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316 Topics: Ask an American: Libraries Using Ad Campaigns to Improve Image and Funding; making introductions; stack versus stock

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Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 316.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 316. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Don’t worry; I won’t talk like a robot or a computer today.

Our website is eslpod.com. On it, you can visit our ESL Podcast Store, which has some great courses in business and daily English that I know you will like.

On this Café, we’re going to have another one of our Ask an American segments, where we listen to other native speakers talking at a normal rate of speech – a normal speed. We are going to listen to them and explain what they are talking about.

Today, we’re going to talk about U.S. public libraries that are using advertisements to improve their image and get more money. And as always, we’ll have and answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Our topic on this Café is public libraries. In most U.S. towns and cities you will find libraries – public libraries, where people who live there can go to, we would say, check out or borrow books, movies, music CDs, and other materials. Libraries allow you to keep them for a short period of time, usually two weeks, maybe four weeks; it depends on the material and the library. Here in Los Angeles, if you want to check out a movie – a DVD – you can only keep it for one day. But if you want to check out a book, you can keep it for typically three weeks. I use my public libraries all the time: the Los Angeles Public Library, the Santa Monica Public Library, the County of Los Angeles Public Library, the Beverly Hills Public Library. All the public libraries I can find, I use. We have some wonderful collections – wonderful groups of books and materials in our public libraries, at least in some of them.

Public libraries however face two problems today. First, many people who live and work in the city or the town where the library is don’t even know about the many types of services available in the library, including in most libraries free Internet access. Second, since libraries are funded or given money by the government from taxes that the government collects, the bad economy has reduced or lowered the amount of money libraries get. When people don’t know how useful a library can be, they are less likely to want to pay taxes for it.

To deal with these two problems, some libraries in Vermont, a state in the northeastern part of the U.S., have started a new ad or advertising “campaign,” a new plan to let people know about the library so that they will be more likely to support it.

We’re going to listen to some people talking about libraries and their current problems, the problems they have nowadays. First, we’ll hear Paula Baker, a librarian who is in charge of a library in Vermont. A “librarian” is a person who works at the library. Typically it’s someone who has gone to school to study something now called Library Science, basically how to be a good librarian: collecting information, researching, helping people, that sort of thing. Let’s start by listening to Paula talk about what happens when people come to the library and find out all of the things the library has for them.

[recording]

The eyes light up and click, it happens, “I didn’t know you had this.” For this library, we’ve run at a deficit for the last two years and next year we’re looking at a larger deficit amount.

[end of recording]

Paula says that the eyes light up and click, it happens. For eyes “to light up” means for someone’s face and eyes to show that they’re excited or interested in something. Your eyes might light up when you see your beautiful wife, or handsome husband, or a lot of money – whichever of those things you like best. For something “to click” (click) means for a person to understand or recognize something. If you see a stranger, someone you don’t know, but they look familiar to you, like someone you’ve met before but you don’t really remember, you might think about it for a minute and then it’ll click. Just this past weekend I was at the Beverly Center, which is a local shopping mall here in Los Angeles, sitting outside of the Apple Store and I saw a gentleman and I wasn’t quite sure where I knew him from, and then suddenly it clicked. I remembered where I had seen him before. You may look at someone and say, “Hmm, I know who that is. I owe them some money,” and then you turn around and run away!

Paula says that the eyes light up and click, it happens, “I didn’t know you had this.” That’s what people think when they come into the library, and they realize the library has lots of things other than just paper books. “For this library,” Paula says, “we’ve run at a deficit for the last two years.” To have a “deficit” (deficit) means you have less money than you need; you owe money. The government here in the United States is always running a deficit. Notice the verb we use: “to run” a deficit. It means the same as to have a deficit. Paula says that the library has run at a deficit – I guess you can say “run at a deficit” or “run a deficit – for the last two years and next year we’re looking at a larger deficit amount. So, the public library needs more money. That’s basically what Paula is saying

Let’s listen to her one more time.

[recording]

The eyes light up and click, it happens, “I didn’t know you had this.” For this library, we’ve run at a deficit for the last two years and next year we’re looking at a larger deficit amount.

[end of recording]

Libraries know that the more people know about the library and the things it has to offer them, the more likely they are to support giving more money to them. So logically, the libraries need to get people interested in the library, and so to do this, the library hired an advertising company, or an advertising firm. The advertising company came up with a catchphrase, something that was easy to remember. A “catchphrase” is a phrase that is short and something that you will remember later on. For the advertising campaign for this library the catchphrase was “Geek (geek) the Library.” “Geek” is a word you may have heard before. It’s, at least in the past, always been a noun used to describe someone who likes to read books or use the computer a lot, someone who is socially awkward. A person is often awkward when he or she feels uncomfortable around other people, in what we might call social situations, not knowing how to behave or what to say.

The advertising company says that the word “geek” can have a more positive meaning. In fact it does have a more positive meaning today, especially since our world is more and more influenced by technology, technology that is developed by people who are interested in computer programming and that sort of thing. And in fact, over the last 10 years or so the word “geek” has become a verb. “Geek” has come to mean to get excited or be involved in something. There’s an expression “to get your geek on,” regarding something you are interested in. It’s an informal term, but it has become more popular. So the advertising company decided to use this new, more positive meaning of “geek,” one that people associated with being cool to help promote the library.

Let’s listen to Charley Wickman talk about how the advertising company used this term and what affect it had.

[recording]

You might put geek and library together as, yeah, the library’s a place where, like, geeky people go. But when we broke that mental synapse and said no, no, no, no, the library is a place for cool people to go and get their geek on about whatever it is they geek on. And that’s the thing that made it jump off billboards, that’s the thing that made it jump out of posters, that’s the thing that made it change the way people thought about the library and it got a really quick reaction.

[end of recording]

Charley begins by saying that you might put geek and library together as, yeah, the library’s a place where, like, geeky people go. Notice that, as is common when we speak informally, there are lots of other words that we put in our utterances – that is, the things we say that aren’t really necessary. Charley says, “as, yeah,” and “like.” “Like” is very common, especially among younger speakers in the last 20-30 years or so of English here in the U.S. Charley is basically saying that people have always associated “geek” with library, since “geek” had an association with academics, with reading, with school. He says, “But when we broke that mental synapse.” A “synapse” (synapse) is, according to Charley, some connection; it’s a connection in your brain that allows you to think. That’s the meaning that Charley is using here when he says that they wanted to break that mental synapse. That is, they wanted to break or separate the connection or association with “geek,” in its negative meaning, and library. Instead, he wanted people to think about the library as a place where cool people went. “Cool,” you probably know, is the opposite of “geek,” at least “geek” as it was defined in the 70s and 80s. Cool people are the people who are comfortable in social situations, who are popular among other people. Cool people are the people that others want to be around. In a typical American high school, the captain or leader of the football team or the prettiest girl, these are often people who are considered cool.

Charley says that they wanted to make the library a place for cool people. So going back to his quote, he says, “But when we broke that mental synapse and said no, no, no, the library is a place for cool people to go and get their geek on about what it is they geek on. “To geek on,” as I mentioned, is an informal phrase meaning that you are excited about something, that you have all of your attention focused on something. I get my geek on learning other languages. You might get your geek on about cats – everyone is different.

According to Charley, then, they wanted to show the library as a place that was cool, a place where you could get your geek on about whatever you were interested in. He says, “that’s the thing that made it (this idea) jump off billboards, and that’s the thing that made it jump out of posters.” Charley’s using some other expressions here we’ll need to explain. First let’s start with billboards. A “billboard” (billboard – one word) are very large pieces of wood or other material that have advertisements on them outside; it may be by a freeway or a large building. When Charley says that the new advertising jumped off billboards, he means that they were easy to see, or more importantly that they got a lot of attention; people reacted to them. They also put the new advertising messages on posters. “Posters” are large pieces of paper, with words and pictures that are advertising something such as a movie or some new kind of hairspray – I don’t know. I don’t use hairspray very much anymore!

Charley says that because of these posters and billboards people changed the way they thought about the library. “It got a really quick reaction,” he says. A “reaction” is what you do, or what you say, or how you feel about something that has happened or a situation that exists. When my favorite baseball team, the Dodgers, win a game – and that hasn’t happened too often this year – I have a positive or happy reaction. Charley is saying that the advertising campaign seemed to have been successful because it got people’s attention and they had a positive reaction or response to it.

Let’s listen to Charley one more time.

[recording]

You might put geek and library together as, yeah, the library’s a place where, like, geeky people go. But when we broke that mental synapse and said no, no, no, no, the library is a place for cool people to go and get their geek on about whatever it is they geek on. And that’s the thing that made it jump off billboards, that’s the thing that made it jump out of posters, that’s the thing that made it change the way people thought about the library and it got a really quick reaction.

[end of recording]

The librarians in this Vermont town seemed to like the advertising campaign, also. Let’s listen to one of them as she gives her opinion about this advertising campaign.

[recording]

Growing up in the 80s, “geek” was kind of, you know – we know what geek was. But for someone to like say, “Hey, that word can be hip,” there’s something very cool about that. The faces, the way the posters are done, and I think it’s cool to lots of different people and that’s what you want to do, is you want to hit everybody.

[end of recording]

She says that growing up or being raised during the 1980s, she knew the negative meaning of the word “geek.” But she also liked how the word had become hip (hip). If something is “hip,” it is something that people want; it is fashionable, we might say, or desirable. It’s like being cool. So, Lisa says that she likes the posters because they have different people on them, and this way the advertising can hit everyone. “To hit (someone),” in this context or in this situation, means to include someone so that you can influence them or have an impact on them. It can sometimes mean simply to talk to people or to make sure that you contact everyone in a group. It could also be used to talk about things that you want to talk about. People may say, “I want to hit on the main points (the main ideas) during my presentation.” I want to cover them; I want to talk about them. So, it can have a lot of different meanings. In this case, it means it manages to communicate a message to lots of different kinds of people, because they include different kinds of people in the advertisement itself.

So Lisa says, “Growing up in the 80s (in the 1980s), “geek” was kind of, you know – we know what geek was. But for someone to say, ‘Hey, that word can be hip,’ there’s something very cool about that,” she says, “The faces, the way the posters are done (the way they are produced or made), and I think it’s cool to lots of different people and that’s what you want to do, is you want to hit everybody.” You want to make sure everyone is included, that you are communicating to everyone.

Let’s listen to Lisa one more time.

[recording]

Growing up in the 80s, “geek” was kind of, you know – we know what geek was. But for someone to like say, “Hey, that word can be hip,” there’s something very cool about that. The faces, the way the posters are done, and I think it’s cool to lots of different people and that’s what you want to do, is you want to hit everybody.

[end of recording]

Now let’s answer a few of your questions.

Our first question comes from Vanderley (Vanderley) in Brazil. The question has to do with the way that you introduce someone. You have some people you know and you want them to meet some people you don’t know, you have different ways of introducing them – that is, of presenting them, of getting them to know another person.

The most common phrase that Americans use for introductions is “this is.” It’s technically correct when people introduce one person or a group of people using just “this is.” It’s technically incorrect when you use “this is” for two people; of course, it should be “these are,” but no one says that. You say, “This is my professor, Dr. Johnson,” or, “This is my family, there are five members,” or “This is Mr. and Mrs. Cho.” Notice that even when it’s plural we still say “this is.”

Now, it is possible to say “these are,” and sometimes we’ll do that, usually when we are introducing these two people and describing who they are. For example: “These are my parents, Patrick and Mary McQuillan.” Or, “These are my brothers and sisters, I would like you to meet them: Tim, Pat, Mark, Mike, Therese, Duane, Frank, Charlie, Kathy, Steve, and Jeff.” Well, actually I’m Jeff, so wouldn’t include that. So, you can say “these are” if you are describing more than one person and you are telling them who they are – you are identifying them.

There are some other ways of introducing people that are more formal. You can say, “Mr. Smith, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Dr. Wilson.” So first I say the name of the person I’m talking to, and then I give the name of the person I’m introducing them to. “Harry, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Sally.” You can also just say, “I’d like to introduce Sally, who is my friend.”

An even more formal presentation – or rather, introduction, would be “May I present,” or, “I’d like to present.” This is something that is only used in certain situations; you would probably never use it in normal conversation. But you might hear it, for example, on the television or at a formal presentation where someone is being introduced, someone famous or someone important. It’s possible, but it’s not a very common way of introducing someone.

So those are both formal and informal ways of introducing people.

I should add there’s a third way of introducing someone, what we might call very informal, that you would only use probably among close friends. Sometimes when you are introducing someone you may just say the name of the person you’re talking to, point at the person they don’t know, and say his or her name. So let’s say I’m talking to Julie, and I have my friend Tim with me. I might say, “Julie, Tim.” Then I would repeat that with Tim. I would say, “Tim, Julie.” So, what you’re saying is “Julie, this is Tim. Tim, this is Julie.” This kind of introduction, as I say, is something that would be very informal. You could do it among your close friends, but not in any other situation typically.

Finally, Noel (Noel), probably the first Noel we’ve ever had, writing from the United States, although originally from Benin in West Africa. The question has to do with the two words “stack” (stack) and “stock” (stock). What do these two words mean and how are they different?

“Stack” can have a couple of different meanings, both of them related. A “stack” is a pile of something, usually one thing on top of another thing. A “stack” is usually very tall, and generally neat; it’s organized. I have a stack of books on my desk. I have one book, and then another book on top of that, and then another book on top of that, and I have 10 or 12 of those on my desk. I have a stack of books. Or I have a stack of paper, lots of different paper, one piece of paper on top of another.

“Stack” can also be a verb meaning to make a stack – to make a pile. That is, I’m going to stack these books here. I’m going to take one and put it on top of the other one, and then another one, and so forth, and so on.

“Stock” (stock) again can be a noun or verb. As a noun, it can mean a supply of something or an amount of something that you have to use or that you are selling. For example I work in a store, and the store sells shoes. I have lots of different shoes in the back of the store. Those shoes I would call my “stock of shoes.” And so, when someone asks, “Do you have this shoe in stock?” that means do you actually have one physically here in the store. And you might say, “No, we are out of stock,” meaning we no longer have that shoe here.

You can have a stock of anything that you use in your house. “I have a stock of tissue paper (Kleenex).” “I have a stock of soap.” And, I may have a stock of soup. All of those things are possible. Actually, one of the noun definitions of “stock” is a meat or vegetable soup, but we won’t talk about that too much here.

“Stock” can also mean animals on a farm. Sometimes these are called “livestock.” The livestock may include horses and chickens and cows; all of those are part of the farm’s stock or livestock. A “stock,” also as a noun, can be a small part of a company that you own, a small, what we might say, “share.” So for example, you can go out and buy a little bit of and own a little bit of, say, Apple Computer or IBM or McDonald’s. You can own part of those companies by buying some of their stock, which is a certain part of a business; it’s a very small part. But when the business does well, you may get some money from that business because you are one of the owners.

So those are the noun meanings of “stock”: a supply, animals on a farm, a small partial ownership in a business, or a meat or vegetable what we would call “broth,” a type of soup.

“Stock” can also be a verb, meaning to create or make a supply of something. This is often used with the word “up” to create a phrasal verb. “We need to stock up on toilet paper.” “We need to stock up on pencils in our office.” Notice we use the preposition “on,” so it is “stock up on” something. The something is what you need to get more of, you need to collect or keep somewhere so that you can use it in the future.

I’ll mention briefly a third word that is pronounced oftentimes the same as “stock,” some people would pronounced it “stalk” (stalk). “Stalk” as a noun is the part of the plant, what we call the green stem of a plant. There’s a vegetable called celery, and we talk about celery stalks. “Stalk” as a verb can mean to move or walk in a way that may seem angry. Or in some cases, “stalk” is used as a verb to describe someone who is following another person. We call this person who is doing the stalking a “stalker.” And it is illegal in most places in the United States for you to, for example, follow around a famous person and perhaps threaten them or do something that would make them feel unsafe. This happens all the time here in Los Angeles, unhappily, where there are lots of crazy people and lots of celebrities – and some of them are the same people!

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. 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.

Glossary
to light up – for one’s face and eyes to show that one is happy or excited; for one’s happy emotions to show on one’s face

* Kaiser’s eyes light up every time his new baby boy comes into the room.

to click – to remember; to understand; to recognize

* Myung didn’t understand the teacher’s first explanation of the math problem, but then he thought about it and it clicked.

deficit – having less money than one needs to pay what one owes; not having enough money to pay one’s bills

* We expect our new restaurant to run at a deficit for the first year, but hope to make money the second year.

geek – a socially awkward person; a person who feels uncomfortable and does not know how to act socially, usually preferring reading books or being on the computer

* Do these thick glasses make me look like a geek?

mental synapse – a connection between nerve cells in the brain; connections in the mind or in one’s thinking

* The professor explained the new concepts too quickly for my slow mental synapses.

to get (one’s) geek on – to become fully involved in an activity that one enjoys and that one gives one’s full attention and energies to

* I know you like horror movies, too. Let’s get our geek on this weekend by renting a bunch of horror movies and watching them one after another.

billboard – large, outdoor boards used for advertising, most often found along busy roads and freeways

* After driving non-stop for 300 miles, a billboard showing a delicious hamburger made Josh hungry enough to stop for food.

poster – large pieces of paper with pictures and/or words, used for advertising or display

* The students made posters to hang around the school to promote the Spring Dance.

reaction – response to an event or a situation; how one feels, what one does, or what one says because of something that has occurred

* What was Simone’s reaction when she heard that she didn’t get the promotion?

hip – socially desirable and popular; fashionable

* Do these dark sunglasses make me look as hip as Dr. Jeff McQuillan?

to hit – to include when trying to get a reaction or something else from the other person; to approach, usually to get a reaction or something else in return

* If we’re trying to get more people to vote, we should hit all of the community centers and churches in the area.

to introduce – to present a person or group to another person, or to the public, so that others will know who that person is

* Professor Johnson, I’d like to introduce you to my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ahn.

stack – pile; when one item is placed on top of another, usually in a tall and neat arrangement

* Bo couldn’t find his paycheck among the stacks of paper on his desk.

stock – a supply; an amount of something that one has for use or for sale

* We don’t yet have enough stock on the shelves to open our store for business.

What Insiders Know
The Google Books Controversy

In 2004, the Internet search company Google announced that it would do something very “ambitious” (with very high goals for doing something difficult). It would “scan” (use a machine to copy electronically) and “digitize” (make available in a form that can be used or processed by a computer) books and other printed materials. This would allow the “contents” (what is inside) to be searched. Its goal was to have 15 million books completed within a “decade” (period of 10 years).

Very quickly, the “publishing industry” (book producers and printers) and writers’ groups “criticized” (said negative things about) the project because they believed that Google was “infringing on” (violating) the authors’ and the publishers’ “copyright” (legal ownership of a book and other published material). Google said that it was only making parts of the books available and only for searching purposes.

In 2008, the Authors “Guild” (professional organization of people in a particular field), a publishing industry organization, “entered into” (agreed to) a “settlement” (legal agreement) for Google to pay $125 million to the people whose books Google had already scanned. Google would also pay for “court fees” (legal expenses paid to lawyers) and it would create a Books Rights Registry. The Books Rights Registry is a “non-profit” (not for making money) organization that collects and “disburses” (gives out) money owed to authors and publishers when a “third party” (someone other than the two sides involved in an agreement or dispute) uses copyrighted materials.