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上一篇:001 Topics: Generations in the United States; blockbuster movies; pronouncing “a”; honeymoon; to outsource; cut to the chase

下一篇:003 Topics: Famous Americans: Queen Latifah; Smoking bans; at this point; trade-off; driveway versus parkway

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

时间:2018-05-01   访问量:4572   View PDF
Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 2. This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 2. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. In this Café, we’re going to talk a little bit about things that Americans want to change about themselves, what we might call “resolutions” to change. We’re also going to talk about “best sellers.” What kind of books are popular in the United States? And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let's get started. Our first topic on this Café is things that Americans want to change about themselves. There are for all of us, I suppose, things that we want to change, things that we want to do differently, ways that we want to improve ourselves. Americans are famous for what are called “self-help” books – books about how they can get better, how they can improve. One popular tradition in the U.S. and in other countries is the New Year's resolution. A “New Year's resolution” is when you think about what you want to change and you promise yourself – you vow – that you are going to change. The word “resolution” just means a promise to change something about yourself or about some situation. Americans make these resolutions usually at the first of the year, during January, since it seems like a good time to try to do something new, do something different. There are often newspaper articles during the first week of January about these New Year's resolutions that people have. Many newspapers take polls; they ask people what they think of a certain topic. In these particular polls about New Year's resolutions, we find out what Americans are vowing or promising to change about themselves. Some of the more popular New Year's resolutions include the vow or resolution to spend more time with your loved ones. Americans often say, “I want to spend more time with my loved ones.” Your “loved ones” are the people you care about: your brother, your sister, your parents, your wife, your husband, your girlfriend, your dog. Well, maybe not your dog. People that you like – these would be your loved ones. Americans are always saying they want to spend more time with their loved ones. Another popular resolution that Americans have, and that appears in these polls, is “to be fit.” “To be fit” (fit) means to be healthy – for your body to be in good condition. Usually, this means you have to exercise. You have to do some physical activities such as walking or jogging or running or going to the gym. Many Americans celebrate the holiday season at the end of the year in December, and in doing so, they eat a little too much food. So, in January they decide they're going to lose some weight. They're going to try to be fit. They want to be in “good shape,” we might say. The expression “to be in good shape” (shape) just means to be healthy. Another common resolution that I just referred to – related to this idea of being healthy – is losing weight. Many Americans, more and more each year, are becoming overweight. “To be overweight” means to weigh too much, more than what you should. Probably eating all of those McDonald’s hamburgers doesn't help Americans to “keep their weight down,” we might say. “To keep your weight down” is not to get too fat, not to get overweight. So, according to at least some polls, some surveys, these are the three areas Americans want to change about themselves. They want to spend more time with their loved ones, they want to be fit, and they want to lose weight. Spending time with your loved ones requires, of course, that you're not busy doing other things. That's one thing that many Americans say they do: they get busy with other things and therefore don't have time to spend with their loved ones. It also helps to be close physically to your loved ones. I, for example, live in Los Angeles. My loved ones, at least my family, live mostly in Minnesota, so it's a little more difficult for me to do that. Our next topic is “best sellers.” The term “best seller” means literally something that sells the best, something that sells the most. When we say “best” here, we mean better than any other book. The whole concept of the best seller, at least in the United States, is quite interesting. During the late nineteenth century, there was an American magazine that published stories and articles about books called The Bookman (Bookman). The Bookman magazine was one of the first publications in the United States to run best seller lists. “To run” here means to publish, to put into the magazine, a list of the best-selling books. This was back in 1895, so towards the end of the nineteenth century. What the magazine did was to go around to different bookstores in the country and find out how many books were being sold for a number of different categories. These reports of sales then were put together, or “compiled” (compiled), into a list of the best-selling books. After The Bookman magazine started to publish its list of best sellers, other publications decided to do the same thing. The most common ones were – and are – Publishers Weekly and The New York Times. The New York Times, in particular, is famous for its best seller list. Nowadays, there are other places where people look to find out what the best sellers are. The website also lists the books that are most popular, that are most sold on their website. The New York Times list, however, is the one that most people are familiar with here in the United States. Soon after The Bookman magazine started publishing its best seller lists, the idea of a best seller list became popular in other countries as well. In England, for example, The Sunday Times of London also started to publish a best seller list, and still does today. These lists are obviously important for publishers and people who sell books. You want to know which books are popular so you can have more books, perhaps, about that topic or from that particular writer. However, there has been this idea, at least among certain critics – certain people who write professionally about books – that a best seller is a book that doesn't necessarily have very high literary merit. “Merit” (merit) here means quality. “Literary” means well written – good literature. The idea is that if a book is really popular, it can't be very good, because most people won't buy really well-written books. I'm not saying that's true. I'm saying that this is something that some professional critics, some writers in magazines and newspapers, have said about these best sellers that appear on lists in places like The New York Times and, nowadays, One genre or category of books, that has been popular on best seller lists here in the U.S. is that of the thriller. A “thriller” (thriller) is usually a work of fiction – a fictional story about something that is very exciting. There's a lot of action. In a thriller, the story moves very quickly. Mysteries are also very popular on best seller lists and have been for many years in the United States. “Mysteries” are almost always about someone being murdered, someone being killed. One of the most famous writers in English of mysteries, who is still popular today, would be Agatha Christie, the British author whose works, whose books, have been translated into many different languages. Thrillers and mysteries are probably popular in many different countries, but there are some other kinds of books that have traditionally been very popular in the United States that you might not think of when you first think about best sellers. The first in terms of number of books sold would be “religious” and what are sometimes called “inspirational” books. These are books that are supposed to help you with your life, make you feel better. Religious books, obviously, are related to some sort of belief in God. It might be the Christian religion. It might be another religion. Christianity is the most popular religion in the United States, and so there are a lot of books that are published in this genre – in this area. The all-time best seller – that is, the best-selling book of all time – in English would definitely be the Bible, the Christian Bible. In the United States in the first half of the twentieth century – from 1900 to about 1950 – the only book in English that came even close to the number of sales of the Bible was, interestingly enough, a novel that became one of the most famous movies of the twentieth century, Gone With the Wind, a historical novel that is set in or takes place in the South during the American Civil War and the years after the war. During the twentieth century, there were other books that had religious themes that were extremely popular. There was one book called The Robe by Lloyd Douglas, another called The Cardinal, published in 1950, by Henry Morton Robinson. Both of these books had religious themes and, like many books with religious themes, were best sellers. Another category of books that have traditionally been popular in the United States, from the beginning of the best seller lists of the nineteenth century right on up to the twenty-first century, are what are called “self-help” or “self-improvement” books – books that sometimes combine the idea of bettering yourself, of doing better in life, with religious ideas. There was a book popular a few years ago called The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. Even before that, however, there were other books – self-help books – that tried to teach people how to live a better life. One of the most famous of the authors in this genre was a man by the name of Dale Carnegie (Carnegie). His most popular book was called How to Win Friends and Influence People, written back in 1937. Later, other self-help books became popular in the U.S. Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote a book – several books, I believe – on childcare, on taking care of your baby. One of his most popular ones was published right after World War II, in 1946, when Americans were starting to have a lot of babies. “Cookbooks” are not self-help books, per se. They're not about making a better you, but making a better chicken pot pie, perhaps. These three categories of religious books, self-help books, and cookbooks are very important when it comes to the number of books that are sold in the United States, even though we might not think of them traditionally as being best sellers. They are, in fact, some of the best-selling books in the U.S. book market. In the late 1930s, many publishing companies started to produce cheap paperback books, what sometimes were called “mass-produced paperbacks.” “Mass” just means a large number, and “produced” means made. So, there were a large number of these books being made, these “paperback” books. As a result of this, some of the folks who were making the best seller lists decided to divide books by type, by physical type. So, you had a best seller list for paperbacks and you had a best seller list for hardbacks. This started sometime in the mid 1970s. In addition, you also had lists that were broken down or divided into different categories, such as the categories I've mentioned. There are other categories as well: “fiction” books (versus “nonfiction” books), “children's books” (versus books for adults). The most recent change in best sellers and best seller lists would be the arrival of, and popularity of, e-books – electronic books that you can read on your tablet, on your computer, on your phone, and so forth. They became so popular that in 2011, The New York Times introduced, or decided to publish, a separate list of popular e-books in addition to the paperback and hardback categories that it had always published. They began reporting, in fact, the best sellers from 20 different categories, such as “e-book fiction” and “combined print” – that is, paper and e-book nonfiction. There are lots of these different kinds of categories that you can now find in best seller lists with The situation gets even more complicated because there are dozens and dozens of different categories on Each one has sort of their own best seller list. So, you could be a best seller in an area where the total number of books isn't very large, but if you sell more than anyone else in your category as defined by, then you become an Amazon best seller. The word “best seller” is important for people who write and publish books because people want to read what other people are reading. So, if someone says, “This is a best seller,” you think, “Oh. Well, maybe I should read it.” Now let's answer some of the questions that you have sent to us. Our first question comes from Ahad (Ahad) in Ontario, Canada. The question has to do with an expression that he heard: “Oh, my goodness.” “Oh (oh), my goodness” is a way of expressing surprise at something that has happened, usually something bad that has happened, although it could sometimes be something good. If your wife says to you, “I had a car accident,” you might say, “Oh, my goodness.” It's a polite, somewhat informal way of expressing surprise. Of course, if your wife tells you that she crashed the car – that she was in an accident with the car – you might say something other than “Oh, my goodness.” You might use what we would call a “swear” word. The verb “to swear” (swear) means to use a bad word. I won't use any of them here. You probably know many of them already in English. Usually the bad words are the words that you learn first in another language, and if you watch American movies, you will certainly hear lots of different swear words. It has become more popular, especially in recent years, for people to say “Oh, my God” (G od). However, you have to be careful about that expression. There are people who have religious beliefs who would not like you using an expression such as that. I think it's best to use something a little safer, such as, “Oh, my goodness.” Our next question comes from Gerhard in Germany. Gerhard wants to know the meaning of the expression “against all odds.” “Against all odds” (odds) means that you were able to do something – to complete or finish something or accomplish something – that was very difficult, that perhaps you didn't think you could do. It's usually something that most people think you won't be able to do because it's so difficult to do it. So, let's say it's snowing outside, and the wind is blowing very hard, and there is five feet of snow on the ground. You decide to go running outside. Well, that would be very difficult, but if you go outside and actually tried to do it, you might be able to run a few feet, maybe more. If you are able to run like you would normally run, that would definitely be something that would be against all odds. There would be a great number of difficulties in trying to do what you are trying to do. Another question that I got recently had to do with the use of the word “dead” and the fact that there were several different expressions in English with “dead” that didn't seem to make a lot of sense. I want to talk about a couple of those. “To be dead” means that you no longer are living. If you are dead, you're probably not listening to this episode, for example. “Dead,” then, means without life, and there are a couple of terms in English where that notion of completion, of death, is more or less logically connected. For example, we talk about “dead languages.” A “dead language” is a language that no one speaks anymore. Often, it's defined as a language that doesn't have any native speakers – people who grow up speaking that language. As far as European languages – that is, talking about European languages – Latin and ancient Greek would certainly nowadays be considered “dead languages.” That doesn't mean that no one learns those languages, obviously. Both ancient Greek and especially Latin are still being studied. I studied Latin. I tried to study a little ancient Greek. It was a little difficult for me. But those would be “dead languages.” Another more or less logical use of “dead” in a term would be “dead weight” (weight). The term “dead weight” describes a person who doesn't help very much, a person who, instead of helping you accomplish a task, has to be helped or himself, or herself. So, if you describe someone as “dead weight,” you mean he’s not helping at all. Two other uses of “dead” are a little different from “dead language” and “dead weight.” The term “dead tired” is quite common in American English. If you say, “I'm dead tired,” you mean you are very, very, very tired. You are completely tired. Here, “dead” is still sort of related to the idea of death, and that is to be dead. So that sense of “absolutely, completely” is what is being used here when we use an expression such as “dead tired” – I'm completely tired. Similarly, you may say that someone is “dead right” (right). To say someone is “dead right” means they are absolutely right. They are absolutely correct. “Dead serious” is another common term which means, once again, you are very serious. You are extremely serious. Finally, if you spend too much money, you may end up “dead broke” (broke). “To be broke” means not to have any money. I hope that you are not dead broke or dead tired. Email us if you have a question or comment. Our email address is From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you 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.

resolution – a promise one makes to change in a good way; a formal goal or decision to change that one makes and promises to work toward * Tyra made a resolution to eat less junk food and more fruits and vegetables.

poll – survey; a collection of opinions that an organization gathers from a large group of people by asking those people a series of questions about a specific topic * Darren took a poll of his co-workers to determine how many of them were satisfied with the company’s new policies.

to vow – to promise; to make a firm statement about one’s serious intention or plan of doing something * Sara vowed to attend all of her son’s piano recitals and never missed a single one.

loved one – someone whom one loves and cares about; a family member, friend, or romantic partner whom one has affection or love for * James lives far away from his family, so he values the time he gets to spend with his loved ones over the holidays when he visits.

to be fit – to have a healthy body; to do activities, such as exercising and eating healthy foods, so that one's overall health will be good * Hillary used to be fit when she played volleyball in college, but after she quit the team, she became less active.

to fit – to be the right size or quality to serve a specific purpose; to match or be correct * When Rory’s jeans no longer fit him, he knew that he had gained too much weight.

in good shape – healthy; to be in a good condition * The doctor praised Cheryl for sticking to her diet and exercise plan and said that she was in good shape.

overweight – too heavy or too large to be considered healthy; weighing more than one should * The cat was so overweight that it could not climb or jump around like it used to.

bestseller – a book that is one of the most popular, based on the number of copies sold; a book that has sold more than most other books during a certain period of time * The author dreams of having a novel on the bestseller list, but so far, none of his novels have been very popular.

thriller – a story that includes a lot of action or excitement; a book, movie, or story in which excitement is relied on more than any other emotion * Pierre read an exciting thriller about a man who had to rescue his son from a dangerous kidnapper.

mystery – a story in which the reader and characters are confronted with a strange or puzzling event, such as a crime, and must come to understand that event * Tanika enjoys reading mystery novels because she likes trying to figure out who committed the crime before the main character does.

oh, my goodness – an exclamation or statement expressing surprise; an exclamation used by someone who is shocked, surprised, or agitated * When Wilson heard that his friend was moving to India, he shouted, “Oh, my goodness!”

against all odds – a phrase meaning an action which seemed impossible or unlikely has been done * Jenny was overwhelmed with work, but she managed to finish it against all odds.

What Insiders Know
The “Good Reads” Program One of the biggest “challenges” (difficulties) for adults who want to improve their reading in another language is finding books at a low level, but that are still interesting. Reading children and teen books that are at the right level, but that are about animals, school, or teenage problems, might not “hold their interest” (keep their attention). There is now a “relatively” (fairly) new effort to provide adults with the right reading material. The program is called Good Reads and it is a program by a Canadian “non-profit” (not intended to make money) organization called ABC Life Literacy Canada. The purpose of the program is to help adults become more “literate” (able to read and write). It’s not “targeting” (made especially for) people learning English, but the books are at lower levels and are written about adult “themes” (subjects; topics) – exactly what English learners need. In this program, Canadian authors who write popular adult novels are asked to write short stories or short novels at a lower language level. According to their website, all of the stories/novels meet these “criteria” (requirements): - Short: Less than 100 pages. - Enjoyable: Stories you can’t “put down” (leave). - Easy reading: Written in clear language. - For adult learners: For people improving their reading skills. - Canadian: By Canada’s best authors. At ESL Podcast, we don’t typically mention programs outside of the U.S. However, this seems like a very good resource for our listeners and we’re including it here. While there are some differences between Canadian and American English, the differences are very small, but of course not so small that Americans “forgo” (pass without doing something) making fun of Canadians, and “vice versa” (the other way around)! But, “truth be told” (being honest), there really are very few and very minor differences. If you’d like to learn more about the books available through this program, search on the Internet for “Good Reads.”

上一篇:001 Topics: Generations in the United States; blockbuster movies; pronouncing “a”; honeymoon; to outsource; cut to the chase

下一篇:003 Topics: Famous Americans: Queen Latifah; Smoking bans; at this point; trade-off; driveway versus parkway