Daily English
Cultural English
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538 Topics: Famous Americans – Daniel Boone; Famous Songs – “Somewhere over the Rainbow”; to distract versus to foil versus to thwart; to reach versus to achieve; pronouncing hare, hear, here, hire, her, hair, heir

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 538.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 538. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to ESLPod.com. Why? Well, for one thing, you can take a look at our ESL Podcast Store that has additional courses in Business and Daily English. For another thing, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode by becoming a member of ESL Podcast.

On this podcast, we’re going to talk about a famous American explorer from the nineteenth century, Daniel Boone. We’re also going to talk about a famous song from the twentieth century, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

In the middle of the 1700s – of the eighteenth century – most of what is now the United States had not yet been explored by those living in the American colonies. There were, you will perhaps remember, 13 colonies in North America that belonged to Great Britain, at least what we call the American colonies. There were, of course, other land holdings by Great Britain in the Americas at this time. But the 13 colonies that eventually became the first 13 states were where most American colonists lived.

The area to the west of the colonies had not yet been very extensively or very fully explored. When I say “explored,” I mean that not very many people had gone there, had traveled there, or had set up or established places to live there. Today, we talk about one of the first Americans to explore that area west of the 13 colonies, Daniel Boone.

The western part of some of the American colonies – especially Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina – were largely wilderness. “Wilderness” (wilderness) comes from the word “wild” (wild), meaning that there weren’t very many people living there – at least, there weren’t very many white people living there. The Native American tribes, or groups, were already in this area.

Throughout the history of the United States right up through the twentieth century, the importance of the explorer – of the men and women who would go out and be the first to go into that area, the first Americans to go into that area – was always a very important part of the way Americans saw themselves: as exploring, as moving farther west. And as the country grew, more and more people moved west and became explorers, became the first to go into a certain area or region.

Daniel Boone was one of the first American explorers to go out from the settled towns and cities along the eastern coast of the U.S. into the western parts of the colonies. Boone was born in 1735 in the then colony of Pennsylvania. At the time, this was a very rural area. There weren’t very many people living there. “Rural” (rural) means that it is not in the city – that it is in what we might also call the “country.”

Boone and his family moved from Pennsylvania to the then colony of North Carolina a few years later. This was also mostly a rural area. You could say that, I suppose, for most areas in the colonies since there weren’t all that many people in the colonies compared to the amount of land that they had. The area to which Boone and his family moved was sometimes referred to as the “frontier.” The word “frontier” can be used simply to describe the line dividing two different countries. We also use the word “border” (border) for that concept.

“Frontier” also refers to, and is more commonly used in talking about American history, to an area that is farthest away from cities and towns. As Americans moved west during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the frontier kept moving west, or at least what we call the “frontier.” Well, back in the time of Daniel Boone, the frontier consisted of the western parts of these colonies – of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and a few others. That was the area in which very few people lived.

Boone did not go to school but he did learn to read and write. He spent most of his life as an adult being a hunter and a trapper. A “hunter” (hunter) is someone who uses a weapon, usually a type of gun, to shoot animals. A “trapper” (trapper) is a person who uses a special device to trap animals so when the animals walk by it, the device grabs the leg of the animal, usually, and the animal can’t move and this allows you to go and kill the animal and eat it, or more likely use the parts of the animal to sell.

In North Carolina at this time, trapping and hunting was what one did to survive out in the frontier, and that’s where Daniel Boone lived and that’s exactly how he survived. In 1773, Boone decided that he and his friends would go to an unexplored or mostly unexplored area west of the colonies, an area which we now call Kentucky. So, he took a group in 1773 and tried to explore the area.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned previously, there were some other people living there already whom we now call American Indians or Native Americans, and for some reason, they were very happy to see Boone and his friends. Boone’s son was captured by the Indians. “To capture” (capture) means to take someone who doesn’t want to be taken and to hold them. The Native Americans killed Boone’s son, and that was enough for Boone and the other explorers to go back to where they had started.

A couple of years later, however, Boone once again, in 1775, tried to move his family to this frontier region of Kentucky. And once again, he had problems with the Native Americans, but he was successful enough to build a road called the “Wilderness Road” and to start a little town called, of course, Boonesborough. A “borough” is another word for a town, and Boonesborough was named after Daniel Boone himself.

The following year, in 1776, the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and thus began the Revolutionary War. Boone decided to join the local militia, the local group of soldiers, to try to fight for independence, and that included fighting the Native Americans near where he lived.

The daughter of Boone along with two other girls was captured by the Native Americans who were fighting the white settlers there, the white colonists, but Boone three days later managed to rescue, managed to get his daughter and the two girls back, and this made him a hero. People talked about, in other parts of the country, what a wonderful person Daniel Boone was for being able to save his daughter and the two other girls.

However, in 1778, just two years later, Boone himself was captured by the Native Americans, but he managed five months later to escape on his own and in fact save his town from an attack by the Native Americans by warning them – by telling them about the Indians that were coming to attack them. The town survived, and this again made Boone a hero. He was thought of and got the reputation as a brave and courageous man.

After the American Revolution, Boone continued to help with the expansion of the frontier. “Expansion” (expansion) is the act of becoming bigger or larger. And after the American Revolution, many of the Americans who were living in the colonies decided to move west, and this was part of the expansion of the newly created United States of America.

Boone himself helped with that expansion. In 1799, he and his family moved as far west as Missouri, or what is now the state of Missouri, which is by the Mississippi River in the center part of the U.S. It was there that Boone died in 1820. We don’t know exactly the cause of Boone’s death, but he was 85 years old when he died, which was quite an amazing thing during this period of history – to live to the age of 85, especially out on the frontier.

Because Boone represented this idea of the brave American explorer, going out bravely and surviving in the wilderness, of defending his family, of defending his town – these were all things that Americans admired and made Daniel Boone a hero throughout the United States. In fact, soon after Boone died, the famous British poet Lord Byron included some information about Daniel Boone in one of his poems.

After Boone’s death, people began to write songs. They began to paint pictures. They began to tell stories of the wonderful works of Daniel Boone. He became, in a way, a model for the great American explorers that followed after him. American schoolchildren still learn about Daniel Boone and the things he did during the early part of American history.

When I was growing up in the late 1960s, there was a television show called Daniel Boone, and it was on from 1964 to 1970. I mostly saw the show in reruns – that is when the television channels would show the old shows again on TV – but it was a very popular television program and it told the story of Daniel Boone, although I’m sure it told some things that probably didn’t actually happen. But that happens sometimes on television, doesn’t it?

Now let’s turn to our second topic, the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was first released in 1939 for the movie, The Wizard of Oz. A “rainbow” (rainbow) is a curved line of colors that can appear in the sky after a rainstorm, when the sun shines through the moisture.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was written for one of the most popular movies of 1939, as I mentioned, The Wizard of Oz. A “wizard” (wizard) is a person who has magical powers, and The Wizard of Oz tells the story of a young girl from the state of Kansas, in the central part of the U.S., who somehow magically visits this land called “Oz” (Oz) that is run by a wizard, of course.

If you’ve seen this classic American movie, you probably know that the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is sung by the lead actress in the movie, Judy Garland. Garland plays the character of Dorothy in the movie, and she sings the song towards the beginning of the film. Basically, the story is about a girl who’s unhappy. She’s lonely. She doesn’t have friends.

And she dreams about being in a place where she would be happy, where she would never have any problems or get into any trouble, and that’s why she sings in the song “Somewhere over the rainbow” – that is, somewhere perhaps beyond where the rainbow is – “way up high,” high up in the sky, “there’s a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby.” A “lullaby” (lullaby) is a song that you sing to a young child or a baby to get the child to fall asleep. That, or give the child some alcohol. I understand that also works, but don’t take any advice from me about children.

Anyway, the song is about how she is dreaming of this place that she had heard of once – over the rainbow. She says, “the skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” The magical place that she is dreaming of has blue skies – just like Los Angeles, I think. And in this place, if you dream a dream – if you “dare to dream” – your dreams will come true.

A “dream” is what happens sometimes when you sleep – you have these little stories that seem to go on in your head. “To dare” means to take a risk to do something. So, if you dare to dream – if you take a risk and decide to imagine something – that which you imagine, according to the song, will “come true” – that is, it will become reality. It will actually happen.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby

That’s kind of how the song goes. This magical place that Dorothy sings about is, of course, “imaginary” – that is, it’s not real, but she wants it to be real. The song continues by her saying, “Someday, I’ll wish upon a star.” “To wish upon a star” means to look up at the sky at night, to look at a star, and say something that you hope will happen.

We have the expression in English, “to make a wish.” “To make a wish” is to say, “I want this to happen.” Often, the making of the wish is connected to some action that, if you do it, will help your dream come true, your wish come true. In this case, it’s looking up at a star. In other cases, it might be throwing a coin, like a penny, into a fountain – into a pool of water.

Dorothy is wishing upon a star. She thinks that if she does this, she’ll “wake up where the clouds are far behind me, where troubles melt like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me.” To “wake up where the clouds are far behind me” I guess would mean beyond the clouds, way up in the sky – out in outer space, I guess. I think maybe Dorothy was drinking some of that alcohol. I’m not sure.

Anyway, she says that this place that she’s going to go is a place “where troubles melt like lemon drops.” A “lemon drop” is a kind of candy that you put in your mouth and it eventually melts – that is, it goes from being a solid to a liquid. The idea here is that your troubles will disappear. They will melt away.

Dorothy then sings that this place is “above the chimney tops.” A “chimney” (chimney) is that part of your house or of a building that goes out and takes the smoke from the fireplace, so if you burn wood in your fireplace, the smoke will go out this escape, this chimney. Of course, you don’t want the smoke to stay inside your house, you want it to go outside of your house.

Finally, Dorothy sings, “Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow, why then, oh why can’t I?” Dorothy is asking why she can’t fly as high as the bluebirds to this magical place. “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why can’t I?” She’s frustrated that she can’t go to this magical place as she imagines the birds are able to do, although of course I doubt the birds are actually able to go there either. But don’t tell Dorothy.

Now, in the movie, Dorothy really is, we think, taken to this magical place where there’s a wizard and she meets all of these strange and wonderful people. I won’t tell you how the movie ends if you haven’t seen it, but The Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that almost every American has seen. It’s shown on television, or at least it used to be shown on television, every year at least once.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was a big success for Judy Garland. Partly that was because the movie was also a very successful movie. The song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” won an Academy Award – an Oscar – for the best original song in 1940, and it can still be heard on the radio today.

My favorite version of the song, however, is by a Hawaiian singer. He’s known popularly in Hawaii simply as “Iz.” His name is Israel. I won’t pronounce his last name because it is a very difficult name to pronounce. It’s a very long name. But Iz, as he’s popularly known, recorded this song in 1993 using a small instrument called a “ukulele,” which is a popular instrument that looks like a guitar. It is popular in Hawaiian music. The version became popular and was included in a number of movies in the 1990s.

Sadly, neither Judy Garland nor Iz are with us anymore, but the song continues to be with us and many Americans love the song, including me. Perhaps you do, too.

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

Our first question comes from Mikhail (Mikhail) in Russia. Mikhail wants to know the meanings of “to distract,” “to foil,” and “to thwart.” “To distract” (distract) means to cause someone to stop thinking about something or paying attention to something or someone and get them to pay attention or think about something else.

If you are sitting, for example, at a library and you are trying to study, and there’s some idiot talking on his cell phone at the next table, you would perhaps become distracted. That person would “distract” you. He would cause you to not be able to focus on your book and instead focus on his stupid conversation. That would be an example of using the verb “to distract.”

Now, sometimes you may distract yourself. You may do something so that you don’t think about something such as work or having to meet your mother-in-law for dinner. You might decide you’re going to distract yourself. You’re going to watch a movie or go and take a walk so that you don’t have to think about that unpleasant prospect or that unpleasant situation. The noun of “to distract” is a “distraction,” and usually, a distraction is a bad thing, but sometimes it could be a good thing if you are trying to prevent yourself from thinking about something you don’t want to think about.

“To foil” (foil) is a less common word. It’s used to mean to prevent someone from doing something, usually from doing something bad. You’ll most often hear this when you read, for example, that the police have foiled the criminal’s plans to do something bad, to commit some crime, or that the government has foiled a terrorist plot – a plan to do something bad by terrorists. That would be the most common use of the verb “to foil.”

“To thwart” (thwart) also means to prevent someone from doing something, but here the verb is a little more generally used to mean anyone who is stopping you from carrying out your plan, even if it’s a good plan, whereas “foil” is usually used when we’re talking about, say, a criminal – someone who’s doing something bad.

“To thwart” can mean that someone stops a plan from being carried out, even if it’s a good plan or even if it’s a good person. You could also be “thwarted” in your plans by some situation that happens. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a person who thwarts your plan. So, those are some meanings of “to distract,” to foil,” and “to thwart.”

Our next question comes from Luiz (Luiz) Eduardo (Eduardo) in Brazil. Luis Eduardo wants to know the difference between “to reach” and “to achieve.” I’m going to start with the second verb here, which is “to achieve” (achieve).

“To achieve” means to get what you are trying to get. Usually we use this verb when we’re talking about a person who has a goal – a person who has something that he wants to obtain or to get, and he’s able to get it. “I want to achieve success.” I want to get success. That’s my goal. In fact, we often use the verb “to achieve” to mean the same as “to be successful.” In order to achieve in school, you have to study. That means the same as “in order to be successful in school” – in order to do well in school – “you have to study.”

The verb “to reach” (reach) means to be able to get to a certain position, to get perhaps even to a certain location. How long before we reach San Francisco? You want to know, when you’re driving north from Los Angeles to San Francisco, how long it will take you before you reach the city ¬– that is, before you are there in the city, before you arrive.

“To reach” can also mean to be able to touch or pick up something with your hand. If you’re sitting at the dinner table and your brother asks if you could pass him the bowl of salad – that is, give him the bowl of salad – and the bowl of salad is on the opposite end of the table, you might say, “Well, I can’t reach. My arm isn’t long enough.” Of course, you could just stand up and walk over and get it, but he’s your brother so, you know, you’re not going to do anything you don’t have to do.

We could define “to achieve” as “to reach a goal” – to be able to get to the position, if you will, of your goal. You could also use “reach” in that respect as well, meaning to get to the point of.

Mikhail also had another question about pronunciation – of words that all begin with “H.” This is an interesting question. I’m going to pronounce the words and spell them and give a very brief definition. The first word is “hare” (hare). A hare is basically an animal like a rabbit. The second word is pronounced the same but spelled differently. “Hair,” spelled (hair), which is what is on top of your head. It is something that grows out of your skin, not just on top of your head, but in other parts of your body as well.

Another word that Mikhail wants to know about is “hear” (hear). “To hear” means to be aware of sound through your ear. There’s another spelling of “here” (here), which refers to “this place,” or “in this location.” We also have the word “hire” (hire) which means to give someone a job. Another word on this list is “her” (her), which is a pronoun referring to a woman – something that belongs to a woman. We call that the “possessive pronoun.”

Finally, there is the word “heir,” spelled not (air) but (heir). That spelling of “heir” refers to someone who gets your property or money after you die. We would call that person your “heir.” I, for example, would be happy to be your heir when you die, which I hope is no time soon. So there are some pronunciations for you, with words beginning with the letter H. You’ll have noticed that sometimes we pronounce the letter H as in “her” and “hair” and “higher” and “here,” and sometimes we don’t, as in the word “heir.”

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 ESL Podcast.

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.

to explore – to travel through a place to learn more about it; to look at something in a careful way

* Annette and Ira had never been to Turkey before and were excited to explore the historical sites.

wilderness – a wild and natural area where few people live

* Many people enjoy spending the weekend camping in the wilderness where they can be away from the city and out in the fresh air.

rural – in the countryside; areas outside of cities

* Yvette enjoyed living in a rural area where her nearest neighbors were cows and horses.

frontier – a distant area where only a few people live that is usually at the border of an area or country

* The American frontier was a wild place where people struggled to survive.

to capture – to take someone prisoner and hold that person against his or her wishes

* Soldiers who are captured during a war are called “prisoners of war” and are often held until the war is over or their own country can arrange for their release.

hero – a person who is known and admired for his or her great acts and good qualities

* Many thought that the man who saved the baby from a burning building was hero.

expansion – the act of becoming bigger; the process of becoming larger

* The company’s expansion plans includes a larger office building and a 10% increase in the number of employees.

rainbow – a curved line of colors that appears in the sky when the sun shines after a rainstorm

* After the storm, there was a beautiful and clear rainbow in the sky where each of the five colors – red, orange, yellow, green, and blue – was visible.

wizard – a person who has magical powers

* One of the most famous wizards is Harry Potter, a boy wizard created by author J.K. Rowling.

imaginary – not real; existing only in a person’s mind

* Many children have imaginary friends who gives them companionship and comfort.

lullaby – a song that is sung to help a child fall asleep

* “Rock a bye Baby” is one of the most famous lullabies and has been sung by parents for many years to sleepy children.

to melt – to gradually become less and go away

* As the ice melted, it turned into water and was absorbed into the ground.

to distract – to cause someone to stop thinking about or paying attention to someone or something and to think about or pay attention to someone or something else

* Here’s the plan: You distract the other diners while I grab the last empty table.

to foil – to prevent a plan from succeeding; to do something that will not allow a goal to be achieved

* The police foiled the criminal’s plan to steal the queen’s jewels.

to thwart – to prevent someone from doing something; to oppose a plan or aim

* The governor’s plan to build a new sports stadium was thwarted by environmental activists.

to reach – to succeed with a plan or goal after making an effort over a period of time; to be able to touch, pick up, or grab something by moving or stretching

* Do you think we’ll reach our goal of raising $500,000 to build a homeless shelter?

to achieve – to get or reach something by working hard; to become successful; to reach a goal

* Jemima finally achieved her goal of climbing the tallest mountain in Asia.

What Insiders Know

Rainbow/PUSH is a “not-for-profit” (not intended to earn money) organization that was created in 1971 as a “merger” (combination of two existing organizations) of Operation PUSH, which “stands for” (is a word created from the first letter of a series of other words) People United to Save Humanity and the National Rainbow “Coalition” (partnership to work together), which is often referred to simply as the Rainbow Coalition.

Both of those organizations were founded by Jesse Jackson, a well-known “civil rights activist” (someone who tries to change society so that all people are treated equally), “minister” (Christian religious leader), and “former” (previous; in the past) elected “representative” (law-making official) for Washington, DC. The name “Rainbow Coalition” originally came from Fred Hampton, another civil rights activist who “advocated for” (worked on behalf of) African Americans.

Both of the merged organizations focused on “social justice” (efforts to make sure that resources and opportunities are given fairly within society) and “civil rights” (protection of individuals’ freedoms). Today, Rainbow/PUSH “continues in that same vein” (does a similar type of work).

Jesse Jackson and his organizations have been involved in many issues. These include “universal healthcare” (affordable healthcare for everyone), the “war on drugs” (efforts to stop drug use and the sale of illegal drugs), Palestinian-Israeli “peace talks” (official conversations and negotiations to try to end a war), “student loans” (money students borrow to attend college), “fair housing” (equal access to safe and affordable homes), “gender equity” (equal opportunities for men and women), and more.