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530 Topics: American Presidents – James Buchanan; The Board Game “Monopoly”; here/there you go; expendable versus expandable; the devil’s/Devil’s own

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 530.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 530. 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 is an eight- to ten-page PDF guide that you can download and read the entire transcript of this episode right on your computer or tablet. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store when you’re on our website – and hey, like us on Facebook, won’t you? Go to facebook.com/eslpod.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about someone who many historians believe was the worst president of the United States – the one, the only, James Buchanan. We’ll also talk about the famous board game, not just in the United States but around the world, Monopoly. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

James Buchanan was born in April of 1791 in the town of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Mercersburg is about 1,180 miles west of the city of Philadelphia. Pennsylvania is on the eastern coast of the United States, next to the state of New York. James Buchanan had 10 brothers and sisters, just like me, but unhappily only seven of his brothers and sisters lived to be adults. It was not uncommon during this period in American history, of course, for many children not to survive into adulthood.

Fortunately for Buchanan, his father was an immigrant who made a lot of money and was able to give him a good education, including attending law school. He became a lawyer in 1812 and began to practice law, or work as a lawyer, in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Soon after beginning his “law practice,” we would call it, Buchanan became involved, as many lawyers do, in politics.

He was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1814 and served there for five years. The legislature (legislature) is the part of a state’s government that includes the elected representatives. In most states, that would include representatives and state senators. American states, just like our national government, have three, we call them, “branches of government.” A “branch” (branch) is part of a tree that goes out from the main part of the tree, what we call the “trunk” (trunk) of the tree.

American government has three branches, both at the national level as well as at the state level. Those branches include the legislative branch, and the “legislature” is the group of men and women who are elected to represent the different parts of the state. Every state in the United States has a “legislature,” and in all but one state, the legislature consists of two parts – we would say two “bodies” – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Buchanan was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. During this time, he also got engaged to be married. “To be engaged (engaged) to be married” means that you promise to marry another person and, well, with luck that other person promises to marry you. Buchanan had promised to marry a woman by the name of Ann Coleman. However, as sometimes happens, the family of the woman wasn’t very happy about Ann marrying Buchanan.

The family thought Buchanan only loved Coleman for her money. People in Lancaster began to see that Buchanan was in fact in another romantic relationship with another woman at the same time he was engaged to Coleman. Well, this was mostly gossip. Historians don’t have a lot of facts about this. For whatever reason, Buchanan and Coleman ended their engagement, and the woman, Ann, died not very long after that. Some people think she committed suicide – that is, that she killed herself on purpose or took too many drugs that might have ended in her death.

Buchanan was apparently very sad about her death and stayed unmarried for the rest of his life. He was, in fact, the only U.S. president to be a bachelor. A “bachelor” (bachelor) is a man who is not married and has never been married. So, if you are married and then divorced, you’re not a bachelor. You can only be a bachelor if you have never been married. Technically, a woman who has never been married is a “bachelorette,” although we don’t use that term as often as we do “bachelor.” Well, in any case, James Buchanan remained a bachelor for the rest of his life.

In 1821, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Notice that for our national government we call the national legislature our “Congress” (congress). Buchanan was in Congress until 1831 when he joined a new political party called the Democratic Party. He did this because his old political party, the Federalist Party, had disbanded. “To disband” (disband) means to break apart or to separate – when a group decides it no longer wants to exist.

It has happened a couple times in American history – in fact, several times – where a political party decides to disband, to stop being a political party, and when that happens, the people who are in that political party join another political group or party. We call the official political organizations in the United States “parties.”

In 1831, the then president, Andrew Jackson, decided to make James Buchanan a minister to St. Petersburg, Russia. “To appoint” means to give someone an important government job. A “minister” (minister) here refers to a representative of one government to another government. The word “minister” in English can also refer to a religious leader, but Buchanan was not a religious leader; he was a representative of the United States to Russia. He returned to the United States only two years later and was elected again to Congress, this time to the U.S. Senate.

While he was a senator, one of the great political issues of the day was slavery. “Slavery,” you may know, is the practice of owning, buying, and selling people as if they were property. Slavery was allowed in most of the southern United States but was not allowed in the Northern states. This of course eventually led to the American Civil War, where the Northern states and the Southern states fought each other.

Slavery in the 1840s was a very important political issue. Now, the strange thing about Buchanan is that even though he was from a Northern state and represented a Northern state in Congress, he often supported the right of the states in the South to keep slavery legal. He believed that slavery was wrong, but he was worried that if slavery were ended, something worse would happen – that things would get even worse in the American South.

In 1845, President James Polk appointed Buchanan secretary of state. The “secretary of state” is the government official that is responsible for international affairs, for dealing with other countries. It was during Polk’s time as president that there was a war between the U.S. and Mexico, something that Buchanan supported, was in favor of. After being secretary of state, Buchanan thought that he was going to be able to become president very soon afterwards and tried to be nominated, or named, as the candidate for the Democratic Party.

However, he failed in 1848 to be nominated, and so he left politics and went back to being a lawyer. However, that didn’t last very long. In 1856, he got back into politics and in fact was nominated for the presidency and won the election in 1856 and became our 15th president. Buchanan was only president for four years. Many historians think that those were among the worst four years for an American president and Buchanan was, in fact, the worst president that we’ve ever had. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll give you a little of his story and you can decide.

Remember that the issue of slavery was very important, as I mentioned previously. Buchanan was one of these politicians who didn’t want to make either side angry, who wanted to try to find, perhaps, a middle position. This was very difficult to do because there was a lot of tension politically in the United States during this time about slavery. People in the American South were talking about the possibility of leaving the United States. Some people who wanted to get rid of slavery were starting to commit violence in order to stop it.

There were political arguments over whether new states coming into the United States should be “free” – that is, should prohibit slavery or allow slavery. All of this was going on during these four years that Buchanan was president, and Buchanan didn’t have a very good plan for solving this problem, and because he was president, people expected him to do something, but he didn’t really do anything, or what he did wasn’t very successful.

In 1860, the Democratic Party decided that Buchanan was such a bad leader that they were not going to re-nominate him for the presidency. They picked someone else to be the candidate for the party. The Republican Party, a new political party which was very much against slavery, nominated a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln, of course, won the election in 1860.

After Lincoln had won the election in the fall of 1860, many of the Southern states knew that Lincoln was going to try to get rid of slavery and certainly prevent Southern states from leaving the United States. They felt they perhaps needed to act before Lincoln even became president. Now, the way the U.S. election system works, the president is elected in November of a year but doesn’t become president until early in the next year. So, Buchanan was president, even though he had lost the election in November, until the new president “came in to office,” we would say, the following year, in 1861.

Well, during the time between the election of Abraham Lincoln in November and the time that Lincoln actually took over as president in March of 1861, things began to happen in the South. The state of South Carolina decided it no longer wanted to be in the United States, and so in December of 1860, they said they were going to leave the U.S. The term we would use is “to secede” from the union.

Buchanan didn’t really do much about it. He tried to send a ship down there. The people in South Carolina fired on the ship. The ship returned. Buchanan said he couldn’t really do much. Many people think Buchanan was just waiting to get out of the office of presidency. He no longer wanted to be president. After Abraham Lincoln became president, there was of course the great Civil War between the North and the South.

Buchanan returned to Pennsylvania. Many people blamed him for doing nothing to prevent the Civil War, or at the very least prevent the South from causing problems. He died just a few years later, in June of 1868, of complications from a cold. “Complications” here refers to other medical problems that make your illness worse.

Buchanan thought he did everything possible to stop the Civil War, but most historians do not agree. In fact, as I mentioned, they think he was perhaps one of our worst presidents. I’m not sure if the historians are right. I think we’ve had a lot of really horrible presidents in our history. Buchanan may or may not be the worst.

Let’s turn to a different topic now, a popular board game called “Monopoly.” Monopoly is a board game that is made by a company called Parker Brothers. A “monopoly” (monopoly) is when one person or one company owns most of a certain kind of thing, and because they own most or all of this thing, they’re able to put whatever price they want on that thing. Monopoly, then, is a business term, and not surprisingly, the game Monopoly is sort of a game about business.

If you’re not familiar with it, it is what I described as a “board (board) game,” meaning there’s a physical board, usually made out of a light material called “cardboard,” that you put down on a table and you play the game on the board. In Monopoly, the game is all about trying to buy properties and build houses and hotels on those properties. “Property” (property) is another word for a building or buildings and the land that is underneath the building.

In the game Monopoly, each player begins the game with a certain amount of money. Everybody has the same amount of money. You don’t play with real money. You play with what we would call “fake (fake) money” ¬– "Monopoly money.” Well, it doesn’t actually look like real money, but it’s supposed to represent money. Everybody gets the same amount of this Monopoly money, and then you go around the board trying to buy different properties.

When someone else comes around the board and stops on your property, that person has to pay you money. They have to pay you “rent.” “Rent” (rent) usually refers to the amount of money that you pay to live in a house or to use an office in someone else’s property. In Monopoly, you move around the board and when you stop on someone else’s property, a property that someone else has bought, you have to pay rent.

The goal, or aim, or purpose, of the game is for you to buy as much property as you can and to make sure that everyone else has to pay you so much rent that eventually they no longer have any money. The term that we would use here is “bankrupt” (bankrupt). “To be bankrupt” means you don’t have any money left to pay your bills, to pay the money that you need to pay in order to survive. In the game Monopoly, if someone runs out of money, we say they have become “bankrupt” and have to leave the game. The game ends when there’s only one player left.

Monopoly is actually a very old game. The company that owns the game, Parker Brothers, bought it way back in 1935 from a man, Charles Darrow, who created it. Darrow actually got what’s called a “patent” for the game. A “patent” (patent) is legal recognition by the government that you have created something new. When you get a patent, no one else can use your ideas without getting your permission.

The inventor of Monopoly sold his patent to Parker Brothers and received “royalties” from his patent. A “royalty” (royalty) is money that a company gives you for using your patent, in this case, or using your ideas. So poor Charles Darrow, who didn’t have a job at the time, received royalties from Parker Brothers for this very successful game. Many years later, in the 1970s, people discovered that Darrow may not have actually been the person who invented the game of Monopoly even though he had a patent on it.

In 1903, it turns out that there was a woman named Lizzie Magpie who also patented a game. Her game was called “The Landlords Game.” A “landlord” (landlord) is a person who owns an apartment, house, building, or land and rents it to another person. Some people say that Darrow went to someone else’s house who had this old game called “The Landlord’s Game,” and he decided that he was going to create a very similar game called “Monopoly,” and the game of Monopoly was actually not Darrow’s idea or invention, but rather it was this other woman who invented the game 30 years earlier.

Perhaps to be safe, the company that bought Darrow’s patent for Monopoly, Parker Brothers, also bought Lizzie Magpie’s patent for her game, The Landlord’s Game. They paid her $500, and that was all that she was given. Darrow, on the other hand, received millions of dollars from his patent for the game Monopoly. Magpie tried to get the company, Parker Brothers, to realize that Darrow had in fact stolen her idea, but she died in 1948 never having received more than the original $500.

To this day, Parker Brothers and the company that owns Parker Brothers, called Hasbro, say that Darrow is the real inventor of monopoly. Whatever the case, Monopoly continues to be a popular game, perhaps less popular than it was when I was growing up. I remember playing Monopoly all the time with my family. I grew up in a large family where everyone wanted to be a winner. We were a very “competitive” family, you might say. I wasn’t very good at Monopoly, however.

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

Our first question comes from Yuling (Yuling) in China. The question has to do with two common expressions, “here you go” and “there you go.” Similarly, we could discuss “here it is” and “there it is,” or “here you are” and “there you are.” “Here you go” is usually something you say to someone that you are giving something to. Someone asks you for a pen. You have a pen, you pick it up in your hand, and then you give it to the person, saying, “Here you go,” meaning here is your pen. Here is what you asked for. You could also say, “There you go.” “There you go” can be used in the same situation.

This is one of those areas in using language, however, that it’s very difficult to explain what the differences might be between someone saying “here you go” and “there you go.” Sometimes there’s no difference. Other times, there are situations where a native speaker – someone who grows up speaking a language and using a language – might use different expressions for reasons that he can’t exactly explain. You just have to be used to the English that is used in conversational situations. You have to be listening and reading a lot of English in order to know when to use what.

For me, I would use “here you go” with a friend or family member, especially in a situation in which there might be more interaction between me and that other person. Maybe we’re working together on a project or we’re sitting together at the same table. Again, this is just my sense of how I would use that expression. “There you go,” for me, would be used more in a situation where perhaps I don’t know the person or I don’t expect any further conversation or interaction with that person. I might be turning around and leaving, or that person might be leaving after he gets what he asked me for.

Other people may disagree with that. They may think, “Oh, no, Jeff. Those two expressions are used in exactly the same circumstances.” This is one area of English that is most difficult – to explain why and how you use certain expressions in certain situations. Sometimes it just really depends on the person.

Now having said that, there are other meanings of the expression “there you go” where you would never use “here you go.” “There you go” can also mean “You did it right.” You’re giving someone instructions, you’re telling someone how to do something, and the person does it right. You might say, “Well, there you go.” “You did it right” is what you are saying. You may be telling someone how to use a computer program, and you’re standing next to the person. The person then does it correctly, does what he’s supposed to do. You say, “Oh, there you go – now you know how to do it.”

There are other meanings of “there you go” and “here you go” I’m sure that I could explain, just as there are many other meanings of “here it is,” “there it is,” “here you are,” “there you are.” These are very common expressions in English, so common that they have many different uses. I know that’s not very helpful to you – to say that there are so many uses I can’t explain them all in a single Café – but this is one of those examples where there really are many different uses of these expressions. I’ve given you a couple of the most common ones. I hope that helps, Yuling.

Our next question comes from Suman (Suman) in India. Suman wants to know the meaning of the word “expendable” (expendable). Suman saw it in the title of a movie, which in English is The Expendables.

Something that is “expendable” is something that isn’t worth saving, something that you don’t have to keep, something that doesn’t have a lot of value and could be easily replaced. In fact, “expendable” usually is an adjective we use for something that is meant to be used once perhaps and then thrown away, or used a small number of times and then thrown away – “gotten rid of,” we might say.

The verb “to expend” (expend) means to use something, or “to use something up,” we might also say, using the two-word phrasal verb “to use up.” “I’m going to expend fuel.” “I’m going to expend energy in doing something.” I’m going to use it up. You expend gasoline when you drive your car. You use it. You expend energy when you perform some sort of physical activity. You are using up energy. That’s the idea.

Our last question comes from Tomokazu (Tomokazu) in Japan. The question has to do with the phrase “the devil’s own.” A “devil” or “the devil” (devil) is an evil spirit. In the Christian religion, for example, there are “devils” who are evil spirits. The chief devil, the main devil – the leader, if you will, of the devils – would be a devil by the name of “Satan” (Satan). In Christian theology and Christian understanding, at least in some religions, the devil is an angel who was once loyal to God and then decided not to be, and the other angels who followed this lead angel, this most powerful of angels, are called devils.

But when people talk about the devil, they are usually referring to, in theology, this main devil, this leader of the devils, Satan, who has other names as well. However, the expression “the devil’s own” (own) is a phrase meaning that something is very difficult. It is used to emphasize how difficult or perhaps how serious something – and how important it is – but how difficult it is. This expression “the devil’s own” I suspect is more common in British English than American English. I certainly have never used it.

An example in a sentence would be, “He’s in the devil’s own hurry to get to the store,” or “I had the devil’s own time in getting this done,” meaning it was very difficult for me. The expression I would probably use, and have used in the past, would be “a devil of a time.” “He had a devil of a time getting this done” – that means he had a very difficult time, a very challenging time in getting it done. It was difficult for him to do.

The question may be related to the name of the late 1990s movie called The Devil’s Own. The movie starred, among others, Brad Pitt, and since I’ve been told I look a lot like Brad Pitt, perhaps Tomokazu thought that I would really know the meaning of that, having appeared in the movie. Of course, it wasn’t me. It was the other guy here in Hollywood who looks a lot like me.

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 Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

legislature – one of two parts of the government that makes laws for a state or country

* The legislature voted to pass a law lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

to disband – for a group or organization to break apart or to separate so that it no longer exists

* After 10 years of writing songs and touring together, the rock group decided to disband and try to become solo artists.

tension – mental or emotional difficulties, often between two groups, resulting in a difficult or uncomfortable relationship

* From the 1950s to the 1990s, there were great tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, a period known as the Cold War.

complication – a secondary or additional medical problem that makes the original illness even worse

* Annette developed a complication after leg surgery and had to return to the hospital for treatment.

monopoly – a situation where one person or company owns or controls most or all of a type of thing and is able to charge any price it wishes

* Government officials decided that the two large airlines could not merge because if they did, the new airline would have a monopoly over air travel.

property – building or buildings and the land belonging to them

* Samuel buys residential property, makes repairs and improvements to the home, and then sells them to make a profit.

rent – regular payments to someone who owns a property for permission to live in a home or to use a property

* Rent for an apartment in San Francisco, California is among the highest in the country.

to be bankrupt – to not have enough money and to not be able to pay back money that one owes to others

* The company went bankrupt after people developed medical problems from using its products.

patent – official recognition from the government that one has created something new and that one has rights to control its use

* Alexander Graham Bell had many patents, including one for the telephone he invented.

royalty – an amount of money a company selling a product pays to the person who has legal rights or ownership related to it each time that product is sold

* Actors and actresses are often paid royalties each time a television show or movie that they had appeared in is shown on TV.

invention – something that one designs and creates that is new

* When will there be an invention that allows people to fly to work?

landlord – a person who owns an apartment, house, building, or land and allows others to live in it or to use it in exchange for money

* I asked the landlord if I could get a dog and she said it was okay as long as I paid an extra $40 each month.

expendable – easily replaced; not worth saving or keeping; not meant to be kept; meant to be used and thrown away

* In horror movies, the screaming girls are often expendable and the most likely victims for the killer.

expandable – something that has the ability to increase or be made to grow in size, range, or amount; able to become bigger

* My suitcase is expandable so I’ll have extra room for souvenirs as I travel.

the devil’s/Devil’s own – a phrase used to emphasize how difficult or serious something is

* Yoko had the devil’s own time trying to reach someone at the company who could answer her technical questions.

What Insiders Know
The “Game of Life”

In 1860, a man named of Milton Bradley created a board game called “The Checkered Game of Life.” A “checkered life” describes a life with good and fortunate events, as well as experiences that are “disreputable” (causing others not to respect one). The game allowed players to live through the major events in a life, such as graduating from college, marriage, “bearing” (having; giving birth to) children, “retirement” (no longer working because of one’s age) and more. This game later got a new name: “The Game of Life,” or simply “LIFE,” and became one of the first popular “parlor games” (games, such as a board game, card game, or guessing game that one plays inside one’s home).

“The Game of Life” can be played by two to six players. Some versions of the game allow for up to eight to 10 players in a single game. It is played on a type of “checkerboard” (a board that is marked with squares of two different colors). Players begin on the lower-left section of the board known as “infancy” (the first part of a child's life; being a baby) and the objective is to “land on” (arrive by chance on) “good” spaces that allows a player to collect 100 points each time. Players could also gain 50 more points if they reach the final stage in the game called “Happy Old Age,” located in the upper-right hand corner.

Since its creation, there have been many versions of “The Game of Life.” On its 100th “anniversary” (date on which an event took place in previous years) in 1960, a modern version of the game was “released” (made available for sale). Other versions included “modifications” (changes) to the game or updates. For example, in the 1970s and 80s, dollar values in the game were “doubled” (to have a number or value increase by 100%). Another version in 2005 featured new updates such as “rewarding” (giving someone something good for a certain type of behavior) players for “taking risks” (doing something with the possibility of something bad occurring).

The makers of “The Game of Life” even released versions based on novels, games, and movies. These included “Star Wars: A Jedi’s Path,” “The Simpsons Edition,” “Pokemon,” and many others.