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583 Topics: Andersonville Prison; garbage versus litter versus trash versus rubbish; downtime; pronouncing eight, height, and weight

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 583.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 583. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to ESLPod.com and become a member of ESL Podcast. You can download a complete Learning Guide for this and all of our wonderful episodes. Take a look at our website for more information.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the Andersonville Prison, a famous (or rather, infamous) place in the United States during the American Civil War. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Andersonville Prison was a military prison used by the Confederate army during the American Civil War, which took place between 1861 and 1865. The “Confederacy” (Confederacy) refers to those Southern states in the U.S. that tried to leave the United States and form their own country. These are states in the southeastern part of the U.S. – states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, and so forth.

The adjective “Confederate” refers to things related to this confederacy, this group of states that tried to form their own country. The Northern side during the Civil War, the side that won, was called the “Union” (Union). So we sometimes talk about “Union forces” and “Confederate forces.” We are referring there to the military group for each of those sides – the soldiers and so forth. So the Confederate army, then, is the group of men who fought on behalf of, or for, the Confederacy.

Andersonville Prison was used by the Confederate army for soldiers, for those who were fighting for the Union army, who were captured – that is, they had somehow lost a battle or had been taken by the Confederate army. There were many of them placed in this prison, which is located in the state of Georgia. It’s about 140 miles south of the capital of Georgia, Atlanta.

The Civil War, as I mentioned, began in 1861, and as you may know, it was a war that was about mostly the right of a state or group of states to leave the United States. The verb we use is “to secede” from the Union. The Southern states disagreed with some of the politics and policies of the Northern states before the period of the Civil War. One of the differences they had was over the matter of “slavery,” the owning of people as property.

Although many Americans believe that the Civil War started just because the Northern states wanted the slaves to be free and the Southern states didn’t, that’s rather a simplistic or too simple view of what actually happened. It was much more important for Lincoln and others in the North to keep the United States as one country more than it was to abolish or end slavery. It was the fact that the Southern states decided to leave and start their own country that the war began.

Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln and others were opposed to extending or expanding slavery into new territories and new states, and this did in fact cause significant problems even before the Civil War. There were a total of 11 states that formed or tried to form their own country. They called it the “Confederate States of America.”

After the war began, the U.S. government and the Confederate government had an agreement that any soldier, any person working in the army, who was captured would be treated fairly and could be let free if the other army freed its captured soldiers. “To capture” (capture) means to take someone into your control and not let that person leave.

However, in 1862 the Union army began allowing African Americans or blacks to fight as soldiers. The Confederate army leaders said that they would not release these black soldiers who had been captured, some of whom had been slaves who had escaped and gone to the North to be free. So, the presence of the black soldiers in the Union army caused a problem and caused, in effect, this agreement to break down or to be broken.

The Union army and President Lincoln said they wouldn’t let any Confederate soldiers who were captured be released until the Confederate army released the black soldiers they had captured, and of course the Confederate army refused, so basically by the summer of 1863, the agreement over captured soldiers had been ended and both armies kept the soldiers as prisoners. The soldiers they had captured, that is.

After the agreement ended, the number of what we would call “prisoners of war,” or simply “POWs,” began to increase dramatically, of course. These POWs had to be put somewhere, and they were put in prison camps. Before the summer of 1863, the prisoners had been kept in Richmond, Virginia, which was the capital of this so-called new country of Confederate States of America. Richmond is about 100 miles south of Washington, D.C., which was and is, of course, the capital of the United States.

As the number of prisoners increased, however, there was less space and supplies to take care of them in Richmond, Virginia. So instead, the Confederacy decided to build a new prison much farther south, in southern Georgia. Beginning in February of 1864, the Confederacy started sending Union soldiers, POWs, to this prison.

However, when they got there, the prison wasn’t yet finished. The prisoners were required simply to make their own tents and sleep on the ground. In addition, there wasn’t enough food or medicine to take care of the prisoners who had been sent there. Despite the fact that the prison was not yet finished, the Confederacy continued sending prisoners there, and by May of 1864 there were more than 12,000 POWs at this new prison, which was called “Andersonville.”

The Confederate army decided to make the prison even larger, this time covering an area of approximately 26 acres, or 10.5 hectares. Even this wasn’t big enough to hold or to keep all of the POWs. By August of 1864, there were 32,000 prisoners in Andersonville. These prisoners had very little food, very little shelter – that is, nowhere really to sleep – and very poor medical care. By the end of the summer of 1865, almost one third or 33 percent of these prisoners had died in the prison. That’s over 10,000 people in just a few months.

To be sent to Andersonville Prison, then, was almost a death sentence. You were very likely to die if you were sent to the prison, as indeed a third of the men who were sent there did. The conditions in the prison were incredibly bad, and the reports we have from the men who survived the prison are truly scary, frightening.

Most of the men, as I mentioned, had no shelter, so they had to live outside in the sun and in the cold. There was very little food or water. Many of them therefore died of “starvation” (starvation). “Starvation” is not having enough food to eat, so much so that you die. There were of course many diseases, medical conditions that killed many of the soldiers. People who visited the prison described it as “hell,” as a horrible place. One person described the men there as “living skeletons.” A “skeleton” (skeleton) is the bones that are inside of your body.

When the war ended in May of 1865, all of the prisoners who were still living were released. In November of that year, the person who had been in charge of Andersonville prison, a man by the name of Captain Henry Wirz, was tried for war crimes. “War crimes” are actions that are performed during a war that violate the rules of war, such as they are, or who does something so horrible that even for a war it’s considered unacceptable. When I say he was “tried,” I mean that he was brought before a court and he was punished.

He was accused of treating the prisoners badly by not giving them enough food, water, clothing, and medicine. He was found guilty and he was sentenced to be hanged on November 10, 1865. “To be hanged” (hanged) means that you are killed by having a rope put around your neck and then you stand on something – or the ground below you, the surface below you, opens up – and you are of course killed by the rope, essentially making it impossible for you to breathe or possibly breaking your neck. He was the only person in the history of the United States to be executed for war crimes. “To execute” (execute) means to kill someone who has been found guilty of a crime.

In 1970, Andersonville Prison was made into a U.S. national historic site. A “national historic site” is an area of land or a building that is protected by the government because it’s considered important in our country’s history. The national historic site also includes the Andersonville National Cemetery. It’s the place where the 13,000 people, mostly men, who died at the prison are buried. It’s also where 5,000 other United States Veterans have chosen to be buried.

A “veteran” (veteran) is a person who has served in a country’s military – the army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard, and so forth. Anyone who has served any time in the military, when they leave the military is called a “veteran.” My father was a veteran. He served in the army during World War II fighting in Europe. Some of my uncles were veterans also serving in the army and in the navy also during World War II. I don’t have any brothers or sisters who are veterans, but we do have some friends who were in the military.

In any case, if you visit the Andersonville Prison National Historic Site, you can see the place where these men lived. You can also see the offices of the people who were in charge of the prison, and of course learn more about the story of the Andersonville Prison.

I’m not sure how many Americans know about Andersonville Prison. I have to admit that when I was growing up and going to school, I don’t remember reading about Andersonville Prison in our history textbooks; perhaps that’s changed over the years since I was in school, but certainly it wasn’t something that we talked much about, perhaps because it isn’t a very happy event – although few things in war are happy. It does show the cruelty, however, that was shown to the Union soldiers during what is probably the worst period of American history, the period of our Civil War.

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

Our first question comes from Aguss (Aguss) in Indonesia. This question has to do with four related words – “garbage,” “litter,” “trash,” and “rubbish.” Let’s start with one of the more common words, although all of these words are fairly common, “garbage” (garbage). “Garbage” refers to anything that you don’t want anymore and want to get rid of.

I might say, for example, “I have a lot of garbage in my garage,” a place where most Americans keep things that they don’t have room for in their house (unless their car is so big they don’t have room for anything else in their garage). A “garage” is normally a small little place where you put your car. Many Americans have a lot of things that aren’t very useful to them, that aren’t worth very much and that are really garbage, that they keep in their garage instead of throwing it out. “Garbage” is normally things that we get rid of.

Now, the word “garbage” can also be used for the place, usually a small container in your house, where you put garbage, and that is sometimes referred to simply as the “garbage can” (can) or “the garbage.” “I’m going to throw this in the garbage.” That means I’m going to put it in this container, this can that I use to put things I don’t want anymore.

When that garbage can or that container gets full, when there’s no more room for it, I then can take it out of my house. At that point, most Americans would put it in a garbage container outside of their house, a bigger one, and then once a week they will take that garbage container and put it out in front of their house or their apartment building and a truck will come and take it away.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have garbage containers like we have now, big ones. We did have, as we have now, garbage bags – plastic bags that you put garbage into. I remember just taking those plastic bags and putting them out on the street or near the street. We didn’t have a big garbage container as many places have now. In any case, “garbage” can refer to the things you are throwing away. It can also refer to the container or the can in which the garbage is kept until it is taken away from your house or apartment.

“Garbage” can also be used as a general term to refer to anything that is worthless. You could say, “This TV show is garbage.” You mean it’s very bad. It is of a very bad quality. It isn’t worth anything. We might even describe words that someone says as “garbage.” “He was talking a bunch of garbage.” He was saying things that were false or not true, or perhaps things that were foolish or stupid.

The next word is “litter” (litter). “Litter” refers specifically to things, garbage, that is thrown from a car or thrown simply by someone walking down the street into a public place. So, if you’re in a park or if you’re driving down the street and you see someone throw a bit of a cigarette, what we would call a “cigarette butt” (butt), on the street or someone who throws a piece of paper out of her car onto the street, we would call that piece of garbage “litter.”

It is in fact against the law in the United States and most places to throw litter onto a public place. There’s also a verb “to litter,” which means to throw garbage in a public place. Although that’s the most general or common use of the word “litter,” there are a couple of special definitions.

“Litter” can also refer to certain dry material that is placed in a small box or container that is used by a cat, basically as a toilet – a place for the cat to do what cats and other animals do periodically. A “litter box,” then, is a place where your cat, I guess we could say, goes to the bathroom. I don’t have a cat, as you probably have guessed. So I don’t have a litter box.

The word “litter” is also used to describe a group of young animals, all of whom are born at the same time. You could talk about a “litter of dogs.” These would be two or more dogs that are all born close to the same time. We would call a young dog, just born, a “puppy” (puppy).

The third word here is “trash” (trash). In most cases, “trash” can be used almost in the same way as the word “garbage.” “Trash” refers to things that you no longer want and want to get rid of. “Trash” can also refer to the container, just like a garbage can. You could call it a “trash can.” It means the same thing. “Trash” can also be used to describe something that is worthless or poor in quality – again, the same way that you would use the word “garbage” in that sense.

There is one more meaning of trash, however, that is a little more specific. It’s a very insulting term to use to describe someone who is of a low social class, someone who is poor, or someone who works somewhere that people think is not a very good job. It might describe someone who has uneducated manners or perhaps doesn’t seem as sophisticated as other people, but this is a very insulting term and you would never want to use it to describe anyone, at least anyone you are talking to.

A related term is “trailer (trailer) trash.” People who are poor and who don’t have a lot of money in the United States sometimes live in trailers. A “trailer” can be something that is moved around by a car. A “trailer” could also be something that stays in one place but is sort of like a small home but not built to be permanent in that place.

The word “rubbish” (rubbish) means the same as “garbage” and “trash.” It’s a little more popular in British English than in American English. In fact, the Brits use “rubbish” to describe a person or a thing of very low quality as well. Someone might say, “I’m rubbish at sports,” meaning I’m not very good at sports, but Americans don’t use it in that sense. Though you will hear people talk about “rubbish” to mean the same as “trash” or “garbage.”

Well, that was a lot of talking about “garbage,” “trash,” “litter,” and “rubbish.”

Let’s move on to Daniela (Daniela) from Italy but now living in Switzerland. Daniela wants to know the meaning of the term “downtime” (downtime). “Downtime” is time when you’re not working or not busy. You work all day from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon, and then you get to go home and have some “downtime” – or perhaps in the middle of your work day you don’t have a lot to do, so you sit at your desk and have a little “downtime” where you’re not doing anything.

“Downtime” can also refer to when a computer or an internet site is not working. We also use the word “down” when a machine, computer, or website isn’t working. “The web is down” or “the website is down” means it’s not working right now.

Finally, Namae (Namae) in an unknown country – Namaeland, perhaps – wants to know the difference in pronunciation between three different words. I’ll spell them and then pronounce them. The first word is (eight). It’s a number that comes between seven and nine that we pronounce as “eight.” Notice that we also use the same pronunciation for the past tense of the verb “to eat,” which is spelled (ate), but the number “eight” is spelled differently even though it is pronounced the same.

The next word we’ll pronounce is spelled (height). “Height” is how we pronounce that, even though it has the same spelling except for the letter “h” in front of it. We don’t pronounce it like the word “hate” (hate), but rather “height.”

The final word is spelled (weight). In this case, it is pronounced like the number “eight” with a “w” sound in front of it: “weight.” It’s also pronounced the same as another word in English, a verb (wait). So we have “eight” (the number); “height,” which refers to how tall something is; and “weight,” which refers to how heavy something is.

If you have a question, heavy or light, 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.

Confederacy – the 11 southern states that tried to leave the United States to form their own country during the Civil War (1861-1865)

* The Confederacy fought to keep slavery legal because it was a big part of its economy.

Union – the northern states in the Civil War

* Union soldiers fought to keep the United States together during the Civil War.

slavery – the owning of people as property and forcing them to work without pay

* It’s hard to believe that today, people are still sold into slavery in some parts of the world.

to capture – to take someone or something into one’s control by force

* The bird was flying around the house, but I was able to capture it, take it outside, and let it go free.

prisoner of war – a person who has been taken and put into prison by an enemy during a war

* The prisoners of war were put to work building bridges and fixing roads.

starvation – suffering or death due to not having enough to eat

* If the baby bird’s mother doesn’t feed it, it’ll die of starvation.

disease – a disorder of the body that causes illness or death

* The spread of the disease was traced to contaminated water.

skeleton – the set of bones inside of a person or animal’s body

* Our teacher taught us about the bones in the body by using a plastic skeleton.

war crimes – actions performed during a war that are illegal or not allowed under the rules of war

* Many former Nazis were accused of war crimes after World War II for their involvement in the concentration camps and mass killing of millions of Jew.

to be hanged – to be killed by putting a rope around a person’s neck and removing the support he or she is standing on

* In the Old West, if a man is caught stealing horses, he is hanged.

to execute – to kill someone who has been legally found guilty of a crime

* The prisoner was executed after he was found guilty of murdering a shopkeeper and his family during a robbery.

National Historic Site – official recognition and government protection given to an area of land because of its importance in the country’s history

* The governor’s house was named a National Historic Site because it was the first building constructed in this area.

veteran – a person who had served in the military

* Jemima is a veteran of two wars in the Middle East.

garbage – things that are no longer wanted and that have been discarded or thrown out; a container where people put things that are unwanted and are being thrown out; something that is worthless or poor quality

* The city workers are on strike so our garbage hasn’t been picked up and is starting to smell.

litter – things that are unwanted and have been thrown away, lying on the ground in a public place; dry material that is placed in a container and used as a toilet by cats while they are indoors

* That man just threw litter on the ground instead of putting it into a garbage can.

trash – things that one no longer wants and that have been discarded or thrown out; a container where people put things that are unwanted and are being thrown out; something that is worthless or poor quality

* If we pick up the trash in the park, it will be a better place for our children to play.

rubbish – things that one no longer wants and that have been discarded or thrown out; words or ideas that are foolish or not true; something that is worthless or poor quality

* Throw your rubbish in these cans. Don’t just leave them on the table.

downtime – time when one is not working or busy; time when one is not involved in any activity; time during which a computer or machine is not working

* In his downtime, you’ll find Khalid playing with his three children in the yard.

What Insiders Know
The Dix-Hill Cartel

During the American Civil War, “Major” (a military leader) Dix of the Union and Major Hill of the Confederacy signed an agreement “outlining” (describing) how “prisoners” (people who have been captured) would be “exchanged” (traded).

Before the agreement, “field commanders” (people who have authority over soldiers as they are fighting in a battle) would sometimes “negotiate” (have discussions to try to get what one wants) exchanges of a few “wounded” (injured) or sick soldiers, but this was very “time consuming” (it took a lot of time). The agreement simplified (made easier) the process of exchanging prisoners, for example, by assigning a “fixed” (set; established; not changing) number of prisoners that would be exchanged for a “captured” (caught by the other army) “officer” (a military leader): an army colonel was exchanged for 15 “enlisted men” (men who fought in the army, but did not have a special role or power).

The agreement “fell apart” (stopped working) when the Confederate Army “refused” (said that it would not do something) to exchange African American soldiers who had “escaped” (left without permission) “slavery” (a system of owning people and forcing them to work without pay). The Confederate Army insisted on returning those men to their previous owners, but this was unacceptable to the Union Army. Most exchanges had “ceased” (stopped) by the summer of 1863, but by then the agreement had “facilitated” (helped to make something happen) the exchange of about 330,000 Confederate soldiers for 150,000 Union soldiers.