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492 Topics: Movies – Twelve Angry Men; Washington National Cathedral; cool versus awesome; closure and mental loafer; no biggie

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 492.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 492. 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. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. Are you on Facebook? So are we. Go to facebook.com/eslpod and like us, because we like you.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the 1957 movie Twelve Angry Men, a classic American movie. We’re also going to talk about the National Cathedral, located in Washington D.C. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

The movie Twelve Angry Men is actually based on, or takes its story from, a play, as well as a television movie by the same name. It’s a movie about 12 members of what’s called a “jury.” A “jury” (jury) is a group of usually 12 men and women who listen to a case in a court of law and make a decision about that case.

The most common use of the jury is in what we would call a “criminal case,” where someone has broken the law. The government arrests the person – that is, takes the person and puts the person in prison – or at least says the person did something wrong. The person then goes to a court where there is a judge, who is the person responsible for running and managing the case.

The two sides, then – the government and the person who the government thinks broke the law – argue their case in front of the judge. They say why the person is guilty – that is, has done something wrong – or why the person is innocent. The group of people who decide whether the person who the government says is guilty is in fact guilty or not is the jury.

Not all court cases in the United States are decided by a jury. Some are, some aren’t. There are also cases where the judge alone makes a decision, but for most cases, especially for criminal cases, there is a jury involved, a group of men and women who make the decision.

The movie Twelve Angry Men is about a group of jurors. A “juror” (juror) is a member of a jury. In the U.S. legal system, when someone is accused of a crime – that is, if the government says they committed or did a crime – that person has the right to have what’s called a “trial.” A “trial” (trial) is the formal procedure where information about the crime is presented to a judge and a jury. The jury will then decide if the person did the crime – that is, if the person is guilty – or if the person is innocent, if the government hasn’t in fact made a mistake in saying this person is guilty.

The information about the crime is called “evidence” (evidence), when we say the lawyers, the representatives of the government and of the person who’s accused of the crime, present evidence to the jury. The person who is accused of the crime, who the government says did the crime, is called the “defendant” (defendant).

Lawyers for the government who try to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty are called the “prosecution.” The prosecution is the team of lawyers who work for the government and try to convince the jury that the person is guilty. The lawyer or lawyers on the other side who are trying to help the defendant are called the “defense.”

In a court case, the judge has the job of making sure that the trial is fair – that the courtroom stays calm, that the lawyers follow all of the rules. The judge doesn’t actually make the decision in most criminal cases. The decision is made by the jury. The jury consists of people who are typically not lawyers. They’re just average people like you and I who are selected, usually at random, to be a member of the jury.

A trial can sometimes last a couple of hours; sometimes it can last a couple of months. It depends on how complicated the crime is. After the lawyers have presented all of the evidence to the jury, the jury goes into a special room and “deliberates.” The verb “to deliberate” (deliberate) means to consider carefully – to think very carefully about the evidence and to make a decision. The jury goes into this room and it tries to make a decision.

Now, in the United States, in most cases, especially in criminal cases, everyone has to agree. In other words, the decision of the jury has to be unanimous. Everyone says yes or everyone says no. If that doesn’t happen – if there are couple of people who simply disagree with the rest of the jury – we have a situation called a “hung (hung) jury.”

When there’s a “hung jury,” there’s basically no decision. The jury goes back to the judge and says, “Sorry, judge. We can’t make a decision. We don’t all agree.” The judge then declares a “mistrial” (mistrial). A mistrial is when there’s no decision. Then the government has to decide whether it wants to have another trial and have a new jury come in to try to make the decision.

Most movies and television shows that involve trials are set in, or take place in, a courtroom. A “courtroom” is the place where the trial happens. They show a judge, they show the lawyers, and they show the evidence that’s presented. Very few of these movies and shows show what happens when the jury sits down and tries to make a decision. And that’s why this movie Twelve Angry Men is so interesting, because it shows the way a group of, in this case, 12 men make a decision.

The movie begins with the judge giving instructions to the 12 members of the jury. This particular case is a murder trial about a young Latino or Hispanic boy who is involved in the crime of killing his father. The boy is accused of stabbing his father. “To stab” (stab) means to take a knife or some sharp object and put it into someone with the intention of hurting or possibly killing him.

If the jury decides that this boy, this defendant, is guilty, the boy will probably receive what’s called the “death penalty.” The death penalty is when the government kills the criminal who is found guilty of a crime. When the jury goes to deliberate, one of the jurors tells the other jurors that they should look very carefully at each fact before making a decision. He reminds the other jurors that the law says that the case must be presented in such a way that there is no reasonable doubt that the boy is guilty.

In the United States criminal system, that’s usually the term that’s used to decide whether someone is guilty or not of a crime. It has to be, we say, “beyond reasonable doubt.” If you “doubt” (doubt) something, you’re not sure if that thing is true or not. “Reasonable doubt” would be doubt, as a noun, that normal people might have about a certain situation. There might, in this case, be evidence that is not quite clear and that you could perhaps use to think that the defendant is not guilty.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” means there’s no question in your mind that this person is guilty. In a criminal case in the U.S., the jury must use the standard or the rule of no reasonable doubt. In other words, it has to be pretty clear that the person is guilty, especially when we’re talking about a crime such as murder.

The jury members discuss the case, and as they do so, we learn more and more about each juror. In learning about the jurors, we realize while watching the movie that many people are making their decision not based on the evidence, but based upon pre-existing ideas that they have about the boy or about the situation involved in the crime. “Pre-existing” means that these are ideas they had even before they became members of the jury.

Of course, we don’t want people making decisions based upon their own ideas about whether a certain person is guilty or not, but based upon the evidence. Some people believe, for example, that because the boy is Latino, because he is Hispanic, he must be guilty, and that would be, of course, a sort of prejudice against people of a certain background.

As the men look more closely at the evidence, they realize that the case is not as simple as they might have thought when they first began their deliberations. They realize that perhaps the boy is not guilty. They realize that some of their own prejudices about the boy are influencing their decision. The film shows in many ways how subjective our legal system is. “Subjective” (subjective) means that it’s not always based on facts. It depends on the particular person and the opinions of that person, and sometimes the prejudices of that person.

The whole movie is about one juror who basically changes the decision of the jury by looking at the evidence more closely. The one juror in this movie that is most important is played by a very popular television actor of the 1950s, Henry Fonda. Henry Fonda was one of the most popular actors in American movies in the middle part of the twentieth century. Interestingly enough, he’s the father of two other famous actors: Jane Fonda, his daughter, and Peter Fonda, his son. Fonda, by the way, studied at the University of Minnesota – where I studied, but many years before I was there.

I won’t tell you how the movie ended, of course – you have to see the movie yourself. I will tell you that the movie did not make a lot of money when it was in the theaters, but it was still nominated, or “named,” for three Academy Awards, or Oscars – the awards for best picture, best director, and best screenplay. A “screenplay” is the script of the movie. It did not win any of the three awards. There was another famous movie in 1957 that won most of those awards, a movie about World War II called Bridge on the River Kwai.

However, it’s still considered a classic movie, a movie that has some wonderful performances in it, especially by the lead actor, Henry Fonda. It’s also a movie that people who are asked to be members of a jury would benefit from watching, because it shows just how subjective decisions can be sometimes, even on very important decisions such as whether someone is guilty of a crime or not.

Let’s turn now to our second topic, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. A “cathedral” (cathedral) is the main church in a particular area, where the leader of the church has his or her offices and is considered the leader of the church for that area. The leader in the Christian church in many religions is called a “bishop” (bishop). So, the cathedral is the main church of the bishop.

The word “cathedral” comes from “cathedra” (cathedra), which is a Latin word meaning “chair.” So, you can think of the cathedral as being the church in which the chair of the bishop is located. Many different Christian organizations or groups have cathedrals; the Catholic Church, for example, has cathedrals in each diocese, or region. The area of Los Angeles, for example, has a cathedral for the Archbishop of Los Angeles – the main leader of the church. Other Christian groups also have their own cathedrals.

Well, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., belongs to the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which is actually an organization that was created by the United States Congress – the United States government – back in 1893. The word “protestant” is often used to describe groups that separated themselves originally from the Roman Catholic Church back in the sixteenth century.

Sometimes we classify Christians into three major groups: Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. The Catholic Church are those Christians that are under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome, called the Pope. Protestants are Christians that are members of other churches that broke off from the Church of Rome. Some of those churches have bishops; some of them don’t. They have different names for the leaders of those churches.

The third kind of Christian is Orthodox, and that refers to Christians who are members of churches such as the Greek Orthodox Church or the Russian Orthodox Church. These are Christians that have many similarities with the Roman Catholic Church, both in belief and in structure, but have their own leadership. I don’t want to go into detail about the differences among these Christian groups. The important thing is to know that in the United States, historically the two largest groups have been Protestants and Catholics.

Of those two groups, the Protestant churches are in a majority – that is to say, most Christians are members of a Protestant group. The most powerful Protestant group historically in United States, especially during the first part of our history, was the Protestant Church of England, founded by King Henry VIII back in 1534.

After the United States became its own country – after it gained its independence from England – the members of the Church of England in the United States changed the name of the church from the Anglican Church, or Church of England, to the Episcopal Church. It was and still is, however, part of a larger collection of churches that are connected to the Church of England called the Anglican Communion.

Many founders of the United States, including many of our early presidents, were members of the Episcopal Church. So, it was quite powerful, especially during the nineteenth century in the United States. The goal of the Protestant Episcopal Foundation was to try to promote the Christian religion in the U.S. through education and charity. “Charity” refers to helping out people who need help. The more important task of the foundation, however, was to help build the National Cathedral.

Construction of the National Cathedral began back in 1907, and it took 83 years and 65 million dollars to complete it. Cathedrals often take many years, sometimes centuries to complete because typically they are very large buildings that require a lot of money and work. The cathedral is 530 feet long. That’s 160 meters and is the second-largest cathedral in the United States and the sixth-largest cathedral in the world.

It’s located on the highest point in our nation’s capital (Washington, D.C.) and can be seen from all four corners of the District of Columbia, as well as from the states of Virginia and Maryland. Even though the whole building was not completed until relatively recently – 1990 – religious services, religious ceremonies started in the church as early as 1912. A “religious service” (service) is a ceremony usually lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to up to two hours.

Although it’s called the National Cathedral, only one of our presidents is actually buried in the church. That would be Woodrow Wilson, who was president during World War I. The church, however, has held many important services. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., who was a minister, a religious leader himself, gave his final Sunday sermon at the National Cathedral before being killed. A “sermon” (sermon) is a speech that a religious leader gives to the people during a religious service, typically.

Four presidents have attended prayers at the National Cathedral on their inauguration day, on the day when they become president officially. Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have all gone to the National Cathedral on the day of their inauguration.

Now, you may be wondering, “Well, the United States is supposed to have a separation between church and state” – that is, the United States government isn’t supposed to favor one religion over the other. Nevertheless, the National Cathedral, even though it belongs to one particular Christian group, is considered a church that everyone can go to, especially those who are political leaders. It’s considered sort of a national symbol of the Christian religion in the United States, even though the government officially doesn’t favor one religious group over the other.

The National Cathedral has also been the site of funerals for presidents when a president dies. Several presidents have had funerals held in the National Cathedral, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who died in 1969; President Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004; and President Gerald Ford, who died in 2007.

There many interesting things to see in Washington, D.C. The National Cathedral isn’t necessarily the most important site in terms of historical interest, but if you go to Washington, I think you might enjoy visiting there. You can go in and take a tour of the building and learn about its construction and history.

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

Our first question comes from Yukiko (Yukiko) in Japan. Yukiko wants to know the difference between “cool” and “awesome.” Both of these words are used informally in English. Let’s start with “cool” (cool). “Cool” can mean something that has a cold temperature. We can talk about “cool weather,” meaning the temperature is not very high. It’s not warm. “Cool” as an adjective, however, is also used to mean “excellent,” “very good.” It’s still used, although it was more common probably when I was growing up, in the ’70s and ’80s.

If you said something or someone was “cool,” you meant that you thought it was very good, it was something that you approved of, and/or it was something that was very popular at the time. It depends on what the adjective is modifying. If you say someone has “a cool pair of sunglasses,” you’re saying that person has a pair of sunglasses that look good, that look fashionable. You could also talk about something “becoming cool,” meaning becoming more popular, especially among people whose opinions you value or whose tastes you agree with.

The word “awesome” (awesome) is a more recent version of cool. It also means “very good” or “excellent.” Sometimes it can mean a little bit more than that. Sometimes it can mean “amazing,” when something is very, we would say, “impressive” – something that you consider to be terrific, to be wonderful. “I had an awesome lunch today with my friend.” You mean it was something that was wonderful, something that you really enjoyed.

Although both “cool” and “awesome” can be used sometimes in the same situations – you could talk about someone having, say, an “awesome pair of sunglasses” as well as a “cool pair of sunglasses” – in some situations, “awesome” is something even more impressive than “cool.” “That’s a cool car.” “That’s an awesome car.” We would probably consider the second description, “an awesome car,” to describe a car that was even better than the “cool car.”

But the differences are not so great that in most cases, you can use one term for the other. Of the two, “awesome” is a little bit more recent, a little bit more current.

Our second question comes from Pisho (Pisho) from an unknown country – Country X. The question has to do with two different words, “closure” (closure) and “loafer” (loafer). These two words don’t have anything to do with each other, but we’ll answer the question anyway.

“Closure” is a noun. It comes from the verb “to close.” “To close” is the opposite of “to open.” So, “closure” would be the finishing of something, a situation where a problem or a circumstance has ended. It has been solved, perhaps, or at least it is finished in a way that you don’t need to go back and work on it or look at it again.

We sometimes use this word in a psychological or emotional sense to refer to a situation where some relationship has ended, perhaps because someone has died or perhaps because someone has gotten a divorce. “Closure” would be the ability or the situation where you feel like it’s over. You’ve recovered from it emotionally. You’ve recovered from perhaps the damage of something.

“Closure” can also be used in a business sense to refer to a business that stops operating, that closes. We can talk about “closures at the factory.” A “factory” is a place where things are made. If there is a “factory closure,” that means the factory is no longer operating. It is no longer in business.

A “loafer” is a person who doesn’t like to work, a lazy person. The verb is “to loaf” (loaf). “To loaf” means to waste time – not to work the way you’re supposed to be working. That’s “loafer” used to describe a person. There’s also a noun “loafer” that describes a type of shoe, believe it or not. It’s a kind of shoe that isn’t all that popular anymore nowadays, but it was when I was growing up.

A loafer is a flat-heeled shoe (that is to say, a shoe that is basically flat on the bottom) that is made of leather and sort of looks like a moccasin, which is another kind of shoe that is associated with the American-Indian community in the United States – a traditional form of a shoe or type of shoe.

Finally, we have question from Sue (Sue) in France. Sue wants to know the meaning of the expression “no biggie” (biggie). “No biggie” is a very informal expression that means “no big deal,” “nothing to worry about.” If someone says to you, “I’m sorry I can’t go to the movie with you this afternoon,” and it’s not very important or it doesn’t bother you, you might say, “Oh, that’s okay. No biggie,” meaning it’s no big deal.

I’m not sure where this expression comes from originally, why we say “biggie” instead of “big.” Just one of those informal things that develop in a language over time, and this is the expression that is used – again, pretty informally – in situations where someone wants to say “It’s no big deal,” “It is not something that is important.”

It may be used, for example, when someone asks you of a favor. If someone says, “Could you give me a dollar?” and you give the person a dollar, and they say, “Oh, thank you so much,” you might say, “Oh, no biggie.” It isn’t a very big favor. It isn’t very much trouble for you, and so that’s one possible place where you might use that expression.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Cafe was written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

jury – a group of 12 men and women from the community who listen in court to the evidence in a case and decide whether there is enough evidence to find the person accused of the crime guilty

* The jury consisted of five men and seven women who listened closely to everything the attorneys said before making their decision.

trial – a formal procedure where the information about a crime or legal matter is presented in a courtroom in order to make a decision about whether someone is guilty or innocent, or which side is right or wrong

* The murder trial lasted three weeks and the man accused was found not guilty.

evidence – any information, materials, or documents presented in a courtroom to show that a person is innocent or guilty

* Is there any evidence that gang members committed the burglary?

defendant – in a legal case, the person accused of committing a crime

* The defendant insisted that he was not guilty and that he had simply found the body after coming home from a weekend trip.

prosecution – the attorneys in a court who are trying to prove that a person is guilty of a crime

* The prosecution showed that the bank manager helped the robbers open the safe and steal the money.

to deliberate – to consider a question or problem carefully

* Art needed a new car and spent many hours deliberating on which one to buy.

preexisting – already there or present before something occurs or before a particular time

* Johann had heard stories while growing up of what India was like, so before his visit, he had some preexisting ideas about what he would find there.

prejudice – an opinion, usually negative, of someone or something formed before one has actual experience or a real reason for that opinion

* Mo had many prejudices against Americans before moving to the U.S.

subjective – based on one’s own opinions or feelings and not on fact

* Most people agree that beauty is subjective and what one person thinks is beautiful another person might think is ugly.

cathedral – in the Christian religion, the main church in a particular area where the leader of all churches in that administrative area works

* Many royal weddings have been held at Westminster Cathedral in London.

service – in the Christian religion, a formal ceremony of worship in a church

* During the church service, people sang songs, shook hands with each other, and listened to the priest’s message.

sermon – a speech on a religious or moral topic that a religious leader gives to the people who attend that church

* The sermon last Sunday focused on the importance of being kind to everyone, including people who are not kind to you.

cool – very impressive; excellent; very good

* This new game is so cool!

awesome – extremely impressive; terrific; amazing

* It’s awesome how you’re able to work two jobs and raise three kids.

closure – a feeling that something has been completed or that a problem has been solved

* We want the killer caught and punished so that our family can have closure.

loafer – a person who avoids doing work; a person who wastes time instead of working

* You’re a bunch of loafers! Instead of doing yard work, you’re sitting around drinking beer.

no biggie – no big deal; not something to worry about

* It’s no biggie if you’re not able to come to my birthday party because you need to work.

What Insiders Know
Jury Nullification

In the United States, legal cases that need a “verdict” (court decision) of “guilty” (having done the crime) or “not guilty” (not having done the crime) often requires a jury. The jury is provided with evidence to help them come to a decision. With the guidance of a judge, the jury is expected to come to a verdict based on laws and the evidence presented.

While this is the way the process is supposed to work, it doesn’t always go “smoothly” (without problems). There are times when a jury will make a decision based on a disagreement with the current laws. That’s when “jury nullification” may occur.

“Jury nullification” is used in a trial when the jury finds the defendant “not guilty,” even if the members of the jury believe that the defendant is guilty. Similarly, “jury nullification” can be used when a person is found guilty because the jury has disagreements with current or previous laws, even though the evidence shows that he or she committed or did the crime.

One famous use of jury nullification occurred with the fugitive slave laws. The fugitive slave laws were passed in 1793 and 1850. These laws required the return of “slaves” (people owned by other people, similar to property) who escaped from one state back to the original state where their owners were based. In 1851, several men were accused of rescuing a slave named Shadrach Minkins from Boston officials who intended to return him to his owner. Even though the people who rescued the slave were arrested and charged, jury nullification occurred and none of the defendants were convicted.

Similarly, during the “Prohibition,” the period in the 1920’s when the making, storing, transporting, and selling of alcohol was illegal, juries would often “disregard” (not pay attention to) Prohibition laws. As many as 60% of prohibition-related cases resulted in a jury nullification.