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587 Topics: The Mayflower and the Mayflower Compact; to encompass versus to comprise; edge versus margin; do me right

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 587.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 587. 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 a very important part of the beginning of the history of the United States – the Mayflower and something called the Mayflower Compact. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Every student in the United States learns at school about a famous ship by the name of the Mayflower. That’s because this ship brought the first European settlers to what is now known as the United States. Well, I say the first European settlers – there is some disagreement about that – but at least in American history books, we think of the Mayflower as being the beginning of what eventually became the United States.

Most children learn that these first Europeans came seeking religious freedom, but it isn’t often explained in detail exactly what that meant. So we’re going to talk about that topic today – the reason for the Mayflower and what was in a very important agreement made on that ship, called the “Mayflower Compact.”

You need to understand a little bit of the history of Europe during this period, especially of England. The King of England, King Henry VIII, established his own church, called the Church of England, and this was a breakaway, or break off, from the largest Christian church at that time, the Catholic Church, or Roman Catholic Church. Henry VIII, for a variety of reasons, wanted to establish his own church.

The Roman Catholic Church would not allow Henry VIII to marry a second wife. He then decided he would start a church that would allow him to do that. He and that second wife had a child, and that child was named Elizabeth. Eventually Elizabeth became queen and head of this new Church of England. Elizabeth became queen in 1558 and remained queen until her death in 1603.

One of the things that Elizabeth I in particular did when she became head of the Church of England was to get rid of, or eliminate, many of the practices of the Catholic Church that were still part of the Church of England. She wanted to reform or change things for the better. “To get rid (rid) of” of means to remove or throw away something that you don’t like.

As you probably know, the establishment of the Church of England was part of a larger religious movement in Europe, called more generally the “Reformation” (Reformation). The Reformation produced a number of different denominations of Christians. “Denomination” (denomination) here refers to groups of Christians who gather together and form a church or religious organization.

The Church of England was the official church of the government, but it was not the only denomination in England. There were many people who thought that the Church of England didn’t reform enough. It didn’t change the practices of the Catholic Church enough. So these Christians started their own churches. They thought that the church was still too “corrupt” (corrupt).

“To be corrupt” means to do something because someone is giving you money or because you are getting some sort of personal gain rather than doing it for the reason you’re supposed to do it. We often think of “corrupt” as a verb describing people in government who do things for reasons they’re not supposed to do, such as receiving money illegally. But “corruption,” the noun that comes from the verb “to corrupt,” can also refer to organizations that behave dishonestly or people within those organizations.

These Christian denominations that thought the Church of England needed to do more created their own religious groups. One of those groups was called the “Puritans” (Puritans). The Puritans decided that there was no use trying to reform the Church of England, that they needed to start their own church, that it would be pure and simple. Hence, or therefore, we get the name “Puritan.” “To be pure” means to be clean, to be without any sin, without any mistakes.

After Queen Elizabeth died, England was ruled by King James. Elizabeth had no children. James was actually the son of another one of Henry the VIII’s daughters. The Puritans asked James I if they could establish their own church and James said, “Uh, no.” James didn’t want a group that was “critical of” – meaning saying a lot of bad things about – the official church, the Church of England.

For this reason, the Puritans were often harassed and bothered by the government officials. “To be harassed” (harassed) means to be made to feel uncomfortable or even physically hurt. The Puritans were harassed by the Church of England authorities and the government. They were made to feel rather uncomfortable in England.

And so, in 1609, the group decided to leave England and move to another country – to Holland or what is known as the Netherlands. In Holland, there were fewer rules and regulations about religion, and they felt they had more religious freedom. “Religious freedom” is an important part of American history, the ability to practice your religion and to live your religious beliefs without interference from the government – that is, without the government telling you what to do.

The Puritans made their home in a city called Leiden in the western part of Holland. They hoped there that they could live without the religious persecution which they had experienced under the Church of England. “Religious persecution” (persecution) refers to someone treating you badly, perhaps even killing you, because of what you believe, because of your religious beliefs – and that, in fact, had happened to the Puritans in England.

After 12 years living in Holland, many of the Puritans decided that things weren’t going very well. They believed that they couldn’t get good jobs and weren’t able to earn enough money to support their families. The children were also beginning to forget their English way of life and began speaking Dutch and doing things in the Dutch way. “Dutch” is the language of Holland, or at least one of those languages spoken in the Netherlands.

Some of the Puritans in Leiden decided they were going to go back to England even though it was not as religiously free as it was in the Netherlands. Other members of the Puritans decided that the solution was not to go back to England, but instead to go to another country. So, they sent a message to the head of England, to the king of England, and asked for a charter from the king to go to the New World, to go to America. A “charter” (charter) is a gift from a government of a piece of land and the permission to go to that land and set up a new colony, a new location.

The king agreed to give the Puritans land for an area in the New World, in America, in the area of what is now the state of Virginia, which is in the central part of the modern United States Atlantic coast. The Puritans decided to organize a group and go to America. So, they had 44 Puritans who were sent first to establish, or set up, a place for them to live in the New World. They arranged to travel on a boat called the Mayflower.

It costs money, of course, to get a ship together and travel across the ocean from Europe to America, and the Puritans didn’t have a lot of money. Instead, a group of English businessmen decided that they would make an investment, if you will, in the Puritans. They would give the Puritans money to go to the New World, and the Puritans would agree to work for them for seven years in exchange for being allowed to travel on the Mayflower.

So, the businessmen hoped to make money from the Puritans, and the Puritans hoped to have a place to live where they could practice their religion without persecution. Some of these businessmen went with the Puritans. The Mayflower had not only 44 Puritans, but a number of other businessmen who were going to the New World in order to start companies and businesses. The Puritans, on this boat ride over on this ship, called themselves the Saints and the other people on the ship the Strangers.

A “saint” (saint) is a person who is considered to be good, to be religious, to be special to God, to be holy. On August 5th, 1620, the Mayflower was finally ready to set sail for America. “To set (set) sail (sail)” means to begin a trip on a boat or a ship. At the same time, another ship, called the Speedwell, left from Holland with more Puritans. So there were actually two groups going over. The plan was for the two ships to make this long trip together.

However, the Speedwell started having problems right away. Water started coming onto the ship. The captain of the Speedwell said, “Well, maybe this isn’t a good idea,” and so he decided he wouldn’t take his ship to America. Some of the Puritans who were on the Speedwell were then transferred or moved over to the Mayflower. In the end, the Mayflower had a total of 102 passengers, about half of whom were Puritans. Finally, on September 15th, 1620, the Mayflower began its long trip.

The trip to America, especially at this time, was of course long and dangerous. There were many strong storms, strong winds. Many of the people got sick and many became hungry because there wasn’t enough food. Finally, after 65 days on the ocean, on the Atlantic Ocean, on November 9th, the passengers – the people who were on the ship – saw land.

The land they saw was not, however, in the northern part of Virginia where they were supposed to go. It was instead what is called Cape Cod, which is an area of the state of Massachusetts, or what later became the state of Massachusetts. So, they were in fact about 450 miles or 724 kilometers north of where they were supposed to be, so they decided to start going south.

However, they were perhaps too close to the land at this point, and when they started going south, the water was not deep enough for their big boat and the ship almost tipped over. “To tip (tip) over” means for something to go from being vertical to horizontal – that is, for something to, in effect, fall over. But we wouldn’t say “fall over” when we’re talking about something in the water. We would say “tip over.” But it’s the same idea.

They moved their ship out to deeper water and then decided what they were going to do next. Should they stay there in what was obviously not the place where they were supposed to be, or should they try to get to Virginia? While they were trying to decide, some of the passengers realized that if they stayed there in Massachusetts, there would be something of a legal problem because the charter, the permission they had from the king of England, was not for this area in Massachusetts. It was for the area down in Virginia.

So, if they didn’t go there, they were in a way free to do whatever they wanted to. They could rule themselves. They would no longer be under the control of the king of England. This legal reasoning was a little odd, but they decided to go with it. They decided, “Well, alright, now we’re not part of England anymore because we’re not in Virginia, we’re going to have to make our own agreements, our own form of government.”

And they sat down and wrote an agreement for “self-government.” They would govern themselves. The verb “to govern” (govern) means to rule a group of people. “To self-govern” means you rule yourself – your group decides how the government is going to work. This agreement was called the “Mayflower Compact.” A “compact” (compact) is another word for a formal agreement.

The Mayflower Compact established a very simple democracy in that the decisions would be made by the group by voting. “To vote” (vote) of course means to say which option or which choice you want. The compact stated that the settlers, the people on the ship, promised to help each other for the good of the larger community or group. It also said they would vote for a governor, or a leader for their community.

The compact itself was ratified, or approved, by everyone voting for it. The Mayflower Compact is considered a very important document in American history. It is the first act among these new Americans to govern themselves in the New World. This would eventually lead to the idea of separating themselves from the English monarch, from the head of England, which they did a few hundred years later, in 1776.

After the people on the Mayflower signed this agreement on self-government, they decided to send a few people to look around this area, which we now know as Cape Cod, to find the best place to settle. After a month or so, they decided to settle in an area that became known as “Plymouth.” Plymouth is about 30 miles north of Cape Cod. The ship sailed to Plymouth and landed on an area called Plymouth Rock (rock).

Plymouth Rock is considered an important part of American history because it was the first place that permanent European settlers came in the New World to live – at least, in the English-speaking New World. The Spaniards and other Europeans, of course, had already been to other parts of the New World. To this day, you can visit Plymouth Rock. It’s actually a rock that you can see. It has an interesting story itself which we talked about on a previous Café – number 377 if you’re interested.

So that’s the basic story of how the Mayflower and the Mayflower Compact came to be such an important part of American history. These first Americans were seeking religious freedom. That idea of religious freedom was so important that in one of the very first changes to our Constitution – in fact, the very first amendment to our Constitution – Americans were guaranteed religious freedom. It’s the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment.

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

Our first question comes from Sebastian (Sebastian) in Germany. Sebastian wants to know the difference between the verb “to encompass” and “to comprise.” Let’s start with the first verb, “to encompass” (encompass). “To encompass” means to include everything in a certain area. It could also mean to surround and hold a certain area.

For example, you could say, “This course encompasses all of English grammar.” Everything you ever need to know will be in this course, or in this class. The class “encompasses” all of that – it includes all of that. In many ancient and medieval cities, the city walls “encompassed” the population, encompassed the main living areas of the city. They surrounded and included it.

“To comprise” (comprise) means to be made up of something. It’s a little different than “to encompass.” “To comprise” means something is made of a certain thing, or it includes a certain thing. “This test or examination comprises 25 questions about the history of the United States.” The test is made up of – or consists of, we could also say – 25 questions. “The Supreme Court of the United States comprises nine people” – normally – nine judges who make decisions. We could also say, “The United States comprises 50 states.”

Our next question comes from Daria (Daria) in Russia. The question has to do with two similar words, “edge” (edge) and “margin” (margin). There are couple of different definitions of the word “edge.” We use the word “edge” to talk about a knife or other object that is sharp or has something that might cut you. A knife has an edge. That’s what you use to cut something with.

A razor blade that you might use to shave, or remove hair from your skin, has an edge. We would say it has a “sharp (sharp) edge.” A sharp edge is something that cuts you. A table could also have a sharp edge where the two pieces of wood meet or where there is a corner, a right angle, to the wood. That is also an “edge,” which leads us to another definition of “edge” which is the limit or border of something – where something ends, if you will.

If you own a house, the house sits on a piece of land, a piece of “property” we would call it. The boundary or border between your property and the person next door to you would be the edge of your property. The edge of your property is still on your property but at the very end of your property, right next to someone else’s property. Actually, the line between the two pieces of property would be called the “border” of the properties.

We sometimes use the word “edge” as a way of saying “advantage over someone else.” “This team has an edge over the other team.” That’s because it’s better than the other team. It plays better than the other team. It has an advantage. It has an edge.

The word “edge” can also be used to talk about the quality of, say, a piece of music or even a film or television show. We might, more often, use the adjective from this noun, “edgy” (edgy). Something that is “edgy” is something that is a little adventurous, a little daring, perhaps even a little risky. People might be offended or not like it because it’s “too edgy.” It tries to be too provocative, too risky.

The word “margin” can, in some cases, mean the same as “edge” when we’re talking about a line or a border, the end of some physical object or thing. We could talk about the western margin of the continental United States as being the West Coast of the U.S. on the Pacific Ocean. That’s the western border or western margin or western edge.

“Margin,” however. is more often used to describe the part of a piece of paper that is in the outside parts around where there is something printed or there is some photograph or other element on the page to look at. The margins of a piece of paper are those thin parts of the paper where there is no writing, typically. In word processing programs such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, you can “set (set) the margins” on the page to a certain number of inches or centimeters. That’s the part of the page where there will be no printing.

The word “margin” can also be used to describe the difference between two things. It could also refer to the amount that one side wins over another side or one team wins over another team. The “margin of victory” is the number of points that one team beat another team by. If the score of a soccer game is four to one, the winning team’s “margin of victory” was three points because they won by three points.

We also talk about the “margin of error,” for example, when you have an opinion poll, when a company goes out and asks a bunch of people a question about their opinion on something. Well, statistically there’s going to be some “error” (error), or mistakes made in the poll, and we would call that the “margin of error.” That’s the amount by which the poll might be wrong for a variety of reasons.

Going back to the idea of a “margin of victory” or a “margin of defeat,” we often describe those in terms of wide or large versus small or “narrow” (narrow). A “narrow margin of victory” means one team won by a very small amount or a very small number of points. A large or “wide (wide) margin” would be a lot of points, or by a lot of points.

Finally, we have a question from Alassane (Alassane) from Mauritania, now living in France. The question has to do with the expression “to do someone right” (right). “To do someone right” is an informal expression – you can hear it in songs, for example – that means not to cheat on the other person. You don’t try to take advantage of the other person. You try to do things that will benefit the other person, be good for the other person. It can, especially in a song, also have some sort of sexual meaning. The meaning sexually is probably pretty obvious to you, having to do with sexual relations.

If you have any questions or comments, 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.

to get rid of – to remove something that is undesirable or troublesome; to throw away something that is unwanted

* If we get rid of the clothes we no longer wear, we’ll have more room in the closet.

Reformation – the religious movement during the 1500s and early 1600s that led to the formation of the Protestant churches

* During the Reformation, Christians in several different countries started their own Protestant churches.

corrupt – willingness to behave dishonestly in return for money, favors, or personal gain

* Did you hear about the corrupt building inspector who took money in exchange for ignoring violations?

religious persecution – treating people badly and showing anger towards them because of their religious beliefs

* Groups from many countries came to the United States to escape religious persecution.

charter – a grant or gift of land from a government or ruler and permission to create a new institution or settlement in a particular location

* The governor issued a charter to build a new university on the outskirts of town.

saint – a person considered to be religiously good and special to God

* Many Christian saints behaved in selfless ways, making sacrifices for the good of others.

to set sail – to begin a trip on a boat or ship; to start a sea voyage

* Nick doesn’t like being on the water, so as soon as we set sail, he started to feel sick.

to tip over – for something to fall on its side so that it is no longer upright

* Be careful! Don’t tip over my glass of water while you reach for the phone.

to self-govern – to make rules for oneself or for one’s own group

* Our community no longer wants to follow the laws of this city because we think they’re unfair. We want to self-govern.

compact – a formal contract or agreement between two or more people or groups

* The teacher made a compact with her students: If they all get A’s on the next exam, she’ll treat them to pizza.

to vote – to officially state or indicate one’s preference for one of two or more options or choices

* The employees voted for an additional vacation day, rather than for a raise.

to ratify – to make an agreement official, usually by signing it

* After ratifying the agreement, both sides celebrated the historic move.

to encompass – to include something as a part of something larger; to cover or surround an area

* Our property encompasses all of those woods, including the small lake.

to comprise – to be made up of something; to include or consist of something; to make up something; to form something

* Our committee is comprised of community leaders: the mayor, a reverend, a judge, and a business leader.

edge – the line or section where an object or area begins or ends; the part of a blade that cuts, such as on a knife; an advantage over others

* Be careful not to walk too close to the edge of the swimming pool or you may fall in.

margin – the part of a page that is above, below, or to the side of the printed section; a measurement of difference, such as distance or time

* When Luis got his essay back, he saw that his teacher had written comments in the right margin.

to do (someone) right – to make a decision or do something that will benefit the interest of another person; to not cheat on another person

* You’d better do me right if I lend you money to start your business.

What Insiders Know
The Mayflower Doctrine

In 1941, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the “Mayflower Doctrine,” which “prohibited” (did not allow) radio stations from “editorializing” (sharing opinions with the public) in their “broadcasts” (content and information shared through television or the radio). The “mandate” (order) was supposed to “ensure” (make sure something happened) that broadcasters presented public issues, especially the views of “political candidates” (those who want a high-level government job) who were “running for office” (trying to get people to vote for them), “fairly” (treating all parties equally or in the same way, without biases or advantages). At the time, radio was the main way in which people received news, and the FCC believed that a “democracy” (a type of government in which people elect representatives) required that people have opportunities to hear “diverse” (many different kinds) and “opposing” (with different opinions) “viewpoints” (perspectives; ways of understanding and interpreting things).

Radio broadcasters strongly disliked the Mayflower Doctrine. They believed that it “impinged on” (had a negative impact on; limited) their “freedom of speech” (the right to say what one believes without being restricted by the government). They believed that the Mayflower Doctrine gave the FCC the power of “censorship” (decisions about which materials are acceptable and which may or may not be shared with the public).

In 1949, the radio broadcasters won their argument and the Mayflower Doctrine was “repealed” (taken back so that it was no longer a law). Later that year, the FCC created the Fairness Doctrine, which was similar to the Mayflower Doctrine in that it required broadcasters to present multiple “sides” (opinions about) of controversial issues, but broadcasters were allowed to “take a stance” (share one’s opinion) on controversial issues.