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529 Topics: Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys Book Series; Famous Americans – Martha Graham; enterprise versus entrepreneurship versus start- up

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 529.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 529. 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. The Learning Guide contains a complete transcript of everything I say. You can also download one of our special courses on our website. Go to the ESL Podcast Store. And if you’re on Facebook, go to facebook.com/eslpod and like us – because we like you, too.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about two famous book series in the United States – at least, they were very famous in the twentieth century – Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. We’ll also talk about one of the most famous American dancers and choreographers of the twentieth century, Martha Graham. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

The Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys book series both tell the stories of fictional teenage detectives. A “series” (series) is a group of books or stories that are all related to each other. Usually when you have a series book, the main character – the main person in the story – is the same.

“Series books” are excellent, excellent ways to improve your English because after you read the first book or the first story, you’re already familiar with the people. You’re also familiar somewhat with the vocabulary that the author – the writer – uses, and so reading the next book in the series is easier. It’s also more interesting for many people.

The Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books were series books that told the story of fictional detectives. “Fictional” (fictional) just means not real. All novels are fictional. They’re about, usually, people who don’t really exist (although sometimes the characters are based on, or are taken from, the actions of real people). A “detective” (detective) is a person who finds out who is responsible for a crime, who has committed a crime.

There are police detectives, but there are also what we call “private detectives,” and as in the case of the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books, there are “amateurs detectives” – people who aren’t really detectives. They’re not paid to be detectives, but they go out and solve crimes. This is a very common theme in crime fiction, in detective fiction, where the person who is the detective isn’t being paid to do what he or she does.

In the case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, these are teenage detectives, and so the books are written primarily for readers under the age of 18 – mostly kids in elementary school and high school. However, the stories are often very interesting, certainly interesting enough for an adult to read.

The Nancy Drew mysteries were books about a teenage girl by the name of, you guessed it, Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew is a smart, brave, adventurous young girl. “To be brave” (brave) means not to be afraid to do something dangerous. “Adventurous” describes someone who wants to go to new places, to meet new people, to have new experiences. Nancy lives in a town called River Heights, and she’s a brave, adventurous girl.

As in every detective novel, there are mysteries that the detective has to solve. A “mystery” (mystery) is something that is difficult or sometimes impossible to explain. In a detective novel, a mystery is usually a crime, something that someone did that was illegal or against the law. Often detective novels are about murders – people who are killed. The mystery is trying to find out who was the murderer.

Nancy solves mysteries in her town of River Heights with her friends Helen, Bess, and George. And let’s not forget Nancy’s other friend – her boyfriend, Ned. Yes, Nancy has a boyfriend. The first Nancy Drew mystery book was published in 1930 and was written by Carolyn Keen. However, Carolyn Keen is not a real person. In other words, “Carolyn Keen” was not the real name of the person who wrote the book.

“Carolyn Keen” is what we would call a “pseudonym.” A “pseudonym” (pseudonym) is a false name or imaginary name that someone uses instead of his real name. Many writers, many authors, use pseudonyms. They don’t use their real names. They use made-up names. Actors here in Hollywood also use pseudonyms, although we usually call those names “stage (stage) names.” A “pseudonym” is usually a name used by a writer.

The first person to write using the Carolyn Keen name was a woman by the name of Mildred Benson. Benson wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books, but other people wrote some of the other books, but using the same name, Carolyn Keen. Even though Mildred Benson’s name is not listed as an author of the Nancy Drew series, many people think of her as the person who really created the character of Nancy Drew.

It was popular at that time for groups of writers to work together, all publishing under the same pseudonym in order to write more of these series books. This is what happened with the Nancy Drew book series. A group of writers, including Mildred Benson, worked together, but all of them used the same name, the same pseudonym. I say the writers worked together, but in fact they worked for a company, a publishing company named Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate. This company is the one that published the books – that printed the books and sold them.

The Hardy Boys is another series published by the same company and also written under a pseudonym – that is, the author listed on the book isn’t the real name of the writer – and just like in the case of the Nancy Drew books, the Hardy Boys books were written by several writers, all of whom use the pseudonym “Franklin W. Dixon.”

The Nancy Drew books were written primarily for girls. The Hardy Boys books were, of course, written primarily for young boys. The Hardy Boys are actually two young brothers who are amateur detectives. The brothers are named Frank and Joe Hardy. The boys become detectives after being taught how to be a detective by their father, Fenton Hardy.

Now, Fenton in the books is a real detective who works for the police in a town by the name of Bayport. The Hardy Boys solve mysteries in the town, often with the help of their father who is a police detective. Notice that, whereas Nancy Drew is just one girl solving the mysteries. For the boys, they need two people to solve mysteries, because of course boys aren’t quite as smart as girls, or at least that’s what my wife tells me.

Both the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books were very popular with young people when they were first published. Young readers love the different mysteries that the detectives had to solve. In addition, young girls enjoyed having such an intelligent and brave role model like Nancy Drew. A “role (role) model (model)” is a person other people respect or look up to as someone whose actions they should copy themselves. Nancy Drew was popular because she was a strong female character who was independent, who was smart, who was brave.

For most of the time that the books have been published, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have been separate stories. In other words, Nancy Drew never appeared in a Hardy Boys book, and the Hardy Boys were never in a Nancy Drew book. However, that changed in the late 1980s when the publishing company decided to create mysteries where the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew worked together in what was called the “Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Super Mystery” series.

This helped the characters in the books reach new audiences by introducing the Hardy Boys to Nancy Drew readers and Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys readers, although I’m not sure if that was really necessary, but in any case, that’s what the publishing company decided to do.

While the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series are primarily known as books, there have been attempts to make them into television shows and movies. Four of the Nancy Drew stories were made into movies in the late 1930s, and the Hardy Boys was turned into a television series in the 1950s. There was another Hardy Boys television series in the late ’60s and early ’70s that I remember watching as a young boy. The Nancy Drew series was turned into a television show in the late 1970s, and as recently as 2007 there was a movie called Nancy Drew.

Most of the books in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were written in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Many young readers today aren’t as interested in reading those books, partly because the characters and the settings – the places where the stories take place – are so different from modern America. The characters in the stories aren’t checking their Facebook accounts every 10 minutes and sending each other text messages. So, they’re perhaps not as interesting as they were to children 50, 60 years ago.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend you listening to this, especially if you are an intermediate reader of English, to try finding some of these old books. You might find them interesting, and if you don’t find them interesting, then I would recommend looking for some more modern series. They could be detective series. They could be other kinds of series books. Once you get interested in a series books, then you have lots of additional books that you can read that will become easier for you to read the more books in the series you do read.

When I’m trying to improve a language that I want to learn and I’m good enough to read sort of lower-level books, I usually look for a series book that is written for teenagers. For example, John Grisham is a popular writer who writes books about lawyers. However, John Grisham has a series of books written for teenagers about a boy detective. It’s somewhat similar to the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew books. In fact, it’s very similar to that concept.

The books are written at a lower level of English, and when they are translated into other languages, they’re written at a lower level in that language, so they are easier to read. Once I read one of those books, I’m able to read the next book much more easily. So even if you’re not interested in Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, you might be interested in other series books. They are excellent ways of improving your English – not just your reading comprehension, but your vocabulary and your grammar.

Now let’s turn to our second topic, which is the famous American dancer Martha Graham. Martha Graham was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1894. Pennsylvania is located on the eastern coast of the United States, next to the state of New York. Pittsburgh is located in the western part of the state. Martha Graham and her family moved out of Pennsylvania at a young age and eventually ended up in California, in a city not too far from where I live called Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is about a hundred miles (that’s 160 kilometers to you) northwest of the great city of L.A.

When Graham was in her early twenties, she began to study at a school of dance here in Los Angeles. The school was known for its very different way of teaching dance. Instead of teaching only one form or type of dance, this school taught students dances from other countries and other cultures around the world. Students learned dance styles from Asia and Europe. They studied dances from the Native American peoples and other native peoples. They also studied classical dances such as ballet.

“Classical” (classical) has a couple of different meanings in the arts, but here it means the traditional form of dance that was considered the highest form, or the form that was traditionally taught. “Ballet” is a classical dance form. You probably have seen at least pictures or movies of ballets. Ballet is very popular with many girls in the United States. Young girls in elementary school and high school often take ballet classes. That’s partly a cultural and economic thing, however. It depends on the family you grow up in.

In any case, Graham studied many different kinds of dance at this school here in Los Angeles. She decided to leave the school in 1923 and move to New York City. For dancers, New York City was certainly the place to be – a place where you would more likely be able to get work and to learn from other artists, and many ways it’s still that way here in the U.S. if you are a dancer (although we have dancers here in Los Angeles as well, and not all of them appear in rock videos).

Martha Graham danced in New York City for with a group called the Greenwich Village Follies, but after two years she moved to a different city and became a teacher at a local dance school. She moved to another city in the state of New York, in the northern part of the state called Rochester, but Graham couldn’t stay away from New York City for too long, especially since, as I mentioned, New York City was sort of the capital of dance.

In 1926 Graham returned to the Big Apple (what we call New York City sometimes, informally) and began choreographing and performing her own original dances. “To choreograph” (choreograph) means to create and plan a series of dance steps, a series of movements for a dance. Graham believed that she could show feelings through dance movements in a new way.

Classical dancing was, according to many people, mainly meant to be beautiful to watch. Graham wanted her audiences to be more emotionally involved than what she thought traditional ballet dancing elicited from those watching it – that is, she wanted people to understand how the character was feeling and thinking, and she didn’t think that the traditional way of doing ballet was a good way of doing that, so she created her own dance forms.

At first Graham only created dances about female characters – about women. Until 1938, therefore, her dance company, her group of dancers, only had female dancers. However, beginning in the late ’30s, she started choreographing or creating dances that included male dancers as well. One of the dancers that she included in her new dance company was a man by the name of Eric Hawkins. Hawkins and Graham married in 1948, but it was a brief marriage. They divorced only six years later in 1954.

As Graham continued to choreograph dances, she began, as I mentioned, to create her own style of dance. This style actually became known as the “Graham technique.” A “technique” (technique) is a way of doing something. The Graham technique is a way of dancing that involves very, what we might describe as, “exaggerated movements.”

Something that is “exaggerated” here means something that is larger or greater than what it would be normally. The movements were also described by some people as being a little “jerky.” “Jerky” (jerky) refers to sudden quick movements that are not smooth, that are not connected. This new way of dancing, the Graham technique, is according to some people the foundation of modern dance even today. The “foundation” refers to the beginnings of something or the basic principles of something.

Martha Graham choreographed dances about many different kinds of characters – characters from ancient history as well as from American history. She herself danced until 1970. After that, she continued choreographing but didn’t perform herself. There’s no question that Martha Graham is the one name that Americans who know something about modern dance would recognize. I’m someone who doesn’t know very much about modern dance, but I certainly recognize Martha Graham’s name.

Graham died in 1991. She was 96 years old. To this day, she is considered to be one of the most important dancers and certainly the most important choreographer in American dance during the twentieth century.

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

Our first question comes from Michael (Michael) in Paraguay. Michael wants to know the meanings of three words: “enterprise,” “entrepreneurship,” and “start-up.” All three of these words are related to business English. Let’s start with the first word, “enterprise” (enterprise). In general, an enterprise can be a big project or a major undertaking – something that requires a lot of effort, something that is difficult.

If you are a fan of the TV and movie series Star Trek, you will know that the ship is called the Enterprise. Well, “enterprise” has another meaning in business English, which is a business or company – some organization that is founded usually to make money. It does have that other, more general meaning of being a large project or a large undertaking – something that is difficult to do.

In Star Trek, the USS Enterprise is called that because it’s on this long mission, this long journey, this long voyage that is difficult. For a business, an enterprise is simply another way of describing a company. There’s actually a company in the U.S. called Enterprise – they are a car rental company. They rent cars when you need a car.

The second word that Michael wants to know about is “entrepreneurship.” Well, “entrepreneurship” refers to the process of organizing and starting a business, often a business that you are investing your own money in or your own time in. “Entrepreneurship” contains the word “entrepreneur” (entrepreneur) An “entrepreneur” is a person who starts a business, who organizes a new company and often invests his own time and money into that company.

A “start-up” is a new business that is usually related to technology or the Internet. The term “start-up” is relatively new to English. People used to talk about starting a new business – I don’t know why, but somehow the technology and Internet companies decided to use this new term “start-up.” “To start up” a new business is a common phrasal verb, but now we have the noun “start-up,” which refers to a new business.

If you see it in the newspaper or read it in a magazine or on the Internet, it probably relates, however, to a technology company – a company that produces technology or is somehow related to Internet technology or other kinds of computer technology. Here in California, the place where a lot of start-ups begin their business life is in the Silicon Valley up in Northern California. However, more recently, here in Los Angeles there has been a lot of activity – companies coming here and starting up new companies.

The area I live in is sometimes called “Silicon Beach” – or at least, the area near where I live, about a mile from where I live. There are dozens of new technology companies that have started. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing for the economy here in Los Angeles, but it’s a bad thing for my neighborhood because now we have more traffic – more people, more cars – but you can’t have the good without the bad sometimes.

Our next question comes from Shibo (Shibo) in China. The question is about the difference between two verbs, “to prohibit” and “to inhibit.” “To prohibit” (prohibit) means to say that someone cannot do something. Usually “prohibited” is something that is not allowed by law, or because of some rule. “To prohibit” implies some authority on behalf of the person who is stopping you from doing something.

So, we might say, “The law prohibits you from smoking in a bar or restaurant in Los Angeles.” It’s against the law. You are prohibited from doing it. The verb “to prohibit” always, or usually, involves some formal regulation or official law or rule that doesn’t allow you or stops you from doing something.

“To inhibit” (inhibit) is similar. However, “to inhibit” usually means to prevent someone or to make it difficult for someone to do something, but not because of a law or a rule. Nowadays you’ll mostly hear people use the verb “to inhibit” when they are talking about how they themselves don’t feel as though they can do something, even if it’s not formally against the rules or against the law.

People feel “inhibited,” for example, talking about certain subjects when they know that the other person might get angry or that the people with whom they work wouldn’t like them to bring up that topic. People feel “inhibited” from perhaps drinking too much, because they are afraid of what their friends might say. So, “to inhibit” usually, at least when you see the verb or hear the verb nowadays, relates to informal reasons or informal forces that prevent or stop someone from doing something he might otherwise do.

There’s a noun, “inhibitions.” “Inhibitions” refer to things that your conscience or your psychological makeup prevent you from doing. The opposite of being “inhibited” is being uninhibited. If you’re uninhibited, you don’t care about what other people think. You’re going to do what you want. You’re not going to be prevented from doing what you want based on what other people might think or even based upon your own ideas about what’s right and wrong.

Finally, Magdalena (Magdalena) in Canada, wants to know the meaning of the expression “I can’t even.” “I can’t even” (even) is an expression that we use when we are overwhelmed, when something happens that we find difficult to understand or to accept. It could be a good thing. It could be a bad thing. When we use this expression, we’re often so taken by a situation or so affected by an experience that we find it difficult to communicate, to express our feelings.

For example, let’s say you see a movie that was really bad, that was a very uninteresting, boring movie. You may describe that movie to your friend by saying, “I can’t even tell you how bad this movie was.” It was so bad, I don’t have the words to communicate to you, to express, how bad it was. I can’t even tell you how bad it was.

Now, I understand that more recently, on the Internet, people use this expression “I can’t even” in a similar way, except they don’t use it as part of a sentence. Normally when you see “I can’t even” in a book, say, it’s part of a sentence. “I can’t even [something].” “I can’t even tell you.” “I can’t even describe how bad this movie was.”

“I can’t even” is not a complete sentence. The word “can’t” demands or requires another verb after the word “even.” However, it’s become popular, I guess, for people on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites to use “I can’t even” just to express how amazed they are by something, how overwhelmed they are by something, and they don’t even use it as part of a complete sentence.

Perhaps this is the use that you saw, Magdalena, and were confused about. To be honest, before I looked into it, I was a little confused myself. But that’s the meaning of the word. It’s related to the traditional use of the word. It’s just that people are now, I guess, using that expression “I can’t even” without using it in a complete sentence.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us – using complete sentences, I hope. 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 Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

series – a group of related things, such as books or films, connected by common characters, settings, or other things

* The film was the first in a series that told the story of the McCarthy family.

fictional – not real; imaginary

* The Superman cartoon is set in the fictional city of Metropolis, which many people believe is similar to New York City.

detective – a person whose job it is to discover the person or people who committed a crime

* The detectives talked to everyone involved in the robbery, including the storeowners and customers to try to understand what had happened.

mystery – something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain

* It was a complete mystery how Annette’s lost her wallet and keys.

pseudonym – an imaginary or not real name created by someone to use in place of his or her real name, especially an author

* Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote many classic children’s books using the pseudonym Dr. Seuss.

role model – a person other people respect or look up to as someone whose actions should be copied

* Jean’s older brother, David, was an excellent role model for him since he studied hard in school and volunteered on the weekends.

classical – traditional or created long ago and has become the example of what is normal or standard

* Mozart and Beethoven are considered two of the most famous classical composers.

to choreograph – to create and plan a series of steps and movements for a dance

* Mac choreographed a simple dance for the second-grade students to perform.

technique – a way of doing something, usually in art, for performance, or in science

* Christina improved her swimming technique by working on her breathing and trying to use her legs more than her arms.

exaggerated – made larger or greater than what is true or normal

* Thomas caught a fish that was a foot long, but exaggerated and told his friends that it was four feet long.

jerky – with sudden, quick movements; not smooth

* Jose is just learning to drive so the car ride was very jerky.

foundation – the base or beginning of something that becomes bigger or more complex later

* People say that a marriage that has a foundation in friendship and respect is one that will last a long time.

enterprise – a business or company; a project, typically one that is difficult or requires effort

* We started this enterprise with two employees and now we employ over 300.

entrepreneurship – the process of organizing and starting a business or other organization, usually putting one’s money at risk

* Entrepreneurship requires some money, a good product that people will want, a vision for the future, and a lot of hard work.

start-up – a new business, traditional one related to technology or the Internet

* Silicon Valley in Northern California is known for successful start-ups that have changed the cell phone, digital entertainment, and video gaming industries.

to prohibit – to formally state that something is not allowed by law, rule, or other authority

* Federal law prohibits smoking on airplanes, trains, and buses.

to inhibit – to hinder or restrain; to prevent someone from doing something or something from occurring

* The cold weather inhibits the growth of many citrus trees.

I can’t even – an expression used to show that one is overwhelmed, either in a good or bad way, and is unable to express how one feels

* A: Did you see the ugly photo of me Jason posted online?

B: I can’t even!

What Insiders Know
Choose Your Own Adventure Books

Like many parents, “author” (writer) Edward Packard told “bedtime stories” (a story told or read to a child before going to sleep) to his children every night. He told stories of the adventures of a character named Pete. One night, however, he “ran out of” (had no more) ideas for stories with Pete so he let his daughters decide what would happen next. Packard was surprised at the “enthusiasm” (strong excitement) his daughters showed. He decided to write a story with the title “The Adventures of You on ‘Sugar Cane’ (a type of tall, thick grass from which sugar is taken) Island.”

Packard was able to “convince” (cause someone to agree to do something) a “publisher” (a person or company that produces printed materials, such as books and magazines) named Ray Montgomery to publish his book in 1975. Surprisingly, the book sold 8,000 copies – a large number for a small publishing company. Montgomery and Packard then decided to find a bigger publisher and signed a “contract” (formal agreement) with Bantam Books, who later released the series as Choose Your Own Adventure.

The Choose Your Own Adventure series was originally created for children ages 10 to 14 years old, and written from a “second-person point of view,” with the reader as the hero of the story. Every few pages, the reader must decide between two or three options. Each of the options leads to more options, and “eventually” (at the end), to one of the possible endings of the story. Early books in the series have as many as 40 different endings, while later books, had as few as 12.

With Bantam Books as publisher, the Choose Your Own Adventure series was very successful, selling more than 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998. Three other series were published by different authors through Bantam Books and even other publishers began producing books of the same kind. Because they were so popular, this type of book was given a new name. This “genre” (type or category of literature or art) of books became known as “gamebooks.”