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559 Topics: Frank Lloyd Wright; prohibited versus forbidden versus not allowed; beforehand versus in advance; spot-on; pronouncing passion and patient, worm and warn

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Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 559.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 559. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. (With apologies to the late, great Prince.)

No apologies are needed for visiting our website at ESLPod.com. If you go there, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode right after you become a member of ESL Podcast. And why not like us on Facebook? Go to facebook.com/eslpod, of course. You can also follow us on Twitter at @eslpod.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about one of the greatest American architects of the twentieth century, Frank Lloyd Wright. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in June of 1867 in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the state next to the greatest state in the United States, the state of Minnesota, in what we sometimes refer to as the “upper Midwest” – those states that are near Canada in the central part of the United States. Wright was interested in architecture from an early age. “Architecture” (architecture) is the art or practice of planning and building buildings. Notice the word “building” can be a verb (“to build”) and a noun (“building”). So, you build buildings. “To build” just means to make or to construct.

Wright grew up in Wisconsin and went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is the capital of the state of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Madison is the main campus, the main part of the University of Wisconsin – the “Mad City,” we called it. When I was growing up, Madison had the reputation of being sort of a wild town, a town full of hippies, a town that was a little crazy. So we called it the “Mad City.” The word “mad” (mad) can mean angry, but here it means crazy.

Anyway, it probably wasn’t all that crazy back when Frank Lloyd wright was a student there. Now, the University of Wisconsin Madison did not have a program where Wright could study architecture. So instead, he studied engineering. “Engineering” is the field of study or area of study related to designing and building machines, buildings, bridges and roads. “Architecture” is more closely related to the design part of that equation. “To design” (design) is to draw and plan how something is going to look.

Architects plan buildings. They design buildings – how the building is going to look. “Engineering” is more related to the actual physical construction of the building. Architects consider themselves artists, whereas engineers consider themselves more like technicians – people who actually do the work. Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t love being an engineer. He didn’t love studying engineering. In fact, he didn’t like it so much that he ended up leaving school – we would say “dropping out of college” – after only one year in 1887.

He instead, moved to Chicago to follow his dream – that is, to do what he always wanted to do – which was to become an architect. Wright worked for a couple of different architecture “firms,” or companies, before starting his own company in 1893. Wright’s company grew quickly, and very soon he had 10 architects working for him, designing houses for very important clients.

A “client” (client) is someone who pays another person for a service. The word “client” is very similar to the word “customer” (customer). A “client” is someone who pays a company or another person to do something for him. A “customer” is someone who buys a thing from another person. So, if you go to a store and buy, I don’t know, a chair, you would be a “customer” of that store. But if you go to a lawyer and ask the lawyer to do something for you, you are the lawyer’s “client.”

Sometimes “client” and “customer” get used in the same situations. The difference really is just whether you are buying a thing or whether you are buying a service. Usually we say a “customer” is someone who buys a product. A “client” is a person who pays for a service. Wright had lots of clients who wanted him to design houses for them. One of the reasons Wright was considered so talented, and one of the reasons his business was so successful, is that he created a lot of innovative designs. “Innovative” (innovative) means having new ideas and showing original thinking.

Wright was one of the people involved in creating a new style of architecture, a new kind of design, which became known as the “Prairie School.” A “prairie” (prairie) is a large open area of grassland. A large part of the Midwestern United States is prairie land. If you travel through that part of the country, you will drive through a lot of flat land. There are lots of farms in the Midwestern part of the U.S. Wright’s designs were part of the Prairie style. “Style” (style) describes the way something looks – its appearance.

Prairie style architecture was very different from the style that architects were using at the time – or I should say, other architects were using at that time. Instead of having many complicated designs, square walls, and expensive materials for a building, Prairie style buildings were simple. They used materials that were cheap – that were inexpensive – and easy to find. Prairie style architecture has very open living spaces with very few walls and a lot of windows.

If you look at a Prairie style building, especially a Prairie style house, you will see that they have very low roofs and were often shaped in something other than a square or rectangle. They may be triangles or polygons, or different kinds of shapes that you don’t normally expect in a building. I mentioned they had “low roofs.” The “roof” (roof) of a building is the outside top of the building. In a room, the top of the room is called the “ceiling” (ceiling). The ceiling is on the inside of the house, and the roof is on the outside of the house. Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs have very low roofs, often flat roofs.

By 1900, Wright moved beyond just designing houses to designing buildings, including churches and offices and apartment buildings. Although Wright’s professional career was very successful, his personal life was much less so. Beginning in 1909, his personal life became so bad, so difficult, that it started to affect his business as well. Wright married a woman in 1889 by the name of Catherine Tobin, and the two had six children together. The marriage, however, had problems, most seriously the fact that Wright was having an affair with the wife of one of his clients.

An “affair” (affair) is when a married person has a romantic relationship with someone who is not his or her husband or wife. That’s usually a problem in a marriage. Your wife is not going to be very happy if you are sleeping with another woman. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Wright was not very happy that her husband, Frank, was sleeping with a woman who was the wife of one of Frank’s clients.

After meeting this woman, whose last name was Cheney . . . Mamah (Mamah) Borthwick Cheney was her full name. Borthwick Cheney herself was a very educated woman. She had a college degree, which was unusual during this period. She was also something of an early feminist and translated some of the works of a Swedish feminist into English. . . . Wright left his wife and children. He abandoned his wife and children. He left them for his wife to take care of and moved away with Mrs. Cheney, who also left her husband and two children in Chicago.

The two of them went to Europe, where Wright eventually published a couple of books. They lived in Florence, and later, Fiesole, Italy, surrounded by the wonderful Renaissance art of that area. After about a year, Wright and Mrs. Cheney returned to the United States but his wife refused to give him a divorce. In 1911, he decided to build a house for himself and his lover in another small town in Wisconsin, not too far from the town where he was born.

Wright called this house “Taliesin.” “Taliesin” is a word from the Welsh language. Welsh is spoken in Wales, in Great Britain. His mother had relatives from Wales, which is why he was interested in Welsh. The word “Taliesin” in Welsh means “shining brow.” Something that is “shining” (shining) is something that reflects light, making it look very bright, like it glows, even.

A “brow” (brow) is the highest part of a hill, although the word “brow” is used in English more commonly to refer to your “eyebrows,” which are those little lines of hair that are above your eyes, on the lower part of what we call your “forehead.” But this “brow” was a brow on the top of a hill. Wright loved the house, but later, that house would be a cause of great sadness for him.

In 1914, Mrs. Cheney and her two children were at home at Taliesin. There were several other people there at the house working there. Sadly, one of the people was a bit crazy. Well, more than a bit crazy. He started a fire to the house, and then took an instrument – an axe – and killed seven people in the house, including Mrs. Cheney and her two children. The man was eventually arrested and died in jail. Wright, of course, was extremely upset by this murder of his lover and of the other people in the house. He wasn’t there himself. He was working, luckily for him, in Chicago.

Nevertheless, he tried to rebuild his life and rebuild his house. While doing that, he met another woman, a designer by the name of Miriam Noel, and he fell in love with her. The two began their relationship soon after, and in 1915 they moved to Japan to work on a couple of different projects including one of their most famous projects, which was a hotel in Tokyo – the Imperial Hotel, which no longer is there. It was taken down in 1967, but it was one of the most famous buildings that Wright built during this period.

In 1922, Wright and his first wife divorced, finally. “To divorce” (divorce) means to legally end your marriage. In 1923, Wright married his then lover, Noel. Even though he was once again in a traditional marriage, Wright continued to have problems finding people who would work with him. After all, he was living, previously, a very scandalous life by the morals of the time. People thought that he was an immoral person for the things that he did. He eventually divorced his second wife, Miriam Noel, in 1927, but that didn’t help the situation, nor did his third marriage in 1928 to Olga Hinzenberg.

By the time this third marriage took place, Wright had very little money and had to begin selling important items that he owned, including artwork, just to have enough money to live on. During this period, Wright also traveled here to California, where he built several houses including what’s now called the Barnsdall House, located in Hollywood. I visited the Barnsdall House, oh, about three or four months ago. It just reopened to the public so you can take a tour of it, and it is very typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style of architecture. It is now one of the more famous houses here in Los Angeles.

In 1929, the U.S. economy – indeed, the world economy – went into a great depression, and people stopped building houses and buildings for a few years as the economy recovered. During this period, Wright decided to become a lecturer. He would go and give speeches and talks in Chicago, in New York City, and in universities around the country. After burning down in 1925, again, Wright rebuilt his house in Taliesin, and there he had a group of people who worked with him, who studied with him, and he was training these young architects during this period of the ’20s and ’30s.

Because it’s cold in the winter in Wisconsin, Wright decided to build a second house – a second Taliesin – in Phoenix, Arizona, where it’s warm during the winter. This was called “Taliesin West,” and soon other architects went there to study with Wright. Wright began to get more clients in the mid-1930s as the economy got a little bit better in the United States. His most famous design during this period was done for a house in Pennsylvania. The house was called “Fallingwater,” and it is considered one of the most famous houses that Wright designed.

Fallingwater is an example of a newer style of architecture that Wright developed, one that some people have described as “organic architecture.” “Organic” (organic) refers to things that are made of, or that are related to, nature. And in this case, the architecture that Wright designed had a relationship to the environment around it. It looked like it fit in. It looked like it was part of that environment in some way, and that’s one of the things that distinguishes Wright’s architecture during this period of his career.

In the early 1940s, Wright began to get bigger, more important clients, including a college in Florida where he designed some important buildings. He designed a building in San Francisco, and most importantly, he was asked to design a building for one of the most famous museums in New York City, the Guggenheim Museum. Although the design of the building began in the 1940s, the building wasn’t actually built until the middle of the 1950s. It opened in 1959.

Sadly, Wright died before the building was opened, even though now it’s considered perhaps his most famous building. If you’ve been to New York City and you’ve walked up Fifth Avenue by Central Park, you will have seen the Guggenheim Museum. The outside of the museum has a circular design, and if you walk into the museum, you can walk up from one floor to another on what is essentially a spiral ramp – a circle that goes up slowly from one floor to another.

Before his death in the late 1950s, Wright designed more than 800 buildings. About 380 of them were actually built, and most of them are still around today – about 280 Frank Lloyd Wright houses and buildings are still in existence, including as I mentioned the one here in Los Angeles, the Barnsdall House. If you go to New York City or to Los Angeles or perhaps to some of the other major cities in the U.S., you’ll have a chance to see some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s wonderful work.

Despite his unsuccessful personal life, Wright’s professional career ended up being an amazing success, one that continues to influence architects today.

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

Our first question comes from Petr (Petr) in Russia. Petr wants to know the meanings of three words, all related to each other: “prohibited,” “forbidden,” and the phrase “not allowed.” All three of these mean pretty much the same thing, which is that something cannot be done or is not permitted to be done because of some law or rule.

If you fly on an airplane in the United States, you’ll hear an announcement saying that “smoking is prohibited on the aircraft.” That means that the rules of the aircraft, the rules of the airlines, say that you cannot smoke. It is against the rules to smoke. It is “prohibited.” “Forbidden” means the same thing. Smoking is “forbidden” during flight. You are not allowed to do it. And of course, I just use the phrase “not allowed,” which means the same as “prohibited” and “forbidden.”

All three of these phrases or words, then, mean basically the same thing. Sometimes we will use them in slightly different contexts, however. “Prohibited” and “forbidden” are often used in a more official formal sense, relating to perhaps the rules of a government, an organization, or even a religion. It is forbidden to carry a gun into an airport without permission. It is prohibited to do that.

The phrase “not allowed” is used more in an informal context, perhaps in the case of your family or at a business. You may tell your children they are not allowed to watch television after eight o’clock at night. You could say they’re “forbidden” to watch, or it is “prohibited” for them to watch, but it would be more likely for you to say “not allowed.” That’s a little less formal, a little less official.

Hiroko (Hiroko) in Japan, wants to know the difference between the word “beforehand” and the phrase “in advance.”

“Beforehand” (beforehand) means at an earlier time or at a previous time. “I want to buy my tickets for the movie beforehand.” That means earlier than perhaps you might buy them otherwise. Normally if you go to a movie, you’ll buy them right before you walk into the movie theater. But if I want to buy them an hour or two hours or two days before going to the movies, I may say, “I want to buy them beforehand.” There isn’t exactly a limit to the time period when you use the word “beforehand” to mean before a certain time or at an earlier time.

“In advance” similarly means before a certain thing happens, before a certain event in the future. So you could also say, “I want to buy my tickets in advance,” meaning before the movie begins, before the event starts. “Beforehand” and “in advance,” then, mean pretty much the same thing – doing something at an earlier time, before something else happens. I would say the phrase “in advance” is a little more common in conversational English nowadays than “beforehand,” but they both mean basically the same thing.

Finally, Gian Paolo (Gian Paolo) from Italy wants to know the meaning of “spot-on.” “Spot-on” is an adjective that means “exactly correct,” something that is perfectly true. The adjective is often used before the word “impersonation,” or “impression,” to describe someone who does a very good job at imitating another person – the way another person talks or acts. “His impression of President Obama is spot-on. If you didn’t look at him, you wouldn’t even know you were listening to anyone else.”

The adjective “spot-on” and the similar adjective “bang-on” are more common in British English than American English. I think in American English we might just say “perfect.” “It’s perfect.” It’s exactly right. Although with the word “impersonation” and the word “impression,” we do say, in American English, “spot-on.” “His impersonation was spot-on.” It was exactly correct. It looked or sounded just like him.

There’s actually a very funny scene from a popular television show from a few years ago called The Wire. If you haven’t seen The Wire, it was a wonderful TV show about gang violence in Baltimore. One of the actors in the series, the lead or main actor, is played by a British actor, but you wouldn’t know it because his American accent is so good. In fact, I didn’t even realize he wasn’t American until after watching the series.

But there’s a scene, a part in one of the episodes of the series, where he’s supposed to be British, and so he has to speak in a British accent, and he – playing an American – has to pretend like he has a British accent, a bad British accent, even though the actor himself, Dominic West, is British. So he has to use this expression “spot-on” because it’s a typically British expression.

Anyway, if you ever see the television series The Wire (which is very violent, I have to warn you – it’s not something you’d watch with your children) – but if you ever see it and see that scene, you’ll understand the comedy of the scene knowing that the actor playing the American is, in fact, himself British. But his American accent is spot-on.

We hope our answers are spot-on. If you 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.

Glossary
architecture – the art or practice of planning and constructing buildings

* Many of the cathedrals in Europe are examples of gothic architecture with their narrow towers and horizontal supports.

to design – to draw or plan how an item will look and how it will work

* People who design clothes think about how the materials they use will look and move on a person’s body when he or she wears it.

client – a person who pays another person for a service

* The lawyer bills her clients $500 an hour so only wealthy clients can afford her services.

innovative – introducing new ideas and original thinking; creative

* Old solutions won’t work. We need innovative ideas to solve this problem.

prairie – a large, open area of grassland

* The prairie was covered with tall grass, with many large animals living there, such as deer and bison.

style – how someone or something appears; the distinctive or unique way someone or something looks

* Jackie Kennedy became famous for her style and the way she dressed.

brow – the highest point of a hill

* On the brow of the hill, we can look down and see the entire city.

to divorce – to legally end a marriage

* After 10 years of marriage, Liam and Sue decided to divorce.

organic – made of or relating to living things and nature

* I prefer furniture made out of organic materials, such as wood.

prohibited – something not allowed to be used, said, or done; something not permitted

* Smoking in any part of the building is prohibited.

forbidden – something not permitted or allowed; banned

* Gina and Daniel know that going into the forest without an adult is forbidden.

not allowed – something that is not acceptable or not permitted

* Leaving school grounds during school hours without being in the company of a parent or guardian is not allowed.

beforehand – at an earlier time; at a previous time

* Meeting rooms must be reserved beforehand to avoid schedule conflicts.

in advance – before something happens; before a future event or time

* Please let me know if you’ll be coming to the party at least three days in advance.

spot-on – exactly right; exactly correct; completely accurate

* Jimmy guessed Sophie’s age and he was spot-on.

passion – a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something; a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone

* Luis has a passion for wine and likes trying new varieties whenever he travels.

patient – able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems; done in a careful way without hurrying

* Janika is trying to be patient while waiting for her exam results.

worm – a long, small, thin animal that has a soft body and no legs or bones, often living in the ground; a computer virus

* If we go fishing, we’ll need to either dig up or buy some worms.

warm – a little hot; feeling or showing friendship and affection toward someone

* Wear a jacket so you can stay warm on this cool fall evening.

What Insiders Know
Erector Sets

Parents like to buy toys for their children that allow them to learn while using their “imagination” (ability to think of new things and ideas). A popular toy for American children, especially in the first half of the “20th century” (1900’s) was the erector set.

An erector set is a toy with many pieces that allow children to construct different things by putting it together in different ways. The original erector set was sold under the “trademark” (official, registered name) “ERECTOR.” The verb “to erect” means to build something, usually something that stand up. And in 1913, a company in Connecticut began selling toys under the name “Erector.”

The toy “consisted of” (included) metal “beams” (strong bars made of metal or wood used to support a roof) with holes all along it allowing for “nuts” (small round object with a hole in the middle) and “bolts” (small, short metal pieces with a larger head). By putting the nuts and bolts through two or more pieces, a child can begin to build a bridge, building, or anything else he or she imagines.

Other parts found in erector sets include “gears” (a set of round, flat disks with teeth that fit together), wheels, and “pulleys” (wheel with a “groove” (indentation) along the outside, allowing a rope or cord to be pulled through, used for lifting objects). These original erector sets also came with a “motor” (machine powered by electricity, which, when attached to a vehicle, allows it to move).

Erector sets quickly became one of the most popular toys after its “introduction” (first availability for sale). That’s not surprising because with all of these parts, children could use their imagination and build machines of many different types and “functions” (uses).