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359 Topics: Leopold and Loeb Trial; Famous Songs: "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"; tunnel versus channel versus canal; right versus privilege; binge

Complete Transcript
You're listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 359.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 359. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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On this Café, we're going to talk about another famous trial, the Leopold and Loeb trial, which was a very important event in the 1920s in the United States. We'll also continue our series on famous songs, focusing on a children’s song, a very popular song for children called “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” And as always, we'll answer a few of your questions. Let's get started.

This Café begins with a discussion about a murder trial known as the Leopold and Loeb Trial. A “murder” means that someone has killed another person. Another word for murder in English is a “homicide” (homicide). I mentioned that we're talking about a “trial.” A “trial” is a legal court case, an investigation where you go before a judge and usually a group of people called “the jury,” who decide whether you are guilty or innocent. You're guilty, of course! I mean, I can just tell by looking at you. You look guilty.

Leopold and Loeb was a case about two students at the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago is one of the better universities in the United States. It's not quite as famous perhaps as Harvard or Yale, but it's considered an excellent university. Leopold and Loeb – Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb – were both very intelligent, very smart, and also very wealthy. Their families were rich. They had a lot of money. They had met each other as students and they decided to, according to some people, commit a “perfect crime.” The perfect crime is something that, of course, involves breaking the law, doing something illegal where no one is able to catch you, no one is able to figure out who did the crime because you plan it so carefully. Of course, many books and movies try to talk about the “perfect crime.”

The young men wanted to commit a perfect crime because they believed that they were sort of Supermen. They believe they were superior to other people. They thought they were so smart and talented that the rules that applied to ordinary people did not apply to them. Now, Leopold and Loeb were both fairly young. Leopold was 19, Loeb was 18, when they committed this murder. They had spent seven months planning to kill a 14-year-old boy, a pretty terrible thing.

They lured him into a car. To "lure" (lure) means to persuade or convince someone to do something, but with the idea that you're going to hurt that person. They then killed the boy with a chisel. A "chisel" (chisel) is a tool that you would normally use to change the shape of a piece of wood or a piece of stone when you make a sculpture. When Michaelangelo made his sculptures, he used a chisel to remove the rock or pieces of the rock in order to make his sculpture. That’s a chisel. Leopold and Loeb then hid the body. They put the body where no one would find it and called the boy’s mother to demand “ransom.”

"Ransom" (ransom) is what we call the money that you pay someone who has been kidnapped. When someone is taken away and then the person calls the parents or the wife or whomever and says, “We have your son or your husband. We won't give them back until you give us a million dollars.” Well, that million dollars is called a ransom, and the act of taking that person is called “kidnapping” (kidnapping). Usually the parent will pay the ransom because the kidnapper, the person who takes the child, in this case, says that they will bring the child back, but in this case the ransom was never paid.

The body, however, was discovered. They found the boy along with a pair of glasses, eyeglasses that Leopold had left near the body. The police eventually figured out who the murderers were and the two young men “confessed” or admitted what they had done. They said, “Yes, we did it.” They were not able to commit the perfect crime as they thought they were able to do.

This was a horrible, terrible crime, but one of the reasons it became so famous in the United States at the time was that the lawyer who worked for Leopold and Loeb was a very famous man. His name was Clarence Darrow (Darrow). Darrow was a famous attorney, a famous lawyer, and he was known as an opponent, or someone who is against, capital punishment. "Capital" (capital) punishment is also known as the death penalty, which means your punishment is to be killed. Clarence Darrow “opposed” or was against capital punishment, and he spent 12 hours in his argument, his last opportunity, what we would call his “closing argument,” to prevent Leopold and Loeb from being sentenced to death. He argued it wouldn’t be fair to kill these boys who were still not yet 21 years old just because they believed in the philosophy of Nietzsche about being “Supermen.” (Nietzsche was a German philosopher of the 19th Century who had this notion of Supermen.)

The men were sentenced to life in prison instead. So, they were not given the death penalty. One of the two, Loeb was killed by another prisoner in prison in 1936 when he was 30 years old. Leopold stayed in prison for 33 years and was finally released on parole. When we say a prisoner has been released “on parole” (parole) or simply “paroled,” we mean that they are let out of prison. They can leave prison, but they still have to obey certain rules and make sure they don’t commit another crime. Leopold was released on parole in 1958. He moved to Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, an island. He got married and he published books. He died of a heart attack in 1971 when he was 66 years old. The Leopold and Loeb story has been told by many other writers and movie directors. There are movies, there are plays, there are books about this case. The most famous one is a film by the great Alfred Hitchcock that was titled Rope (Rope). (We talked Alfred Hitchcock and his movies back on English Café 247.)

Now, let's turn to a happier topic, where there are no murders and no trials, just music. We're going to talk about a famous song, a children’s song, actually. It's a very popular one nowadays among young children, children we would call “toddlers.” A “toddler” (toddler) is a child who’s just learning to walk, so that he doesn’t walk very steadily. He kind of looks like he’s going to fall at any minute. We would call that “to toddle” (toddle). A toddler is usually one or two years old. As the toddler gets older, they might go to a school, what we would call a “preschool,” and then we would call him a preschooler. Preschoolers are usually three or four years old.

Well, toddlers and preschoolers like this song because it has a lot of what are called “fingerplays,” motions with the hand. The hand moves along with the song. They move their hands in a certain way as the song is being sung. You can’t actually see my hands moving. If you can, please email me! There's something wrong with your computer. Anyway, there's these hand movements that go with the song which I'll try to describe to you as we talk about the actual words of the song. The song was apparently written back in the early 20th Century, the early 1900s. We don’t know who wrote it or who first sang it, but it did become popular among parents and children. I'll sing the first part of the song.

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain,
The itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Something that is "itsy bitsy" (itsy bitsy), two words, is very small. It's a sort of expression you would hear a child say or you would use in talking to a child, something that’s itsy bitsy is very small. Well, in the song, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” – “spider” is a type of animal, it's an insect that has eight legs and it builds what are called spider “webs” (webs) which are little pieces of – well, they look like threads or string that the spider uses to catch other insects. You probably are familiar with the movie Spiderman and so you know what a spider is.

In the song, the little spider, the itsy bitsy spider, “went up” or climbed up the “water spout.” A “spout” (spout), as a noun, is usually part of what we would call a “gutter system” on a house. “Gutters” (gutters) are long pieces of metal or plastic. They're kind of like pipes or tubes, but they're open and they catch the rain, and they take the rain that’s falling on the top of the house and they guide it down, so that it goes away from the house. It doesn’t collect on the bottom of the house. Gutters usually have horizontal sections that go along the side of the house, along the top of the house, and then vertical sections that take the water down off the top of the house and onto the ground.

In “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” song, the spider is going up the water spout, and the water spout is just the part of the gutter system, the vertical part that brings the water down to the ground. After or as the stupid spider was going up the water spout – I don’t like spiders, I should say that. I think I hate them even more than cats. I think so. I don’t like spiders. Don’t get me started on talking about spiders! Anyway, this idiot spider is going up the water spout and suddenly it starts to rain. “Down came the rain,” meaning the rain started to fall, “and washed the spider out.”

To “wash out something or someone” means that the water is so strong it carries that person or that thing away. So, the water is falling so hard that the spider is washed out. The spider is pushed down off of the vertical water spout. The next thing that happens is that the sun “comes out.” The next line is “Out came the sun.” When we say “the sun comes out,” we mean that the clouds are going away and now suddenly, during the day, of course, you can see the sun. “Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.” To “dry it up” means that there is no more water. It's not wet anymore. Finally, “The itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.” In other words, the spider, after being washed out and pushed down on the ground, waited for the water to dry and then started climbing up the spout again.

Now, not an exciting story to be sure, but what makes it interesting for the children is that there are these movements of your hand. So, when the children are singing the song, they hold their hands in front of their face and they touch their right index finger or their pointing finger, the finger closest to their thumb, they touch that finger to their left thumb, and their right thumb to the left index finger, so you can try that at home. If you're driving, please don’t try this.

So, you take your two hands and you put them in front of you, and you take your right index finger, your pointing finger, and you put that on your left thumb, and then you put your right thumb on your left index finger. And then, as the itsy bitsy spider is climbing up the water spout, you sort of reverse your hands back and forth so it looks like the spider is going up the water spout. Then when it rains, you hold up your hands high and you move your fingers back and forth like you are indicating the rain falling down from the sky. So, you slowly lower your two hands indicating the rain is falling.

When the spider gets washed out, you move your hands quickly to one side of your body, showing that the spider was pushed away. Then when the sun comes out, you take your two arms and you put them over your head, like it was a sun. You're in the shape of a circle. And then of course, you go back to doing the itsy bitsy spider with your index fingers climbing up the water spout. It sounds complicated, I know, but if you watch a video of it on YouTube or something, you can just Google “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and you'll be able to see what I mean. If you have young children, it's kind of a fun song. I'll sing it again so you can play the song to your children and hopefully, they won't cry.

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Okay, stop crying kids. I'm done singing.

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

Our first question comes from “Ayman” (Ayman) in Syria. Ayman wants to know the meanings of the words “tunnel,” “channel,” and “canal.” A “tunnel,” as a noun, is a passage or a road that goes through something or underneath something. So, if you have a big mountain, you don’t want to go all the way up to the top of the mountain and down, so you create, you – we would say “dig” (dig) a tunnel – through the mountains so that cars and trains can go through this long hole. Tunnel can also mean to actually dig the hole. It can be used as a verb as well.

“Channel” (channel) is, as a noun, the deepest area of water that is easiest for ships and boats to travel through. Often we talk about the area of water in between two other large areas of land. The most famous channel I can think of would be the English Channel, which is the channel, the water, between England and France, in Europe. Channel can also be used as a verb meaning to direct a conversation or to direct a path or to send something through something else. “I'm going to channel the water through this tube.” I'm going to direct the water through this tube. In a gutter system, the water spout channels the water down to the ground, but as a noun, a channel is an area usually between two areas of land for ships and boats to pass through.

A “canal” (canal) is also an area of water. A canal is made by man. It's man-made. It's human-made. A canal is usually made to connect two bodies of water, two large areas of water, so that you can go from one, for example, lake to another lake, or you can go from one ocean to another ocean. The most famous canal would be the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Here in the United States, there's a famous canal in New York called the Erie Canal. In fact, there was a famous song in the 19th Century written about the Erie Canal. We'll have to talk about that one on a different English Café.

So, to review then, we have a tunnel, which is a long hole through a mountain or some other area. We have a channel, which is water in between two large pieces of land typically. And we have a canal, which is a man-made passage, a man-made area, that allows ships and boats to go from one area of water to another. If you think about the English Channel, you probably also would think about the tunnel that is below the English Channel. We have a tunnel that connects England and France so that trains can go back and forth between London and Paris, and in Europe they combine the word channel and tunnel to create a new word which is “chunnel.” But chunnel is only used in that one case. Normally, we have either a channel, which is the water, or a tunnel, which is the hole through the ground. I should also mention before we go on to the next question that the word channel can also be a television station. We can talk about a television channel. Most areas now that have cable or satellite television have hundreds of channels that you can watch.

“Oliver” (Oliver) in China wants to know the meaning of two words: privilege and right. He saw an expression, “Driving is a privilege not a right.” “Privilege” (privilege) is some sort of benefit, something that you are given, but it's considered extra. It's usually a result not of any required agreement. In other words, we don’t have to give this to you but kind of as a gift, kind of as something extra, perhaps because you are a member of a certain group. A privilege would be something that you are allowed to do, but that you don’t necessarily earn. It's sort of something given to you.

A “right” (right) is something that you can do and that no one can take away from you, something that you are able to do because it is protected by, for example, the laws of a country. So, we have the right to free speech in the United States. We have the right to say what we want. Now, it isn't what we would call an “unlimited” right. There are certain restrictions, certain things you can't do, but generally speaking, we can talk about free speech as a right protected by the American Constitution. It's not a privilege. It's not something that is given to us by the government as a gift. It's something that we have that the government can't take away – at least that’s the theory.

The ability to drive a car, however, is not a right. It's not something the government has to give you. It's a privilege. It's something that if the government decides that you are able to drive, they can give you that privilege. They can give you that permission, if you will, to drive. But it's sort of something extra that’s not required for them to give you. Now, I say that, but of course, it's not that the government, at least in the United States, can just say, “Oh, we don’t like the way you look. We don’t like your hair. We're not going to give you a driving license.” No, they don’t do that. That wouldn’t be fair, either. But it is saying that just because you live in the United States, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to drive. Children, for example, don’t have a right to drive. People who don’t pass the driving test do not have a right to drive.

Finally, “Matheus” (Matheus) in Brazil – so, we've gone from Syria to China now to South America – Matheus wants to know a word, the meaning of a word that he heard on CNN or read on the cnn.com website, which is a news website. The word is “binge” (binge). A binge is a short period of time – it could be a couple of hours, it could be a couple of days – where you do too much of something, usually something that is not good for you. The most common kind of binge would be to be drinking too much alcohol: “He went on a binge last weekend.” He left work on Friday afternoon and he started drinking and he didn’t stop drinking until Sunday night. That would be a binge, when someone does too much of something in a short amount of time.

You might also talk about being sad and going home and “binging” on chocolate or binging on ice cream, anything that if you eat too much of, it's not good for you. Typically, binges “revolve around” or involve food and/or alcohol. When someone drinks too much alcohol, there's another word, in addition to binge, which means the same thing. It might be a little more common, which is “bender” (bender). And we would use this in a prepositional phrase: “He went on a bender.” He’s going to go on a bender when he finds out his girlfriend has left him for his brother. Yeah, that would probably cause most men to be a little sad, unless he didn’t like his girlfriend, really, in which case, he might be happy. You never know!

If you don’t know an answer to a question (concerning English, of course), you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com. We get lots and lots of questions and sometimes it takes a long time to answer all of them, 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 English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

perfect crime – something done against the law, where the criminals commit the crime so carefully that no one is able to determine who did it, so they are never punished

* Dan dreamed of the perfect crime, stealing money from the bank where he worked and disappearing to live in another country.

to lure – to tempt someone to do something or to go somewhere; to do something to attract someone to do something or to go somewhere

* Mom and Dad told us not to follow any strangers who try to lure us with candy.

chisel – a tool that is held in the hand and has a flat, sharp end used to change the shape of a piece of wood, stone, or metal

* Mona is an artist who uses a chisel and hammer to create beautiful stone statues.

ransom – money paid to a criminal who kidnaps a person and then demands money for the person’s returned

* The kidnappers demanded a $1,000,000 ransom for the return of their son.

capital punishment – death penalty; punishment by death for committing a crime; killing a criminal for his or her crime

* Some Americans believe that capital punishment is wrong and prefer to punish criminals with life in prison.

on parole – for a prisoner to be released before a prison term is completed, with a promise of good behavior

* While Abbe is on parole, she isn’t allowed to leave the state or to associate with any known criminals.

toddler – a child who is one or two years old; a child who is just learning how to walk and does so unsteadily

* When babies become toddlers, it’s even more important to put locks on cabinets and doors.

itsy bitsy – very small; tiny

* Mom made an itsy bitsy dress for my little doll.

spout – the part of a faucet or hose that water comes out of

* Why isn’t any water coming out of the spout when I turn on the hot water?

gutter – the long pieces of plastic or metal at the base of a roof of a home or another building, used to move rain to the ground

* Water is collecting on the roof because the gutters are full of leaves.

washed out – swept away; for moving water to remove something from its original position

* While we were hiking, the sudden rain washed out our campsite.

index finger – the finger next to the thumb; the finger most often used to point

* I hurt my index finger and now I’m having trouble writing with a pen.

tunnel – a passage or road that goes through or under something, completely enclosed except for the two open ends

* The road builders decided to build a tunnel, instead of building the road around the big mountain.

channel – an area of water that is used for ships or boats to travel though

* In years with very little rain, this channel has so little water in it that it impossible for ships and boats to pass through.

canal – a man-made (artificial) passage of water, either for boats to travel through or to bring water to plants.

* The ship was able to go from New York City to Los Angeles by going through the Panama Canal.

privilege – a special benefit; a benefit not required or is expected but given as something extra, sometimes as a result of one’s higher status

* All of the senior managers in this company have the privilege of using the executive restrooms, instead of the regular restrooms.

right – an ability or freedom that should be given to everyone

* Many people believe that getting good healthcare is a basic right in this country.

binge – a short period of time when one does an activity too much, usually an activity that is not good for one

* During summer vacation, Andy and Laura spent too much time on the couch binging on TV-watching.

What Insiders Know
Charlotte’s Web

One of the most popular children’s books of all time is Charlotte’s Web. It was written by E.B. White in 1952, and has been read by or to children ever since.

Charlotte’s Web tells the story of a young pig named Wilbur, who is loved and cared for a little girl who lives on a farm. As Wilbur gets older, the farmer that owns the farm (the little girl’s father) wants to “slaughter” (kill) him and eat him, but a kind “spider” (an insect with many legs) that also lives on the farm helps Wilbur by writing messages about him in her spider webs, telling of how “clever” (smart) and special Wilbur is.

Charlotte’s Web was one of White’s most popular books. It won many awards, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and it was a Newberry Honor Book, both of which are very “prestigious” (great or respected) awards in children’s literature.

One of the things that makes Charlotte’s Web “memorable” (easily remembered and liked) is the fact that it features talking animals and “insects” (bugs). This is not only “appealing” (likeable) to children, but it also makes it easier to introduce some more serious topics, such as “morality” (the difference between right and wrong) and death. For this reason, the book appeals both to children who are first learning about “mortality” (the fact that all living things must die someday) and to adults who would like to think about such ideas in a simpler way.

E.B. White is most famous for writing Charlotte’s Web, but he also wrote other very popular children’s books, such as the Stuart Little “series” (set of books written by an author with the same characters) and The Trumpet of the Swan. White also wrote articles and essays for The New Yorker magazine, and is well known for his unique writing style.