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082 Topics: US advertising in other countries; Habitat for Humanity; bad-tempered vs. short-tempered; no pun intended; to be raining cats and dogs

Complete Transcript
You're listening to English as a Second Language Podcast's English Café number 82.

This is ESL Podcast's English Café number 82. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Remember to visit our website at eslpod.com; we have some new things on the site. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store, which has some additional premium courses that you may be interested in.

On this Café, we're going to talk about advertising - American advertising in other countries, and the problems that that can cause sometimes. We're going to look at an organization that is very famous in the US called “Habitat for Humanity,” and what they do. And as always, we'll answer some questions. Let's get going!

Our first topic today is talking about advertising from the United States, television ads that are translated and shown in other countries. There was an article in The Wall Street Journal, which is the main business newspaper in the United States, a couple of months ago about advertisements that are made in the United States and then translated in other languages for other countries, and the problems that this sometimes causes.

This particular article was about the Apple Mac ads - the Macintosh computer ads versus the Windows, or PC, computers. One of the problems is that the advertisements that Apple Computer has recently been running here in the United States. When we say an ad “runs” (runs), we mean it is showing on television or it is in the newspaper.

Mac has an advertising, or marketing, campaign. A campaign (campaign) is just an organized effort by a company to advertise its product. The Mac advertising campaign has two people, one of them is a Macintosh computer; the other one is supposed to be a Windows computer. The Macintosh computer makes fun of - laughs at in some ways - the PC computer. So the man - the two men represent the two computers. Now, this is considered funny in the United States; many people think it's funny. In other countries, however, this is considered rude or ill-mannered. When we say something is “ill (ill) -mannered” (mannered), we mean it's rude; it's not very nice.

When Apple tried to put this kind of advertisement in other countries, what we would say “in overseas markets” - overseas (overseas) means in another country, usually across the ocean from the United States, but generally any other country, markets are just different places where people buy things, in this case, different countries - well, when Mac tried to put these ads in overseas markets, many people didn't like them.

The original advertisement shows the Mac man to be very hip. When we say someone is “hip” (hip) we mean they're very modern; very contemporary; very cool. The PC guy is nerdy in the advertisement. “Nerdy” (nerdy) comes from the word “nerd,” which is an insulting term, usually, to describe someone who may know something about technology, but is not very socially sophisticated - doesn't have a lot of friends; doesn't know how to act around other people.

The direct comparison between the Mac and the Windows computers on the advertisement is considered to be ill-mannered in some countries. In Japan, for example, according to the article they are very few advertisements that have direct comparison. A direct comparison ad would be one where the company says, “We're better than this other company; we're better than this other product.” This is not as common, apparently, in Japanese advertising; it's very common in American advertising. But in Japan, according to the article, it's ill-mannered to brag about one's strengths. “To brag” (brag) means to say that you are the best; you are the greatest.

Americans have the reputation for bragging - for saying that they are better to other people, and that's one of the problems with these advertisements when they try to put them in other countries. In fact, one person in the article said that if you put the American Mac ads on Japanese television they would backfire. “To backfire” (backfire - one word) means that they will have the opposite effect that you wanted. So, you walk up to a woman - a beautiful woman - and you ask her to dance with you, and instead of dancing with you, she slaps you on the face. This is just an example; this never happened to me! That would be an example of something that “backfired.” You thought it would have a good result, and it had a bad result, and that's what these Mac ads have had in some of the overseas markets.

So, it's interesting to see these cultural differences, and how they affect things like advertising products that are sold in more than one country. In fact, Mac had to make separate ads for Japan and even for England in order to make sure that the ads didn't backfire.

Our second topic is rather different; instead of talking about making money - advertising; selling products - we're going to talk about a very famous organization here in the United States that helps people who are poor, and that organization is called “Habitat for Humanity.”

A “habitat” (habitat) is a word that we can use to describe the place where you live - the normal places where you spend your time. It's also a word we used to describe the place where an animal lives, but here it's used to describe the place where humans live; where they spend their time.

Habitat for Humanity - “humanity” meaning the whole world; everyone; all people - is an organization that builds houses for people who cannot afford - people who don't have the money to buy a house by themselves. We would say they provide “affordable housing.” Affordable (affordable) means you can afford it; you have enough money.

Habitat for Humanity was started largely by former President Jimmy Carter of the United States. Jimmy Carter was president from 1977 to 1981. Jimmy Carter was very famous for starting this volunteer organization; he's still famous for this organization. The organization gets volunteers - people who don't get paid, we call them volunteers (volunteers) - he gets these volunteers to come together on the weekends and help build the houses for people who cannot afford the house.

The organization doesn't make any money from these houses. Usually they are sold to people don't have a lot of money. The person who buys the house still has to pay for it, so it's not a free thing - it's not a gift. But, they can get the house without having to spend a lot of money at first. They also are given what's called “a mortgage” (mortgage) that has no interest. A mortgage is a loan for a house or building. Interest is the money you have to pay for the loan.

Well, Habitat for Humanity gives these houses to people on a mortgage, but they don't have to pay interest on it, and it's very small compared to a normal house - the amount of the mortgage that is, the amount of money they have to pay.

This is now an international organization that goes to other countries and builds houses for poor people - people who cannot afford to buy a house. The organization is building houses in New Orleans, after the terrible hurricane Katrina of a few years ago. They are going to other places. They built several houses - many houses here in Los Angeles for people who are poor. I have a good friend who works with Habitat for Humanity - volunteers her time.

Many of the volunteers are unskilled, that is they don't necessarily know about how to build a house. The word “unskilled” (unskilled) means not skilled, and to be skilled means to know how to do something. So, an unskilled person doesn't know how to do something, but Habitat for Humanity trains the people - shows them how to do things to help build these houses. So, it's a wonderful group - a wonderful organization - very well known here in the United States to help people who need help.

Now let's answer a few of your questions.

Our first question comes from Luc (Luc) in Belgium. Luc wants to know the difference between two expressions: “bad-tempered” and “short-tempered.”

If you listen to ESL Podcast 261, describing people's personalities, you already know the general definition of the word “bad-tempered.” “To be bad-tempered” means someone who is a bad mood - someone who may be angry all the time, or mad all of the time. That would be a bad-tempered person. That's what they normally are like; they're always angry or they're always mad.

“To be short-tempered” (short-tempered) is similar. It means someone who gets angry very easily; the smallest thing will make them angry or mad. We often use the expression “they lose their temper,” meaning they get mad or get angry.

So, a short-tempered and a bad-tempered person are slightly different. A bad-tempered person is always, or normally, mad and angry. A short-tempered person could be happy most of the time, but very small things make them angry or mad very easily. That would be the difference between a bad-tempered and a short-tempered person.

Our next question comes from Thomas, over in Malaysia. Thomas (Thomas) wants to know the meaning of an expression he read, “no pun intended.” “No pun (pun) intended.”

Well, let's start the word “pun.” A pun is when people confuse the meaning of two words because they sound the same or they're somehow similar. Usually a pun is a joke; something that someone says to be funny.

For example, the word “record” (record) has two meanings. It can mean a big, old, black disc that you used to listen to music on. Those of us who are old remember the days before CDs - before compact discs; we had the big, black things called a “record.” A record is also a list of something. “I have a record of all of my podcasts” - a list of them with the names of each podcast. Someone might say, “I keep a record of all my music, no pun intended.”

Now, “to intend something” means to mean something; to want to do something. So, in this expression, “no pun intended,” we're saying that I'm not trying to make a joke. Here, the joke would be a pun on the word “record,” a record meaning something you listen to and a record meaning a list. The person here means record as a list, but after he says the sentence, “I keep a record of all my music,” he realizes that the person may think he's making a joke, so he says “no pun intended,” meaning I didn't want to - I wasn't trying to be funny.

Or, for example, at the end of the year your boss gives a speech at the holiday party. He says, “This is a Christmas wrap up of all the things we achieved this year, no pun intended.” A wrap up, (wrap) up (two words), is a summary of something. The verb “to wrap” means to cover a gift with special, colorful paper; something that we do, for example, during the Christmas holiday, if you celebrate Christmas. You put paper around the box to make it look nice; that's called “to wrap” the box.

So here, the boss is making - saying “we're going to wrap up this year, no pun intended,” because “to wrap up” means to give a summary, but because it's a holiday party, people might think he's making a joke about the word “to wrap.”

Sometimes people use the expression “no pun intended” when they actually did intend a pun - when they actually did plan to make a joke. But puns are considered not very sophisticated jokes, by some people; not necessarily very good jokes. So sometimes you excuse yourself when you say, or use, a pun by saying, “no pun intended,” even though you intended it.

Finally, Markus (Markus), back over in Europe, in Germany, wants to know the meaning of the expression “it's raining cats and dogs.” “It's raining,” as in water falling down from the sky, “cats and dogs.”

This is an expression we use to mean it's raining very hard or it's raining very heavily. Now, I'm not sure why, exactly, we use the expression “cats and dogs.” You might say, “Since it is raining cats and dogs outside, I think the football game today will be cancelled” - they won't play because “it's raining cats and dogs.”

Well, I hope it's not raining cats and dogs where you are today, but if you have a question you can email us at eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time on the English Café.

ESL Podcast's English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2007, by the Center for Educational Development.

advertising campaign – the combination of similar advertisements on radio, TV, the Internet and in magazines and newspapers for a specific product, service, or company

* Right now our company has a very successful advertising campaign that uses funny videos and billboards to advertise our product.

ill-mannered – rude; impolite; not polite; with bad manners

* Jake is very ill-mannered. He chews with his mouth open and he never holds doors open for other people.

overseas markets – groups of potential or actual customers for a company’s products or services in another country

* Japanese car manufacturers have very large overseas markets. Most of their cars are sold outside of Japan.

hip – very “cool”; familiar with what is popular and fashionable

* Hip high school students at this school all have new clothes, listen to new bands, and have new technology like cell phones and digital music players.

nerdy – not familiar with what is popular and fashionable; geeky; more interested in computers or books than in music and fashion

* I was a nerdy student in college, always spending extra time studying in the chemistry laboratory instead going to parties.

direct comparison – comparing two things next to each other; determining how similar or different two things are by looking at them one part at a time

* You can’t make a direct comparison of Ming’s and Dana’s intelligence by looking at their grades, because Ming has to work 20 hours a week while studying full-time, and Dana doesn’t work at all.

to brag – to talk proudly about how good something you own is, or about something you have done very well

* Kimberly doesn’t have very many friends, because she’s always bragging about how much money she has.

to backfire – to do the opposite of what something was supposed to do; to have an effect that is the opposite of what was intended

* Bertha planned to win the horse race by riding her horse for hours every day, but her plan backfired when the horse was very tired on the day of the race.

habitat – the place where a plant or animal normally lives

* The natural habitat for penguins is in South America and Antarctica and not in zoos.

affordable – not too expensive; with a price that one is able to pay without very much difficulty

* It can be very difficult to find affordable housing in large cities like Washington, DC and New York City.

volunteer – a person who works without receiving any money

* Evelyn is a volunteer at the local hospital because she likes helping people.

unskilled – without special skills or education

* Unskilled workers don’t make as much money as skilled workers do.

mortgage – a home loan; money received from a bank that is used to buy a home but then must be paid back to the bank over a certain number of years

* The Gamarra family had to get a $200,000 mortgage to buy their new home in Denver.

short-tempered – unable to control one’s anger; becoming angry very easily

* Bea is very short-tempered and often gets angry for no reason.

no pun intended – a phrase used after one realizes that what one has just finished saying has more than one meaning because two words sound similar

* A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two-tired [too tired]. No pun intended.

to be raining cats and dogs – to be raining very heavily; to be raining a lot

* We wanted to go for a walk, but it was raining cats and dogs so we decided to stay inside and play a game instead.

What Insiders Know
Classic Advertising Slogans: “Where’s the beef?,” “Don’t leave home without it,” “Just do it”

In the United States, companies “invest” (spend money to make something more successful) a lot of money to have creative, “memorable” (easy to remember) advertising campaigns that help to sell their products. Many advertising campaigns use “slogans” (short phrases) that are very easy for people to remember. If the advertising campaign is successful, people think about the company’s product every time they hear the slogan. Some “classic” (very famous and well done) advertising slogans include: “Where’s the beef?”, “Don’t leave home without it,” and “Just do it.”

The advertising slogan, “Where’s the beef?” was used in a 1980s “commercial” (a TV advertisement) for Wendy’s, a fast-food hamburger restaurant. In the commercial, a woman goes to another hamburger restaurant and when she is given a large piece of bread with a very small piece of beef, she shouts, “Where’s the beef?” The commercial was very funny and soon people began saying “Where’s the beef?” about other things to question the value of a product or idea.

Another classic advertising slogan, “Don’t leave home without it,” is used by American Express, a credit card company. It means that people shouldn’t leave home without their credit cards, because they might need them to buy something. People might say, “Don’t leave home without it,” to refer to many other things, too, but many Americans will think of the credit card when they hear that slogan.

Finally, “Just do it,” is an advertising slogan for Nike, a company that makes athletic shoes and clothing. “Just do it,” means that one should simply do something without thinking about it a lot. It’s a phrase that is used to “encourage” (give help or support to someone) people to do things, especially athletics and sports. Most Americans think of Nike when they hear someone say, “Just do it.”