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318 Topics: Famous Americans: Warren Buffet; The Chicken Soup book series; few versus little; only so many; to be due

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 318.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 318. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Download this episode’s Learning Guide by going to the website and becoming member of ESL Podcast. And, while you’re on the web, go and like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/eslpod.

On this Café, we’re going to continue our series on famous Americans, focusing on a person who has a lot of money and a lot of political influence in the United States, Warren Buffet. We’re also going to talk about a popular book series called Chicken Soup for the Soul. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

This Café begins with a continuation of our series on famous Americans. Today we’re going to talk about one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet. He has become a very successful businessman, an investor, a philanthropist, and a political adviser to our current president, President Obama.

Warren Buffet was born in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, which is in the middle of the United States, the central part, close to Minnesota, next to Iowa, between Iowa and Colorado, South Dakota to the north, and Kansas to the south.

At a very young age, Warren Buffet was interested in making money. He used to sell small items like gum or magazines to neighbors. This is an interesting aspect or part of his history. I think many times you find successful businessmen and women who as children were interested in selling things, in making money, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I was not one of those children.

In any case, Warren Buffet was very much ahead of his time when he was a child. He bought his first shares in a company when he was just 11 years old. A “share” is also called a stock; it’s a small piece of ownership in a company. Shares are bought and sold, and investors try to make money by, as we say, “buying low (buying shares at a low price), and selling high (selling them when their price goes up).”

Buffet studied business at the one of the best business schools in the U.S., the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He also studied at Columbia Business School, and the New York Institute of Finance. So, he’s someone who’s very well educated in this area. He studied everything he could about investing and then he opened up some investment partnerships. A “partnership” is when you go into business with one or more than one person. Often you have an equal share; sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you own 50 percent of the business, and another person owns 25 percent, and a third person owns another 25 percent. But all of these would be partnerships.

Buffet’s partnerships became very successful, and he became a millionaire (someone worth a million dollars) back in 1962. He became a billionaire 20 years later – actually, 18 years later in 1990. In 2008, he was considered the richest man in the world, with 62 billion dollars. Some people say that he is no longer the richest man in the world. I believe Carlos Slim, a Mexican businessman, is the richest man in the world in the year 2011 when we are recording this episode. But 62 billion is pretty good, I think!

In 2009, Buffet donated a lot of his money. He also suffered several financial losses in the economic downturn. A “downturn” (one word) is a period of time when the economy isn’t doing very well. He lost some money, and I believe his worth today – the amount of money he is worth is around 47 billion – only 47 billion, not 62 billion! So, he has become a little poorer, like everyone else.

Buffet was so successful that many investors and other people began to you call him the Sage of Omaha. A “sage” (sage) is a very wise or intelligent and experienced person, typically an older person. We admire or look up to sages; we want to learn from them. Investors around the world have studied what Buffet has done and have analyzed his purchases – the things he buys so they can try to copy his behavior and make as much money as he does.

Buffet is a very influential person, not just in the world of finance but in other parts of American society as well. He has many famous friends. For example, Alex Rodriguez, who’s a famous baseball player for the New York Yankees; he’s sometimes called A-Rod, for Alex Rodriguez. Buffet is a friend of A-Rod and he helped A-Rod, in fact, negotiate a contract with the New York Yankees a few years ago. Well, he gave him some advice. Buffet was also a finance advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger here in California during Schwarzenegger’s 2003 campaign to be elected governor. He was in fact, of course elected governor, but he’s no longer governor as we record this episode. More importantly, Buffet has given advice to our current president, President Barack Obama. In fact recently, as we record this episode, Warren Buffet’s name was in the news as someone who was advocating – who was favoring more taxes on rich people like himself, and President Obama even used Warren Buffet’s name in talking about this new idea – not a new idea, but this idea of raising or making the rich to pay more taxes.

Buffet is involved in politics, as I mentioned. He is usually more liberal and more likely to favor Democratic candidates, although Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Republican, at least in name. For example, during the 2008 presidential campaign, he endorsed Barack Obama. “To endorse” a candidate means to announce that you want them to win. Newspapers and magazines often endorse candidates; they say, “We want John McCain to win,” or “We want Barack Obama to win.”

Buffet is also famous for his philanthropy. “Philanthropy” (philanthropy) is when you give money to either people or other organizations. Typically, these are organizations that are working to make the world a better place. Education, healthcare, poverty – these are some areas that nonprofit organizations – organizations that try not to make money but to help people. These are organizations that would get money from philanthropists like Warren Buffet. In fact, Buffet said he’s not going to leave very much money to his children. He’s going to give most of it, more than 80 percent of it to another organization that was started by a rich businessman. That would be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates, of course, was the person who started Microsoft – or one of those who started Microsoft. Gates’ organization – his foundation has tried to give money to help education and healthcare, though sometimes the foundation’s activities have been criticized in other countries.

Some people find Buffet’s philanthropy “inspirational,” that is, something that makes you want to do something good, something that motivates you to do something. I can’t really say that I find his philanthropy inspirational, but some people do. He has not yet donated any money to ESL Pocast for example, so we’ll wait and see!

That brings me to our next topic for this episode, which is an inspirational book series, a number of different books, that are called Chicken Soup for the Soul. A book series is a set of related or similar books. This book series is called Chicken Soup for the Soul. “Chicken soup” is a hot soup made typically by boiling chicken and then using the liquid that is left over as the base or foundation of a soup. You add little pieces of chicken, carrots, perhaps some celery, potatoes – that sort of thing. Americans often eat chicken soup when they aren’t feeling well, when they have a cold. Many of us remember our parents feeding us chicken soup. Chicken soup was supposed to make you feel better – make you feel more healthy. So the expression “chicken soup” has in the American mind the association with something that will make you feel better, something that will help you become more healthy physically, and in the case of this books series perhaps emotionally and psychologically as well. That’s why the books series is called Chicken Soup for the Soul, not for your body, but for your soul.

Your “soul” is the immaterial, the non-material or spiritual part of your person. Many people, for example, in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions believe that your soul is immortal, that you will continue to have your soul even after your physical body dies. The concept of a soul, however, is not just religious. Aristotle, for example, and Plato believed that the body had a soul. The soul was what made you you – it was what was unique to you; it’s what gave you life, in some ways. Anyway, Chicken Soup for the Soul is supposed to be “nourishing” for your soul; that is, it’s supposed to feed it to make it better, stronger, healthier

The first book in the series was released back in 1993, and it was a compilation of 101 short stories. A “compilation” is a collection of something, usually refers to songs, stories, perhaps podcasts; things that are published or released separately and then are brought together in one collection. You might have a compilation CD of all of the greatest, most popular songs of the 1990s. Well, Chicken Soup for the Soul is a compilation of short, maybe two or three page stories that have some positive message to them.

The book was compiled or collected by two different authors, both of whom are motivational speakers. A “motivational speaker” is someone that goes and talks in front of a large group of people and tries to, as the word says, motivate them – get them to be excited or interested about something. Many businesses, especially large businesses bring in motivational speakers to talk to the company employees to get them motivated, inspired, to work harder, that sort of thing. The two men who started the Chicken Soup series were Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, although I think Canfield is more famous than Hansen.

The stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are supposed to be inspirational, as we mentioned. Many of them are related to loving other people, loving yourself, learning new things, following your dreams – doing what you dream about doing, parenting, and that sort of thing. The book became very popular, and soon after there were many other Chicken Soup books. Today there are more than 200 books in the Chicken Soup series, so it’s a huge, very popular set of books here In the U.S. At first, the books were simply continuations of the same theme of the first book. However, now they have Chicken Soup books for all different sort of specific interests or specific kinds of people. For example, there is a Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul, that would be me, I guess. There is Chicken Soup for the College Soul, Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul, women who have survived breast cancer.

The Chicken Soup website says that more books are being developed, meaning people are working on even more of these inspirational stories. You might be asking, “Well, where do they find these stories?” Well, if you go to their website they actually ask people to send in short stories on different topics like the ones they have in the Chicken Soup series, and these may be included in a future Chicken Soup book. So if you have an inspirational story, you can write it in English and submit it through the website. Perhaps someday your story will be in the Chicken Soup for the English Language Learner’s Soul. I’ll have to work on that!

Now let’s answer some of the questions that you have sent to us.

Our first question comes from Hisham (Hisham) in Syria. The question has to do with the difference between “few” and “little.”

“Few” (few) is a small number of something, not many. It’s small, but more than one, so we’re not talking about a half of something. For example: “I just have a few more math problems to do, and then I will be done with my homework.” It could be 2, it could be 4, it could be 10. The idea is that it is not very many. Or, “We just have a few days left on our vacation today.”

“Little” is a small amount of something or a small size. “Could you give me a little more Coke in my glass?” Or, “My little apartment is perfect for me.” “Little” can also mean unimportant, or things that are concerned with unimportant items. “I don’t have time for your little problems, I have more important things to do.” I don’t have time for your unimportant problems.

To understand how to use “few” and how to use “little,” you need to know a little bit about the difference in English between two kinds of nouns: count nouns and non-count nouns. A count noun is something that can be counted. So, pens, computers, telephones, ideas, animals, friends, dogs – all of these are count nouns. There are four dogs, there are three cats, there are two chimpanzees, and one partridge – of course – you know, the little bird.

A non-count noun is something that we cannot count, that typically doesn’t have an “s” at the end to indicate more than one. For example, “water.” “Water” is a non-count noun. Now, you can talk about glasses of water; you have one, two, three glasses of water. But the water itself is a non-count noun. A lot of liquids – milk, gasoline, water – these are all non-count nouns. Although I won’t say that all liquids are non-count nouns, because sometimes a word like “beer” will be used to indicate a bottle of beer. The same is true with “water.” Some people say, “I want to bring a couple of waters on my trip.” What they really mean is they want to bring a couple of bottles of water; the same is true with beer. “I’m going to have three beers tonight” means I’m going to have three bottles of beer tonight. “Beer,” like “water” itself, is really a non-count noun.

Some abstract ideas are also considered non-count nouns: weather, happiness, money. These are also non-count; we don’t talk about “three weathers” or “two happinesses.”

The word “few” is used with count nouns. “Can I borrow a few of your books today?” Or, “He ate few apples yesterday.” Little” is used – or can be used with non-count nouns. “I don’t have much to drink in my house, but I think I have a little wine.” You can’t say “a few wine” or “a few wines.” You could say “a few wine bottles,” because “bottles” is a count noun but “wine” isn’t, so you would have to say, in this case, “little.” Or, “We’re going to get a little rain today.” “Rain,” a liquid, is a non-count noun. “I learned a little Japanese when I was in Tokyo last year.” Japanese, like other languages, is a non-count noun when used to describe the language. Although again, sometimes people talk about varieties of a language. In English, people may say there are different kinds of English – different Englishes. But generally speaking, languages are non-count nouns, and take a word like “little.”

How do you learn the difference, and which nouns are count nouns or non-count nouns? I don’t recommend making a list or trying to memorize them or study them separately. The best way to learn the difference is the best way to improve your English in all aspects, which is to read a lot and listen to a lot of English that’s interesting and understandable.

Now we move on to Claytom (Claytom) from Brazil. The question has to do with the expression “only so many.” So once again, we’re talking about numbers.

“So many” means a lot of, very many. “There are so many stories I could tell you.” “Only so many” means that there is a limited amount. There are more than one, but there are a limited number. “I only have so many stories to tell you about my trip to Africa.” After those 5 or 10 stories I don’t have anything else to tell you. That’s the meaning of “only so many.” It’s almost like the opposite of “so many.” If you just say “so many” you mean a lot. If you mean “only so many,” you mean there’s a limited number. It sounds strange, but that, in fact, is how we use it.

A related expression is “only so much.” “There’s only so much time I have to spend with you.” There are only so many hours I have to spend with you. “Many,” notice, is used with a count noun. “Much” was used in my example with a non-count noun. “I don’t have very much water.” “There’s only so much water I can drink everyday.” “Water” is a non-count noun.

Finally Mike (Mike), also in Syria, wants to know the meaning of the expression “to be due” (due). “To be due” means to expect or to be planned for a certain time. We often use this when we’re talking about the birth of a baby. If someone is pregnant – a woman, for example, you might ask, “When is the baby due?” When is the baby due to be born? When is the baby expected to be born? In fact, sometimes we call a pregnant woman an “expectant mother,” or, “she’s expecting,” we mean she’s expecting to have a baby; she’s pregnant.

Sometimes we use “to be due” to refer to assignments or tasks at work or school. “I have homework due on Friday.” When is it due? It’s due on Friday, or it’s due by Friday.

Going back to that first meaning of being pregnant and expecting the birth of your child, doctors usually give mothers who are expecting a date, which they call their “due date.” This is the date that the child is due to be born – is expected to be born. If the child is born before that date, we say the child was born “prematurely.” If the child is born after that date, we might say the child is “overdue.” In fact, “overdue” (one word) is used for anything that you’re expecting by a certain date but doesn’t arrive.

If you’re expecting, or know someone who is, 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.

share – stock; a small piece of ownership of a company

* Each of their sons and daughters has an equal number of shares in the family’s business.

partnership – a business structure where people share their money to buy something and try to build a successful business

* We are considering forming a partnership with our competitor to create the largest trucking company in the state.

sage – a very wise or intelligent and experienced person, usually an older person

* My grandmother is the sage in the family and people go to her all the time for advice.

to endorse – for a person to publicly announce that one hopes a certain person will win the election; to formally and publicly support a candidate in an election

* If the most influential Christian leaders in this country support her, she is sure to win the election.

philanthropy – the act of giving money to help people or organizations; donating to nonprofit organizations, usually large amounts of money

* Manuel and Rita taught their children that philanthropy is an important part of helping the community.

inspirational – able to make others believe that something is possible and motivate them to want to do that thing or something else that is difficult

* This news story about a man who lost both his legs and is a world-class athlete is really inspirational.

chicken soup – hot soup made by boiling chicken and then using the liquid that is left over as the foundation of a soup, adding small pieces of chicken, carrots, celery, and more, often served to people feeling ill to make them feel better

* When I was a child, my mother made me chicken soup every time I had a cold or the flu.

soul – the spiritual part of a person, including one’s emotions, feelings, and passions, and one’s feelings about what is right and wrong

* She wanted to believe him, but she knew in her soul that he was lying.

to nourish – to provide food needed for growth and good health

* On a cold day, we want some hot food to nourish our bodies.

compilation – a collection of related things that one has selected to put together

* My favorite band’s compilation CD has all of their hit songs.

motivational speaker – a person whose job is to give presentations to large groups of people to inspire them and make them feel motivated or interested in something and prepared to do it

* My company brought in a motivational speaker to speak to the sales team to inspire them to sell more.

few – a small number of; not many

* Do you have a few minutes for me to tell you about my new idea?

little – a small amount or size; unimportant; concerned with unimportant things

* My little dog is small enough to fit in this travel bag and for me to carry him around.

only so many – a limited number of; no more than a certain amount of

* I only have so many plates. If you keep breaking them, I won’t have any to use for meals.

to be due – to expect at a certain time; to be planned for a specific time

* All entries for the contest are due by this Friday at 5:00 p.m.

What Insiders Know
The Four Marx Brothers and Duck Soup

The Marx Brothers were an American “comedy” (entertainment to make us laugh) team originally from New York City. Between 1900 and 1950, they made 13 films. Five of films have been selected as among the best films ever made by the American Film Institute, an organization “dedicated to” (with the purpose of) educating people about films and celebrating good filmmaking.

Originally, the Marx Brothers “consisted of” (had) four members: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo. After five films, Zeppo left “the act” (performing group) and started a second career as an “engineer” (a professional whose job is to design and create machines and other useful things) and a “theatrical agent,” representing other entertainment acts. Because of his engineering work, Zeppo, whose real name was Herbert Manfred Marx, became a “multi-millionaire” (having several million dollars).

The last film that Zeppo appeared in was Duck Soup, released in 1933. Like their other films, Duck Soup was a comedy. But unlike their “previous” (former; those that came before it) films, it was considered a “flop” because it did not earn very much money at the theaters. However, “critics” (people whose job is to review and give opinions about films, books, art, etc.) today consider the film a “classic” (something of high quality and among the best from the past).

The film Duck Soup is about a “fictional” (not true; not real) country called Freedonia and the “struggle” (using force to try to get what one wants) for power. The country is “bankrupt” (without money) and a wealthy woman named Mrs. Teasdale will only give the country money if the character played by Groucho Marx is “appointed” (officially given the job of) its leader.