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544 Topics: The Boston Tea Party; American Authors – Edna St. Vincent Millay; biological parent versus birth parent versus real parent; existing versus existent; That’s going to do it for today

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 544.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 544. 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. Download this episode’s Learning Guide, an eight-toten-page guide that includes a complete transcript of everything we say. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store that has additional courses in Business and Daily English. And why not like us on Facebook– go to facebook.com/eslpod.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the Boston Tea Party, one of the most important political events in the early history of the United States, or what was to become the United States. We’ll also talk about a famous American author and poet by the name of Edna St. Vincent Millay. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

The Boston Tea Party is one of the most famous events in the early part of American history and continues in some ways to be important as a political symbol. Let’s talk about what actually happened at the Boston Tea Party and why it was important – not only back in the eighteenth century, but even today.

On the night of December 16th, 1773, three British ships sat in Boston Harbor. A “harbor” (harbor) is a small area of water connected to an ocean or a large lake that is next to an area of land and is protected from the larger body of water –protected from the waves and movement of the water in the lake or the ocean. Sometimes harbors are naturally created by the land surrounding the water. Sometimes harbors are artificially created in order to allow a place for ships and boats to come and be safe.

Many harbors are used for docking ships. “To dock (dock) a ship” is to tie the ship up to some structure so that it doesn’t move and allow people and things that are on the ship to be moved on and off of the ship. The city of Boston – located in the now state of Massachusetts – has a harbor,and in this harbor, back in 1773, were three British ships.

Boston was one of the largest cities in North America during the late eighteenth century and was an important city in the American colonies. Remember, during most of the eighteenth century, the eastern part of what is now the United States was a set of colonies belonging to Great Britain. It wasn’t unusual then for there to be a group of British ships in Boston Harbor in 1773.

These particular ships belonged to a British company called the East India Company, and in the shipsthere was about what was then 18,000 pounds’ worth of tea. The British were and are, of course, famous for drinking tea, and tea was popular in the American colonies as well. The tea was supposed to be taken off of this set of ships and sold to the American colonists.

A “colonist” (colonist) is a person who lives in what is called a “colony” (colony). A colony is a piece of land that is owned by another country that is usually far away from that country, just as the American colonies were owned by Great Britain during this period. On the 16th of December, after dark – that is, during the nighttime – a group of 60 men dressed to look like Native Americans, or American Indians, got onto these ships and threw the tea that was in the ships into the waters of Boston Harbor.

Why did these men dress up like American Indians and throw all the tea into the water? Well, the main reason was that they wanted to take revenge against Great Britain for a law that was passed that same year, in 1773, that they believed was unfair. The reason they dressed up as American Indians, of course, was to disguise themselves. “To disguise (disguise) yourself” means to put on clothing or to do something with your face so that no one knows who you are.

The law that these men wanted to protest, wanted to take revenge over, was something called the Tea Act. The word “act” (act) is just another word for a law. The Tea Act was basically a tax on the tea that was sold in the American colonies. The American colonists, or at least some of the American colonists, were angry about this tax for a couple of reasons. First, there had been several tax laws passed by the British government forcing the American colonists to pay taxes on other things. This tax on tea was just the newest or most recent one.

The colonists felt this wasn’t fair. They believed it wasn’tfair for the British government to be taxing them because they, as colonists, were not represented in the government. They did not have any members in the British Parliament – the group of men who decided on these taxes. They believed there should be no taxation without representation – that is, they should not have to pay taxes unless they themselves were represented in Parliament.

The second reason the Tea Act made the colonists angrywas because it, of course, like all taxes, it took money away from the colonists themselves. They had to give more money to the British government.In this case, the American merchants, the people who were selling the tea,had to pay more in taxes, but of course if they have to pay more in taxes, then the price goes up, and so everyone was paying for this tax.

The East India Company, in addition, was the only company allowed to sell tea to the American colonies. And so there wasn’t any competition. Because of these reasons, a group of men, who called themselves the Sons of Liberty, formed a few years earlier in 1765 to fight these unjust laws or what they saw were unjust laws. They considered themselves patriots. A “patriot” (patriot) is a person who loves his country and fights for its rights and freedom.

One man, by the name of Samuel Adams, was the leader of the Sons of Liberty and was the main person who organized their activities. Samuel Adams is still famous today because there is the famous beer named Samuel Adams. Samuel Adams in real life – the real Samuel Adams – actually was what we would call a “brewer” (brewer). A brewer is a person who makes beer. So you can drink American history as well as study it if you drink Sam Adams beer.

Anyway, Sam Adams was the leader of this group of patriots who went by the name of the Sons of Liberty. Often, the actions of the Sons of Liberty were peaceful. They were protesting but they didn’t do anything violent initially, at the beginning. After the British Parliament passed this Tea Act, however, they decided not to kill anyone but to show the British government that they were unhappy. It was a form of protest – throwing the tea into the Boston Harbor. The event became known as the “Boston Tea Party” and that’s how people know it today.

After the British government learned of the Boston Tea Party, they weren’t very happy about it. And so, they decided to pass some additional laws to punish those in Boston and in the colonies who were protesting against their laws. The laws they passed were called the Intolerable Acts. Something that is “intolerable” (intolerable) is something that is so horrible, so terrible that you will not accept it. If it’s “intolerable,” it cannot be put up with. It is something that you will not allow to happen or not allow to continue to happen.

Parliament considered the acts of the Sons of Liberty and others who protested their taxes to be intolerable, and so they decided to punish them. The Intolerable Acts were four new laws for the colony of Massachusetts and the city of Boston, since this is where the main protest was taking place. The first law closed the harbor of Boston to all ships until the colonies paid Britain 18,000 pounds, which was the cost of the tea that had been thrown into the water at what was called the “Boston Tea Party.”

This meant that no foods or other products could be brought into Boston by ship, which was of course how most of the food and other products arrived to the city and the colony. This was a very extreme measure. You are essentially telling the city in the colony that they can’t get any food or any other supplies from the main source of food and supplies.

The second, third, and fourth laws all were related to the way that the colony and the city would be ruled. In this case, it was decided that the British military would take control of the government in these areas. The laws allowed the British military to go into any building or house that they wanted and take control of it and use it for whatever they wanted, for however long they wanted.

Britain hoped that these Intolerable Acts would be enough of a punishment to force the patriots to stop fighting the British government. But instead, it had the opposite effect. It caused not only the Sons of Liberty but other groups in the colonies who were unhappy with Great Britain to fight even more,and to go from simple protests to actual military action.

Within two years, the Revolutionary War had begun in the colonies. The first military actions were in fact in the area of Boston,in the towns of Lexington and Concord, in April of 1775. The Revolutionary War continued until 1783, when finally Great Britain decided to let the colonies have their independence and freedom,and thus began what became the United States of America.

The Boston Tea Party is an event that every American schoolboy and schoolgirl learns about. I said it was still something important even today in today’s politics. That’s because there was recently a political movement in the U.S. which called itself the “Tea Party” movement. Among other things, the members of this Tea Party political movement believe that the U.S. government is too strong, that there are too many rules, too many taxes, and they have organized political events to try to change the way the U.S. government operates through the political process.

There hasn’t been any violence, but the Tea Party movement is part of the larger conservative political movement in the United States. You might actually see that term mentioned in newspaper articles. It’s not as popular as it was a few years ago as we record this in the year 2016, but it’s a good example of how past events, how history still influences modern political movements, if for no other reason than by taking names that were used for past events.

Now let’s turn to our second topic, which is the American author and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in February of 1892 in the state of Maine. Maine is located in the northeast corner of the United States, next to Canada – on the border of Canada. It is part of what we call “New England,” very close to the state of Massachusetts.

Millay was raised by her mother. Her parents had divorced. She, from an early age, had a talent for writing poems. Millay was only 14 years old when she published her first poem in 1906. Over the next six years, Millay had five more poems published as a teenager. The last of these was called “Renascence,” although Millay spelled it differently. She spelled it (Renascence) instead of the more common spelling of “renaissance,” which is (renaissance).

In any case, it became a very popular poem and was one that got her national attention. It allowed her in fact, thanks to the generosity of a woman by the name of Carolyn Dow, to go to college at one of the best colleges for women in the U.S., Vassar College in New York. After graduating from college, Millay moved to New York City, which was the literary center of the United States (and in some ways, still is). There she continued to write poems,and in 1917 published her first collection of poems, called Renascence and Other Poems.

She made friends with a group of other writers in New York, and both she and her work became popular. Her poetry was especially popular with young people during the 1920s – in part this is because she herself was very young, and in part because her poems expressed a feeling of independence and of somewhat liberal social and political views. These were ideas that appealed especially to young people in the 1920s.

Even though she was popular, like everyone else she still needed money to live on. In order to do this,she started writing short stories for magazines, but not using her real name. She used insteadwhat is called a “pen name” or a “pseudonym.” Her pen name was Nancy Boyd. A “pen name” is a name that an author uses instead of his or her real name. There are many different reasons why an author might use a pen name. Some authors don’t want people to know that they are the authors of these particular books.

In 1920, Millay began writing plays as well as poetry. She continued to publish works of poetry, including a collection called A Few Figs from Thistles. A “fig” (fig) is a small, dark brown fruit. A “thistle” (thistle) is a plant that grows in the wild and has very sharp points, what we would call “thorns” (thorns), on it. In 1921, like a lot of American writers, Millay decided to move to Europe.

She lived in Europe for two years and made money writing for a popular magazine, Vanity Fair, while continuing to write poetry. In 1923, she won literature’s greatest or highest award, some would say, the Pulitzer Prize. There are, as you may know, several kinds of Pulitzer Prizes: one for literature,one for peace,and so on. Millay – still relatively young, remember – won the Nobel Prize for literature.

She returned to the United States in 1923 and married a Dutchman, a man from the Netherlands, by the name of Boissevain. The two of them together moved to a small town in New York, a town that was rather isolated, many people thought. “Isolated” means it’s not close to anything else. In this case, it wasn’t close to the big city of New York. But in 1927, a few years later, she was asked by The New York Metropolitan Opera Company to write an opera, or at least to write the words for an opera.

She wrote something called The King’s Henchmen, which quickly became the most popular American opera written up to that time. It was quite popular during the late 1920s and was performed many times at the Metropolitan Opera as well asin other cities across the United States. However, within a few yearsthe opera was more or less forgotten by the American public. Millay continued to write, but she never had that same level of popularity as she had early on in her career.

She died at a relatively young age. She was only 58 years old when she died in 1950, and like her opera, I have to say that for the most part her work has been forgotten. Most of her poetry is no longer read by American schoolchildren. I think I may have read one or two of her poems when I was growing up. If she’s remembered for anything nowadays, it was more for her early advocacy of feminism, not so much for her actual poetry.

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

Our first question comes from Yousef (Yousef) in Iran. The question has to do with three related terms – “biological parents,” “real parents,” and “birth parents.” Let’s start with the word in common for all three of these terms, which is “parents” (parents). Your parents are your mother and your father. Everyone has a mother and a father. It’s impossible not to.

The terms “biological parents” and “birth parents”refer to the man and woman who provide the genetic material called a “sperm” and an “egg” that join together and form a human being. Now, if you don’t know that, I’m not really the best person to explain how that happens. I will say, however, that the “biological” or “birth” parent isn’t always the two people that you grow up with. You may be raised – that is, you may grow up – in a house that does not consist of your “biological” or “birth” parents.

Your parents may never have married, and the father may go off with someone else, and you may be raised by your “birth mother” but not your “biological father.” Hence, we have this other term: your “real parents.” Now, for some people, the term “real parents” might refer to biological parents or birth parents. Others may use this term to refer to the man and woman who actually raised them, in whose house they may have grown up.

You may, for example, have been adopted by another couple and be raised in the house of that couple – two people who are not your biological or birth parents. Nowadays, of course, there are all sorts of what we might term “non-traditional” ways that families are organized. But there is always going to be a biological mother and a biological father, however separated they may be in time and space. At least, that’s true as we record this episode in 2016.

Our next question comes from Dmytro (Dmytro) in Ukraine. The question has to do with the difference between the word “existing” (existing) and “existent” (existent). “Existing” means real or current or present right now. The word “existent” is also an adjective that can mean the same thing – real or actual. It’s a little more formal. It means pretty much the same as “existing.” “Existing” is more common. You’ll more likely hear someone talk about the “existing parks and lakes in a city” or the “largest existing animal in the world.”

If you hear or read “existent,” it will more likely be in the term “nonexistent.” Something that is “nonexistent” doesn’t exist. It isn’t actual. It isn’t real or it is no longer present. Politeness in L.A. driving is nonexistent, meaning you won’t find it anywhere. No one is polite. No one is nice to each other. Or you could talk about the “nonexistent support for a certain law.” That means there is no support. It doesn’t exist. It’s not real. It’s not actual.

Finally, Morteza (Morteza) in Iran wants to know the meaning of the expression, “That’s going to do it for today.” For example, I may say, “That’s going to do it for today’s podcast.” “That’s going to do it for today” means that is all we are going to do today. That is the end of our program, or that is the end of our presentation. Your boss might sayto you at five o’clock in the afternoon, “All right guys, that’s going to do it for today. We’re done. Everyone go home and have a nice dinner.” That’s if you have a nice boss, of course.

You may hear someone on your nightly news broadcast on the television at the very end of the show say, “That’s going to do it for today.” That means, “We’re done now for today.” The idea is that you will come back tomorrow or you will come back at a later time and continue doing what you were doing, or something similar to what you were doing. So, when I say, “That’s going to do it for today,” or “That’s going to do it for today’s podcast,” I mean we’re ending the episode now, but we’ll come back and do another one soon.

That’s going to do it for today. 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. Thanks 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 2016 by the Center for Educational Development.

harbor – an area next to a body of water that is safe place for boats and ships to move into and stop, because the area is protected from rough water

* The ship found safety from the strong winds in a small harbor, where the wind and water were calm.

colonist – a person who lives in a place that is ruled or controlled by another country far away

* The British living in India were colonists before India won independence in 1947.

to take revenge – to do harm to something or to hurt someone as a reaction to the hurt or harm that person had done to one

* Henri’s heart was broken by his girlfriend Simone, and to take revenge, he told her biggest secret to all of their friends.

tax – the amount of money the government requires people to pay when they obtain, purchase, or use a product or service

* Most people have to pay income tax on the money they earn from their job.

to be represented – to have someone in government who speaks for and tries to make changes for the benefit of a particular group of people

* Each state is represented by two senators in Washington D.C.

patriot – a person who loves his or her country and fights for its freedom

* Damien considered himself a patriot, which is why he joined the military.

intolerable – something that is too bad or severe to be accepted

* “This behavior is intolerable and has to stop,” said the mother to her children who were screaming and throwing their toys all around the room.

poem – a piece of writing that uses descriptive language to explain an idea or emotion, usually written in short, separate lines that often rhyme

* Many school children learn the poem, “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you!”

to be published – to have something that one has written included in a book, newspaper, magazine, or similar publication available for sale

* Most magazines are published once a month, but some are published weekly.

liberal – a political view that the government should be responsible for supporting and making changes in society to help people, rather than remaining with traditional beliefs and values

* The liberal politician wanted more government programs to help homeless people find jobs and homes.

pen name – a name used by an author instead of that author’s real name

* Charles Lutwidge Dodgson used the pen name Lewis Carroll when he wrote his famous novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

isolated – far away from other people, buildings, or places

* When people become ill with a contagious disease, they are usually kept isolated to prevent others from becoming sick.

biological parent / birth parent – father or mother who is related by blood or birth to a child, transmitting their genes to the child

* Julia found her biological/birth parents when she was 25, with the help of her adoptive parents.

real parent – father or mother one feels is one’s true parents; father or mother who is related by blood or birth to a child

* My aunt and uncle raised me as their own child, because my real parents died in a car accident when I was a baby.

existing – current; real; present or real now

* The existing government makes policies to benefit the rich, not the poor.

existent – a formal term for being real; being present and real now

* These school rules have been existent for years.

That’s going to do it for today – That’s all we have time for today; That’s the last thing we’re going to do today

* Okay, kids, that’s going to do it for today. Come back next time for more fun and games!

What Insiders Know
Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby was a dog, either a “Boston Terrier” (a type of small dog, often black and white in color) or a “mixed breed” (a dog whose parents represent two or more types of dog), that played an important role in World War I. The dog lived from 1916 or 1917 until 1926 and may have been promoted to the “rank” (a label of one’s level and importance in a military unit) of “sergeant” (a U.S. Army rank above “specialist” and “corporal,” but below “staff sergeant”). However, this is “disputed” (controversial; argued about).

The dog “hung around” (spent time) with the 102nd “Infantry” (a group of soldiers who fight together on foot) while they were in training. One of those soldiers “snuck in” (brought in secretly) the dog with the men when they went to fight in Europe. During the 18 months that he “served” (worked in the Army), Sergeant Stubby participated in 17 “battles” (fights that are part of a war) and was “injured” (hurt) by a “grenade” (an explosive device).

Sergeant Stubby knew how to “salute” (raise one’s hand to one’s forehead in a sign of respect toward another person in the military) and wore a small “coat” (jacket) with his “medals” (metal and fabric pieces that indicates one’s accomplishments). More importantly, he “warned” (told someone that something bad would happen) the soldiers of “pending” (about to happen) “gas” (chemical) attacks. He was also good at finding and “comforting” (making someone feel better) “wounded” (injured) soldiers. Once he “captured” (caught) a Germany spy by biting him on “the seat of his pants” (the part of the body that he sat on), until American soldiers could come.

When Sergeant Stubby was brought back to the United States, he met three U.S. Presidents, received a gold medal from the “Humane Society” (an organization concerned about the health and welfare of animals), and became the “mascot” (an animal or figure that represents an institution or team) of Georgetown University in Washington D.C.