Steve & Mark – Yell, Holler and Scream

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Steve and Mark talk about the words yell, holler and scream and explain the differences, if any, and when to use them.

Mark: Hi everyone.

Steve: Hi Mark.

Mark: Hi Steve, ready for another thrilling episode of EnglishLingQ?

Steve: Well yeah and I’m very grateful to Anna.

There are a few people who send us questions regularly, which is great.

Mark: Absolutely.

Steve: If I, you know, were learning a language and maybe I should do this on RussianLingQ is ask questions.

Then I get my questions answered and I can then record it and it helps me on things that are important to me.

What was important to Anna?

Mark: Anna wrote on the Forum and she, first of all, always talks about triads, but we’ll touch on that later.

But the three words that she has trouble with — and I assume she has trouble telling them apart or knowing when to use which one — and the three words were: “yell”, “scream” and “holler”.

Steve: Right. I guess you could throw “shout” in there too…

Mark: …for that matter.

Steve: “Cry out.”

Mark: “Shriek.”

Steve: “Shriek”, “scream.”

Mark: “Howl.”

Steve: Stop yelling at me.

Stop hollering at me.

Stop screaming.

Mark: Stop shrieking at me.

Steve: Stop shrieking. No, well “shriek” is a little different.

Mark: But it can be used.

Steve: Well yeah, but shriek suggests a very high-pitched.

Mark: That’s true.

Steve: Like a cat or a bird; whereas, yell and holler are the same.

Mark: Yell and holler, yeah.

Steve: If you’re playing golf and you’re far away and you said “Hey, George!”  They say “Stop yelling on the golf course” or “Don’t shout on the golf course.”

Mark: However, I would say that a holler is usually directed at someone.

Steve: Aha.

Mark: Whereas a yell does not necessarily direct it at someone, you could just be yelling.

Steve: Well you holler in pain, you yell in pain.

Mark: Yeah, that’s true.

Steve: You scream in pain.

Mark: Well I guess that’s true.

I would normally use holler though in the context where I was hollering at someone, like hollering to get their attention; whereas, yelling, I could just be yelling swear words at the guy.

I wouldn’t be hollering swear words at the guy, not that I would do that.

Steve: In the interest of avoiding splitting hairs, I would say that “yell”, “holler” and “shout” are as close to being the same as can be.

Mark: Yeah, that’s true.

Steve: Scream is getting closer to shriek.

Yell suggests that you’re in control.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Although you may not be.

Yell in pain, holler in pain, but scream suggests you’re either in extreme pain or you’re slightly, emotionally, not slightly, very upset.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Screaming implies some emotional or painful situation, less controlled, but they’re so very similar.

If those are the only words that she can’t tell apart in the English language…I mean I don’t see that the distinctions are that important.

Mark: No and they’re interchangeable.

Like people talk about give me a holler, as in give me a phone call.

Steve: Right.

Mark: Give me a shout.

Steve: Right.

Mark: I mean it’s the same.

Steve: We don’t say give me a scream though.

Mark: We don’t say give me a scream.

Steve: We don’t say give me a yell either.

Mark: No.

Steve: That’s interesting, yeah, so that’s a very interesting phrasal verb.

Give me a shout, give me a holler, give me a call, all mean the same thing.

It means give me a phone call.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So that’s a sort of very idiomatic use.

Give me a shriek, no.

It’s interesting you mentioned Anna too used the word “triad”, because it’s a group of three.

Again, “triad” has a very specific meaning in English.

It needn’t have that meaning, but the meaning it has assumed is…

Mark: …Chinese gangs, basically, Chinese triads, so here if you hear “triad” that is the meaning that is assumed.

So maybe in the future, Anna, call it something else, group of three, trio.

Steve: Trio is good enough.

A duo, a trio, is good enough, yeah.

You know it’s interesting with these phrasal verbs, they often come up amongst English learners and everyone is concerned about learning these phrasal verbs.

I, actually…because I’ve bought all kinds of books on grammar and the different things just to understand what it’s all about.

And so I have a dictionary here, The Longman Phrasal Verbs Dictionary: Over 5,000 Phrasal Verbs.

I think if I were an English learner I wouldn’t find this all that useful.

I bought a similar book for Russian.

It was a book which explained the, you know, words in Russian that have similar roots and I find that for a while I kept it by my toilet.

You know, a good place to read, but you can never remember anything.

You can never remember anything that you read from those things.

Mark: No, absolutely not.

Steve: You have to learn it from context.

So I open a page at random and it’s got here phrasal verb “activator”, a special feature that Longman gives you.

So they have “To put on formal or special clothes; to dress up.”  Okay, then it says “To tart yourself up.”  Like I would never use that.

Mark: No.

Steve: And it’s such a specific…first of all, only a “tart” is a prostitute.

So it suggests some…but it’s come to be…so if a woman is getting dressed up and she’s putting on makeup and whatever, making herself look nice, that jokingly we say to “tart” yourself up.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But, I mean I don’t think that’s necessary to learn.

I think it’s more useful if you come across that in your reading, so then you have a context.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And then if you relate it to a specific story, then it’s possible you’ll remember it.

But if you just read in the book “to tart yourself up”, you have no sense of the context.

Oh, this is one of the ways of saying “dress up”.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So I’m a guy, I’m 50 years old, I going to put a jacket on, I’m going to tart myself up.

People would look at you.

Mark: Absolutely.

Steve: But some of them are good, some of them are good, but as I always say, you kind of have to learn them from context.

Mark: I mean the point is with any of those books and I’ve bought them myself in some of the different languages that I’ve been learning and, yeah, as you say, when you talk about a dictionary the minute you look something up it sounds great.

Yeah, boy, that sounds really good.

You close the book, it’s gone.

Steve: Right.

Mark: Completely gone.

Steve: But, hopefully, here in this discussion we can create a bit of context, an episode, so that people’s episodic memory can kick in…

Mark: Exactly.

Steve: …and they can remember.

So here I have this page, for example, “keep”.

“Keep” is a great word in terms of different ways that it’s used.

It’s not obvious, like you “keep after”.

You “keep after” someone.

Do you like to keep after your kids to do their homework?

Mark: Right.

Steve: To keep after them.

But “keep away” is you want to keep someone away, “keep back”, “keep someone down”, “keep up” on something is to stay up-to-date.

Mark: Stay with it, yeah.

Steve: Stay with it.

So, now whether these things could be learned from the dictionary or not I don’t know.

I mean the ideal situation is like Anna’s situation where she’s come across words, presumably in different context, and she’s wondering if there’s a difference between “yell”, “scream” and “holler”, because she’s seen yell sometimes or scream sometimes or holler or shout.

And so yeah, if I’m learning another language and I see words that from the context seem to have similar meanings and I want to get a sense of, you know, is there a further refinement, a further distinction of meaning because I’ve only seen the word three times, the native speaker has seen the word a thousand times, they know what that distinction is, so it’s a good thing to ask.

So, you know, the ideal thing for us is not to read examples out of a dictionary, but to get some examples from people who are encountering these.

But on the subject of yell and holler, you were talking about an example when you were playing hockey in Italy?

Mark: Well, just the topic of conversation just reminded me of a coach that I had when I was playing hockey in Italy.

He was actually Slovenian and he was a little bit nutty.

He would just yell and he would yell in a combination of Italian-Slovenian with some English swear words mixed in and it would just be constant.

He would be barking at the referee, he’d be barking at us the players.

Anyway, that wasn’t one of my most enjoyable hockey seasons, but certainly the topic brings to mind this guy.

Steve: So you say that he was yelling at the referee, hollering at the referee, shouting at the referee, screaming at the referee or all of the above.

Mark: In fact, shrieking at the referee or at his own players.

Yeah, I would say he did all of those, yeah, and didn’t know that much about hockey, which was even worse.

In general, that brings to mind that guy; although, I mean I certainly had lots of hockey coaches that did a lot of yelling.

Steve: Asiago is a nice town too.

Mark: Oh, Asiago was very…

Steve: For those people who haven’t been to Italy it’s a lovely country, lovely food, lovely old cities and pleasant countryside.

Mark: The atmosphere is just kind of lighter, just kind of fun and, yeah, we had a great time in Asiago.

Steve: I remember once…I went several times and once the weather was fairly warm.

I don’t know if it was the spring or the autumn and I was there with Eric my older son, Mark’s older brother.

No, no, the first time Eric wasn’t there.

But I went jogging, I went jogging and I came back via the cemetery and unbeknownst to me at 5:00 o’clock every evening at the cemetery the loudspeakers blare out the national anthem.

So I was just running along…

Mark: Well they had had some big battle up there…

Steve: That’s what it was.

Mark: …between Italy and Austria, I can’t remember.

Steve: Well in the First World War.

Mark: First World War, yeah.

Steve: Well Italy would have fought on the same side as Austria.

Mark: Okay.

Steve: I’m trying to remember, weren’t they part of the axis fighting the Russians?

Mark: I guess they were.

Steve: I can’t remember.

Mark: Right. At any rate, there’s a big cemetery up there.

Steve: Or maybe it was before the War of Independence against the Austrians, I don’t know.

Mark: Maybe.

Steve: No, I guess they were fighting against the Austrians in the First World War.

Mark: Yeah, you know what, I can’t remember now.

Steve: I can’t remember my history anymore.

I think they were on the winning side that’s why they got Trieste, much to the annoyance of the Yugoslavs.

Not Trieste…yeah, Trieste and Fumane.

Anyway, so then all of a sudden this loudspeaker blares the national anthem and I liked it after a while.

I would like to go jogging and then, you know, jogging past the cemetery and then the national anthem comes on in this beautiful, hillside town.

Mark: Twice a day, I think.

It came on in the morning too didn’t it or was it just at night?

I can’t remember, but yeah.

Steve: But the other time we were there with Eric in the winter and we went cross-country skiing.

There was a tremendous trail, it’s about 30 kilometers long and then there are little stations, sort of alpine little huts that you can stop in to get away from the cold; although, when you’re cross-country skiing that’s not an issue, you’re pretty warm.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And they had water there and then we just…and there was a whole circuit.

I think…I can’t remember, it was 20 or 30 kilometers.

Mark: Wow.

Steve: But we did it, it was just phenomenal, really, really nice.

Mark: Yeah, no, I never got to do any of those activities I was always playing hockey there, but yeah, that does sound pretty neat.

I mean it was nice up there.

Steve: Oh, it’s beautiful.

I remember once we were, again, with Eric and with my wife, your mother, and we visited this town, it was Bressanone also known as Brixen, which is in the German-speaking part of Italy.

Mark: Right.

Steve: We had booked because we were coming down from Austria or somewhere, so we had booked a hotel on the Internet.

Yeah, they had Internet in those days, but it was an expensive hotel.

We got there and we kind of found it was…we don’t like staying in these hoity-toity hotels.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And so we drove in there and we got some dirty looks because we weren’t dressed, you know, quite the way we should be.

Mark: Oh, I see.

Steve: We got some dirty looks.

And so then we went for a walk in this old town, lovely, lovely, town and we found a hotel that was just as good for half the price.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So…no, I got it wrong.

We had checked into the hotel, we were dressed in somewhat grubby, not grubby, but ski clothes.

Mark: Right.

Steve: We went out for a walk and all the people there had their fancy clothes on, they’d been out shopping or, you know, whatever.

Mark: Which is what you do in Italy.

Steve: Yeah, they had their Loden coats…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …elegant and this, that.

We were staying at the hotel and this lady came in.

The manageress came to us and said “Are you staying here?”  Well, you know, like the assumption is we’re not.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So why are you loitering in my lobby?

And so anyway, my wife gave her some, appropriately, unfriendly comment and then we went out…

Mark: Your comment was “Not for long.”

Steve: That’s right, not for long.

So then we went out and found a cheaper hotel and we moved.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Yeah.

No, that was…we were kind of…I mean that’s pretty bad, assuming that you’re not staying here.

Like so what?

Like even if I’m not staying here I didn’t see a sign outside saying “No Bums Allowed” or “No Foreigners Allowed” or something, you know?

“Are you staying here?”

Mark: I know.

Steve: Anyway, that was Bressanone, but that whole area is just beautiful.

Remember when we had a flat tire in Bolzano?

Mark: Was it a flat tire?

Steve: One of the issues was a flat tire or the car…

Mark: The car wouldn’t start because there was a big blizzard and my car had no snow tires.

Steve: That’s what it was.

Mark: It was just a beater that I had there.

We had no snow tires, so we had to get chains, but it was over Christmas or New Year’s or everything was closed, I can’t remember.

That’s another story.

Steve: Do you remember the time we were in Bolzano having dinner?

Were you there with us?

Mark: And the Christmas tree lit the curtains on fire?

Steve: The Christmas tree caught fire.

Mark: Oh, the Christmas tree lit on fire.

Steve: The Christmas tree, because they had this lovely custom in German-speaking countries that they put candles on the Christmas tree.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: But the Christmas tree is inside this heated room for day after day, so it gets pretty dry.

Mark: Well yeah, I mean it’s impossible to keep a Christmas tree wet.

I mean when you have a live one you’re refilling it with water all the time and it doesn’t take long before its dried out.

Steve: So the tree caught fire, the curtains caught fire, the restaurant filled with smoke and we took off out of the restaurant as fast as we could get out.

Mark: That’s for sure.

Steve: Anyway.

Mark: Anyway, that’s…

Steve: It’s only a few of the many, but we didn’t holler, we didn’t shout and we didn’t scream.

Mark: No.

Steve: We just got out.

Mark: That’s right.

Steve: And I think we had some sparks of whatever on our coats. Did we?

Mark: Yeah we did, actually.

Steve: We did, yes.

Mark: The coats were kind of wrecked.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: But I don’t think there was anything we could do about it and we couldn’t find…it was Christmas Eve.

Steve: Right.

Mark: We couldn’t find another place to eat.

I think we ended up going to a Chinese restaurant.

Steve: Which one can find in every single town in the world.

Mark: I know.

Steve: Is there a place in the world that has no Chinese restaurant?

Mark: I know.

Steve: Anyway.

Mark: Anyway.

Yeah, well with that we’ve reached the end.

That’s probably about the perfect length for someone’s commute.

Steve: Okay. We wandered a little bit on different subjects.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: But we do really appreciate people telling us what words or phrases or even subjects they want us to talk about because it’s hard for us to know exactly what people are interested to hear about.

Mark: Exactly, so we’ll keep looking for your feedback and we’ll talk to you next time.

Steve: Okay.

Mark: Bye-bye.

Steve: Bye.

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