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0765 Annulling a Marriage

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 765: Annulling a Marriage.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 765. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Hey, It’s a new song!

Go to our website, which is not new, at eslpod.com. Become a member, download a Learning Guide, learn English. It’s just that simple.

This episode is a dialogue about two people who are going to end their marriage, but they’re not getting a divorce. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Courtney: Did you hear? Kate and Christopher are trying to annul their marriage.

Ray: What?! They’ve only been married for two months! What brought this on?

Courtney: I have no idea. Neither of them is underage or bigamists and they married of their own free will, so I don’t know how they can ask for an annulment.

Ray: I’ve heard that you can get an annulment if there’s some kind of fraud. Maybe they’re asking for the annulment on those grounds.

Courtney: Maybe. I wish I knew more. Ooh, could they be related by blood and didn’t know it? It’s sounding more and more like a soap opera.

Ray: I suppose we shouldn’t speculate. It’s sad when any marriage ends, even if it only lasted two months. Something must be really, really wrong.

Courtney: Or else…

Ray: Or else, what?

Courtney: Or else, Christopher finally figured out what a witch Kate is.

Ray: Oh, somebody’s a little catty today. Do I detect some jealousy here?

Courtney: Me? Jealous of Kate? Forget it! I’ve known her for years and I just wouldn’t wish her on my worst enemy!

[end of dialogue]

Courtney begins our dialogue by saying, “Did you hear? Kate and Christopher are trying to annul their marriage.” “To annul” (annul) means to end some sort of agreement or contract between two people; you’re saying that there was some problem with the contract, that something went wrong and that the agreement or contract should never have been made to begin with. It was, in some ways, flawed; there was a problem with it from the very beginning. Well, marriage is a kind of legal contract. “To annul a marriage” means to end a marriage not because you are getting a divorce. What you are saying is that the marriage was never valid, it was never correctly done; there was some problem that prevented it from being a real, valid, legal marriage. In the United States, you may know, when you get married you can get married by someone from the government or you can get married in a religious ceremony, which also makes you legally married. So, you can have a religious and public wedding all at one time.

There are three ways you can end a marriage. You can get a divorce, this is the most common way; this says I was married but I no longer want to be married. You have to get a divorce from the government; a religious organization cannot give you a divorce. You can have a marriage annulled. When you have a marriage annulled you’re saying that there was some problem with the marriage, that it was never really a legal marriage. You can also end your marriage by killing your husband or wife. I believe this is sometimes known as an “Italian divorce,” although I haven’t tried it!

Kate and Christopher are going to annul their marriage, not get a divorce – and I guess not kill each other! Ray says, “What?! They’ve only been married for two months!” Imagine two people getting married and then ending their marriage in only two months. That would never happen, right?! Ray says, “What brought this on?” The expression “What brought this on?” means you don’t understand why something has happened. It’s very unexpected, and you’re asking why. Why did this happen?

Courtney says, “I have no idea (I don’t know). Neither of them is underage.” “To be underage” means that you are too young to do something. In the United States, you must be 21 years old to drink alcohol in a bar. If you try to drink when you are less than that you are considered underage; you’re not old enough. To be underage to get married depends on the state; in some states it’s 18 without getting permission from your parents. In some states it might be 16, it depends on where you live. Marriage laws are taken care of or are made by each individual state, so there are 50 different types of laws, although most of them are similar. Being underage, however, could mean that the marriage wasn’t legal and therefore you could annul it, you could say it never existed. Courtney says that neither of them is underage or is, I think she means to say, a bigamist. A “bigamist” (bigamist) is someone who is illegally married to more than one person. So, you have a wife in New York and then you have another wife in London or another wife in Los Angeles. That would be being a bigamist. It’s called “bigamy,” and it’s against the law in the United States. Courtney says that Kate and Christopher married of their own free will. The expression “of your own free will” (will) means that no one forced you to do it, it was your choice. She says, “I don’t know how they can ask for an annulment.” You can only get an annulment if certain conditions exist, otherwise you have to get a regular divorce.

Ray says, “I’ve heard that you can get an annulment if there’s some kind of fraud.” “Fraud” (fraud) is when you lie or mislead other people, usually to get some sort of money from them. Ray says, “Maybe they’re asking for an annulment on those grounds.” “On (some) grounds” means for some reason. “Grounds” is a reason, usually a legal reason for something. You say, “I have grounds for divorce,” meaning I have legal reasons why I can divorce you, because you stole my money or you cheated on me, you went and had some relationship with another man or another woman. That would be grounds for divorce.

Courtney says, “Maybe. I wish I knew more. Ooh, could they be related by blood and didn’t know it?” “To be related by blood” means that you are part of the same family. You’re part of the same family we would say “through birth,” not marriage. So for example you have an aunt, your mother’s sister has a boy, and you’re a girl, the two of you are then called “first cousins.” Well, you can’t get married because you’re related to each other by blood. You can also be related to someone by marriage. I would call my father’s brother’s wife my aunt – my uncle’s wife would be my aunt, but she’s my aunt by marriage, not by blood. I’m not genetically related to her. If two people are related by blood, especially if they’re first cousins, they are not allowed to get married.

Courtney says, “It’s sounding more and more like a soap opera.” A “soap opera” is a very dramatic television show, usually that is on every day with the same group of characters. In many countries, soap operas only last a couple of months. In the United States, soap operas can last years and years; every day you’re seeing these characters over and over again. Soap operas often have sort of crazy, weird stories, and when someone says, “this is like a soap opera,” they mean that things are happening that aren’t normal, that seem rather unusual or odd.

Ray then says, “I suppose we shouldn’t speculate.” “To speculate” (speculate) means to say what you think might be true even if you’re just guessing. You don’t really know, you’re guessing what might be true. He says, “It’s sad when any marriage ends, even if it lasted only two months. Something must be really, really wrong.” Courtney then says, “Or else…” Ray says, “Or else, what?” Courtney is saying there may be another reason, and Ray is asking what do you mean. What reason? Courtney says, “Or else, Christopher finally figured out (finally realized) what a witch Kate is.” A “witch” (witch), which is pronounced just like another word spelled different: (which) – a “witch” is a very rude, negative way of describing a woman that you don’t like, usually because she’s mean or unpleasant. Some people use another word – a vulgar word similar to “witch,” sounds like “witch” but starts with a “b” instead of a “w,” you should never, ever use that word in any circumstances I think, although people do use it. But a “witch” would be describing a woman who you don’t like, who you think is mean.

Ray says, “Oh, somebody’s a little catty today.” “To be catty” (catty) means that you are saying mean things about other people; you are gossiping about them; you are saying things about what they did in a critical way. It’s sometimes used to describe a woman or a girl talking negatively about another woman or another girl, often somebody who they don’t like. Ray says, “Do I detect some jealousy here?” “To detect” (detect) means to observe something that is otherwise difficult to see. “I’m detecting some jealousy.” “Jealousy” is when you want something that someone else has, that you want what they have and you’re mad at them because they have it and you don’t. So in this case, Courtney might be jealous of Kate because Kate has something that she wants; she perhaps likes Christopher.

Courtney says, “Me? Jealous of Kate? Forget it!” meaning no way. It’s an informal way of saying that you are completely in disagreement with what the other person said, they’re completely wrong. “Forget it! I’ve known Kate for years and I just wouldn’t wish her on my worst enemy!” “To wish (someone or something) on your worst enemy” is a phrase used when you are talking about a person or a thing that you really don’t like, and you wouldn’t want anyone else to have to, for example, spend time with that person or experience this certain thing. Your “worst enemy” would be the person you hated the most. So this other person is so bad or this other thing is so terrible that you wouldn’t even want someone that you hate to have to be with that person or experience that thing. “I wouldn’t wish her (Kate) on my worst enemy,” I wouldn’t want anyone to be with her because she’s such a terrible person, that’s what Courtney is saying.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Courtney: Did you hear? Kate and Christopher are trying to annul their marriage.

Ray: What?! They’ve only been married for two months! What brought this on?

Courtney: I have no idea. Neither of them is underage or bigamists and they married of their own free will, so I don’t know how they can ask for an annulment.

Ray: I’ve heard that you can get an annulment if there’s some kind of fraud. Maybe they’re asking for the annulment on those grounds.

Courtney: Maybe. I wish I knew more. Ooh, could they be related by blood and didn’t know it? It’s sounding more and more like a soap opera.

Ray: I suppose we shouldn’t speculate. It’s sad when any marriage ends, even if it only lasted two months. Something must be really, really wrong.

Courtney: Or else…

Ray: Or else, what?

Courtney: Or else, Christopher finally figured out what a witch Kate is.

Ray: Oh, somebody’s a little catty today. Do I detect some jealousy here?

Courtney: Me? Jealous of Kate? Forget it! I’ve known her for years and I just wouldn’t wish her on my worst enemy!

[end of dialogue]

There’s no need to speculate on who our wonderful scriptwriter is. I’ll tell you her name: Dr. Lucy Tse.

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

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to annul a marriage – to legally end a marriage as if it had never been valid or had never existed

* When Ingrid found out that her husband had another wife, she immediately asked her lawyer to help her annul her marriage.

What brought this on? – a question asked when one does not understand why something has happened, believes it is very unexpected, and wants an explanation of what led to that situation

* I thought Jun liked school, but apparently he’s dropping out of college. What brought this on?

underage – less than 18 years old; too young to legally be considered an adult

* It’s illegal to sell cigarettes to underage teenagers.

bigamist – someone who is illegally married to two people at the same time

* None of us ever suspected that Aaron was a bigamist. We were shocked to learn that he had another wife on the other side of the country!

of (one’s) own free will – by choice, without being forced or pressured to do something by another person

* Suzanne shaved off her hair of her own free will, and now she has to deal with the consequences.

fraud – the act of lying or misleading other people to get money or some other benefit

* If someone calls you and asks for your bank account number or social security number, it is a clear example of fraud, so don’t provide any information.

on (some) grounds – for those reasons; on that basis

* Miller is suing his employer for $1 million on the grounds of discrimination.

related by blood – part of the same family through birth, not through marriage or adoption; with common (shared) ancestors (parents, grandparents, etc.)

* Charlene says she’s related by blood to the Prince of Wales.

soap opera – a very dramatic television show with the same group of characters appearing each day, often about romantic relationships, unusual illnesses, and other dramatic stories

* Maggie has been married six times. Her life seems like a soap opera!

to speculate – to say what one thinks might be true, even though one is really guessing and does not have all the necessary information

* If I had to speculate, I’d say he was fired for always coming to work late.

witch – a rude word for a woman whom one does not like, usually because she is mean and unpleasant

* Stop being such a witch! Can’t you just be nice and friendly for a change?

catty – saying mean things about other people, especially gossiping in a mean way

* Beatriz is so catty, always pretending to be Perry’s friend but then saying bad things about him when he isn’t there.

to detect – to observe something that is hidden or difficult to see or realize

* When Dynee detected sudden changes in her son’s behavior, she went to talk to his teacher.

jealousy – feelings of anger, sadness, and dissatisfaction because another person has what one wants

* Troy’s jealousy toward his brother keeps them from having a good relationship.

forget it – no way; an informal phrase used to strongly object to what another person has said because one thinks it is wrong or incorrect

* - Did you use my tools without asking me?

* - Forget it! I would never do anything like!

to wish (someone/something) on (one’s) worst enemy – a phrase used when talking about a person or thing that one strongly dislikes, meaning that one wouldn’t want to make anybody spend time with that person or thing because he/she/it is so unpleasant

* That was the most boring presentation I’ve ever listened to! I wouldn’t wish that speaker on my worst enemy!

Comprehension Questions
1. What do Kate and Christopher want to do?
a) They want to get married.
b) They want to end their marriage.
c) They want to have children.

2. What is Ray’s explanation for Courtney’s dislike of Kate?
a) He thinks she likes Christopher.
b) He thinks she hates Kate’s cat.
c) He thinks she and Kate are enemies.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
of (one’s) own free will

The phrase “of (one’s) own free will,” in this podcast, means by choice, without being forced or pressured to do something by another person: “Why would anyone wear that ugly shirt of their own free will?” The phase “at will” means whenever and however a person wants, even without an explanation: “Can employees quit at will, or do they have to give two weeks’ notice?” The word “will” can refer to a person’s strong desire to do something: “Do you think he has the political will to follow through on his campaign promises?” Finally, the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is used to encourage others, meaning that if one wants something enough, one will find a way to make it happen: “Nobody believed her business would succeed, but she proved that where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

on (some) grounds

In this podcast, the phrase “on those grounds” means for those reasons or on that basis: “The company has decided to cancel your contract on the grounds of repeated delays.” The word “ground” refers to land or an area, and can be used in the plural to refer to an area used for a specific purpose. For example, “dumping grounds” are a place where garbage is left: “Factories can’t use nearby rivers as dumping grounds for their waste.” The phrase “middle ground” refers to the concepts that disagreeing parties can agree on: “They’re working with a mediator to try to find some middle ground.” Finally, the phrase “stomping ground” refers to a place where someone likes to go and feels comfortable, usually because one is very familiar with it, maybe since childhood: “He enjoys going back to the town where he grew up and exploring his old stomping ground.”

Culture Note
Celebrity Annulments

“Celebrities” (famous athletes, musicians, actors, etc.) have a “reputation” (the way someone is known or thought of) for entering very short marriages that end in divorce or annulment shortly after the wedding. Here are some of the best-known annulments among American celebrities.

On November 30, 2011, “reality show” (a television show that records people’s daily lives) “star” (famous person) Kim Kardashian filed for an annulment of her marriage to “NBA” (National Basketball Association) star Kris Humphries after they had been married for just 72 days.

Actress Renee Zellweger and country-western singer Kenny Chesney “filed for” (applied for; officially submitted the paperwork for) an annulment just four months after they were married. Fraud was “cited” (referred to) as the reason for the annulment.

NBA star Dennis Rodman filed for annulment of his marriage to “model” (an attractive person who is photographed to advertise clothing and other products) and actress Carmen Electra just nine days after they were married in a “spur-of-the-moment” (done spontaneously, without planning) wedding in Las Vegas, Nevada. The papers cited fraud and an “unsound mind” (an inability to think rationally or clearly).

Pop singer Britney Spears filed for annulment even more quickly, just 55 hours after she married her “childhood sweetheart” (someone whom one loved while still a child or teenager in school), Jason Alexander, in Las Vegas. The papers stated that the reason for annulment was that she “‘lacked’ (did not have) understanding of her actions to the extent that she was ‘incapable of’ (not able to) agreeing to the marriage.”

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a