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0918 Preparing for a Disaster

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 918 – Preparing for a Disaster.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 918. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at ESLPod.com. If you do, you can become a member of ESL Podcast and help support us.

This episode is a dialogue between Lilly and Paul about getting ready for something disastrous, something very bad that might happen in the future. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Lilly: Quick, we need to go get some supplies. I was listening to talk radio on my way home from work, and this guy was on talking about how doomsday is coming and we need to prepare.

Paul: Oh no, not this again. You have to stop listening to that garbage on the radio. Listen, there is no impending doom, and this guy was just crying wolf.

Lilly: No, he wasn’t. He had proof that the world is going to end soon and he was sounding the alarm. Those people killed in the storm last week? They were the canaries in the coal mine. Disaster is coming!

Paul: Let me be the voice of reason for a minute. How many times have you believed that the world was ending in the past few years?

Lilly: A few times, but this is for real. There’ll be a disruption of services, a run on food and water, and chaos!

Paul: Let me ask you this: if the world is ending, aren’t we all just going to die?

Lilly: Not if you have an underground bunker. Start digging!

[end of dialogue]

Lilly begins our dialogue by saying to Paul, “Quick” – meaning do this quickly – “we need to go get some supplies.” “Supplies” are materials you use to do something else. Lilly says, “I was listening to talk radio on my way home from work and this guy” – this man – “was on” – was on the radio – “talking about how doomsday is coming and we need to prepare.” So, Lilly was driving home from work, and she was listening to “talk radio.” “Talk radio” refers to radio programs that don't have music but have people who are being interviewed or people who are talking, usually giving their opinions about something. In the United States, in the last 30 years or so, talk radio has become very popular, especially for political people – people who have strong political opinions, whether they're conservative or liberal. You can find a talk radio station that has mostly people who are on there talking about their political views. Many people associate talk radio, also, with not being very reliable, with having people on there who have very extreme views – views or opinions about things that are not ones that the majority of people would have.

This is what has happened to Lilly. She was listening to talk radio and some man, some guy, was on the radio – was on the radio program – talking about “doomsday.” “Doomsday” (doomsday) is the word we give for the day that the world will end. At some point in our future, something bad will happen and we will all die – the entire human race will die. That will be the “doomsday.” “Doom” (doom) is something bad – death, destruction.

Paul says, “Oh no, not this again.” That expression, “not this again,” means or implies that this is not the first time that Lilly has had this idea or has had a strange idea. Paul says, “You have to stop listening to that garbage on the radio.” “Garbage” (garbage) normally refers to something that is worthless, something that has no value. We might also use the word “trash.” In other English-speaking countries, they use the term “rubbish” (rubbish). In the U.S., we use more commonly the word “garbage.” Paul is referring here to things that are not worth listening to. He's talking about the garbage on the radio. He means that the people who are on there are idiots, that they're saying stupid things. Paul says, “Listen, there is no impending doom, and this guy was just crying wolf.” “Impending” (impending) is something that will happen soon, usually something negative that will happen soon. Paul is saying that there is no impending doom. There is nothing bad that is about to happen.

He says, “This guy was just crying wolf.” The expression “to cry (cry) wolf (wolf)” refers to an old story about the boy who cried wolf. This might even be one of the stories from Aesop, from the ancient world, from ancient Greece. “To cry wolf” means to refer to or to say that something bad is going to happen as a joke, as a trick. If you cry wolf, you are saying something bad is going to happen even when you know that it's not true.

In the original story, the boy was out to protect the sheep and other animals. If the boy saw a wolf, he was supposed to yell very loudly – to cry, which means here to yell very loudly – “Wolf!” so that all of the other adults would come and kill the wolf and protect the sheep. Well, the boy was lonely and wanted some attention. So, he cried wolf even though there was no wolf, and of course all the people came running. Well, he did this once. He did it twice. The third time he did it, there really was a wolf, but no one believed him – no one came running – because he had already cried wolf twice and it was just a joke. It was something that wasn't true.

The general idea, then, of this expression is that if you say something is true and it’s not, and you keep doing that, eventually people will not believe you. That's what Paul is saying that the guy on talk radio is doing. He's crying wolf. He's saying something bad will happen when he knows that there is nothing bad that will happen.

Lilly says, “No, he wasn't. He had proof that the world is going to end soon.” “Proof” (proof) is evidence. It's something that tells you something is true. Lilly says the man “was sounding the alarm.” “To sound the alarm” means to warn people about some danger, about some problem. Lilly says, “Those people killed in the storm last week? They were the canaries in the coal mine.”

This is another expression that refers to an old concept. A “canary” is a kind of bird. “Coal” (coal) is a very hard, black substance that you dig out of the ground to use as fuel, to use for energy. A “mine” (mine) is when you dig holes in the ground to get coal or some other object that is inside of the earth. In the old days, they used to put a canary inside of a coal mine, because if the canary smelled gas the canary would die, and that would be an early indicator that there was a problem – that there was gas and that the men who were working in the coal mine should leave. So, the canary was like a warning sign, a warning system that told you that there was a problem.

Lilly is saying that the people who were killed in this storm in the story last week were canaries in the coal mine. They were indicating that there was a greater danger to the rest of us. She says, “Disaster is coming.” “Disaster” is something horrible, something very bad that is going to hurt or kill many people. Sometimes, we use disaster to refer to something that's really bad – a very bad situation or even a very bad movie. If you say, “That movie was a disaster,” you mean it was a very poorly made movie, not a good movie at all.

Paul says, “Let me be the voice of reason for a minute.” “The voice of reason” is the person who is calm, the person who is logical. Paul says, “How many times have you believed that the world was ending in the past few years?” Paul is asking Lilly how many times she has had this idea that the world was going to end soon. Lilly says, “A few times, but this is for real.” This is actually going to happen, she says.

Lilly says that there will be “a disruption of services, a run on food and water, and chaos.” A “disruption” (disruption) is an interruption in something, a temporary stop of something. In this case, it will be a disruption of services, which might refer to electricity, or water, or transportation – anything required for us to survive. The expression “a run on something” refers to a situation where everyone goes out and tries to buy the same kind of thing. So, if there's going to be a lot of rain, there might be a run on umbrellas. “Umbrellas” are things we use to protect ourselves from the rain. Everyone is going to go out and try to buy umbrellas. There's going to be a run on umbrellas. “Chaos” (chaos) is a general word referring to lack of order. We might even use the word “disorder,” a situation where no one is in control, where the world is without any sort of authority, everything is going wrong, and there is no one there to take care of it.

Paul says, “Let me ask you this: if the world is ending, aren't we all just going to die?” Paul is asking why they should do anything if the world is going to end. There's nothing we can do to stop it. Lilly, however, doesn't agree. She says, “Not if you have an underground bunker.” Lilly is saying that we won't die if we dig a big hole in the ground and hide under the ground in a protected room. That's what an “underground bunker” (bunker) is. Lilly ends by saying, “Start digging!” “To dig” (dig) means to use usually a tool called a “shovel” that removes dirt and allows you to create a hole in the ground. Lilly is telling Paul to start digging into the ground so they can create this underground bunker. There are actually people in the United States who believe that they have to have that kind of protection, and they make their own bunkers. I don't know anyone personally who's done that, but I have read stories about it and heard about it on talk radio.

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

[start of dialogue]

Lilly: Quick, we need to go get some supplies. I was listening to talk radio on my way home from work, and this guy was on talking about how doomsday is coming and we need to prepare.

Paul: Oh no, not this again. You have to stop listening to that garbage on the radio. Listen, there is no impending doom, and this guy was just crying wolf.

Lilly: No, he wasn’t. He had proof that the world is going to end soon and he was sounding the alarm. Those people killed in the storm last week? They were the canaries in the coal mine. Disaster is coming!

Paul: Let me be the voice of reason for a minute. How many times have you believed that the world was ending in the past few years?

Lilly: A few times, but this is for real. There’ll be a disruption of services, a run on food and water, and chaos!

Paul: Let me ask you this: if the world is ending, aren’t we all just going to die?

Lilly: Not if you have an underground bunker. Start digging!

[end of dialogue]

I am the voice of ESL Podcast, but our scriptwriter is the voice of reason here at the Center for Educational Development. That is the wonderful Dr. Lucy Tse.

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

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
talk radio – radio programs where a host speaks with invited guests and listeners who call into the show to discuss certain topics

* What’s the best station for conservative talk radio in this area?

doomsday – the end of the world; Armageddon; a future time when everyone will die

* Thirty years ago, people thought nuclear weapons would cause doomsday, but now climate change seems more likely.

garbage – something that is worthless; something that has no value

* All of those ideas are garbage! Can’t you guys come up with any more interesting proposals?

impending – happening soon and bringing negative consequences

* Everyone is nervous about the impending storm.

to cry wolf – to say that something bad is going to happen when it is not true, often to play a joke or trick another person, based on a traditional story about a boy who was protecting sheep and told people in the village that a wolf was coming, just to laugh at their reaction, but then when the wolf actually came nobody believed him

* Are we really in danger of losing the client, or are you just crying wolf?

proof – evidence; something that shows the truth of something

* Do you have any proof that the housecleaner stole your jewelry?

to sound the alarm – to warn people about some danger or problem, especially before most other people are aware of it

* If you suspect fraud, you have a responsibility to sound the alarm and let management know about it.

canary in the coal mine – an early indicator of a problem or a dangerous situation, based on how people used to lower canaries (small birds) into underground areas to test for dangerous air, so that if the bird died, they knew the area was not safe for humans

* The company decided to open one small office in southeast Asia as a canary in the coal mine to determine whether further international expansion would be a good idea.

disaster – a bad, dangerous, and uncontrollable situation, especially caused by natural forces like hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods

* The Carlsons have a suitcase filled with flashlights, a radio, batteries, canned food, and water, just so they can be prepared for any disasters.

voice of reason – a person who is calm, logical, and rational while speaking to other people who are panicked and not able to think clearly

* Whenever Trent becomes stressed out from school and work, he calls his father, who can always offer him a voice of reason.

for real – actually happening; not imaginary or pretend; reality

* Was that offer for real, or were they just teasing us?

disruption – an interruption; a temporary stop in some service; a brief stop in something

* When the tree fell, it knocked down a power line and caused a disruption in electric service to homes and businesses.

a run on – a situation where many people want to buy or have the same thing, more than the amount available

* Right before the storm, there was a run on flashlights, batteries, and bottled water.

chaos – disorder; an extreme lack or order and organization; a situation where things are very unpredictable and nobody is in control

* There’s so much chaos in this office, I don’t understand how you can get anything done.

underground bunker – a safe room below the earth’s surface, made with very strong walls and a locking door, that allows a person to live safely through any situation for a certain period of time

* Kevin built an underground bunker to protect his family in case there’s a major earthquake or a war.

to dig – to excavate; to use tools to move earth away from an area to create a hole in the ground

* How long did it take you to dig that hole and to plant that tree?

Comprehension Questions
1. What would happen during “a run on food and water”?
a) People wouldn’t have enough money to buy food and water.
b) People would buy all the food and water so stores wouldn’t have enough.
c) The price of food and water would increase very quickly.

2. When Lilly says, “Start digging,” what does she want Paul to do?
a) She wants him to help her create a safe place to stay during a disaster.
b) She wants him to stop arguing and start believing her.
c) She wants him to go away and stop questioning her beliefs.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
for real

The phrase “for real,” in this podcast, means actually happening, not imaginary or pretend: “When Jeremiah asked Bekka to marry him, she didn’t think it was for real.” The phrase “real life” means reality: “Falling in love is so beautiful in the movies, but it’s never like that in real life.” The phrase “get real” is used to tell another person to stop acting silly and take something seriously: “Do you really think anyone will buy your car for that much money? Get real!” Finally, the phrase “keep in real” means to behave honestly, not pretending to be different from how one really is: “High school students face a lot of peer pressure that makes it hard to keep it real.”

to dig

In this podcast, the verb “to dig” means to excavate, or to use tools to move earth away from an area to create a hole in the ground: “Ahmed spent last weekend digging holes for the fence posts.” The phrase “to dig it” is an older term that means to understand something and find it acceptable: “So that’s our plan. Can you dig it?” The phrase “to dig (one’s) heels in” means to be very stubborn and not do what other people want one to do: “The more her parents tried to get her to change her mind, the more she dug her heels in.” Finally, the phrase “to dig a hole for (oneself)” means to do or say the wrong thing and end up in a difficult situation: “Anyone who complains about a previous boss during a job interview is just digging a hole for himself.”

Culture Note
The Emergency Broadcast System

The Emergency Broadcast System (now officially known as the Emergency Alert System) is a system for “issuing” (sending) “warnings” (statements of bad things that might happen) to the “general public” (ordinary people; all people) in the United States during an emergency. The system was designed to be used in times of war, but it is more often used for “natural disasters” like “severe” (extreme; very strong) weather.

Most people are familiar with the Emergency Broadcast System because they have heard the “alerts” (notifications designed to get people’s attention) on the radio or seen them on TV. There is usually an unpleasant, “high-pitched” (with a high voice, like a soprano) “tone” (musical note). Then a voice makes the following announcement, or something similar:

This is a “test” (an attempt to try something and see if it is working correctly) of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. If this had been an “actual” (real) emergency, you would have been instructed “where to tune in” (which radio station or TV channel to visit) in your area for news and official information."

“Critics” (people who do not like something) sometimes argued that the Emergency Broadcast System was “ineffective” (not good at doing something) because it gave people a “false sense of security” (the incorrect belief that one is safe). They said that radio and television “broadcasters” (the people responsible for sharing radio and TV shows with the public) wouldn’t know what to do in an actual emergency, and instead needed greater training and more detailed instructions.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a