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333 Topics: Movie - Star Wars; the Security and Exchange Commission; shame versus pity; reading numbers aloud; to be left cold

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 333.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 333. 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.

On this Café, we’re going to continue our series on famous American movies, talking about one of the most famous movies of the 20th century, Star Wars. We’re also going to talk about an important government organization here in the U.S., the Security and Exchange Commission. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

We begin our Café with a continuation of our on-going series on famous American movies. Today we’re going to talk about Star Wars, which is, as you probably know, actually a series of six films – six movies – created by George Lucas. The first Star Wars movie came out or was in the movie theaters in 1977. I remember very well, I was a freshman in high school that year. It was the first movie of what became a trilogy. A “trilogy” (trilogy) is a collection of three things, three movies, three books, three poems, could be three of anything; (tri) “tri” is a prefix in English that means or can mean three. Well, this is a trilogy of three movies. The other two movies in the trilogy were released or were put into the movie theaters three years later, so the first movie was in 1977; the second movie, The Empire Strikes Back, was in 1980; and the third movie, Return of the Jedi, was released in 1983.

Several years later, they decided to release another trilogy of movies about the Star Wars story. This second trilogy was actually a prequel. The word “prequel” (prequel) is a word that was invented to talk about movies that tell the story before the original movie. So, the first three Star Wars movies were set or took place at a certain time, but the prequel movies took place before that time. There’s a word in English called “sequel” (sequel). A “sequel” is a movie that comes after the original movie in time, so that you have Star Wars and then you had the sequel The Empire Strikes Back, and then another sequel, Return of the Jedi. Those were the first three movies. Well, these next three movies were prequels; they came before the original story. The original or first prequel movie was The Phantom Menace in 1999, then there was Attack of the Clones in 2002, and finally Revenge of the Sith in 2005. I’ve seen the first of those movies; I didn’t see the other two. I have seen all three of the original trilogy, however.

All of the Star Wars movies, as you probably know, take place sometime in the future in outer space. “Outer space” is everything beyond Earth – beyond our planet. In the movie they talk about the story taking place in a “galaxy,” which is a collection of stars and planets, far, far away – very far away. In the Star Wars movies there are a lot of what we might call “extraterrestrials.” An “extraterrestrial” would be anyone from a planet other than Earth – from another planet. Of course, there was another famous movie during the 1970s called E.T., which stands for extraterrestrial, but that was a little different story. The Star Wars movies also have a lot of droids (droids). A “droid” is short for “android,” these are like advanced robots. They’re advanced machines that can talk and do things like humans, kind of like what you have on your telephone now, the Android operating system.

Throughout the films – the Star Wars films, there is this magical energy which is called “the Force,” and part the movie is about how different characters – different people in the movie – are able to harness this Force. “To harness” (harness) means to control, to be able to use. Normally we use this verb, “to harness,” for a horse; when you want to ride a horse you need to be able to control it. Well in the Star Wars movies, people try to harness this Force. The Force, as you learn in the movie, can used for either good or evil. The movie tries to explore or talk about the relationship between different characters called “Jedis,” the Jedis use the Force for good, and the other side – the bad or evil side would be the Sith; they use the Force for evil.

People who have the ability to use the Force in the movies have to be trained, and throughout the six movies you can see how one young man by the name of Anakin Skywalker is trained to use the Force. But he eventually falls to the dark or evil side and changes his name to Darth Vader. That’s a terrible, terrible impression of Darth Vader; an “impression” is when you try to sound like someone else. I’m sorry, I can’t really sound like Darth Vader; that’s because I’m more like Darth Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker. He grows up, is also trained to use the Force, but he becomes a Jedi. He becomes a good person, a person who uses the Force for good. And of course, he’s trained in the movie – in the original trilogy by the Master Jedi, Yoda. If you watch the movies in English you’ll notice how Yoda speaks a little strangely. He tends to reverse the order of his sentences. Instead of saying, “I am hungry,” he’ll say something like, “Hungry, I am.”

Well, the six Star Wars films have been nominated for 25 Academy Awards. Academy Awards are the highest awards that are given movies in the United States; they’re sometimes called “the Oscars.” Star Wars won 10 Oscars, but their real success has been at the box office. The “box (box) office” is technically a small, little room – what we would call a “booth” (booth) – where you buy your tickets when you want to go watch a movie. But the term “box office” is used generally to talk about how much money a movie has made or is making. In the case of the Star Wars trilogies – the two trilogies – they have made almost 4.5 billion dollars in box office revenues, or income; that was by the year 2008. There are only two other series of films that have made more money: the Harry Potter movies and the James Bond movies.

People have created many products related to the Star Wars movies. There are books, video games, comic books, there is even a place here in Southern California at Disneyland where you can ride a Star Wars ride. I don’t know what it is; I haven’t been there. I actually was at Disneyland before Star Wars was released, before it was even made, so I’m not sure what the new Star Wars ride is. When I say a “ride,” I mean it’s something that usually has a car or something that moves around and that usually goes at a fast speed. There are different kinds of rides.

In any case, Star Wars is an important part of modern American culture. I can’t think of the movie Star Wars without thinking of a comedian who sort of made fun of Star Wars back in the 1970s, when it was first released. When it first became popular, when I was in high school, there was a comedian – he’s still alive – by the name of Bill Murray. He was in a couple of well-known movies, more recently Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day. Anyway, Murray got started in his comedy career on a show called Saturday Night Live, and one of the things that he did back in the 70s was play this character who was a singer, and during one of the shows he started singing a song from Star Wars. Now, of course, if you’ve seen the movies you know that there aren’t any songs that you can sing, for the most part, from Star Wars. There is, however, the very famous music of the Star Wars theme that was written by an American composer, a writer of music named John Williams. But, Bill Murray makes up – he invents a song to the music [Jeff sings]:

Star Wars,
Nothing but Star Wars.
Give me those Star Wars,
Don’t let them end!

It’s supposed to be funny. Of course, the words really don’t mean anything; they’re just meant to be a joke. But, Star Wars was no joke, especially if you are George Lucas and have earned 4.5 billion dollars!

Speaking of making money, let’s turn to our next topic, which is about a government agency that is connected to people making money; it’s called the Securities and Exchange Commission, sometimes known as the SEC, the initials – the letters for Securities Exchange Commission. Let’s look at the name for a moment. A “security” (security) is another word for stock or a share in a company. A stock or a security is like partial ownership of a company; you own a little bit of the company. People buy and sell stocks or securities as an investment; they hope the price will go up and then they will be able to sell it later at a higher price and make money. “Exchange” (exchange) relates to buying and selling things, not just stocks, but anything. A “commission” is, in this example, a group of people who have a particular job to do; it’s sort of like an official committee, often appointed by the government. So the Securities and Exchange Commission is a federal – a national government organization in the U.S. Their job is to regulate or make rules about how stocks can be bought and sold.

The SEC was created in response to or as an answer to or because of the Great Depression, when the economy of the United States and many parts of the world declined dramatically in the late 20s, mostly in the 1930s. The SEC was created to regulate the stock market; they also regulate the groups of people – the organizations that are involved in buying and selling stock. These are sometimes called “exchanges.” The exchange is actually the place or the organization – the company that organizes the buying and selling of stock. There is a famous stock exchange in New York, the New York Stock Exchange. There are stock exchanges in most big cities throughout the world: London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and so forth. The Securities and Exchange Commission regulates also the people who buy and sell these stocks; they are called “brokers.” A “broker” (broker) is a person whose job it is to buy and sell stocks.

The SEC was created by the Securities Act (or law) of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act (or law) of 1934, but many other laws have been passed since that time; many other laws have been approved that have affected the scope of the SEC’s responsibilities. “Scope” (scope) here refers to what a certain person or group is involved in, what they deal with. So the scope of the SEC became broader; they began to regulate more things.

The SEC has five “commissioners” – five people on it. They are appointed by the President of the United States, but they have to be approved by the Senate. The Senate consists of 100 people, two from each state in the United States; they are elected to represent the people of each state. The president suggests some names, and then the Senate says yes, we agree, or no, we disagree. The SEC commissioners serve or are on the commission for five years.

In recent years, the SEC has been very active in investigating companies – brokers. Some people have found out that these brokers have been buying and selling stocks illegally, doing things against the rules. Companies that buy and sell stocks have to give the government what are called “disclosure documents.” “To disclose” (disclose) means to share or give information to someone that you would normally keep secret. These disclosure documents are very important in making sure that people aren’t buying and selling stocks based on what would be called “insider information.” I know something about this company and what’s going to happen before anyone else does, and so then I go and I buy stocks in that company because I know the price is going to go up. Well that sort of insider trading – “to trade” means to buy and sell stocks – is illegal in most cases, and the SEC is responsible in part for regulating – for making sure people follow those rules when they buy and sell stock.

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

Our first question comes from Robert (Robert) in the Czech Republic. Robert wants to know the difference between the words “shame” and “pity.”

“Shame” (shame) usually is a feeling of guilt; when you’ve done something wrong you may feel badly about it. It could also be embarrassment because you did something wrong. We say, “I have a feeling of shame.” There’s a verb, “ashamed,” which means the same thing. “I am ashamed,” meaning I feel shame; I feel embarrassment because I did something wrong. “Pity” (pity) usually is a sadness you feel because of someone else’s suffering, someone else’s pain. So, “shame” and “pity” are both emotions, something you feel, but they’re very different. “Shame” is like guilt, or embarrassment because of your guilt, and “pity” is feeling for others.

Now, the word “pity” can have a negative meaning, because some people think pity is – the word we would use is “condescending,” it’s a feeling of looking down on someone else, that you are in a higher position than they are. That’s one meaning of “pity,” it’s not the only one. Some people say they don’t want to be pitied, they don’t want other people to feel sorry for them.

So, these are two different meanings. However, there is an expression in which the two words can mean very much the same thing. When we say something “is a shame” or “is a pity,” often we mean the same thing. We’re saying that it is unfortunate, that it is too bad. Someone may say, “Oh, it’s a shame you can’t come to my party.” That doesn’t mean that you are guilty or that I’m guilty or that anyone is embarrassed; it means it’s unfortunate, it is too bad, it is sad. We could also say, “It’s a pity you cannot come to my party.” So in that expression only, “pity” and “shame” both mean unfortunate, something that we wish would not happen. There are other variations of this; you could say, “that’s a shame,” or “what a shame,” “what a pity,” “how unfortunate,” all of those things mean the same thing.

Shuji (Shuji) from Japan wants to know how we read numbers out loud in English. This is a good question; I think we might have talked about it on a previous episode somewhere, but it’s always good to review things like this. You almost certainly know how to say the individual numbers: one, two, three, four, five, six, and so forth. However, how do you say the numbers if is a telephone number or the address of a house – the number of a house? Sometimes there’s differences in the way that we not pronounce individual members but whether we will put numbers together.

So let’s talk, for example, about the address. Someone lives at six-zero-zero-one Cotton Street; you might say they live at 6001 [six thousand one] Cotton Street, or you might say they live at six-zero-zero-one Cotton Street. Or, we sometimes use the word “oh” (oh) to mean zero, so you might say they live at six-oh-oh-one Cotton Street.

You usually can always pronounce numbers individually, one by one, and if you’re not sure if you can combine the numbers into a larger number, like I did with 6001 Cotton Street, it’s usually safest – you will be able to communicate most clearly – if you say the individual numbers. Telephone numbers, for example, can always be read by the individual number: six-four-five-four-eight-one-eight. You could say 6-4-5-48-18; you would probably never say 6-4-5-4818; you would never say that. Telephone numbers are read as individual numbers, or sometimes the last four numbers are broken up into two numbers each. So if the number is 6-4-5-4-8-1-8, you could combine the 4 and 8 to 48 and the 1 and 8 to 18; you could say 6-4-5-48-18.

Going back to the example of house numbers, or addresses of buildings and houses, if you combine numbers together usually we combine just two numbers together. It is possible to say 6001 Cotton Street, but you could also say 60-0-1 or 60-oh-1. If you’re not sure it’s always, as I said previously, safest just to say the individual numbers one by one.

Moving now to South America, we have a question from Julio (Julio) in Paraguay. Julio wants to know the meaning of an expression, “to be left cold” or “to leave (someone) cold.” Well, “cold,” as you probably know, can mean the opposite of hot, not warm. “Cold” can also be used to express someone with very unfriendly or perhaps slightly angry emotions. If you say, “She was very cold to me when I asked her for her telephone number,” that means she wasn’t friendly. She may not have been angry, but she wasn’t being nice to me; she wasn’t being friendly to me. That would be cold.

Now, when you hear the expression “I was left cold,” you mean that you didn’t feel any strong emotions. Perhaps it was a situation where you should be happy or should be excited, but instead you didn’t feel anything. “I watched the movie. It was supposed to be very happy, but I was left cold.” I didn’t feel very happy; I wasn’t very emotional about it.

We sometimes use this expression, “I was left cold” or “the book left her cold,” when we’re talking about books and movies that are supposed to have some sort of emotional impact on us – some sort of emotional effect and they don’t. When we use “cold” in that way the opposite would be whatever emotion you feel: I was happy. I was sad. I was excited. The opposite would not be warm; you would never say, “that book left me warm,” you would instead say the emotion that you felt.

If you have a question or comment you can email us at eslpod@eslpod.com. It’s a shame we can’t answer everyone’s question here on the Café, but we’ll do our best.

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 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

trilogy – a collection of three books, movies, or other stories with the same characters and with a continuing story

* Dan’s favorite movies of all time are the Godfather trilogy.

prequel – a book or movie that provides background information about what happened earlier than the events in the original story

* Do you think that the author J.K. Rowling will ever write a prequel to the Harry Potter series?

outer space – the area outside of the Earth; everything beyond the planet Earth

* Many scientists believe that there is life in outer space.

extraterrestrial – a creature from another planet; a living being from outer space

* In this book, the main character meets an extraterrestrial and goes with it to visit other planets.

droid – robot in science fiction; an advanced robot that performs tasks similar to humans

* We wish we could build a droid to clean the house and to do the yard work.

to harness – to bring a force under control and to use it for one’s own purpose; to gather resources and to use them for one purpose

* We wish we could harness the talent of the brightest college graduates to help solve the problem of world hunger.

box office – the amount of money a movie has made and how many people have seen a movie in a movie theater

* It surprised everyone that this movie starring some of the biggest movie stars today had such a poor box office.

security – stock; a share of a company; partial ownership of a company

* When Jeb died, he left securities worth several million dollars to his grandchildren.

commission – a group of people who have a particular job to do, often officially for the government; an official committee

* The mayor formed a commission to investigate corruption in the prison system.

broker – a person whose job is to buy and sell stocks, usually working with someone else’s money

* My broker suggested that I sell all of my stock in McQ Corp. because the company appears unstable.

scope – the broadness of the area or subject matter that something deals with or is relevant to

* Leona is a very powerful person and the scope of her influence reaches all the way to Washington, D.C.

disclosure – sharing some information that one would normally like to keep secret

* Before this company can offer its stock for sale to the public, it has to make disclosures about its financial status.

shame – a feeling of guilt or embarrassment because one has done something wrong or something that makes one look bad to others

* Diana wanted to die from shame when the store’s security guard stopped her and accused her of stealing.

pity – sadness felt because of someone else’s suffering; a feeling of sadness when seeing others in pain

* Monroe felt a strong sense of pity when he saw a homeless mother trying to find food for her children.

to be left cold – to feel unemotional, usually in a situation where strong emotions would be expected

* The role of Lady Macbeth should be played with passion and emotion, but her performance left the audience cold.

What Insiders Know
Star Tours

If you are a Star Wars fan and “can’t get enough” (want more) of the movies, you might want to visit Disneyland. In 1987, George Lucas established a “partnership” (with two people or groups working together for the benefit of both) with the Walt Disney Company. Together, they created an “attraction” (something visitors want to see) called Star Tours.

Star Tours is an “amusement ride” (a type of entertainment where someone stands or sits in a machine that moves in unexpected and exciting ways) that takes visitors on a “journey” (trip) into space. You become a space tourist and you “encounter” (meet) some familiar characters from the Star Wars movies. But as a space tourist, you also meet some unexpected “twists and turns” (changes in direction and plans on a journey) and meet danger and adventure designed to “thrill” you (give you a feeling of excitement).

If traveling in space isn’t enough, you can attend the Jedi Training “Academy” (private school, usually for children and teenagers). This “live” (with real actors and action) show allows children to learn how to be a Jedi Knight, the respected fighters in the Star Wars movies.

Finally, beginning in 1997, Walt Disney World started “holding” (having) Star Wars Weekends. Each May and June, for four “consecutive” (directly following each other) weekends, special events take place around Star Wars, including the appearance of actors and characters from the Star Wars movies. Even many of the familiar Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, “dress up as” (wear the costume of) Star Wars characters.