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031 Topics: “American Idol”; Phoenix, Arizona; to ace out; content; delayed"

时间:2018-05-01   访问量:2067   View PDF
Complete Transcript
You're listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 31.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 31. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

On today’s Café, we’re going to talk about a popular American talent show American Idol. We’re also going to look at a famous city here in the United States: Phoenix, Arizona. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Most Americans have either watched or heard of the television show American Idol, which has been one of the most popular talent shows in the last 50 years. An “idol” (idol) here means someone whom you admire, often someone famous – a singer or an actor or even a politician. You might say, “He’s my idol,” meaning he is someone you look up to. “To look up to” someone means to respect someone, to think highly of that person’s ideas and opinions.

American Idol is a singing contest, or a singing competition. The words “contest” and “competition” are very similar in meaning. This competition is to find the best undiscovered singer in America. “Undiscovered” (undiscovered) means not yet discovered, and in this case, it means not yet famous, not yet known by a lot of people. So, people come on the program and sing to find out who is the best singer. The singers must be between 15 and 28 years old, so they are mostly high school students and people that are college age.

Each season of American Idol begins with auditions. A “season” (season), when talking about a television show, refers to the number of months the show is on during a particular year – usually four, six, or eight months. American Idol begins its new season in January with people going to “auditions.” An “audition” (audition) is when a performer – a singer or an actor – “tries out,” or tries to be selected to be part of the cast. A “cast” (cast) refers to a group of performers in a particular show, and the “casting director” (director) is the person who decides who to pick, who to select.

There are three judges on American Idol, three people who give their opinions about the singers. We call this a “panel of judges.” A “panel” (panel) is a group of people whose job it is to give their opinions or to answer questions about something. A “panel of judges” is a group of judges. The judges decide which of the contestants will be going on to the next round. A “contestant” (contestant) refers to someone in the contest, someone who’s participating in the competition. And the expression “the next round” means the next level of the competition. Each level is called a “round” (round).

For the first several weeks of the program, people in different cities all over the country audition for the competition. They start off with several thousand people, and gradually they pick a smaller group, and then a smaller group, and then an even smaller group, until finally there are only about 12 or so people who are competing. At that point, the people who are watching the show can vote for whom they want to go to the next round.

At the end of the program each week, viewers can vote for their favorite contestants by calling a toll-free number, which means a toll-free telephone number. A “toll” (toll) is a tax or a fee, and “toll-free” means that the call is free, even though it is a long-distance call. They can also send a text message with their phones to vote. The viewers vote on Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday night everyone comes back to see who got the fewest number of votes, and that person has to leave the competition. And they keep doing this until there is one winner.

It has been a very popular show, and one of the reasons it was so popular was because of one of the three original judges, Simon Cowell, who was on the show when it began in 2002. Simon Cowell (Cowell) is British, and he was famous on the show for being, in the words of one person, “harsh and blunt in his rejections.” “To be harsh” (harsh) is similar to being mean or critical – to say rude things about other people. And “to be blunt (blunt)” means to tell people what you think even if they’re going to be hurt by it. “To be blunt” means to tell the truth, but to tell the truth to someone who may not want to hear it, or to tell the truth in a way that might be hurtful.

Simon Cowell was “harsh and blunt in his rejections.” “To reject” (reject) means to deny or to say no to something. The judges would decide who would advance from one round to the next round, and Simon would often give the contestants very harsh criticisms. But the audience seemed to like that because sometimes the things he said were very funny. Simon Cowell is no longer with the show, but he is one of the reasons that the show became so popular.

Several people who have won or sung on American Idol have become famous singers in the United States. The very first winner was a woman by the name of Kelly Clarkson (Clarkson), and she has had many best-selling albums since then. Another winner was Carrie Underwood, who went on to become a famous country music singer. Most Americans have heard about American Idol, and there are now similar shows in many other countries as well, so you may already have heard of this show in your own country.

Our next main topic today is another famous American city: Phoenix, Arizona. “Phoenix” (Phoenix) is the capital of the state of Arizona. Arizona is located next to California and is on the border of the United States and Mexico. Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona and one of the largest cities in the United States, with over six million people. That is not that big of a city in some countries, but in the United States, that’s a big city.

Phoenix is famous for a couple of different things. First of all, much of the state of Arizona is desert. A “desert” (desert) is a very dry place with few trees and very little rain. Arizona is famous for its desert, and Phoenix is right in the middle of the desert. It’s very dry and it’s also very hot, especially in the summer. I lived in Phoenix for about two years back in the late 90s. We moved there from Los Angeles in July, and when I got out of the car on the day we arrived, I thought I was going to die. It was so hot. I think the temperature was 115 degrees Fahrenheit, which would be about 46 degrees Celsius. I don’t care which temperature system you use. Phoenix is very, very hot.

Phoenix is also one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, meaning the population is increasing at a rapid rate. Many people are moving to Phoenix because there is a lot of land there. There’s lots of room to build a home, and Americans want to own their own home – owning your own home is part of what we sometimes call “The American Dream.” It costs much less to buy a house in a place like Phoenix than it does in Los Angeles. For example, a house in Los Angeles might cost three times more than a house in Phoenix. So, it’s much cheaper.

There are also many companies that are moving to Phoenix for the same reason, especially “tech” companies. “Tech” (tech) is short for “technology,” so a “tech company” is a “technology company.” We could say that there are a lot of people migrating to Phoenix. “To migrate” (migrate) means to move within a country. “To immigrate” (immigrate) means to move to another country, but “to migrate” normally just means to move within one country, for humans anyway – animals migrate without thinking about what country they’re in.

People from all over the country are moving to Phoenix, and some people who live in the northern part of the United States, where the winters are very cold, go to live in Phoenix only during the winter, because it is warmer there than in their home states. The term we use to describe these people who go back and forth from a northern state in the summer to a southern state in the winter is “snowbirds.” “Snowbirds” (snowbirds) are people who go south when it starts to get cold or to snow, like certain birds do. Some birds go south during the winter and then go back north during the summer, at least in the northern hemisphere. That’s exactly what these people do. They go down to Phoenix or other cities where it’s warm, just for the winter.

Most of these people who have homes in two places are retirees. A “retiree” (retiree) is someone who has stopped working, someone who “is retired” or “has retired” from working. In the United States, people usually retire at about 62 or 65 years old. They stop working and instead use the money they have saved or invested to live, receive money from the government, and/or get money from what is called a pension. A “pension” (pension) is money you receive from the company you used to work for, money you can live on when you retire. There aren’t as many jobs offering pensions as there used to be, however.

How can these retirees afford two houses? Many of them live in what we call “trailer parks.” A “trailer” (trailer) is like a small house that can be moved with a big truck. Trailers are usually not very large – maybe one bedroom, a small kitchen, and a living room. Some are bigger, but most trailers you see in trailer parks are small. A “trailer park” is a place where there are lots of trailers. People rent or buy these trailers because they’re much cheaper than regular houses. And they live in them just during the winter, then go back to their regular homes during the summer, because it’s so hot in Phoenix in the summer. But in the winter, it’s a very nice temperature.

So, that is a little bit about Phoenix. There are not many tourist attractions in Phoenix, but one thing that many people like to do when they go to Phoenix is play golf, especially during the winter. Phoenix has some very nice golf courses. So, if you like to golf during the winter, it’s a good place to go. Just don’t go there in the summertime. Trust me!

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

Our first question comes from Anthony (Anthony) in Hong Kong. Anthony wants to know what the expression “aced out” means. “Aced (aced) out (out)” comes from the verb “to ace out.” “To ace out” means to defeat someone else, to win some sort of contest against someone else. Often, it’s used to describe defeating someone by a lot, by so much that the competition wasn’t even close. An example of this expression might be, “U.S. companies aced out Canadian companies for the contract.” That means the U.S. companies beat the Canadian companies and got the contract.

We can also use the expression “to ace (someone) out” to mean “to cheat.” If we say, “He’s trying to ace me out of my job,” it means he’s trying to wrongly push me out of my job or trying to take my job by being sneaky or dishonest. But usually “to ace out” doesn’t have that negative meaning – it usually just means to defeat or to beat someone else.

There is a similar verb with a different meaning, which is “to ace.” “To ace” means to do very well on something like an exam, to get an A. Someone might ask, “Hey, how did you do on the professor’s test?” and you might reply, “I aced it, dude!” That means you got an A, or a very high score.

Moving to the other side of the world, Michael (Michael) in Germany has a question about the words “content,” singular, and “contents,” plural. When you use the word “contents” in its plural form, you’re usually talking about several different items. “Contents” often refers to physical items that are contained inside something else. For example, the “contents” of a woman’s purse are all the things that are inside a woman’s purse. You don’t want to know the contents of most women’s purses.

You can also use “contents” when referring to less physical things, like the articles in a magazine, for instance. “The contents of this magazine are interesting” means the things – the articles – in this magazine are interesting.

“Content” is used also as a singular noun meaning essentially “information.” The word “content” can also be used when talking about books or movies or other media, to mean their overall ideas – their general ideas or general themes. For example, “The content of that movie was very violent” means that movie was very violent in general, very violent overall.

There is one use of “contents” that is always plural, which is the term “table of contents.” In the front of a book, there is usually a list of all of the parts of the book and what page number each part begins on, and this list is called the “table of contents,” plural.

Michael has one other question which I’ll answer quickly. He wants to know if the verb “to delay” can be used in the present tense, as in, “The train is delayed.” “To delay” means to be late, to not be on time. It can be used in the past tense but, yes, it can be used in the present tense. For example, “My plane is delayed by five hours” means I’ll be sitting here at the airport for the next five hours waiting for my plane.

One last question comes from Dennis (Dennis) in Brazil. Dennis wants to know when to use the word “if” and when to use the word “whether” (whether). Let’s start with “whether.” We use the word “whether” when we are talking about a choice, usually between two things. So, you might say, “I’m going to go to the store whether you go or not,” meaning I am going to the store whether you go to the store or whether you don’t go to the store. But instead of saying that whole long sentence, we just say, “I’m going to the store whether you go or not.” We often use the expression “or not” with the word “whether.” Usually, the word “whether” implies some doubt – you don’t know if the person is going or not going. But it doesn’t matter to you, because whether they go or not, you are going to go.

The word “if” can also be used this way sometimes. You can say, for example, “I’ll see if she is at home,” meaning I’ll see whether she is at home or not. But you don’t have to say “or not.” You can just say, “I’m going to see if she is home.” Just as with “whether,” there is some doubt: you’re not sure if she is at home.

There are some cases in which you can only use “if,” such as conditional sentences. A “conditional sentence” is a sentence with two conditions or two parts to it, the “if” part and the “then” part. “If you go to the store, then I will go with you.” But the first part has to be true or to happen for the second part to happen. “If he doesn’t love me, then I will find another boyfriend.” But you would not say, “Whether he loves me, then I will find another boyfriend.” So, “if” is sometimes used in a similar way to the word “whether,” but also sometimes in a different way.

That’s all we have time for today. 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.

idol – someone who is admired or greatly respected; someone or something that is worshipped or greatly adored

* Mazie dreamed of becoming a singing idol with millions of fans.

to look up to (someone) – to have great respect or a high level of respect for someone; to think very well of someone's thoughts or opinions

* Eloy had always looked up to his grandfather and tried to follow his grandfather’s example in his own life.

singing competition – a contest in which many people sing songs in front of judges until one singer is chosen as the best

* The school held a singing competition among its students and the winner would get to sing the national anthem at the big football game.

audition – an event at which people who want to participate in a contest or performance shows a sample of their talents and abilities for those responsible for choosing who will participate

* Geraldine went to an audition for the lead role in her university’s production of Romeo and Juliet, but she did not get the part.

casting director – someone whose job is to chooses who will participate in a movie, play, or similar entertainment event, usually after seeing or reviewing the abilities of each person

* The film’s casting director is hard to please, and so far, he doesn’t like any of the actors who tried out for the main role.

panel of judges – a small group of people who make decisions or determine how good a person or entry into a contest is when compared to other entries

* The panel of judges at the science fair judged entries by accuracy, originality, and quality.

contestant – someone who is participating in a contest or competition

* The contestants at the beauty pageant took turns modeling evening gowns.

round – a level of competition in a contest or competition; a portion of a contest designed to narrow down a large group of entries to a smaller group

* Moshe’s baseball team had made it through the first round of playoffs, but they still had to beat three more teams to win.

toll-free – a type of long-distance phone call that can be made without one being charged money

* Alida decided to email the company instead of calling because it did not have a toll-free number and she did not want the extra charge on her phone bill.

to be blunt – to tell other people what one thinks or what the truth is even when that information can hurt or be upsetting; to be honest without trying to make the information sound more pleasant or less hurtful

* Bernadette was blunt and told her friend that she did not like his new hairstyle.

desert – a region or large area of land that does not get much rain and does not have many plants or animals living in it

* We had a difficult time growing a garden when we moved to the desert.

tech – technology; an area of work or study that focuses on the development of machines and equipment based on scientific knowledge

* Noah went to tech school and learned how to build and repair computers.

retiree – a person who has stopped working at a full-time job, usually because he or she has reached an age at which working is difficult or unnecessary

* After Esta became a retiree, she had more time to travel and do volunteer work.

pension – money that a person gets each month or year from the government or the company that person worked for after he or she stops working

* Gilbert did not receive a large pension after his retirement, but it was enough to provide him with the basic necessities of life.

to ace out – to defeat or beat someone else with whom one is competing; to defeat someone by cheating or using dishonorably methods

* Dr. Bryant aced out the competition for the chair of his university department due to his impressive qualifications and experience.

content – the information discussed or provided by something; the ideas being expressed or delivered by something or someone

* The book’s content was very graphic and mature, so Madeline did not want her young children to read it yet.

delayed – prevented from arriving when something or someone is expected

* Donald was delayed because of a traffic jam on the freeway.

What Insiders Know
Dick Clark and “American Bandstand”

Dick Clark (1929-2012) was an American celebrity for more than 50 years, and it was nearly impossible to watch American television from the 1950s until the 2000s without seeing or hearing about him. He was born in the state of New York, son of a “radio executive” (someone who works for a radio broadcasting company). He studied business at Syracuse University, also in New York, and there started to host television and radio programs. In 1952, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to host an afternoon radio music show. While living there, he took over a television program called “American Bandstand.” (A “bandstand” is a “covered” (with a roof) stage usually in a park or outdoor place). On this show, he began playing songs by new musical stars and the show became a huge success.

A few years later, in 1957, “American Bandstand” began to be “broadcasted” (shown on television) all over the U.S. Many singers appeared on the show, including Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Simon and Garfunkel, and Madonna. The “format” (structure) of the show was simple: A group of young people would come together to dance to popular songs introduced by Clark. Singers and bands would perform on the show as well, and Clark would interview the young people to get their opinions about a new song. The teens and “twentysomethings” (people in their twenties) would rate the music from 0 to 100, 100 being the best, and sometimes comment on what they liked about the song.

“American Bandstand” continued to introduce kids and teens to music for more than 30 years. Clark was sometimes called “America’s Oldest Teenager,” because he did the show until he was “long past” (a long time after) being young.

Clark did other things on TV, too. Every News Year’s Eve, he would host a television show from New York City with music and entertainment. He produced dozens of television shows, including a type of “quiz show” (a show where people answered questions to win money) called “The 10,000 Pyramid.” He also became a very rich man, making millions of dollars from his television and radio productions. But to most Americans, Clark will always be the man who introduced them to popular music and dancing, every Saturday morning, on “American Bandstand.”

上一篇:030 Topics: News on the Internet; opinion polls and the environment; to think of versus to think about (something); think tank; close of business

下一篇:032 Topics: Rich Dad Poor Dad, how the US government works, sneak previews, this/that/these/those, "so to speak," by all means, to begin with, under a spell, down to earth