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1139 Major Historical Periods

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,139 – Major Historical Periods.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,139. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Take a look at our Special Courses in Business and Daily English as well as our ESL Podcast Blog. You can like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod and follow us on Twitter at @eslpod.

This episode is a dialogue between Livy and Nicholas about the vocabulary we use in English to describe important periods or times in history. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Livy: Tell me again why we’re here on a Saturday afternoon.

Nicholas: You’re going to love this museum. It has artifacts and exhibits from all the major periods in history, from prehistoric days to the present.

Livy: Hmm, fascinating.

Nicholas: It is, isn’t it? We follow the timeline of human history from one room to the next. See? This room is devoted to ancient history and ancient civilizations.

Livy: Is there a gift shop?

Nicholas: Sure, there’s one on the way out, but let me show you a few things in this room. It’s all about the Middle Ages. Check this out. Doesn’t it blow your mind?

Livy: Yeah, wow, great. Actually, it’s all kind of dull. Isn’t there something more exciting to see?

Nicholas: You want excitement? Then let’s skip ahead to the rooms on the Renaissance. Look at this!

Livy: This is all great, but I’ve seen enough. Let’s keep going.

Nicholas: We’re rushing past the best exhibits, but if you want to keep going, I guess we can do that. These next rooms are devoted to more recent history, the Industrial Revolution and pre- and post-World War years.

Livy: Is there anything else?

Nicholas: You mean you’re done looking at over 3,000 years of historical exhibits? This is one of the best museums in the world. I could spend all weekend here.

Livy: That’s because you’re a history buff. Hey, that room is about the Information Age. Do you think I can check my email in there?

Nicholas: [sigh]

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Livy asking Nicholas a question – actually, it’s what we would call a command: Livy says, “Tell me again why we’re here on a Saturday afternoon.” I should point out here that “Livy” is sometimes used as a short form of the girl’s name “Olivia,” although it would normally not be spelled this way. For those of you who know about Roman history, you’ll know that there was a Roman historian by the name of “Livy.” But our Livy is a woman, and she asks Nicholas to explain why, on a Saturday afternoon, they are at a museum.

Livy, it appears, would rather be somewhere else. Nicholas says, “You’re going to love this museum.” A “museum” is a building that teaches about art or historical objects, things of importance. Nicholas says, “It has artifacts and exhibits from all the major periods in history, from prehistoric days to the present.” An “artifact” (artifact) is an object that has been made or used by a human being, a person, usually many years ago.

An “exhibit” (exhibit) is a display of related objects in a museum. Art museums, for example, will often have exhibits of one artist, where they will bring paintings or sculptures from that artist from different museums altogether. You could have a Picasso exhibit, or a Turner exhibit, or a Jackson Pollock exhibit. The museum that Livy and Nicholas are at appears to be a museum of history. It has exhibits from all the major periods or times in history, from prehistoric days to the present.

“Prehistoric” (prehistoric) means relating to periods of time before humans knew how to write, or before a given civilization developed a writing system. The prefix “pre” means “before.” So, “prehistory” is before human beings were writing things down, in effect. Livy doesn’t seem too interested. She says, “Hmm, fascinating.” Notice, even though she says “fascinating,” it’s clear that she doesn’t find it fascinating or interesting at all. But Nicholas doesn’t seem to realize that Livy isn’t too excited. He says, “It is, isn’t it?”

He continues, “We follow the timeline of human history from one room to the next.” A “timeline” (timeline) – one word – is the order in which events occurred. Usually, a timeline is literally a line on a piece of paper, or perhaps on a wall, that shows different years and the events that happened during those years, or whatever the period of time is. Nicholas says, “This room is devoted to ancient history and ancient civilizations.” To say something is “devoted (devoted) to” something means it is intended for a particular topic. It is about a certain thing.

Now, we can use “devoted to” also in the sense of someone who is in love with or is very loyal to a single person or group of people. You may remember the movie Grease, from the 1970s, where Olivia Newton John sang the song “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” [singing] “Hopelessly devoted to you.” Of course, she was hopelessly devoted to the character played by John Travolta. But we’re not talking about Olivia Newton John or John Travolta, we’re talking about a museum where there is a room devoted to ancient history.

In this sentence, it means that the entire room is all about this one topic. The topic is “ancient (ancient) history.” “Ancient history,” at least in the Western world and Western civilization, means the period of time usually from the very earliest recorded history up to about, say, 300 or 400 A.D. “A.D.” refers to the years roughly after the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian religion. Years before that time are referred to in English as “B.C.,” meaning “Before Christ” – before Jesus Christ was born.

Now, more recently, historians have changed that terminology a little. They refer to what we used to call “A.D.” as “C.E.” – meaning “Common Era” – and “B.C.” has become “B.C.E.” – “Before the Common Era.” You will see that, however, mostly in history books, in recent history books. In most places, people will still use the A.D./B.C. designations. The word “civilization” refers to an organized society in a certain place during a certain period. We could talk about “Mayan civilization” – the people who lived on the Yucatan Peninsula and in Central America during a certain period of time.

Livy isn’t interested in any of this. She says, “Is there a gift shop?” Many museums have a little store where you can buy things, often photographs or other little pieces of artwork related to the museum. Nicholas says, “Sure,” meaning yes, “there is one on the way out,” meaning as we exit the museum. “But,” he says, “let me show you a few things in this room. It’s all about the Middle Ages.”

The “Middle Ages” is a period in European history from approximately 1100 to 1450 A.D., although traditionally the Middle Ages refers to a much longer period, I think. When I was going to school, we would speak of the time between the fall of the Roman Empire in the late 400s A.D. up through the fall of Constantinople in the 1450s. It depends on which book you read in terms of the definition of Middle Ages.

Nicholas says, “Check this out,” meaning look at this, pay attention to this. “Doesn’t it blow your mind?” The expression “to blow (blow) your mind (mind)” is one that we use to mean very interesting, very exciting, very impressive. It’s an informal expression, “to blow your mind,” perhaps a little dated. I’m not sure people use it as much anymore, but you will still hear it. Livy says, “Yeah, wow, great.” Again, she’s not really interested. She says, “Actually it’s all kind of dull” (dull). “Dull” means boring, uninteresting. “Isn’t there something more exciting to see?” she asks.

Nicholas says, “You want excitement? Then let’s skip ahead” ¬– let’s move ahead – “to the rooms on the Renaissance. Look at this!” The “Renaissance” (Renaissance) – and the word is capitalized, just as are the words “Middle” and “Ages” – is a period of time in European history and culture that usually is dated between the 1300s and the 1600s A.D.

Nicholas thinks it’s exciting but Livy doesn’t. She says, “This is all great, but I’ve seen enough. Let’s keep going.” Nicholas objects. He says, “We’re rushing past the best exhibits.” “To rush past” means to move quickly by something without taking time to look at it closely. But Nicholas understands that his wife or girlfriend, we’re not sure what Livy is, is kind of bored. So he says, “I guess we can do that” – I guess we can rush past these things.

“These next rooms are devoted to more recent history, the Industrial Revolution and pre- and post-World War years.” The “Industrial Revolution,” again capitalized, is a period of time when science and technology improved very quickly, usually dated from the late 1700s to, say, the middle of the nineteenth century. Nicholas also refers to “pre- and post-World War years,” although it doesn’t say if he means World War I or World War II. But in either case, “pre” means “before” and “post” (post) means “after.”

Livy says, “Is there anything else?” Nicholas responds, “You mean you’re done looking at over 3,000 years of historical exhibits? This is one of the best museums in the world. I could spend all weekend here.” Livy says, “That’s because you’re a history buff.” A “buff” (buff) is a fan of some hobby or some topic, someone who really enjoys a certain topic and learning all about it. Livy describes Nicholas as a “history buff” – someone who is interested and likes to learn about history.

Then Livy says, “Hey, that room is about the Information Age. Do you think I can check my email in there?” The “Information Age” is a term that would describe our current period of history, when there has been a rapid growth and change in the economy based on computers and easy access to information. We live, in other words, in the Information Age. Livy, however, interprets this to mean a place where she can check her email on a computer, something that is probably not possible in the museum’s exhibit on the information age.

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

[start of dialogue]

Livy: Tell me again why we’re here on a Saturday afternoon.

Nicholas: You’re going to love this museum. It has artifacts and exhibits from all the major periods in history, from prehistoric days to the present.

Livy: Hmm, fascinating.

Nicholas: It is, isn’t it? We follow the timeline of human history from one room to the next. See? This room is devoted to ancient history and ancient civilizations.

Livy: Is there a gift shop?

Nicholas: Sure, there’s one on the way out, but let me show you a few things in this room. It’s all about the Middle Ages. Check this out. Doesn’t it blow your mind?

Livy: Yeah, wow, great. Actually, it’s all kind of dull. Isn’t there something more exciting to see?

Nicholas: You want excitement? Then let’s skip ahead to the rooms on the Renaissance. Look at this!

Livy: This is all great, but I’ve seen enough. Let’s keep going.

Nicholas: We’re rushing past the best exhibits, but if you want to keep going, I guess we can do that. These next rooms are devoted to more recent history, the Industrial Revolution and pre- and post-World War years.

Livy: Is there anything else?

Nicholas: You mean you’re done looking at over 3,000 years of historical exhibits? This is one of the best museums in the world. I could spend all weekend here.

Livy: That’s because you’re a history buff. Hey, that room is about the Information Age. Do you think I can check my email in there?

Nicholas: [sigh]

[end of dialogue]

If in the future there’s ever a museum of podcasting, I’m sure that there will be an exhibit about our very own scriptwriter, 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 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
museum – a building that displays and teaches about objects of historical, scientific, cultural, or artistic importance

* The science museum has a great exhibit about desert insects and animals.

artifact – an object made and/or used by a human long ago, then discovered by a researcher

* In this area, it’s common for people to find broken pottery, arrowheads, and other artifacts when they dig into the earth.

exhibit – a display of related objects, especially in a museum

* Next year, the art museum will have an exhibit of the paintings of Monet.

prehistoric – relating to periods of time before humans knew how to write

* In prehistoric times, stories had to be passed on orally, from one generation to the next.

timeline – the order in which events occurred, especially when displayed graphically on a line

* This timeline shows the expansion of the company from 1820 to today.

devoted to – intended for a particular topic or purpose; covering only one thing

* His first novel was devoted to an exploration of the meaning of brotherhood.

ancient history – the period of time beginning with the earliest days of human recorded history

* This course in ancient history mostly covered the Vikings, Egyptians, and Greeks, but very few civilizations in Asia.

civilization – an organized society in a particular place and at a particular time

* Many of the principles of modern democracy first appeared in ancient Greek civilization.

Middle Ages – a period in European history from approximately 1100 to 1450

* The population of Europe increased dramatically during the Middle Ages.

to blow (one’s) mind – to be very interesting, exciting, surprising, and impressive

* Wow, that movie blew my mind! I had no idea it would end that way.

dull – boring; uninteresting

* Sitting at home on a Friday night is so dull. Let’s go out and do something fun.

Renaissance – the period of time when European culture developed very quickly, between the 1300s and 1600s

* Michelangelo was one of the best-known Renaissance painters.

to rush past – to move past something quickly, without taking the time to look at it or examine it closely

* Our boss Jeannine rushed past our table in the restaurant, appearing embarrassed to be there with a date.

Industrial Revolution – a period of time when technology and manufacturing improved very quickly, leading to significant improvements in quality of life, from the late 1700s to the early 1800s

* The steam engine was one of the most important inventions in the Industrial Revolution.

pre- – before

* In our marriage pre-baby, we used to have dinner parties all the time.

post- – after

* The doctor asked her to schedule a follow-up appointment three weeks post-surgery.

buff – a fan or enthusiast; someone who enjoys something very much and knows a lot about it

* A lot of these kids are video game buffs who spend hours in front of the computer screen.

Information Age – the current period of human history, with a rapid transition to an economy based on computers, rapid communication, and the easy exchange of information

* Before the Information Age, it was almost impossible for people to work from home as they do now.

Comprehension Questions
1. What does Livy think about the exhibit on the Middle Ages?
a) She thinks it’s difficult to understand.
b) She thinks it’s too simplistic.
c) She thinks it’s boring.

2. Why does Livy call Nicholas a history buff?
a) Because he doesn’t know anything about history.
b) Because he really enjoys learning about history.
c) Because he is much older than she is.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
dull

The word “dull,” in this podcast, means boring or uninteresting: “This job is so dull on Friday afternoons, when few people come into the office.” When describing a knife or another object used for cutting, “dull” means not sharp: “This knife is too dull to even cut through a tomato.” Or, “These scissors are dull. You’ll be able to cut more easily if you sharpen them.” The word “dull “can also mean not shiny: “Use this polishing cloth to transform those dull jewels into shining beauties.” Finally, when the weather is “dull,” there is little sunshine and there are many clouds: “When he looked out the window and saw another dull, gray day in the Pacific Northwest, he sighed deeply.”

to rush past

In this podcast, the phrase “to rush past” means to move past something quickly, without taking the time to look at it or examine it closely: “While most shoppers were rushing past the street musicians, Xena stopped to listen, dance, and then give them some money.” The phrase “to rush around” means to do many things very quickly: “They spent the morning rushing around, taking clothes to the dry cleaner, going to the bank, buying groceries, and going to the post office.” Finally, the phrase “to rush (something) through” means to make something happen more quickly than it would normally, especially in government offices, departments, or systems: “Usually it takes years to approve a new medicine, but the FDA rushed the vaccine through the process.”

Culture Note
Unusual Museums

There are many unusual museums in the United States, but most of them are “quite” (very) small. However, there are a few that are large and “delve into” (explore the depths of) unusual topics. For example, consider these museums that focus on “cryptology” (the study of codes and code-breaking) and “espionage” (the practice of spying to obtain secret information, especially from another country’s government).

The National Security Administration, or NSA, is “affiliated” (connected; associated) with the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland. It opened in 1993 and has about 50,000 visitors each year. At the museum, people can learn about the development of increasingly complex “codes” (a system of letters, numbers, and symbols used to represent something else, often used to send secret communications) and code-breaking technologies that have been important for international espionage.

In Washington, DC, people can visit the International Spy Museum, which opened in 2002. The museum “presents” (shows) many artifacts related to espionage, such as “gadgets” (devices) with secret “compartments” (openings or storage areas), such as glasses with cameras, or “canes” (sticks that help injured people walk) with the ability to shoot a bullet. The museum also has a program called “Spy in the City,” which gives people a “navigational device” (a tool that helps people find their way) and “clues” (partial ideas to help someone find or understand something) to find a “password” (secret word or phrase used to gain access or admission).

Finally, you may be interested in visiting the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine. “Cryptozoology” refers to the study of hidden animals, especially those that most people would consider to be “mythological” (related to stories and legends, but not real). The museum provides information about “Bigfoot” (a large, ape-like creature thought to live in the forests of the Pacific Northwest), the Loch Ness Monster (a large, dinosaur-like creature thought to live in a lake in Scotland), and “mermaids” (creatures that are half human, half fish), among other “creatures” (animals; living beings).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - b