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283 Topics: The FBI; Famous Americans: Margaret Mead; shall versus should versus supposed to; beneath versus underneath; fo’ shizzle my nizzle

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 283.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café number 283. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at eslpod.com. Download this episode’s Learning Guide, an 8- to 10-page PDF file, a guide that will help you improve your English – and your love life, yes it will!

On this Café, we’re going to talk about one of the more famous parts of the national government in the United States, the FBI – Federal Bureau (or agency; department) of Investigation. We’ll also continue our series on famous Americans, today focusing on Margaret Mead, a well-known anthropologist. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

We begin this Café with a discussion of the FBI, the United States Federal (or national) Bureau of Investigation. A “bureau” (bureau), from the French, is another word for a department or agency; an organization in the government, in this case the national government in Washington, D.C. “Investigation” means, in general, research, looking and trying to learn more about something, often it may be something that is secret, that other people don’t want you to know about. The police, for example, conduct investigations; they do research to find out who committed a crime or who is going to commit a crime.

In 1886, the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest or most powerful legal organization in our government, determined that the states did not have the power to regulate, or make laws about something called interstate commerce. Now, this is actually part of the American Constitution from 1789. The court decided that part of the Constitution forbid, that is did not allow, individual states to make laws and regulations about the things that go on between two states. “Commerce” is, in this case, things that move from one state to another, usually things that you are buying or selling, so it’s related to business. We use the word “commerce” sometimes to talk about the business of buying and selling things. The court ruled, or decided that only the federal government could regulate interstate commerce. Notice the word “interstate” (interstate – one word) means between two or more states. If it’s within a single state, we would call that “intrastate commerce” (intrastate). In the United States, we have freeways or highways that are paid for in part by the national government that go from one state to another – at least, that’s the idea. These highways are called interstate highways, and sometimes people will just say “the interstate,” meaning the interstate highway or the interstate freeway. On the East Coast, they might say “expressway,” but that’s the East Coast, and…well, we won’t talk about them. I’m just kidding; anyone who’s on the East Coast listening to this, we love you – just stay on the East Coast!

The U.S. Supreme Court decided, as I said, that only the federal government can regulate, and therefore enforce laws about interstate commerce. “To enforce” means to put into practice, to make sure that people are following the laws, and to punish them if they do not.

This court ruling, in 1886, led eventually to the creation of a new government agency called the Bureau of Investigation in 1898. It later became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. When it began, the Bureau only had 12 what we call agents working for them. “Agents” are kind of like police officers; they’re investigators. The United States does not have a federal police force; we have agencies like the FBI that act like police officers often. However, most of the police are either state or city or local – county police officers. So, the FBI is the closest that we have to a national police force – a national group of policemen and women, but it isn’t really; they’re really investigators, they call them agents.

Today, the FBI is located in Washington, D.C., that’s where they have their headquarters; you can drive by their building. You can even take a tour of the FBI; I took one when I was nine years old, it was pretty cool. The FBI has more than 450 offices in the United States, and they have agents in more than 50 United States embassies around the world. Their annual budget – their budget for one year is about eight billion dollars.

In addition to in dealing with or controlling interstate commerce issues, the FBI, especially more recently, is supposed to help protect and defend the United States against terrorist attacks, as well against foreign governments trying to find out about Americans secrets or trying to threaten American interests. A “threat” (threat) is a danger or a risk, something bad that might happen. The FBI enforces criminal laws on the federal level, so they’re like a police force. They also help local police forces – local groups of policemen and women – with difficult cases. Usually they’re involved in any crime that crosses state lines. The state line is the border or the boundary that separates two states in the United States. Crimes that cross state lines are crimes where, for example, you may have two people who kill a person, and then they drive and they go to another state where they bury the body. That would be a crime that crosses state line; it takes place in more than one state. The FBI is also involved in “mail fraud” cases, where people are using the United States mail system to lie and steal, usually money, from other people.

The most famous person associated with the FBI in its history is a man by the name of John Edgar Hoover, more commonly known as J. Edgar Hoover. He was the first director of the FBI and he held that position for 48 years, from 1924 to 1972. I remembered when J. Edgar Hoover died he was around for a very long time. We also had a president Hoover, Herbert Hoover, but there was no connection between J. Edgar Hoover and Herbert Hoover that I know of. In any case, J. Edgar Hoover had made the FBI a very powerful organization in the government. In fact, after he died the rules or laws were changed so that you could only be director of the FBI for 10 years, no more. Under Hoover’s direction or leadership, the FBI did in fact catch many important criminals. It helped weaken or helped destroy parts of racist organizations, particularly the Ku Klux Klan.

They did this by developing certain techniques or strategies. One of them, developed by J. Edgar Hoover was wiretapping. “Wiretapping” (one word) is when you secretly are listening to someone else’s telephone conversations without their permission – without them knowing about it. Usually you put a small device – a small something in the phone that allows you to listen to it somewhere else. There weren’t any laws that said that Hoover and his FBI could not wiretap, and so he did. Nowadays, there are laws saying that you – the government cannot tap your phone, cannot use wiretapping unless the use is approved, typically by a judge, a member of the court system.

Anyway, the FBI was often criticized for looking at and investigating people that the director, J. Edgar Hoover, didn’t like. In other words, these were often political opponents that Hoover wanted to keep track of, even if they weren’t criminals. More recently, in the last 10 years or so, the FBI is also been investigating the way people use the Internet. They’ve even had the power, more recently, to look at your library books that you take from the public library. The FBI, like the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, tends to be a very secret organization; they don’t talk about what they do.

Right now, the FBI is mostly, or I should say heavily, greatly, involved in “counterterrorism,” attempts to prevent or stop terrorist attacks on the United States, such as the 9/11 terrorist attack which you are all familiar with.

You may wonder what you have to do to become a member of the FBI. Well first, you typically have to go through a lot of testing and examinations. You have to prove, or demonstrate that you are intelligent, that you have a good education, but also to show that you are trustworthy; that is, that the government can trust you with secret things, that you are loyal to the United States, that you will not do something to harm or injure the U.S. The FBI has what we call background checks. The verb we typically use is “run.” “To run a background check” means to investigate someone, to investigate their personal life, to talk to their friends, to their families to make sure this is a good person for the FBI. The CIA does a similar kind of background check, so does the Secret Service, which is the group of people who protect the President and the Vice President of the United States. There have been people who have worked for the FBI who were also working for foreign governments; we would call them spies. One was a man by the name of Robert Hanssen, who was selling secrets to the Russian government beginning in the late 1970s. He was finally arrested and sent to prison in 2001.

The FBI, because it is involved in these secret, sometimes dangerous operations and investigations, is very popular in American culture: in television, in the movies, in novels that are written. FBI agents are informally referred to as g-men (the “g” stands for government), and there’s even a movie called G-Men. You can find out more about g-men and an old radio show about them by looking at the Learning Guide for this Café, where I talk about it a little bit more. Well, I don’t talk about it; you can read about it a little bit more!

Now let’s turn to our next topic. We’re going to ask Dr. Lucy Tse to come in and talk to us about Margaret Mead. Lucy.

Hi Jeff. I’m happy to be once again visiting you here on the English Café.

Now let’s turn to our next topic, which is a continuation of our series on famous Americans. Today we’re going to be talking about an anthropologist named Margaret Mead. An “anthropologist” (anthropologist) is a person who studies cultures, or groups of people, and how they live. Margaret was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is on the east coast of the United States in the northeast, in 1901. And when she was growing up during this time very few women became scientists.

Margaret went to the Polynesian island of Samoa (Samoa) to conduct her field work. “Field (field) work” refers to research that scientists do in the real world, outside of a laboratory. Margaret went to Samoa – the island of Samoa to try to understand the problems that “adolescents” (adolescents), or teenagers face or experience in Samoa as they grow up. Margaret interviewed a lot of young women in Samoa and then wrote a book based on her field work called Coming of Age in Samoa. The phrase “coming of age” (age) means to become an adult, or to go through the transition between childhood, being a child, and adulthood, being an adult. In the United States, people generally come of age when they turn 18. Margaret hoped that her research would help people understand the problems faced by American adolescents, or teenagers, as they come of age.

The book was shocking for Americans to read, because it talked about how young Samoan women had casual sex before they marry and have children. Having “casual sex” means having sex with a lot of different people without having a long-term relationship with them. At that time, it was not acceptable in the United States, and certainly not something to talk about or write books about. Even though Margaret Mead’s work is very important, and it seems very influential, it wasn’t without critics.

After Margaret’s death, an anthropologist from New Zealand named Derek Freeman said that many of the statements Margaret made in her book were not true or were exaggerations, which is when we say something is more or better or bigger than it really is. But by that time her work had already had a lot of influence on anthropology and on American society in general. Today, most anthropologists seem to agree that her research and her work was very important, but that it did have some major mistakes.

Her book on Samoa and her other work opened people’s eyes to other cultures. The phrase “to open (someone’s) eyes” means to make someone aware of something or to see something or to know something for the first time. Her work also helped the feminist movement, or the effort by people to change society so that women were seen differently, so that they had equal rights or seen in an equal way as men were.

During her career, Margaret taught at several universities while continuing to do her field work. In 1960, she was the President of the American Anthropological Association, a professional group for anthropologists, and she was also active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, serving as the president in 1975. Remember that this was in the early 1900s, so this was very unusual for a woman at that time, and she became a role model for many female scientists. A “role model” (role model – two words) is someone who is admired for what he or she has done, making other people want to be like that person in some way.

Margaret Mead died of cancer in 1978, but people continue to read and study her work. One year after her death, President Jimmy Carter awarded Margaret Mead the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is a very prestigious, very important prize in recognition of the importance of her work. Several schools have also been named for Margaret Mead.

Now let me turn it back over to Jeff, who will answer a few of your questions.

Our first question comes from Christopher (Christopher) in Germany. Christopher wants to know how we use the word “shall” (shall), “should,” and “supposed to be.” “Shall” is usually used in formal situations to talk about something that will happen in the future, sometimes in the sense of a promise. “I shall return,” said General MacArthur in World War II. He was making a promise; he would come back – he will come back. “Shall” is a little more formal.

“Should” is used to show that something ought to happen. It’s also used to show or indicate something that will probably happen or is expected to happen. So your wife tells you that she will be home from work at six o’clock; she should be home by six o’clock, that’s what you expect.

“Supposed to” is similar, but it usually means something a little more specific than “should.” It means it’s required, you have to, there’s some law or rule that says that you must do this. “Supposed to” can also, however, mean something that you are expected to do or is expected to happen. If you wear glasses your eyesight, your ability to see, is supposed to get better. We could also say it should get better, so there are some similar meanings. “Supposed to” is also used sometimes when someone says something but other people don’t think it’s true; they doubt it. “That’s supposed to be a good movie.” When you say that you’re really saying, “Well, people say it’s a good movie but I’m not so sure.”

“Should,” I should point out, is actually the past tense of “shall,” and there are very strict formal grammatical rules about how they use them. But Americans, for the most part, don’t know those rules and don’t follow them, so I’m not going to talk about them because no one follows those rules anymore. Americans generally don’t use the word “shall” unless it’s in some sort of formal or legal situation or context. Both “should” and “supposed to” have similar or can have similar meanings, although “should” means that something ought to happen, and “supposed to” is something that is required to happen. You can say to your friend, “You shouldn’t smoke cigarettes, they’re bad for you.” You’re telling your friend it’s a bad idea in your opinion. However, if you say, “You’re not supposed to smoke cigarettes here,” you’re telling him that there is a rule or a law that says you cannot smoke in this place. In California, for example, you are not supposed to smoke in a restaurant or a bar; it is against the law.

Ana (Ana) in Brazil wants to know the difference between “beneath” (beneath) and “underneath” (underneath). Both “beneath” and “underneath” can mean below something. Something that is “underneath” or “beneath” is something where there is another thing on top of it, so it is on the bottom, if you will. They can also mean less powerful or less important in a group of people, for example. “I found my book underneath the newspaper.” The newspaper was on top of it. “I found my book beneath the clothing on my bed.” The clothes were on top of it.

There are a few cases where we would only use one instead of the other, or typically use one word instead of the other. There’s an expression “that is beneath him,” or “that is beneath her.” The idea is that whatever that thing is, is not something that person would normally do because they’re better than that. “Stealing should be beneath you,” it’s something that you shouldn’t do. You’re a better person than that, I hope! “Underneath” is often used specifically when we’re talking about, say, clothing, and you have more than one shirt on. You may have a shirt that’s white, what we would call a white T-shirt, and then you may put another shirt on top of that. The T-shirt is underneath the other shirt. In most cases, though, you can use both words to mean basically the same thing.

Finally, Tomek (Tomek) from Poland wants to know the meaning of an expression he heard, “shizzle my nizzle.” Really Tomek, you really want to know that?! Okay. “Fo’ shizzle my nizzle” is something that became popular among rappers – American rappers in the United States, some of them, singers who sing rap songs. You know what a “rap” is, I think (rap), it’s when you have rhyming, it’s almost like a poem that you sing or you say to music. These rappers began using “izz” (izz) in words to replace other sounds in the words just to be funny – just to make fun. This gives us expressions like “fo’ shizzle my nizzle.” “Shizzle” is actually the word “sure,” but they replaced the letters with (izzle). So you have “fo’ shizzle,” meaning “for sure,” which means certain, or you use it to agree with someone else. “My nizzle” comes from an expression which you should never use, “my nigga” (nigga), which is a slightly changed pronunciation of what we normally call in English the “N word,” because we don’t say the word, uh, and I will not say the word either, (nigger) referring a black or African American person, but a very insulting term – very insulting! You would never want to say this word, and it would make a lot of people angry, and that’s a word we should avoid. However, within certain parts of the black or African American community it’s used more like “my friend” or “my buddy.”

“Fo’ shizzle my nizzle,” that’s where it comes from, and thank you Tomek for making me explain that!

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back to listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse, copyright 2011 by the Center for Educational Development.

investigation – research; the process of learning more about something, especially finding out about something that someone else is trying to keep a secret

* The police investigation lasted nine months, but the criminal was never found.

threat – a danger; a risk; telling someone that one will hurt, damage, or cause pain if he or she does (or does not) do something

* After the religious leader made negative comments about other religions, he received a lot of death threats.

to cross state lines – for something to occur in more than one state; for an event to happen in more than one state

* Our business license is good for California, but cannot be used if we cross state lines.

mail fraud – a type of crime in which someone uses the mail to lie and steal from other people

* Jimmy committed mail fraud when he asked people to send money to help poor families, but was actually using the money for his own purposes.

wiretapping – the act of secretly listening and/or recording someone’s telephone conversations

* The police used wiretapping to get information on how the gang members brought illegal drugs into the country.

counterterrorism – efforts or attempts to prevent terrorist attacks; political or military actions taken to prevent terrorism attacks

* Our department is responsible for counterterrorism during the meetings between important government leaders.

g-men – government men; an old-fashioned term used for an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agent

* In films, the g-men always catch the criminals, no matter how clever they are.

anthropologist – a person who studies culture, societies, and the people who live in them

* Anthropologists may spend years living with a group of people to learn its language, cultural practices, and religious beliefs.

to come of age – to become an adult; to go through the transition between childhood and adulthood

* Bo came of age during the 1960’s and still likes the music from that period best.

casual sex – the practice of having many sexual partners without a long-term commitment or relationship

* All of our new university students are given a lecture about the dangers of casual sex.

to open (someone)’s eyes – to make someone aware of something for the first time

* Mick has known Daphne for five years, but has only recent opened his eyes to the possibility that she may be the perfect woman for him to marry.

role model – someone who is admired for his or her actions, making other people want to be like that person in some way.

* Which U.S. President do you think more children think of as a role model, Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama?

beneath – underneath; placed directly below; lower in rank than

* My cat likes to sit beneath my window and play with a ball of string.

underneath – beneath; placed directly below; on the underside of

* My cell phone fell underneath your chair. Can you reach it?

fo’ shizzle my nizzle – Absolutely, my friend; I agree, my friend

* - This is the worst weather we’ve had this winter.

* - Fo’ shizzle my nizzle!

What Insiders Know
Gang Busters and G-Men

It’s not uncommon today to see the FBI agents in American movies. This “fascination” (interest) with the FBI is not a recent “phenomenon” (situation). Looking back into the history of American entertainment, you will find a show called Gang Busters, which “dramatized” (to have something adapted as a show or movie) the cases of the FBI.

Gang Busters first went “on the air” (began broadcasting) in 1935 and the “producer” (a person whose job is to make or produce a show) worked closely with J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, to create this show. The show only presented “closed” (completed) cases, and since it was a radio show, used many “sound effects” (sounds that are not speech or music used in the presentation of a show) to make the action come to life. For instance, each show began with the sound of a loud police “whistle” (a small device that one blows into to make a high-pitch sound, use to get attention), a “machine gun” (a gun that can shoot many bullets in a short amount of time) firing, and tires “squealing” (a high-pitched sound made by moving tires when a turn is made very quickly). These sounds are then followed by the program’s introduction: “Tonight, Gang Busters presents the Case of ¾ ” and ending with another sound of the police whistle.

Gang Busters told many different types of stories about many different types of crimes. One thing that didn’t “vary” (change) was that there were always g-men. The g-men investigated the crimes and they almost always “got their man” (captured the criminal). The show Gang Busters moved around from one radio “network” (company) to another, with the final version of the show ending in 1957.