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533 Topics: American Presidents – John Tyler; The Hindenburg Disaster; result versus consequence versus outcome; ready versus willing; to keep (someone) in the loop

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 533.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 533. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development right here in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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On this Café, we’re going to talk about the 10th president of the United States, John Tyler – good old John. We’re also going to talk about the Hindenburg disaster of 1937, and as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, might not seem like a very exciting person to you now, but you wait. See if you don’t change your mind after you hear his amazing story. John Tyler was born in March of 1790 in Virginia. Virginia is on the East Coast of the United States. John was born into a rich family – a “wealthy” family, we might say.

His father was a lawyer, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and governor of Virginia from 1808 to 1811. A “delegate” (delegate) is a person who represents a larger group of people. You could be a delegate to a meeting, or a convention, or in this case, part of the Virginia State Legislature.

Every state has a legislature in the United States. The “legislature” (legislature) is the part of the government that represents the people. Each part of the state selects or elects a representative who goes to the legislature to represent that part of the state. So, in Virginia, the House of Delegates is part of the legislature. In most states we would call it the House of Representatives. Tyler’s father then was governor of Virginia, the leader of the state of Virginia. Like many young men at the time, Tyler wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

That expression “to follow in someone’s footsteps” (footsteps) means to do the same thing that another person has done before you. I followed in my father’s footsteps in a way, because my father was a teacher and I became a teacher. My father himself, however, did not follow in his father’s footsteps. My grandfather was a plumber, as was my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather and all of my uncles. I come from a family of plumbers, and I know nothing about plumbing, myself, but then again, neither did my father, really.

Back to the story – John Tyler did follow in his father’s footsteps. He went to the College of William and Mary near his home in southern Virginia. The College of William and Mary is one of the oldest colleges in the United States. Tyler himself was elected to the legislature beginning in 1811 and he served there until 1816. In 1816, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He was one of the representatives for the state of Virginia in our national legislature which we call the “Congress” (congress).

Tyler, then, was something of a professional politician. He didn’t seem to have done much else other than be in the government. There’s an old expression, “If you can’t do,” meaning if you don’t have any talent to do something, “you should teach.” “If you can’t do, teach.” That must be why I became a teacher! Some people say, “If you can’t teach, administrate,” meaning if you are so dumb you can’t even be a teacher, then you should become an administrator – those jobs are for the really dumb people.

I don’t know if that’s true, but it might be true that if you can’t do anything else, you should become a member of the government, and certainly Tyler was a member of the government for many years. He stayed in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1821, and he returned to Virginia at that time, but was elected again to the state legislature in 1823. In 1825 he decided once again to follow in daddy’s footsteps and run for the office of governor. “To run for office” means to try to get elected to a certain government position.

Tyler was successful in 1825 and served as, or was, the governor for two years. But what happened two years later? Well, in 1827, our John was elected to the United States Senate. There are two parts of the U.S. Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each state of the United States sends two representatives, whom we call “senators,” to the U.S. Senate. So, Tyler was one of the two senators from the state of Virginia.

In 1836, Tyler decided to resign from the Senate. “To resign” (resign) means to officially leave your position because you want to, not because you are fired. During the time that Tyler was in the Senate, the president was Andrew Jackson. Even though Tyler and Jackson were in the same political party, the Democratic Party, Tyler really didn’t like Jackson. He disagreed with almost everything President Jackson did. He thought that Jackson was not a very good leader. So, in 1833, Tyler voted against a law that would have supported Jackson’s idea of a government-controlled bank.

His fellow Democrats, the other Democratic senators, asked him to change his vote and support the president because the president was also in the same political party. But Tyler said, “No way, Jose.” “No way, Jose” is a very informal way of saying no. If you really are saying no to something, you can say, “No way.” An older expression that we used to say when we we’re kids is “No way, Jose” – because “Jose” rhymes with “way,” you see. All very clever. We weren’t very intelligent children, you have to understand.

Tyler thought he was intelligent by quitting the Democratic Party and joining another political party, the “Whig (Whig) Party.” In 1840, Tyler was asked by the Whig Party to be the vice presidential candidate for that election year. The Whig Party had a presidential candidate by the name of William Henry Harrison. A “candidate” is just the person who is trying to win an election for a government office, or really for any position. Tyler, and Harrison won the election. Harrison became president and Tyler became vice president of the United States.

So, already he was doing better than his father did by the age of 50. To everyone’s great surprise, however, Harrison died only one month into his term of office. The story is that Henry Harrison (William Henry Harrison, most people call him – I call him Henry), Henry became ill about three weeks after he started his term as president. He was at that time the oldest person to be elected to the presidency. He was 68, and unfortunately for him, he was the first president to die in office. He was only president for about 30 days.

The traditional story is that he caught a cold that turned into a pneumonia because of the bad weather in Washington D.C. He gave one of the longest speeches when he became president, on the day he became president, and some people say that was why he died. He was outside in the cold that day for a very long time.

That seems very unlikely to be true, however, because he didn’t become sick until three weeks later. Also, there are some doctors who now believe that he did not die of a pneumonia, but rather of an illness caused by bacteria.

Now, my personal theory is that John Tyler really wanted to be president. I mean really, really, really wanted to be president. So, hmm, you think maybe he put a little something into Henry’s coffee? I’m just saying. Just a theory. Don’t tell anyone I said that was true but, well, you draw your own conclusions. I told you, this John Tyler story – it’s is pretty interesting!

So, Henry is gone and John Tyler, the vice president, becomes the president of these United States. Now, although Tyler did eventually become president, some people weren’t sure what should happen when a president dies. The Constitution at that time – our document, our founding document – was not very clear about succession. “Succession” (succession) refers to the order in which a person becomes leader after another leader dies.

Succession is, of course, important in any country that has a royal family, that has a monarchy. When the queen dies, it’s important to know who is going to be the next leader of the country. Well, when a president dies, the order of succession now, for sure, is that the vice president becomes president, but people weren’t quite sure at the time.

Some people said that Tyler should be president until we could elect a new president, but Tyler said, “Oh, no you don’t. I am the president.” And he moved his stuff into Henry’s office – threw all of Henry’s stuff away, I imagine – and said, “I am the president of the United States and the rest of you sit down.” That’s what happened, pretty much.

Now, President Tyler was the person who was in charge of the country as president, and one of the things you can do as president is disagree with the Congress about a new law. Normally, when the Congress passes a law, that law has to be signed by the president, but the president can also refuse to sign a law. In fact, he can “veto” the law. “To veto” (veto) means to say no to a law. And when a president does that, normally the law does not become official. It never in fact becomes a law.

Now, this was an interesting case because remember, Tyler became a Whig and was elected as a Whig. But when the Whigs in Congress voted for certain laws, Tyler, instead of approving them, vetoed them. Tyler spent the next four years as president, but let me tell you, most people didn’t like him very much; neither the Democrats nor the Whigs liked John Tyler. If you’re wondering, by the way, what happened to the Whig Party in the United States, it pretty much disappeared and was replaced in a way by the Republican Party.

But back to the story – in 1844, John Tyler’s term was over and most people were glad to see him go. He actually tried to create his own political party, a third political party, but he was unsuccessful and decided to simply go back to his home in Virginia and stop being active in government. For the next 15 years of Tyler’s life, he became involved in trying to find a way to allow the Southern states to govern themselves without being part of the United States. In fact, he worked very hard to get the Southern states to secede from the United States, to leave the United States.

Of course, this is at the time when the Southern states had slavery and wanted to keep their slaves. Many in the Northern states, where slavery was illegal, wanted them to get rid of the slaves. That’s one of the reasons (not the only reason) there was a civil war in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the Southern states took John Tyler’s advice and seceded from the United States. They said, “We’re not going to be part of the U.S. anymore.” Well, unfortunately, that began the worst war, in terms of the number of people who died, in the history of the United States: our Civil War which began in 1861.

John Tyler, having pretty much helped screw up the whole country, decided to die in 1862. Well, he didn’t decide to die, but he did die, leaving behind 11 children and his second wife, Julia. He was unable really to do anything as president. There’s not much to say about Tyler’s four years in office. He was responsible for perhaps making people agree that the vice president should become president if the president dies. That isn’t all that much of an accomplishment, but that’s pretty much all John Tyler really did in his four years.

We turn now to our second topic in the Café, which is the Hindenburg disaster. The Hindenburg was the largest airship ever created. An “airship” is a type of flying vehicle that is lighter than air and that can move using its own power. Typically, airships are filled with a gas which is itself lighter than air and therefore allows the ship to float up into the air. Helium, for example, would be a gas that would allow an airship to go up into the air and then to fly.

The Hindenburg was an airship, and it was a very big one. It was 804 feet long and had more than 200,000 cubic meters of gas, which I think is a lot of gas. The Hindenburg was built in Germany and it made its first flight in March of 1936. One of the purposes of the Hindenburg was to provide a way of transporting people across the Atlantic Ocean. At that time, most people traveled by ship, which took a very long time. You could of course travel by plane, but planes were very expensive.

From March 1936 to May 1937, the Hindenburg made 10 trips across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying more than a thousand people back and forth. So, at least for the first year or so, it seemed everything was going good for the Hindenburg. In May of 1937, however, the Hindenburg was coming to the United States, arriving from Germany. It was arriving at a town by the name of Lake Hurst in New Jersey. New Jersey is close to New York City on the East Coast of the U.S.

Unfortunately, the airship, when it was trying to land, suddenly exploded. There was an explosion inside the ship somewhere that caused the entire ship to basically go up in flames – that is, it started on fire before it was able to land on the ground. Thirty-seven of the 97 passengers – the people who were on the ship – were killed.

Now, interestingly enough, this was in the early days of news films – of people making films about the news. And there was a camera that recorded the explosion of the Hindenburg. You may have seen it yourself at one point. It was one of the first times that such a terrible tragedy had been filmed and seen by so many people who weren’t there.

Nowadays, of course, we have YouTube and you can see something in a matter of minutes. But this was one of the few times in which such a terrible event was – or had been, I should say – recorded on film. After the explosion there was, of course, an investigation as to why the Hindenburg exploded. There are some theories which I think are probably a little crazy – that someone put a bomb on the Hindenburg, or there was some sort of terrorism perhaps even involved.

It seems unlikely those stories are true, even though there was a movie made with that basic idea. No, instead it seems the problem with the Hindenburg is that it didn’t have helium inside, it had hydrogen. Hydrogen is a gas that can explode and catch fire very easily. For that reason, the Hindenburg, when it landed in New Jersey, had a problem because you see there was an electrical storm. The electricity from the storm, according to one theory, caused the hydrogen to explode, and that was the end of the Hindenburg.

There are other theories about why the Hindenburg exploded. I won’t go over all of them now. One of the things perhaps that most Americans who know about the Hindenburg disaster will remember is not so much the film footage of the disaster, but rather a recording of a radio broadcast. There was someone reporting on the Hindenburg’s landing in New Jersey. In the recording you can hear the man cry as he witnesses this horrible disaster.

One of the things he says, perhaps the most memorable thing, is “Oh, the humanity.” He is saying that this is such a terrible loss of human life. Some people will use that expression when a horrible disaster happens now, and it comes from the broadcast that was taking place at the time of the Hindenburg disaster.

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

Our first question comes from Takuya (Takuya) in Japan. The question has to do with three somewhat similar words, “result,” “consequence,” and “outcome.” All three words share a common concept or idea. We’ll try to tell you a little bit about when you would use each word.

Let’s start with “result” (result). A “result” is something that happens because something else happened, something that was caused by something else. If I hit you in the face really hard, the result perhaps will be that you will start bleeding – that blood will start coming out of your lip or your nose. The result may also be that you hit me back. The result is “caused” by something.

We use “result” in a lot of different circumstances. If you are watching a football game and someone asks you what the result is, he’s asking you how the game ended, what the score of the game is, or who won the game. Some people in school, after they take a test, will ask the teacher about the results of the test, meaning the score of the test. “What grade did I get?”

People will sometimes talk about one thing being a “result of” another. “This is a result of drinking too much alcohol.” You have a hangover. You have a headache. Your stomach doesn’t feel very good – those are all “results of” a hangover.

The next word is “consequence” (consequence) “Consequence” means something very similar to “result,” although it’s not as common of a word and isn’t used in all of the situations in which you could use “result.” The word “consequence” is usually used when we’re talking about the result of someone breaking a law or not following someone’s rules. “Consequences” aren’t always bad, but usually when someone talks about “the consequences of your actions,” he’s talking about the bad things that will happen as a result of what you are doing.

So, while “consequence” means usually “result,” it has a more limited use in English. It’s used for situations in which someone does something wrong or perhaps someone has bad results. The consequence of not eating properly may be that you gain weight – that you become fatter. That’s a consequence of not doing what you should do.

“Outcome” (outcome) also means something similar to “result,” and like “result,” it could be a positive thing or a negative thing. Consequences are usually negative. Outcomes could be positive. They could be negative. You could, as in the case of “result,” ask for the “outcome” of the game – who won? “Outcome” implies sort of a final result, after the end of a number of different actions, or at the end of a number of different circumstances or a set, we might say, of circumstances.

“Outcome” might be used in a more technical sense. A doctor might talk about the outcome of treatment – what will happen after we give you these drugs or perform a surgery. If you’re sitting outside a meeting that your bosses are having and one of the bosses comes out and starts talking to you and tells you the meeting is over, you might say, “Well, what was the outcome?” What was decided? What did you guys decide to do? What decisions did you make?

We might also talk about the outcome of a legal trial – when someone perhaps is arrested for doing something wrong and they go before a judge and a group of people who decide whether the person is guilty or innocent, a group called the “jury.” We might ask what the outcome of the case is or the outcome of the trial is. That would be another use of “outcome.”

So, of the three words, “result” is the one that you could use in most circumstances. You could say, “What was the result of the trial?” and people would understand what you mean. So, if you’re looking for one of these three words to use in most circumstances, certainly “result” would be that word. But in other cases when you want to be a little bit more specific, you can use “consequence” if it’s a bad thing or “outcome” in other circumstances.

Our final question comes from Alex (Alex), originally from Russia and now living in New Zealand. Alex wants to know the definition of two words, “willing” (willing) and “ready” (ready). “To be willing” to do something means that you will do it without having to be convinced. It’s something that you will do, usually, if certain conditions are met – if someone is going to do something perhaps for you.

You might say, “I’m willing to go to the store for you.” That means that if you want me to go to the store, I will go to the store for you. I won’t argue with you. You don’t have to convince me. I will do it. Someone who is “willing” to do something is someone who under the right circumstances will do a certain action – again, usually if something else is done for the benefit of that person, but not always. You may be willing to give money to someone who needs it, if the person asks you for money.

“To be ready” means to be prepared for something. “I am ready for my test.” I am prepared for my test. Notice that we often use the proposition “for” when we are indicating what it is that this readiness is related to. You could simply say, “I’m ready.” If someone says, “We are going to go to the movies. Are you dressed?” You say, “Yes. I’m ready,” meaning I am ready to go to the movies. So, “ready” can come also before a verb in the infinitive form – I am ready to do something – or I am ready for a certain thing. I am ready for my trip; I am prepared for my trip.

You can see, then, that “ready and willing” are different concepts. However, the two words are used together in a common expression along with a third word which is “able.” “To be able” (able) means to have the ability to do something. It’s something you can do. The expression, then, is “ready, willing, and able.” “To be ready, willing, and able” means that not only can you do something, you are prepared to do it and you don’t need to be convinced about doing it. You are, we might say, “agreeable” to doing it. You will agree to do it if someone asks you or, again, if certain conditions are met.

Did I say that was our final question? Oh, no, no, no. We have one more one more for you as a bonus. This is from Cena (Cena) in Iran. The question has to do with the expression, “to keep someone in the loop” (loop). “To keep someone in the loop” means to make sure that someone has all of the latest information – to give someone all of the news about a certain event.

Let’s say you’re planning a party for your parents’ wedding anniversary and your sister says, “Well, I’m going to do this, and you’re going to do that, and this other person is going to do a different thing.” You may say to your sister, “Well, keep me in the loop about what other plans are being made.” That means give me that information, tell me that news that is related to this particular topic. “To keep someone in the loop,” then, is to make sure that they have the information they need to know about a certain topic. It’s often used when we’re talking about a project or an event that you are involved in.

The opposite of keeping someone in the loop is, I suppose, “to keep them out of the loop.” Though the more common expression would be, “I’m out of the loop.” If someone says they’re out of the loop, he is saying he does not have that information that he would have if he were, well, in the loop.

You’re never out of the loop when it comes to English here at ESL Podcast. If you have a question or comment, why not email us? Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com. We’re ready, willing, and able to answer your questions.

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.

delegate – a person sent to represent other people in government or at a large meeting

* Each country sent a delegate to the United Nations meeting so that each country’s views would be represented in the decisions that were made.

to follow in (someone’s) footsteps – to do the same thing that another person has done

* Andres’ grandmother was a famous actress and he decided to follow in her footsteps and become an actor, too.

legislature – the part of the government that is responsible for making laws

* The legislature is meeting this week to pass new laws on car safety.

to run for office – to enter into an election for a government position; to become one of the candidates voters can select for a government job

* If you are so unhappy with the government, why don’t you run for office and try to change things?

to resign – to leave a job or position voluntarily

* The CEO of the company resigned to spend more time with her ailing husband.

succession – the order in which a job or title is given to others upon the death of person currently in that job or who holds that title

* The line of succession is very clear in our monarchy, with the queen’s oldest son becoming king upon her death.

to veto – to reject or say no to a proposed law; to say no to an idea or plan

* Everyone thought it would be a great idea to go to the beach, but I vetoed the idea because there was too much work to do at home.

airship – a type of flying vehicle that is lighter than air and can move using its own power

* A famous airship that is still flown today is the Goodyear Blimp, which often appears in the sky over sports stadiums.

to transport – to carry goods or people from one place to another

* Before cars, horses and wagons were used to transport people and things.

explosion – a sudden and violent blowing apart of something causing that thing to break into many small pieces

* The explosion caused all of the windows in the building to break.

electricity – a form of energy and power caused by charged particles, such as electrons and protons

* If we don’t have electricity, how can we turn on the lights to see properly?

to leak – for a liquid or gas to accidently leaves a container slowly

* There was a hole in my water bottle, leaking water all over my pants.

result – occurring because of something else that happened or was done before; something having been caused by something else

* The result of not having enough food at the party is that most people left early.

consequence – something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions

* Mona knows the negative consequences of not passing this week’s test.

outcome – the result or resolution of an event or set of circumstances; the final result or effect

* What was the outcome of the game? Which team won?

willing – agreeable to doing something; doing something or ready to do something without needing to be convinced

* Jessie is willing to lend us his truck to move our couch if we return it by 3:00.

ready – prepared to do something

* Be sure you’re ready to leave by 7:15 a.m., or you’ll miss your ride to school.

to keep (someone) in the loop – to give someone the latest information, informing them of any major decisions, news, or events

* We need to keep the company’s attorney in the loop during contract talks.

What Insiders Know
The Richter Scale

The Richter Scale, also called the Richter Magnitude Scale, is a “scale” (a way of measuring something) for describing the “magnitude” (size) of the energy released during an “earthquake” (sudden movement of the earth caused by underground plates moving against each other). The Richter scale was developed in the 1930s by two “seismologists” (people who study earthquakes and the movements caused by them): Charles Francis Richter and Beno Gutenberg. It was designed specifically for measuring earthquakes in Southern California.

Today, the “media” (newspapers, magazines, radio news, etc.) report on earthquakes using the Richter scale or a “derivation” (something created from something else) of it. The following table describes the effects of earthquakes with different magnitudes on the Richter scale.

< 2.0 The earthquake is “rarely” (not often) felt by people
2.0–3.9 The earthquake is felt by some people, but rarely causes damage.
4.0–4.9 The earthquake is felt by people and objects “shake” (move slightly), but it causes almost no damage.
5.0–5.9 The earthquake causes damage to “poorly constructed” (not well built) buildings, with little or no damage to other buildings.
6.0–7.9 The earthquake causes damage to many or most buildings, some of which may “collapse” (fall down).
8.0–8.9 The earthquake causes major damage to buildings and “destroys” (ruins) structures over a large area.
>9.0 The earthquake causes almost complete destruction with “severe” (very strong and bad) damage or collapse of buildings and “permanent” (lasting forever) changes in “topography” (the shape of the earth’s surface).

The Richter scale is a “logarithmic scale,” which means that each “increment” (step) on the scale is 10 times stronger than the previous increment. For example, a 5.0 earthquake shakes 10 times as much as a 4.0 earthquake.