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419 Topics: Fort Knox United States Bullion Depository; Looney Tunes; job versus career; a while versus awhile; to trash talk

Complete Transcript
You're listening to ESL Podcast's English Café number 419.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast's English Café episode 419. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. I'm okay. Don't worry.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Buy one of our special courses in business and daily English. They're wonderful. You'll love them. Go to our website and see.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most famous places in the United States – certainly one of the most secure places in the United States – Fort Knox. We’re also going to talk about some of the most famous cartoons, animated cartoons, in the United States: Looney Tunes. And, as always, we’ll answer some of your questions. Let's get started.

Our first topic today is Fort Knox. Fort Knox may not be known to you, but almost every American, at least of my age, has heard of Fort Knox. Fort Knox is officially called the “United States Bullion Depository.”

A “depository” (depository) is a place where you store things. The verb “to deposit” means to put something in a certain place, to keep it there for a long time. We talk about “depositing” money into our bank accounts. We are giving the bank our money to keep. Of course, the bank doesn't keep your money; it gives your money to somebody else and then gets money from your money, but that's a different story.

“Bullion” (bullion) is typically either gold or silver that has not yet been made into coins. It's not yet official money. Usually there are “gold bars” – that is, thick solid pieces of gold. They take these gold bars and they melt them so they can make, for example, gold coins. So, a “bullion depository” is a place where you would keep the bullion, either silver or gold. Usually when we talk about Fort Knox, we’re thinking about gold.

Fort Knox is actually a U.S. Army base – a place where the military soldiers live and work. However, when most people talk about Fort Knox, they're referring to the official bullion depository. Fort Knox, then, is a place where the U.S. government keeps the gold that it owns. The history of Fort Knox is quite interesting. It was built in 1936. It's located, of course, at Fort Knox, in the state of Kentucky. It's in the eastern part of the United States. We could call it the central eastern part of the United States.

The bullion depository was built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his “New Deal” policies. The “New Deal” (deal) was a set of programs that President Roosevelt began in the 1930s to help the United States recover from the Great Depression – the bad economic times that began in 1929 and continued, really, until the beginning of World War II.

We have two words that we use to describe bad economic times. One of them is “recession” (recession). The other is “depression” (depression). A “recession” is when the economy is bad, but not terrible. A “depression” is when the economy is really bad – when a large percentage of people don't have jobs, and everything is bad in the economy.

During the 1930s, beginning with the stock market crash of 1929, the United States economy entered into a great depression, what we now call “The Great Depression.” I said the stock market “crashed.” A “crash” (crash) is when the economy suddenly becomes very bad. A stock market crashes when the prices in the stock market drop or go down very suddenly.

One of the things that President Roosevelt did in his New Deal programs was to build things for the government, what were called “public works projects.” One of the major public works projects that Roosevelt started was the building of the bullion depository at Fort Knox. Building started in 1936 and was finished in 1937. That's when the first gold was moved to Fort Knox.

Roosevelt had another reason for building the bullion depository. He wanted Americans to believe that the United States government was strong. He thought if Americans knew that the government had a large supply of gold, they would have more confidence in the American government.

There was also a practical reason, in a way, for Roosevelt to build this depository. One of his economic policies involved requiring that banks give their gold to the U.S. government in exchange for basically a piece of paper: a certificate. The United States needed somewhere to put all of that gold, and Fort Knox was the place that Roosevelt decided it should be put.

The bullion depository at Fort Knox was built to be an “impregnable fortress.” If we talk about some place being “impregnable” (impregnable), we mean it's very difficult to enter that place. Fort Knox was built to be an impregnable fortress. A “fortress” (fortress) is a place that is built so that it is very difficult to attack. The idea here, of course, is that you need a place to keep gold that is very safe. And that's what Fort Knox became.

The depository building is a two-level, or two-story, building that's made of steel and concrete. The “vault” (vault), or the room where the gold and money is stored, is about 12 meters by 18 meters, or 40 feet by 60 feet, and is protected by a door that weighs about 20 tons, which would be the weight of, say, 10 cars.

When Fort Knox was built, the government said it was the most secure, or safest, place in the country. That's why, even today, when people use the expression “Fort Knox” or “like Fort Knox,” they mean it's a very safe or secure place. That expression, “It's like Fort Knox,” could also be used to describe a place that is very difficult to enter because it is so secure, because it is locked up and safe.

Today, the bullion depository at Fort Knox holds approximately 148 million ounces of gold. That would be about 4500 metric tons. It's the second largest holding of gold in the United States. Interestingly enough, the largest holding of gold is at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

Because Fort Knox was always considered such a safe place, it is being used by the American government to keep things other than gold. During World War II, for example, the U.S. government moved some important documents to Fort Knox to protect them in case Washington, D.C. was attacked. The documents included the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Abraham Lincoln's most famous speech: the Gettysburg Address.

Other countries also kept things at Fort Knox during World War II to keep them safe. One of the four copies of the Magna Carta from England was kept in Fort Knox. It was here, actually, on display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Then, when the war began, it was kept in the United States and taken to Fort Knox for safety. Fort Knox also held the crown of Saint Stephen of Hungary. It was given to the U.S. government to keep it safe during that time.

No visitors are allowed into the bullion depository. You can't go to Fort Knox and go and see the gold. The depository is run by, or operated by, the United States Mint, which is part of the Department of the Treasury that controls the making of money in the United States. The United States Mint makes the coins and the bills that we use as money.

Now let’s turn to our next topic, which is a set of famous cartoons called “Looney Tunes.” The word “loony,” here spelled (looney), means crazy. When you say somebody's “loony,” you mean they're crazy – they're mad, they’re out of their mind. “Tunes” are normally songs. You may have heard of the software “iTunes.” “Tunes” usually stands for music.

“Looney Tunes,” however, refers to some animated films that were made in the United States by a movie company called Warner Brothers – Warner Brothers Studio in Los Angeles, in Hollywood. When I say they were “animated films,” I mean that they had characters that were drawn by artists, and then it looked as though those characters were moving. You've all seen a cartoon. Back in the 1930s, all of this was done by hand – that is, the artists drew each individual picture that was used in these films.

The films included in the Looney Tunes collection included some of the most memorable and well-known characters in Hollywood history, including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The idea for Looney Tunes came in 1930, during what is sometimes called the “Golden Age of Animation” in Hollywood. This was a period when pretty much all of the Hollywood film studios got involved in making animated movies.

One of the reasons they got involved in making animated movies – in making cartoons – was the success of a man by the name of Walt Disney. In 1928, Walt Disney made a short film called Steamboat Willie. The star of the film, the animated star of the film, became one of the most popular animated characters of all time: Mickey Mouse. The film Steamboat Willie was a great success, and this caused other movie studios to try to copy it.

This, of course, is the way that Hollywood works. When someone has a successful idea, everyone else tries to copy that idea and do their own version of it. For example, when vampire stories became popular a few years ago, suddenly every television studio and movie studio was trying to make something about vampires. The same sort of thing happened in the 1930s. All of the movie studios got interested in animation, in making these cartoons.

But making an animated cartoon in the 1930s was very different than making one today. Now, we have computers and software. Back then, you had to draw everything by hand, as I mentioned previously. So, these were very expensive films to make. Audiences loved the films, but it was difficult to make a profit with them. When we say we are trying to “make a profit” (profit), we mean we’re trying to make more money – bring in more money than we spend on our product.

Nevertheless, during the 1930s and 40s, most major large Hollywood studios got involved in animation. The technology was then developed to sync words and music to the characters talking in the film. When we say “sync” (sync), we mean they made it look as though the character was talking because the music and the words matched the movements of the mouth of the character.

Walt Disney realized the difficulty in making a profit, however, with these short films. So, he decided to make what we would call a “full-length movie” – a regular movie of an hour and a half or two hours long. The first of these movies that Disney made was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This, once again, became very popular, and soon other movie studios were trying to make full-length films. However, only Disney was in the long term – over many years – successful in making a lot of money on animated films.

The makers of Looney Tunes, these shorter cartoons, was, as I said before, Warner Brothers Studios. Warner Brothers decided they weren’t going to make longer movies. They were going to keep with these short films. The short films were sometimes described as “gag (gag) cartoons.” A “gag cartoon” was a short cartoon in which there was a lot of physical movement, and the comedy – the funny part of the cartoon – usually involved some sort of exaggerated or large movement. They weren't complete stories in the sense of a full-length movie, but they were short little scenes.

During the 1950s, Warner Brothers, which was also a music company, decided to start using some of the music that they owned with the Looney Tunes. Interestingly enough, they picked a lot of classical music and used it as the background music, as the music that you hear while watching the cartoon. You don't normally expect to hear classical music when you are watching something silly and funny like a cartoon. But that's exactly what Warner Brothers did. It combined Looney Tunes with some famous pieces of classical music.

My favorite of these cartoons was “The Rabbit of Seville” (Seville). This was a cartoon that used the music of Rossini's The Barber of Seville, but of course, the story was completely different. I think you can probably go on YouTube and search for “Rabbit of Seville” and you'll find it. It's very funny. Over time, animated films became less popular with audiences, especially as we moved into the 1950s and 60s. In fact, Warner Brothers closed its animation offices in 1960. The Looney Tunes cartoons, however, lived on. Because they were short, they could be easily shown on television.

Many of the big television stations started to show these films, especially on Saturday mornings. Children, of course, don't go to school on Saturday, and so they have a lot of extra time. Television stations very intelligently decided to put programs on the air on Saturday morning that would be aimed at, or would be directed at, young viewers. So, millions of Americans, including me, grew up watching Looney Tunes cartoons on Saturday mornings. Saturday mornings are still a popular time for animated cartoons on television directed at children.

Animation didn't die in 1960. We saw a return to animated films in the 1990s with the advance of computer technology. Many of the Looney Tunes characters became famous and are still well-known, including internationally – in other countries. The most famous of these is Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny was created in 1940. He was famous for being very smart, very clever. He was especially famous for being able to fool another character, a hunter by the name of Elmer Fudd. Two other famous characters from Looney Tunes are Porky Pig and Daffy Duck.

Every Looney Tunes cartoon ends with the same words: “That's all folks.” These words were first heard at the end of the very first Looney Tunes film, called “Sinking in the Bathtub.” A “bathtub” is a place where you take a bath, where you wash your body. The expression “That's all” means “It's over,” “The end.” “Folks” (folks) is an informal word for guys or people. “That's all folks” became the signature line, or the best-known words, in the Looney Tunes films. I believe, usually, it was said by the character Porky Pig. He would say it in a very distinctive, very particular way. “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!” Something like that.

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

Our first question comes from Fereydoon (Fereydoon) in Afghanistan. The question has to do with the difference between the word “job” (job) and “career” (career). Let's start with “career.” A “career” is the work that you want to do and that you do for most of your life or, in some cases, for all of your life. If you are a lawyer, you practice law. You work as a lawyer for probably your whole working life – that's your career.

You can have more than one career. You may start off, for example, as a university professor. That could be your career. Then you decide to change careers and work as a podcaster. That would be two careers. The idea behind “career” is that it's a longtime commitment. It’s something you do for many years, often something that requires some sort of specialized training or education.

The word “job” is a little more general and can be used to describe any kind of work that you have that you get paid for, either full-time – that is 40 hours a week – or part-time, less than 40 hours a week. You may have a job for a month or a year or a couple of years, but it may not be your career. When you're in high school, you may work at a car wash – a place where they wash cars – like I did, or you might work at a restaurant like McDonald's. Those are jobs, but they are not typically, for most people, careers. They are shorter-term. They are simply places where people go to make money.

You can have different jobs with the same career. If you're a teacher, you could teach at one school – you would have a job at one school – and then a few years later you could get a job at a different school. It's the same career, teaching, but you have different jobs, different people you work for.

Usually, careers are described by general terms such as “doctor,” “engineer,” “lawyer,” “teacher,” “plumber,” “architect,” “podcaster” – all of these could be careers, except that last one: podcaster. You don't want your children to grow up to be podcasters, trust me.
The names we give to jobs, what we call the “job titles,” tend to be a lot more specific, such as a “fifth grade teacher” or an “emergency room nurse.” The career would be a nurse. The job would be the “emergency room nurse” at a certain hospital.

Our next question comes from Timisoara (Timisoara) in Romania. The question has to do with the word “awhile” (awhile) and the phrase “a while” (a while) – two words. “Awhile” as one word is an adverb. That is, it’s used to modify verbs. It means “for a short period of time.” “I want to sleep awhile.” That means I want to sleep a short amount of time. The confusing part comes in when we find out that “a while” as two words is a noun that means basically the same thing: “for some time,” “for a short period of time.”

However, “a while” as two words is used as a noun, not as an adverb. So, you could say “It's going to take me a while to finish my examination.” It's going to take me “a while” – two words. Because “while” can be the object of a preposition because it's a noun, you could also say things like, “We are going to dance for a while.” We are going to dance for a short time. So, once again, “awhile” as one word is an adverb. “A while” – two words – is a phrase that includes the noun “while.”

Our final question comes from Yasser (Yasser) in Iran. Yasser wants to know the meaning of the expression “to trash talk.” “To trash (trash) talk,” which can also be expressed as “to talk trash,” means to speak in some sort of insulting way about another person, usually someone you are competing against for something, such as in a game. It can also be used more generally to mean to be insulting about another person. The reason that you are being insulting is you want the other person to know how much better you are. You want the other person to lose confidence.

So, part of trash talking is talking about how great you are compared to the other person. “To trash talk” is informally used to talk about the way sometimes members of a sports team will talk about the other teams, and how they'll criticize them. Of course, it's not a very nice thing to do – to trash talk your opponent, the person that you are playing against – but it does happen.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com. We receive lots of questions, so please be patient. It may take a while before we get to yours.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again, won't you? 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.

bullion – gold or silver that is in bars (usually in the form of a block shaped like a rectangle, like a brick) and has not been made into coins yet

* When the United States Mint needs to make more gold coins, they get gold bullion, melt it down, and shape the coins from it.

The New Deal – a series of programs created in the 1930s by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help poor people find jobs and earn money as a way of rebuilding the United States economy.

* Many of the New Deal programs were in construction and over eight million people found jobs building roads and bridges around the United States.

The Great Depression – a period of time from 1929 to 1941 when the United States economy was very weak and many people were poor and had no jobs

* The Great Depression began in 1929 when many people and companies lost all their money. Millions of people lost their jobs and, often, their homes.

to crash – to get very bad very quickly; to go down very much and very suddenly

* When an economy crashes, the country’s money is suddenly worth much less than before and people cannot afford to buy food or pay to live in their homes.

impregnable – a place that is very difficult to enter or be taken control of, even through a military attack

* The walls at Fort Knox are impregnable because they are four feet thick and made of solid rock.

fortress – a place that is protected from an attack because of how it is built or where it is located

* Many castles in Europe were built to be fortresses with thick stone walls so that the people living inside were safe from enemies.

vault – a room where money or important items are kept so that they are safe

* All banks have vaults where they keep money so that it is protected in case of a bank robbery.

animated film ­– a movie in which the characters are drawn by artists and are not real people

* Animated films became popular again in the 1990s and early 2000s with movies such as Aladdin, The Lion King, and Toy Story.

to make a profit – to make money by selling something, usually the amount that is left after you subtract the amount of money used to make what is sold

* It only cost Alan $5 to paint a picture of the Washington Monument, but he was able to sell it to someone for $12, making a profit of $7.

to sync (something) – to make two things happen at the same time; to cause two or more things to occur or to move at the same rate

* Singers often sing to pre-recorded music at their concerts, making sure to sync their lip movement to the words so that it looks like they are actually singing.

gag cartoon – animated (with drawn characters) film in which the characters make large and funny movements with their bodies to make people laugh

* Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote starred together in many gag cartoons. Wile E. Coyote would try to catch the Road Runner, but would always end up falling into a hole or having a large rock land on him instead.

signature line – something that someone always says that then makes you think of them every time you hear it.

* The famous journalist Edward R. Murrow had the signature line “Good night and good luck,” which he said at the end of every one of his radio broadcasts.

job – a task done for an agreed price; full-time or part-time employment; responsibility; duty

* Julian works on several construction jobs at a time, including on nights and weekends.

career – an occupation that is one’s life’s work, especially one requiring specialized training or education

* Will you be able to have a career as a nurse if you’re afraid of needles?

a while – for some time

* It’s been a long while since we’ve eaten at this restaurant.

awhile – for a short period of time; for a short spell

* Let’s shop awhile while we wait for the others to arrive.

to trash talk – to speak in an insulting and boastful way in order to cause someone to lose confidence, to show one’s power or superiority over them, or to cause them to feel shame, especially an opponent in a sports game

* Lorenzo’s trash talking makes me laugh since his team hasn’t won a game in at least two months!

What Insiders Know
Betty Boop

Over the past 100 years, cartoon characters have become very popular and even “adored” (loved), some of them with “huge” (very large) “fan bases” (groups of people who like something a lot and follow its progress). One cartoon character became very popular among adults in the early days of cartoons and continues to have “a following” (fans). Her name is Betty Boop.

Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character who first appeared on August 9, 1930 in the Talkartoon cartoon series called Dizzy Dishes, and by 1932, she was given her own series called Stopping the Show. Fifty-five years later, in 1988, Betty Boop made an appearance in the Academy Award winning film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Originally, Betty Boop was shown as wearing a short dress, with her “cleavage” (top of a woman’s breasts) showing. She also wore high-heeled shoes and was drawn with “curves” (not straight lines) that were similar to the body of real life women. Her head, on the other hand, was drawn more like that of a baby’s, along with a strong sense of “sexuality” (related to sex).

However, Betty Boop’s image changed a lot when the Production Code of 1934 was issued. This Code set “stricter” (more limitations on what is acceptable) guideline on films with sexual content. This led to Betty Boop’s appearance being changed so that she wore dresses that covered more of her body, instead of short dresses. She was also drawn without “bracelets” (jewelry worn around the wrist) and “hoop earrings” (jewelry worn on the ears that look like circles). Betty Boop also no longer “winked” (closed one eye for a brief moment as a sign of playfulness) or “shook her hips” (moving her hips back and forth).

“Nowadays” (Today), Betty Boop is still regarded as one of the most popular cartoon characters. She was included in “TV Guide’s 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” list.