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0848 An Unscrupulous Partner

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 848: An Unscrupulous Partner

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 848. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Join us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod and follow us on Twitter at eslpod.

This episode is a story, not a dialog, about someone who has a partner who is not very honest. Let’s get started.

[start of story]

My friend Charles convinced me to go into business with him about a year ago. I wish I had had the benefit of hindsight to say “no.” I was too trusting and that was my downfall.

At first, everything was fine. We worked our butts off to get the business off the ground. But as soon as it looked like the business was going well, Charles turned on me. I had never been so deceived.

We never signed a formal partnership agreement. Since we were old friends, we relied on a verbal agreement that we would own the business 50-50. One day, out of the blue, Charles said that as the owner of the business, he had decided that my services were no longer needed. I told him he was crazy. I was co-owner and he couldn’t just fire me. He said that that was never the agreement and he was the sole owner.

And that is how I got cheated out of being co-owner of a successful business. My old friend Charles turned out to be unscrupulous. From now on, I’ll be watching my back and looking out for my own interests. No one will ever stab me in the back again!

[end of story]

Our story begins when I say, “My friend Charles convinced me” – persuaded me – “to go into business with him about a year ago.” “To go into business with” means to work together, usually as co-owners of a business. You both own the business. “I wish I had had the benefit of hindsight to say ‘no.’” “The benefit (benefit) of something” is the advantage of something, something that can be helpful in some way. What would be helpful here is “hindsight” (hindsight). “Hindsight” is the ability to look back at what happened, to know about something that happened in the past, and really understand it. Of course, in the real world, we don’t have the opportunity to go into the future and look back and that’s the origin of this expression. “The benefit of hindsight,” means if I had known then what I know now. We have another expression: “Hindsight is 20-20.” “20-20” is when you have perfect vision, when your eyes are working perfectly. Looking back at something, you can always understand and see it clearly, but, of course, when you make a mistake, you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen in the future. And that’s what happened to me in the story.

I say, “I was too trusting and that was my downfall.” “To be trusting” means to believe that another person is telling you the truth. You don’t demand any proof. You don’t ask for any evidence. You just say, “Oh, well, I can trust that person. He’s a truthful person.” I say that “I was too trusting and that” – being too trusting – “was my downfall.” A “downfall” – one word – is a reason why something fails. It’s the source of a problem, the reason why something goes bad.

“At first” – at the beginning – I say “everything was fine. We worked our butts off to get the business off the ground.” “To work your butt (butt) off” is an informal expression meaning to work very hard. You’re working so hard, you can’t work anymore. You’re very tired because you’re working so hard. “To get a business off the ground” – to get anything off the ground – means to get it started, to, in this case, start a business and make it successful. “As soon as it looked like the business was going well, however, Charles turned on me.” “To turn on someone” means to suddenly change your relationship or your attitude towards another person so that you begin to attack that other person. You begin to become mean or aggressive toward that person. That’s “to turn on someone” – to suddenly, after being perhaps, being friends with someone, become their enemy. The expression “turn on” actually has a couple of different meanings. Some of those are in our Learning Guide.

So, Charles and I started this business. It became successful and then Charles changed – he turned on me. I say that, “I had never been so deceived.” “To deceive” (deceive) means to lie to someone, not to be honest with someone. We also have the expression “to trick (trick) someone.” That’s to deceive them, to get them to believe something that isn’t true, usually, so that you have some sort of benefit, something good happens to you by lying to them.

I continue the story by saying that “Charles and I never signed a formal partnership agreement.” The word “formal” here just means official – on a piece of paper, typically. An “agreement” is when two people sign something, basically like a contract. It’s a formal legal document. “Partnership” refers to two people working together. So, when you have a business in the United States, it’s possible to form a legal partnership where the two of you sign an agreement, a piece of paper saying that you will work together and that you will split the company. You will divide the company in a certain way.

I say that Charles and I, since we were old friends, because we had been friends for many years, “relied on a verbal agreement.” “Verbal” (verbal) means the same as spoken, not written down, not written on a piece of paper. A “verbal agreement” is, of course, very difficult to try to do something with in the future since you could say, “Oh, I didn’t say that.” If you have a written document, you can actually look at the piece of paper and see what it says. The verbal agreement that Charles and I had was that we would own the business 50-50. “50-50” means 50% for him, 50% for me. We might also say “half and half.” We each own half of the business.

“One day,” I say, “out of the blue,” meaning unexpectedly and very suddenly, “Charles said that as the owner of the business, he had decided that my services were no longer needed.” In other words, Charles said that he was the owner of the business and that he no longer wanted me to work in the business. “I told him he was crazy. I was co-owner.” “Co- (co) owner” is someone who owns the business with you. This prefix “co-” is used when two people are working together, or two people have the same interest or the equal amount of interest in something. For example, we could talk about “co-workers.” These are people who work together. We could also talk about “co-authors” – two people who write a book together. That’s the prefix “co-” and how it’s used.

“I said that I was co-owner and Charles couldn’t just fire me.” He said – Charles – that “That was never the agreement and that he was the sole owner.” “Sole” (sole) means only. In this case, single, without anyone else. He’s the only owner. He said that he was the sole owner. “And that is how,” I say, “I got cheated out of being co-owner of a successful business.” “To get cheated” (cheated) out of something means that you are tricked so that you do not get what you are supposed to get. You are deceived in such a way that typically, you lose money or you lose something of value.

“My old friend Charles, turned out to be unscrupulous,” I say. “To be scrupulous” (scrupulous) can mean to be very careful about something. It could also mean to be too careful, to be too worried about things. But to be “unscrupulous” means to not be careful. But really, we use it to mean dishonest. “To be unscrupulous” means not to worry about what’s right or wrong, just to do things that are good for you. I say, “From now on” – from this point forward – “I’ll be watching my back.” “To watch your back means to protect yourself against other people, to be looking for dangers that other people might present to you.

I also say, “I will be looking out for my own interests.” “To look out for your own interests” means to do what is most beneficial to you, without caring about what happens to other people. Of course, that’s not a very good way to react to this situation, but that’s how I reacted in the story. I decide I’ll be looking out for my own interests. I won’t care about what happens to anyone else, just about what happens to me. I say, “No one will ever stab me in the back again.” “To stab” (stab) means to take a knife or a very sharp object and put it into someone’s body. “To stab someone in the back” means to hurt someone, to deceive someone in such a way that they didn’t see it coming. They didn’t realize what you were doing and suddenly they did. It doesn’t mean to actually kill someone with a knife, although it could. But it means, more commonly, to be deceived or cheated by another person, especially a person that you had trusted, and therefore didn’t expect to deceive you.

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

[start of story]

My friend Charles convinced me to go into business with him about a year ago. I wish I had had the benefit of hindsight to say “no.” I was too trusting and that was my downfall.

At first, everything was fine. We worked our butts off to get the business off the ground. But as soon as it looked like the business was going well, Charles turned on me. I had never been so deceived.

We never signed a formal partnership agreement. Since we were old friends, we relied on a verbal agreement that we would own the business 50-50. One day, out of the blue, Charles said that as the owner of the business, he had decided that my services were no longer needed. I told him he was crazy. I was co-owner and he couldn’t just fire me. He said that that was never the agreement and he was the sole owner.

And that is how I got cheated out of being co-owner of a successful business. My old friend Charles turned out to be unscrupulous. From now on, I’ll be watching my back and looking out for my own interests. No one will ever stab me in the back again!

[end of story]

Our scriptwriter who’s always honest and would never deceive you, works her butt off every week to give you the very best scripts on the Internet. Thank you, 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
the benefit of – the advantage of; something that can be helpful in some way

* Sure, anyone can become successful, but it helps to have the benefit of highly educated parents who make a lot of money.

hindsight – the ability to think about something that has happened in the past and truly understand it, including the advantage and disadvantages and the real reasons why something happened the way it did

* In hindsight, Jacques realizes he should never have dropped out of school, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

trusting – willing to believe what another person says without demanding proof or anything in writing; naive

* Raquel is too trusting. She invested $10,000 in her sister’s business without even asking to see the business plan or financial statements.

downfall – the reason why something fails; the source of a problem that leads to the end of something

* His generosity was his downfall and he died without even $100 in the bank, because he had given away all his money.

to work (one’s) butt off – to work very hard, to the point of exhaustion (being very tired)

* Evelyn worked her butt off in school and never imagined she would have so much trouble finding a job once she had earned her degree.

to get a business off the ground – to start a business and make it become successful so that it has customers and makes money

* How long did it take to get your bakery off the ground?

to turn on (someone) – to suddenly change one’s relationship or attitude toward another person so that one becomes aggressive and mean and begins to attack in some way

* The dog seemed friendly at first, but then he turned on Heather and bit her on the arm.

to deceive – to lie to someone; to trick someone; to not be honest or truthful

* Samuel deceived Shayla into believing that he was madly in love with her, but really he just wanted her money.

partnership agreement – a legal contract describing how two people share the ownership of a business or venture

* This partnership agreement shows that Hariyuki has 20% ownership of the business.

verbal agreement – an agreement that was spoken, but was not put into writing and does not have the same legal meaning or importance

* We had a verbal agreement that Xanthe would edit the novel, but not present it to publishers.

50-50 – half and half; with one person having 50% of something and another person having the other 50%

* Liam believes that a marriage won’t work if the husband and wife divide the work 50-50. It has to be more flexible than that.

out of the blue – unexpectedly and very suddenly; without knowing that something was going to happen

* It was a warm, sunny day when out of the blue a windstorm blew in.

co- – a prefix used to show that two things are working together or two people are sharing something, usually equally

* Do you socialize with your co-workers outside of the office?

sole – single; alone; without anyone else; the only

* Are you the sole author of this essay, or did someone help you write it?

to get cheated out of (something) – to be tricked so that one does not get what one deserves or should have

* Zach felt that he got cheated out of his inheritance when his father remarried.

unscrupulous – unethical and dishonest, without demonstrating good values; not doing what is right or moral

* Clarke isn’t very truthful and is the most unscrupulous person I know!

to watch (someone’s) back – to protect another person; to look out for hidden dangers that another person might not be aware of

* The soldiers quickly learned to watch each other’s back.

to look out for (one’s) own interests – to do what will have the most benefit for oneself, without caring about how it will affect others

* I’m sorry if this decision will create problems for you, but I have to start looking out for my own interests.

to stab (one) in the back – to do something that tricks, deceives, and harms or hurts another person, especially in a surprising, unexpected way

* When Pierre starting dating his brother’s ex-girlfriend, his brother accused him of having stabbed him in the back.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does he mean when he says, “we worked our butts off to get the business off the ground”?
a) They did a lot of exercise and lost a lot of weight.
b) They made a huge effort to help the business become successful.
c) They were able to become the biggest business in the industry.

2. When Charles said something “out of the blue,” it was:
a) At a time when he was feeling very depressed.
b) Extremely profitable for the business.
c) Very unexpected, sudden and surprising.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to turn on (someone)

The phrase “to turn on (someone),” in this podcast, means to suddenly change one’s relationship or attitude toward another person so that one becomes aggressive and mean and begins to attack in some way: “Kimberly acted like my best friend, but then she turned on me and stole my boyfriend.” The phrase “to turn (someone) on to (something)” means to make someone become interested in something: “Uncle Wallace turned him onto bird watching.” Finally, the phrase “to turn (someone) off of (something)” means to make someone decide against something or decide not to have or do something: “Learning about all the bacteria is raw fish turned us off of eating sushi.”

co-

In this podcast, the prefix “co-” is used to show that two things are working together or two people are sharing something, usually equally: “Does the co-pilot have as much training and experience as the main pilot?” A “co-star” is one of two actors who share leading roles in a movie: “It must be hard to be a co-star with such a famous actress.” A “co-op” refers to a “cooperative,” or a business that is owned by all the people who work and/or shop there: “Kylie prefers to shop at the local co-op instead of a big chain grocery store.” Finally, as a verb, to “co-opt” means to persuade someone do something, especially if he or she doesn’t really want to do it: “How did they co-opt you into volunteering to be the committee chairperson?”

Culture Note
Cross-Promotions

A “cross-promotion” is a type of marketing where two products are “promoted” (marketed) together. The projects are usually “related” (connected in some way) to each other, but not always.

“Fast food restaurants” (restaurants that sell inexpensive food that is not very healthy) often participate in cross-promotions with movies. “Kids meals” (food packaged and sold especially for young children) that come with a free toy often have a movie “tie-in” (connection), so that the toy might be a “figurine” (a small, plastic doll) of a character from the movie.

“Cereals” (foods eaten for breakfast in a bowl with cold milk), especially children’s cereals, are often marketed through cross-promotions with movies and toys. The cereal box might contain a smaller version of a larger, more expensive toy. Or people might be able to collect the “UPC symbol” (the rectangle with many vertical black lines that are scanned by a computer to identify the item and its price) from a certain number of cereal boxes to receive an inexpensive or free “accessory” (something that accompanies something else) to a larger, more expensive toy. These cross-promotions are designed to increase sales of the cereals and of the toys.

Many mobile phone providers are engaged in cross-promotions with popular musicians and bands. The cell phone companies might advertise that they have an “exclusive” (not sold by anyone else) “ringtone” (the melody a phone plays when someone calls) by a particular “artist” (musician). These types of cross-promotion might encourage consumers to use a particular cell phone company’s services and to buy a particular musician’s “albums” (collections of music).

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c