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
时间：2018-05-01 访问量：2074 View PDF
You're listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 32.
This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 32. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.
On this Café, we’re going to talk about a bestselling book in the United States called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. We’re also going to talk a little bit about how our federal government works. And, as always, we’ll answer some of your questions. Let’s get started!
Today we’re talking about a well-known book in the United States, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. This book has been translated into several languages, so you might already be familiar with the book in your own language. This book is interesting to me because it’s very typical of best-selling books here in the United States, especially what we call “non-fiction” books. Non-fiction books are books about real events and real people. The other kind of book is a fiction book, about something imaginary or made up.
Some of the most popular non-fiction books are what we call “self-help” books. Self-help books are books that you read to try to improve yourself in some way. For example, a diet book that helps you to lose weight, to weigh less (something I need!), could be considered a self-help book. There are also lots of self-help books about personal happiness, about how to be happy.
There are also self-help books about making money, like Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The idea that you can improve yourself by making more money is a very American cultural phenomenon. Making a lot of money is part of what we sometimes call in the United States the “American Dream,” particularly making money by starting your own business. Most people don’t actually start their own businesses, but many of us like the idea of it. Rich Dad, Poor Dad was written by a Japanese American man, Robert Kiyosaki, who grew up in Hawaii. And basically, the book is about how to become rich.
There are many books that have what we call “get-rich-quick” schemes. The expression “get-rich-quick” means just what it sounds like: making a lot of money very fast, very quickly. But when we say something is a “get-rich-quick” book or a “get-rich-quick scheme” (scheme) – a scheme is like a plan – we usually mean it as kind of an insult, because you’re probably not actually going to get rich from it. It’s sort of like the spam email that says you can make money by sending $10,000 to someone. That’s a get-rich-quick scheme, and there are lots of get-rich-quick books out there, too.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad is not one of those kinds of books, though. I read the book myself several years ago, actually, and I enjoyed it. The book talked about investing your money – putting your money into things that will earn more money. It also talked about having a job versus owning a business and many other interesting ideas. So, if you’re interested in the topic of making money, you can pick up Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Hopefully, you will be the rich dad.
Our next topic is the organization of the United States federal or national government. Each of the 50 states of the United States has its own government, but we also have a national government, what we call our federal government.
The federal government of the United States has three parts, called “branches.” They are called “branches” (branches) like the branches on a tree, the parts of the tree that grow from the main part, what’s called the “trunk.” The three branches of our government are the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. The first branch is the “executive (executive) branch,” and includes the president and everyone who works for the president. The military and all the federal offices are all run by the president.
The second branch of our government is the “legislative (legislative) branch.” “To legislate” (legislate) means to make laws, and the legislative branch is where our nation’s laws originate. The legislative branch has two parts: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives, like in many countries, is a group made up of representatives from every part of the country. Every state in the nation gets to send representatives based on the number of people in the state. There are 435 representatives in the House of Representatives. The “Senate” (senate) has 100 senators, because each state gets to send two senators and we have 50 states.
We use the word “Congress” when we are talking about both the House of Representatives and the Senate together. “Congress” (Congress) decides what laws will be passed. First, someone comes up with a dumb idea for a law – I mean, a good idea for a law – and this idea is called a “bill” (bill). It’s like a proposal. Both “houses” or parts of Congress will vote on a bill, and if it “passes” – if it gets enough votes – then the bill is sent to the president. If the president agrees with the bill, he signs it and it becomes a law. And if the president doesn’t agree with the bill, he can choose to veto it.
“To veto” (veto) a bill or an idea or a plan means to say no to it, to reject it. The president can veto a bill he doesn’t like, but Congress can sometimes still override the veto and get the bill passed. (It’s a little confusing, I know.) Essentially, Congress gets a chance to make the bill a law even without the president’s signature or agreement. “To override” (override) a veto, Congress votes on the bill again, and if the bill gets over two-thirds of the vote, then it passes and becomes a law, even if the president said no. This doesn’t happen very often, however, because the two main political parties in the United States – the Democratic Party and the Republican Party – have about the same number of representatives. Since neither party has a large majority, it is difficult to get two-thirds of all the votes.
The third branch of our government is the “judicial branch.” The word “judicial” (judicial) comes from the word “to judge,” which means to give an opinion about something, often about whether something is right or wrong. The judicial branch includes all the different courts of law in the country. The highest court is called the “Supreme Court.” “To be supreme” (supreme) means to be at the highest level, to be at the top. When there is a question about what a law means, especially what our highest law, the Constitution, means, the Supreme Court has the final say. They make the final decision about how the government should apply the laws to specific situations. That is the main or primary function of the Supreme Court.
Now you know the three basic parts of the United States federal government. There is, of course, a lot more we can talk about. It is important to note that, while we have been focusing on our national government, the government structure of most of the 50 states in the U.S. is a very similar structure to the national government’s structure. There are three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. The head of the executive branch is called the “governor” instead of the “president.” There is a state Supreme Court, and there are (usually) two legislative “bodies” or groups, a state House of Representatives and a Senate. There is one state that has only one “house” or group of representatives in its legislative branch, and that would be the state of Nebraska, in the middle, central part of the U.S.
Now let’s answer some of the questions you have sent to us.
Our first question comes from Hiro (Hiro) in Japan. Hiro wants to know the meaning of the expression “sneak preview.” The word “sneak” (sneak) means to move very quietly and secretly or to do something in secret or without someone giving you permission. For example, “I’m going to sneak into the movie” means I’m going to go in and watch the movie without paying – I’m going to go through the back door or something. That would be “sneaking in.” And a “preview” (preview) is when you look at something before it is officially ready, or ready for the average person to see.
A “sneak preview” is when a movie company decides to show a movie before the movie’s “general release,” or before it shows the movie in all the theaters. For example, if there is a movie scheduled to open on the weekend but the theater decides to show it on one night before the weekend, we would call that a “sneak preview.” Movie companies and movie theaters sometimes have these sneak previews a day or maybe two or three days before the movie is officially released, sometimes to get people talking about the movie (in a good way, they hope). So, a “sneak preview” is sort of like a secret or special preview.
Our next question comes from the other side of the world, from Lauren (Lauren) in France. Lauren has a question about when to use the words “this” and “that,” and also “those” and “these.” These four words can be used in many different ways, but generally speaking, they are used as adjectives when they come before a noun and as pronouns when there is no noun.
The word “this” is used to indicate something that is close to you, either physically or in time. If you say “this pen,” you mean the pen that is right next to you or that you are holding. The word “that” is used for something that is a little farther away from you. “I am holding this pen, and I also have that pen over on the other side of the room.” “This” and “that” are both singular adjectives, used with singular nouns (when there is only one “thing”).
The plural forms of these adjectives are “these” and “those.” “These” is the plural of “this,” and is used when you have more than one “thing.” So, you can say, “I am holding these pens” or “I am going to buy these books.” We use “these” because there is more than one pen and more than one book.
The plural of “that” is “those,” so you might refer to “those people standing over there” or “those books on the table next to the door.” These are some of the uses of “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.”
Moving back again to the other side of the world, Thomas (Thomas) in Malaysia would like to know the meaning of the expression “so to speak.” One way we use “so to speak” is when we want to emphasize that another expression we are using is informal or slang or maybe jargon. For example, “That girl is a real livewire, so to speak.” The expression “livewire” (livewire) describes someone who is very active, who is always moving around and doing things and talking. It’s an informal expression and not very commonly used anymore, so we might say, “She’s a livewire, so to speak,” to point out to the person we are talking to that we’re using kind of an outdated or strange expression. “So to speak” is usually used to emphasize or point out something about the expression or term we are using.
Our next question comes from Vladimir (Vladimir), originally from Ukraine and now living in Toronto, Canada. Vladimir would like to know about the expression “by all means.” “By all means” means definitely yes, absolutely, or please do. For example, “By all means, I’ll be coming to the party,” means “Yes, I am definitely coming to the party.” If you say, “By all means, take the rest of the cake home with you,” you mean “Please do take the rest of the cake home with you.”
There is also a similar phrase with a different meaning, and that phrase is “by any means.” “By any means” means by any way possible. It means we must do whatever is necessary to make this particular thing happen. For example, if you say, “I will get there by any means,” you mean that you will do anything necessary – fly in a plane, ride a horse, walk, take a car – anything! – to get to the place you need to go.
There is one other expression I should mention here, which is the opposite of “by any means,” and that is “by no means.” “By no means” means you should absolutely not do this particular thing. “By no means do I want you to open the car door when I am driving.” In other words, under no circumstances are you to do this.
Our next question comes from Kirsten (Kirsten) in Germany. Kirsten wants to know the meaning of the expression “to begin with.” We usually use “to begin with” when we are giving someone a list some sort, often a list of complaints about something, a list of things we do not like about something, a list of problems. For example someone may ask, “Why don’t you like that girl over there?” You might say, “Well, to begin with, she’s too tall for me. Also, I don’t like the color red and she’s wearing a red shirt. And her hair is too short. I hate girls with short hair” – you get the idea. So, when we say “to begin with,” we are indicating that we are beginning some type of list, often a list of things we don’t like. That’s one, very common way of using this phrase.
But “to begin with” can also be used in a more positive way. Someone might say, “We need to clean our house. Where should we start?” And you might reply, “Well, to begin with, let’s all sit on the couch and watch some television.” No. That would not be a good way to start cleaning your house. You should probably say, “Well, to begin with, let’s make a list of everything we need to do.”
Our next question comes from Tomek (Tomek) in Poland. Tomek wants to know the meaning of the expression “to be under a spell.” “To be under a spell” (spell) means to be deeply influenced by something or someone. The word “spell” here refers to a kind of magical enchantment, a magical power that influences you or controls you. You will sometimes hear the expression “to cast a spell,” which means to create a spell or to put a spell on someone. “The witch cast a spell on Dorothy,” or “Harry Potter cast a spell on his friend.” It’s a term that comes from magic.
The expression “to be put under a spell” means to be strongly influenced by someone, almost as if by magic – to be influenced in such a way that you find yourself doing things that you might not want to do or might not normally do. It is sometimes used when talking about romantic attraction. For example, “That woman put me under her spell” means that she has a lot of influence or power over me, perhaps because she is so beautiful. She has this special influence over me, almost as though she is working her magic on me. That’s what it means to be put under a spell.
Finally, we have a question from Ahad (Ahad). I’m not sure where Ahad is from, but he has a question about the expression “down to earth.” What is it mean when we say someone is “down (down) to earth (earth)”? “Down to earth” is an expression we use to describe a person who is honest and reasonable and who doesn’t try to impress people or think that he is better than other people. It is the opposite of what we would call “arrogant.” Someone who is down to earth is not arrogant. It’s a compliment – a very positive thing – to call someone “down to earth.”
If you have a question or comment, by all means email us. Our email address is ESLPod@eslpod.com.
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.
self-help book – a book with information that is meant to help the person reading the book accomplish a task or goal
* Kasi did not want to see a doctor about her depression, so she tried to help herself through it by reading several self-help books.
get-rich-quick scheme – a scam or trick meant to make people believe that they can earn a lot of money in a short period of time
* Pasquale got tricked into investing in a get-rich-quick scheme and lost a lot of money as a result.
executive branch – in the federal (national) government, the military, police, and federal offices controlled by the president
* The president met with other members of the executive branch to discuss methods of improving homeland security.
legislative branch – the section of the government that makes laws; in the federal (national) government, the Congress, which is divided into a House of Representatives with 435 lawmakers and the Senate with 100 lawmakers
* Members of the legislative branch kept debating the new bill, so it took a long time before they could vote on it.
Congress – the section of the federal (national) government that is responsible making new laws, divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate
* Congress was split when the Republicans had the majority of votes in the House of Representatives and the Democrats had the majority of votes in the Senate.
to veto – to reject a decision or idea made by someone else; for the president to officially say no to or disapprove of a law that Congress wants to create
* Even though all of her kids wanted to get fast food for dinner, Mrs. Gassett vetoed their idea and made dinner for them at home.
to override – to ignore the wishes or opinions of others because one has the power to do so; for Congress to pass a law by voting on a proposed law after the president rejects it and getting two-thirds or 66% of the lawmakers to approve it
* After the president rejected the tax reform bill, Congress attempted to override it by taking another vote.
judicial branch – the section of the government that determines what laws mean, if laws are consistent with the Constitution, and when a law has been broken or violated
* The federal judicial branch consists of 94 District Courts, 13 Courts of Appeal, and one Supreme Court.
Supreme Court – the highest or most powerful court in the United States, deciding how laws should be applied or if laws are allowed by the Constitution (the founding or main document of the United States)
* The client’s attorney took his appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.
sneak preview – a movie that is shown to a small number of people, before the movie is released and can be seen by everyone
* Lien was excited when she had the chance to catch a sneak preview of the blockbuster film three days before the film was released in theaters everywhere.
so to speak – in a manner of speaking; an expression used to show that the phrase or statement just made is informal and representative of something instead of being formal or literal
* Deon is a real lady-killer, so to speak, and has a new girlfriend every month.
by all means – no matter what it takes; an expression stating that something must be done, even if an unusually large amount of effort must be used to do it
* The project must be completed by tomorrow at noon, by all means necessary.
by no means – not under any circumstances; an expression meaning that something is never true under any circumstances
* Marilynn was by no means ugly, but she felt like she was plain and not pretty.
to begin with – first of all; an expression used to introduce or start a list that has multiple items on it
* Carl’s version of events cannot be relied upon. To begin with, he wasn’t there.
to be under a spell – to be influenced by someone or something to do things that one would not usually do without that person's influence
* Octavia fell under a spell when she first heard Beethoven’s music.
down to earth – honest, pleasant, and easy to talk to
* Mr. Venne was a very down to earth boss and his employees felt comfortable discussing their work problems with him.
What Insiders Know
What is the United States?
When someone refers to the “United States,” you may want to ask them if they mean the continental U.S., contiguous U.S./lower 48, territorial U.S., or all of these combined. That’s because Americans use several terms to describe the United States, and each means something slightly different. Here are some of them:
Continental U.S.: There are actually two definitions of the “continental United States.” One is “literal” (actual; strictly), based upon geography, and includes all the states on the North American continent, which would logically include Alaska as well. However, this use is not common. Instead, when someone refers to the continental U.S., they mean all of the states on the North American continent except Alaska. Why this strange exclusion of our 49th state? Because the term “continental U.S.” became popular before Alaska became a state in 1959, and so Americans have kept the old meaning to include just the 48 states on the continent but south of Canada.
Contiguous U.S.: These are the states that “touch” or share a border with another state, which is what contiguous means. There are 48 states that share borders with other states, meaning that this is the same as continental U.S.
The Lower 48: This is the same as the contiguous 48 and the traditional definition of continental U.S. Up until 1959, this included all the states of the United States. Alaska became the 49th state and Hawaii the 50th in 1959, and were the last two states to enter the union.
Territorial U.S.: This would include the United States territories, which are areas that belong to the United States but are not actually part of any state. This includes the islands of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It also includes a small group of islands in the South Pacific called the Minor Outlying Islands. (Something is “outlying” when it is far from the rest of the population or area.) The Minor Outlying Islands include Midway and Wake Islands, both sites of famous World War II battles.