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0805 Listening to Shock Jocks

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 805: Listening to Shock Jocks.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 805. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California, home of Center for Educational Development – oh yeah, and Hollywood, and a few other things.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, download a Learning Guide right after you become a member of ESL Podcast.

This episode is about shock jocks. These are people on the radio who like to say surprising and unusual things. Let’s get started

[start of dialogue]

I like listening to the radio on my morning commute each day. This morning, though, my favorite DJs weren’t on the air.

………

Howard: Do you know what happened to the Kelvin and Ben show this morning?

Robin: Kelvin and Ben are both on suspension. The FCC fined the radio station. Apparently, Kelvin and Ben said some things on the air two weeks ago that the FCC found objectionable.

Howard: That’s crazy! Kelvin and Ben are shock jocks. They’re supposed to say things that are provocative. They work in a big market producing a morning show with a lot of competition. They have to push the envelope.

Robin: That may be true, but the FCC said that they went too far. On Mother’s Day, they invited several mothers to be in-studio guests for a segment. They cursed them, said sexually explicit things, and called them obscene names.

Howard: They did that?!

Robin: I guess you weren’t listening that morning.

Howard: No, I wasn’t. Now I’m truly shocked!

[end of dialogue]

This episode is about shock jocks. We actually talked about shock jocks back on English Café number 144, but we thought we’d talk a little more about it and some specific vocabulary that you might hear in relationship to shock jocks. What are shock jocks? Well, basically they are people who host a radio program, usually in the morning, and they attract interest – they get people to listen to them by saying very unusual things, perhaps expressing opinions that they know people will be offended by, people won’t like, people will be shocked by. “To be shocked by (something)” means to be surprised and perhaps angered at something. The word “jock” comes from “jockey.” A “disc jockey” – we usually just call them “DJs,” by their initials – are people who host radio music programs who decide what songs are going to be played. You can also have a DJ at a dance club; he or she is the person who is deciding which songs are going to be listened to and danced to. So, “DJ” means “disc jockey,” and the word “jock” in the expression “shock jock” comes from “jockey.” A “jockey,” you may also know, is the person who rides a horse in a race. I’m not sure why we call people who are on radio “disc jockeys” who play music, but we do.

So, after that long introduction now let’s get to our actual story and dialogue. It begins by me saying, “I like listening to the radio on my morning commute each day.” Your “commute” (commute) is the trip between your home and where you work. If you don’t work at home, if you work in an office or a school, a hospital, wherever, then you have a commute; you have a trip between your home and your work and then back again. “Commute” has a couple of meanings in English, however. Be sure to take a look at our Learning Guide for some of those.

I say that this morning my favorite DJs weren’t on the air. We mentioned “DJ” means “disc jockey.” “To be on the air” means to be on the television or to be on the radio; you can hear them on the radio or you can see them on the television. But this morning, my favorite DJs weren’t on the air; they weren’t on the radio, in this case. Instead, we hear a shock jock by the name of Howard, and Howard begins by saying, “Do you know what happened to the Kelvin and Ben show this morning?” The Kelvin and Ben show, we must guess, is another radio program.

Robin, the other DJ, says, “Kelvin and Ben are both on suspension.” “To be on suspension” means that you are not allowed to do something, usually it’s because you did something wrong or they are investigating the possibility that you did something wrong. “To be suspended” or “on suspension” means to be temporarily – for a short time – not able to do your job. Robin says, “The FCC fined the radio station.” “FCC” are the initials for the Federal Communications Commission. This is the U.S. government agency responsible for regulating television, radio, and other types of broadcast communication: the FCC. The FCC fined the radio station. “To fine” (fine) as a verb means to charge a fee when you do something wrong. So for example, if you go too fast on the freeway and the police officer catches you, he or she may give you a fine, money that you have to pay the government as punishment. “Apparently,” Robin continues, “Kelvin and Ben said some things on the air two weeks ago that the FCC found objectionable.” Something that is “objectionable” is something that other people might find very rude, very unpleasant, we might say “offensive,” it makes them angry.

Howard says, “That’s crazy! Kelvin and Ben are shock jocks. They’re supposed to say things that are provocative.” Something that is “provocative” is done in order to get a strong reaction from someone else. It’s done in order to make other people feel very strong emotions. “To be provocative” means to try to get the other person angry, although you could also use this word in a sexual sense. “To be sexually provocative” would be, say, to dress in a certain way that would cause other people to take a sexual interest in you. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about being provocative in the sense of making people angry or have a strong emotion.

Howard says that these shock jocks work in a big market. A “big market” here does not refer to the supermarket or a place where you might buy milk and cheese. Here, “market” refers to a group of people who might want to buy your product or service. So when you say it’s a “big market,” you mean it’s a large group of people who might be interested in what you are selling or what you have to offer. Sometimes when we talk about television and radio, it refers to the area where these people live; so Los Angeles is a big market, so is New York, so is Chicago. These are large cities, and they have a lot of people who live there, and who might be interested in listening to something or watching something. That’s what Howard means when he says that Kelvin and Ben work in a big market. They produce a morning show with a lot of competition. A “morning show” is just a radio or television program that’s on in the morning. I think these are popular in most countries throughout the world. When you’re driving and listening to the radio you have often two people who make jokes and think they’re very funny and play music; that’s a morning show. Howard says that these shock jocks have to push the envelope. The expression “to push the envelope” (envelope) means to do something more than what was expected, or to go beyond some sort of limit, to do something that hasn’t been done before.

Robin says, “That may be true, but the FCC said that they went too far.” They did too much of something. “To go too far” means to break the rules, to go beyond what you should do, but to do something wrong. It’s a negative thing. You’ve gone too far, you’ve been too extreme. “On Mother’s Day,” Robin says, “they invited several mothers to be in-studio guests for a segment.” “In-studio” means the people were in the same room as the DJs. Sometimes you will have DJs or television people interview someone who’s not in the same room; they may be in a different city or they may be calling by telephone from a different part of the country. Well, these were guests – these were people in the same room where they were recording the program. A “segment” is a part of a large show, a larger program. So we talk about segments on our English Café; the English Café is divided into different parts and we call those parts segments, or we could.

Robin says the shock jocks cursed the mothers. “To curse” (curse) means to use bad language, to swear, to be vulgar, to say bad words. The shock jocks also said sexually explicit things. Something that is “sexually explicit” is something that has a very obvious sexual meaning, usually used in such a way to shock or provoke someone, to offend someone. “Obscene” (obscene) is similar; anything that is obscene is something that is not acceptable by society. Something that is obscene could be sexually explicit also, but it could be just something that was very rude or offensive or disgusting, something that people don’t accept and don’t want to see or don’t want to listen to; that’s obscene. Sometimes we use this as an adjective to mean too much or extreme: “The housing prices in Los Angeles are obscene. You have to pay an obscene amount of money.” Well, we don’t mean anything sexual or even anything vulgar, we just mean it’s way too much. It’s so much that it can make you angry, even, that’s how much you have to pay for a house in Los Angeles – which is pretty true actually!

Howard says, “They did that?!” They did all of those terrible things? Robin says, “I guess you weren’t listening that morning.” Howard says, “No, I wasn’t. Now I’m truly shocked!” I’m really shocked.

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

[start of dialogue]

I like listening to the radio on my morning commute each day. This morning, though, my favorite DJs weren’t on the air.

………

Howard: Do you know what happened to the Kelvin and Ben show this morning?

Robin: Kelvin and Ben are both on suspension. The FCC fined the radio station. Apparently, Kelvin and Ben said some things on the air two weeks ago that the FCC found objectionable.

Howard: That’s crazy! Kelvin and Ben are shock jocks. They’re supposed to say things that are provocative. They work in a big market producing a morning show with a lot of competition. They have to push the envelope.

Robin: That may be true, but the FCC said that they went too far. On Mother’s Day, they invited several mothers to be in-studio guests for a segment. They cursed them, said sexually explicit things, and called them obscene names.

Howard: They did that?!

Robin: I guess you weren’t listening that morning.

Howard: No, I wasn’t. Now I’m truly shocked!

[end of dialogue]

We hope our scripts are never objectionable, certainly never obscene. I don’t think they will ever be that way, because they’re written by the wonderful writer, 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
commute – the trip between one’s home and workplace

* Karen wants to move to an apartment in the city so she won’t have such a long commute.

DJ – disc jockey; a person whose job is to host a radio program, decide which songs will be played, and speak about interesting, informative, or humorous topics

* I wish the DJ would announce the name of the band before playing a song.

on the air – in a radio or television broadcast; being heard over the radio or seen on television

* The reporter said our interview would be on the air at 11:15.

on suspension – temporarily not allowed to do something, often during an investigation and/or as a punishment

* The player is on suspension for his bad behavior during last week’s game.

FCC – Federal Communications Commission; the U.S. government agency responsible for regulating communication, especially through radio, TV, and satellite

* The FCC has a list of words that are not allowed on TV shows.

to fine – to charge a fee as punishment; to make someone pay an amount of money as a punishment or negative consequence of one’s actions

* The library fined us more than $10 in late fees last year.

objectionable – something that other people believe is offensive, unlikable, rude, or unpleasant

* Some people think the video is really funny, but other people think it is objectionable.

shock jock – a person who hosts a radio show and attracts interest by expressing opinions that he or she knows will upset and offend other people

* Did you hear that shock jock saying that all women should stay at home to take care of their kids?

provocative – done to get a strong reaction in others; designed to make other people react strongly and feel strong emotions

* People with large signs stood in front of the art gallery to protest the provocative artwork.

big market – a large group of potential customers for a product

* There’s a new big market for tablet devices that didn’t even exist a few years ago

morning show – a radio or television show that plays early in the morning, when people are waking up, getting ready for work, and going to the office, usually designed to entertain people and tell them the most important news

* The morning show and a cup of coffee help Ricardo wake up each day.

to push the envelope – to do more than what is expected; to push past the limits of something to do something creative or new

* If we want our project to succeed, we’ll need to push the envelope.

to go too far – to do too much of something and go beyond the limits or break the rules so that one gets in trouble in some way

* I know you’re worried about your daughter, but you really went too far when you read her diary.

in-studio – on set; at the place where a radio show, TV show, or movie is produced

* Our in-studio professionals will help you apply makeup for the interview, so don’t worry about doing it yourself.

segment – one part of a larger show, especially a part that is common or occurs frequently

* The newscast is my favorite segment of the comedy show Saturday Night Live.

to curse – to swear; to use profanity or vulgar language; to say bad words

* Ethan washed his son’s mouth with soapy water as a punishment for cursing.

sexually explicit – with direct and obvious sexual meaning, especially when used in an unwanted or offensive way

* Those sexually explicit photographs would be inappropriate in any office environment.

obscene – indecent; not acceptable in society; very rude, offensive, and disgusting

* Look at those men walking into the restaurant without wearing pants! It’s obscene!

Comprehension Questions
1. What happened to Kelvin and Ben?
a) They were arrested and had to go to jail.
b) They were fired and had to look for new jobs.
c) They were temporarily removed from their jobs.

2. What did Howard mean when he said, “They have to push the envelope”?
a) They have to go beyond normal limits and boundaries.
b) They have to send letters to all their listeners.
c) They have to find a way to make more money.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
commute

The word “commute,” in this podcast, means the trip between one’s home and workplace: “Normally, Trent’s commute is about 20 minutes, but if he leaves during rush hour, it can take more than an hour.” The word can also be used as a verb: “Do you commute by car or by bus?” The verb “to telecommute” means to work at a location other than the office, often from a home: “Francine telecommutes from home and comes into the office only about once a week.” Finally when talking about the law, the phrase “to commute a sentence” means to reduce the punishment for a criminal, usually by reducing the amount of time he or she must stay in jail: “Many people criticized the governor’s decision to commute the murderer’s sentence from 30 years to 10 years.”

to go too far

In this podcast, the phrase “to go too far” means to do too much of something and go beyond the limits or break the rules so that one gets in trouble in some way: “Normally, Leila’s jokes are pretty funny, but this time she went too far.” The phrase “to get as far as (doing something)” describes finishing part of a project or process, but then stopping: “They got as far as picking out rings and a wedding dress before they got in a big fight and decided to cancel the wedding.” Finally, the phrase “to go so far as (to do/say something)” means to do or say something that is shocking or extreme: “I don’t like the new policy, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is unfair.”

Culture Note
Infamous Shock Jocks

America’s “airwaves” (radio stations) are filled with many DJs, but the “shock jocks” tend to get “the lion’s share” (most) of listeners’ attention. Their humor is designed to “shock” (surprise in a negative way) and offend others, primarily by focusing on topics like sex and “toilet humor” (jokes about going to the bathroom).

The most “infamous” (famous in a bad way) shock jock is probably Howard Stern. He has done and said many things to offend others. For example, in 1995, just a few days after the singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was murdered, Stern played her music “along with” (at the same time as) the sounds of gunfire and he said very negative things about Spanish-language music and Hispanic culture. For these and similar “shenanigans” (trouble-making behavior), radio stations that “aired” (broadcasted) his show paid about $2.5 million in FCC fines. Today, he continues to speak on the radio, but his shows are now on “satellite radio” which is “outside the domain of” (not covered by) the FCC.

In 2002, a pair of shock jocks known as Opie and Anthony used their radio show to create a contest for people to have sex in “noteworthy” (worth paying attention to) places. When a couple reported that they had had sex in a “cathedral” (a large church or place of worship), there was a public “outcry” (spoken anger or outrage). The show was canceled and the company that had aired the show had to pay a fine.

In 2004, two DJs in Portland, Oregon known as Marconi and Tiny played the “audio” (sounds) of a man’s murder while making jokes, laughing, and playing music. They “were fired” (lost their job) that day because of their “indecent” (obscene; socially unacceptable) show.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a