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400 Topics: Movies - Patton; The Eagles; to swear versus to promise versus to vow; nice to come home to; enclosed versus attached

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Cafe number 400.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Cafe episode 400. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast by going to our website. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store, which has some additional courses in business and daily English.

On this Café, we’re going to continue our series on famous American movies, focusing on a movie called Patton. We’re also going to talk about a well-known American rock band called The Eagles. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

We begin our Café with the continuation of our series on famous American movies. Today, we’re going to talk about a film called Patton (Patton). Patton is a biographical war film, a movie about a person who played an important role during a war. A biography is the story of someone's life. So a “biographical film” is a film about someone's life.

This someone was named George S. Patton. He was a U.S. general, an army general, and is most remembered for what he did during World War II. The movie Patton was released in 1970. I remember the movie. I was a young child, but a few years later, they showed the movie on television.

I mentioned that Patton was a general. A “general” is a very, what we would call – a high ranking officer, that is, someone who has a very high position in a branch of the military services, in this case, in the army. The general was the one who makes the big decisions about where men should fight – or women should fight, nowadays.

The film opens or begins with a very famous monologue. A “monologue” (monologue) is a long speech with just one person speaking. We have monologues in plays. We have monologues in movies. In this case, the monologue is by General Patton, who's played by a very famous American actor, or who was famous at that time, by the name of George C. Scott.

The movie begins with Patton in his complete military uniform standing in front of a huge American flag and he's talking to, or giving a speech to, American troops. The word “troops” (troops) means soldiers. But we don't see the soldiers. We just see Patton. And for the first several minutes of the movie, all you see is this image of Patton as a tall, strong, powerful man. The image became what we might classify as “iconic,” something that was very well known in the U.S., especially in the 70’s, when I was growing up. Everyone knew where that scene, that image came from.

In the movie, after the initial monologue, we see Patton leading U.S. troops in North Africa in the early 1940’s. One of the first places that Americans were sent after they joined World War II was North Africa. The idea was that they were going to beat the Germans in North Africa and then move up north into Italy. That's exactly what happened.

The film shows, then, Patton leading these troops, and we learn a lot about him as a man, how he sees himself as a military leader. After the section about North Africa, we then move to the invasion of Sicily. Sicily is of course the large island that is part of Italy, in between the main part of Italy and Africa in the Mediterranean Sea.

Patton, in the movie, anyway, is frustrated by the slow progress of the war. He wants the invasion of Italy to move more quickly, so he defies orders. “To defy” (defy) means not to obey, not to do what you're supposed to do. “Orders” are commands, things that you are told to do. In the military, of course, defying orders is a very serious problem because the military, we could say, “runs on” discipline; that is, it is an organization that requires that people do what they are told to do when they're told to do it.

Patton, this great general, does the opposite. He doesn't do what he was ordered to do by his bosses, his superiors. Instead, he becomes very aggressive. He tries to do things in the war that other people don't like. For this reason, he is punished by the American government. He's not allowed to participate in some of the most important battles of World War II.

With the successes that Patton has, and he did have some important military successes, he becomes very outspoken. Someone who is “outspoken” (outspoken) is someone who gives their opinion, often a controversial opinion, about things even when people don't ask them. Sometimes, someone who is described as outspoken is someone who doesn't use a lot of caution, doesn't stop and think carefully about what they are saying, although it's not always a negative description. Outspoken is often something positive, someone who has courage, someone who will say something that may be unpopular. Well, Patton became very outspoken and some of the things he said got him into trouble, so that he wasn't able to be a leader of the troops as he wanted to be.

The film is interesting because it was made in 1970, about 25 years after the end of World War II, so most of the people who saw the movie, or many of them, remembered the war, remembered Patton, remembered his controversial nature. The movie shows this great military hero as “fallible.” “Fallible” (fallible) is someone who can make mistakes, someone who has faults, someone who has weaknesses.

Now, remember 1970 was an important point in American history and especially for the U.S. military. The United States was involved in an unpopular war in Southeast Asia, in Vietnam. Many people didn't like the military. There were a lot of protests during the late 60’s and early 70’s. So the image of the military as being always a positive thing began to change during this period significantly. This movie showed a famous leader from a war that was, we might say “popular” – World War II – as someone who was not perfect, as someone who made mistakes, a lot of mistakes, actually.

The film was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. The script was written by someone who later became one of our most famous writers and directors, Francis Ford Coppola. Francis Ford Coppola later directed another famous war movie, this time about the Vietnam War called Apocalypse Now. The script was actually co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North.

The movie was actually based on a couple of books about Patton, a couple of biographies about Patton. The filmmakers – the people who made the movie – originally wanted to use Patton’s own diaries, his own writings, about what was happening to him, but his family did not want these diaries used. So, we’re still a little unclear about how accurate the film is in terms of capturing Patton’s personality.

Patton himself died right after the end of World War II, in 1945. The movie was very popular in 1970. In fact, it won seven Academy Awards – seven Oscars – including Best Picture and Best Director. George C. Scott won for Best Actor, but he refused to accept the award, saying he didn't believe in the voting for best actor. He didn't think that was something people should do – and determine who is the best actor. The film's music was also well known. The score for the movie, the music that is used during the movie, was written by Jerry Goldsmith. The score itself was nominated for Best Original Score but it didn't win.

I mentioned that I first saw the movie on television during the early 1970’s. This was an important event in the life of our family because my father was in World War II. I'm the youngest, as some of you know, of 11 children. Most of the fathers of those who I went to school with were not involved in World War II, but because my father was 40 when I was born, in the early 60’s, he was old enough to have participated in World War II, and he was in North Africa. He was in Sicily. He was in Italy. So he, of course, knew about General Patton and was influenced by General Patton's decisions. I remember my father talking about Patton – the things he liked and many of the things he didn't like about the way Patton used his power.

It's an excellent movie and if you haven't seen it, I think you can learn a lot about the U.S. military, or at least how the US military was viewed in the 1970’s.

Now let's turn to our next topic, which is also, in a way, about the 1970’s. It's about a famous American rock band called the Eagles. An “eagle” (eagle) is a large bird that has a very strong beak or mouth. The eagle – the American eagle – is the official symbol, or one of the official symbols, of the United States. You will see an eagle on some American currency, some American money. It represents – it’s the bird that represents the United States. Technically it's called the “bald eagle.” “Bald” (bald) is when you don't have any hair, like me.

Today, however, I'm not talking about me or bald eagles, but a famous rock band called the Eagles. The Eagles were created right here in Los Angeles, California in 1971. The band – the rock group – won several awards for their music. The highest award given for music in the United States is called a Grammy Award. The band won six Grammys and they were made part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

A “Hall of Fame” (fame) is an organization that determines who's the best in some particular field, some particular area. We have halls of fame for different sports, and only the very best players are elected to the Hall of Fame. It is not something you get money for. It's just for the honor, for the glory, for the recognition.

The Eagles were considered, in fact, one of the most successful music groups of the 1970s. Some of you may remember them. They had four members. The most well known member was Don Henley. The band produced a lot of great songs. You would, I'm sure, recognize many of them. I'll just talk about a couple of them.

One of their early songs from their 1972 album or collection of songs was “Take it Easy.” The phrase “take it easy” means to relax, to stop worrying about something if you are worried about something. Another popular song from that same album was “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” “To be peaceful” means to be calm, not to be violent. “Easy” here would be something similar, something that is calm, something that is relaxed. A peaceful, easy feeling would be a feeling of someone who is calm and relaxed. And that's sort of what the song is about.

The Eagles had another album in 1973, with another pair of famous songs: “Desperado” and “Tequila Sunrise.” Those names, “Desperado” and “Tequilla Sunrise,” should remind you of Mexico, of Spanish. “Desperado” is a word in Spanish meaning “the desperate one” – the person who is in a lot of difficulty. “Tequila” is a kind of alcoholic drink that is popular in some parts of Mexico. The Eagles, remember, were started here in Southern California, which is right next to Mexico and is influenced strongly by many aspects of Mexican culture.

In 1975, the Eagles had another successful album, including popular hits such as “One of These Nights,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “Take it to the Limit.” I remember the songs. I was in junior high school at the time.

I have to say I never really loved the Eagles or their music, but it was very popular when I was growing up. The Eagles peaked, or reached the point of their greatest success, in 1976 when they released an album called “Hotel California.” Many of the songs on that album became popular, but the title track – the song that the album was named after – is probably the most famous. You, I'm sure, have heard of this song if you like rock music, American rock music. In the song, the Hotel California is this place where you can enter into but you can never leave.

The Eagles disbanded or stopped performing together in 1980. They came back again, however, as a group – they reunited – in 1994. They actually released an album not too long ago, in 2007 and they're talking about making yet another album.

Don Henley, one of the main singers for the group, himself had success in music during the 1980’s after the Eagles disbanded or stopped performing together. I can't really do justice to the music of the Eagles by singing it. I'm not as good of a singer as the Eagle’s singers were. I’m not even close. I mentioned the expression “to do justice to something,” or “to do something justice.” That means to be fair to it, to represent it fairly and accurately. That’s something I won't try to do here.

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

Our first question comes from Marco (Marco) in Italy. Marco wants to know the difference between the verbs “swear,” “promise,” and “vow.” Let’s start with “swear” (swear).

“To swear” can mean a couple of things. It can mean to say something with certainty, to say something that you know is true and you are telling the other person that you know it's true. “I swear I left my keys on the table.” I'm sure of it. I'm certain of it. I swear that's what I did. “Swear” in a more formal way can also mean to “take an oath,” which is to make a very serious promise. When the president of the United States begins his term as president, there is a ceremony, an event called “the swearing-in ceremony.” The president is sworn – past tense – in. He’s taking a very serious promise. “To swear” can also mean to use bad language, to use words that you shouldn't use in front of anyone, really, but certainly not in front of children or your boss or in a work environment. That would be to swear.

“Promise” means that you are going to do something or you are going to perform some action. “I promise I will return your book to you tomorrow.” You are telling the person that you will do this. It's also possible to use promise to mean a noun, which would be a statement that says you will do something. This is often found in the plural. “He made a lot of promises.” That means that he said a lot of things. He promised to do a lot of things.

“Vow” (vow) also, like swear, can be something that is done in a formal situation where you're making a very serious promise. We talked about certain members of religious communities – monks and nuns who, in the Catholic tradition, take vows. They say, “Yes, I promise to be part of this religious organization for the rest of my life.” They’re making a very serious promise.

We also talk about the marriage vows – the “wedding vows.” These are the promises that the husband and wife make to each other, that they will be with each other – well, it used to be they would promise to be with each other “’till death do them part,” which is an old way of saying until both of them die. Now, I guess, it's until one of them decides he or she is tired of being married. Anyway, a vow can be a serious promise and is typically used in a formal situation, such as a wedding or a religious ceremony.

All three verbs relate to making a promise to do something. “Swear” is the verb we would use when you are promising, for example, to tell the truth in a court of law, in a legal proceeding. “Swear” is also what happens when public officials, government officials, begin their term of office, begin their term of duty. They swear to follow the law, for example. “Vow” is also used in formal situations, but it tends to be limited to either a religious situation or possibly involving marriage. We don't use the word “vow” as a verb all that often. You might read it in an old book talking about the 19th century or the Middle Ages, even, where people would talk about taking a vow, making a promise, a very serious promise to do something.

“Vow,” as a noun, is often used with words such as take, make, or break - “ to take a vow.” For example, if you are a nun, you could take a vow of poverty. You could promise to not go out and make a lot of money for yourself. You can “break” a vow also. “To break a vow” means to break your promise, just to not do what you're supposed to do. The word “promise” is the most general, probably the most useful of these three verbs, meaning to say that you are going to do a certain thing. You are making a commitment to do a certain thing.

Our next question comes from Hidero (Hidero) in Japan. The question has to do with an expression, “Nice to come home to.” For example, “After working all day, it's nice to come home to a good meal.” Or, “It's nice to come home to my beautiful wife,” to see her. “It's nice to come home to a relaxing night watching baseball on television” – which is what I would do.

In all of these cases, it means it's pleasant, it's nice, it's good to go back to your house or your apartment and find a certain kind of situation. It's nice to come home to a quiet apartment where no one is making any noise. It's always a positive thing – “it's nice to come home to” – and it's typically used to talk about either an activity, a situation, or a person. “It's nice to come home to my loving wife.”

The expression is a little awkward, grammatically. It doesn't follow some of the traditional rules of American English when it comes to grammar. You should know, however, that the expression “to come home” and “to come home to” mean different things. “To come home” just means to go back to the place where you live – your apartment, your house, your condominium, your tent – wherever. “To come home to” is this pleasant, nice thing that you will find when you return home. So “coming home” means just returning to where you live, but “coming home to” is some positive experience, typically, that you will find at your house.

Finally, Raul (Raul) right here in California, wants to know the difference between two words that he saw, especially related to mail – physical mail, paper mail and email. Those two words are “enclosed” and “attached.” When someone uses the word “enclosed” (enclosed), they mean that they have put something in the envelope that they are sending, in addition to the letter. So, when you send someone a letter, you may want also, for example, to send them a photograph or to send them another document. If you do that in your letter, which they will probably read first, you might say something like “Enclosed, you will find a copy of a photograph of my dog” or “of my cat,” or “of my elephant” – if you have a big house and you like elephants. “Enclosed” means it's included as part of this letter or this package.

For an email message, we don't use the same verb, however. We don't use the verb “to enclose.” We use, typically, “attached.” “To attach a document” means to add to your email message, usually another file, often a word processing file – a Microsoft Word file, for example, or a Microsoft Excel file. These could be attached to an email. So, in the email you would say, “Please find attached a copy of a photograph of my pet elephant.” That would be how we would indicate that there is something else in this email message that you should be looking for.

“Attached” is always used for email correspondence. In fact, we have the noun “attachment,” which refers to whatever document is attached to the email. It is possible however, in a physical letter, if you are sending someone a paper letter, also to use the verb “attached.” If you mean it is physically attached, such as by a staple – a little piece of metal, or some glue, or tape. In those instances, something could be “attached” as well as “enclosed;” that is, it's part of the package, but it's more than part of the package. It’s physically connected to the letter somehow. Again, however, it's perfectly okay just to say “enclosed” and that's the more general term when talking about physical mail. “Attached” is the term we use for email.

If you have a question or a comment, e-mail us. Our e-mail address is eslpod@eslpod.com. I cannot promise to answer all of your questions 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 right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

general – a very high-level officer in the army; a person in the military who has a lot of authority to make important decisions about when and how wars are fought

* The general gave the order for the troops to get ready for battle.

monologue – a long speech by one actor in a play or film, with no other actors speaking

* Shaniqua is worried about her part in the school play, because she has to give a long monologue.

troops – a group of soldiers; a group of fighting men and women in a battle or war

* How can the troops fight if they don’t have enough weapons?

to defy orders – to not obey orders; to do the opposite of what one has been ordered or told to do

* Mack defied his manager’s orders not to speak to reporters about the factory’s problems.

to distinguish (oneself) – to do something that is impressive and makes others realize that one is very good at doing something and more talented than many other people

* Manuel distinguished himself at the meeting with his creative ideas.

outspoken – giving one’s opinions very freely, without being asked about them, even when those opinions are unpopular or even insulting to other people

* Quensha has always been outspoken so no one was surprised when she asked the boss the question that everyone wanted to ask, but were afraid to do so.

fallible – a person who has faults and weaknesses, and makes mistakes

* Everyone is fallible, even the smartest and wisest people.

score – a long piece of music written for many instruments, usually used for a movie

* This action movie wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without the creative score.

to take it easy – to relax; to stop worrying about something

* Monica is looking forward to taking it easy during her two-week vacation.

to peak – to reach the point of one’s greatest success

* Many professional athletes peak in their 20’s.

to disband – for a group to stop meeting or performing together; for a group to break up

* Our group started with 20 people, but there are only three of us left, so we decided to disband.

to do (something) justice – to be fair to something; to bring something out fully or to represent it fairly

* The community group’s performance of Hamlet doesn’t do the play justice, but it was still entertaining.

to swear – to say with certainty; to declare by making a serious promise; to use bad language; to curse

* How did you get Dad to swear that he would get off work early to attend the school play?

to promise – to say that something will be done or given

* Jeremy promised to wash the car after using it, but he forgot to do it.

to vow – to make a serious and formal promise to do or give something; to make a personal commitment to do or not do something

* Some members of the religious community take a vow of silence.

nice to come home to – pleasant to return home to

* After traveling for work for two weeks, it’s nice to come home to your own family.

enclosed – included in an envelope; surrounded, such as by walls

* Did you enclose the check before mailing the application?

attached – electronic files sent with an email; connected; fastened

* Zia’s email account doesn’t allow her to receive emails with too many files or photos attached.

What Insiders Know
Military Awards

George S. Patton was a “well-decorated” (received many awards) general in the U.S. Army and won some of the highest “honors” (awards) that can be “bestowed” (for an award to be given; awarded) to anyone in the military.

He was “twice” (two times) awarded the Distinguish Service Cross, the second highest award in the military. It is given to any soldier who has shown an extremely high level of “gallantry” (courage in battle) and risked his or her life in actual “combat” (fighting in a battle). The amount of courage shown must be at a higher degree than is required for all of the other U.S. combat decorations “beneath” (under) it. Patton was also twice awarded the Silver Medal, the third highest military award. The Silver Medal is also awarded for gallantry in battle.

Like many soldiers, Patton was “wounded” (hurt) during World War II. He was wounded in the “thigh” (upper leg) while leading his “brigade” (group of soldiers) near Verdun, France, “advancing” (moving in the direction) of Germany.

For this injury, he was awarded the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is awarded to a soldier that has been wounded or killed while “serving” (working) in the military. The “forerunner” (what came before it) to the Purple Heart was an award called the Badge of Military Merit. Together, the Purple Heart and the Badge of Military Merit are the oldest military awards and over 1 million soldiers received Purple Hearts for their service in World War II.