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323 Topics: American Presidents: John Adams; the Boy/Girl Scouts; What time is it? versus What is the time?; to rock; for all intents and purposes

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 323.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 323. 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. There, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode that will give you 8- to 10-pages of excellent information to help you improve your English even faster. You can also like us on Facebook; go to facebook.com/eslpod.

On this Café, we’re going to continue our series on American presidents, focusing on the second President of the United States, John Adams. We’re also going to talk about two popular organizations for children in the U.S., and in other countries, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. 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 American presidents. Today we are going to talk about the second President of the United States, John Adams. Our first president, of course, is George Washington. I’m going to refer to John Adams just as Adams, by his last name, but please don’t confuse him with his son and the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams. We’ll do him in another Café.

Adams was born in 1735 in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. Massachusetts is in the northeastern part of the United States, and is one of the oldest areas in terms of places where the English arrived first back in the, hmm, 17th century I guess. Adams grew up in a Puritan family. The “Puritans” (Puritans) were a religious group that fled, or left, England seeking religious freedom in the United States. The Puritans were very important in the early part of American history, and some people say that their ideas are still important in American culture. We’ll have to talk about them on another Café. But for now, we need to know only that Adams was a member of a Puritan family. His family expected him to grow up and become a minister, or a leader in the church, but he chose to study law instead.

Adams became active in the Revolutionary War when the British “colonies,” the areas in North America that would someday become states, fought for their freedom and independence from England. Adams was opposed to something called the Stamp Act of 1765. This was an early event in the pre-revolutionary times that caused a lot of problems in the colonies, one of the things that help lead to the American Revolution. With the Stamp Act of 1765, Britain made a decision to tax the American colonies – to have them pay money to England – but the colonies didn’t have any say in the decision. The phrase “to have a say” means to be able to express an opinion, to have some influence over how something will be done. Teenagers often complain they don’t have a say in deciding, for example, how late they can stay up at night, because their parents, rightly, make the decision for them. Adams wrote that it was wrong for the American colonies to support the Stamp Act because they didn’t have any say in the act itself and the fact that they were being taxed. Many American colonists did not want to be taxed if they weren’t represented – if they didn’t have people representing them – in the British government. There was a famous phrase from this period: “No taxation without representation.” Well, that’s what the Stamp Act of 1765 was; it was taxation without any representation by the American colonists in the British government.

Adams began his involvement in the movement for independence from Great Britain at this time, in the 1760s. Later, he became a Massachusetts representative to something called the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress was a group of colonists that began meeting in order to try to get independence from Great Britain. Adams was very influential; he had a lot of power at the Continental Congress. People listened to him; they respected his opinion. It was Adams who decided to nominate or suggest George Washington as the leader of the revolutionary army, what we would call the commander-in-chief. Of course, Washington would later become the first President of the United States.

The Continental Congress also appointed, or named, a committee with Adams as a member to draft, or write, the Declaration of Independence. This was a document in which the colonies officially stated that they were independent of Great Britain; they no longer belonged to England. This was signed on July fourth, 1776, and that’s why July fourth is our Independence Day.

Adams also described how government should be structured. He wrote a document called “Thoughts on Government,” and it became very important in the writing of the official laws – the highest laws in each state, what we would call the “constitution.” Of course, the national government also has a constitution. Adams had some very specific ideas about how the government should be organized, such as having two legislative or law-making groups and that there should be separate powers that each part of the government should have. These same ideas eventually became important parts of the U.S. or national Constitution.

Adams spent a few years after America won its independence as Ambassador to the Netherlands in Europe, and also Ambassador to Great Britain itself. Then, in 1789, he was elected as the nation’s first vice president, serving with President George Washington. After George Washington had been president for two terms – that is, two four-year periods – Adams himself was elected president in 1796. Thomas Jefferson was Adam’s vice president.

As president, Adams worked very hard to keep the United States from becoming involved in a war between Britain and France. He also signed some rather controversial legislation; that is, he approved some laws that many people disagreed with. One of them was the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. These were four laws made it difficult for immigrants to become U.S. citizens. It also gave the president the power to deport foreigners if they were thought to be dangerous to the country. “To deport” (deport) someone means to send someone out of the country, back to the country where they came from. Adams believed these laws were necessary, because he and others thought that many French immigrants – people coming from France at this time – were trying to get the United States involved in this war between Britain and France. You remember Britain and France were always fighting during this period during the 17th and 18th centuries. Well, Adam’s didn’t want the United States to become part of that. However, his solution to simply deport these immigrants was not very popular, and the election of 1800 for president was largely about the Alien and Sedition Acts. Adams lost that election to someone who was against the Alien and Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson.

I should say that “alien” (alien) is a word we use to describe someone from another place; it could be another country. We also use this word in describing a person or some sort of creature from another planet, if there is such a thing. I mean, there’s such a thing as another planet; we’re not sure if there’s anyone out there. However, if there were, we would call them “aliens.” And, in fact, there was, of course, a movie called Alien that was very popular many years ago. But, none of this has anything to do with John Adams. “Sedition” (sedition) is similar to the idea of “treason” (treason). “Sedition” is when you specifically encourage other people to try to revolt against the government. This idea of sedition has been popular in many political cultures, including the U.S. Even today we have controversies – arguments – over laws that are supposed to protect our national security, but some people think that they go too far, that they’re too extreme, that they limit the legitimate and proper freedoms of someone in this society. We have this debate; it continues today.

Well Adams, after losing the presidency, returned to his farm in Massachusetts and spent a lot of time corresponding with other people. “To correspond” (correspond) means to write letters. Now, I guess, it would be write emails. We still have a lot of Adams’ correspondence, the letters that he wrote, and these letters have been analyzed by historians for many years. This is especially true with Adams’ correspondence with his opposite in the political world, Thomas Jefferson. In addition, Adams and his wife, Abigail, exchanged more than 1,000 letters that provide some very interesting insight, or information, understanding what was happening in U.S. politics and why Adams made certain decisions. I remember when I was in eighth grade I read a biography – a story of the life of John Adams – that used many of these letters to Abigail, and it is still a popular area of research for historians in the U.S.

In 1825, Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, was elected as the sixth President of the United States. Adams died 16 months later in 1826 at the age of 90. In fact, Adams died on July fourth, 1826, the same day that Thomas Jefferson died.

One of the large TV channels in the United States, HBO, created a miniseries on John Adams in 2008. A “miniseries” is a television show that only has a small number of episodes; it is not a complete year of shows. Often there are 5 or 10, or maybe 12 episodes. This miniseries, called John Adams, explored the life and influence of Adams in U.S. politics. It has won many awards. I haven’t seen it myself, but I heard it is quite good. If you have the opportunity, you might want to watch it yourself.

Now let’s turn to our second topic, which is scouting. “Scouting” (scouting) is a word we use to refer to two different organizations or groups: the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America. “Scouts,” as they’re called, can be found in many countries; they are young people who are participating in these organizations. The organizations are designed to help young people develop and mature while teaching them some practical skills and ethics.

The Boy Scouts of America was started, or founded, in 1910, and today it has more than 4.5 million young members. The Girl Scouts was founded just two years later, in 1912; it currently has 2.3 million members. Each organization has divisions, or separate sections, that are based on how old the child is; the child can be anywhere from 5 to 18 years old. There are some programs for members in college, but they aren’t very popular.

The motto of both organizations is “Be prepared.” A “motto” (motto) is a short phrase that expresses the main beliefs or purpose of an organization. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts teach members to be prepared for any situation, whether that means being physically prepared to survive out in what we would call “the wilderness,” out in nature, or to be mentally and emotionally prepared for difficult problems.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts usually wear uniforms when they get together and meet. A “uniform” (uniform) is a standard set of identical clothing. You have the same kind of pants, the same kind of shirt, and so forth. The uniforms identify these young children as being scouts and as members of their own particular little group, what we call their “troop” (troop). Most troops meet once a week at school, perhaps in a church building, often in one of the parents’ homes. They do a lot of good work related to community service; that is, helping other people in their local neighborhood – their local area – who need help. For example, scouts might complete community service projects by volunteering to help the elderly, old people like me. They might help them maintain their yards; they might shovel their snow, if there’s snow and it’s winter. They might volunteer to paint a local school or a local community building. All of these would be typical volunteer activities that scouts are involved in.

As the Boy and Girl Scouts – and by the way, these are separate organizations; they don’t meet together. As the scouts complete different activities, they can earn what are called “badges.” A “badge” (badge) is a small piece of metal or cloth – in the case of the scouts it is a piece of fabric or cloth – that has certain words and images on it related to the activity that the scout has completed. So what happens is the scouts have different badges they can earn – they can get – if they complete certain activities, and once they complete the activities they’re given this little badge which is put on their clothing – their uniform – so other people can see their badges, just like a general might have his medals and badges – or her medals and badges. Scouts earn badges and they work toward awards. The highest award is the Eagle Scout award for boys and the Girl Scout Gold Award for Girl Scouts. This requires working in the scouting groups for many, many years.

The Scouts have had a very large impact on American society. Many famous politicians have been Boy Scouts, 11 of the 12 people who walked on the moon from the U.S. were former scouts, even podcasters have been scouts. I was a Boy Scout when I was very young for maybe three or four years, probably between the ages of five and eight. I was what was called a “Cub Scout,” remember I said they have different levels in the scouting organization. Well, one of the lower levels was called a “Cub Scout,” the lowest level. Anyway, I did it for a couple of years; it was fun, but for some reason I stopped going and never continued. I never got the Eagle Scout award.

Today, some people think that scouting is “old-fashioned,” they think the organization belongs to an earlier time, that it doesn’t really have a place in modern society with Facebook and Twitter and all of the rest. The organizations have also faced some scandals; that is, some of controversies regarding possible sexual abuse in the organizations, unfortunately. There’s also been controversy about the organization’s policy toward homosexuality – towards gay leaders. But despite these controversies, the organizations are still popular in many communities; they still have millions of active members.

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

Our first question comes from Sergey (Sergey) from Russia. The question has to do with the difference between two questions: “What time is it?” and “What is the time?” “Time,” in both of these questions, refers to the number that represents where we are in the 24-hour clock, so, “It’s 6:15 in the morning,” that would be the time. And if someone asks, “What time is it?” or “What is the time?” usually they’re asking for the hour and the minute that we are currently in. The question, however, is a good one. Why do we say, “What is the time?” versus “What time is it?” It seems like an easy question, but it is, in fact, quite difficult to explain all of the rules about when you use the definite article “the” in front of the word “time” and when you don’t.

Native speakers generally use “the” before the word “time” when “time” is the subject of a sentence: “The time is now.” Here, “time” refers to the moment, the opportunity, but it could also be in the same sense of the hour and minute. “The time is 6:15 a.m.” That is the time right now.

When sentences are converted into questions – those kind of sentences – we keep the “the.” So, “What is the time?” “When will the time come?” “I wonder what the time is?” However, if “it” is the first word or subject in the sentence, usually “the” is not included. “It is time to go.” Here, “time” means more it is the moment to go. When these sentences are converted into questions or clauses that begin with question words, we do not include the word “the.” So, “What time is it?” “When will it be time?” “I wonder what time it is?” This last sentence could also be expressed “I wonder what the time is?” but if I have the word “it” in there then we don’t use the article. I would say that when in doubt you can probably use “time” without the “the” in a sentence, but if you’re asking someone for the hour and the minute either question can be used: “What time is it?” or “What is the time?” “What time is it?” is more common, however, if you’re asking someone the hour and the minute.

Luciano (Luciano) from an unknown country – we’ll say he’s from Italy, maybe not. He wants to know the meaning of the verb “to rock” (rock). Well, this word has a lot of meanings, many of them informal or used in informal situations.

The more traditional definition of “to rock” means to go back and forth; we would say “to sway” back and forth, to move your body or move some object back and forth. We talk about “rocking the baby,” moving the baby back and forth to keep it happy, to keep quiet, to keep it in motion.

In the 20th century, the term “to rock,” because of its relationship perhaps to motion back and forth, was sometimes used to describe sexual intercourse, and that is one meaning that got introduced to the word in the 40s. Eventually, it became a word describing a kind of music, what we call “rock music,” and so the verb “to rock” can mean playing rock music or perhaps listening to live rock music at a concert.

Nowadays, the word has some other informal meanings. “To rock” can mean to be very good. This is a more contemporary, a more modern meaning in the last, I don’t know, maybe 15 -20 years. It wasn’t used in this way when I was in high school, but it’s very common now. To say something “rocks” means that it’s great; it’s fantastic. You could say to a person, “You rock!” You’re great!

“To rock on,” adding the preposition and making it now a two-word phrasal verb, means to celebrate, to express happiness. Sometimes it can be used just to express agreement with someone. Someone might say, “Oh, I feel really good about passing my English test,” and someone else may say, “Yeah, rock on!” It’s not as common.

“To rock out” is a phrasal verb meaning to enjoy listening and/or dancing to rock music. “We were going to a concert where we were going to rock it out.” “We really were rocking it out, man.” We were listening and dancing to the music.

The word in its more informal meanings is used popularly among musicians and among younger people. Other people know what it means but probably don’t use it as often. It’s not a word you would want to use in the informal sense at a business or formal meeting.

Finally, Reza (Reza) in Afghanistan wants to know the meaning of the expression “for all intents and purposes.”

“For all intents (intents – one word) and purposes” means under the most usual circumstances, in most practical situations. “My niece has been living with us since she was a baby and for all intents and purposes she is like my own child.” We might also say “practically,” “almost” my own child. We often use this expression to mean things are almost or nearly a certain condition or situation. For example, you interview for a job, but the boss can’t make a final decision before talking to his boss. But the person thinks you will get the job, and says, “You have the job for all intents and purposes.” Not officially, not yet, but basically you are going to get the job. That’s what “for all intents and purposes” means.

Before you go rock out to your favorite music you can email us your questions and comments at 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.

Puritan – a Christian religious group that left England in the 1500s and 1600s to look for religious freedom in North America

* The Puritans didn’t like the changes made to the church in England and wanted to follow their own beliefs about how to worship.

colonies – the areas in North America where many Europeans moved to that later fought for independence from England and then become states

* Can you name the original 13 American colonies?

to have any say – to be able to give an opinion and to have some power or influence over how something is done

* Will I have any say in what color the walls will be painted, or have you already selected the paint colors?

to deport – to send someone out of the country, back to his or her own country

* The foreign students who made threats against the president were tried in court and then deported.

to correspond – to communicate with someone in writing, usually using letters or email

* I’ve corresponded a few times with a girl I met online, and we’re planning to meet in person next week.

miniseries – a television show with a small number of related episodes, often lasting 5 to 10 hours and shown on television over several days or weeks

* One of the most memorable miniseries on TV was called Roots, shown in 1977.

scout – a young person who participates in a scouting organization, which helps young people grow while teaching them practical skills and morals (beliefs about what is right and wrong)

* A group of scouts helped gather food and money to help people who lost their homes in the big storm.

motto – a short phrase the expresses the beliefs or purpose of an organization

* Our store’s motto is “The customer is king.”

uniform – a standard set of clothing that everyone in an organization or in a particular job or position wears

* Can you find the security guard and bring him here? He’s wearing a gray uniform.

community service – actions done to help other people in the community; jobs or work done to help others, not to earn money

* Our high school requires students to do 20 hours of community service each year.

badge – a small piece of cloth with words and images related to the activity that the scout has completed, showing that a scout has earned some knowledge and/or developed certain skills

* Jena has all of the badges you can get for developing outdoor and survival skills.

old-fashioned – belonging to an earlier time in history; not modern

* This business suit is too old-fashioned to wear to an interview for a job at a clothing design company.

to rock – to sway back and forth; to make something sway back and forth; to play rock music or listen to live rock music; to be very good at doing something

* The people at the concert rocked from side to side as the band on stage rocked.

for all intents and purposes – under most circumstances; in most practical situations

* This paint color is called “salmon,” but for all intents and purposes, it’s orange.

What Insiders Know
Presidents Who Are Related to Other Presidents

In American politics, it is not uncommon to find “legacies,” or people who hold the same position as their father or mother, or some other older relative. As in any other “profession” (field of work), sons and daughters sometimes enter into the same “line of work” (field of work) as their parents or grandparents.

When we look at relationships between Presidents of the United States, we find three “sets” (combinations) of presidents who are directly related to each other. In this English Café, we talked about the first set: John Adams is the father of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States.

Another set of father-son presidents appear more recently in history. George H. W. Bush was the 41st president and his son, George W. Bush, was the 43rd president. The last set of presidents who were directly related are William Henry Harrison, who was the 9th president, and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president.

There are two more sets of presidents who “share” (have the same) last name. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd president) were “distant” (not close) cousins, but Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, was Theodore Roosevelt’s “niece” (daughter of Theodore’s brother or sister).

The other two presidents who share a last name are Andrew Johnson (17th president) and Lyndon B. Johnson (36th president). As far as “genealogists” (people who study people’s family relationships and connections) know, these two presidents are not related. That’s not surprising, since “Johnson” is a fairly common last name in the United States.