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407 Topics: Famous Americans – Jane Addams; the “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe" counting rhyme; to double down and trickle-down; especially versus specially; dewy

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 407.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 407.

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. Go there. Take a look at our ESL Podcast Store, which has some additional courses in business and daily English I think you'll enjoy.

On this Café. We’re going to continue our series on famous Americans, focusing on a woman by the name of Jane Addams who, among other things, received a Nobel Peace Prize. We’re also going to talk about a children's song that almost every American knows – “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.” And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

We begin this Café with the continuation of our series on famous Americans, focusing today on Jane Addams. Jane Addams lived from 1860 to 1935. She was born in the state of Illinois, in the Midwestern part of the United States, and grew up in a large family. She decided when she was very young that she wanted to do something useful. She didn't like the idea of having a family, focusing on her husband and her children.

She wanted to, at first, be a doctor, a medical doctor, but that didn't work out. It didn't happen. Then, in 1888, Jane visited a “settlement house” in London. The “Settlement (settlement) Movement” refers to efforts in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to get middle-class and wealthy people to live closer to poor people. Sounds like a strange idea, but the original movement tried to get the rich and the poor, or the middle class and the poor, to be able to meet with each other, talk with each other, and hopefully share ideas with each other.

In order to do this, this movement, this group of people who wanted to change society, built what were called “settlement houses,” and these settlement houses were places where middle-class and wealthy people would live and share their ideas with the poor – so they would live together.

Settlement houses provided a lot of important services. Addams really loved the idea of the settlement houses. She found them inspirational. When we say something is “inspirational,” we mean that it “inspires” (inspires) someone. “To inspire” is to motivate, to give you new ideas about how you can do something better. The adjective “inspirational” is always a positive thing, sometimes even a spiritual thing.

In 1889, just one year after visiting a settlement house in London, Jane Addams and a close friend of hers, Ellen Gates Starr, opened a settlement house here in the United States. Remember, the one she first visited was in London, England. That house was called Hull House, and it was located in a very large house, a mansion, we would call it, in Chicago, Illinois. Remember that Jane is from Illinois.

Over time, Hull House grew into a large complex. A “complex” (complex) is a group of buildings all belonging to the same organization or the same company. In this case, Addams had 13 buildings as part of the Hull House complex. Hull House eventually became home to about 25 women, and it was visited by almost 2,000 people every week, people who would come and take part in the activities and the services offered by Hull House. Hull House was mainly visited…and worked with a very diverse group of poor immigrants. Most of them had immigrated from Europe but there were also some from French-speaking Canada there.

Hull House had many facilities and activities for the neighborhood. It was what we might call today a “community center,” where people could go and take classes and get help with things. In the case of Hull House, they had in fact, a school, what was called a “night school,” where adults could take classes in the evenings after they came home from work. They also had classes and services for very young children. They even had what we would now call “day care facilities.” “Day care” is a place where, if the mother or father has to work during the day and there's no one home to take care of the child, you take them to a “day care facility” and they will watch the child. Of course, you have to pay them money, but that's how it works.

Hull House had its own day care facility. It had clubs for older children. It had a music school. It had a library and a gym. In addition, Hull House had an art gallery and a coffee house – so, maybe Starbucks? I don’t know. Addams also worked in keeping families safe while improving the conditions for these families and the community. She and her colleagues used Hull House to study different social phenomena, to study different situations. They studied, for example, drug abuse – people using cocaine. They studied how little children learn to read. They also studied the problem of children who die as children, what we would call “infant mortality” – the death of young babies. They looked at things on a medical side as well. They looked at diseases such as typhoid fever, which was very common in that period.

As Hull House grew larger and larger, Addams and the people working with her became involved in a lot of different social and political movements. They tried to improve people's housing – the places where they lived. They tried to improve the conditions in which people were working. Remember, we had a lot of poor immigrant workers participating in the programs of Hull House. Addams was trying to improve their conditions in the factories and places where they worked. Addams worked hard to get other women involved in this Hull House movement. She believed that women had a responsibility not only to their families, but also to the larger community, the larger society.

Eventually, her work was noticed by some famous people, people who were well known, especially a man by the name of John Dewey. John Dewey was a philosopher and a reformer. We talked a little bit about him in Café number 277. Addams apparently had a lot of influence over Dewey’s ideas.

Jane Addams wrote a few books about her experience at Hull House. She also traveled around the country talking about what she was doing there. She offered college courses through the University of Chicago, and she was an original member of something called the American Sociological Society. “Sociology” is the study of groups and societies.

Jane Addams, although she is most known for her work at Hull House, was really an intellectual. She had these ideas that she wanted to communicate to other people through her books, through her speaking, and through her activities. Eventually, Addams became more involved in politics. In 1912, she supported the presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt, although that campaign was unsuccessful. A few years later, she became chairwoman of the Women's Peace Party and president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She traveled to Europe and Asia and became very well known internationally as someone who was an advocate, someone who tried to promote, peace.

However, at the same time, World War I was beginning, and many people criticized Addams for being a pacifist. A “pacifist” (pacifist) is someone who doesn't believe in fighting in war, in violence, and typically refuses to fight on behalf of their country, although that's not always the case. Other people, however, admired her work, liked what she was doing, liked what she was saying. In 1931, she became the first U.S. woman, the first American woman, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today, Jane Addams is remembered fondly, or in a warm way. This is especially true of the residents of Chicago. People who live in Chicago still remember the work that Jane Addams did, even though none of them were alive or at least, most of them were not alive at the time. Addams is also considered something of a hero for sociologists and others who study societies and communities. There is, in fact, in Chicago a Jane Addams Day which is celebrated each year on December 10th.

So, that's a little bit about a woman who was quite famous during her own lifetime, Jane Addams. She's not as well known now, but her accomplishments are certainly worth hearing about.

Now let’s turn to our next topic, which is a fun topic. It's going to be a children's song. Technically, it's what we might call a “counting rhyme.” Something that “rhymes” (rhymes) is something that has the same sound as other words. For example, the words “cat,” “hat,” “sat,” “bat,” and “rat” all rhyme. They all have the same ending sound. A “counting rhyme” is a rhyme that children use to select one person in a group.

You have a group of five children and one of them needs to be selected for some task. Maybe they only have one piece of candy left and you're trying to determine who gets the last piece of candy. You might use, in a case like that, a little counting rhyme that the children would say that's easy to remember and has the effect of selecting one of the children. It'll be easier to understand when you hear the example.

Counting rhymes are usually “chanted;” that is, they are repeated by all of the children together. The most common counting rhyme in the U.S. is called “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.” “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe” is something that young children still use, I think, today.

It might be used, for example, by children to begin a game called “tag” (tag). “Tag” is a game where one person is designated or selected as the person who is, we use the word “it.” “You are it.” When you are “it,” you are the person who has to run after the other children and try to touch one of them. When you touch another child, then that child becomes “it.” Then, everybody runs away from that child, and that child has to run after someone and touch them, and every time someone gets touched, they become “it.” They become the person who has to run and chase the other children. It's a pretty stupid game. But, you know, these are young children. They are easily entertained.

The game is often started by using “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.” Let me go through the rhyme and then we’ll explain what it is.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
And you are not it!

“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” are just what we would call nonsensical words or nonsense words. “Nonsense” (nonsense) is something that doesn't make any sense, something that is silly, something that isn't logical, something that doesn't really mean anything.

We start with these nonsensical words “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,” and when we're doing that, we are pointing at different people. So, “Eeny,” you point to person number one, and then “Meeny,” you point to person number two, and “Miny” to three, and “Moe” to four. So you’re going around and your pointing at different people as you are singing the song. “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,” and then the same for the all the other lines – “catch a tiger by the toe.” You point to one person, a different person, each time you say a new word.

Now, what does “catch a tiger by the toe” mean? A “tiger” is a large animal, a type of cat, really, so you know that they’re probably evil. Tigers are very large, and it would be very unlikely that you would be able to catch one, be able to hold one, by its toe. The “toe,” of course, is one of the digits on your foot. But this is not supposed to be a song that makes a lot of sense. It's just supposed to rhyme. It’s supposed to have words that rhyme in a sort of silly, imaginary, world.

“Catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers let him go.” “To holler” (holler) means to shout loudly, to try to talk in a very loud voice. So, if you catch a tiger by the toe and he hollers, he screams, he yells, “Let him go.” You have to let the tiger go. Why? I have no idea. Remember, this isn't supposed to make any sense.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

You do that, as I say, “counting around.” Then the final line, at least in the version I grew up with is, “and you are not it.” You go around and the person who you are pointing at when you get to the word “it” is not the person who is being selected, not the person who is “it.” So now you eliminate that person, and you do the counting rhyme again with one less person, and each time you go around, you eliminate one person until finally there's only one person left, and that person is “it.”

There are two more lines that some versions include: “My mother told me / To pick the very best one / And you are not it.” My mother told me to pick the best one but you are not the best one. You are not “it.”

Although this song is still used by children today in the United States, it's a very old song. There are versions of this song that have been dated back to the 1820’s – more than 200 years ago. So, next time when you have an important decision to make or you need to select someone, you can use “Eeny, meeny, Miny, Moe.” That's actually how I picked my university, the college I decided to go to. I had a couple of different choices and I just went…

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
And you are not it.

And that's why I didn't pick Harvard.

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

Our first question comes from Marcel (Marcel) in Brazil. Marcel wanted to know the meaning of a couple of expressions he heard in a political speech in English. The expressions are “double down” and “trickle down.” These are very different expressions that come from different areas, different fields. We’ll try to explain them and see how they're related in this quote.

The first expression is “double down.” “Double” is two times or twice as much of something. “To double down” is really a term from the world of betting, from gambling. When you're, for example, playing cards – when you decide to “double down,” you are betting twice as much money as you were betting before. We use this expression informally in situations where you do something and it’s not successful, or it isn’t as successful as you'd like, but you still believe it's a good idea. So, you do it again. Maybe you put more money into a project. “To double down” would be to put twice as much effort or twice as much money into a project even if it hasn't been successful the first time you did it. It's considered a risky thing to do. You are betting money on something that hasn't been successful in the past.

The other phrase, the other term that Marcel wants to know about, is “trickle down.” “To trickle” (trickle) is for water or some liquid to fall down, but very slowly, and very few drops of the liquid will fall. If you spill a glass of water for example, on a table, the water might go to the end of the table and it might begin to trickle down to the floor. “Trickle” is often used when talking about the weather, specifically rain. “There isn't much rain today. I just felt a trickle” – a very small amount. “Trickle down,” however, is a term that was used by the enemies or the opponents of President Ronald Reagan back in the 1980’s to describe his economic plan. The critics of President Reagan said that his economic plan was only going to help rich people, and that he was only going to be able to help poor people if the money “trickled down” from the rich people, meaning the poor people wouldn't get very much money because if it's just a trickle, that's a very small amount.

The critics of Reagan were saying that his tax policies and other government policies were helping only rich people, and that it would only help the poor people in a very small way – basically, whatever the rich didn't want, one could think of it that way. This is not how Ronald Reagan described his own plan. He talked about helping business owners and companies so that they would be able to hire more employees and therefore, give more people jobs. His critics thought that he should instead just give the money to the poor people rather than giving it to, in their words, the “rich people,” in order to help the economy.

The expression “to double down on “trickle down” is not one I've ever heard before, but it combines these two ideas. This particular speech was given by former President Bill Clinton. He was criticizing those who wanted to continue the policies of Ronald Reagan. He was saying that the policies didn't work the first time but now people wanted to “double down” on these failed policies, these “trickle down” economic policies, and that's the reference that is being used here. We are taking a gamble. We are taking a risk by using this policy that has already failed once.

Our next question comes from Mohammed (Mohammed) – not sure what country Mohammed is from. His question has to do with the difference between “especially” (especially) and “specially” (specially). “Especially” has an “e” as the first letter, and “specially” has an (s) as the first letter, in case you didn't hear the difference.

Both “especially” and “specially” can be used to mean “particularly,” when you are singling out, when you are giving emphasis to one specific or one particular item. For example: “Be especially careful when you walk alone at night.” Be particularly careful. You're telling someone that they should be careful in this specific instance, in this specific situation, more than perhaps in other situations.

In some sentences, you can replace “especially” with “specially” and get the same meaning. For example: “This game is especially difficult for me.” You could also say, “This game is specially difficult.” Either one would be possible.

There are differences, however in these two words, in other cases. “Especially” can mean, in some cases, “very.” “It's especially important to do well on this test.” It's very important. “Specially” is often used to mean unusually or specifically. “I bought this shirt specially for you,” specifically for you. In daily use, you will hear these two words used interchangeably, although I think “especially” is probably a little more common. The only case where you'll hear “specially” more than “especially” is probably when it means “specifically,” as in the example I gave. “I bought this shirt specially for you,” or “This was specially designed to work in your house.” For all other situations, however, “especially” is probably the preferred word, and if you had to pick one, I would pick “especially” in most cases when you're trying to communicate this idea.

Finally, Ivana (Ivana) who is also from a country I don't have listed here on my piece of paper that I'm reading. Let's just say she's from, oh, I don't know, Jupiter – the planet Jupiter. Our first question from Jupiter!

Ivana wants to know the meaning of the adjective “dewy” (dewy). “Dewy” comes from the word “dew” (dew). “Dew” refers to small drops of water that form on a surface, on the top of something, when there's moisture in the air. Often, in many parts of the world, when you wake up in the morning and you go outside, there'll be “dew” on the ground or the grass, or if you have a car, on your car. There’s this moisture, this wetness. That's “dew.”

“Dewy” is someone who has skin that looks like it might have “dew” on it, but the idea is that, this is very soft, young, we might even say “fresh looking” skin. The word is usually used to describe the skin of women and children. Both women and children have normally softer skin, perhaps better looking skin. We probably would not describe a man's skin as being “dewy.” In either case, it's not a word that you will hear very often in daily conversation. You might hear someone say, instead, they have “young” or “fresh looking” skin. It would also be possible to say they have “soft” skin. Those would be more common adjectives than “dewy.”

If you have a question or comment, we'd be happy to try to answer them here on the Café. Email us at eslpod@eslpod.com.

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 English Café was written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

settlement house – a large home where the rich and the poor to live together, with the wealthier people sharing their ideas, knowledge, and cultural opportunities with the poor

* People in the settlement houses probably didn’t expect to also learn a lot from the poor.

inspirational – filling one with ideas about what one can achieve and what is possible

* Reading the book about Mother Teresa was inspirational and made me want to do more to people in need.

complex – a group of buildings and facilities on the same site, usually owned by the same business or organization

* Our company is located in a complex about fives miles from downtown.

night school – a school with one or more courses that adults can take in the evening after working during the day

* Benoit wanted to improve his English and took night school classes for two years.

infant mortality – the death of young babies; the death of children under one year of age

* Improving the health of mothers will lower infant mortality.

pacifist – a person who is opposed to war and violence

* During the war, some pacifists who were required by law to join the army left secretly to live in other countries.

fondly – in a warm, affectionate way; in a loving way

* Bethanne always spoke fondly of her former students, even the ones who caused a lot of problems.

counting rhyme – a game that children use to select one person or thing from a group, usually chanting or repeating the same words several times

* Barry taught his daughter the counting rhyme and now she uses it to count everything around her.

to chant – to repeating the same words several times in a rhythmic way, usually done by a group of people

* The protestors chanted, “We want better pay” outside of the factory.

tag – a game where one person, known as “it,” needs to chase the other children around, and when “it” touches one of the other children, then that child becomes “it” and begins chasing around all the other children

* Stop making so much noise inside the house. Go outside and play tag.

nonsensical – without meaning; making no sense

* When Julia found out the shocking news, she said a few nonsensical things and then fainted.

to holler – to shout loudly

* Monica is nervous about strangers approaching her house, so we always holler “It’s Myung and Lizzy” when we walk up to her front door.

to double down – to greatly increase a risk or a commitment

* Should we double down and buy more McQ Corp. stock, or sell it all now?

trickle-down – the economic theory that believes that lower taxes on the wealthy will have benefits that reach the middle and lower classes after a period of time

* If the wealthy make more money, they’ll spend more and everyone will receive more economic benefits, according to trickle-down thinking.

especially – particularly; to a greater degree; very

* Last winter was especially cold and most of our garden plants died.

specially – specifically; particularly; unusually

* This jacket is specially made for someone tall and with wide shoulders.

dewy – (of a person’s skin) looking soft and bright; looking young and fresh

* My friends all look dewy when it’s humid outside, but I just look sweaty and hot.

What Insiders Know
Duck, Duck, Goose

One of the most popular and well known games played by young children in the United States is Duck, Duck, Goose. This traditional game “originated” (was started) in the United States and many children learn to play it in “pre-school” (school for children before they enter elementary school, usually for children under the age of six) and kindergarten (the first grade in elementary school). You’ll often find children playing Duck, Duck, Goose on the “playground” (outdoor area with equipment for children to play on) or in the yard (grassy area outside of one’s home).

Both ducks and geese (plural for “goose”) are water birds. A “duck” has short legs and a wide “bill” (mouth); a goose is larger than a duck, has a shorter bill, and a long neck. Why these two animals were selected for this game is unknown.

The game is very simple. The players sit in a circle “facing” (turned with their faces looking at) each other. One player is the “picker” and walks around the outside of the circle. The picker “taps” (touches gently) each person on the head saying “duck” until he or she selects one person by saying “goose” while tapping that person on the head. The “goose” chases the “picker” around the circle. If the “picker” can run around the outside of the circle to the “goose’s” seat and sit down, the “goose” becomes the new picker. If the “goose” chases and catches the “picker,” the “goose” returns to his or her seat and the “picker” starts again.

With older children, the chase can become “rough” (more physical and not gentle). Some children may push and pull, or even “tackle” (jumping on top of someone) to stop the “picker” from taking the “goose’s” seat.