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553 Topics: Famous Americans – Lew Wallace; Classic TV – The Brady Bunch; to prevent versus to hinder versus to forbid; integral versus indispensable; to scare off game

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 553.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 553. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit ESLPod.com and become a member of ESL Podcast so that you can download our Learning Guide for this episode. Our Learning Guide contains a complete transcript of everything I say, along with a complete list of the vocabulary terms, definitions, sample sentences, and a cultural note.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about an American writer, politician, and military leader whom few Americans have heard of, despite his importance to our history – a man by the name of Lew Wallace. We’re also going to talk about a 1970s television show that almost every American has heard of, The Brady Bunch. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions, too. Let’s get started.

Today we talk about a very interesting American whose name most Americans nowadays would not recognize even though he was one of the most well-known writers of the late nineteenth century and wrote the bestselling book of his generation, Lewis Wallace.

Lewis Wallace was born in April of 1827 in the state of Indiana, which is located in the north-central part of the United States, between the states of Ohio and Illinois. Wallace had a lot of advantages growing up. His father at one time was the governor, or leader, of the state of Indiana. Lewis Wallace studied law as a young man, but his career got interrupted in 1846 when he decided to join the army and fight in what later became known as the Mexican-American War.

He returned to his home a year later, in 1847, when the war ended and finished his law studies. In 1849, he was admitted to the bar in Indiana and became a lawyer. The “bar” (bar) is another word that we use for the legal profession – people who work as attorneys, as lawyers. In the United States, every state has its own bar association, which is a group that gives you an examination you have to pass in order to work as a lawyer in that state.

Wallace also got married in this time period to a young woman, and together they had one son. Lew, as he was more commonly called, got interested in politics – as some lawyers do, unhappily – and became a member of the Indiana State Senate in 1856. The “state senate” is part of what we call the “legislature,” which is one of the three main parts of a state government. It’s also one of the three main parts of our national government.

We have the “executive branch,” which in a state would be the governor. We have the “legislative branch,” which would be the legislature – the Senate and the House of Representatives in most states. And we have the “legal branch,” which is the court system. Those are the three branches or parts of government in most states – in all states, really – and in the United States national government.

In any case, Wallace worked as a senator and as a lawyer, but he was interrupted once again a few years later, in 1861, when as you may know the American Civil War began. The Civil War was a fight between the states in the northern part of the U.S. and the southern part of the U.S. The Northern states were called the “Union,” and the Southern states were referred to as the “Confederacy.”

Wallace, living in a Northern state, joined the Union Army. He did well in the Union Army, and within a few years he was promoted or raised to one of the very highest levels in the army, the rank of major general. Your “rank” (rank) is your position or role in the military. In the army, for example, the lowest rank is a “private.” The highest rank is a “general.” Wallace became a general in the army during the Civil War and fought in many important battles in the war.

Immediately after the war, Wallace also served as part of a group of investigators who tried the people who were accused of assisting in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. “To try” (try) here means to hear evidence in a courtroom to decide whether someone is guilty or not. There were eight people who were accused of helping with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The eight men and one woman were tried and found guilty. Lewis Wallace was part of the nine-man military commission – or “tribunal,” as it was called – that found them guilty.

Interestingly enough, Wallace had agreed, just a few weeks after Lincoln’s assassination, to become a military leader – a general in Mexico. He had agreed to work for the then president of Mexico, Benito Juarez. In late 1865, he went to Mexico to work with the Mexican government. Remember that he had participated as part of the army fighting against Mexico just a few years earlier in the Mexican-American war. Wallace spent only a few years in Mexico before returning home and getting involved once again in politics.

He didn’t really like being a lawyer, which is why he wanted to get back involved in politics. He tried to become a member of the U.S. Congress, but he failed. Finally, in 1876, he helped Rutherford Hayes become the president of the U.S., and to thank him, he was given the job of being the new governor of the territory of New Mexico. A “territory” is part of a country that is not yet a state – in the case of the United States – or a province, as in the case of Canada. In the U.S., especially during the nineteenth century, there were several territories that were not yet made into states.

Wallace’s military experience helped him in New Mexico; perhaps that was one reason he was given the job. At the time, many of the new white settlers coming into New Mexico were having problems with the Native Americans, who of course lived there already. A “settler” (settler) is a person who moves to an area where there are few people living.

The problem in New Mexico is that there were already people living there, and for some reason, I’m not sure why, they didn’t particularly like the settlers coming in and taking their land. So there were problems. There were military conflicts with these settlers and the Native American people. As governor, Wallace was able to end the violence between the settlers. He in part also helped create a “militia” (militia), which was basically a volunteer army that would help protect the settlers.

Wallace, from the time he was a young boy, always loved to write, and he used some of his time in New Mexico to continue his writing career which he had started a few years before this. He loved writing books, and in particular, historical fiction. “Historical fiction” are stories, novels that are about real events in history but include people and events that are “fictional” – that are made up, that are imaginary.

His first historical novel was called The Fair God. It was published a few years before he became governor in 1873. This novel was based in part on the story of the Spanish military when it first came to Mexico and took control of the country. But it was Wallace’s second novel, written while he was the territorial governor of New Mexico, that made him the most famous popular novelist of the late nineteenth century, producing the most widely-read book of his generation. That book was called Ben-Hur (Hur).

Ben-Hur was published in 1880, and it told the story of the beginning of Christianity – of the life of Jesus Christ – but included some fictional characters, including Ben-Hur, the hero of the novel. In the book, a young Jewish man by the name of Judah Ben-Hur gets in trouble with the Roman army and is made a slave. Later, he and his family are converted to Christianity. The book has an obvious Christian theme. In fact, one writer said it was the most important Christian book of the late nineteenth century in America.

Although now a famous novelist, Wallace continued to be involved in political life. In 1881, he was appointed the U.S. minister to Turkey. He was asked to represent, or speak for, the U.S. government in the country of Turkey. He stayed there until 1885. While he was there, he learned more about Turkish history, and he used that knowledge a few years later to write another historical novel, this time about the Byzantine Empire. It was called The Prince of India, and it was published in 1893.

Wallace considered this novel, The Prince of India; or, Why Constantinople Fell, to be his best novel, but it never had the success of Ben-Hur. Wallace wrote a few other things. He wrote a biography of President Benjamin Harrison and a long narrative poem, but his fame – the reason he was famous – was because of Ben-Hur.

We turn now, briefly, to our second topic, the 1970s television show The Brady Bunch. The Brady Bunch was a popular TV show in the early 1970s. The name of the show refers to the family in the show – the last name of the family was “Brady” – and the fact that this was a large family – the word “bunch” (bunch) refers to a large group of things that are put together.

One of the interesting things about The Brady Bunch TV series was it was one of the first TV series about a blended family in the United States. “Blended” (blended) means mixing two things together. In this case, it was the story of a woman who had three daughters. There was a man who had three sons. Well, you can see where this is going. The man met the woman and they became one big blended family.

It’s clear in the original show that the man in this family, Mr. Brady – Mike Brady, he was called – had lost his wife. His wife had died. The show does not tell us what happened to Carol’s husband. Carol is the wife in the story. Originally the idea was to say that the two of them had divorced, had ended their marriage, but the people who made the show didn’t want to talk about divorce. It wasn’t as common back in the late ’60s and early ’70s as it is now, so that was considered too controversial. So we are just never told what happened to Carol’s husband.

The first episodes for the show were “aired,” or were on television, beginning in 1969. The show was on television for five years, until 1974. So it was when I was growing up as a young child. The first year of the show looked at the difficulties of these two families learning to live with each other as one family, and the rest of the four years of the show were about the children growing up, going through the sorts of things that children do as they grow up.

The Brady Bunch was very popular with children and teenagers, including those in my household. The children in the story are different ages, so depending on how old you were while you watched the TV show, you felt you could relate to or feel connected to someone in the show.

The show eventually was cancelled in 1974. However, it continued to be shown for many, many years afterwards in what we would call “reruns.” A “rerun” (rerun) is an old television show that they keep showing on television even though it’s been, in many cases, 20, 30, even 50 years since the television show was first on.

Because of these reruns – because the show continued to be on TV even though there weren’t any new episodes – people continued to like these characters, and in the late 1980s, they actually made a television movie called A Very Brady Christmas in 1988. It was, at the time, one of the most popular TV movies ever made. All of these people like me, who grew up watching The Brady Bunch as children, wanted to see what happened to the children as they grew older.

One of the things that most Americans will remember about The Brady Bunch, indeed about many television shows from the 1970s, was the theme song. The “theme (theme) song” is the song that is heard at the beginning of the show. Many theme songs during the ’70s and ’80s told the basic story or background of the show. So as you listen to the song, you actually learned a little something about the show itself.

This was especially the case with The Brady Bunch. In fact, to this day, many people of my generation can probably sing you part of The Brady Bunch theme song because, well, we’ve heard it so many times. The song begins:

Here’s a story of a lovely lady,
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls.
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one in curls.

So, “Here’s a story of a lovely” – a beautiful – “lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls.” “To bring (bring) up” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to raise, to take care of as children. “All of them,” meaning all of the girls, “had hair of gold” – that is, they were blond – “like their mother” – their mother had blonde hair. “The youngest one,” the youngest girl, was “in curls” (curls).

If you have “curls” in your hair, you have these round circles in your hair. Many women in particular, at one point anyway in American fashion, liked to put curls in their hair, and women still of course put curls in their hair. That’s why we have things called “curling irons” (irons). These are little sticks that get hot that you put in your hair in order to curl it, to create this circular effect. Some people like me, growing up, had curls in their hair without using curling irons. My hair was naturally curly, believe it or not.

The song then continues. We find out about the woman, then we find out about the man.

It’s a story of a man named Brady,
Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men, living all together,
Yet they were all alone.

So there was a man named “Brady.” He’s the father and he’s “busy with three boys of his own.” His own three children. “They were four men” (of course, they weren’t men – three of them were boys, but we’ll refer to them as “men”) “living all together” – they were all living in the same house, of course – “yet they were all alone.” Even though they were living together, they didn’t have a mother, and that’s why they felt alone.

The father, then, had three sons – Greg, Peter, and Bobby – and the wife’s three daughters were named Marcia, Jan, and Cindy. Then, at the end of this theme song, we hear what happened.

Till the one day when the lady met this fellow,
And they knew it was much more than a hunch.
That this group must somehow form a family.
That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.

The Brady Bunch,
The Brady Bunch.
That’s the way we became The Brady Bunch.

“Till one day when the lady met this fellow” (fellow). “Fellow” is another word for a gentleman, a man. “And they knew they were much more than a hunch” (hunch). That sentence doesn’t make all that much sense, but a “hunch” is a guess, something you think is true. The idea here, I believe, is that the man and woman, when they met each other, began to realize that they were going to form a family – that they were actually going to become a couple and have their children live together, and that’s the way they became the Brady Bunch.

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

Our first question comes from Merve (Merve) in Turkey. The question has to do with three verbs – “to prevent,” “to hinder,” and “to forbid.” Let’s start with the first verb, “to prevent” (prevent). “To prevent someone from doing something” means to stop someone before something is about to happen, or that someone wants to happen. “I’m preventing you from driving after you have been drinking by taking away your keys.” I am stopping you from doing something that you want to do, in this case.

You could also prevent a fire in your house by making sure you don’t leave the house with candles burning. What if there’s an earthquake, as we have here in Los Angeles, and the candle falls on the ground? It could cause a fire. To prevent that, you would blow the candle out. You would make sure there wasn’t any open flame before you left the house. That’s “preventing something from happening” – doing something that will stop something from happening in the future.

“To hinder” (hinder) means to make something difficult for someone, or perhaps to slow down an action but not to stop it. “To hinder” means to get in the way of someone doing something – to make it more difficult, but that doesn’t mean you stop it completely.

“To forbid” (forbid) is to order someone not to do something. “To forbid” is to give a rule or regulation or to have a law that says you can’t do something. Just because you have a law that forbids you from smoking in your office, for example, doesn’t mean that it will prevent someone from smoking in his office. You could still smoke even though the law forbids it.

“Preventing,” “hindering,” and “forbidding,” then, are related but they all have different meanings. “To prevent” is to stop something from happening. “To hinder” is to make it more difficult or to slow down a process, and “to forbid” means to say something shouldn’t happen – to say you can’t do something even though someone may do it anyway.

You will often see the past participle of “to forbid,” which is “forbidden” (forbidden). You might see a sign that says “Photography Forbidden,” or not permitted. In other words, there’s a rule that says you can’t take photographs in that particular place.

Our next question comes from Sung (Sung) in South Korea. The question has to do with two words, “integral” (integral) and “indispensable” (indispensable). Something that is “integral“ is something that is part of something else, so much so that you can’t separate it. It is part of what makes something complete. If some element is “integral,” if you remove it, you ruin or will do something that will destroy the thing that it was a part of before.

In a car, for example, in an automobile, the engine – the motor – is “integral.” If you removed it, it’s no longer a car because it can’t move forward. We can also use this word “integral” in other senses, not just physically but metaphorically. You could talk about the Internet being “integral” to a democracy nowadays, that people need to be able to communicate with each other. It’s become part of something else, so much so that if you remove it, that other thing is no longer complete.

“Indispensable” means very important, very necessary. It’s similar in meaning to “integral.” We would use “indispensable” especially in cases when we’re talking about a certain function or activity. “Our boss is indispensable for the success of this project.” If she weren’t here, the project would not be successful. It’s usually used to describe a person or some characteristic that is necessary for something to be successful, to succeed.

“Integral” is more related to how something is put together, whether it’s a physical object or an organization. “Indispensable” can describe a quality or characteristic. “Honesty is indispensable to a good judge.” If you’re not honest, you can’t be a good judge, or a good lawyer – though you could be a very rich lawyer and not be honest. That is possible.

Finally, Mody (Mody) in Egypt wants to know the meaning of the expression “to scare off.” “To scare (scare) off” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to cause someone to go away or stay away because that person is afraid. To create some sort of danger or to indicate that the other person might get hurt would be one way of “scaring someone off.”

For example, if there’s an animal that is approaching you, you might pick up a rock and throw it at the animal. That might “scare off” the animal. The animal might become afraid of you and then run the other direction. It’s also possible that the animal could scare you off. You could start running in the other direction. That’s what I would do.

This phrasal verb appears in a sentence in The Hunger Games (the book) where one of the characters talks about “scaring off game” (game). The word “game” can mean some contest that you play, something you do for fun like a game of cards or a game of Monopoly, but here it refers to animals – in particular, to animals that are normally hunted. So, if you are “scaring off game,” say, in a forest or out in the country, you are making animals afraid so that they run away.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com. I promise I won’t throw any rocks at you to scare you off.

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 2016 by the Center for Educational Development.

(the) bar – the legal profession; the job of a lawyer

* Two years after he graduated from law school, Dimitri was admitted to the bar.

rank – a position or role in the military

* Be sure to salute when meeting someone of a higher rank.

to try – to listen to evidence or information about a crime in a courtroom as part of deciding whether someone did or did not do something wrong

* The judge decided to try the women in a closed court, without any observers or members of the media in the courtroom.

settler – a person who moves to a place where few people or no one lives to establish their home

* Some of the first settlers in the U.S. made their home in Jamestown, Virginia.

militia – army of volunteers with little military training

* The American colonies did not have an army during the American Revolution and so they formed a militia of farmers and others willing to fight.

historical fiction – stories based on true events in history but include people who did not exist in real life

* The author Robert Graves wrote historical fiction about ancient Rome.

bunch – a large group of things that are put together

* Gilena donated a bunch of clothes and shoes to the homeless shelter.

blended – mixed together to become one

* The recipe says to mix the eggs, milk, flour, and sugar until they are blended.

theme song – a song associated with and is known to represent a television show, movie, or person

* Some movie theme songs have become very well known, such as those from Rocky and Star Trek.

to divorce – to legally end one’s marriage

* They tried to make their marriage work but eventually decided to divorce.

to relate to – to feel connected to someone or something because of a shared experience

* Many of the older women in the room could relate to the young mother with two young children.

rerun – a television show shown again after its first airing or showing

* Many television stations show reruns of old shows instead of creating new shows.

to prevent – to stop something from happening; to stop something from existing; to cause someone or something not do something

* The police roadblock prevents any cars or other vehicles from traveling on this road.

to hinder – to make something slow or difficult, especially a task or action

* Mike is a mechanic and his broken finger hinders his daily work on car engines.

to forbid – to order someone not to do something; to tell someone he or she cannot do something; to say that something is not allowed

* Monique’s parents forbid her from seeing her boyfriend, but she always found ways to spend time with him.

integral – very important and necessary; needed to make something complete or whole

* Having a good sales team is an integral part of any successful business.

indispensable – very important and necessary; cannot do or function without

* Lupe is an indispensable part of our soccer team, since she typically scores the most goals.

to scare off – to cause someone or something to go away and stay away because of fear or because of the possibility of trouble, danger, or difficulty

* The barking dog scared off the squirrels playing in the trees.

game – animals that are hunted

* The hunters looked for deer and other game in the forest.

What Insiders Know
Leave it to Beaver

Leave it to Beaver is an American “sitcom” (situation comedy; a series of humorous shows with the same characters in the same, familiar environment each week) that represents the “idealized” (thought to be perfect) “suburban” (outside of a large city) American family. The show originally “aired” (was shown on TV) from 1957 to 1963, but reruns can still be found on certain TV channels.

The “black-and-white” (filmed and shown without color) show is from a child’s “perspective” (point of view; a way of looking at things). In a typical episode, the younger son, with the “nickname” (informal name) “Beaver” (an animal with a flat, paddle-like tail and sharp teeth used to cut down trees to build a small dam and home), would typically get into trouble, and his parents would “reprimand” (scold; say what one has done wrong) him and/or correct his behavior in some way. After several years on television, the show ended when Beaver’s older brother, Wally, “headed off to college” (left the family home to attend a university).

The show provides some interesting “insight” (an understanding that is not immediately clear) into a middle-class American family in the 1950s and 1960s. The show is “moralistic” (teaching people what is right and what is wrong). Most of the episodes show that good behavior leads to “rewards” (positive, desirable things received as the result of one’s good actions) while bad behavior leads to negative consequences. For example, the show helps children understand that “playing hooky” (staying away from school; not attending classes) is a bad idea, and also suggests ways for parents to handle common “parenting dilemmas” (challenges that parents face while raising their children).