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下一篇:002 Topics: New Year’s Resolutions; best sellers; “Oh, my goodness!”; dead weight, dead right, and dead broke

001 Topics: Generations in the United States; blockbuster movies; pronouncing “a”; honeymoon; to outsource; cut to the chase

时间:2018-05-01   访问量:13952   View PDF
Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 1.

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

This is our first English Café episode. The format of these episodes – the way we are going to do these episodes – is a little different. We’re not going to have a script or a story or a single dialogue to discuss, but instead, it's going to be more informal. We are going to talk about American culture. We're going to talk about American history. We’re going to talk about movies and books and music – all sorts of things that are related to the United States. We’re also going to be doing some different things. We are going to be answering your questions. We invite you to email your questions to us, and then we will answer them, at least some of them, here on the English Café.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about generations in the United States – how we describe people born during different time periods, especially in the last 100 years or so. We’re also going to talk about the idea of a “blockbuster,” especially a blockbuster movie – what that is and what it involves. And, as always, we’ll answer some of your questions. Let's get started.

Our first topic is going to be the names that we give different generations in the United States. I saw an article in the Voice of America news channel a few years ago. The Voice of America, you may know, is a U.S. government-sponsored or U.S. government-supported news service. They have news broadcasts. They actually have a very good section for people learning English. You might want to go to the Voice of America website and take a look at that.

The title of this story I saw on the Voice of America website had the headline – which is what we call the title of an article, a “headline” – “Aircraft Manufacturer Changing Design to Accommodate Aging Passengers.” This headline is actually a good introduction to our topic of names given to generations. First, let's explain the headline briefly. The headline was “Aircraft Manufacturer Changing Design to Accommodate Aging Passengers.” “Aircraft” (aircraft) is what people fly in – airplanes, in other words. A “manufacturer” (manufacturer) is someone who makes or manufacturers something. So, an aircraft manufacturer would be a company that makes airplanes.

This story is about how these aircraft manufacturers are changing the designs of the airplanes to accommodate aging passengers. “Aging” (aging) means getting older. “To accommodate” here means to make room for or to provide enough space for someone. We also use this word “accommodate” when we are talking about changing our plans so that someone can participate in something, especially if the person has some sort of problem. We try to accommodate them. We try to find a way of solving the problem for them so they can participate in whatever it is that we are doing.

Here, “accommodate” refers to providing enough physical space for aging passengers. A “passenger” is a person who is riding in some sort of transportation, some form of transportation such as a bus or a train or an airplane. The headline, then, says that these aircraft manufacturers are changing their planes in order to provide room and special services for aging passengers – for passengers who are getting older.

Now we come back to our main topic, which is generations, and you'll see how this story fits into our larger topic. The American population on average has been getting older in the last few years. There are more old people than there used to be. The generation that is currently aging is what is called the “baby boomer” generation. The baby boomer generation was born between the years 1946 and 1964 – basically, those born after World War II up through the 1960s. We call that group of people the “baby boomer” generation.

Why “baby boomer”? Well, the term “boomer” (boomer) comes from a verb, “to boom.” “To boom” means to increase suddenly, to increase rapidly. What happened after World War II, when the American economy finally recovered from the economic problems before the war, was that people started having more babies. This resulted in, or this had the consequence of, increasing the population of the United States relatively quickly. We call everyone born in that generation, in that time, “baby boomers.”

The Census Bureau – the department of the United States government that counts how many people are living in the United States – said that beginning in 2006, about 8,000 people a day would turn 60. In other words, this generation is getting older, this baby boomer generation. And this, of course, has consequences for a lot of different things, including the design of airplanes. If we call people born between 1946 and 1964 – people like me – “baby boomers,” what do we call people born after 1964?

The names that we give generations are sometimes invented a few years after those people have been born. That's what happened for the generation after the baby boomer generation. People born between 1965 and the early 1980s – say, 1982 or 1983 – are usually called “Generation X” – the letter X. It's sort of a strange name. It actually comes from a popular novel that was published in 1991, called Generation X. The novel itself is about three teenagers living here in California. For whatever reason, that term “Generation X” was applied to those who were born between 1964 and, say, the early 1980s.

Those born after 1983 are often called “Generation Y.” Again, that's not a very original name, probably because Y comes after X in the alphabet. More recently, I think people have been calling those born after the early 1980s the “Millennial generation.” “Millennial” comes from the word “millennium” – referring, of course, to the new millennium in which we are now living. I'm not sure when we're going to change to a new name for the people born, say, now and on into the future. That’s something impossible to predict.

Just in case you're interested, there are also names for the generations before 1946. Those born between, say, 1901 and the mid-1920s are sometimes called the “greatest generation.” They're called the “greatest generation” based on a book that was written not too long ago by a journalist in the United States. The “greatest generation” was the generation, including my father's generation, who fought in World War II. Because of their sacrifice – because of what they did for the United States – they are sometimes called the “greatest generation.”

Those born between 1920 and the end of World War II, who were for the most part too young to participate in World War II, are sometimes called the “silent generation.” These are people who grew up during the Great Depression – the great economic problems that the United States and other countries experienced during the 1930s. They sometimes call his generation the “lucky few.” “Lucky” because they were too young to be sent off to war in World War II. These generational terms apply to those people who were born in the United States. It's not a term that is used worldwide or even in all English-speaking countries. These terms refer to people born in the U.S. in the last hundred years or so.

Our next topic is going to be “blockbuster movies.” The word “blockbuster” (blockbuster) refers to a movie, typically, that is very popular, a movie for which a lot of tickets are sold – basically, a movie that makes a lot of money. We sometimes use this term “blockbuster” to describe other artistic creations. We might describe a novel as being a “blockbuster,” but usually the term is used to describe a movie that has been very successful. Now, there are a lot of movies that have made a lot of money in the United States and around the world. It's hard to give a list of the movies that have made the most money because that list keeps changing every year.

One blockbuster movie that was popular a few years ago was called King Kong. I don't want to talk too much about the specifics of the movie, although it is a very interesting American movie. I'm more interested in talking about how the movie was described, because it helps us understand a little bit about the elements that make up a blockbuster movie – the parts that are often found in very successful movies. I'll actually read a sentence that was used to describe King Kong when it was released in 2005.

The movie company described the movie as being “about a crew of explorers and filmmakers set out to investigate the myths of the legendary creature, King Kong.” The sentence begins by talking about a “crew (crew) of explorers.” The word “crew” is used here to describe a small group, usually a group of people who are working together. Nowadays, we often use “crew” to describe people who work on some sort of form of transportation, such as an airplane or a ship. We might talk about the “airplane crew,” being the people who are employees of the airline who fly the plane and who take care of the people inside the plane.

Here, it just refers to a small group of people who are trying to do something together, trying to work together. This is a “crew of explorers and filmmakers.” The word “explorer” (explorer) refers to someone who goes out and has adventures, but more importantly, goes out to try and discover something about a new place, a new area, somewhere where no one has gone before. We can talk about the explorers from Europe who went out in their ships during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, going to new worlds like North and South America and Africa and Asia.

Many blockbuster movies – successful blockbuster movies – have this idea of explorers. If you think of Star Wars, for example, or the Star Trek movies, these are about explorers going out to some new, exciting places. The movie King Kong – the 2005 version of King Kong – was about “a crew of explorers and filmmakers.” “Filmmakers,” all one word, refers to people who, of course, make films. King Kong is a movie made by filmmakers about filmmakers. I guess everybody likes to talk about themselves, including people here in Hollywood.

The filmmakers in the movie “set out to investigate the myths of the legendary creature, King Kong.” “To set out” is a phrasal verb meaning to begin, to start – usually on a long journey or trip. Again, a long journey or a long trip is a very common theme in many movies. It's a way of connecting the movie and the characters. In this movie, they “set out to investigate the myths of the legendary creature, King Kong.” A “myth” (myth) is basically a made-up story, a false story that may be popular in a certain culture or popular in a certain group. You could think about the famous Greek myths and Roman myths from the ancient world. Myth is a very good source for stories, and a lot of movies are based on myths.

Nowadays, a lot of movies are based on things like video games, but it used to be more common that we made movies based on things like myths. Closely related to the idea of myth, and also very popular in blockbuster movies, is the idea of a “legend” (legend). When we say something is a “legend,” we are describing some event or some person who did great things. Sometimes legends aren’t all 100 percent true. Sometimes legends are stories about people who really lived, but some of the details of the story may be exaggerated. You may find things in legends that aren’t all 100 percent true. The idea is that legends are about famous people in the past. The word “legendary,” then, would be about a person or an event that was part of a legend.

The movie King Kong, then, is an example of a blockbuster movie that contains some of the elements that you might find in a very popular movie, or at least in some popular movies – things like myths, legends, adventures, explorers, and that sort of thing.

Now let’s answer some of the questions that you have sent to us.

Our first question on the English Café is from Joao (Joao) from Brazil. Joao wants to know why sometimes we pronounce the letter A as “ay” and sometimes we pronounce it as “ah.” Often, when a person is speaking slowly, like I do here on these episodes, we may pronounce words a little differently.

If I'm speaking very slowly, then I'm likely to say “a something,” such as “a book.” When I'm speaking more quickly, it might be something more like “a book.” “I read a book today.” There, you hear what we might call the short “a” pronunciation. Sometimes people use the pronunciation of the article “a” when they're trying to indicate that there was just one of something. Someone may say to you, “I understand you read two books yesterday.” You might say, “No, I read ‘a’ book yesterday,” meaning I only read one book.

Since we are just starting our Café series, we don't have a lot of questions to answer in these early episodes. I know we will have more in future ones. I'll talk about a few words that people have emailed me about in the past. I don't have specific names and locations.

One of those words is “honeymoon.” What is a honeymoon and why do we call it a honeymoon?” A “honeymoon” (honeymoon) is the period of time immediately after two people get married. The idea is that after you get married, then you go away and you have a little vacation. That vacation is often called a “honeymoon.” More generally, “honeymoon” refers to the time after marriage when everything is great, everything is pleasurable.

Why do we call it a “honeymoon?” “Honey” is a sweet substance that bees make. Something, of course, that is sweet is pleasurable, is nice, and the idea of “honeymoon” is it's a nice period. The word “moon” in “honeymoon” is a little more interesting. “Moon” can refer to a month – that is, roughly the time between two full moons. We have another expression in English, “many moons ago.” “Many moons ago” means many months ago, or a very long time ago. So, “moon” might represent just those number of days between two full moons – less than a month, I guess.

That would be another possible explanation for “honeymoon.” The pleasurable part of marriage only lasts about a month. So, you should really enjoy your honeymoon. You will hear the term “honeymoon” in other contexts to refer to a period of good relations or positive activities that happen after two companies or two groups of people meet and start working with each other for the first time. It’s sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon period.”

A common expression is “the honeymoon is over” or “the honeymoon period is over,” meaning this initial time that we got together and everything was great – well, that's coming to an end. Now we’re having problems. Just like in a marriage, the first few months may seem great, and then certain problems start to develop that you have to deal with, that you have to handle.

Another word I sometimes have been asked about in email messages is the word “outsource” (outsource). The term “outsource” as a verb became popular especially in the 1980s and 1990s to refer to a company or an individual that gives parts of the work required for whatever it is you're making to another company or another person, often someone even in another country. The idea behind “outsourcing” is that there are certain things that are either cheaper or easier to get done outside of your own company.

So, instead of hiring someone to work for your company full-time – all the time – you hire another person or another company to do part of the work for you. “Outsourcing,” especially now in the age of the Internet, has become much, much easier to do. “Outsourcing” doesn't necessarily refer to going to another country, however. It could also be referred to as simply getting another person or another company to do part of the work that your company would normally do or might do in order to produce your product or service.

Finally, I want to talk about another famous expression in English that has its origins in a way here in Los Angeles, in Hollywood. That expression is “cut to the chase.” “Cut to the chase” (chase) means usually get to the point, get on with it, get to what you really want to tell me. When somebody is giving you an explanation of something, for example, and they seem to be giving you a lot of details that aren’t really necessary for you to understand the situation, and perhaps you don't have a lot of time to sit and listen to them, you might say to them, “Cut to the chase.”

Now, I have to say that this is something you would only say either to someone who works for you – one of your employees – or someone who is of a lower status or position than you. You might also be able to say this among friends when you want your friend to hurry up and give you the main part of the information they're trying to convey or to give to you.

Where does this expression “cut to the chase” come from? The most likely explanation is that in action movies, usually towards the end of the movie, there is a chase scene where typically one car is chasing another. “To chase” (chase) is a verb means to go after, to try to catch – especially someone who is trying to escape, to get away from you. So, action movies are most exciting toward the end when you have the chase scenes. “Cut to the chase” would mean get to the exciting part of the movie, and that's really, I think, the origin of this very interesting expression, “to cut to the chase.”

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café was written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2006 by the Center for Educational Development.

headline – the title of a news story, usually printed in large letters

* Desiree did not have enough time to read the entire newspaper, so she glanced at the headlines to see if there was anything she wanted to read later.

aircraft – airplane or helicopter; a vehicle or machine that transports people by flying

* The weather has been very stormy lately, making it difficult for any aircraft to operate.

manufacturer – a person or company that makes a product; someone or some company that creates and produces an item that is sold to or used by others

* Since Carlisle’s old car had always given him a lot of problems, he decided to buy a new car made by a different manufacturer.

baby boomer – someone born between 1946 and 1964, during a period after World War II ended in which an unusually large number of children were born

* Janine was born February 8, 1947, making her one of the oldest baby boomers.

generation – a group of people born around the same time period; a group of people who were born during a certain time period and share many of the same experiences and ideas as a result

* Florencio tries to keep up with his grandchildren, but he just can’t understand the way that people from younger generations think.

Census Bureau – a department of the United States government that regularly counts how many people live in the United States; a government organization that determines the how many people are living in areas within the United States and uses the information to form conclusions about population patterns

* The Census Bureau released information about how many people had moved in and out of Oregon over the past 10 years.

Generation X – the group of people born between the mid-1960s to the early 1980s

* Claude was a member of Generation X and had grown up listening to everything from 1970s disco music to 1980s metal bands.

blockbuster – a movie that is very popular, based on the number of tickets sold; a movie that many people saw or are expected to see

* Titanic was a major blockbuster, earning over $28 million during its opening weekend in 1997.

crew – a group of people who work together to accomplish a shared task or goal, especially when that task requires physical work

* The news crew raced to set up the equipment so that they could report on the story live.

explorer – an adventurer; someone who visits an unknown or unfamiliar location and investigates or observes that location

* The explorers traveled to a South American rainforest to search for a particular plant they wanted to study.

filmmaker – someone who creates movies; someone who leads the creation of a movie by either directing or producing it

* Tonisha is a filmmaker who specializes in producing documentary films.

to set out – to begin or start a planned project or activity; to start something that is expected to become a long, detailed process

* Roberto and Ella never set out to hurt anyone, but the secret documents they gave to reporters resulted in the closing of the company.

myth – a fictional or untrue story; a story that is used to explain events or things about the way the world works but is not usually based in truth or fact

* The story of Persephone is a Greek myth explaining why the weather goes through four seasons.

legendary – a person or event from a famous or well-known story; something or someone that people tell stories about for many years

* The prank Quentin played during his senior year of high school was so legendary that people are talking about it years after he’s graduated.

What Insiders Know
My Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather

It’s easy to know what to call your “immediate family” (family closely related to you, such as father, mother, and sister/brother) and even “extended family (family not as closely related, such as uncles/aunts, cousins, and grandparents). But what do you call your “ancestors” (family members who lived many years before you were born)?

The father of your father is your grandfather. Logically, you would think that your grandfather’s father would be your “grand-grandfather,” but that is not what Americans would say. Instead, after your grandfather, you add the word “great,” so my grandfather’s father is your great-grandfather. What do we call your great-grandfather’s father? He is your great-great-grandfather. You continue to add “great” for every additional generation you want, so you could talk about your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (or grandmother, of course).

A similar system is used in talking about your children and your children’s children. Your child’s child is called your grandchild, and his child would be your great-grandchild, and so forth. If you have a niece (your brother’s or sister’s daughter) or nephew (your brother’s or sister’s son), what do I call them? Here things get a little confusing, because it is possible to call them your grandnieces and grandnephews, or your great-nieces and great-nephews. They would call your their great-uncle or granduncle. Great-uncle and great-aunt are much more popular, however, at least in the U.S. After this, you keep adding “greats” as you do with grandparents.

In summary, if you are talking about your parent’s parents, you start with “grand” and then add “great(s).” If you are talking about uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews, then you can either start with “great” or use “grand” as you do with grandmother/grandfather.


下一篇:002 Topics: New Year’s Resolutions; best sellers; “Oh, my goodness!”; dead weight, dead right, and dead broke