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556 Topics: Apollo 11; Famous Americans – Soapy Smith; certainly versus definitely versus surely; to have a crush on (someone) versus to be in love with (someone); out on a limb

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 556.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 556. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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On this Café, we’re going to talk about the most famous American space mission, Apollo 11. We’re also going to talk about a man by the name of Soapy Smith, who was one of the most well-known criminals in what we call the “Wild West” of American history. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

[Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” audio:]

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars.
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars . . .

Ah, the wonderful Frank Sinatra, flying to the moon, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to talk about Apollo 11. The Apollo program began in 1961 with a mission to send a man to the moon. A “mission” (mission) is a task or a project someone is given to do. In this case, it was a project that the U.S. government gave itself to send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. It was a project begun by President John F. Kennedy.

Apollo was the name of the program that was responsible for building rockets, building spaceships, that would eventually reach the moon. Apollo wasn’t the first program of the U.S. government organization responsible for space travel, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There were several other programs before Apollo. But Apollo was the program that NASA created specifically to get a man on the moon. Apollo 11 was the, of course, 11th attempt by NASA, and it was designed to take three men to the moon and to put two of those men on the surface of the moon.

The Apollo 11 spaceship was launched, or was sent from Earth, on July 16th, 1969, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Cape Canaveral is about 300 or so kilometers north of Miami, Florida, in the southeast part of the United States. “To launch,” as I mentioned, means to send or to shoot something such as a rocket into the air. This is where NASA had its space program – the part of the space program where they would actually send rockets into space – this area known as Cape Canaveral.

Another major place, another important place for NASA, was in Houston, Texas. That’s where they had the communications center for the space program. The communications center was called “mission control” because that’s where they controlled the spaceships that were sent off into space from Cape Canaveral. There were, as I said, three astronauts, three persons trained to travel in outer space, on the Apollo 11 mission.

The leader of the mission was Neil Armstrong. One of the pilots was Edwin “Buzz” (as he was called) Aldrin, and the other was Michael Collins. Now, the Apollo 11 spaceship had two main parts, as many spaceships did during this period. The “command module” was the larger part of the ship. This is where the men lived and spent most of their time. It took about four days for them to reach the moon from Earth. The word “module” (module) refers to a part of a spaceship that can work independently of the other modules or parts.

We also use that word “module” in education sometimes when we’re talking about the part of a course or one part of a larger course. A course of instruction might have many different modules. On a spaceship, the modules were the parts of the ship that could work or function independently. This main module where the astronauts spent most of their time was given the name “Columbia.” Michael Collins was the pilot for Columbia – the person who controlled the module.

There was a second part of Apollo 11 that was called the “lunar module.” “Lunar” (lunar) refers to the moon. In some languages, “luna” (luna) is the word for “moon.” In English, however, “lunar” is an adjective referring to the moon. The lunar module, of course, was the part of the spaceship that would actually land on the moon – that is, would actually go to the surface of the moon. It was much smaller and lighter than the Columbia module. The lunar module was called the “Eagle,” and Buzz Aldrin was the pilot for the Eagle.

After flying through space for four days, on July 20th, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed into the Eagle from the Columbia and the two modules separated from each other. The Eagle began flying down onto the moon while Columbia continued to go around the moon. At 4:17 p.m., eastern time (that is, the time on the eastern coast of the United States) on July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong announced, “The Eagle has landed,” letting everyone know at mission control in Houston – and indeed, the entire world – that he and Buzz Aldrin were safely on the moon.

Six hours later, Neil Armstrong opened the door of the lunar module – the door of the Eagle – and stepped onto the moon itself. When he had both feet on the ground, he said over his radio one of the most famous sentences, or at least what became one of the most famous sentences, of the twentieth century: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A “leap” (leap) is a big jump, a large jump. The word “mankind” refers to all human beings.

What he was saying was that even though he only had to go a short distance – a “small step” – the fact that he was on the moon was a giant step, a “leap,” for mankind – that is, it was a significant advance in the history of the human race. These words, along with the rest of the radio reports of the Apollo 11 mission, were heard not just by millions of people in the United States, but by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

And if you’re old enough (and I am just old enough – I was five and a half years old in 1969) you remember, I’m sure, hearing these things or watching them on television. I and other members of my family watched the lunar landing and Neil Armstrong’s famous words in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was five and a half years old. I was sitting in my father and mother’s bedroom, watching their black-and-white television. And I remember sitting on the bed watching this event and knowing, even at a young age, how important and significant this was.

It was one of my earliest “datable events” – that is, one of the earliest times when I can say definitely, “That was this year, at this time.” I actually can remember something from one year before that, when I was four and a half years old, in June of 1968. I watched the funeral of Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated right here in Los Angeles, California, just a few miles from where I’m standing today. But this was a much happier memory – the memory of Neil Armstrong on the moon.

About 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, Buzz Aldrin got out of the Eagle and also stepped on the moon, and the two men spent about two hours setting up different tools that would be able to transmit radio signals back to Earth. “To transmit” (transmit) means to send. In this case, to send through space so that the people back on Earth could receive the signals. The scientists on Earth wanted to measure lots of different things about the moon, including the weather and other things that were important in understanding the geology as well as the atmospherics of the moon.

The astronauts, of course, collected rocks and dust from the moon so that scientists could study those as well once they got back. After spending a little more than 21 hours on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin got back into the Eagle and flew back into space to meet up with Collins and the Columbia. Once the Eagle had successfully connected back to the other module, Columbia, the three astronauts flew back to Earth. On June 24th, 1969, they landed in the ocean about 900 miles west of the islands of Hawaii. There they were picked up and brought back to Houston.

While they were in Houston, they were placed in quarantine. Now, this was the first time, of course, that anyone had gone to the moon, and no one was quite sure what would happen to their bodies after returning from outer space and after returning from being on the moon. So to be safe, they were put in a quarantine. A “quarantine” (quarantine) is a period of time when someone who has a disease or an illness usually is kept away from others to prevent other people from getting that disease.

Scientists were worried that the astronauts might have brought back some strange illness from the moon. After 17 days (I’m not sure why 17 days) the astronauts were allowed out of quarantine and were able to go back home. Five more Apollo spaceships successfully landed on the moon between 1969 and 1972. Each Apollo mission collected measurements and information for scientists to study to learn more about the moon.

In 1972, the Apollo program was ended. Americans and the NASA space program became more interested in exploring space beyond the moon, in going to Mars and to other planets. Throughout the years, there have been successes and failures in NASA’s space program, but there is no question that the greatest success, at least in terms of the popular imagination, was the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon back in 1969.

We’ve been talking about some American heroes. Now we’re going to talk about an American criminal, a man by the name of Soapy Smith. Soapy Smith was not given the name “Soapy” by his mother and father. His real name was Jefferson Randolph Smith Junior. And he was born at the beginning of the 1860s in Coweta, Georgia. Georgia is located in the southeast part of the United States.

His father was an educated man. He was a lawyer. He moved his family in 1876, when his son Jefferson Randolph was 16 years old, to Texas, hoping to find more success than he had in Georgia. It was at this time that Smith began his life as what we may now call a “con man.” A “con man” (con man) is a person who fools or tricks other people for money. The word “con” does not relate to “convict,” a prisoner, but rather to the word “confidence.” For someone “to get your confidence” is for someone to get you to trust him.

So a “confidence man” gets you to trust him so that you will give him your money without realizing that he is stealing from you. That’s what a “con man” is – someone who steals money. In the 2016 presidential elections, Marco Rubio, one of the losing candidates, called Donald Trump a “con man.” I won’t comment on the truth of that. But that’s where the term comes from – someone who gets your confidence. And that’s what Jefferson Randolph Smith started doing. He started stealing people’s money by being a con man.

He began selling soap in order to get money, and that’s how he earned his nickname, or short name, “Soapy.” He moved from Texas to Colorado and began selling the soap at four times the price it would cost in a store. He promised that 1 in every 10 bars of soap, or pieces of soap, contained money inside. This is how he got people to buy soap at a higher price – because he said, “Well, 1 of every 10 of these bars or pieces of soap has money inside, so you might actually get more money back.”

This was a “con.” This was a lie. People believed him, and he quickly found that he was able to sell a lot of soap to people who were hoping to get lucky finding money inside of the bars of soap. In 1885, he was in Denver, Colorado, and he began building a business there. He got involved with a group of people who helped him cheat other people out of their money. “To cheat (cheat) someone out of his money” is to lie to that person, to trick him to give you his money.

One of the things Smith would do is he would make friends with respectable people, people who were considered good people – ministers and police officers and lawyers and even politicians, although you don’t normally think of politicians as being good people. Soapy Smith would make friends with these people in order to use them to get to other people who he could cheat.

He was finally arrested for committing a crime, but he was always a very smooth talker, as confidence men are. A “smooth (smooth) talker” is someone who’s good at using language in order to get what he wants. And eventually, Soapy Smith was able to talk himself out of jail by convincing the judge that he was not guilty. Even though he was good at using words, at getting himself out of trouble, Smith would sometimes use violence or physical force.

In 1894, he led a small group of armed men – what we would call a “militia” (militia) – to protest the governor of Colorado when the governor tried to remove certain people from the Denver city government. The governor thought the people running the government in Denver were “corrupt” (corrupt). Someone who is “corrupt” is someone who takes money in exchange for doing something for someone illegally; someone who is corrupt is dishonest. He takes money in order to do things that are otherwise illegal.

Smith was one of these corrupt officials, since he had gotten a job as a policeman in Denver, Colorado. Soapy and his militia won their fight in 1894, but the governor kept working to get rid of the corrupt politicians and officials in Denver. Finally, in 1896, Soapy left Denver. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to stay in power much longer. So he did what many successful criminals have done throughout the ages – he moved to a new place and became a criminal there.

In this case, he moved just about as far as you could move in that period. He went to the territory of Alaska, very far in the north. Why Alaska? Well, people were discovering gold during this period of history in Alaska and in northern Canada. Soapy thought, “Well, there must be some dumb people up there who are getting rich quickly by discovering gold, and I’ll go take their money.” And that’s exactly what he did.

In 1897, he went to a small town called Skagway, Alaska, and he found a group of criminals to work with. Over the next year and a half, the town of Skagway grew from six people to 15,000 people, and Soapy and his group were able to steal a lot of money from these people who were arriving, and no one could do much about it. In fact, he was so powerful that on July fourth, 1898, he made himself king of Skagway, Alaska, even though you can’t legally be a king in the United States. We don’t have kings. But that’s what Soapy called himself.

Many people tried to get rid of Soapy and his friends. They formed a committee called the “Committee of 101.” On July eighth, 1898, the Committee of 101 had a meeting to talk about how they could get rid of Soapy. Soapy heard about the meeting and he decided to go to the meeting himself, with a gun. This is America, after all, and that’s how we do things here sometimes, especially back in the late nineteenth century. If you had a problem, you brought a gun, and that often solved the problem in your favor.

Unfortunately for Soapy, someone else brought a gun, and Soapy was shot four times and killed. Over the next few days, 26 members of Soapy’s criminal group were arrested, or taken by the police and put in jail. The people of Skagway were now safe from the violence and crime that Soapy and his men had caused. Even though he was dead, Soapy continued to be talked about in Skagway. People told stories about him to their children and to their grandchildren, and today he’s still known as one of the “great” – that is, one of the most famous – criminals of that period.

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

Our first question comes from Dubikovsky (Dubikovsky) in Russia. The question is about three different words, “certainly,” “definitely,” and “surely.” All three of these words have similar meanings, which is “without a doubt,” “without any question.” All three are adverbs, and though they can all mean something similar, they’re not typically used with the same frequency or in the same situations. Understanding the differences, however, is a little bit tricky, a little bit difficult. Let me see if I can explain some of the differences in use.

“Definitely” is probably the most common of the three words in modern American English, and it means “without a doubt” in a way that is clear and certain. “I am definitely going to the movies tonight.” “I am definitely going to watch The Night Manager, a television show that is on this evening.” “I am definitely going to do it.” It’s for sure. There’s no doubt. There’s no question. If someone asked me, “Are you going to the movies?” I will say, “Definitely,” meaning yes, for sure, I am.

“Certainly” is not as common as “definitely” and is usually used in a situation where the other person might not quite know what our position is – in which there might be some doubt about it. “Are you going to the movie tonight?” “I certainly am.” “Certainly” there means “definitely,” but with some emphasis. You are trying to correct any misunderstanding on behalf of the other person. “I am certainly going to the movie. Why? Why don’t you think I’m going to the movie?” You’re trying to convince the other person when you say “certainly” in that sentence.

Or if someone says, “Are you sure you want to watch that television show? It doesn’t look very good.” You may say, “I certainly do want to watch it.” So, there’s a sense of emphasis with “certainly.” You can also use “certainly” to mean yes, just as you can with the word “definitely.” It’s a little less common, perhaps a little bit more formal. “Would you like to step in line in front of me?” “Certainly. Thank you.” You’re saying that in a situation where perhaps you don’t know the person as well, perhaps you want to sound a little more formal.

The word “surely” is the least common of these three in American English. You can use it to mean “without a doubt.” “He will surely be tired after coming home from work.” But it is not used very much in American English in that sense. If you hear it at all, it will probably be at the beginning of a sentence used to express your surprise that someone believes something that you think is completely false or not true.

“Surely you don’t believe that the moon is made of cheese.” That seems like such an incredible thing to believe that you use the word “surely” to emphasize that what the other person is saying is wrong and that you believe it to be wrong. “Surely you don’t want to leave now before the movie is finished. We paid 15 dollars to watch this movie.” Even so, it’s not very commonly used and would be considered somewhat formal in American English today. You might read it more often in a novel written 50 or 60 years ago than hear it in conversation.

Our next question comes from Ali (Ali) in Iran. The question has to do with two expressions (related): “to have a crush on” and “to fall in love with.” “To have a crush (crush) on” someone is to like someone in a romantic way. We often use this expression for younger people who are getting romantically interested in each other. It doesn’t mean anything serious. We talk about teenagers “having crushes on” each other. It usually is considered a less serious form of romantic interest in another person.

“To be in love with” another person is to have a strong, romantic, emotional connection to that person – or it could be a nonromantic kind of love, but normally the expression “I’m in love with” a person implies romantic love. You don’t normally say “I’m in love with my father” or “I’m in love with my mother.” You would say “I love my father”; “I love my mother.” But “to be in love with” a person is almost always a romantic connection you feel with that person.

Adults will talk about being in love with another person. Teenagers will talk about being in love with another person, but especially for younger teenagers, we usually don’t think of that as being anything serious. And that’s where we would use instead that expression “to have a crush on” someone, even though a young teenager might disagree with your assessment. A 14-year-old might, in fact, talk about being in love with another 14-year-old.

There was, however, the Bruce Springsteen song “I Got a Crush On You.” I think that was from his album The River. Not the best song, to be honest.

Finally, Alexandre (Alexandre) in Brazil wants to know the meaning of the expression “out on a limb” (limb). “To be out on a limb” means to be in a risky situation or a dangerous position. The word “limb” refers to either your leg or your arm. But a “limb” can also refer to a part of a tree. The branches of a tree are sometimes called the “limbs” of a tree, just like you have arms on your body.

Now, if you can imagine climbing up in a tree and going out on one of the branches, one of the limbs, the farther away from the tree you go, the more dangerous it is, because if you go “out on the limb” too far, you of course might fall down. You would be in a dangerous situation. And that’s the meaning of this expression “to be out on a limb.”

Sometimes people use this expression when they are going to say something that may or may not be true – when they are taking a guess. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the next president of the United States will be . . .” and then you would put the name of someone that perhaps doesn’t have a very good chance of winning. You’re taking a guess, but it’s a guess that isn’t very probable in terms of being correct.

Some people will use this expression jokingly. They’ll say something that is obvious but use the expression to make a joke. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the next president of the United States will be a human being.” It’s pretty certain the next president of the United States will be a human being and not a dog, and certainly not a cat. I hope not. I’d move to Canada if the next president of United States is a cat. Trust me.

If you’re a human being and have a question, 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.

mission – a task or project someone is given to do, usually an assignment involving travel

* The soldiers were sent on an overnight mission to save a reporter captured by the enemy’s army.

to launch – to send or shoot something, such a rocket, into the air, water, or outer space

* The boat was launched into the water by a group of six strong men and women.

astronaut – a person trained to travel into outer space

* Astronauts live on the International Space Station and do research.

module – a section of a spaceship that can work independently; an independent unit that can be combined with others to form a complex structure

* The first module of the course contains the introduction to the course, as well as a brief survey asking students about their previous experience on the subject.

to transmit – to send information, sound, or video using electrical signals to a radio, television, computer, or other device

* The music was transmitted from the radio to the large speakers so everyone in the dance hall could hear it.

quarantine – a period of time when a person or animal that may have been exposed to disease or illness is kept away from others to prevent others from getting that disease

* Many countries require that animals arriving from other countries remain in quarantine for several weeks.

conman – a person who tricks or fools people for money; a man who gains the confidence of others in order to steal money from them

* The conman pretended to be rich, getting people to invest in his fake company.

to cheat – to trick or lie to others to gain an advantage or to steal

* Students who cheat on exams will be expelled from school.

smooth talker – a person who is very good at using charming or flattering language to get others to believe him or her and to do what he or she wants

* John is a smooth talker who manages to get himself out of many difficult situations by explaining how messes aren’t his fault.

militia – a group of untrained volunteer soldiers

* Many men who fought in the Revolutionary War were part of the militia made up of farmers, shop owners, and boys.

corrupt – a person in a powerful position who is dishonest or does illegal things, usually for gain

* The corrupt politician was found guilty of taking money from business owners in exchange for ignoring their illegal activities.

committee – a group of people working together to do a specific job or to make certain decisions

* The town committee was elected to decide how much money to spend to repair roads.

certainly – without doubt; of course

* We will certainly call you if we have any job openings in the next few weeks.

definitely – without doubt; in a way that is certain or clear

* Did Sue say that she will definitely call this morning, or only if she has time?

surely – without a doubt; a term used to emphasize one’s firm belief that what one is saying is true and is surprised by any doubt

* Quentin answered surely when his wife asked him if she needed to lose weight.

to have a crush on (someone) – to have a strong feeling of romantic love for someone that is usually not expressed and does not last a long time

* All the teenage girls have a crush on the new teacher because he is young and handsome.

to be in love with (someone) – to have a feeling of strong or constant romantic feeling for a person

* Mohammad is in love with his best friend’s sister, but is afraid of what his friend would say if he told him.

out on a limb – in a risky situation; in a dangerous position or situation

* I’m going out on a limb by recommending you for this job even though you were fired from your last job.

What Insiders Know
Vigilance Committees and The Ox-Bow Incident

The Ox-Bow Incident is a 1940 novel and a 1943 movie about a “vigilance committee,” or a group of “private citizens” (individuals, not employees or representatives of an institution or organization) who decide to “administer justice” (enforce laws). Vigilance committees take action usually because they think the government is “inadequate” (insufficient) or unable to do so.

In the novel and the movie, the year is 1885. People are worried about recent “cattle rustling” (stealing cattle, large cows that are raised for sale or that work on farms and ranches). A man announces that one of the local “ranchers” (a person who owns a lot of land and uses it to raise cows, horses, or other animals) has been “murdered” (killed) and his cattle have been stolen.

In response, the men at the “saloon” (old-fashioned bar) form a “posse” (a group of men with weapons) to find and “lynch” (kill someone as punishment without a legal trial, usually with a rope around the neck hanging from a tree) the “outlaw” (someone who has broken the law). A judge warns the posse that any “suspect” (someone thought to have done something wrong) must be brought back to town for a legal trial, but the men ignore him. The posse finds three men and decides that they are the men they have been looking for, even though they “profess their innocence” (say that they have not broken the law and have not done anything wrong). Some members of the posse believe that the men are innocent and try to “convince” (persuade) the rest of posse, but they are unsuccessful.

In the end, the posse “hangs” (causes someone to die by wrapping a rope around his or her neck and having the person hang above the ground) the men. But when they return to town, they realize that the three men they have hanged were actually “innocent” (did not commit a crime). This is considered an important novel in U.S. literature because it “questions” (expresses doubt) about vigilante behavior and wisdom of “taking the law into your own hands” (giving punishment without the police or the law courts’ involvement).