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1028 Describing Order and Sequence

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,028 – Describing Order and Sequence.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,028 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. Become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode that gives you a complete transcript of everything we say. If there’s something you didn’t understand, you can just look at the transcript. Go to our website for more information.

This episode is called “Describing Order and Sequence.” Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Patrick: Okay, your first task is to put all of these files in order.

Maya: Wow, there must be hundreds of files in this storeroom. How am I supposed to organize them?

Patrick: Create a basic filing system. Put things in sequence. If they’re labeled with dates, put them in chronological order. If they’re labeled with names, put them in alphabetical order by last name.

Maya: Okay, but what about this file? It’s labeled with a four-digit number, but it’s not a date.

Patrick: Those are case numbers. Put those in ascending or descending numeric order, whichever makes sense.

Maya: But this file has letters followed by numbers.

Patrick: Then put those in alphanumeric order, first by letter and then by number. Simple, right?

Maya: Yeah, but have you ever considered a more random filing system, something that embraces chaos?

Patrick: No, I haven’t. If I wanted chaos, I’d just go home to my 11 children!

[end of dialogue]

We begin our dialogue with Patrick saying to Maya, “Okay, your first task is to put all of these files in order.” The word “task” (task) is very commonly used in the business world to refer to some piece of work that has to be completed – some small job or some small project. Sometimes a project has a number of different tasks – a number of different steps or things that have to be done. Patrick is giving Maya a task. He’s telling her to “put all of these files in order.” “To put something in order” means to move them around so that they are logically arranged, so that they are organized.

For example, you can put things in alphabetical order. That would be starting with “A, B, C, D” in order according to the English alphabet. So, “B” comes before “D,” and “D” comes before “M,” and so forth. There are all sorts of ways you can organize something, of course. Patrick is telling Maya to put the files in order. Usually a “file” on a computer is an electronic document. However, in the old days when people used paper, files were things that you put papers into in order to organize them.

Maya says, “Wow, there must be hundreds of files in this storeroom.” A “storeroom” (storeroom) is another word for a “warehouse” (warehouse). A storeroom, or a warehouse, is basically a large room that you keep things in, that you store things in. “To store,” as a verb, means to put aside, to keep in a place until you’re ready to use it. Maya says there are hundreds of files, paper files, in this storeroom. So she asks Patrick, “How am I supposed to organize them?”

Patrick says, “Create a basic filing system.” A “filing system” would be some sort of logical, organized way that you store or keep either your paper or your digital files. “Digital files” are usually kept in folders. Just like we have paper folders, you also have digital folders, and that’s the word we would use in English to describe a place where you would collect a number of different kinds of files that were similar.

A “filing system,” then, is some way of organizing something. For example, for me, when I buy something, especially a piece of computer equipment or electronic equipment, I make a paper folder or I create a label, a name that I put on the folder, that says “Hardware: ” and then the name of the object, and then I put all of those together in my filing cabinet, which is a place where you keep paper files. That is my, or part of my, filing system.

Patrick tells Maya to “put things in sequence.” “Sequence” (sequence) is another word for order – usually it involves putting the earliest things before the latest things. Patrick says, “If they are labeled with dates, put them in chronological order.” “To label” something is to put a name on something, to provide basic information about something with what we would call a “tag” (tag) or a “sticker” (sticker). On a paper file, that would be a little piece of paper that goes on the folder or just words that you write on the folder itself to identify.

“Chronological order” refers to putting things in the earliest to latest sequence – that is, if you are putting things in chronological order, you would put 2010 before 2011, and 2011 would come before 2012. You would put January before March. Patrick says, “If they’re labeled with names, put them in alphabetical order by last name.” “Alphabetical order,” as we explained earlier, is when you put things in the order of, in this case, the English alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. Like that.

Maya says, “Okay, but what about this file? It’s labeled with a four-digit number, but it’s not a date.” A “digit” (digit) is one written number from zero to nine. So, what Maya is saying is that this particular file has four numbers. She could just say it’s labeled with “four numbers.” To say it’s labeled with a “four-digit number” means the same thing. A “digit” is, as I mentioned, in this case a number from zero to nine.

Patrick says, “Those are case numbers. Put those in ascending or descending numerical order, whichever makes sense.” “Numeric” (numeric) comes from the word “number.” So, “numeric order” would be putting things in order of the number that appears on them. “Ascending” (ascending) means putting the smallest numbers first, before the largest numbers, or the largest values after the smallest values.

So, if you have four objects – one is labeled “7,” one is labeled “15,” and one is labeled “25” – to put them in “ascending numeric order” would be to put the 7 before the 15 before the 25. The opposite would be “descending order.” “Descending (descending) order” is when you put the largest values first, the largest numbers first. So, in our example, it would be 25, 15, 7. That would be in descending order. “To ascend,” as a verb, means to go up; “to descend” means to go down.

Maya says “But this file has letters followed by numbers.” So, the file may be has something like “B-29” or “C748.” Patrick says, “Then put those in alphanumeric order, first, by letter and then by number. “Alphanumeric order” is used when you have both letters and numbers, or words and numbers together. “Alpha” refers to alphabetical. “Numeric,” of course, refers to numbers. So, “alphanumeric” would be first to put it in alphabetical order, and then you put it in numerical order.

So, for example, if you have “A29” and “A78,” if you’re putting them in ascending alphanumeric order you would put “A29” before “A78.” If you were putting them in descending alphanumeric order, you would put “A78” before A . . . what did I say? 29? Something like that.

Maya says, “Yeah, but have you ever considered a more random filing system, something that embraces chaos?” Maya, perhaps, is making a joke here. She asks Patrick if he’s ever considered a “random” (random) filing system. Something that is random is something that is unpredictable. It is based not on any sort of logic or order, but basically on chance or luck. Of course, that wouldn’t be any sort of system it all, if it were just based on luck or chance.

Maya is suggesting that Patrick have a random filing system that “embraces chaos.” “Chaos” (chaos) is the opposite of order. If you looked at my desk right now, for example, and I’m looking at it right now, it is chaos. There is no order. I have papers over here and papers over there. It drives my wife crazy – but enough about me.

To finish the dialogue, we will explain what Maya means by “embraces.” “To embrace” (embrace) here means to welcome something with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy, a lot of joy and happiness. Maya is suggesting that Patrick create a file system that would embrace chaos – that would be based on, if you will, chance.

Patrick says, “No, I haven’t. If I wanted chaos, I’d go home to my 11 children.” Patrick says that if he wants disorder, he can go home to his 11 children. If you have 11 children in one house, you would have a lot of chaos, a lot of disorder. I know, of course, because I come from a family of 11 children, and there was a lot of chaos when I was growing up.

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

[start of dialogue]

Patrick: Okay, your first task is to put all of these files in order.

Maya: Wow, there must be hundreds of files in this storeroom. How am I supposed to organize them?

Patrick: Create a basic filing system. Put things in sequence. If they’re labeled with dates, put them in chronological order. If they’re labeled with names, put them in alphabetical order by last name.

Maya: Okay, but what about this file? It’s labeled with a four-digit number, but it’s not a date.

Patrick: Those are case numbers. Put those in ascending or descending numeric order, whichever makes sense.

Maya: But this file has letters followed by numbers.

Patrick: Then put those in alphanumeric order, first by letter and then by number. Simple, right?

Maya: Yeah, but have you ever considered a more random filing system, something that embraces chaos?

Patrick: No, I haven’t. If I wanted chaos, I’d just go home to my 11 children!

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter, Lucy Tse, is the opposite of chaos. She is the most organized person at the Center for Educational Development – trust me. Thanks, Lucy.

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. This podcast is copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
task – job; project; some piece of work that must be completed

* One of the assistant’s tasks is to keep the copier and fax machine stocked with paper and ink.

to put (something) in order – to move things so that they are logically arranged and organized, making it easy to find specific items later

* Please put these bills and account statements in order for our records.

storeroom – warehouse; a large room used primarily for placing objects until they are needed in the future

* The storeroom is filled with extra inventory and office supplies.

filing system – a logical, organized way to store pieces of paper or digital files, grouping related items so that they can be found easily later

* In this filing system, pink folders are used for human resources, yellow folders are used for sales contracts, and blue folders are used for financial statements.

sequence – order, often with the earliest things first and the latest things last

* The police are interviewing witnesses to try to understand the sequence of events before the murder.

labeled – with a tag or sticker that identifies something, providing basic information about it

* Each of these folders is labeled with the patient’s name, gender, and date of birth.

chronological order – with the earliest things first and the most recent things last; ordered by date

* Telling stories is easy if you put the events in chronological order so that listeners can understand what happened first and what happened next.

alphabetical order – arranged like the letters of the alphabet, with items starting with A listed first, and items starting with Z listed last

* On the first day of school, the teacher asked the students to sit in alphabetical order by their last names.

digit – one written number, from 0 to 9

* Phone numbers have 10 digits, including a three-digit area code.

ascending – listed in order with the smallest values first and the largest values last; listed in order from smallest to largest

* When we sort the monthly sales in ascending order, it became clear that our worst performance is always in February.

descending – listed in order with the largest values first and the smallest values last; listed in order from largest to smallest

* The tax forms require listing all the employees with their salaries in descending order, so the CEO should be at the top of the list.

numeric – related to numbers, not letters

* The participants evaluated the workshop on a numeric scale, where 5 meant “excellent” and 1 meant “very poor.”

order – a logical way of sorting items so that they are arranged in a predictable way

* The bookkeeper requests that we present the receipts in some sort of order, not just thrown into an envelope for her to sort through.

alphanumeric order – arranged and organized with respect to the letters and numbers contained in something

* Wouldn’t it be strange if people had alphanumeric codes instead of names?

random – selected based on chance and therefore unpredictable; with an equal probability of all outcomes occurring; not ordered, logical, or predictable

* The teacher grouped the students randomly, rather than by age.

to embrace – to welcome something with a lot of enthusiasm or joy

* Does everyone in your company embrace new technology?

chaos – disorder; a complete lack of organization and logical order

* Justin’s office is total chaos. How can he get any work done if he can’t find the documents he needs?

Comprehension Questions
1. Which filing system requires dates?
a) Chronological order
b) Alphabetical order
c) Alphanumeric order

2. What kind of filing system is Maya suggesting?
a) An unorganized system
b) A digital, electronic system
c) An off-site system

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
digit

The word “digit,” in this podcast, means one written number, from 0 to 9: “Please enter your 10-digit telephone number, beginning with the area code.” Or, “Select a four-digit PIN for your debit card.” The phrase “double digits” refers to a number made with two characters, or any number from 10 to 99: “Turning 10 years old is a big deal, because now you’re hitting double digits!” In medicine, a “digit” is a finger or toe: “James smashed the first and second digits of his right hand in a workplace accident.” Finally, the word “digital” refers to information stored electronically: “Do you prefer digital photos, or printed photos?” Or, “We maintain paper documents for seven years, but we keep them in digital form indefinitely.”

to embrace

In this podcast, the verb “to embrace” means to welcome something with a lot of enthusiasm or joy: “The work can be difficult at times, but I embrace the challenge.” Sometimes the verb “to embrace” means to accept an idea or concept: “In recent years, many countries have begun embracing a new economic system.” The verb “to embrace” also means to hug, or to wrap one’s arms around someone else as a sign of love or affection: “As soon as he got off the airplane, he embraced his fiancée, who was waiting at the gate.” Finally, the phrase “all-embracing” means including everyone or everything: “The pope shared an all-embracing message of love and respect that was hard for people to disagree with.”

Culture Note
The Dewey Decimal System

The “Dewey Decimal System” is a “classification system” (a way of organizing materials or information) used by most libraries in the United States. The “eponymous” (named after someone) system was created by Melvil Dewey, an American librarian. When it was “originally” (for the first time) “issued” (released and made public) in 1876, it was just a four-page brochure. Since then, it has gone through 23 “editions” (published versions) and the most recent 2011 version is a four-“volume” (one of many related books, like encyclopedias) set.

Prior to the use of the Dewey Decimal System, libraries assigned permanent shelf locations to books, so their location in the library was based on when they were “acquired” (purchased or obtained) by the library. The Dewey Decimal System improved this by giving libraries a way to categorize and place books next to books on related topics.

In the Dewey Decimal System, each book is assigned a numerical code, which is displayed on the “spine” (the part of the book facing the person looking at stacked books on a bookshelf) of each book. There are 10 main “classes” (groups):
000 – General works, computer science and information
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography

And these are “subdivided” (separated into smaller parts) “as follows” (in this way) in this example:
500 Natural sciences and mathematics
510 Mathematics
516 Geometry
516.3 Analytic geometries
516.37 Metric differential geometries
516.375 Finsler Geometry

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a