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337 Topics: Famous Authors - Stan and Jan Berenstain and the Berenstain Bears; getting married; to stand for versus to refer to (as); the past simple and the present perfect tenses; especially

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 337.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 337. 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 that contains all of the words from this episode, including their definitions, along with sample sentences. You’ll also find a complete transcript of everything we say on this episode, along with cultural notes and a comprehension quiz.

On this Café, we’re going to continue our series on famous authors – famous writers, focusing on Stan and Jan Berenstain, of The Berenstain Bears books. We’re also going to talk about how people get married in the United States: what are the steps, what is the process for getting married. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

On this Café, we’re going talk about two writers and illustrators, Stan and Jan Berenstain. An “illustrator” (illustrator) is a type of artist who creates images that go along with text – that go along with writing. These are usually drawings that you will see in a book, especially a children’s book. Many children’s books have lots of pictures in them – lots of illustrations, or drawings. Pictures could be a photograph or it could be someone drawing with a pen or a pencil or, nowadays, with a computer I guess. In any case, an illustrator is the artist who creates that drawing – that illustration.

The Berenstains met each other back in 1941; they were both students at a school of art. They were both young students studying to become artists. They were married in 1946, five years later, after the end of World War II, and they began to work together on a book for adults – not for children – called The Berenstains’ Baby Book. That came out or was published in 1951. After that book, they continued to work on cartoons, or what we might call illustrations. These are drawing or cartoons that appear in a magazine or a newspaper; they’re usually for children, but sometimes they can be for adults as well, and that’s what the Berenstains were working on. Then they decided to work on a book for children, and in 1962 they published that book – the first book for children, called The Big Honey Hunt. The book featured a family of bears, and that’s why they were called the Berenstain Bears. They continued to write books for children, and illustrate books for children, eventually writing more than 300 children’s books under the series The Berenstain Bears. Each book was very short, because they were created for young children who, of course, are just learning how to read.

The Berenstain Bears, I mentioned, is a family. It’s what we would technically call an anthropomorphic family of bears. “Anthropomorphic” means that they look like bears, in this case, but they act as though they were human beings. So they talk and they wear clothing and they cook and all that sort of thing, just like most human beings – except the cooking part. I don’t cook but I’m still a human being – mostly!

In the Berenstain Bear family, the papa bear is a carpenter, someone who builds things out of wood. But he’s not a very good carpenter; he’s what we might call a bumbling carpenter. Someone who is “bumbling” (bumbling) acts in an unusual or confused way, who doesn’t do things very well, who makes a lot of mistakes, and Papa Bear is something of a bumbling carpenter; but he loves his family, of course. The mother of the family, Mama Bear, is quieter and calmer and, of course, is very committed to taking care of the family. In the early Berenstain Bears books, there was a young cub – a “cub” is what we call a baby bear – that was called Small Bear. Then in 1974, The Berenstain Bears got a new baby; that new baby was called Sister Bear. Small Bear, the young boy cub, had his name changed to Brother Bear. And then, much later, in the year 2000 there was a third baby bear, a cub added to the family, and his name became Honey Bear.

The stories help guide children’s behavior; that’s what the stories are about, that’s what they’re supposed to do. They try to help children understand things like going to the doctor’s office, learning to ride a bike, keeping their rooms clean, being polite, saying “please” and “thank you.” More recent books have dealt with problems such as childhood obesity – being overweight, being too fat – and also about playing safely on the Internet. These are all lessons – these are all ideas that most parents would want to teach their children, and the Berenstain Bear books help do that.

In the stories, Papa Bear usually tries to teach Brother Bear, the oldest child, a lesson, but it often ends up backfiring. “To backfire” means to plan something one way, but then have it result in something completely different; it doesn’t work as you had planned it. Papa Bear usually makes a mess of the situation – makes the situation worse, and then Mama Bear comes in and fixes everything and Brother Bear finally understands the lesson.

Although many of these books were written in the 60s and the 70s, when I was growing up, I don’t remember this series of books at all. I’ve never read them. I never really even heard of them until the 1980s, when I was already graduated from college. That’s because there was a television series for young children based on these books – using these books as their stories, called The Berenstain Bears, and that’s when they really became popular. Eventually there was a movie about them. There are toys, there are computer games, there’s food, all sorts of other things. We might say that The Berenstain Bears became a franchise. A “franchise” (franchise) refers to a business that has a lot of related businesses. This is especially true when we’re talking about a book or a movie. There was the movie Star Wars, but there are also Star Wars video games, Star Wars clothing; all of these could be part of the Star Wars franchise. Well, the Berenstain Bears also have a very large franchise, where they make a lot of money on things other than the original books.

Stan Berenstain died in 2005, just a few years ago, but his wife Jan and their sons – Jan and Stan’s sons – continue to work on the Berenstain Bear franchise, continue to produce things for it. So if you have young children and want to help them with their English, and you can find some copies of the Berenstain Bears books, they might be helpful and you might enjoy them yourself.

Our next topic is on how people get married in the United States. Marriage can be a legal recognition of two people coming together and being legally connected, we might say. Marriage can also be a religious act, where two people come together as part of some sort of religious commitment to each other.

In many countries, these two acts – these two events are separate. If you want to get married legally with the government, you go to what is called a “civil ceremony.” “Civil” (civil) just means it is the government official, legal ceremony. And then, if you want to get married in a church, for example, as part of a religious celebration, you have another wedding, a religious ceremony.

It’s possible to do that in the United States, as well. However, most people who want a religious ceremony do not need to go to a separate civil ceremony, like you do in many other countries. The two ceremonies can be combined into one ceremony – one wedding, if you will. The priest, the minister, the pastor, the rabbi – the official from the religious organization can perform a religious wedding, but at the same time the government gives them, if you will, permission to make it a legal wedding as well. As I say, these two things can be combined, and you can sign all of the official papers with a religious leader, a priest or minister or rabbi or whatever it happens to be. Not all Americans have a religious ceremony. In that case, they can go to a government building and have the wedding performed, or they can have someone come to their wedding ceremony, somewhere else, and perform the wedding. It isn’t very common, however, for people to go to the government building – what we would call “City Hall,” the main building of the government in a city – in order to become legally married. Usually they have some sort of celebration – some sort of ceremony where someone performs the wedding. If it’s not a religious leader – a person from a religious organization, a representative – then it’s someone who has the legal right to marry two people; it might be a judge, for example.

Many people no longer have a religion that they participate in, in the United States, or at least they’re not part of any church, part of any temple, or religious organization. But they still want to have a marriage, and they don’t want to have to go down to the government building and have the ceremony performed there.

There are some religions, one in particular called the Universal Life Church, which allows you to become an official representative of their church by just going on the Internet and putting in your information. If you do this, you will then be officially ordained as a minister of that church. “To be ordained” (ordained) usually is when you officially become a priest or a minister or some sort of official religious leader in your religion – in your church. The government says that you have to be an official minister of a church in order to be able to have the right to perform weddings. So what people do is they don’t believe in this church, but they go on the Internet and they fill out the form that says they’re a minister of the Universal Life Church. I’m guessing most of them don’t believe in the church, some of them might. In 2009, there were over 10,000 of these certificates saying that people were ordained ministers in this church – over 10,000 of these certificates were being given out every month! So you can imagine, almost anyone can marry you if you are willing to go online and become a minister of the Universal Life Church.

Normally, after a year or two of dating – although this time varies a lot – after a year or two of being romantically involved with each, the man, in an American relationship, will go and buy a diamond engagement ring. “Engagement” is when you are promising each other that you are going to marry each other, and the ring is a symbol of that promise. Traditionally, the man proposes to the woman. “To propose” means to ask someone to marry you; in this case, the man asks the woman, in a traditional marriage, to marry him. We might say they ask for someone’s hand in marriage; that means they’re asking them to marry them. A woman could propose to a man, but that’s not very common. The engagement, the period of promising to be married, can vary also. Sometimes it’s only six or eight months, sometimes it’s a year or more. I was engaged at least a year before I was married.

Most of the planning traditionally is done by the woman, the bride. “Bride” is what we call the women getting married; the man is called, as you may know, the “groom” (groom). But both in a modern marriage – a modern wedding typically help; I certainly did. Some people don’t want to have a wedding, they don’t want to have a big event, and they choose to elope. “To elope” (elope) means to secretly get married, to go off to somewhere like Las Vegas and get married and then come back and say, “Oh, we got married,” without inviting your family or friends. That’s, again, I don’t think very common, at least for a first wedding.

A few days or weeks before the wedding, there is usually a small party for the bride – for the woman. It’s called a “shower” or a “bridal shower,” and typically the bride’s best friends and the female relatives give her gifts and have a little party for her. There can be all sorts of gifts. Sometimes, I guess more recently, bridal showers have included gifts such as lingerie. “Lingerie” (lingerie) is clothing, underwear basically, that a woman wears, that she might wear for her husband. I’ve never been to a bridal shower, so I don’t really know. In some families, it’s become a tradition that both men and women go to the bridal shower, but I don’t think it’s that popular still. It wasn’t in my family, anyway.

There’s also a party for the man that the man’s friends have for him. Traditionally, it’s the night before the wedding, though, again, I don’t know how common that is now. Often it’s a week or two before the wedding, depending on what’s convenient. The man’s party is called a “bachelor party.” A “bachelor” (bachelor) is a man who is single, a man who is not married. The bachelor party is supposed to be the man’s last opportunity to have fun before he gets married. Bachelor parties often happen at bars or pubs. Sometimes there’s a lot of alcohol, music. Occasionally at bachelor parties there’ll be women there who are not the girlfriends and wives of the men, if you understand what I mean. They’re not prostitutes; they’re supposed to entertain the men. I did not have a bachelor party. I did, the night before I was married, go out to dinner with some of my male friends who had flown into Los Angeles to be at my wedding the next day. But, it wasn’t a bachelor party – at least not the kind you see in the movies!

On the day of the wedding, the ceremony – the event, the actual marriage that takes place – is sometimes very short, 15-20 minutes. Sometimes if it’s a religious ceremony it’s often longer, up to an hour or more. After the wedding there is a party; the party is called the “reception.” However, don’t confuse this with the phrase “wedding party.” That is the group of people, including the bride and groom, who are directly involved in the wedding. This would include a friend or family member of the groom, called “the best man,” and perhaps other friends called “groomsmen.” It would also include the bride’s best friend or family member, called “the maid of honor,” and sometimes “bridesmaids,” which are other family members or friends.

Someone who has just gotten married is called a “newlywed,” and we call the couple “newlyweds” (newlyweds – one word). The newlyweds go on a vacation called a “honeymoon” (also one word). This is a romantic vacation they take right after their wedding. I did not have my honeymoon right after my wedding. I got married while I was working as a professor, and I had to wait until the end of the semester; it was at least three or four weeks later before my wife and I went on a honeymoon. Sometimes this happens because of work schedules and so forth, and that’s what happened when I got married. Oh, when was it? Fifty years ago? No, it just seems like 50 years!

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

Our first question comes from Yoon (Yoon) in South Korea. Yoon wants to know the difference “to stand for” and “to refer to as.” Let’s start with “to stand for.” “To stand for” can mean to mean, to take the place of. For example, “The word ‘black’ stands for the color of night.” We might also think of this as representing or symbolizing. “To stand for” can also be used when we have what’s called an “acronym,” where you have a word made up of the first letters of other words.

“To stand for” can also mean to happen. Usually this is used in the negative: “I will not stand for people talking while I am talking as the professor.” I will not stand for my students talking; I will not tolerate it; I will not allow it. You can talk, though, because I can’t hear you, you see! That’s “to stand for.”

“To refer to” is usually used to talk about the definition of something, not just the symbolic or representative nature of the word but what it actually means. For example, a “church” refers to a building where people have religious celebrations. It’s not as often used to mean simply symbolize or represent, but is used to give a definition of a word.

“Refer to” can also mean simply to mention: “This book refers to a well-known Greek myth.” (A Greek story.) “It refers to” means it talks about; it mentions.

“Refer to” can also be something that a professor might say in class or a textbook might have that is pointing you to a specific place or a specific source that you should look at or read. “I refer to page 210 in your textbook.” That means I want you to look at page 210 or the information I am telling you is related to page 210. You could also use “refer to” to mean to investigate, to look up, especially if we are talking about a reference book like a dictionary or an encyclopedia: “She referred to the dictionary to find the meaning of the word.”

When we say “to refer to as (something),” usually we’re giving the title of someone or some phrase, some name that that person is known as. For example, the City of New York is referred to as “The Big Apple,” that’s its nickname, that’s what we call it. Some people call Paris “The City of Lights,” it’s referred to as “The City of Lights,” and so forth.

Vladimir (Vladimir) in Russia wants to know the difference between two verb tenses: the simple past tense and the present perfect, which is also a past tense. Let’s start with the simple past. The simple past is a verb that describes something that happened in the past and that is finished; it’s over, it’s completed: “I went to the story yesterday.” Often, but not always, when we use the simple past we’re referring to a specific time: “I went Rome two years ago.” “I went to Minnesota last month.”

When you use the present perfect the action has also taken place in the past; it’s over, it’s finished. Usually, though, it’s not important when it took place, and so typically you don’t mention when. “I have read that book.” That means that you read the book, but we don’t know when you read the book.

Sometimes the simple past and the present perfect are used interchangeably. But more often, when you say “I have done” something, and the present perfect is formed with the verb “to have” plus the past participle of the verb, then you’re referring to something that happened in the past but you’re not giving a specific time. “I have seen that movie.” When did you see the movie? We’re not really sure. “I saw that movie in 1925,” before I was born; it’s amazing, a miracle! I don’t know how I did it, but I did.

So, that’s the past and the present perfect.

It is possible to use the present perfect to mean something that started in the past and is continuing in the present if you use it with a verb like “start” or “begin.” “I have started to exercise again.” That means I began in the past, but I’m continuing to do it now.” That’s sort of a special use of the present perfect.

Our final question comes from Germany, from Hauke (Hauke). I’m sure I pronounced that wrong. The question has to do with the word “especially” (especially). “Especially” means in a way or to an extent that is bigger, better, or somehow special compared to something else. “I like pie, especially pumpkin pie,” meaning of all the pies that I like, I like pumpkin pie the most. Or, “Bears are dangerous, especially big bears.” Little bears, eh, okay; big bears, no thank you! Bears are dangerous, especially big bears.

You can also say “not especially,” and that means not very much. “Do you like to go biking?” I would say, “Well, not especially.” It’s sort of a polite way, a nice way of saying no, especially if someone is asking you something that you don’t want to hurt their feelings about; you don’t want to say no directly to them. “Do you like to eat raw fish – sushi?” You might say, “Well, not especially. If you want to go to a Japanese restaurant, that’s okay with me.” You can use the phrase “not especially” in a sentence even when you’re not being asked your opinion about something. You could say, “He’s not especially smart,” meaning he’s not very smart. Again, it’s probably a little more polite, or perhaps you’re trying not to be too mean or too negative when you say something like “not especially,” the meaning is not very much.

If you have a question or comment, especially about some word or phrase you don’t understand, 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 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

illustrator – a type of artist who creates images to go with text, usually through drawings

* Joanna has worked as a magazine illustrator for over 10 years, using her skills in drawing and computer graphics.

anthropomorphic – with animals or objects seeming or behaving like people, often done in children’s books, television programs, and movies

* My daughter’s favorite movie has anthropomorphic dishes and silverware dancing around and singing.

bumbling – acting in an unusual or confused way, without skill or ability

* Lenny might seem like a bumbling detective, but he always catches the criminal.

to backfire – to have the opposite result of what one wanted or intended; for something to be unsuccessful and to create a bad or worse situation than before

* My advice to Georgina to improve her writing backfired. Instead of writing more clearly, she now writes even more confusing articles.

franchise – a business relationship that allows many businesses to use licenses or copyrighted images or characters in different products to make money

* The Disney characters started out in cartoons, but have become a huge franchise.

civil ceremony – the official part of a marriage where the government recognizes the union of the two people for tax and other legal purposes; a marriage ceremony performed by a government official and not a religious one

* Instead of big church wedding, Ambika and Bala decided on a simple civil ceremony at the courthouse.

to ordain – to make someone an official of a church or other religious organization; to make someone a priest, minister, or other religious official

* After three years of training, Gustavo is now an ordained priest in the church.

to propose – to ask someone to marry one

* Paul planned to propose to his girlfriend last weekend, but she surprised him by proposing to him first!

to elope – to get married secretly and to tell other people about it only afterwards

* Were your parents disappointed that you and Leslie eloped to Las Vegas instead of having a wedding ceremony here?

lingerie – very nice, sometimes sexy underwear or clothing used to sleep in, usually worn by women

* Monica has always been self-conscious of her body and felt funny trying on lingerie in the store.

bachelor – an unmarried man; a single man

* If you have any friends who are bachelors, I’d like to introduce them to my sister.

honeymoon – a romantic vacation taken by a couple often immediately or shortly after their wedding

* For their honeymoon, Lee and Mahmoud are going to Aruba for two weeks.

to stand for – to mean; to take the place of; to represent words with letters

* This symbol on the map stands for mountains and this one stands for train stations.

to refer to as – to call a person or object by a certain name

* People in Los Angeles refer to the movie business as “the industry.”

to refer to – to mean; to mention; to relate to; to give attention to; to tell someone to give attention to

* This magazine article refers to the economic problems of the 1980s while explaining the current economic situation.

especially – in a way or to a degree that is bigger, better, or otherwise special compared to others

* Danny liked all of his birthday presents, especially the set of books from his grandmother.

What Insiders Know
Marriage Vows

In the U.S., many wedding ceremonies use some “version” (similar to, but not exactly) of the traditional Christian “marriage vow” (the words of love and promise said between the two people getting married). The traditional vow is usually something like this:

I, [one’s name], take thee, [the other person’s name], to be my lawful wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death do us part.

Some of the words in the traditional vow are old-fashioned and not used in American English today. For example, the word “thee” means “you,” although you never hear it in daily use now. Similarly, “’til death do us part” means “until we die,” although you would only hear the phrase “’til death do us part” in a wedding.

Although many people use some version of this marriage vow, others like to create their own vows, especially if it is not a religious wedding, but a civil ceremony. Some people like to simply “speak from the heart” (say what they feel) and tell the other person and the friends and family gathered for their wedding how they feel and what they promise the other person. Other people like to “quote from” (take the exact words from) poetry, a song, a movie, or anything else that helps that person “express” (show feelings) for the other person. Marriage vows of this kind can be any length, though typically they are between one to three minutes long.