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588 Topics: The Women Airforce Service Pilots; technically versus typically versus basically; apology versus apologies; to approve versus to approve of

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 588.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 588. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, an important organization during the Second World War in the U.S. We’re also going to answer some of your questions, as always. Let’s get started.

On this episode, we’re talking about the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II. The “air force” is part of the military. They are responsible for, mostly for flying planes, although other what we would call “military services” or “military branches” also have planes. The air force, however, is responsible for most of the use of airplanes for a country’s military. A “pilot” (pilot) is the person who operates, or we would say “flies,” the airplane.

Before 1942, there were no female pilots, no women pilots, in the United States military. This was not because women didn’t want to or even try to become pilots in the military. In fact, two women, Nancy Harkness Love and Jackie Cochran, had tried to get the U.S. military to allow women to help in World War II by flying planes from the airplane factories where they were built to the airbases where they would be used.

The planes, of course, have to be built somewhere, and the place where you build things or make things is typically called a “factory” (factory). After you build the plane, you have to get it to what is called an “airbase” (airbase). An airbase is a military facility or place where there are, of course, military airplanes.

After World War II started, or at least after the United States began fighting in World War II, at the very end of 1941, the United States needed everyone they could find to help with the war effort, and of course most of the men or the young men were either volunteering to be part of the military or being drafted – that is, being forced to be part of the military. This meant that many of the jobs that men did in the economy had to be taken over by women. This was true, of course, in lots of different countries during World War I and World War II.

By 1942, the situation had changed so much in terms of the number of men that the military had to work as pilots. Many of those pilots had of course died, and the military needed more. All the men who were pilots were out fighting in various battles as part of the war, and that meant that there weren’t enough pilots to fly the planes here in the United States from one place to another, especially from the factories to the airbases. I mention that many of the pilots were fighting in “battles” (battles). A battle is one part of a war. It’s a long fight that is part of a larger war.

By the middle of 1942, it was clear that the U.S. government was going to have to allow women pilots in order to get done the things that they needed to get done in the war effort. So in September of that year, Nancy Love helped create the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. This was done at an airbase in Delaware, which is on the east coast of the United States.

Now, the word “ferrying” comes from the verb “to ferry” (ferry), which is a word you don’t hear very much. “To ferry” means to move people or things from one place to another, usually a short distance. There’s a noun “ferry” which refers to a boat that takes people across a river or across a lake, not a very long distance. If you go to New York City, for example, and you want to go to Staten Island, which is one of the five parts of New York City, you probably will take the Staten Island Ferry from lower, or southern, Manhattan.

It’s a boat that takes you from one part of New York to another across the water.

Many cities that are on water or that are near an ocean have ferries. If you live in Hong Kong, you can take a ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island – or at least, you used to be able to, when I was there 20 years ago. In any case, we also use the word “ferry” as a verb, and in the name “Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron” it refers precisely to this idea of moving people – in this case, moving planes – small or short distances.

The word “auxiliary” (auxiliary), which is also in the name of this organization that Nancy Love created, means “additional help and support.” A “squadron” (squadron) is a group of people – or in this case, planes – that are part of a military force. A squadron could simply be a group of men and women who are fighting together. In this case, however, the squadron refers to the men and women – in this case, just women – who were pilots flying these planes. There were also other people in the squadron that were helping with the aircraft, with the planes.

In this new squadron there were more than 24 female pilots who began to train to fly these airplanes from one place to another. During the period we’re talking about, during World War II, there was not, in fact, a separate military organization called the air force that was equal with, say, the army and the navy. In fact, the air force was really part of the army. It was called the U.S. Army Air Force and wasn’t made a separate branch or organization until 1947 – until after World War II. So most of what we’re talking about here refers to things that were going on within the U.S. Army.

Well, one of the generals in the army, in December of 1942, started another organization of female pilots. He called his particular group the “Women’s Flying Training Detachment.” A “detachment” (detachment) is a group of soldiers who have a special job or special mission apart from, or separate from, what everyone else is doing. In 1943, in August of that year, these two groups – the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment – were combined and together were known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or simply “WASP” (wasp).

All of the pilots in the program were between the ages of 21 and 35. To join WASP, you had to have your commercial pilot’s license already. A “commercial pilot’s license” is a license you get to fly a plane for a business or for something that is not related to the military. In other words, the military didn’t take women and train them to be pilots from no training whatsoever, from no knowledge at all. Instead they found women who already had their pilot’s license, who already basically knew how to fly, and made them part of the WASP organization.

You may be asking yourself, “Well, how many women were there who had a commercial pilot’s license and who were between the ages of 21 and 35 back in 1943?” Well, the answer is more than 25,000 women applied for WASP – tried to get into this organization. Of course, the army couldn’t take 25,000 women; instead they accepted about 250 of these women into the Women Air Force Service Pilots.

Over the next year and a half, during the middle of the war and towards the end of the war, the WASP pilots flew more than 60 million miles in their missions, or in their flights. They flew almost every kind of airplane, including what are called “fighter jets” (jets). A “fighter jet” is a plane that is designed especially for battle, for fighting. Many of the planes were, of course, what we would call “transport planes.” They weren’t planes that you would try to shoot down another plane with, but rather were planes you used to move people and supplies, or things, from one place to another.

A great deal of fighting in a war is about what we call “logistics” (logistics). “Logistics” refers to the planning that’s necessary to get from one point to another or in order to carry out a plan. If you have an army, you have to have food. That means you have to get that food from somewhere. Someone has to make that food. Someone has to put that food in boxes and in cans in order to transport it to where the people who need the food are located, and so forth. All of that is part of “logistics.”

I took a very interesting history class once, in medieval military history, and the whole class was about doing calculations in trying to figure out exactly what was needed in order for these famous battles to have taken place. I remember studying a famous battle in the history of England, in Scotland, called the Battle of Bannockburn, and in that battle there were of course thousands of men who were fighting, but our job in the class was to figure out exactly how much food they would have needed, how many people would have had to be part of the organization – the logistics in order for that army to fight.

It’s an interesting (at least to me, anyway) side of things, and the WASP pilots were in some ways an important part of the logistics of the U.S. effort in World War II. Now even though these women were part of this military organization, they weren’t technically part of the army. They were always, in other words, what we would call “civilians” (civilian). A “civilian” is a person who is not in the military. This means that they did not receive the same kind of help that people in the military received.

When one of them was killed, for example, someone had to pay for their body to be returned to the United States, which is sort of an amazing thing since they were really working for the government. If one of them died, they did not receive military benefits or funerals. They were not eligible – that is, they could not receive military honors, official awards that the military gives to people who participate in certain actions and are considered brave for what they do. There were 39 WASP pilots killed during World War II, but none of them received any honors from the government because technically they were civilians. They were not part of the U.S. military.

Also, because they were not part of the military when the war ended, they did not receive any of the benefits that the men who had participated in World War II as soldiers did. For example, my father fought in World War II. He was 19 years old when he first left to northern Africa and then Italy, France, and Germany as part of the U.S. military force. When he returned, he was what we call a “veteran” (veteran). A veteran is a person who was once in the military, and if you’re a veteran in the United States, the government gives you certain help.

In the case of my father, he was given help to go to college under something that was called the G.I. Bill. He was able to attend college and get his college degree because the government paid for veterans to go back to school, and they still do that for people who leave the military nowadays. But the WASP pilots never received any of these veteran benefits. It was only in 1977, 33 years after the WASP program ended, that these women were officially classified or designated as eligible for military benefits.

In 2009, the U.S. government gave the WASP group something called the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest award that the U.S. military can give someone who has served in the military. Of course, it was a little late since many of the pilots were already dead. Beginning in 1974, the U.S. government started allowing women to be pilots as regular military, and in 1994 women were allowed to fly fighter jets to go into battle as pilots. That, then, is a little history of the WASP program and its importance in part of American history.

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

Our first question comes from Ade (Ade), in the United States currently, but originally from Iraq. His question has to do with three adverbs, “technically,” “typically,” and “basically.” All three of these are very common in American English.

Let’s start with the first word, “technically” (technically). “Technically” can mean a couple of different things. It is often used when we want to give very specific information or we want to point out a definition or explanation that perhaps has more detail than something previously said. For example, you may say, “I live 10 miles from the beach,” and then you might say, “Well, technically I live 8.5 miles from the beach.” Your first statement was a general statement that was approximate, but not exact. So sometimes “technically” means “exact.”

Sometimes “technically” is used when we are correcting someone or we are trying to make a statement about something that perhaps is unknown by the other person. For example, many people would say that tomato is a vegetable like carrots or peas. But “technically” – according to the rules of biology or the principles that are followed – tomato, a tomato is a fruit because it doesn’t fit the definition of a vegetable. It’s fits the definition, or follows from the definition, of a plant’s fruit.

The word “technically” is used when we are clarifying or giving a more detailed or exact answer to someone, especially when it refers to rules, regulations, or definitions that make small distinctions or try to give exact definitions of things. The word “technically” is also used sometimes when we are referring to a special vocabulary or set of words that is used for a particular field or a particular kind of work. Just a few seconds ago, I referred to a tomato, but technically its biological name is lycopersicon esculentum. That’s another way of using “technically” – when you are pointing out a particular vocabulary or a particular kind of word for a specialized field or area.

The word “technically” might also be used to describe someone’s skill at doing something. If you listen to someone playing the piano, you may say, “Well, he technically has great skills. He’s a great pianist, but he doesn’t have the emotion. He doesn’t have feeling.” That would be another way of using the word “technically.”

Let’s move on to “typically” (typically). “Typically” means generally or normally – what we would routinely or normally expect in a certain situation. “Typically I get up at seven o’clock every morning.” That means most mornings, but maybe not every morning, I get up at seven o’clock. That’s what I typically do. That’s what I generally or normally do.

The third word is “basically” (basically). “Basically” can mean in a general or basic way –

to say something is true or correct in a general way, but perhaps doesn’t describe all of the specifics. In this sense, “basically” and “technically” are opposites, or at least two different ways of describing the level of detail of information you’re giving someone. When I say, “I’m basically ten minutes from the beach,” that’s not giving you exact information. That’s giving you general information. I might say, “Well technically, I’m 8.5 minutes from the beach.” That would be more specific.

So, “basically” is used when you are describing something in a general way without giving a lot of details. In fact, you might even give some information that isn’t 100 percent correct, but overall, or generally, you’re telling someone the truth. You could say, “Basically this is a good book.” That means that maybe there are parts of the book that aren’t good, but overall, generally, you thought it was a good book. “He’s basically a good kid,” we might say. That means he does some things wrong. He’s not perfect, but generally we think he’s a good kid.

We often use “basically” in front of a statement that expresses the most important idea we want to give someone. When there is a complicated situation – when there are many different things involved and you don’t want to explain everything – you may use the word “basically” to give the most important piece of information. So I could say, “Well, California is an interesting state. There are good things and bad things. People come here for many different reasons. I basically came here because I loved the weather.” That was the most important thing. Basically, I hate cold weather. California is warm, therefore, I live in California.

Our next question comes from Saleh (Saleh) from Syria. The question has to do with when you use the word “apology” (apology) and the plural form, “apologies” (apologies). An “apology” is a statement that you are sorry for something you said or did. You are saying you were wrong and that you regret it, that you feel badly about it. If you do something wrong to someone, you may later say “I owe (owe) you an apology,” meaning I need to give you an apology because I was wrong.

“Apologies” is, of course, merely the plural of that word “apology,” but we do often use it to say, “I’m sorry.” So, if you say, “Well, my apologies,” you’re saying “I am sorry.” So, in the singular form we would never say, “My apology” to mean “I’m sorry.” We could say, “I owe you an apology” or “I need to give you an apology” or “Here is an apology,” but we don’t use it to mean “I’m sorry,” whereas “my apologies” means “I’m sorry.”

I don’t know if I explained that very well. An “apology” is a statement of regret – that you are sorry about something. The plural, “my apologies” – that expression, I should say, “my apologies” (using the plural) – means “I’m sorry.” So if you, for example, are on a subway or a train and you accidentally, without meaning to, hit someone next to you, you may immediately say, “Oh I’m sorry. My apologies.” That means the same as “I’m sorry.” Usually we say “my apologies” when we’ve done something perhaps a little more seriously wrong. The verb is “to apologize” (apologize).

You can also say, “I apologize for doing something wrong.” I apologize to you. “I apologize for not calling you last night when I said I would.” “I’m sorry for not calling you last night.” “My apologies for not calling you last night.” All three of those things mean the same thing. We would call the act of saying “I’m sorry” an “apology.” I hope that makes sense. My apologies if it doesn’t.

Finally, Mehrdad (Mehrdad), now living in Canada but originally from Iran. So, we have questions from Iran, Iraq, and Syria today. This question is about “to approve” versus “to approve of.” Let’s start with the verb “to approve” (approve). It’s often used in business or in government to mean to agree to do something or to say yes to something. “I approve this plan for our new product” – that means I say yes to this plan. I am giving this plan my okay. This is something I want to happen. “I approve this plan” or “I approve this decision.” I say yes to this decision. Go ahead and do it.

In the United States government, the president of the United States “appoints” or puts into certain jobs certain people, but some of those decisions must be approved by the Senate, by one part of our U.S. Congress. They have to say yes to those appointments.

“To approve of,” with the preposition at the end, usually means that you find something or think something is okay, or it’s acceptable, or it’s good. For example, “I approve of my nephew getting married this fall.” I think that’s a good idea. “I approve of his decision to get married.” Now, I don’t “approve his marriage” or “approve his decision” – he didn’t come to me and ask if he could get married or if I liked the woman he’s going to marry. Instead, “I approve of it.” I think it’s a good idea.

I might also say, “I don’t approve of children yelling outside my window in the afternoon.” I don’t like that idea. In fact, I don’t like the reality of them yelling. I don’t like the noise. I don’t approve of it. We often use “I don’t approve of” when there is some sort of moral or ethical reason why we agree or disagree with a certain action. You might say, “I don’t approve of people drinking alcohol before noon.” I don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t approve of it. I think it’s bad for you, unless you mix it with your coffee. Now if you mix it with your coffee, I think it’s okay. That’s what I do.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I am Jeff McQuillan. Thank you 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.

air force – the part of the military that fights in the air

* Our country has a large air force to protect its citizens from threats in the sky.

pilot – the person who operates an aircraft; the person who flies an airplane

* The pilot announced that she would need to make an emergency landing because the engine was not functioning properly.

airbase – a military facility where military aircraft are located and the pilots and personnel related to their operation work

* If the enemy bombs our airbase, we’ll lose fighting power in the skies.

to ferry – to move people or things to a new location using a ship or aircraft, usually over a short distance

* This boat ferries people from the mainland to the islands.

auxiliary – providing supplementary or additional help and support

* There is an auxiliary power source that turns on when the main power source stops working so that the building is never without electricity.

squadron – a unit in an air force or other military branch that includes two or more aircrafts and the personnel required to fly them

* When he arrived to join his new squadron, he realized that he’d already worked with some of the pilots and maintenance personnel at another airbase.

detachment – a group of soldiers, ships, or aircrafts sent away on a separate mission or job

* This detachment will look for enemy soldiers ahead and give us warning if they see any.

commercial – concerned with or involving in trade or business

* This town has a lot of commercial real estate suitable for your new store.

fighter jet – a military aircraft designed for fighting in the air against other aircraft

* The pilot shot down two fighter jets before his was shot down, too.

civilian – a person not in the military or police force

* At the police station, no civilians are allowed beyond the front desk unless invited by police personnel.

honor – an official award for bravery or achievement; official recognition for outstanding achievement.

* The soldier was honored for saving three of his fellow soldiers.

veteran – a person who has served or worked in the military

* The veterans gathered regularly to remember their time in army and talk about the men and women with whom they had served.

technically – according to a very strict explanation of a rule or fact; according to or among experts; in a way that relates to the use of special techniques or skills

* Technically, we’re not supposed to use the company president’s conference room, but when there isn’t another meeting space, we use it anyway.

typically – generally; normally; what is normal or expected of a certain place, person, or situation

* We don’t typically do out to dinner, but we did last night to celebrate my birthday.

basically – in a general or basic way; used to say that something is true or correct as a general statement, even if it is not entirely true or correct; used when one’s statement is expressing the most important reason for something

* We’re basically giving away these t-shirts, although people are encouraged to make a donation.

apology – a statement that one is sorry about something; used to show regret for having done or said something wrong

* The store manager’s apology for poor service didn’t satisfy the angry customers.

(my/one’s) apologies – I’m sorry; an expression used to show regret for having done or said something wrong

* My apologies for not saying hello to you earlier. I didn’t see you.

to approve – to give one’s approval; to believe that something or someone is good or acceptable

* Did the supervisor approve your request to take vacation time in August?

to approve of – to believe that something or someone is good or acceptable based on one’s moral, religious, social, or other judgments or beliefs

* Grandma doesn’t approve of her grandchildren getting tattoos.

What Insiders Know
The Pilot Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was a “notable” (worth noticing; impressive and interesting) American “aviator” (pilot), in large part because of her “race” (skin color and other traits of people originally from a particular area). She was the first African American and Native American woman to “hold” (have) a “pilot’s license” (official permission to fly an airplane, certifying that one is qualified to do so).

Coleman was born in Texas in 1892. When she was in her 20s, she heard stories from aviators returning home from World War II. She wanted to “follow in their footsteps” (do what someone else has done), but no “flight schools” (institutions where people study in order to become pilots) would “train” (teach) her, so she decided to “go overseas” (go to another country). She went to Paris, France, to earn her pilot’s license. When she returned to the United States, she received a lot of “media attention” (news reports written about her in newspapers and radio stories) for what she had done. “Nevertheless” (in spite of this; even though this was true), she could not find a U.S. flight school that would give her additional training, so she went back to Europe.

When she came back to the United States, she put on many aviation shows with “daredevil maneuvers” (very dangerous, tricky moves that require a lot of skill and bravery). Known as “Queen Bess,” she built a “reputation” (how one is viewed by others) as a highly skilled pilot, although she once broke bones during an “airshow” (an event where airplanes are flown above the audience for entertainment) in Los Angeles, California.

In 1926, Coleman’s “life was cut short” (she didn’t live as long as expected) by an accident when a plane “malfunctioned” (stopped working as it should). She was only 34 years old when she died.