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547 Topics: Famous Americans – Thomas Paine; Classic TV – The Twilight Zone; responsibility versus accountability versus liability; to go haywire versus to go crazy; pronouncing whole, hole, role, and holy

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Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 547.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 547. 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. Take a look at our ESL Podcast Store while you’re there. We have a lot of interesting courses in English – in addition, of course, to our ESL Podcast membership, which allows you to download the Learning Guide for this episode.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about a man who helped not just with one revolution, but two famous revolutions of the eighteenth century – an Englishman who became an American who later lived in France, Thomas Paine. We’re also going to talk about a classic television show, The Twilight Zone. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Thomas Paine was born in England in 1737. He became one of the most important writers of his generation, of his time, yet he had only a small amount of formal schooling as a child. Growing up in England, Paine was not very successful at most of the things he did. At one point, he became a “tax collector” – a person the government pays to go out and get “taxes,” money that people owe the government. He wasn’t having a very successful life in England. In fact, he was married and divorced twice at an early age. He was either unsuccessful or unhappy in just about every job he tried.

In 1774, he met a man from the American colonies by the name of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, you may know, was one of our most famous politicians in the early part of our history. Paine met Franklin in London and Franklin gave him some advice. He said, “You should go to America. Go to the American colonies. You’ll be successful there.” And he gave him a few letters that would allow him to meet people when he got to the colonies. So Paine got on a boat and he came to the colonies to do what millions of other immigrants have done – to be successful in America.

Paine was somewhat successful. He got a job working at a magazine. While working there, he also started to write and to publish his own writings – poetry and articles. “To publish” (publish) means to make something available, something in writing available for people to buy, either in a book or a magazine or a newspaper, or nowadays on the Internet. Many of these pieces that he wrote were published “anonymously.” “Anonymously” (anonymously) means without giving your name.

Paine arrived in the American colonies during a period of political unrest, when many of the American colonists were getting tired of England raising taxes on Americans and telling Americans what to do. Paine thought Americans shouldn’t just try to get England to stop raising taxes, but rather that America should be independent. It should be its own country. And so, he wrote a small book called a “pamphlet” (pamphlet) that argued that Americans should gain their independence from Great Britain.

This 50-page pamphlet was called “Common Sense.” The expression “common sense” is a person’s ability to think in a logical way, but something that doesn’t require any great education or schooling. If you have common sense, you know how to live in the world, how to solve problems, how to react to situations, even though you may not have gone to college or gotten a lot of schooling. To Paine, it was common sense that Americans should try, not just to get more freedom from the British government, but rather to become their own government – their own country.

“Common Sense,” the pamphlet, was published in January of 1776. Within a few months it had sold more than 500,000 copies. Paine helped “popularize,” or make popular, the idea that Americans should gain independence from Great Britain. And nearly every colonist who was interested in politics read Paine’s pamphlet. Six months after Paine published his “Common Sense” pamphlet, the United States colonies declared their independence in July of 1776 – July fourth.

Paine fought in the American Revolution for three years, and he continued to write papers that would encourage Americans to continue in the struggle against Great Britain. The Revolutionary War lasted several years, and during this time, Paine wrote what were called “Crisis Papers.” These were short pamphlets similar to “Common Sense” that encouraged Americans to keep fighting.

One of the first of these pamphlets was published in December of 1776, and it included perhaps the most famous sentence that Thomas Paine wrote in his writings: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” This was a difficult time during the Revolutionary War. After all, the war was just starting and the Americans were not expected to win. So Paine wanted to encourage the soldiers.

The expression “These are the times” means this is a time, or this is a period. The verb here, “to try” (try), doesn’t mean to attempt. It means to be difficult, to cause a great challenge, to cause problems. If we say, “This is a very trying period,” we mean it’s a very difficult period, a challenging period. Paine was saying that yes, these were difficult times for the American colonies. He said they were “times that try men’s souls.” The word “soul” here refers to one’s emotional state, to one’s deeper emotions.

Paine was recognizing that these were difficult times, but he was telling Americans that they could win, that they could continue on and defeat Great Britain and become an independent country. Paine’s writings were considered so powerful that George Washington, the leader of the American Army, had all of his soldiers read Paine’s writings to encourage them, to give them hope.

Paine did other things to help the revolution. He actually went to France at one point and got money, donations from the French, in order to help feed and clothe the American soldiers who needed help so they could continue to fight. At the end of the Revolutionary War, Paine found himself without a job and without a lot of money. He was a good revolutionary, but perhaps not surprisingly, not a very good businessman. Even though he had sold hundreds of thousands of his pamphlets, he sold them at a very low price because he wanted people to buy them and read them. This meant that he didn’t have a lot of money, and so he needed to find a job, although he did continue writing. The state of New York gave him a farm on which he lived and tried to make a living. He tried to become an inventor, to create new things, but he wasn’t very good at it. He went back to England to try to get people interested in some of his inventions.

Paine returned to Europe in 1787, and if you know your European history, you will know that there was another revolution taking place, and that was the French Revolution. Paine was very much a supporter of the French Revolution, and he wrote, just as he did about the American Revolution, a pamphlet to explain why the French Revolution was a good thing. This pamphlet was called “Rights of Man.”

He later wrote another pamphlet or small book called “Age of Reason,” which had to do with religion. Both of these pamphlets, however, made him very unpopular with the British government, especially those who were wealthy in the British government. Paine had a lot of radical ideas about the way the government should be organized, and as a result of his writing, the government – the British government – decided to punish him.

Fortunately for Paine, he had gone to France and had actually been elected as a member of something that we would call in English the “National Convention,” which was a group of people who were controlling France after the fall of the king. After the king was removed from the government of France, there was a group that ruled France, or that was controlling the French government, called the “National Convention,” and Paine was a member of that group.

Even here, however, Paine wasn’t very successful. He argued that even though the king should be removed from office, that they shouldn’t kill him. Well, some of the Frenchman had different ideas, and they eventually put Paine himself in prison for about a year. Although Paine himself believed in God, he had gotten the reputation from his pamphlet “Age of Reason” as being an “atheist,” and this made him very unpopular not just back in England but back in the new country of the United States.

Paine remained in France until 1802 when he returned to the U.S. By this time, however, many people had forgotten all the things that Paine had done to help the American Revolution. They had forgotten about his pamphlets. He was once again poor, and returned to the farm that New York had given him. He died at that farm, mostly forgotten by the American nation that he had helped create. It wasn’t until years later that Thomas Paine’s contributions were recognized and his writings considered important in the development of the American Revolution.

Schoolchildren in the U.S. nowadays learn about Thomas Paine, about his famous pamphlet “Common Sense,” and about that most famous line from the American Revolution, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” That’s the story of Thomas Paine, the Englishman who helped not only the American Revolution, but the French Revolution.

Now let’s turn to a classic television show from the 1950s and 1960s, The Twilight Zone. The word “twilight” (twilight) refers to a time at the end of the day when the sun can no longer be seen, but it isn’t yet dark out. Twilight, of course, was also the name of a famous book, more recently, about vampires. But we’re not talking about that Twilight. We’re talking about a television show that was called The Twilight Zone.

A “zone” (zone) is an area, a place. As the Earth rotates, of course, the sun goes up in the morning and goes down at night, and you can think of that line that goes around the earth separating light and dark. That line, or that area between light and dark, is called sometimes the “twilight zone.” A more technical term in science is “terminator.” The twilight zone, then, is an area where it’s not dark and it’s not light. It’s somewhere in between.

A young writer decided to use that term “twilight zone” for the name of a television series that he wanted to create. The writer, Rod Sterling, began working in radio and television after the end of World War II. He used his own experiences in the war to write about the appearance of evil in the world, very bad things. After working at a television station in Cincinnati, he began writing television dramas for national television programs.

During this period, a lot of the drama that was on radio and television was recorded live. Television, however, was beginning to make “pre-recorded” dramas, things that were filmed and then edited – cut apart, put together again, and then shown on television. Rod Sterling created a show which he called The Twilight Zone that was first shown on television in October of 1959. Sterling both wrote some of the shows and acted in some of them. Each of the episodes of the show told a different story about different people.

These were all stories about what we might describe as “everyday people” doing things that you would normally do in your life – go to your job, or talk to your family. But something weird would happen one day, something strange would happen to the person in the story that they couldn’t understand, that was a mystery. Every episode had weird things happen to otherwise normal people, similar to what you might see in a science fiction show. But everything was happening here on Earth.

One of the things that Sterling tried to do in his stories was talk about important social and political issues that were going on during this time, but not talk about them directly. Rather, he would use these episodes of his television show to comment on to talk about different things, but do it in a way that you didn’t think you were watching a political program. It was still a drama. It was still about strange things happening to these normal people.

The idea was, at the end of the program you would be thinking about some important aspect of life – about honesty, or love, or loyalty, or truth, or death. The shows were somewhat dark in the sense that they weren’t meant to be happy or funny. They were meant to make you think about the serious issues in life. The Twilight Zone was on American television for close to six years, from 1959 to 1964. There were more than 150 episodes made of the show.

It was very popular among critics, among people who wrote about television, although it was never one of the most popular television shows at the time. But it was considered one of the highest-quality drama shows on television and many actors, young actors, wanted to be part of the show – actors who later went on to become famous people like Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds, Peter Falk, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper.

Each episode was a different story. There weren’t any continuing stories. So every time you watch an episode of The Twilight Zone, you’re seeing those characters for the one and only time, but that makes it even more interesting to watch because even though every story and every character is different each show, you know you’re going to be watching something of high quality.

It’s for that reason that even today you can see The Twilight Zone on some television channels. I know in the 1970s and ’80s, when I was growing up, there was always a television station that was showing old reruns, old episodes of The Twilight Zone. Even Americans who’ve never seen the show know what The Twilight Zone represents. It represents something weird, something strange that happens.

In fact, if something weird does happen, someone may start humming the music from the show, the theme music we would call it. The show begins with this very strange science fiction-like music [hums The Twilight Zone intro]. If you do that to someone here in the U.S, they’ll instantly recognize that and know that you’re talking about The Twilight Zone and are saying that something strange or weird has just happened, because strange and weird things happen in all of the episodes of The Twilight Zone.

If you’ve never seen The Twilight Zone, you should definitely try to watch some of the old programs. They are entertaining, and in many cases will make you think.

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

Our first question comes from Jouse (Jouse) in the Dominican Republic. The question has to do with three words, “responsibility,” “accountability,” and “liability.” Let’s start with the first word, “responsibility” (responsibility).

“Responsibility” comes from the word “responsible.” “To be responsible” means to be the person whose job it is to do something, the person who has an obligation to do something, who is supposed to do something. Your “responsibilities” are your duties – things you are required or expected to do. In your job, you have certain responsibilities. Your boss or your company expects you to do certain things.

The word “responsibility” is often used with the preposition “for.” “I have responsibility for this project.” Or your boss may ask, “Who is responsible for doing this?” The preposition “for” often comes after the word “responsibility.” “Responsibility” is a noun. So, you have “responsibility.” If you want to use the adjective “responsible,” then you would write the sentence a little bit differently. You would say, “Who is responsible for this?” “Who is responsible for this?” means the same as “Who has the responsibility for this?”

“Accountability” (accountability) usually refers to the consequences of being responsible for something, especially when something goes wrong. “To be accountable” means to take the blame if something bad happens when you are responsible. So with “responsibility” comes “accountability.” “Accountability” refers to the often bad things that will happen if you don’t do your job properly, if you don’t carry out your responsibilities correctly.

“Accountability” is used a lot now when talking about schools and teachers. We talk about “accountability in education,” meaning if the kids aren’t learning, the teachers are somehow responsible and therefore must be punished. “Accountability” almost always is related to some sort of punishment or some bad thing that will happen if the job isn’t done correctly.

“Liability” (liability) can mean a couple of different things. “Liability” can mean being legally responsible for something or having the legal responsibility for something. Often this relates to some sort of financial responsibility as well. If you make something and you sell it to another person, and that person gets harmed or injured by using what you sold to him, you will often have “financial liability” for that product. You will have to pay that person for the damage or the injury that you were responsible for.

So, “liability” can mean legal responsibility. It can also mean financial responsibility when things go wrong. Like “accountability,” we usually use this term, this noun “liability,” when we’re talking about things that go wrong when something bad happens. Another meaning of “liability” is to refer to someone or something that causes problems. You may even refer to a person as being a “liability.” “You’re a liability in this company.” That means you cause more problems than you solve. You are hurting this company. It would be better the company didn’t have you on its team.

Certain things that you did in your past might be a liability. If you, in college, did a lot of drinking and then you put pictures of your drinking on your Facebook page, when you go to apply for a job, the company may look at your Facebook page – and many companies do look at your Facebook page – and see all of those photographs of you drinking.

Well, those photographs are now a liability for you. They are things that are going to hurt you in getting a job. So don’t put pictures of you drinking on your Facebook page. Especially you, college students, who will be looking for a job someday. I’m lucky – when I went to college, there was no Facebook.

Our next question comes from Edison (Edison) in Costa Rica. Edison would like the meaning of two different expressions, “to go haywire” and “to go crazy.” There is some relationship here between these two expressions. I’m going to start with the second one, “to go crazy” (crazy).

“To go crazy” usually refers to a person who has either become mentally ill or has gone out of control – who starts acting wildly, who starts doing things that are perhaps harmful or strange that you wouldn’t expect the person to do. Sometimes it refers to someone who has an actual medical problem, a mental illness, in which case nowadays we don’t normally use the term “crazy” for that.

More commonly, when we say somebody “went crazy,” we mean the person started to act irrationally; perhaps he started shouting and yelling or screaming or doing something strange – hitting himself or hitting other people. “To go crazy” means to suddenly start acting in a very odd and unusual manner, a manner that suggests that you are out of control, that you can no longer control yourself.

“To go crazy” could be used perhaps to describe what happens to a machine or an object if it stops working properly. However, a more common expression for that, when we’re talking about things, is the first expression, the first phrase, “to go haywire” (haywire). If a machine such as your computer or your television starts malfunctioning – starts working improperly, starts working the way it shouldn’t – you might say, “It went haywire” or “It’s going haywire.”

To be honest, however, I haven’t heard that expression “to go haywire” all that much in recent years. It was more common perhaps 30 or 40 years ago. I’m not sure exactly what’s replaced it, however. We might say, “It’s gone crazy” or “My machine is acting weird.” “My machine has started acting up,” we might say, perhaps. But people still do use the phrase “to go haywire,” and if you use it, other people will understand what you’re saying.

Finally, we have a question from Raul (Raul) in Brazil. Raul’s question has to do with the pronunciation of four words that sound very similar. I’m going to say the word, spell it, and then give a little bit of what it means even though his question is mostly about pronunciation. The first question, in fact, the first two words are pronounced the same but mean different things and are spelled differently.

The first word is “whole” (whole). “Whole,” when it’s spelled with a “w” means complete or full, having all of its parts. “My whole family is here” – that means all of my family is here, every member of my family. The second word, “hole” (hole), without the “w,” means an opening that goes into or through something. “There’s a hole in my sock.” That means that if you looked at my sock, you could see part of my foot because there is a part of the sock that is no longer there. That’s a “hole,” spelled without the “w.” They’re pronounced exactly the same.

The second two words are “role” (role) and “holy.” A “role” is a character played by an actor – it’s a person in a TV show, a movie, or a play, but it refers not to the actual name of the actor, but to the character. So, for example, in Star Wars, I was the actor who played the role of Chewbacca. Okay: Chewbacca is the “role,” and I was the actor. That was many years ago when I had more hair.

Another meaning of “role” is responsibilities or things that one does within a certain group. For example, at ESL Podcast, one of my roles is to record the podcast. That’s one of the things I do within the company, within our little group here.

“Holy” refers to something that is related to religion or to God that is somehow special and must be honored or considered sacred ¬– considered from God or related to God. We might talk about “holy places” such as a church. Different religions have places in the world they consider holy – that are special, that have some special connection to God or to a “higher being,” as they say.

So those are the four words that Raul wanted me to talk about: “whole,” “hole,” “role,” and “holy.”

If you have a question or comment – if there’s a hole in your knowledge of English that you would like us to fill, if you want the whole answer to your question – email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com. We’ll do our best to answer it here on the Café.

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 2016 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
tax collector – a government official whose job is to get from people the money they are required to pay to the government

* In the old days, the king’s tax collector was a powerful and feared person.

to publish – to have something one wrote included in a book, magazine, newspaper, or other publication that is for sale

* Keith couldn’t believe that his essay about the benefits of listening to classical music would be published in a famous music magazine.

anonymously – without being identified by name; without indicating who wrote or created something

* The stolen jewels were returned anonymously and the police still don’t know who had taken them.

to rebel – to not obey or follow the law of a government, ruler, or other power

* Many teenagers rebel against their parents by staying out later than they are supposed to.

independent – not controlled or governed by anyone else

* You won’t get the benefits of job security if you quite your job to become an independent consultant.

pamphlet – a small, thin book without a cover that has information about a specific topic

* The doctor’s office has many pamphlets about eating right and exercising patients can take and read at home.

common sense – a person’s ability to think and act in a way that is logical and to make good decisions in everyday matters

* Because she had a lot of common sense, she knew that it was foolish to go out and spend her entire paycheck on a new TV when she needed to pay her rent.

to try – to make a situation difficult for someone; to make demands on someone

* The customer service representative really tried Annette’s patience when, after a five-minute explanation, the representative asked her to explain it again.

twilight zone – a term describing the feeling of being somewhere between what is real and what is imaginary

* After not sleeping for nearly 72 hours, Franco felt like he was in some sort of twilight zone where nothing smelled, sounded, or tasted like he thought it should.

evil – being very bad, doing very bad things, and hurting others for morally wrong reasons

* Most people would agree that anyone who tries to hurt an innocent child is evil.

to pre-record – to film or tape a show and then broadcast it for an audience later

* When the host of the nightly show was on vacation, the television station showed pre-recorded shows that the host had taped weeks before.

responsibility – a duty or task that one is required or expected to do; the state of being the person who caused something to happen

* Taking out the garbage is my responsibility and doing the gardening is my wife’s responsibility.

accountability – required to be responsible for something and being able to answer questions about it when asked

* The managers know that accountability for keeping spending low and within the budget is theirs.

liability – being legally responsible for something; something, such as the payment of money or return of borrowed items, for which a person or business is legally responsible; someone or something that causes problems

* Each driver must have liability insurance in case he or she is responsible for an accident and causes harm or damage to another driver.

to go haywire – to not work properly; to be out of control

* My computer was working fine, but I tried to open too many programs all at once and it went haywire.

to go crazy – to become mentally ill; to go insane; to be out of control

* The woman in the grocery store line got angry with the clerk and went crazy, yelling at the clerk and throwing items at him.

What Insiders Know
The Twilight Series

American author Stephenie Meyers has written an extremely popular “series” (a group of related novels, typically with the same characters) called the Twilight series. The series “comprises” (is made up of; has in it) four “romance novels” (fictional books about romantic relationships) about “vampires” (fictional human-like creatures that bite the neck of a human to drink blood for food). The main character of the series is a teenage girl named Isabella Swan who falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen.

The first novel, Twilight, was published in 2005. It was followed by New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), and Breaking Dawn(2008). The novels were immediately popular with not only teenagers, but also adults. More than 120 million copies had been sold by late 2011.

One of the books received the British Book Award for “Children’s Book of the Year” in 2008, and the series won the 2009 Kids’ Choice Award. The books have been on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than 235 weeks.

The books have been adapted into films. The movies, known as The Twilight Saga, were released between 2008 and 2012. A “saga” is a long story with many things happening in very dramatic ways. The Twilight Saga has been a “box office hit” (movies that have made a lot of money from movie theater ticket sales).

Although the story is very popular, some people criticize it for “romanticizing” (making something seem ideal) unhealthy relationships. Some “critics” (people who analyze the quality of a book, film, and more) argue that the main character has little “depth” (deep meaning) and is sexually attracted to the vampire for “superficial” (unimportant; surface-level) reasons.