of those white squares in baseball is “a base”.
And what does the expression “to touch base with someone” mean? It means to talk to someone for a short period of time to find out how they are or what they are thinking about. Okay. And we’ll get into that in the examples.
But yes, it comes from baseball where a player who is touching a base in baseball is not in danger of being put out.
Another explanation is that a player briefly touches each of these bases when he runs around after hitting a home run, therefore, “touching base’, in this example, is briefly checking in, right. He has to touch all of those bases.
So, let’s go through some examples of how I would use the expression “to touch base with someone” or to just “touch base” in everyday English. So, this expression can be… it can be a great business English expression. I would use this in the workplace. And it can be also sort of a casual one that you would use with friends as well. Right.
But, for example, maybe you are a scientist working on a big research project at the moment. You need to get your findings for the project published by the end of the month and your project manager, the person who is leading the project, wants to meet up with you and see where you’re up to with things, you know. Have you finished your part of the paper? Maybe you have to write the introduction to this paper and that’s your role in the project, and he needs it done ASAP. So, if he needs to find out where you’re up to, he may send you an e-mail or he may swing by your office, he may come by your office, and say, “Hey! Just wanted to touch base and see where you are up to with this paper. I just wanted to touch base with you. Can we have a meeting for lunch and you can tell me where you’re up to with things? I just wanted to touch base. I just wanted to touch base with you.”.
Example number two. Maybe this time imagine that you are organising a big overseas trip with a bunch of mates. You’re wanting to go on Contiki in Europe, which is where people generally travel by bus, and they go to many different countries, right. So, maybe you’re going to Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, wherever it is. But you’re the one who’s organising everything, right. You’re the one out of all your friends who has to get them organised. You have to pay for the tickets. You have to book everything online. You have to get the money from them, book the hotels, the bus and train tickets, the tours, everything like that. That’s your responsibility. So, maybe all of your friends are all good. They’ve given you everything they need to give you, all the money, all the details, except for one of them, and you need it from that person as soon as possible, and he says, you know, “Don’t worry. I’ll get it to you when I can.”. If the deadline for when you need a pay for everything is quickly approaching, though, you might stress out a little bit, you might be freaking out thinking, “I need to get this done ASAP. I need it done as soon as possible.”, so you might call him up and say, “Hey, mate I’m just wanting to touch base with you and see if you’ve transferred the money yet as I need to pay for things ASAP, I need to pay for things as soon as possible. Sorry to bother you. Just wanted to touch base regarding the money for the trip that we’re about to go on.”. And hopefully, he has the money and transfers it to you right away so that you don’t have to touch base with him again in the future.
Example number three. So, this is a true example, right. This time I’m talking about my wife. Kel has a baby shower coming up and it’s on her birthday in March. So, a baby shower is where you celebrate having a baby very soon, right. Pregnant women who are a few months out, a few months away from giving birth, will usually have a baby shower where they invite people over, friends, family, you know, relatives to celebrate the baby that’s coming and usually by gifts. So, we’re going to organise all the decorations. We’ll probably organise all the food. And she’s had to also contacted my mother, you know, chat to her, my folks, and ask them to bring over some extra chairs as we don’t have enough for everyone. So, now we just have to wait for the day to arrive, but if some of our friends and family need more information, maybe they forget where the address is, where they’re coming for the party, or maybe they don’t know what they need to bring, they may ring up before the party, a few days before, and say, “Hey! I just wanted to touch base with you. I just wanted to double check, what do I need to bring for the party? Can you let me know what I need to bring? I just want to touch base. I just want to touch base with you and make sure that I have the right place, the right address, so I don’t get lost and miss your baby shower or birthday party.”. Okay.
So, hopefully now, guys, you guys understand the expression “to touch base with someone” or just “to touch base”. It means to talk to someone for a short period of time to kind of find out information about something, right, or it could just be to see how that person is.
So, as usual, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise, and this is where you guys can practice your pronunciation. As I always say, you don’t have to copy my accent exactly. If you’re trying to perfect an American accent or a British accent, whatever accent it is, just say the words after me, but if you are trying to perfect an Australian accent, try and copy my pronunciation, intonation, my rhythm, everything like that, as best you can. Okay? Let’s go.
To touch base
To touch base with
To touch base with someone x 5
I just wanted to touch base with her
You just wanted to touch base with her
He just wanted to touch base with her
She just wanted to touch base with her
We just wanted to touch base with her
They just wanted to touch base with her
It just wanted to touch base with her
Good job, guys. I know that’s not easy. That is a bit of a long expression today or sentence today that I’m using, but it’s a common phrase. We’re often going to say, “Oh, I just wanted to touch base” or “They just wanted to touch base”. So, it’s a common one worth practising.
And remember, guys ,if you want to get the bonus content for this expression episode where I will upload a dialogue video with an example real life English conversation with different expressions, you’ll also get pronunciation tips and tricks, you’ll get vocab, everything else, if you want access to the one for this episode as well as 50 other different expression episodes and their content, make sure you go to www.TheAussieEnglishClassroom.com, sign up, and you’ll get instant access, guys. Okay, so start your trial today. You owe this to your English, guys! You got this.
Alright, so let’s get into the Aussie English fact, guys.
So, I was thinking about “base”. As I always do with these expression episodes, I try to tie in the subject that I talk about in the Aussie fact with the expression itself, right, because I think making those links in your head between the joke, between the expression, between the Aussie fact, will hopefully help you remember different things in the lesson, but most importantly the expression itself “to touch base with someone”.
So, I was thinking about “base”, and it got me thinking about the definition of bass as in a military base, right, the headquarters of the military some went. And it made me think of the Bombing of Darwin where military bases in Australia, in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, were bombed by the Japanese. And this was recently commemorated on TV, because it happened, I think it’s 77 years ago, about a week ago. Alright. So, let’s go through that.
So, the bombing of Darwin, AKA, also known as, the Battle of Darwin, occurred on the 19th of February in 1942. So, this was obviously during the Second World War, which was officially declared on the 1st of September, 1939, and into which Australia entered two days later on the 3rd of September in 1939, and only came to a close, only finished, on the 2nd of December, 1945.
So, at the time, Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced that 40,000 members of the militia would be called up for training and a 20,000-strong expeditionary force that was designated the Second Australian Imperial Force was to be created to serve overseas. So, this is how Australia got into the Second World War.
Where is Darwin? So, Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia, and it was named Darwin after the British naturalist and father of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, one of my absolute heroes, obviously, I’m an evolutionary biologist. Love Charles Darwin. And this happened in 1839, 100 years before Australia entered the Second World War, and was named so by the captain of the HMS Beagle shortly after it sailed into the harbour at Darwin.
So, why was Darwin bombed?
So, fast-forwarding a hundred years, during the Second World War, Darwin, despite being the capital of the Northern Territory was still a small tropical town with a pre-war population of not even 6,000 people. However, due to its strategic position in northern Australia, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force built bases near the town in the 1930s and the early years of World War 2. The US Army developed a plan in late-December 1941, a few months before the place was bombed, to make Darwin a hub of transshipment efforts to supply the Allied forces that had been sent to support the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies, which I believe is part of Indonesia, I don’t know if it’s all of it, but they were defending this against Japanese invasion.
So, these bases were also used by Allied forces, forces from the UK, forces from America, as an air ferry route designed to allow planes to avoid routes through Japanese mandate in the Central Pacific for bomber reinforcement of the Philippines. So, the planes were obviously trying to keep away from Japanese forces. They didn’t want to be shot down.
As World War Two continued, the Japanese expanded throughout Southeast Asia, and they captured places like Ambon, Borneo, and Celebes between December 1941 and early-February 1942.
The Japanese had scheduled landings on the island of Timor, which is part of Indonesia today, and they’d scheduled them to go ahead on the 20th of February with a subsequent invasion planned for the island of Java in Indonesia. In order to protect its landings that the Japanese military had already made from Allied interference and prepare for the scheduled landing in Timor, it decided to conduct a major air raid on Darwin. In the two months leading up to these air raids, all but 2,000 from Darwin were evacuated and Japanese submarines laid mines in the waters around Darwin greatly impeding the coming and going of Allied ships.
On the 10th of February, a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft overflew the tiny tropical town of Darwin and identified an aircraft carrier, five destroyers, and 21 merchant ships in Darwin harbour, as well as 30 aircraft at the town’s two airfields. Things were starting to ramp up.
The air raids.
Two raids took place on the 19th of February. Just before 845 a.m. in the morning, four Japanese aircraft carriers launched 188 aircraft with the main objective of attacking ships and port facilities in Darwin Harbour.
Despite a Christian missionary on the nearby island of Bathurst spotting the planes and sending a message by radio to the Royal Australian Air Force, they mistakenly judged that the aircraft must have been 10 US aircrafts that were returning from Java to Darwin at the time. As a result, no sirens were sounded before the raid and the forces at Darwin were caught completely off guard and with their pants down.
At 958 a.m. the Japanese raiders began to arrive over Darwin and attack the harbour ruthlessly for about 20 to 30 minutes. Eight Allied ships were sunk and 22 labourers working on the wharf were killed instantly as it was bombed.
Despite relatively intense Allied ground fire during the bombardment, the Japanese losses were minimal with as few as five aircraft and three crew members lost in the first raid.
The second raid comprised 54 planes, which flew much higher this time at about 5.5 kilometres up in the air, arriving over Darwen minutes before midday at 11:58 a.m. This time the sirens were blaring loudly on their arrival with the swarm of 54 planes separating into two groups, which approached the base one from the south east and the other from the north east, and as the two formations arrived at the same time they dropped their bombs simultaneously.
The onslaught was brief and the Japanese aircraft departed by 12:20 p.m..
297 people are estimated to have died in the bombing raids including both military personnel and civilians, and a further 400 people were injured. A total of eight military vessels were sunk during the attack, with a further 15 damaged, and two merchant ships were sunk off Bathurst Island.
In the months that followed, Darwin was repaired and rebuilt, and they mounted an even more credible defense involving counter strike bombers, radar, and searchlights.
By the end of 1942, the tide was beginning to turn against the Japanese as they began to be pushed back out of the islands that they had taken in what is now Indonesia and Timor. And to this day, the bombing of Darwin remains the largest single attack on Australian soil.
Anyway, guys, I hope you like this episode. I hope you learned a bit about Australian history during the Second World War here, and about, obviously, the largest bombing that has ever taken place in Australia.
Thanks for joining me, guys. I really do appreciate your time and I’m glad to be here and helping you improve your English. I’ll see you in the next episode. Catch ya!