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581 Topics: The John Peter Zenger Trial; tone versus hue versus tint versus shade; wherewithal; pronouncing saw, sew, sow, and sue

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 581.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 581. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California – or as we call it here, L.A.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Download our Learning Guide to this episode and all of our recent episodes that contains a complete transcript of everything we say. It also has all of the important vocabulary terms with definitions, sample sentences, and a whole lot more.

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On this Café, we’re going to talk about a very interesting legal case that changed the way Americans view freedom of speech, the John Peter Zenger trial. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

John Peter Zenger was born in Germany in 1697. He moved to what were then the American colonies in 1710, when he was just 13 years old. A “colony” (colony) here refers to a group of people from one country who move to another place and make that place part of their country. So, it was quite common in this period for countries, especially in Europe, to go to other continents – the Americas, Africa, Australia, Asia – and establish or set up colonies where they would basically take over land and say that it was theirs.

The Greeks and the Phoenicians did this back in the ancient world. It isn’t something invented by the Europeans, of course. There was a series of colonies belonging to Great Britain in the North American continent during this period. Thirteen of those colonies eventually, of course, became what we now call the United States. At this time, however, the colonies were still part of Great Britain.

When Zenger got to New York, he became an apprentice to a New York printer by the name of William Bradford. An “apprentice” (apprentice) is a person who agrees to work for someone, usually for a certain amount of time – a year or two years, three years – in order to learn from that person the skills needed to do the job that person is doing. We have still in the United States people who work as apprentices, especially in jobs such as plumber and electrician. You work with someone who is already a plumber or electrician and you learn from that person. The idea is that there are certain things that you can only really learn if you are out doing them, not in a classroom.

Well, Zenger worked as an apprentice to a printer. A “printer” (printer) is a person whose job or business it is to print books or newspapers. Nowadays we think of a printer as a machine that you have on your desk to print out documents from your computer. But here, it refers to an actual person. Zenger worked for a printer, Bradford, for eight years before his apprenticeship ended. So, he worked for him a very long time. He later returned and became Bradford’s business partner. In other words, he worked with Bradford as one of the owners of his business in 1725. In 1726, he opened his own printing business.

A few years later, in 1733, Zenger began printing a new journal called The New York Weekly Journal. A “journal” (journal) here refers to a newspaper or magazine about a specific subject or activity. “Journal,” when used in the world of science or at the university, refers to a scientific magazine in which we publish studies, scientific studies. But the more general use of the term is any sort of newspaper or magazine. Zenger had a magazine or newspaper called The New York Weekly Journal. It focused on political news, especially news involving the leader or governor of New York, William Cosby, who I don’t think is related to Bill Cosby, the American actor and comedian.

Anyway, the governor of the colony of New York was of course a powerful man, and if you wrote articles about him, you were probably going to make him upset unless you said nice things about him. Well, Zenger did not say nice things about Cosby. In fact, his journal published articles that criticized him. They said that he committed all sorts of crimes, illegal things, including rigging elections. “To rig” (rig) something means to do something in an illegal or dishonest way so that you benefit or you win. If you “rig” a soccer game, you do something to make sure that your team wins or loses. Often people rig games in order to make money by gambling, by betting on the game.

“To rig an election” means to do something to make sure that your person wins the election even if he doesn’t get the most number of votes. Well, that’s what Zenger and his journal accused the then governor of the colony of New York of doing. Not surprisingly, Cosby didn’t like the articles, especially because many of them were published anonymously. “Anonymous” (anonymous) means the articles were put in the paper without the name of the person who wrote it. “Anonymous” means no one knows the name of the person.

Zenger was of course not the person writing these articles. He was just the person printing the articles. He was, after all, a printer not a journalist. At that time, however, the law said that whoever printed the articles was just as responsible for what was written as the person who wrote it. This meant that Cosby could say that Zenger was responsible for writing bad things about him, and that’s exactly what the governor did.

So, in November of 1734, Zenger was arrested for “libel.” “Libel” (libel) today is a legal term, a legal word that means writing and publishing something about someone that is untrue, that is false, and that hurts that person’s “reputation” – the way people think about that person. At the time, “libel” referred to printing something that wasn’t in favor of what the government was doing, regardless of whether it was true or not. Nowadays we think of “libel” as being something that is false and damaging.

A lot of newspapers and magazines publish things, write things about celebrities, famous people, that are clearly false, that are clearly not true. Sometimes these famous people try to sue, or take the magazine to court to say that what they said was false and that it hurt their reputation. Honestly, I’m not sure why the magazines have to do that nowadays since celebrities do so many stupid things, especially here in Hollywood. You don’t really need to invent anything.

But anyway, at the time Zenger was working as a printer, libel was basically defined as anything that criticized the government, and so he was arrested and he was in jail for 10 months. Part of the reason he remained in jail is because he wouldn’t say who wrote the articles. Finally there was a “trial” (trial). A “trial” is a legal, formal examination of evidence and facts before a judge and sometimes before a group of people who decide if the person is guilty – that is, has committed the crime – or innocent (has not committed). We call that group of people a “jury” (jury).

Zenger had head two very good lawyers, named James Alexander and William Smith. They were excellent lawyers and everyone knew that if anyone could be successful in getting Zenger free, it would be these two lawyers. Unfortunately, the governor had powerful friends, including in the court system, and some of his friends were judges who found a way to remove Alexander and Smith from the case and actually got these two lawyers “disbarred.”

“To disbar” (disbar) means for a lawyer to lose his ability to work as a lawyer in a certain state. Basically, the state says, you don’t have permission anymore to work here. When you become a lawyer in the U.S., you have to go to law school, but you also have to pass an examination, and the state says that you then have permission to work as a lawyer. Well, Alexander and Smith were disbarred by Cosby’s friends, and they were replaced with a new lawyer that Cosby basically chose, a man named John Chambers.

John Chambers was a young lawyer who had really no experience as a lawyer. That’s why they chose him. Cosby and his friends hoped that this would ensure or make sure, make certain, that Zenger was found guilty. Alexander and Smith, the now disbarred lawyers, didn’t give up. They didn’t quit. Instead, they found another lawyer for Zenger, someone who did have experience, someone who was very intelligent, a man by the name of Andrew Hamilton. (Don’t confuse this Hamilton with another more famous American Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, who was the first U.S. secretary of the treasury. The two were not related.)

This Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, was actually born in Scotland and had worked as a successful lawyer in England. He came to America in the early part of the eighteenth century and began working as a lawyer, and a very successful one at that. When he heard about the Zenger case, he decided to work for Zenger “pro bono.” “Pro (pro) bono (bono)” is a Latin expression we use in English to mean “for free.” It’s especially used when a lawyer works for someone for free – which doesn’t happen very often, but fortunately for Zenger, it did happen to him.

Hamilton took over Zenger’s case. One of the first things he did is make sure that the trial was heard by a jury, not just a judge. A “jury,” as I explained earlier, is a group of people, usually 12, who listen to the evidence and facts of a legal case and then decide if the person is innocent or guilty. This is very important because Zenger’s case was to be heard by the judges – who, remember, were friends of Cosby – and so had the case been heard just by the judges, it’s likely that Zenger would have been found guilty. But because he was able to get a jury of citizens, of people who are not judges, to decide the case, he knew then he had a chance.

During the trial, Zenger admitted that he had printed these articles. He said, “Yes, I printed them.” The judge told the jury that that was the only decision they had to make – whether Zenger was guilty of printing the articles – but his lawyer Hamilton said that it wasn’t just important to know whether the articles were printed, but whether they were true. If they were true, Hamilton said, then Zenger should not be guilty of libel. Basically Hamilton was proposing or introducing a new theory of libel, that libel should be defined as printing something that was false about someone, not something that was true.

Zenger had printed things that were true about the governor and the fact that the governor was corrupt, the governor did things that were illegal. Hamilton got the jury to understand that if Zenger had printed things that were true, he shouldn’t be found guilty, even though that’s what the law said. The trial did not last long; the jury quickly decided that the stories in the articles were true, and therefore Zenger should go free. He should not be guilty of libel. This decision of the jury helped change people’s definition of libel, and it became from this point afterwards something that only applied to printing false things, not true things.

Zenger continued working as a printer after the trial. He wrote his own version of what happened during the trial and published it in The New York Weekly Journal in 1736. Zenger’s wife had also continued printing information about what was happening to Zenger. He died in 1746, before the American Revolution, but the decision in the Zenger case was one that really changed the idea of what we refer to as a “free press” (press). The “press” refers to newspapers, magazines, television stations, radio stations, the internet – all of those who are working as journalists reporting the news.

Eventually the idea of a free press – of the ability for people to speak and print what they want – was made part of the American Constitution. It became part of what we call the “First Amendment,” or additional change to the Constitution, part of what we typically refer to as the “Bill of Rights.” The Bill of Rights are the first 10 changes or amendments to the Constitution which were adopted or approved by the states after the constitution itself was approved in 1788 – when it was officially “ratified,” we say.

People in the U.S. and in the news will often talk about the First Amendment, considered by many to be one of the most important additions to our Constitution. The First Amendment begins by promising “freedom of religion,” of the ability to believe and practice one’s religion. It includes “freedom of speech” – that is to say, your thoughts and ideas. It includes “freedom of the press,” which I mentioned earlier. These freedoms, then, are part of the American Constitution and therefore protected.

The Zenger case is important in our history because it helped establish this idea that a newspaper or magazine can print the truth and not be punished for printing the truth. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that everything you read in the newspaper is true.

I’ll end with just one note about this amazing lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, who defended Zenger. Hamilton was living in Philadelphia during this period, and because he was so smart and so successful, especially in the Zenger trial, there was actually an expression about Philadelphia lawyers. You don’t hear it as much anymore, but you might occasionally come across an expression that a person is going to need a Philadelphia lawyer to be found innocent or to get free from jail. The term “Philadelphia lawyer” refers to a smart, clever, intelligent lawyer, and the expression comes from Andrew Hamilton having been from Philadelphia and having won the Zenger case.

I should also mention that some people use the term “Philadelphia lawyer” to refer to a dishonest lawyer, one who may be smart but uses his intelligence in order to get someone who is guilty free or found innocent. In other words, the term is not always a compliment – a nice thing, that is, being said about a lawyer. It depends on the circumstances.

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

Our first question comes from Zhen Zhen (Zhen Zhen), originally from China, now living in New Jersey. The question has to do with four related terms about color, “tone,” “hue,” “tint,” and “shade.” This is a difficult one because these words are closely related. I’ll do my best to try to explain what they mean using just audio.

I’m actually going to start with the third one, “hue” (hue). “Hue” refers to any particular kind of color. You might talk about a “hue of red.” That might be a red that is light or dark, that has certain other colors mixed with it. “Hue” is the most general of these terms, then. It refers to any color. Any color can be called “hue,” but we would use it when we are trying to distinguish between two colors that are often similar in look – two different kinds of red or two different kinds of blue, for example. That’s “hue.”

“Shade” (shade) refers to a particular color that is lighter or darker than other similar colors. Basically it’s what happens to a certain hue or certain type of color that is mixed with something black to make it darker, or you remove some of the black to make it lighter. That’s a “shade,” when it comes to color. “Shading” is also used in talking about drawing with a pencil or painting with some sort of oil or water paint, that is a darkened area of the drawing or the painting. So, you can see that “shade” has to do with light and dark when we talk about color.

“Tint” (tint) is a small amount of color, usually white, that is added to another color to make it either brighter or less bright. So, “shade” has to do with adding or subtracting black. “Tint” is usually adding or subtracting white as a color to change not just lightness or darkness, but what we might refer to as “brightness” (brightness), or some might describe it as “intensity.”

The final word is “tone” (tone). “Tone,” when talking about color, is closely related to “shade.” People often use the word “tone” in place of “shade” to mean the same thing – what happens when you add black or grey or even white to a color. So, it’s a more general term in talking about the particular shade of a color.

The word “tone” is also used in other cases outside of art and painting. It’s used in music to talk about the quality of a person’s voice or of a musical instrument. We may refer to the “tone of a violin” – how it sounds. We also use the word “tone” when we’re talking about speaking or writing. We may talk about the “tone of an essay” or the “tone of a letter.” Is it angry? Is it happy? Is it serious? These are “tones” – or, if you will, emotions or moods – that are communicated in writing.

We also talk about a person’s “tone of voice” – that is, whether a person is speaking respectfully or angrily to another person. When a child talks to his parent in ways that make the parent angry because the child is not being respectful of the parent, not showing the correct respect for the parent, a parent might say, “Watch your tone of voice, young man” (or “young woman”). “Watch your tone of voice” means you shouldn’t speak disrespectfully to me. You need to be more courteous, more polite, more kind in talking to me.

Our next question comes from Artur (Artur) from Poland, now living in Germany. The question has to do with the word “wherewithal” (wherewithal). “Wherewithal” is not a word commonly used in American English conversation, though it is sometimes used in writing.

The word “wherewithal” means what you need to accomplish something, what you need in order to meet your goal or to reach a certain goal. It could refer to money. It could refer to skill. It could refer to help from other people. “I don’t have the wherewithal to finish this project.” That means I don’t have the resources or the money or the skills or the people necessary in order to reach my goal, to complete this particular task. You usually hear this word when someone does not have the proper resources or tools to do something. “I don’t have the wherewithal.”

Finally, we have a question from Andres (Andres) in Argentina. Andres from Argentina

wants to know how to pronounce certain words. So in this case, I’ll spell the word first and then pronounce it. I’ll also give a short definition even though the question is mostly about pronunciation.

The first word is (saw) – “saw.” “Saw” has a couple of different meanings. It can be the past tense of the verb “to see.” I saw a dog yesterday. I see a dog today. I will see a dog tomorrow. “Saw” is the past tense, what happened before the present time. “Saw” can also be used as a noun to refer to a tool that we use to cut things like a tree. A saw is a long, typically, piece of metal, although it could be electric, that has what are called “teeth,” just like the teeth in your mouth, that are used to cut through wood or other hard materials. Related to the noun “saw” is the verb “to saw,” which is to use a tool to cut through something.

The next word is (sew), which is pronounced “sew.” “Sew” is when you make or repair clothing usually using a small, sharp object, a thin piece of metal called a “needle” (needle). “Sewing” is something that can be done by hand or with a machine called, logically, a “sewing machine.” Notice that the verb “to sew” is pronounced just like another word, spelled differently, (so). (So) is used in lots of different cases, overused nowadays as a substitute for “um” or “well.”

The third word is (sow). This word is “sow” also. It’s pronounced the same as (sew). However, it means something different. It means to plant seeds in the ground, seeds to grow plants or flowers, something you’re going to look at or eat. The opposite of “sow” is “reap” (reap). “To reap” means to take the plants out of the ground in order to use them. There’s an old expression, “You reap what you sow” – that is, you can only take things out of the ground that you have first planted or put in the ground. The more general meaning of the expression is that if you do bad things in the world, bad things will eventually happen to you, or at least that’s how I would use the expression.

So we now have a couple of different spellings of that word “so.” It could be (so). It could be (sew). And it could be (sow). Just to make your life really confusing, in English there’s a noun spelled (sow) but that is pronounced “sow.” A “sow” is another word for a pig – in particular, a female pig, often a female pig who has had little pigs, little baby pigs. As you know in English, sometimes words are spelled the same but pronounced differently when they have different meanings. This is an example of that – “sow” versus “sow.”

Finally, Andres wants to know about the pronunciation of (sue). That word is always pronounced “sue.” The verb “to sue” means to take legal action against a person who has hurt you or who has caused you to lose money some way. “To sue” someone is to try to get money back from someone who has done some harm or damage to you. The word “Sue” is also used as the name of a girl or a woman. It is short for the longer word, “Susan.” One of my favorite old 1950s songs is “Runaround Sue.”

“You keep away from a runaround Sue…whoa, whoa, whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa, whoa, whoa.”

I like it mostly because of those “whoas.” I love ’50s music, just for the “whoas.”

I love you just because you’re listening to us. If you have questions, 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.

apprentice – a person who agrees to work for another person with a particular set of skills for a period of time to learn those skills in return for a low wage

* Gerry wanted to become a tailor, so he became an apprentice to the best tailor in town.

printer – a person’s whose job or business is to print text onto paper for other people, organizations, or businesses

* We need 600 copies of this brochure. Can you ask the printer how much she would charge to do the job?

journal – a newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject or activity, often academic or scientific

* There is a study about a new class of drugs to treat asthma in this medical journal.

governor – an elected official who is in charge of a state government

* The governor implemented a new program to help working single mothers who can’t afford daycare.

to rig – to manage or do something in such a way so that it benefits or is helpful to a specific person in a race or competition

* It was clear that the singing contest was rigged when the president of the organization’s wife won, even though she was not the best singer.

anonymous – for a person not to be identified by name; an unknown person

* We received a generous anonymous donation of $500!

libel – a published statement that is untrue and that hurts or destroys someone’s reputation (the way other people think about that person)

* The businesswoman sued the magazine for libel when they published an article claiming that she stole money from a charity to pay for an expensive vacation.

trial – a formal examination of evidence and facts in a court of law to determine whether someone has committed a crime and/or has done something wrong

* Jolene sued her neighbor for damaging her house when his car ran into her garage and the trial lasted two days.

to disbar – to officially take back permission given to a lawyer to practice law so that he or she can no longer work as a lawyer

* After the lawyer was discovered to have paid a witness to lie, he was disbarred.

jury – a group of people, usually 12, who listen to the evidence and facts of a legal case and decide whether someone is guilty or innocent

* The jury listened to all of the witness evidence before making a decision.

amendment – an additional section called an “article,” made to the U.S. Constitution, the country’s most important legal document explaining the basic rights and laws of a country

* In 1920, the U.S. government passed Amendment 19, which allowed women to vote in elections.

speech – what a person says to express thoughts and feelings

* Dora’s speech is difficult to understand because she slurs her words.

press – newspapers, magazines, and other sources of news

* Who told the press about our company’s new product? It was supposed to remain a secret for another month.

tone – a shade of color, often created when black, white, or grey is added

* Jeb likes light green, but not one of the darker tones.

hue – a color

* This painter likes bold colors in red, green, blue, and purple hues.

tint – a small amount of color, typically white, added to another color, making it less bright or intense

* That orange color is a little too intense. Let’s add a tint to lighten it.

shade – a color mixed with black to make it darker; a particular color that is lighter or darker than other types

* I can’t find the right shade of yellow to match this blue.

wherewithal – what is needed to do or accomplish something; means or supplies for a particular purpose or need, especially money or skill

* Karim has big dreams. Let’s hope he has the wherewithal to make them come true.

What Insiders Know
All-points Bulletins

An “all-points bulletin,” also known as an “APB,” is an announcement sent to all the “personnel” (employees; staff members) of one or more police agencies. These radio announcements are “typically” (usually) about a “suspect” (someone whom people believe has committed a crime) who is “wanted” (being looked for so that he or she can be arrested) by a “law enforcement agency” (a department or organization that makes sure laws are followed and punishes those who do not follow the law). The APBs are used for “urgent” (very important and needing immediate attention) announcements about “dangerous” (causing harm to others) or “high-profile” (receiving a lot of attention from the public and the media) criminals.

Sometimes the APBs are about the “stolen goods” (objects that have been taken without permission), such as stolen cars, rather than about the criminals themselves. This allows the police department to quickly communicate information and involve the entire “police force” (all police officers and other people who work with them) in looking for a particular car or individual.

An APB usually “contains” (has; includes) the suspect’s “physical characteristics,” such as height, weight, race, eye color, hair color, and clothing. It might also include information about the person’s “health condition” (how healthy someone is), whether the suspect is injured, and whether the suspect is believed to be carrying a “weapon” (a gun or another object that can be used to hurt other people). The APB might also contain information about the suspect’s “general location” (the large area where one is thought to be) and/or “direction” (the place toward which one is moving). Finally, the APB contains instructions for the police officers so that they know what they should do if and when they find the suspect, such as to arrest him or her.