Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

368 Topics: American Presidents - Ronald Reagan; using suffixes; to persuade versus to convince; to bring around/round

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 368.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 368. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

I’m going to continue singing that until someone gives me a better song to sing it with.

Visit our website, by the way, at eslpod.com. Become a member, support this podcast, and get the Learning Guide for this and all of our recent episodes.

On this Café, we’re going to continue our series on American presidents, focusing on the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. 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 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

As some of you may know, Ronald Reagan “came to fame” – that is, he became famous – originally as an actor. He was born in the state of Illinois in 1911. Illinois is located in the Midwest part of the United States. Reagan moved to Los Angeles as a young man, after graduating from college. He moved here to "pursue" an acting career. “To pursue” (pursue) means to go after something, to try to get something. And Reagan wanted to become an actor. His best-known films were probably “Knute Rockne, All American” – that was the name of the movie about a famous football coach. He also made a movie called “Kings Row,” and “Bedtime for Bonzo,” all of which were made in the 1940s and 1950s.

Reagan was not just an actor. He was actually a leader of the actors in the actor’s union – what’s called the “Screen Actors Guild (Guild).” The Screen Actors Guild is basically the union or the organization for actors and actresses. He also became a spokesperson for a large company called “General Electric.” A “spokesperson” or a “spokesman” is someone who often gives announcements about the company, but here it really means someone who appeared in commercials and advertisements for this company.

The experiences that Reagan had at the Screen Actors Guild – which we call here in Los Angeles “SAG” (SAG) – made him want to get involved in politics.
Originally, Reagan was a member of the Democratic Party. Remember there are two major political parties in the United States: the Democrats, who tend to be more liberal, politically, and the Republicans, who tend to be more conservative. Originally, Reagan was a Democrat but he became conservative during the 1950’s and he joined the Republican Party in 1962. He became famous in the political world two years later when, in 1964, he gave a very famous speech – a famous talk or address – in support of the Republican Presidential candidate in 1964, a very conservative man by the name of Barry Goldwater.
As the result of that speech, he became more popular and more active in politics. It’s often the case that a young politician will give a speech at one of the major political conventions that happen every four years. Every four years in the United States, we have a political convention, which is basically a big meeting of the Democrats in one place and the Republicans in another. And politicians give addresses, they give speeches in front of them. It’s often the case that a young politician will be selected and if they do a good job, they become famous.

One example of that is Ronald Reagan in 1964. Another example would be Barack Obama, who, in 2004, gave a speech as a young politician. People noticed him and four years later, he was president. Well, Reagan had to wait a little longer before he became president. However, he only waited two years before he won an election. He became governor of this great state of California in 1966 and he was re-elected – people voted for him again – in 1970. The governor here, like the president of our country, is elected for a four-year period.

Reagan campaigned or got elected basically on a couple of different issues or a couple of different topics. One was he wanted to get the “welfare bums back to work." “Welfare” (welfare) is, nowadays, a negative term for programs that help poor people. And there were some people who felt that these programs were helping poor people, and they were helping them so much that they wouldn’t want to go back and work. The word “bums” (bums) is also a very negative way of describing someone who is lazy, someone who doesn’t want to work, someone who isn’t working. Reagan was trying to change the welfare programs and that’s one of the reasons why he was elected in California in 1966. You’ll have to remember also that the 1960s in the United States, just like in other countries, was one where there was a lot of protests, a lot of people wanting political change, especially as it related here in the U.S, to the war in Southeast Asia – in Vietnam. And Reagan also wanted to stop people from protesting that war.

He was successful as governor, however, and many people thought he did a good job – not everyone, of course. But he was successful enough that he decided he wanted to become president. Reagan wrote a lot of articles and gave a lot of speeches for Republicans and for conservative politicians and conservative ideas. In 1976, he decided to run for the nomination – the Republican presidential nomination. Each party can have one person that represents that party in the main or general election in November. In 1976, the president of the United States was a man by the name of Gerald Ford. Ford had only been president for a few years. He became president after President Nixon, another Republican, had resigned from the presidency. We talked about that on an earlier Café. Reagan tried to beat the “incumbent” president for the Republican nomination. “Incumbent” (incumbent) is someone who is already in the office. So, in 1980, the incumbent president was Jimmy Carter. In 1992 the incumbent president was George H.W. Bush.

Reagan ran against – or opposed – Ford, the incumbent president. He lost in 1976 but many people knew about him and he became even more famous. It was a very close nomination election, by the way. The next time, in 1980, the next presidential election, Reagan easily won the Republican nomination. He ran against the incumbent president – as I mentioned earlier, Jimmy Carter – in 1980. In his campaign, Reagan emphasized lower taxes, smaller government, and a stronger national defense – a stronger army and navy. This is a time when the U.S and the Soviet Union were, of course, involved in what was called the “Cold War,” where they were opposing each other in different places and about different things. Reagan beat President Carter. In fact, he had what we could describe as a “whopping” victory over Carter. “Whopping” (whopping) is huge, large. Reagan won almost every state in the election. And four years later, when we ran for president again in 1984, he won 49 of the 50 states of the United States. So, there’s no question that Ronald Reagan was extremely popular in 1980 and 1984.

Early in his presidency, Reagan was the victim of an assassination attempt. An “assassination” (assassination) is when a political leader is murdered or killed. A man by the name of John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan but Reagan survived and continued on as president. .

We’ll talk a little bit now what Ronald Reagan became famous for – what Americans remember him for. The most important change that Reagan made was changes in the economic policy of the United States. He developed what was later called “Reaganomics” – which is a combination of the word “Reagan” and “economics.” Reagan believed in a set of economic ideas that were sometimes called “supply side economics.” This is the idea that the best way to help the economy is to make the government smaller and lower the taxes. Reagan also adopted what we would call a “laissez-faire” approach to government. “Laissez-faire” is a French expression (laissez-faire) – in English it means the government tries not to interfere with businesses, not to interfere with the economy, so that people can make their own decisions. And the idea is that will help the economy grow.

Reagan was most famous during his term – in terms of his economic policies – for his “tax cuts.” A “tax cut” is when you lower the taxes. The taxes in the United States had become quite high during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and Reagan believed as other economists believed that these high taxes were hurting the economy. And so the taxes were cut. Some people believed that this was going to hurt those who were poor, and they called his economic policy “trickle-down economics.” “To trickle” (trickle) means to move very slowly – for liquid such as water to move very slowly. So, you may have some water and you spill it on a table and then it begins to “trickle onto the floor.” “To trickle down to the floor,” meaning that the water starts to fall slowly over the edge of the table. Well, “trickle-down economics” was the idea, according to Reagan’s critics – people who didn’t like Reagan – that if you give the rich people a lot of money, eventually the poor people will get better, too. This is, of course, not the way Reagan believed the economy worked, but that was one of the criticisms of his policies.

A lot of Reagan’s presidency was focused on reducing, or “rolling back” we might call it, the size of government, especially the kind of programs, welfare programs, that the government had and Reagan in fact, did make a lot of changes in those programs in the 1980s. Reagan also tried to reduce the amount of illegal drugs in a what was called then a “war on drugs.” We pretty much lost that war in the 1980s.

Reagan also, was very influential because he was able to select several new Supreme Court Justices – these are the highest levels judges that we have in the United States – and he nominated – he selected – among others, the first femal, the first woman Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.

Reagan’s presidency brought many changes, not just in the economy, but also in the world, the way the United States conducted or carried out its foreign policy. Reagan increased the number of American troops and weapons. In 1983, he cooperated with a group of Caribbean nations in invading the country of Grenada. Reagan, however, is most famous for “escalating” the Cold War against the then Soviet Union. “To escalate” (escalate) means to increase suddenly and dramatically.

The United States, during the 1970s, had a policy of what was called “détente” – another French word (détente). And basically “détente” was, “Well, we won’t bother you if you don’t bother us.” Reagan, however, decided to increase the U.S military and denounced or criticized communism and the Soviet system. At one point, he called the Soviet Union and “evil empire.” An “empire” (empire) is a country that has control over many other countries. Conservatives were very happy with Reagan’s change in foreign policy and some people say it was partly responsible for the ending of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Other people think it was for other reasons that the Soviet Union came to an end. Certainly, the critics of Reagan – people who didn’t like him – thought that he was basically “war mongering.” “To war monger” (war monger) means that you are trying to make another country angry or trying to go to war with another country. But Reagan did not go to war directly with the Soviet Union. However, at the end of Reagan’s presidency, beginning in the George H.W. Bush presidency, the Soviet Union did in fact fall apart – again, not necessarily because of what Ronald Reagan did, though many conservative politicians believe that.

After Reagan ended his presidency in 1989, he moved, along with his wife, back here to California, to Los Angeles. A few years later, in 1994, when Reagan was 83 years old, he was diagnosed with “Alzheimer’s disease” – a brain disease that affects your ability to think. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and about 10 years later, in 2004, when Reagan was 93, he finally did pass away – that is, he finally did die – and was buried. And now here in the Los Angeles area, there’s a Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. It’s north of Los Angeles – about an hour from where I am. You can go there and see the museum that was created all about Ronald Reagan and his presidency.

People continue to debate Reagan and whether his presidency was a good thing or a bad thing. No one doubts, however, that Reagan’s presidency was one of the most important, if not the most important presidency, of the second part of the 20th century in the United States. Like Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, he really changed the way Americans thought about politics and about economic and foreign policy. Of course, other people think that he was a terrible president and that he didn’t help as much as he hurt – that’s a question I can’t really answer for you. That’s a question for future historians, I guess.

I grew up with the Reagan presidency. I graduated the year he became president in 1981 and spent all of my college years when he was president. So, I knew a lot about Reagan and he was probably the first president I knew well by reading the news as an adult.

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

Our first question comes from Chihiro (Chihiro) in Japan. The question has to do with some “suffixes.” A “suffix” (suffix) are things that we attach at the end of a word that change the meaning of a word. The suffixes that Chihiro wants to know about are “-or,” “-er,” “-ian,” “-ist,” and –“man.” These are all letters that we can add at the end of a word that will change the word - although you can’t add it just to any word, only certain kinds of words.

These particular suffixes are all used to change a word so that it describes a person who does that thing. Let’s start with –or and -er. “Or” and -er are usually added to a verb to mean a person who does that thing. Someone who acts is called an “actor” (actor). Someone who investigates is called an “investigator.” Someone who edits is called an “editor” – with an -or at the end of all those. Someone who conducts is called a “conductor.”

Some words, as I say, end in -er instead. Someone who teaches is a “teacher” – and that’s an -er not an -or. Someone who hunts is a hunter – that’s –er not -or.

Is there a rule whether you should use -or or -er at the end of a verb to make it into a person? That’s a very good question! The answer, of course, is no, sorry. I wish it were that easy.

A few more suffixes include –ian and –ist. Like –or and –er, these are also added to words to make them into the person who does that thing. However, they are not used with verbs so much as they are with nouns. So, you take a noun like “history.” “History” isn’t a verb. You can’t say, “I’m going to history you.” “History” is a noun. But if you want to talk about a person who studies history, we’re not going to say “historyor” or “historyer.” We’re going to use a different ending, and one of the two endings we could use is -ian or -ist. However, with history, we say -ian at the end – “historian.” Common words that end –ian would be “vegetarian” – this is someone who eats vegetables. The noun is “vegetable” but it’s changed into vegetarian to describe a person who only eats vegetables. A “librarian” is a person who works in a library –ian. A “humanitarian” is someone who cares about humanity – about people.

You can also add –ist to a noun but once again, there are different nouns where that is used. “Science” becomes “scientist” – someone who conducts scientific experiments would be a “scientist” (scientist). We also have words like “novelist” – someone who writes novels. Notice that “novel” is a noun and so, we can’t say –or or –er. The verb would be “to write” a novel and we would make “write” into “writer” with an –er, but “novel” has to be “novelist”. “Dentist,” “dermatologist,” “biologist,” “chemist” – these are all additional examples of the –ist suffix.

Finally, you can also change your word to describe a person who does that thing or is related to that thing by adding -man. So, for example, you would have “policeman,” “fireman,” “chairman,” “postman.” Nowadays, because some people think –man only refers to a male rather than a female human, we changed the –man and we make it into –person. So, instead of “spokesman,” it’s “spokesperson.” Instead of “fireman,” it’s “fireperson.” Actually, we don’t say “fireperson,” we would say “firefighter.” We’ve kind of invented new words. Notice “fighter” end in an –er. It comes from the verb “to fight.”

Taka (Taka), also from Japan, wants to know the difference between two verbs: “to persuade” and “to convince.” These two verbs mean similar things and are often used in the same places. Traditional grammar books make a distinction – say there’s a difference - between when you use one versus the other, though in common conversational English, I think the differences are beginning to disappear. But let’s talk about the two verbs – let’s start with persuade “(persuade).

“To persuade” is a verb meaning to advise someone, to give someone advice in order to get them to do something. “I’m trying to persuade my brother to go to Spain with me” – and so, I’m giving him reasons. I’m trying to change his opinion so that he will agree with me and do what I want him to do – that’s to persuade.

The verb “to convince” in almost all cases can be used the same way as “persuade” – to make someone believe something. Some people say that “convince” has more to do with using your reason – your intellect, your rational arguments – to get someone to change their mind or to do something. “Convince” is usually also a little bit more related to doing an action versus just changing someone’s mind, someone’s opinion. “Persuade,” some people say, is more appropriate if you’re talking about appealing to feelings, using emotions to change someone’s mind about something. But in conversational English and even in most written English, I don’t really think you’ll find much of a difference between the use of these two words, and so I wouldn’t worry about it. The differences in meaning that are possible are very small – which is probably why people use them now interchangeably – that is, one for the other.

Finally, on our all-Japanese question section, Mitsuru (Mitsuru) wants to know the meaning of the expression “bring around” or “bring round.” “Bring around” is a phrasal verb that means – interestingly enough – to persuade or convince someone. Someone who has a different idea about something but you get them to think the way you want them to think. You “bring them around.” “To bring someone around” can also mean to bring someone with you, usually when you’re visiting someone else. “I’m going to bring my girlfriend around for dinner.” I’m going to bring her to my parent’s house for dinner. Or a parent might say to his or her son, “Oh, you have a girlfriend? Bring her around!” – meaning bring her over with you so we can meet her.

If you have a question or a comment, you can email us. As a podcaster -er – someone who podcasts - I’m happy to try to answer your questions. 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: English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

to come to fame – to become famous; to become known to many people

* Lorenzo came to fame as an artist when he had his first major museum show.

welfare – a negative term for government programs that give money to poor people for their basic needs, such as food

* Some politicians believe that too many people who could work prefer to stay on welfare.

incumbent – a person already working in an elected job who hopes to be elected again for the same job

* Rarely has an incumbent President not been re-elected.

whopping – huge; very large, usually used to refer to numbers

* Our team won the game by a whopping 30 points!

assassination – the murder of a political leader; the killing of an important person for political or religious reasons

* The assassination of the head of the army temporarily left the country without a military leader.

supply-side economics – the idea that the best way to help the economy grow and develop is to lower taxes to encourage people to produce more goods and services

* According to supply-side economics, if there are more goods and services, people will spend more money.

laissez-faire – a policy where there is little government or official involvement so that people and businesses are mostly free to do what they want to do

* Leon takes a laissez-faire approach to his company and lets his employees do whatever they think best to create the best products.

trickle-down economics – the idea that tax benefits to the wealthy would slowly move down to benefit less wealthy and poor people

* If you believe in trickle-down economics, you’d vote for fewer taxes for the wealthiest people.

to escalate – to increase the intensity; to become more intense or serious

* If Malena doesn’t say she’s sorry now for what she’s done, the situation with could escalate into a family feud.

détente – the easing of tensions or bad feelings, usually between two countries

* Angry neighbors are not going to accept the storeowner’s efforts at détente after she made negative comments about the neighborhood to the newspapers.

to denounce – to publicly say that that something is wrong

* The governor denounced the company’s plans to close its factories in the U.S. and move them overseas.

warmongering – for a leader to encourage war or other aggressive behavior toward another country

* The Prime Minister’s speech was full of warmongering.

to persuade – to advise or urge someone to do something; to convince someone to believe

* Do you think you can persuade Ann to dismiss the lawsuit?

to convince – to do something to cause someone to believe something; to persuade someone

* We need to convince our teachers to take us on a field trip to the zoo.

to bring around/round – to persuade or convince; to wake someone up; to bring someone with you

* Jill was reluctant to follow the plan, but we brought her around to our way of thinking

What Insiders Know
Foods Associated with Presidents

Most United States presidents are known for their tough politics or their “scandals” (bad behaviors or decisions that the public finds out about). Some presidents, however, are known for their love of specific foods.

For instance, President Ronald Reagan was a big “fan” (someone who loves something very much) of jelly beans, specifically the “Jelly Belly” brand. He began eating “jelly beans” (small pieces of fruit-flavored candy shaped like beans) after he stopped smoking in the 1960s, “long” (a long time) before he became president. In every political office he held, he always kept a large jar of Jelly Belly jelly beans on his desk and offered them to anyone who came into his office. When he became president in 1980, he kept a large “crystal” (fine shiny material, like glass) jar of the candy on his desk, and even brought them to meetings for other political leaders to eat so that they could keep their energy up while making important decisions. At Reagan’s “inauguration” (the ceremony in which he officially became president) parties, over 40 million jelly beans were eaten, which was almost the exact same number of votes he received to win the “election” (the process by which voters select who they want to hold important government jobs, like the presidency).

President Richard Nixon was known for many scandals during his term as president, but he was also known for his very unusual taste in “snacks” (foods eaten between meals). Nixon loved to eat “cottage cheese” (a soft, runny white cheese made with skim milk) covered in “ketchup,” a tomato-based sauce most often put on hot dogs and hamburgers. Sometimes he replaced the ketchup with other things, like fruit, but he usually had this strange meal for breakfast.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, was known to eat very little, but he loved to eat “hazelnuts” (a nut with a smooth brown shell) and would buy them by the “barrel” (large container with rounded sides). Thomas Jefferson loved vanilla ice cream, and would often serve it to guests at his house, and Bill Clinton loved McDonald’s famous “Big Mac” burger so much that he would stop at the restaurant to buy one after his morning run.