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014 Topics: Spelling words, Popular baby names in the US, Britney Spears and Seatbelts, "Don't get mad, get even!", To spoil someone, To undertake, Compared to or with?, How to end an email

时间:2018-05-01   访问量:2069   View PDF
Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 14.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 14. 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 On this Café, we’re going to talk about popular baby names in the United States – the names that Americans give to their young children. We’re also going to mention a little bit about automobile safety, or car safety, in the United States – and of course, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Our first topic on this Café is popular baby names – what Americans call their children. Now, of course, we all know that the absolute best name to give your child is “Jeff” or “Jeffrey.” “Jeff” is probably the most interesting, most intelligent-sounding name of any of the names you could give your children. So, if you have a child and are looking for a name, I would suggest “Jeff.”

Now, I understand that not everyone wants to name their child “Jeff,” so I’ll talk a little bit about some other names that Americans, in any case, use to name their children. When I was younger, many years ago – about a hundred or so – common names for children were “John,” “Paul,” “Mike,” “Mark,” “Steven” – these were, of course, boys’ names. The names of girls were things like “Teresa,” “Mary,” and “Kathleen,” at least where I grew up.

These were popular names and were ones that you would see a lot and hear a lot if you were to go to any American school. My grandfather’s name, for example, was “Frank” which is a very common name. “Frank” is a version of “Francis.” I have a brother named “Francis.” My father’s name was “Patrick.” “Patrick” was a very common name among Irish Americans. My mother’s name was “Mary,” also a very common name for a girl.

Sometime around, oh, the late 1970s, the names in the United States started to change – the first names that parents would give their children. People wanted more unusual names, different names for their children – different from what had been popular in the past. If you look at names that are popular now for babies, you’ll get some very different kinds of names.

For example, among the boys’ names, two very popular ones are “Jacob” (Jacob), and “Aiden” (Aiden). “Ethan” and “Ryan” are also popular names. I actually have a nephew by the name of Ryan. One we might call “traditional” name that has also become popular more recently is “Matthew.” A short form of “Matthew” is “Matt” (Matt).

Among girls’ names, there are a couple that parents like to use nowadays in the U.S. One of them is “Emma” (Emma). There are, of course, a few famous actresses nowadays called “Emma,” and there was, I think, a book, right? by Jane Austen called Emma. So, Emma is an old name, but it has become popular among parents today. Another popular girl’s name is “Madison” (Madison). Now, “Madison” is a strange name in my opinion, but it is a common one.

Madison was one of the presidents of the United States in the early part of our country. He was president from 1809 to 1817, if you really must know. There’s also a city in Wisconsin, which is located next to my home state of Minnesota, called Madison. In fact, Madison is the government center for the state. It’s what we call the “capital” of Wisconsin. Why is it a girl’s name? I really don’t know. But it is, and you will see a lot of girls named “Madison” nowadays.

Yet another popular girl’s name today is “Emily” (Emily). “Emily” is also a name that was popular many years ago. One of my sister-in-law’s mother was named “Emily,” so it’s a name that was popular in the twentieth century as well. “Kaitlin” has also become a common girl’s name. Finally, there is I think my least favorite of all the popular names for girls nowadays, which is “Hailey” (Hailey). I don’t know – I just don’t like the name “Hailey.” I’m not sure where comes from. It’s not my favorite, but then again I’m not a girl or a parent.

Sometimes famous people – famous actors and singers, what we might term “celebrities” – give very unusual names to their children. One example of this would be the actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow is not as famous as she once was, but in the 1990s, you may remember, she won an Oscar, an Academy award, for her role in a movie called Shakespeare in Love, which was really quite a good, entertaining movie. Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband at the time – they’re no longer married, I believe – named their child “Apple.”

Now, “apple” is a red or green fruit that you eat. It’s also the name, of course, of a very important technology company in Cupertino, California. So, it’s rather an unusual name to give a child, but that’s what Gwyneth Paltrow and her then-husband Chris Martin named their first child. Of course, when you name your child after a fruit or some other unusual object, it’s been common for people to find them funny and perhaps, unfortunately, even to make fun of those names, but it does happen and that’s one good reason to name your child “Jeff.”

Well, speaking of babies or young children – that is, since were already talking about that topic – let me jump over now to our next topic, which is related to car safety. We all want the passengers in our cars, the people who are driving with us, to be safe, especially our children. The United States, like many countries, has special laws to keep people safe while they are in a car.

Now, one thing you want when you are in a car is to have some way of preventing you from getting hurt if the car you’re in hits another car or if another car hits you. If two cars hit each other, you want to make sure that no one flies out the window, no one hurts himself by hitting a part of the car due to the force of the “impact,” we would call it, of the accident.

The general term we use for things in a car that prevent this from happening – that prevent you from flying out of your car, in effect, when you’re in an accident – is “safety restraint systems.” A “safety restraint” is something that keeps you from moving – in the case of an accident, keeps you from hitting something else in the car.

The most common safety restraint is a seat belt. A “seat belt” (seat belt) is basically a piece of long, thin material that goes over, nowadays, two parts of your body. It goes over your chest and the front part of your upper body. It also goes over your waist – what separates the top and the bottom of your body, your upper body and your legs. Most modern seatbelts go over the shoulder as well as across, we would call it, your “lap” (lap).

Older cars have seatbelts that just go across the lap, just go across the bottom part of your body, as though you were wearing an actual belt. The word “belt” (belt) is normally used for that thing you put around the top of your pants to keep your pants from falling down. So, a seatbelt originally just went around the bottom part of your body – around the waist of the body.

Nowadays, however, seatbelts usually go across two parts of your body, because that’s considered safer. Although seatbelts have been around for a long time, this safer form of the seatbelt, called a “shoulder belt” or a “shoulder strap belt,” began to be used only in the late 1950s. In 1959, a man by the name of Nils Bohlin invented the shoulder lap belt for a car company in Sweden by the name of Volvo, which you probably have heard of.

In 1966, the United States got interested in this technology, and it decided to require that all cars in the United States have seatbelts. Many American car manufacturers or makers used Bohlin’s idea of the shoulder strap seat belt, and it became, within a few years or so, the common kind of seatbelt that you would find in American cars.

Technology developed later on to make cars even safer by putting in what are called “airbags.” An “airbag” (airbag) is basically a balloon that blows up when the car hits another car, when the car is in an accident. The balloon, or the bag, automatically inflates or expands so that if your car or the car you’re traveling in hits another car, especially at a high speed, these bags will automatically pop out and will prevent you from hitting your face or other parts of your body against the front part of the car.

Airbags are now quite common in the United States. There were inventors of airbags in both Germany and the United States. John Hetrick in United States and Walter Linderer in Germany both received patents for the airbag invention back in the early 1950s. A “patent” (patent) is basically a government license saying that no one else can use your invention without your permission or without giving you money.

Ford and General Motors, two popular car companies here in the U.S., also had ideas for airbags. The problem was that it was very difficult to come up with a way of deploying the airbags quickly enough in a crash. If your car hits another car or hits some object, you only have a very, very short amount of time before your body will move against the front of the car or will hit against the front of the car. So, the airbag has to “blow up,” if you will – has to inflate – very rapidly. It has to “deploy,” we might say, very rapidly. “To deploy” (deploy) means to become active so you can use it.

In the late 1960s, someone figured out a way of deploying these airbags more quickly than they had in the past, and one American car company decided to start making cars with airbags. Those cars were first sold in 1973. Now, just because you put seatbelts in the car doesn’t mean people will use them. And, in fact, in the late 1970s, it was discovered that most people were not using their seatbelts, and because of this, more and more people were getting killed because they weren’t using the safety restraints that were provided to them.

People were particularly concerned about children and protecting children in cars, so they decided to pass laws – many of the states did – to require that at least children be protected in the car through the use of something called a “car seat.” Now, a car seat is a special seat for a young child or a baby that you put in the car and is attached to the main seat of the car so that the child will be safe if the car is in an accident. Obviously, seatbelts are much too big for young children, and so they developed a special kind of seat that the children and the babies could be placed in, in order to protect them.

Many of the car companies didn’t want to put some of these new safety features in their cars, especially airbags, since the technology for airbags is quite expensive. So instead, the federal government, the national government, said, “Okay, we’re not going to require you to put airbags in your cars the way we required you to put seatbelts in your cars, but we want your help in changing the laws of the states so that seatbelts would now be required.”

In other words, people would have to wear their seatbelts. If they didn’t, they could get a ticket; they could be fined. They would be breaking the law, in effect. So, the car companies helped the national government convince the governments of the states to change their laws. In the U.S., I should explain that laws related to cars and driving are made by the individual states.

Eventually, by the 1990s, all but one state in the United States passed a law requiring that people driving and riding in cars have a seatbelt on. The only state that doesn’t have a seatbelt law is a very small state in the northeastern part of the United States called New Hampshire. But basically, in the United States, if you come here and rent a car or are riding in a car, you need to put your seatbelt on. If you don’t, you could get a ticket. You could get a fine.

Now, although the U.S. government made this informal agreement with car companies that it wasn’t going to require airbags in cars, of course the government changed its mind, and in 1991 they passed a new mandate requiring that all cars now have, in addition to seatbelts, airbags installed in them. A “mandate” (mandate) is a requirement – when you order something to be done.

The mandate gave car companies six years to make sure that all of their cars had airbags in them, and since 1997, now all new cars manufactured in the United States have airbags. One of the good things about these new laws, especially those requiring people to wear their seatbelts, is that the number of people who die in accidents in the United States in car accidents has gone down dramatically, and that, of course, is a good thing.

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

Our first question comes from Michael (Michael) in Germany. Michael wants to know the meaning of the expression “Don’t get mad, get even.” What does this mean? Well, we say, “Don’t get mad, get even” when someone does something wrong to you, when someone hurts you or does something bad to you, and you decide that you’re not going to get angry or mad at this person. No. You’re going to do something bad to them.

Another way of saying this is that you’re going to get “revenge” (revenge). “To get even” is the same as “to get revenge.” This person did something bad to you – now you’re going to do something bad to him. That is the meaning of getting even, or getting revenge. I don’t recommend this as a general policy, however – it makes your life a lot more complicated.

Alessandro (Alessandro) in Italy wants to know the meaning of the expression “Don’t spoil her” or “Don’t spoil him.” The verb “to spoil” (spoil) someone means to treat them very well, to give them everything they want, almost too much. When you spoil someone, you treat them so well that the person begins to expect all of these good things and perhaps begins to behave badly when he doesn’t get the things that you had been giving him.

Usually, we say this expression about children: “Don’t spoil your child.” That means don’t give your child everything he or she wants, because if you do, the child will grow up perhaps thinking that he or she deserves everything you have given that child. “Don’t spoil your children,” then, is pretty common advice to parents on how they should treat their children.

Now, you might also use this expression with someone you are romantically interested in. A man might spoil his girlfriend. He might do anything the girlfriend tells them to do and gives her anything that she wants. That would be “spoiling” someone. And of course, a girlfriend could do that for her boyfriend. So, my recommendation is to always spoil your girlfriend, but not your children.

Jean Baptiste (Jean Baptiste), originally from France, now living in England, has a question about the verb “to undertake” (undertake). What does “to undertake” mean? The verb “to undertake” is used a lot in businesses and other formal kinds of English. We use it to mean to begin a project or a large task or a big job – something that requires a lot of work. We sometimes use the verb “to undertake” instead of “to begin” precisely because what we are beginning is going to take us a very long time to complete or is a very large project.

You would not say for example, “I’m going to undertake dinner tonight,” or the making of dinner, because making dinner is not a huge project, unless you’re me. I am terrible at cooking. Anything that I try to cook usually tastes very bad. But in general, we use “undertake” not for small projects, but for large projects – perhaps projects that will take us days or even months to complete.

Our next question comes from Yoshi (Yoshi), originally from Japan, now living in Baltimore, here in the United States. Yoshi’s question has to do with the expression “compared to” and “compared with.” What does “compared to” mean and how is it different than “compared with”? Both of these expressions are used in similar situations. “I am going to compare you to him” means I’m going to look at your characteristics and your qualities and judge them against the characteristics or qualities of another person.

“To compare something” means to look at both things and to see the positive and negative aspects of each of those things or each of those people. This means, in almost any situation I can think of, the exact same as “to compare with.” “I’m going to compare this movie with another movie.” “I’m going to compare this book with another book.” In those situations, it means the same as “to compare to.”

Finally, we have a question from Mandy (Mandy) from Germany. Mandy has a simple question. She wants to know what the best way is to end your email. Well, people write emails nowadays more informally than we used to write letters that we would send in a physical form. Many of us remember mail before email. Email, however, at least in English, has taken on some of the same conventions, some of the same phrases that we used to use when we typed the letter and sent it to someone through the regular mail.

In some countries, such as Great Britain and Australia, people say “Cheers,” or “Regards,” at the end of an email before putting their name. So, you might say, “Cheers,” and then “Jeff.” In American English, you’re probably going to find phrases such as “Sincerely yours,” or “Cordially,” (cordially) for very formal emails. If you’re writing an email to a businessperson or you’re trying to get a job, you would want to say something like “Sincerely,” or “Sincerely yours,” or perhaps “Cordially.” Actually, for most business situations, “Sincerely yours,” is probably the best way to end an email.

Now, if you are emailing someone in an informal situation or someone you know very well, you might not put anything at the end of your email – you might just put your name. I do that a lot with people I know. If the other person has done something for me, I might say “Thanks,” and then put my name below. I might also, depending on the situation, say something like “See you soon,” or “Talk to you soon,” or “Talk to you later,” – something like that. But as I say, many times in informal emails, people don’t put anything on the bottom of the email before their name. They just put their name.

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

baby name – the name a parent chooses for a new baby before or immediately after the baby is born

* As soon as they found out that their baby would be a girl, Mr. and Mrs. Leverett began thinking of possible baby names for her.

speaking of – since this is already being discussed; a phrase used to introduce a new topic that is related to the topic currently being discussed

* Speaking of cats, Isabelle just adopted a new kitten.

seatbelt – a band or strip of cloth one wears around oneself in a car to hold one in place and prevent one from getting hurt during a car accident; a strap worn straight around the waist, and usually diagonally across the front of a driver or passenger in a moving vehicle

* If he hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt, Bosun would have hit the front windshield when his car crashed.

lap – the top half of one's legs when one is sitting down; the front part of the body that starts at one's waist and goes down to one's knees when sitting down

* Mela’s son climbs into her lap whenever he gets tired and wants to take a nap.

car seat – a special chair that babies and young children sit in when riding in a car or other vehicle to keep them safe, which can be placed into and removed from any standard car or vehicle

* When Teodoro saw a car seat in his co-worker’s car, he knew that she must have a young child.

to be strapped in – to be held or kept in one position or place by a rope, belt, or strip of cloth

* The baby had to be strapped in to her stroller to prevent her from falling out.

to fasten – to firmly tie or attach two parts of something together into one piece; to close a lock, latch, clasp, or any other device meant to hold something together

* It was cold outside, so Leif fastened the buttons on his coat.

secure – safe; fixed or held firmly in one position so that it cannot be moved

* Brooke used hair clips to keep the loose strands of hair secure and out of her face while she worked in the laboratory.

ticket – a piece of paper stating that one must pay a fine (money owed as punishment) because one broke the law or did something illegal

* Gerry got a ticket for parking in a “no parking” zone.

to pull (someone) over – for a police officer to turn on the lights on top of the police car to signal to a driver that the driver must move the car to the side of the road and stop because of a problem

* A policeman pulled Loraine over because her back headlights weren’t working.

to get even – to get revenge; to do something bad to someone who did something bad to one first

* After Jack’s roommate humiliated him in front of Jack’s girlfriend, Jack decided he would get even.

to spoil (someone) – to frequently treat someone especially well, causing that person to get used to or demand being treated especially well; to damage the behavior or attitude of someone by treating that person better than one should, causing that person to become demanding or not thankful

* Bev spoiled her dogs by giving them food from the dining table, and as a result, they wouldn’t eat normal dog food.

to undertake – to begin doing a task, especially if that task requires a lot of work; to commit or promise to do a task

* Alexander undertook the demanding task of running the school newspaper, because no one else was willing to do it.

compared to – when examined with; a phrase used to explain the quality of one person or item by relating it to or mentioning another item that is similar

* When compared to whole grain bread, white bread is not as healthy.

sincerely yours – a polite way to end a letter or a formal email

* After finishing his email to one of the members of his church, Reverend Culler closed it by writing “sincerely yours.”

cordially – a polite way to end a letter or a formal email; politely, kindly, or respectfully

* Even though Helena was uncomfortably around her boyfriend’s friends, she always spoke with them cordially.

What Insiders Know
The Popularity of First Names

The popularity of first names in the United States changes over time. Some first names become popular suddenly and then disappear from regular use, while other names seem to be popular for many, many years.

A 2009 article in the New York Times listed the most popular first names for babies over the past 100 plus years. It is interesting to see which names have “stood the test of time” (lasted a long time; have not changed in many years) and which names “came and went” (were popular temporarily). For example, Mildred was a very popular name in the 1920s in the U.S. You could find many young girls named Mildred, as well as Evelyn and Virginia. But now, almost no one names a child Mildred. In fact, if you see the name Mildred, you might laugh a little, since it is such an “old-fashioned” (old and no longer used) name. Similarly, Grover was popular in the late 19th century, but not in recent years.

The article said that names that suddenly or very quickly become popular usually don’t last very long. For example, in the 1950s, Linda suddenly became very popular, but then dropped in popularity within a few years. Amy was a popular name for girls in the 1970s (the president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, had a daughter named Amy), but then declined in popularity by the 1990s. Names that slowly become popular seem to last longer. During the 1990s and early 2000s, names such as Zachery, Cody, and Adam were popular.

There are some names that don’t change much in popularity. The number of babies with these names is usually not large, but it is “steady” (stable; does not go up or down in number). For example, Ellen, Maria, Russell, Paul, Douglas, and Patrick are all names that have been relatively “constant” (steady; remain the same) in popularity in the past 100 years in the U.S.

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