Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

292 Topics: Buffalo Soldiers; Famous Songs: Oh My Darling, Clementine; to be concerned about/in/with; to erase versus to delete; “how do you say...” for written English

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 292.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 292. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at eslpod.com. Download this episode’s Learning Guide, an 8- to 10-page guide we provide for all of our current episodes that gives you some additional help in improving your English – and giving you stronger muscles, especially if you lift the Learning Guide up and down with your arms.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about Buffalo Soldiers, groups of African Americans, or black Americans, who fought in the U.S. military many years ago. We’ll also continue our series on famous songs, focusing on Oh My Darling, Clementine. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. We’re going to start with our very own Dr. Lucy Tse talking about Buffalo Soldiers. Take it away Lucy.

Thank you once again Jeff for letting me come and visit you here on the English Café. This Café begins with a discussion about the Buffalo Soldiers. A “soldier” (soldier) is someone who fights in the army. A “buffalo” is a very large animal like a big bull or cow, but with a lot more hair and large horns. Buffalo are sometimes called “bison” (bison). We used to find buffalo all over North America, and they were very important because they were a very good source of food, clothing, and shelter for Native Americans. That means that Native Americans used to hunt – used to kill buffalo and use their meat for food, use their skin for clothing, and also to build their own homes. So the phrase “Buffalo Soldiers” might make you think about groups of buffalo fighting in an army, but the Buffalo Soldiers were certain “regiments” or groups of soldiers. These Buffalo Soldier regiments were made up of only African American or black soldiers and they were formed in 1866.

There had been African American regiments earlier, during the Civil War. But the Buffalo Solider regiments were the first all-black regiments to be part of the U.S. Army during “peacetime” (peacetime), or a period of time when the country wasn’t fighting a war. Some people – some historians think the name “Buffalo Soldiers” came from the soldier’s strong fighting abilities; they were very tough. Other people think the name came from Native Americans who thought that the soldier’s dark, tight curly hair looked like the “fur” (fur) or hair on a buffalo. We use the word “fur” to talk about hair that grows on animals, like bears or cats or dogs. We only use the word “hair” for humans – for people.

The Buffalo Soldiers were important in the Indian Wars, when the United States was expanding “westward” (westward) or moving toward the west, as well as in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and other battles. Some of the Buffalo Soldier regiments also served in the Sierra Nevada of California; they had the job of park “rangers” (rangers), or workers or people who work outdoors to take care of our national parks at Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, for example. Before we had park rangers, regiments of soldiers, or groups of soldiers, did the work of park rangers in these natural areas – in these national parks.

Many of the Buffalo Soldiers were recognized and honored for their service to the country. Twenty-three Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. This was a very prestigious award given to soldiers. One man, named Charles Young, became the third African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy and he was the highest-ranking African American official in the U.S. military when he died.

The Buffalo Soldiers suffered from a lot of racial “prejudice” (prejudice) or unfair assumptions about what someone is or how someone will behave based on the color of his or her skin. Sometimes the Buffalo Soldiers were even attacked by the people living in towns and cities where they went. And, although the Buffalo Soldiers were important fighters in the Indian Wars, they weren’t used for the most important fighting in “subsequent” (subsequent) or later wars, like World War I or World War II.

In 1951, the last Buffalo Soldier regiments were “disbanded” (disbanded) meaning that the groups were taken apart and they no longer existed. The soldiers were “integrated” (integrated) with other regiments, and there were no longer regiments only for black soldiers and only for white soldiers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to some information about the Buffalo Soldiers. Thank you once again to Jeff for letting me come and visit you here on the English Café. And now, back to Jeff.

Thank you Lucy. Now let’s turn to our second topic, which is a continuation of our series on famous songs. Today you will learn about Oh My Darling, Clementine. “Darling” (darling) is a nice word, somewhat old-fashioned word, that a man says to his girlfriend or wife; it’s sort of like the word honey or sweetie. It’s what we call a “term of endearment,” you would only say it to someone who was very dear to you, so a husband might call his wife darling. As I say, it’s an old-fashioned word now, we don’t use it a lot, although in some parts of the country it may still be popular. It may also be used in a funny way, with a very exaggerated pronunciation: “dahling, thank you dahling.” Well, that wasn’t funny, it was just a little weird! Anyway, “Clementine” is the name of the woman this song is about, although a Clementine, as a regular noun, can also be a small, sweet orange, kind of like a tangerine or what we call mandarin orange.

The song Oh My Darling, Clementine was written by a man named Percy Montrose in the year 1884. It’s about this woman – this girl Clementine, who was the daughter of a miner in the California Gold Rush. A “miner” (miner) is someone whose job it is to take some sort of valuable metals or minerals out of the earth, such as gold, silver, or copper. That’s what a miner is; a miner works in a mine (mine). The California Gold Rush was a period of time beginning in the late 1840s when gold was discovered in Northern California and thousands of people came to California to look for gold, and the population of the state grew very quickly after the Gold Rush. In fact, California became a state only a few years after that happened. Even today, California is sometimes called “The Golden State.”

The song is sung by what we may describe as a bereaved man. Someone who is “bereaved” (bereaved) has recently had someone die that they loved, and that makes them very sad. The bereaved man singing this song loved Clementine, but she died, unfortunately, in a drowning accident. “To drown” (drown) means to die from being under the water too long, or from taking in water into your lungs where it doesn’t belong. So, the song begins:

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine
Dwelt a miner forty-niner,
And his daughter Clementine

Let me explain it and then we’ll let you hear how it sounds – or at least how I will make it sound.

A “cavern” (cavern) is a large hole underground or in a mountain; it’s similar to a cave (cave). The singer talks about a cavern in a canyon. A “canyon” is like a deep hole that is caused by a river that continues to create a hole after many thousands or even tens of thousands of years. The Grand Canyon in Arizona, in the southwest part of the U.S., was created by the Colorado River. So, the song begins: “In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine.” “To excavate” is the same as to dig, especially when you are first building the mine. Miners have to excavate underground or into mountains by creating a hole, pulling rocks out of the surface. In that place they were excavating, “dwelt” or lived a miner forty-niner. “Forty-niner” was the name given to people who came here for the California Gold Rush because it happened in 1849, so they were called “forty-niners.” The writer of the song is rhyming, of course, “miner” with “forty-niner.” So, in a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine lived or dwelt a miner forty-niner, and his daughter Clementine. [Jeff sings]

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine
Dwelt a miner forty-niner,
And his daughter Clementine

This is a song, I should mention briefly, that most Americans know; it’s a song you learned in school.

The other verses or parts of the song talk about how beautiful Clementine was and how one day she fell into the water. Then there’s this verse, which describes how she dies:

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles, soft and fine,
But, alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

“Ruby” (ruby) in this case refers a color, the color red. Ruby lips would be lips that had a deep color of red. He could see her – her lips above the water, blowing bubbles, soft and fine. “To blow bubbles” is to use your mouth and put air into a liquid, causing the air to come up out of the liquid. In this case, of course, the poor girl is trying to breathe because she’s under the water. She’s blowing bubbles soft and fine. “Fine” here might mean delicate or ones that were very small. “But, alas,” he says. “Alas” (alas) is a phrase used to show sadness about something. It’s a word you would only find in an old poem or song like this, it’s not used anymore unless you’re trying to be somehow funny. The man in the song says, “alas, I was no swimmer,” meaning I didn’t know how to swim, “So I lost my Clementine.” Clementine died because the man did not know how to swim in order to save her from drowning. [Jeff sings]

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles, soft and fine,
But, alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

Kind of sad, huh? Between each verse there is, as there are in most popular songs, a “chorus,” part of the song that is repeated with the same words several times. The course is quite famous. It goes:

Oh my darling, oh my darling,
Oh my darling, Clementine!
Thou art lost and gone forever
Dreadful sorry, Clementine

Once again, you hear that word “darling,” he’s describing the woman he loves. Then he says “thou art,” which is old English – at least, English that is no longer used anymore outside of old books and poetry – which means “you are.” “Thou” is “you,” “art” is “are.” “Thou art lost (you are lost) and gone forever (because, of course, she’s dead) dreadful sorry, Clementine.” The speaker says he is “dreadful” (dreadful) or very sorry, meaning he’s very sad that she died, of course. We also use the word “dreadful” when we mean very, as a word of emphasis, usually something that is bad. It’s a little old-fashioned; it’s not used a lot anymore, but you will still hear it: “I’m dreadfully sorry.” Once again, we may use it just to be funny. This poor guy was not trying to be funny; he was just very sad. [Jeff sings]

Oh my darling, oh my darling,
Oh my darling, Clementine!
Thou art lost and gone forever
Dreadful sorry, Clementine

Now the final part or verse of the song:

How I missed her, how I missed her
How I missed my Clementine.
So I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

I love that ending! In other words, he misses Clementine, his love who died, but then he kissed her younger or little sister and fell in love with her instead. Isn’t that great? Just like a man to forget his old love when a new love comes along. And, even better, the new love looks like his old love because it’s his old love’s sister! [Jeff sings]

How I missed her, how I missed her
How I missed my Clementine.
So I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

Oh My Darling, Clementine is, as I said, a very well known folk song, something that you learn in school, something that perhaps used to be sung in groups, because it’s one of those songs that everyone used to know. Even today, most Americans know the chorus or parts of the chorus of the song.

Now let’s listen to some of your questions.

Our first question comes from a listener in China; we don’t have his or her name. We’ll call him or her “Pat.” Pat asks about the meaning of the word “concern,” and how it is used.

“Concern” (concern) can mean to be connected to or to have something to do with some other person or thing: “This newspaper article concerns children’s health issues.” “Concerns” means that’s what it is about, that is what it is related to. “Concern” can also mean to cause interest in something, especially if you are worried: “It concerns me that some children don’t have enough to eat every day.” It bothers me; it worries me. That’s “concern” used as a verb. You can also have a concern as a noun. We use that to mean, for example, things that you are worried about. In the world of business, it can refer to a company or a business as a noun. It can also refer to simply something that someone has an interest in: “The Energy Department has a concern in nuclear power.”

But, we’ll focus here on the verb “to concern.” There are several variations, depending on the preposition you use with the verb, that have slightly different meanings. Let’s start with “concerned about.” If you’re “concerned about” something you are worried about something: “I’m concerned about crime in my neighborhood.” “Concerned by” also means to be worried about a problem: “Many people were concerned by the death that happened in the park last week.” “Concerned in” means closely connected to: “These businesses concerned in the scandal sent messages to the police.” “Concerned with” can mean, like “concerned about” and “concerned by,” to be worried about something, or it can have the other meaning, to be connected with or to something. Of these four expressions, “concerned about” is probably the most common, meaning to be worried about. “Concerned with” is probably the most common one when we are talking about being connected to something.

Marina (Marina) in Bulgaria wants to know the difference between “erase” (erase) and “delete” (delete). Both words can mean to remove something, to get rid of something that was once there. They’re used in slightly different contexts however. “Erase” is something you would do, for example, if you wrote on a piece of paper in pencil, you might have an eraser (a noun) which erases the writing when you put the eraser on top and move it back and forth. That’s “to erase” something. “Erase” can also mean to clear or clean off a hard drive on your computer. Or, you could have a little disc, a CD for example, that was writable and readable; a CD could be erased. You would get rid of all of the data – the information on the disc. You can also “delete” individual files from your computer, you get rid of them. You could delete all of the files as a way of erasing the files. So, in that sense, they really mean the same.

“Delete” is what we call a key on your keyboard that is used to get rid of a letter or a word, or perhaps an entire document or file. Those are all things we use “delete” for. “I’m going to delete this email,” I’m going to get rid of it completely. We would not say “I’m going to erase this email.” “Erase,” once again, is used either for paper and pencil or when we are talking about taking an entire disc on a computer and getting rid of everything that’s on it so that we could use it again. “Delete” means to get rid of permanently – usually permanently.

Finally, Luis (Luis) in Mexico wants to know whether the expression “how do you say (something) in English” is used for both speaking and writing, because “say” (say) is often is often associated by people with oral communication – talking. But, the verb “to say” is also used in a written sense. You can talk about what the author said. “Said,” of course, is the past tense of “say.” So, “say” does not mean just things that are spoken out loud. Therefore, it is perfectly correct, and is in fact the common way of asking how you translate a word from one language to another by using the question “How do you say (the word) in English?” or “How do you say (the word) in Spanish?” “How do you say ‘city’ in Spanish?” “You say ‘ciudad’,” that’s an example.

You can also use the phrase “Do you know how to say (blank – that is, a word) in English?” “What is the right word for (the word) in English?” Or simply, “How do you say that?” The most common, however, is “How do you say (put in the word) in English?”

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. I promise we won’t delete your email – not right away, anyway! Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again 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.

buffalo – a very large animal similar to a very large bull or cow, but with a lot more hair and larger horns

* Buffalo like to travel in large groups and each buffalo has a role within each group.

regiment – a group of soldiers; a permanent unit of soldiers, usually under one main commander

* How many regiments will be committed to fighting this war?

park ranger – a person whose job is to work outdoors and to take care of national parks

* A park ranger makes sure that people using the park follow park rules.

prejudice – unfair assumptions or expectations about what someone is or how someone will behave, not based on a reason or actual experience

* My grandmother has a prejudice toward lawyers, believing they are all dishonest.

to disband – for a group to be taken apart and to no longer exist; to cause an organization to break up

* In high school, my friend and I had a rock band, but we disbanded when two of the members graduated and moved to another town.

darling – a word used for someone one loves or feels affection toward

* I know you weren’t feeling well this morning. Are you feeling better now, darling?

miner – a person whose job is to take valuable metals or minerals out of the earth, such as gold, silver, or copper

* Coal miners work miles underground in very dangerous conditions.

to drown – to die from being under water too long, so that one wasn’t able to breathe air and instead one’s lungs filled with water

* We were afraid our dog would drown when he jumped into the swimming pool, but he knew how to swim.

to excavate – to dig out material from the ground; to remove dirt and other materials so something valuable or important can be removed from the ground

* The scientist believed that she would find the lost city of Atlantis if she excavated in this area.

alas – a word used to show sadness about something, especially when one is being overly dramatic

* The farmers hoped for rain. But alas, it would not rain for another five weeks.

dreadful – very; very much; extremely

* I am dreadful tired. I couldn’t even think about going out tonight.

to be concerned about – to be worried about, usually referring to a person or problem

* Our son is spending too much time studying for his exams and we’re concerned about his health.

to be concerned in – to be closely connected to; to be a part of; to have a specific connection to or responsibility for something

* We need to talk to the doctors concerned in making decisions about our mother’s medical treatment.

to be concerned with – to be worried about, usually referring to an issue

* Our community voted for a candidate who is concerned with the environment.

to erase – to remove; to make something go away, used to talk about rubbing or wiping something from a surface or used figuratively (not literally) to talk about removing a memory or thought

* The teacher asked the student to erase the writing on the chalkboard.

to delete – to remove; to make something go away, used when someone causes something to stop appearing or existing, especially related to technology and computers

* I accidentally deleted our travel photos from my laptop computer.

What Insiders Know
Bob Marley – “Buffalo Soldiers”

If you think of reggae music, you probably think of Bob Marley. Nesta Robert “Bob” Marley was a musician born in Jamaica in 1945, who is today considered one of the greatest reggae musicians of all time.

“Reggae” is type of music that was developed in Jamaica in the 1960s. Bob Marley wrote many reggae songs influenced by the social issues of Jamaica and other places in the world. After his death in 1981, his song “Buffalo Soldiers,” which was recorded in his last “recording session” (a meeting of musicians or performers in a studio for the purpose of recording) in 1980, was released and it became a “big hit” (very popular).

The title and “lyrics” (words of a song) referred to the buffalo soldiers who fought in the Indian Wars in the United States after 1866. In the lyrics of the song, Marley compared the fight of these soldiers to the fight for “survival” (trying to continue to live). It became a song of “black resistance,” the political movement that fought for equal rights for African Americans in the U.S.

One of the “stanzas” (group of lines in a song) is:

I’m just a buffalo soldier, in the heart of America.

Stolen from Africa, brought to America.

(I) Said he was fighting on arrival, fighting for survival;
(I) Said he was a buffalo soldier, win the war for America.

Today, Bob Marley is considered a reggae “legend” (an extremely famous and well-respected person). In 1984, three years after his death, a “compilation album” (songs previously released separately collected and released on one album or CD) called Legend (1984) was released and is the best-selling reggae album of all time.