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418 Topics: American Authors – Dorothy Parker; how to become a nurse; athlete versus player; hazard versus risk; to quit versus to call it a day

Complete Transcript
You're listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 418.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 418. 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 to download a Learning Guide for this episode.

On this Café, we're going to talk about an American author named Dorothy Parker. We’re also going to talk about how you become a nurse in the United States. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let's get started.

Our first topic on this Café is Dorothy Parker. Dorothy Parker was an American author – an American writer – born in 1893 in the state of New Jersey, which is located next to the state of New York on the east coast of the United States. Dorothy Parker is best known for her short stories and poems, but she also wrote plays, screenplays – which are scripts for movies – as well as many, many book reviews.

In her writings and in real life she was known to say funny things. People would describe her as witty. If you're “witty” (witty), you say things that are very funny in a clever way – in an intelligent way, often very quickly after someone else has said something. “To be witty” means to be quick in giving a funny comment. Dorothy Parker was certainly someone who was considered witty in her day.

Her first jobs were in New York City at some very important magazines. New York was then, as it is now, really the capital of publishing in the United States, both book publishing and magazine publishing. The biggest book publishers and magazine publishers have offices in New York City, and that's where Dorothy Parker went in her early 20s.

She worked at some of the most famous magazines in the United States at the time. She worked at Vogue magazine, which is a fashion magazine – at least, it is now. She worked at Vanity Fair magazine, and most importantly, she worked at The New Yorker magazine. The New Yorker is considered the best literary magazine – the best magazine in terms of good-quality writing. That was true in the 1920s. It's still true today.

At each of these magazines, Parker wrote reviews. A “review” (review) is basically your opinion in writing about books, plays, movies, songs, or any other sort of artistic production. It could be a review of an art show, for example. In addition to her reviews, she also published some of her own poems and stories. When we say something is “published,” we mean it's printed in a magazine or a book for people to buy and read.

While in New York, Dorothy met a man by the name of Edwin Pond Parker, whom she married in 1917, thus taking the name “Dorothy Parker.” Her maiden name – the name that she was born with – was Rothschild (Rothschild). Their marriage lasted only about 10 years. They were divorced in 1928. Parker met another man, Alan Campbell. She married Campbell in 1934 and remained married to him until his death in 1963.

Dorothy Parker was a very prolific writer. Someone who’s “prolific” (prolific) is someone who writes a lot – in this case, a lot of poems and stories. She published her first set of poems in 1926 and it became a best seller. When something is a “best seller,” it sells a lot of books – more than most other books that are being sold. She wrote two more poetry collections after that first best-selling collection.

Parker was also known for writing very interesting short stories. She would write short stories and often publish them in magazines like The New Yorker. Later, she would publish them in compilations. A “compilation” (compilation) is a collection of something, usually a collection of poems or stories, or possibly even songs. You take those songs or poems or plays or stories that have been published in other places, and you put them all together and you sell them in one book, or as one group. This is what Parker did with some of her stories, and it was a very successful compilation.

Parker was considered, as I mentioned earlier, a very witty woman. She was in fact, friends with some of the greatest writers and comedians – or people whose job it is to tell jokes – of the 1920s. These included George Kaufman, Edna Ferber, Harold Ross and Harpo Marx, one of the famous Marx Brothers. She was also a member of a famous literary group called the “Algonquin Round Table.” A “round table” is usually a group of people – maybe eight, ten, fifteen people – who get together and talk about some common interest they have.

This really was a lunch group that got together almost every day for a period of about 10 years at a hotel called “The Algonquin.” It's a hotel in New York City. Parker and her friends would talk about poems. They would talk about plays. They would talk about stories that had been published. They would also, of course, tell jokes and funny stories. Many people believe this round table, this group of writers, was one of the most interesting and influential groups of writers in American literary history.

In 1934 Parker, having married Alan Campbell, moved here to Los Angeles, to Hollywood. Here she became, along with her husband, a screenwriter. A “screenwriter” is someone, as I mentioned before, who writes stories for movies – nowadays, also for television shows. Together Campbell and Parker wrote a couple of popular screenplays, or the screenplays for a couple of popular movies. The most famous of those was A Star is Born in 1937. This was considered one of the best screenplays of that year. It was nominated, or selected, as a possible winner for several Academy Awards or Oscars.

Although Parker and Campbell were successful here in Hollywood, they did have some problems when it came to their politics. After World War II, in the late 1940s and 1950s, there was great concern about the influence of communism in the United States. “Communism” was the political system of the Soviet Union and later of communist China. This led a lot of people to fear communism since, especially, the Soviet Union was considered our enemy at the time.

One of the results of this change in the political environment in the United States was that certain writers, certain directors, certain actors who were suspected of being communists were blacklisted. If you are “blacklisted,” you are told that you can't work at any of the places in your own profession. “To be blacklisted” means to be prevented from being hired to work.

In the case of Hollywood, to be blacklisted meant not to be given any jobs or any work from the big major movie studios here in Los Angeles. Blacklisting affected a lot of different groups, and it continues today in some places. It's not an official list that the government publishes. However, in the 1940s and 50s the government, at least some members of the government, did name people who they thought should not get a job in Hollywood or in other industries and other types of work.

The reason Hollywood was so important was, of course, that this was the – and still is – the major form of social communication: movies and, later, television shows. The idea was that you didn't want people who had bad political ideas or dangerous political ideas working and influencing people through their stories and through their productions.

Now, some of the people who were blacklisted in the late 40s and 1950s were, in fact, communists. They said they were communists, and Parker is an example of that. She proclaimed – or said out loud, very publicly – that she was a communist. It's not surprising, then, that she was blacklisted. Many people believe that there was an overreaction to the influence of communists in the United States during the 40s and 50s. An “overreaction” is when you do too much because you think the situation is more serious than it really is.

That's not to say that there weren’t, in fact, communists in the United States who were working against the U.S. government. Some of them were actually arrested for spying for the Soviet Union. Parker was not a spy, however, and she didn't probably do any damage to the American political system, but she was blacklisted, and this meant that she and her husband had to leave Los Angeles and return to New York City.

Despite Parker's success in her career, she was considered her own harshest critic. “Harsh” (harsh) is “tough” or “difficult.” To say that she was her own “harshest critic” means that she was the one who was most critical of her own writing, who would criticize and find problems with her own writing.

Parker died of a heart attack about four years after the death of her husband in 1963. She died in 1967 at the age of 73. Interestingly enough, she left her estate – that is, her money and property – to the Reverend and Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. She left the money to King’s organization because she was a strong supporter of civil rights – of equality for people of different races.

I have never actually read any of Dorothy Parker's stories. I am familiar with one funny line that she wrote – it's probably her most famous line: “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” “To make a pass” (pass) means to try to get a woman romantically interested in you. I was never very good at that, but some men are very good at getting women to be interested in them.

What Parker is saying here is that “men seldom” – that is, not very often – “make passes at girls who wear glasses.” The idea being, of course, that if you're wearing glasses, you're not as attractive or pretty as other girls. Or it could also mean that men don't want to date or go out with women who are considered intelligent or smart, at least not smarter than they are.

Now, let’s turn to our next topic briefly, which is how to become a nurse in the United States. A “nurse” is someone who works with the doctor to take care of people who are sick. “Nurses” are what we would call “healthcare professionals.” The word “healthcare” refers to trying to keep people healthy, trying to help people who are sick, both in their bodies as well as in their minds. Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals typically work in hospitals and medical clinics to help people become more healthy.

There are actually three kinds of nurses in the United States who take care of people who are sick. The first kind is a “licensed practical nurse.” These are nurses who provide the most basic or simple kind of care to patients, to people who are ill. Another kind of nurse – one that requires more education and training – is a “registered nurse.” “Registered nurses” are the nurses who typically give shots to people, give injections, give patients their medicine, and work more closely with the doctor.

The final kind of nurse, which is a fairly new classification of nurse, is “nurse practitioner.” “Nurse practitioners” actually see patients and give them medicine. They are able to work with patients instead of, in many cases, a doctor. A “nurse practitioner,” in terms of expertise and knowledge, is somewhere in between a doctor and a registered nurse. Depending on what kind of nurse you want to become, you have to go through different kinds of training.

To make things even more complicated, every state in the United States has its own requirements. So, it's a little bit different in California than it is in Colorado or in New Jersey. To become a licensed practical nurse, you need to take what are called “certificate courses.” These courses, these classes, are taken at usually a community college, what we sometimes call a “two-year college.” But to become a licensed practical nurse usually takes just one year or so of study after high school.

Certain colleges offer both degrees and certificates. A “degree” is usually more difficult to get and takes longer, either two years or four years. Sometimes, if you're getting a master’s degree, it can take six or seven years, and a doctorate degree can take many more. It took me four years to get my PhD after finishing my master’s degree, although it seemed like 40.

Licensed practical nurses take about one year of courses and then take an exam that is given by the state to make sure they know what they are doing. If they pass the exam, then they get a “license” to be a nurse. A “license” is official permission from the government to do something. You can have a “driver’s license,” which gives you the right to drive a car in the United States.

To become a “registered nurse,” sometimes called simply an “RN” by the initials, you need to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This is a four-year regular university degree. You would have to go to a regular college or university. Registered nurses study physiology, which refers to where things are in your body, basically. Nurses also study both adult and pediatric care. “Pediatric” (pediatric) refers to taking care of children.

If you want to become a nurse practitioner, you have to get the equivalent of a master’s degree in nursing. This is a two-year program that you would complete after you finish your four years of the bachelor's degree. In terms of popularity, the LPN (the licensed practical nurse) and the RN (the registered nurse) are the two most common kinds of nurses you will find in American hospitals and doctor’s offices.

So, if you want to become a nurse here in the U.S., now you know. If you're a nurse in another country and you come to the United States, then it's a little more complicated. It's a little more difficult. You might be able to simply take the exam and become a nurse; that happens in some states. Some states may require you to take some additional classes or courses. Typically, they will look at the classes that you took in your own country to see whether you've taken all of the required classes here in the U.S.

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

Our first question comes from Mantinder (Mantinder). It doesn't say where Mantinder is from – maybe “Mantinderland?” Is there such a thing? No? Well, anyway, the question has to do with the difference between two words: “athlete” and “player.” An “athlete” (athlete) is a person who is trained or who has some skill in a sport or game. We talk about athletes in the Olympics. These are people who know how to swim, or run, or ride horses, or shoot guns, or play soccer, or any other sport – perhaps knowing how to play poker. Do they play poker in the Olympics? No? Okay.

The term “athlete” almost always refers to someone who is involved in some sort of physical game or physical competition like baseball or football or soccer or any of the other competitions that we've already mentioned. “Player” (player) is used to describe anyone who participates in any kind of game or sport. So, a “player” is a more general word. An “athlete” is always a player. An athlete is always someone who participates in some game, but it's always a physical game. You can be a player in a game that isn't physical. You could be a video game player, for example.

“Player” is also used in a couple of other instances. We use “player” to talk about someone who plays a musical instrument. “I'm a piano player,” you could say, meaning you play or are able to use a piano. Sometimes, the word “player” is used in a very general way to refer to anyone who is involved in a certain business deal or business negotiation. You might say something like, “We want to make sure we have all the players at the meeting before we talk about signing the contract.”

A “player,” informally, can also mean a man who likes to have more than one girlfriend, who goes around and has two or three or four girlfriends. Sometimes we informally refer to that sort of man as a “player.” Finally, a “player” can also be a thing that you use to listen to CDs or DVDs. We have DVD players in our living rooms. We have CD players in our offices. You can have an MP3 player, such as an iPod.

Our next question comes from Hetsal (Hetsal). Once again, I don't know where Hetsal is from, probably “Hetsaland.” Hetsal wants to know the difference between “hazard” and “risk.” A “hazard” (hazard) is some sort of danger that you can't avoid. You may even know that there is a situation that is going to be dangerous, but you have to go through or be part of that situation anyway. So, one use of hazard is an unavoidable danger, a danger you can't avoid.

If you're driving on the freeway and it starts to rain, the rain is a hazard. It could cause you to slide and hit another car, but you can't really avoid it if you want to drive on the freeway in the rain. I guess you could stop driving your car, but you might be sitting there for a long time until the rain stops, anyway. The word “hazard” can also be used as a verb which means to give an answer to something, usually something that you are not sure that you are right about. The expression that you'll commonly hear is “hazard a guess” (guess). “To hazard a guess” means to make a guess – to guess, simply.

“Risk” (risk) is when there is a possibility of danger or loss. Putting money into the stock market is a risk. It is something that you could lose money on. “Risk” can also be used as a verb meaning “to take a chance,” once again with the idea that you may lose something or there's some danger involved. There are a few cases where you can use both “risk” or “hazard” to mean basically the same thing. “Risk” is a much more common word than “hazard.” You'll also hear the word “risky” (risky), which is the adjective.

“Hazard” is used also as an adjective when we’re talking about things that are dangerous. “Smoking is hazardous to your health.” Smoking is dangerous to your health because it can damage or hurt your body. Being a “player,” as in going around and having more than one girlfriend, can also be hazardous to your health if the other girlfriends find out.

Our final question is from Luis (Luis) in Brazil. Luis wants to know the meaning of an expression I think he saw as the title of a song, or a line or sentence in a song: “Call it a day.” “What's the difference,” Luis asked, “between ‘call it a day’ and ‘to quit?’” “To call it a day” means to stop what you have been doing – usually, working – for the rest of the day, or at least for a certain amount of time. For example, if you are painting your house, and you started at eight o'clock in the morning and you continue until four o'clock in the afternoon, now you're tired and you say, “Well, let's just call it a day.” Let's stop here.

“Call it a day” really does mean “to quit.” However, “to quit” can have a broader or more general meaning. “To call it a day” is when you are quitting work for that day or for a certain amount of time. “To quit” is more general and can be used in a lot of different situations. “To quit” means, for example, to give up on something. “I quit smoking because it was hazardous to my health.” You can quit a job. “I am leaving my job at the university because I don't like working with a bunch of idiots.” Well, that's not true. They weren’t idiots. Not all of them.

Another meaning of “quit” nowadays is to exit a computer software program. I’m using Microsoft Word to type a document, and then I decide I need to leave. So, I “quit” the program. I leave or exit the program. Notice that if you are using “quit” to talk about stopping some activity, we use the "-ing" form of the verb after it. Technically, this is the gerund form. I'm going to quit running. I'm going to quit smoking. I'm going to quit talking now because I'm tired. In all of these cases, we use the "-ing" form of the verb after the verb “to quit.”

If you have a question or comment, wherever you're from, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com. From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

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

witty – funny in an intelligent way, able to make people laugh

* Everyone thought that Catharine was very witty and laughed at her jokes.

review – an opinion, usually written, about art, music, books and more

* All the reviews of Juans new book were good. Everyone said they loved the story and the characters in it.

to be published – to be printed for people to buy; to be made available as a book or on a website for others to read

* When Elizabeth's book was published, all of her friends went to the bookstore and bought a copy.

to be blacklisted – to be disapproved of and to be prevented from working; to not be allowed to work, specifically in Hollywood during the 1950s, because of being thought to be a communist

* Many great actors, writers, and directors were blacklisted in the 1950s in Hollywood and were never able to find work again.

prolific – producing a lot of creative work; creating a lot of works in art, music, writing and more

* Elizan is a prolific author who writes 10 books each year.

to proclaim – to say publicly; to officially make an announcement

* After over 20 years of fighting, he two countries proclaimed an end to the long war.

compilations – collections of items or works put together and sold or given to others as a group

* Now you can buy a compilation of the Star Wars movies, which includes all six films that have been produced.

harsh – rough; hard; difficult

* Montana has harsh winters, sometimes with months of below-zero temperatures.

healthcare – related to professionals who work to keep the mind and body healthy; keeping and improving the condition of the body and mind

* The cost of healthcare increases as people get older and have more health problems.

certificate course – a class or set of classes one completes to show that one is knowledgeable and or skilled about a specific topic or area of study

* Alice was interested in learning how to be a chef in a restaurant, so she took a certificate course on the weekends and learned about cooking.

physiology – an area of science that studies the organs (parts inside one’s body that does the most important things, such as the heart) and what happens inside the body

* After taking a course in physiology, Sioban understood how her heart and lungs worked.

pediatric – the area of medicine that deals with children and how to treat their illnesses

* When her baby was very sick, Louise took him to the pediatric hospital, which dealt specifically with children and babies.

athlete – a person trained and/or performs very well in a sport or game that requires special ability in the use of one’s body

* Professional athletes put a lot of strain on their bodies and are likely to have injuries during their careers.

player – a person who participates in a sport or game; a performer of a musical instrument; a person involved in a business deal; a gambler

* Let’s play a game of football after our picnic. How many players can we get for each side?

hazard – an unavoidable danger; unpredictability

* Unfriendly dogs are a hazard to mail carriers.

risk – a possibility of danger or loss; a chance

* Why should we risk getting wet in the rain when we can just stay here until the storm is over?

to quit – to give up; to not have anymore; to leave a job; to discontinue; to stop doing; to leave; to depart from; to exit a computer application

* Boris tried to fix the broken coffeemaker, but he quit after hurting his hand.

to call it a day – to stop what one has been doing for the rest of the day or at least for now

* We’ve been working on this project all day. Let’s call it a day and start again in the morning.

What Insiders Know
The Shortage of Nurses in the U.S.

According to the American Hospital Association, 1998 was the year hospitals began to experience a “shortage” (not having enough) of nurses. Many of them were leaving their profession because they began to feel “underpaid” (not paid enough money) and “overworked” (asked to do much at work).

Hospitals responded to this shortage by offering “signing bonuses” (extra money one gets for accepting a job or signing a job contract), more “benefits” (things employees get in addition to money, such as vacation time), and “scholarships” (money to pay for school).

In recent years, the situation of a shortage of nurses seems to have improved. More people “graduated” (completed a school degree) from nursing programs. The biggest increase “occurred” (happened) between 2000 and 2010, resulting in more nurses “on the job” (working). However, between 2010 and 2020, it is “projected” (expected based on information) that the shortage will become a problem again.

One of the main reasons for another projected nursing shortage is that “baby boomers,” people who were born between 1945 and 1964, are starting to reach the last “one-third” (1/3) of their lives. There were approximately 76 million American children born between 1945 and 1964 and the need for nurses will continue to increase as this large population gets older.