Daily English
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577 Topics: Famous Americans – Stephen F. Austin; Classic TV – M*A*S*H; disability versus handicap versus impairment; recourse versus resort; to fly in the face of (something)

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 577.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 577. 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 man who is sometimes called the father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin. We’re also going to talk about a classic American television show of the late twentieth century, M*A*S*H. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Stephen Fuller Austin was born in November of 1793 in the state of Virginia, one of the original 13 states of the United States. The place where he was born is now actually called Austinville. In any case, Austin and his family moved to the frontier when he was just a child. The “frontier” (frontier) refers to any area that is at the border or very far away from where most people live in a given country. So, the “frontier” could just describe the dividing line between two countries.

But in American history, when we talk about the “frontier,” we’re referring to areas that were away from the main population centers on the east coast of the United States. Now, as more and more people moved from the east to the west on the North American continent, the frontier kept changing. It kept moving west, if you will. At the time when Austin was born, the frontier was the area which is now in the central part of the modern United States, or what is now the United States.

Austin and his family moved to an area in present day Missouri, which is right in the center of the U.S. After completing his education (his family had sent him back east to get an education), young Stephen Austin became part of the government of Missouri. He joined the Missouri legislature in 1814. At this time, Missouri was still what we would call a “territory” of the United States. It wasn’t made into a state until 1821.

Austin served in the Territorial Legislature until 1819. Unfortunately, that same year, the economy of the United States went into a depression. It was called the Panic of 1819, and many people lost money, including Austin’s father who had owned some businesses in the small town in which they lived in Missouri. Because of this, his father decided it would be a good time to try something new. He got the idea of starting a new colony of Americans in Mexico, in the area of Mexico known as Texas, in the northern part of Mexico.

So he went to the Mexican government at that time and received what was called a “land grant.” A “grant” (grant) is when a government or some organization gives you money – or in this case, land – in order to do something with that money or land. In many countries during this period, the government was giving land to people who would come and settle or live permanently in that area. The United States did this and Mexico did it as well during this period.

Stephen Austin’s father (his name was Moses) wanted to start a “colony” (colony) – a place where people would come from one country and live in another country. The colony that Austin’s father wanted to start would be, of course, Americans moving into this northern region or area of Mexico. It was never Moses Austin’s idea to go to Mexico and then start their own state or break away from Mexico.

Unfortunately, Moses Austin died in 1821 before he could begin this colonization project. His son wasn’t really very interested in it, but his mother convinced him that it was a good idea, and so Stephen Austin went in 1822 with a few hundred families and started a new colony in Mexico. He had land that was given to him and the families by the Mexican government at that time.

Unfortunately, the Mexican government had changed in 1821, and some of the terms, some of the details of the land grant were no longer the same, so Austin had to go down to Mexico City to talk to the new government of Mexico. Mexico had received its independence from Spain during this same year. Austin turned out to be, or proved to be, we might say, a very good diplomat. He didn’t want problems with the Mexican government and so he negotiated, after many long weeks of meetings with the Mexican government, and managed to keep the land grant more or less as it had been before.

Austin was a good “negotiator.” “To negotiate” (negotiate) means to discuss with another person in order to arrive at an agreement. Austin had negotiated the land grant with the new Mexican government and was able to form contracts that put himself in charge of the entire colony. Austin basically was the leader of the colony, and because of these legal agreements or contracts with the government and with the colonists, he became basically the head of the colony. The colony, I should mention, was located in what is now Austin, Texas, the capital of the state of Texas.

The American colony grew, and in a few years there were as many as 8,000 people who had come to live in this new American colony in Mexico. Austin was not interested in independence for the colony. He was interested in the colony to become part of the Mexican system of government, and Austin himself was a representative to the Mexican government for this area. He was always interested in keeping the colony as part of the country of Mexico.

However, not all of the colonists who lived in this area wanted to remain part of Mexico, and so many of them tried to get Austin to make demands on the Mexican government to change their legal status. One of the things they wanted is to make Texas its own Mexican state so that it would be separate from Coahuila, which was the state to which that part of Mexico belonged during this period.

They tried to get the then-president of Mexico, Santa Ana, to give them the status of a separate state, but Santa Ana refused. Interestingly, Austin and the Texas colonists actually supported Santa Ana earlier when Santa Ana was in a power struggle to become, eventually, the leader of Mexico. But Santa Ana wasn’t interested in giving these colonists their own state. Austin tried to be the peacekeeper. He tried to negotiate with both the colonists and the Mexican government to try to find a compromise, a solution.

However, this wasn’t really successful. In fact, when Austin was returning from a visit to Mexico City, he was arrested by the Mexican government and put in prison for almost two years. During this time, with Austin away from the colony, some of the colonists became more and more impatient and decided that they were going to start a revolution. They were going to start to organize to fight against the Mexican government in order to get their status not only as a state, but perhaps even independent of the country of Mexico completely.

Austin returned to the colony in 1835. He didn’t like this idea but eventually he said, “Okay, I will support you. I will try to be your leader for this new effort.” An army was organized and eventually the colonists defeated the Mexican army. This is sometimes referred to, at least in U.S. history, as the Texas Revolution. A “revolution” is a violent attempt to end the rule of one government and start a new one.

Austin went to Washington, D.C., to ask the American government for help. They wanted the American military to help them in this war against Mexico. They also wanted the U.S. to annex the territory where they were living. “To annex” (annex) means for one country to add another country or another part of a country to their own territory. The U.S. government did say they would send military help, but they did not promise to annex Mexico.

It was the colonists living in Texas itself, however, who eventually fought the war. The Texas Revolution lasted from October of 1835 until April of 1836 when the colonists eventually won. Now, since they had not become part of the United States through annexation, Texas became its own independent country. It is one of two areas of the modern day United States that was once its own independent country. The other area is the state of Hawaii.

Austin tried to become president of this new country of Texas, but he lost to the main military leader in the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston. Austin was the diplomat. Austin was the man who was responsible for organizing the civilian government, but it was Houston who was the military leader, and he was the one that people wanted to be their first president. Austin became the secretary of state for the new government.

Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to do much as secretary of state. He died in December of 1836 of pneumonia, an illness that makes it difficult for you to breathe. Today Austin is considered to be the father of Texas because he was the person who organized the first colonists and did a lot to make sure that the colonists had a government as well as a legal system. Austin himself had studied law before moving to Texas. He is considered the father of Texas, but we should really say Anglo-American Texas. Of course, Texas was already there and occupied by Mexicans.

Eventually the Republic of Texas became part of the United States in 1845. That caused another war, the Mexican-American War, but we won’t have time to talk about that now. The capital of Texas is named after Stephen Austin. That was, after all, the area that he first settled when he brought the first colonists to the area, making him the father of Texas.

Now let’s turn briefly to our second topic, which is a popular TV show from the twentieth century, the late twentieth century, M*A*S*H. The television show M*A*S*H (Mash) was about a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War. Oddly enough, even though it was about a war, it was a comedy. The title of the show is what we would call an “acronym” (acronym). An “acronym” is formed by taking the first letter of each word, so in this case M*A*S*H takes the first letter of “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.”

“Mobile” (mobile) means able to move from one place to another. “Army,” of course, refers to part of the armed forces, part of the military of a country. “Surgical” (surgical) refers to doing some medical operation or procedure that usually involves cutting into the body using a sharp instrument. Although nowadays they actually put things into your body, don’t they, rather than cutting into them sometimes. The “H” stands for “hospital.”

This was a show about doctors and nurses who were part of the American Army during the Korean War which took place from 1950, roughly, to 1953. Even though the show was about war, it was still a comedy. It was still something that people laughed at when they watched, but it wasn’t your typical comedy because after all, it was about a war, so there were also some very sad parts of the show that were mixed in or combined with the comedy.

The television show M*A*S*H was actually based on a successful movie that was made in 1970 by a famous American film director Robert Altman. The movie itself was based on a novel, a book published in 1968 by Richard Hornberger. The novel was about Hornberger’s experience as part of a M*A*S*H unit or a military hospital during the Korean War. Much of what happened in the television show really happened to Hornberger during his own experience.

The 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the show included several very memorable characters – people that you remember after watching them. One of them was Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce. “Hawkeye” was his nickname. He was played by a famous American actor, Alan Alda. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan was played by the actress Loretta Swift.

I actually saw Loretta Swift once in a restaurant here in Los Angeles, an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica, but she never recognized me. Many of the actors and actresses in this show went on to be parts of other television programs, but the one most people think of when they think of M*A*S*H was the actor Alan Alda. He was one of the few people to be on the show from the very first season of the show in 1972 until the last season, the last set of shows, in 1983.

I am one of millions of Americans who have seen the television show M*A*S*H. I, in a sense, grew up with this show. I was nine years old when the first season was on. It was a little bit too adult for me to watch as a nine-year-old, but by the time I was in high school, I watched M*A*S*H every week, as did millions of other Americans.

It was one of the most famous and well-liked television shows of this period. It also won many awards. Alan Alda won eight Golden Globe Awards for his performances. And other actresses and actors won as well. There were also some famous actors that appeared briefly on the show, including Patrick Swayze, Laurence Fishburne, and Rita Wilson.

There are some things that, if you’ve seen the show, you will always remember. One of the most famous parts of the show is when the helicopters arrive at the hospital bringing men who had, of course, been wounded and injured during the war. They come there, of course, to be fixed by the doctors, to become well. Some of them live and some of them die. That makes, of course, the show have a certain sadness as well as comedy.

M*A*S*H was probably one of the two most well-liked shows during the late twentieth century in the U.S., the other show being Seinfeld. Perhaps Friends would also fall in that category. So let’s make it three well-liked shows. When M*A*S*Hhad its final episode, over 121 million Americans watched it. It lasted for two and a half hours instead of the usual 30 minutes. That makes it the most-watched television series finale, or final show, in American history.

Even if you didn’t grow up in the 1970s as I did, you still probably have seen M*A*S*H if you grew up in the United States in the last 40 years. That’s because the show continues to be shown in what we would call “syndication.” “Syndication” (syndication) is when a television show is shown even after it is no longer being produced. Lots of television shows are shown for years after the show no longer has new episodes, and M*A*S*H can still be seen on American television. I still watch some of the old episodes even though I’ve seen them all.

Many writers, directors, and audience members think that M*A*S*H was perhaps one of the best American comedies ever written. So if you have a chance to see it, even in translation, you might enjoy it.

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

Our first question comes from Artur (Artur) in Poland – well, from Poland, now living in Germany. The question has to do with three related words, “disability,” “handicap,” and “impairment.”

“Disability” (disability) is a condition usually caused by an illness or perhaps an injury – when you get hurt – that somehow damages or limits your physical or possibly mental abilities. It’s the condition of not being able to do things that you might normally be able to do. Maybe you were in a car accident and sadly lost the use of your legs, so you couldn’t walk anymore. That would be an example of a “disability,” and we might call you “physically disabled.” You don’t have the ability to do something that you might otherwise be able to do.

A “handicap” (handicap) is often used to mean the same thing as “disability.” In fact, it was the word we more commonly used many years ago to talk about the same physical or mental condition. In more recent years, however, we have changed that term and it’s not used as much anymore, although people still talk about “handicapped parking” – special parking places that are reserved for or set aside for people who have some physical disability.

“Handicap” can also be used more generally in a non-insulting or offensive way to mean some difficulty that prevents you from doing what you want to do or making progress on a certain task or job. Not being able to jump very high is a handicap if you want to be a volleyball player. That would be a use of the word “handicap” in a more general sense.

The word “handicap” has a special use in sports or other similar competitions. It’s sometimes used, for example, in golf when one player is not very good. When that person does the scoring, you could give that person what we call a “handicap,” which is an automatic subtraction of a certain number of points because the person isn’t a very good player. I would need a very big “handicap” if I were ever to play golf.

The final word is “impairment” (impairment). “Impairment” is similar to “disability” in that it refers to a condition in which some part of your mind or body is damaged or doesn’t function normally. You will often hear people talk about someone who is “hearing impaired” or “seeing impaired.” This means they can’t hear normally or see normally, or as one would if there weren’t some sort of damage or disease. Someone who is hearing impaired is someone who has an impairment in terms of their hearing.

Our next question comes Manoel (Manoel) in Brazil. The question has to do with two words, “recourse” and “resort.”

The word “recourse” (recourse) is used most often in legal situations to refer to an opportunity to do something in order to solve a problem or to get out of a difficult situation. For example, if someone hits your car and doesn’t want to pay for the damage, the harm he caused, your only “recourse” is to go to court, go to a judge and ask that that person be made to pay for the damage. That’s a use of the word “recourse.” It’s an option or opportunity for you to fix something or deal with a problem.

The word “resort” has two different meanings. As a verb, it’s somewhat similar to “recourse.” As a verb, it almost always is followed by the preposition “to.” “If you don’t pay me my money, I will resort to hitting you in the face until you do.” The verb means to do something because you have no other choices. Usually, it’s used when what you are doing isn’t very nice or pleasant, or has some negative consequence for someone else.

“I’m going to have to resort to eating tuna fish if I don’t go to the grocery store tonight.” I don’t want to eat tuna fish, but I will have no other choice because that’s the only food I have in my kitchen. (Actually, I like tuna fish, but you get the idea.) “The police hope to arrest this person,” hope to take the person and put him in jail, “without having to resort to violence” – without having to do something that would hurt the person.

The word “resort” can also be used as a noun, and in that case it means something very different. It means a place where you go on a vacation. Often it’s a place that is next to an ocean or a lake that has a large hotel and things for you to do, such as a golf course and a swimming pool. There are also “ski resorts.” These are places up in the mountains where, again, you typically will find a large hotel, a restaurant, and other things for you to do – including, of course, skiing.

“Recourse,” then, is a noun; “to resort to” is a verb; and “resort” is a noun. You might use “recourse” and “to resort to” in similar situations. You might say, “I have no recourse but to hit you in the face if you don’t give me my money.” Or you could say, “If you don’t give me my money, I will resort to hitting you in the face.” When it’s a negative consequence, a negative thing that you are doing, then you could use “recourse” or “to resort to.”

Our final question comes from Ali (Ali) in Turkey. Ali wants to know the meaning of the expression “to fly (fly) in the face (face) of” something.

“To fly in the face of” something means to be the opposite of what is usual or accepted, or simply to go against someone or something. “His statement” – what he told me – “flies in the face of the evidence in front of me.” That would mean that I have certain proof, certain evidence, certain facts, and what he is telling me is the opposite of what those facts tell me, what that evidence tells me. It “flies in the face of” the facts or the evidence – it is the opposite of.

I would say we most often use that expression in that situation where you have certain facts or certain pieces of information that are opposite or indicate the opposite of what someone is saying. If someone says that he is going to live to 100 years old by smoking every day because smoking is good for you – smoking cigarettes, let’s say – you would say, “Well, that flies in the face of the evidence that smoking seems to cause lung cancer.” That would be an example of that expression.

If you have an expression you’d like us to help you with, email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast’s 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.

frontier – a distant area where only a few people live, usually at the border of an area or country

* Life was difficult on the frontier. Families had to survive by hunting and growing their own food, and faced many dangers.

economy – the wealth and resources of a country, including the products and services it produces and consumes

* In most countries, trade is an important part of the economy.

land grant – a gift of land from the government with the condition that the land be used for something that will benefit its people, such as roads and schools

* Many U.S. universities received land grants from the state so that the new university could offer free or low cost education to the people of that state.

colony – an area under the control of a faraway country’s government, but with settlers or people living there from that country

* Great Britain had many colonies around the world including Asia and the Caribbean, where British people went to live and work.

to negotiate – to discuss something with another person or group and arrive at an agreement, with each side getting some of what it wants

* Sandra and Thomas had to negotiate a time to eat dinner that worked for both of them, since Sandra likes to eat early and Thomas likes to eat late.

contract – a legal agreement between two people, organizations, or countries

* Before beginning work, she made sure that her contract clearly stated the times she would be expected to work as well as her specific duties.

revolution – a violent attempt by a group of people to end the rule of one government and start a new one

* In the American Revolution, people living in what is now the United States fought for their independence from Great Britain.

to annex – to add territory to an existing country, state, or organization by force or legal order

* When her brother moved away to attend college, Vionetta annexed his room and made it into her walk-in closet.

mobile – able to move from one place to another easily

* Are you mobile yet, or are you still stuck in bed while your injuries heal?

surgical – relating to the performing of medical operations or procedures, usually by cutting into the body using instruments

* Doctors wear surgical masks during all procedures.

comedy – a play, movie, or television program intended to make people laugh

* Many television comedies are not successful in other countries because what’s funny in one culture may not be funny in another.

syndication – when a television show is sold by the original television channel or network that created it to other television channels or networks to be shown

* When a show goes into syndication, the actors on that show are paid each time the show airs, even though they are no longer filming new episodes.

disability – a condition caused by an illness or an injury that damages a person's physical or mental abilities; a program that provides financial support to a person who is temporarily or permanently disabled

* The soldier’s disability made it impossible for him to return to the job he had before the war.

handicap – a physical or mental condition that may limit what a person can do; a problem, situation, or event that makes progress or success difficult

* Parking lots must have parking spaces near the door for drivers with handicaps.

impairment – a condition in which some part of one’s body or mind is damaged and does not work well

* Jessie developing a hearing impairment from attending too many loud concerts.

recourse – an opportunity to do something or an option to use something to deal with a problem or situation; a source of assistance in a difficult situation

* Norm lost his job so his only recourse was to move back in with his parents.

to resort to – to do or use something to deal with a difficult situation, especially because no other options are possible; to turn to something for help when one has no choice

* Teachers who resort to yelling at slower students shouldn’t be in the classroom.

to fly in the face of (something) – to go against someone or something; to be the opposite of what is usual or accepted

* Jaime flew in the face of tradition when he became a professional musician, instead of a lawyer like both of his parents and his grandfather.

What Insiders Know
Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits is the “longest-running” (shown on television for the longest period of time) music program, beginning in 1976. The program is recorded “live” (recorded as it happens, without any editing) in the city of Austin, Texas. The show is broadcast on many “PBS” (public broadcasting station; public television) stations throughout the United States.

In the beginning, the show “featured” (showed; highlighted) the music of Texas, including “country” (a style of music popular in rural areas), rock, the blues (sad-sounding music), and Tejano music (music with Mexican influences). As the show has “matured” (became older and better), it has expanded to feature many other types of music from national and international artists.

People cannot buy tickets to see the show live, but they can enter an online “drawing” (a random chance of being selected for something) to try to get a free ticket. The “taping” (when the show is recorded) lasts for about two hours, but the one-hour show can include only some of the songs, so the people who go to the live show get to enjoy more music.

In 2002, the show “spawned” (given birth to; generated) the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, which is also held in Austin. For two “consecutive” (following each other in time) weekends, musicians perform in a variety of styles on eight “stages” (raised areas that performers stand on so audiences can see them). More than 100,000 attend the festival each year to enjoy the music and other festival activities.