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 What’s On Your Bucket List?

The term “bucket list” made its debut on the American popular culture scene in 2007 with the movie titled “The Bucket List” staring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The term “bucket list” stems from the idiom ~ to kick the bucket ~ meaning “to die”. People would use this idiom to refer to something they wanted to do before they die. For example, “someday I’m gonna visit every state in the US. Yeah, I’m gonna do that before I kick the bucket.”

Usually such statements were meant to imply some wild dream that wasn’t very likely to ever really happen. In the movie, “The Bucket List” however, the idea of achieving dreams before we die moved from wishful thinking to reality. Following is a short summary of the movie plot which demonstrates how it presented the message that such dreams could be possible:

“Corporate billionaire Edward Cole [played by Jack Nicholson] and working class mechanic Carter Chambers [played by Morgan Freeman] have nothing in common except for their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave it and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die according to their bucket list. In the process, both of them heal each other, become unlikely friends, and ultimately find joy in life.” (Internet Movie Database) 

The two characters in the movie start talking about all the things they want to do; Nicholson’s character refers to these things as “the bucket list”. Together they set out to make their dreams come true. The movie proceeds with a series of crazy adventures and humorous mishaps, all which serve to seal the bond of their friendship, empower them as individuals, and enrich their lives. Such scenes inspired millions of Americans to do the same. In this way, the movie not only coined a new term, “bucket list”, but also changed the lives of Americans all over the country.

You see, the American psyche is naturally one of adventure, innovation, and dreaming the impossible; but in the drudgery of daily life and its accompanying hardships including job stress, divorce, financial woes, wars, and growing health issues, Americans were becoming complacent. The movie infused a much needed kick in the pants in American culture. Today, people of all ages and from all walks of life are making their own “bucket list” and carrying through to attain those once far-off dreams.

Items on a bucket list are usually tangible goals and preferably things that are outrageous, exciting, and daring. For example, a few months ago, my 18-year-old son and two of his buddies jumped out of an airplane because that was one of the things on all of their bucket lists. And right now as I write this, this same son and two other friends are driving from Indiana to California (via nearly every state in between) – again, this is something on all of their bucket lists.

Me? Well, I’d like to ride an ostrich someday; I want to wade in a river with an elephant, spend several months on a boat, live in the wilderness for a while, and visit Africa; these are just some of the things on my bucket list.

What’s on your bucket list?

 One of the rewards of making a bucket list and sharing your ideas with others is the discovery of finding people who would like to join you in some of those activities. Does anyone want to go to Africa with me?

So what’s on your bucket list? Keep in mind that your bucket list will change over time – you’ll add new dreams and let some of them go. The point is to just get started and share some of these dreams with others.



Kick the bucket = to die


Kick in the pants = something that motivates one to change


Seal the bond = making two or more things / people forever close


Coin a new term = establish a new word / term



Debut = introduction of something new

Stem = the root of something

Mishap = accident

Psyche = deep consciousness

Innovation = something new

Drudgery = yucky stuff

Accompanying = to be a part of something ~ go along with something / someone

Woes = troubles

Complacent = rather unemotional, uncaring

Infuse = to put something into something / someone

Tangible = physically real or something you can really imagine or understand

Outrageous = unbelievable; wild; crazy

Buddy = friend (familiar term)

Wade = walk in shallow water



What’s On Your Bucket List

Conversation Worksheet

Make a list of some of your wildest dreams and share them with us at the next English Cyber Café chat session. This worksheet will help you better understand the reading and be able to use new vocabulary and idioms on your own.

My Bucket List

Write your own list of wild adventures and goals to achieve below.




Prepare for Conversation

Write your own sentences

I want to (verb) _________________ (subject / more detail) _________________________

Sample: I want to (verb) ride       (subject / more detail) an ostrich.

I really hope that someday I can (action) ________________________________

Sample: I really hope that someday I can (action) go to Africa.

One of the things on my bucket list is (action) ___________________________________

Sample: One of the things on my bucket list is (action) to wade in a river with an elephant.

Some of the things on my bucket list include (list of things to do) _________________

Sample: Some of the things on my bucket list include (list of things to do) living in the wilderness and spending several months on a boat.



Use the space below to write notes during our English Cyber Café conversation

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