English Plus Podcast - Episode 141: Vocabulary Booster 6 & More

What’s included in episode 141: Vocabulary Booster 6 & More

In this episode, we have a whole new program. It’s not going to be only vocabulary building, grammar or common mistakes, but it’s going to be one weekly episode that has a variety of topics that include all of the abovementioned topics and more.

  1. Vocabulary Booster 6: Learn 20 new words with real-life examples, synonyms and antonyms, interactive activities and a PDF downloadable worksheet.
  2. Grammar Tip: Learn about some irregularities in subject-verb agreement.
  3. Say It Right: Learn about the common mistakes people make when they use the verb ‘affect’.
  4. Between the Lines: Learn about some common cliches and fixed expressions in English.
  5. Did You Know & Spotlight: Learn something you didn’t know about Christopher Columbus.
  6. Movie School: Learn interesting words and phrases from Troy.
  7. Beyond Language: Listen to the poem ‘An Alien from Mars’.

Episode 141: Vocabulary Booster 6 & More Audio

Episode 141: Vocabulary Booster 6 & More Transcript


Danny: Welcome to anew episode from English Plus. With the beginning of a new year, I have madesome changes to our podcast, but don’t you worry; they’re all for the better. Ihave had the chance to try different formats and topics in 2019, and as aresult of all that, I have come to finalize a new format for our episodes. Wewill have weekly episodes in English Plus Podcast, and we will have different themesbased on the most popular themes of 2019. We will start the episode with thepopular vocabulary builder, which I am calling vocabulary booster. Then we willhave a short grammar tip. After that, we will have Say It Right, which willfocus on common mistakes, usage notes, and sometimes pronunciation and accentas well. We will also have Between the Lines, in which we will focus on Idiomsand phrasal verbs. Then we will move a little away from pure language to talkabout interesting facts and things. We will have Did You Know, which willintroduce you to a different topic every time and of course along the way, youwill learn English in real context, which will improve your reading andlistening skills. We will have Spotlight after that, which will introduce a newtopic each time, but with a subjective twist, which means this one will includeopinion and not only facts. After that, we will move to the world of movieswith Movie School, in which we will learn some common or interesting Englishphrases and words from famous movies. And last but not least, we will haveBeyond Language, which will take us to the world of fiction and art. So, ourepisodes will be longer than usual but definitely richer. How do you like thenew program Ben?

Ben: Well, I’mexcited about it because there is a wide range of topics that I think will beinteresting not only to our listeners, but also to us as well. I mean I knowthat our podcast has the mission of making learning English accessible to allpeople all around the world, but English as we know is not only a language, butalso a culture. It’s not just grammar and vocabulary. I know we’re taking alittle risk by making the episodes substantially longer, but I hope ourlisteners appreciate the effort and most importantly find the benefit they’reafter in what we’re doing here.

Danny: I hope so. Sonow without further ado, let’s start with our first part Vocabulary Boosterwith 20 new words to learn for this week.

Vocabulary Booster

Ben: Our words forthis week are agenda, amiable, befuddle, blight, boisterous, clarity,compliant, conserve, debut, gory, gross, induce, leeway, limber, maze, oracle,partisan, reimburse, vacate, and vagabond. We will be talking about each ofthese words in detail from their spelling, meaning, synonyms and antonyms, andof course we’ll have some examples to make understanding them much easier.

Danny: That’s right,and before we start, let me remind you that we have added these words to theinteractive vocabulary learning engine Quizlet, so that you can review them andmaster them on any device any time you like with the intuitive exercises andgames Quizlet offers to vocabulary learners, and for paper lovers, we have alsocreated a downloadable PDF with a crossword puzzle, word search, multiplechoice quiz and more activities that you can print and do at your own pace topractice the words you have learned in this vocabulary booster and some of thewords you will learn in the other parts of this episode. Now let’s start withour first word, “agenda”. Agenda is spelled AGENDA.

Now for the meaning of agenda, the most common use of agenda is torefer to a list of the subjects to be discussed in a meeting, like when we say “thenext item or subject on the agenda. Notice here that we use on the agenda notin the agenda. But there is more to agenda than just this obvious meaning.

Ben: That’s right.We can also refer to the political issues which are important at a particulartime as an agenda.  For example, we cansay, “The Danish president will put environmental issues high on the agenda.”

Danny: In thissense, agenda can also mean the ideas that a political party thinks areimportant and the things that party aims to achieve. For example, we can say,“The Republicans have stuck to their conservative agenda.”

Ben: There is alsoa very common expression people use with the word agenda and that is “hiddenagenda”

Danny: That’s right.If you say that someone has a hidden agenda, you are criticizing them becauseyou think they are secretly trying to achieve or cause a particular thing,while they appear to be doing something else. So, it is an expression thatshows disapproval. For example, we can say, “He accused foreign nations ofhaving a hidden agenda to harm French influence.”

Ben: Now there aresome useful collocations we have to mention to help you use agenda in realcontext with the right words to use.

We say

be high on the agenda, which means to be one of or the most important item of theagenda. For example, “New measures to combat terrorism are high on the agenda.”

In the same sense, we say, be (at the) top of the agenda, which has a similar meaning. For example, “Energyefficiency is top of the agenda.”

And something can also be on the political agenda, and thatis to describe what kind of agenda we are talking about, and here we can useother words like environmental, financial, etc. For example, “Immigration is animportant issue on the political agenda.”

Now as for verbs we usually use with agenda, we say:

have an agenda, for example, “Brown has an agenda for the university’s future.”

We also say set an agenda, which means decide on theproblems you want to deal with), for example, “The new government set an agendafor constitutional reform.”

We say, put something on the agenda, for example,“This incident has put the issue of racism firmly back on the agenda.”

We can also say establish/create/provide an agenda, whichmeans to begin to have an agenda, for example, “We need to establish an agendafor future research.”

Danny: We can alsosay push an agenda, which means to try to make something happen, for theother person to agree that what they’re doing is right, even if we know it’snot. For example, “This weekend, sources at rival stores hit back, accusingthem of pushing an agenda.”

Ben: I guessthat’s all about the word agenda. We have talked a lot about it, but onlybecause it is important.

Danny: Yes, that’sright. This is one of the things we have changed in our vocabulary booster forthis year. We will try to talk in more detail about the more important wordsand we will be as brief as it takes when we talk about the other common butless important words.

Ben: So now let’smove to our next word “amiable”

Danny: Yep, amiableis spelled AMIABLE. This is much simpler than agenda. It simply means friendlyor good-natured. For example, “Marty, whose sense of humor and good spiritsnever fail, is an amiable companion.”

Ben: Now let’stalk about the synonyms of amiable; we have pleasant and agreeable, and as forthe antonyms, we have unfriendly, ill-humored, gruff and hostile.

Danny: Before wemove on to our next word, let me remind you that you can find the links to theinteractive exercises, the downloadable PDF and most importantly the transcriptof this episode in the description of this episode, so make sure to check itout. Now for our next word, befuddle. Befuddle is spelled BEFUDDLE. Befuddle isa verb that means to confuse or make stupid. For example, “A difficultscientific experiment with many steps is likely to befuddle most beginners.”

Ben: We usuallyuse it in its past participle form as an adjective, befuddled to meancompletely confused. For example, “If only he could keep his increasinglybefuddled brain clear enough to squeeze out what he wanted.”

Danny: Now for thesynonyms for befuddle as a verb, we have bewilder, boggle and stupefy. As forthe antonyms of befuddle, we have enlighten and set straight.

Ben: And now forour next word “blight”.Blight is spelled BLIGHT and first, let’ssee what it means as a noun. You can refer to something as a blight when itcauses great difficulties, and damages or spoils other things. For example,“Her guilty secret was a blight on her happiness.”

Danny: Blight canalso be used as a verb. If something blights your life or your hopes, itdamages and spoils them. If something blights an area, it spoils it and makesit unattractive. For example, “An embarrassing blunder nearly blighted hiscareer before it got off the ground.”

Ben: The synonymsof blight as a noun is an eyesore, and as a verb, spoil or nip. As for theantonyms for blight as a verb, we have the words foster, promote, nourish, andencourage.

Danny: And now forour next word boisterous. Boisterous is spelled BOISTEROUS. Boisterous meansrough and noisy in a cheerful way.

Ben: That’s right.Someone who is boisterous is noisy, lively and full of energy. For example,“Most of the children were noisy and boisterous.”

Danny: As for thesynonyms of boisterous we have the words loud, unruly, and disorderly. The antonymsare quiet, calm, peaceful, well-behaved or sedate.

Ben: And now forthe next word clarity. Clarity is spelled CLARITY. Clarity is a noun that meansclearness or accuracy.

Danny: For example,“The vet explained with great clarity how best to housebreak our new puppy.”

Ben: The synonymsof clarity are the words lucidity and precision, and the antonyms are the wordsconfusion, murkiness and ambiguity.

Danny: Now for thenext word, compliant. Compliant is spelled COMPLIANT. If you say that someoneis compliant, you mean they willingly do what they are asked to do. Forexample, we can say, “A compliant child is easy to discipline even when in anunfamiliar environment.”

Ben: We can alsouse compliant in a different context. It also means made or done according toparticular rules or standards. And we use the preposition with in this sense.For example, “Future versions will be fully compliant with the industrystandard.” As for the synonyms of compliant, we have the words meek, docile,obedient and submissive. The antonyms are the words disobedient, obstinate,rebellious and perverse.

Danny: Now for thenext word conserve. Conserve is spelled CONSERVE. Conserve means to preserve orto keep from being damaged, lost, or wasted. For example, “Responsible citizenstry to conserve our precious natural resources.”

Ben: I guess weshould all conserve our natural resources if we don’t want them to run outsoon. Now for the synonyms, we have guard, and care for, and the antonyms ofconserve are the words waste, squander, and dissipate.

Danny: Now for ournext word, debut. Debut is spelled DEBUT. Debut, as a noun, means a firstpublic appearance, or a formal entrance into society. Debut, as a verb, meansto make a first appearance. For example, “The talented flute player in themarching band finally made her debut as a soloist today.” Here we used debut asa noun. Let’s see how we can use it as a verb, “Many theaters will debut thefilm tonight.”

Ben: coming out isa synonym of debut and retirement or departure are antonyms of debut.

Danny: Well now forout next word gory. Gory is spelled GORY. Gory is an adjective that meansmarked by bloodshed, slaughter and violence. For example, “The book’sdescriptions of the killings were unbelievably gory.”

Ben: Bloody andgruesome are synonymous with gory, and the antonyms are bloodless.

Danny: Now forgross. Gross is spelled GROSS. You use gross to describe something unacceptableor unpleasant to a very great amount, degree, or intensity. For example, “It wasan act of gross injustice.”

Ben: We can usegross in other contexts, too. If you say that someone’s speech or behavior isgross, you think it is very rude or unacceptable. For example, “I feeldisgusted and wonder how I could ever have been so gross.”

Danny: Gross canalso be used in an offensive way. If you describe someone as gross, you meanthey are extremely fat and unattractive.

Ben: However,gross can mean something completely different. Gross means the total amount ofsomething, especially money, before any has been taken away. For example, wesay “gross income” that means the whole income before cutting the expenses toknow how much profit is left.

Danny: Now we havethe words fat, sheer, utter and flagrant as synonyms of gross and the wordsslender, thin, delicate, fine and partial as the antonyms of gross.

Ben: Now for ournext word induce. Induce is spelled INDUCE. Induce is a verb that means tocause, bring about or to persuade.

Danny: For example,we can say, “Can drinking warm milk induce sleep?”

Ben: Synonyms ofinduce are the words prevail upon and influence, and the antonyms are prevent,deter and hinder.

Danny: Now for ournext word leeway. Leeway is spelled LEEWAY. Leeway is a noun that means extraspace for moving along a certain route; or it can mean allowance for mistakesor inaccuracies; or it can mean margin of error. For example, “Experiencedplanners allow leeway of a week or so in case a project runs into snags ordelays.”

Ben: The synonymsof leeway are latitude, or elbow room.

Danny: Now for ournext word limber. Limber is spelled LIMBER. Limber is an adjective which meansflexible or it can also be used as a verb and it means to cause to becomeflexible. For example, “Dancers work hard to develop limber bodies.” Or as averb, “Runners limber up before a race.”

Ben: The synonymsof limber are supple, or pliable as adjectives and stretch as a verb. Theantonyms are stiff, rigid and wooden as adjectives and stiffen as a verb.

Danny: Now for ournext word maze. Maze is spelled MAZE. Maze is a noun that means a network ofpaths through which it is hard to find one’s way, or it could be used to talkabout something very mixed-up and confusing. For example, “Ancient Rome was amaze of narrow streets and winding alleys.”

Ben: There aresynonyms for maze, and these are the words labyrinth, puzzle and tangle.

Danny: Now for ournext word and the good news is that we have only five left so bear with us. Theword is oracle. Oracle is spelled ORACLE. Oracle means someone or somethingthat can predict the future. For example, “According to Greek legend, peoplesought prophecy at the great oracle at Delphi.”

Ben: prophet, seerand sibyl are the synonyms of oracle. And if you really need a clue to whatoracle means, you should watch The Matrix trilogy, if you haven’t alreadywatched several times like I did. The oracle is a major character that plays animportant role in the movie.

Danny: Yeah. TheMatrix trilogy is definitely among my favorite movies. And you will definitelyunderstand the meaning of oracle if you watch the movie. And now for our nextword partisan. Partisan is spelled PARTISAN. Partisan can be used as anadjective. Someone who is partisan strongly supports a particular person orcause, often without thinking carefully about the matter. For example, “He isclearly too partisan to be a referee.” It can also be used as a noun in thesame sense. For example, “At first the eager young poet was a partisan of theRevolution.”

Ben: However,partisan can also be used as a noun in a different context. Partisans areordinary people, rather than soldiers, who join together to fight enemysoldiers who are occupying their country. We also call them undergroundfighters, guerrilla or freedom fighters, but it is a matter of perspective. Youknow the Italians who resisted Mussolini’s Fascism in World War II were calledItalian partisans after the war by the victorious allies, but during that darktime, they were called traitors and terrorists by Mussolini’s regime. So, it isa matter of perspective, but let’s not get political here. As a noun, fan orbooster are synonyms of partisan, and as an adjective, partial, biased, orprejudiced are the synonyms. As for the antonyms, critic or foe are theantonyms of partisan as a noun, and impartial and neutral are the antonyms ofpartisan as an adjective.

Danny: Now for ournext word reimburse. Reimburse is spelled REIMBURSE. Reimburse is a verb thatmeans to pay back or give payment for. For example, “When Mom goes on businesstrips, she records the cost of hotels and meals so her company will reimburseher.”

Ben: Repay, refundand compensate are the synonyms of reimburse.

Danny: Our next wordis vacate. Vacate is spelled VACATE. Vacate is a verb that means to go awayfrom, to leave empty, to make empty or to void or annul. For example, we have alot of cleaning up to do before we vacate the apartment at the end of themonth.”

Ben: The synonymsare the words depart, give up, or abandon, and the antonyms are the wordsoccupy, keep, hold or hang on to.

Danny: And now forout last word in this long part of our episode today, vagabond. Vagabond isspelled VAGABOND. Vagabond means an idle wanderer or a tramp as a noun. Itmeans wandering or irresponsible as an adjective. For example, “The vagabondcarried his few belongings in a shabby cardboard suitcase.” Or as an adjective,“The vagabond life interests some people, but it doesn’t appeal to me.”

Ben: The synonymsare vagrant or hobo as a noun and unsettled or footloose as an adjective. Theantonyms of vagabond are homebody, or resident as a noun and settled as anadjective.

Danny: So that’s allfor our first part of today’s episode Vocabulary Booster. We’ll stop now for asmall break and we’ll be back, so stay tuned.

Grammar Tip

Danny: Welcome back.You are listening to English Plus Podcast and our grammar tip for this episodeis about subject-verb agreement. We will not talk about subject-verb agreementin a general way, but we will focus on some irregularities. So, without furtherado let’s get to it.

Ben: Well, firstwe all know that when we use a plural noun, which we usually know when we seean -s at the end of the noun, we should use the verb accordingly. I mean bythat we use are instead of is if we want to use verb to be and we don’t add an-s to the verb if we are using the simple present. For example, we say “One boysings, but two boys sing; one girl is, but two girls are.” And so on.

Danny: That’s right,but sometimes a proper noun that ends in -s is singular. For example, we sayThe United States is not are, the Philippines is not are, The United Nationshas, not have. In these examples, which look plural at first sight, if the nounis changed to a pronoun, the singular pronoun it is used, not the pluralpronoun they because the noun is actually singular even if it includes a pluralnoun in it. You see the United Nations is one thing, it is it, not they, so wetreat it as a singular noun not a plural one.

Ben: Yes, thiscould be tricky for some people; they are usually misled by the -s. There arealso other words that end with an -s but they are actually singular. Forexample, “The news is interesting not are interesting.” The news is a singularnoun.

Danny: The same goesfor fields of study, such as mathematics, physics and economics for example. Wesay Physics is easy for her, not are.

Ben: Certainillnesses that end in an -s are singular, too, such as diabetes, rabies, mumps,rickets and shingles. We say diabetes is an illness, not are.

Danny: Now for somemore irregularities and that is when we use expressions of time, money anddistance. For example, we say “Eight hours of sleep is enough. Not are.” Wesay, “Ten dollars is too much to pay. Not are.” We say, “Five thousand miles istoo far to walk. Not are.” You see we consider the eight hours as a singularduration, the ten dollars as a singular sum of money, and the five thousandmiles as a singular distance, so we use a singular verb instead of a pluralone.

Ben: We also dothat in arithmetic expressions. We say, “Two and two is four. Not are.” We say,“Two and two equals four. Not equal.”

Danny: Sometimesit’s the other way around, a noun may not end in an -s but it is plural, and weshould use a plural verb with it. For example, the words people, police andcattle do not end in an -s but are plural nouns and require plural verbs. So, wesay, “Those people are from Canada. Not is.” We say, “The police have beencalled. Not Has.” We say, “Cattle are domestic animals. Not is.”

Say It Right

Ben: That was allfor our Grammar Tip section. Now we will move to Say It Right, and we willfocus today on the word affect.

Danny: It is easy toconfuse affect and effect. The first is spelled AFFECT and it is a verb, butthe second is spelled EFFECT and it is a noun. Let’s look at this example andsee how easy it is to make this mistake.

“The program is about computers and their affect on our lives.”

Ben: Obviouslyusing affect in this sentence is wrong. To affect something, which is a verb,is to have an effect on it, which is a noun. For example, we say, “Smokingaffects your health.” But “Smoking has an effect on your health.” Both arecorrect, but you need to use them correctly.

Danny: So, thesentence should go like:

“The program is about computers and their effect on our lives.” Notaffect

Ben: Now foranother example that can also be tricky.

“This problem has also affected on the automobile industry.”

Danny: Here affectis used correctly as a verb, so the problem is somewhere else in the sentence.When we say affect somebody or something, we don’t use on. For example,“Fortunately these new tax laws don’t affect us.” But you use on if you chooseto use effect, the noun. For example, “This problem has also had an effect onthe automobile industry.”

Ben: So, rememberto distinguish between affect and effect the next time you want to use thesewords. And now for our next section, Between the Lines.

Between the Lines

Danny: Between theLines is all about idioms and phrasal verbs or any other form of non-literallanguage, where we cannot simply translate word by word and understand themeaning, and to be honest, English is filled with that, so it is important tolearn idiomatic language so you can understand more of what native speakerssay.

Ben: But let mewarn you against using too many idioms in your conversations because idiomaticexpressions can be informal in a lot of contexts, so using them might beconsidered strange or inappropriate.

Danny: Idioms canalso be socially difficult to pinpoint. I mean, you may understand the meaningof an idiom, but you need to pay attention not only to the meaning but also towhen people use the idiom. Do they use it in a humorous situation? If so, thatmeans we don’t usually use it in a serious situation because that will beimpolite, and so on.

Ben: We don’t meanto discourage you but try to be a little careful when you use idioms. However,on the bright side, when you do use idioms correctly, you take a huge stepcloser to sounding like a native speaker, so it’s worth it.

Danny: Now withoutfurther ado, let’s get to some clichés and fixed expressions that we preparedfor you today.

Ben: A cliché is acomment that is often used in certain common, everyday situations. It is acomment that most people are familiar with and is therefore not original.Clichés are often used in everyday conversation, and they are also frequentlyplayed with in advertising slogans and newspaper headlines.

Danny: Let’s startwith the first cliché:

“There are plenty more fish in the sea.” What does that mean? Itdoesn’t have anything to do with fish or swimming or any marine activity. So,what do you think it means?

Ben: When we saythere are plenty more fish in the sea, we mean that there are plenty morepeople or possibilities. We often use that cliché to cheer up someone who hasfound one person or opportunity unsuccessful, like a job interview that didn’twork out, or a first date that didn’t go well.

Danny: That’s it.Now what do we mean when we say, “Look on the bright side.”? Have you heard thisexpression before? I bet you did, but what does it mean?

Ben: We use thatexpression to mean try to see something good in a bad situation, and this isusually followed by an explanation of what the bright side might be. Forexample, after failing a job interview you are told that you probably wouldn’thave enjoyed the job if you’d got it.

Danny: Well that isnot the best example ever because usually you would want to kill that personwho says that because you saw that job as your dream job, but yeah that’s thegist, so let’s move to the next cliché.

“Ignorance is bliss.” What does that mean, Ben?

Ben: Well, thatmeans that you may be happier sometimes when you do not know all the factsabout a situation. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and you cannot unknow somethingonce you know it. It’s a matter of perspective. I disagree with this cliché,but many people believe in it and it is a cliché that people use in theirconversations all the time and that is what matters most. 

Danny: That’s right.Now, we have a couple of fixed expressions that we will go over fast becausethey are very easy to understand and very common. Let’s start with the firstone. 

Ben: Get yourstakes on!

Danny: That meanshurry up.

Ben: I’ll believeit when I see it.

Danny: This one meansI’m doubtful that it will happen.

Ben: Goodriddance!

Danny: That means Iam happy something or someone has gone.

Ben: Take it easy!

Danny: That meanscalm down or relax.

Ben: Fair’s fair.

Danny: That meanstheir behavior is reasonable.

Ben: So far, sogood.

Danny: That means thingsare going well up to this point.

Ben: Give me abreak

Danny: That meansstop criticizing me.

Ben: And that wasall for Between the lines for this episode. Now we will take a small commercialbreak and then we will come back to learn some interesting facts and insightswith Did You Know? And Spotlights, so stay tuned. We’ll be right back. 

Did You Know & Spotlight?

Danny: Welcome back.You are listening to English Plus Podcast and now we have Did You Know &Spotlight? Did you know is where we will seek interesting information you mighthave heard about before or not, but this time you are hearing about it inEnglish, so without further ado, let’s get to it and talk about ChristopherColumbus. What do you know about Christopher Columbus, Ben?

Ben: Are youkidding me? He is the man who discovered America.

Danny: Yes, that’swhat most people think, but why is it called America not Columbia?

Ben: Well, thereis Columbia in South America, but what’s your point?

Danny: My point isthat the man is way overrated, but this is not what we are going to talk abouttoday. I have another question for you about Columbus. Do you think he was agood man? How do you feel when you think about him?

Ben: I am not sureI understand what you are talking about.

Danny: All right.I’ll give you an example. What do you feel about Hitler? Do you think he was agood man?

Ben: Of coursenot. I believe everybody in the possession of their right mind would agree withme that Hitler was an evil man. But how does that relate to Columbus?

Danny: It doesn’t,but what I am trying to say that there is a general feeling associated withfamous characters we tend to have without necessarily knowing a lot about theperson. I gave you the example of Hitler because this man is one of the mosthated historical characters of all time, and I will have to add, deservedly so,but people tend to have general feelings about a person without knowing muchabout that person. Many people who hate Hitler know nothing or very little abouthim, but they hate him anyway.

Ben: All right,you are taking me down one of your philosophical holes, aren’t you?

Danny: No, no, I’mnot doing that, not on purpose, anyway. Back to my question, most people hold apositive feeling when it comes to Christopher Columbus. You don’t hate the man;you might even love the man even if you don’t know much about him. Isn’t thatright?

Ben: Yes, youcould say that.

Danny: And thatleads you to acknowledging movies or books that talk in a good way aboutColumbus and denounce books or movies that talk badly about him. You just dothe opposite about a bad man like Hitler or Ivan the Terrible, etc. right?

Ben: I guess youare taking me back to the same philosophical argument.

Danny: Well, yes andno. Yes, because that is a part of our spotlight for today. The spotlightshould shed light on something without giving a clear answer. The answer is upto you. It’s just food for thought. Are we not all biased by the general imageof historical characters or the images we like better about some of thehistorical characters and we tend to believe, or even sometimes seek out booksand movies that prove our point and kind of neglect or even reject the onesthat prove us wrong and kind of break the stereotypical image we have about acertain person in history?

Ben: I guess Ishould say yes to that?!!

Danny: No, no youshouldn’t say anything. Just think about it, and to help you with that, Imentioned Columbus. Most people think well of this man even though they do notknow much about him, his life, his voyages, his motives, etc. But here is anaccount of what happened at the first encounter between Columbus and the nativeAmericans he encountered.

Ben: I agree withyou that we are all biased in a way or another, and it is hard to shed ourprejudices and be objective.

Danny: It might beimpossible to be completely objective because we are humans after all, butmaybe we should keep questioning everything around us to keep stimulating thatsuperpower we have inside our skulls.

Ben: You bet. So,what’s the story about Columbus?

Danny: As I toldyou, most people think of Christopher Columbus as a hero and one of thepioneers that helped link the world together and so on, but here is our storythat tells us what Columbus did when he first encountered the native people inSan Salvador.

Christopher Columbus received the warmest of welcomes when he firstarrived in the New World on October 12, 1492, and he immediately claimed forSpain a Bahamian Island that he named San Salvador. The native people were soexcited to see him that they swam out to his ship, the Pinta, to offergreetings. The explorer, in turn, was much impressed by their gentlehospitality and he wrote:

Ben: Who wrotethat?

Danny: Columbushimself. He wrote, “They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears andmany other things. They willingly traded everything they owned. They were wellbuilt, with good bodies and handsome features. They do not bear arms, and donot know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cutthemselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.”

Columbus saw vast potential in the natives he met that fateful day.

Ben: What’s sowrong about that? He was just describing what he saw. I didn’t see any criminalintent in what he said.

Danny: Not yetbecause he continued on writing, “They would make fine servants. With fifty menwe could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

And so, he did—a detail often overlooked in centuries of Columbus Daycelebrations.

Ben: Wow! I didn’tthink the man was one of those nasty slavers.

Danny: No, youdidn’t. You had him down as a hero, a great explorer and in some accounts, youfeel sorry for him because in some accounts they mentioned him as a man whodied sad because Spain did now acknowledge him and reinstated his titles andwealth, and that is actually wrong because let me tell you that ChristopherColumbus did not die poor. And some say that Amerigo Vespucci, after whomAmerica was named, stole the name from him, but Columbus insisted that he wasin the indies when in fact he was somewhere on the eastern coast of America.That’s why he called the natives Indians, a name that sticks until this veryday.

Ben: You’re right.It’s not easy to look at something you take for granted from a differentperspective and learn the truth behind the general story that is told toeveryone.

Danny: Yes, but herecomes the real question. How do you know that my story is true, and if I am notmaking all this up just to prove my point?

Ben: What? Areyou?

Danny: No, no, I’mjust kidding. This story checks out according to many respected sourcesincluding National Geographic, but my point still stands. Why would you believeme? Why would you trust me and not your own quizzical mind? What if I amprejudiced myself and I am trying to sway your mind? What’s the point ofseeking out new information and discussing different people to get somewhere?Should we have a destination at the beginning of every intellectual journey?All these questions are food for thought in today’s Did You Know and Spotlightsection. And now we will take our last break and get back to you for our lastsection. The interesting Movie School section and Beyond Language. Stay tuned.

Movie School

Danny: You arelistening to English Plus Podcast. Welcome back to the last two sections ofthis episode. In the first we will learn some interesting words and phrasesfrom famous movies. And the movie we picked for today is Troy.

Ben: I just lovethis movie. I love the way they steered away from the myth and focused more onthe human aspect of the story.

Danny: I agree. Theylimited the interference of gods and undefeatable heroes and focused more onmore human-related ideas. Well in this movie there are many scenes that areworth studying and remembering, but one scene stands out and that is whenPriam, king of Troy, sneaks in the cover of night into Achilles’s tent afterthe latter killed Hector and dragged his body behind his chariot and brought itback to the Greek camp. He came to Achilles to beg him to give Hector’s bodyback for the honor or proper burial. We are going to recreate the scene Ben andI. I will take Achilles’s role and Ben will be Priam. Ready Ben?

Ben: I guess. Iwill try to sound as melodramatic as I can. Let’s do that.

Danny: All right.So, the scene starts with Achilles in his tent. An old man walks into his tent,falls down to his knees and kisses Achilles’s hands. Then the dialogue starts.

Who are you?

Ben: I haveendured what no one on earth has endured before. I kissed the hands of the manwho killed my son.

Danny: Priam? Howdid you get in here?

Ben: I know my owncountry better than the Greeks; I think.

Danny: You’re abrave man. I could’ve had your head on a spit in the blink of an eye.

Ben: You reallythink death frightens me now? I watched my eldest son die. I watched you draghis body behind your chariot. Give him back to me. He deserves the honor of aproper burial, you know that. Give him to me.

Danny: He killed mycousin.

Ben: He thought itwas you. How many cousins have you killed? How many sons and fathers andbrothers and husbands have you killed, how many brave Achilles? I knew yourfather; he died before his time, but he was lucky not to live long enough tosee his son fall. You have taken everything from me. My eldest son, heir to mythrone, defender of my kingdom. I cannot change what happened; it is the willof the gods. But give me this small mercy. I loved my boy from the moment heopened his eyes till the moment you closed them. Let me wash his body. Let mesay the prayers. Let me place two coins on his eyes for the boatman.

Danny: If I let youwalk out of here, if I let you take him, it doesn’t change anything. You’restill my enemy in the morning.

Ben: You’re stillmy enemy tonight, but even enemies can show respect.

Danny: Wow! I gotgoose bumps. It is so touching and emotional. Maybe not the way we performedit, but back in the movie, it was something and by the way, after we talk abouta couple of things to learn from this dialogue, we will play the original one.Now, let’s start with endure. Priam said, “I have endured what no one on earthhas endured before.” What does endure mean? 

Ben: If you endurea painful or difficult situation, you experience it and do not avoid it or giveup, usually because you cannot.

Danny: That’s it.And now for another thing Priam said. He said, “I know my own country betterthan the Greeks; I think.” There is nothing difficult here, but a commonmistake people make when they use this expression. People may say I knowsomething more than you, but we usually say it like Priam, I know somethingbetter than you, not more.

Ben: That’sinteresting. Another interesting expression is when Achilles said, “I couldhave your head on a spit in the blink of an eye.” It is the expression “in theblink of an eye” What does it mean?

Danny: “in the blinkof an eye” means very quickly. Sometimes life happens in the blink of an eye.

Ben: Here comesthe philosopher again.

Danny: Yeah, yeah.All right. Now what do we have next? Priam said about Achilles’s father that hedied before his time. What does it mean when we say someone died before histime?

Ben: It means thatsomeone died young. But he was lucky not to live long enough like Priam did tosee his son fall and fall here means die.

Danny: Yeah andthere is a beautiful image when Priam said, “I loved my boy from the moment heopened his eyes till the moment you closed them.” You closed them means whenyou killed him. You can see it is obvious, but if you think carefully about theway words are being used in English, you will get to know the heart of thelanguage better and you will be able to speak and write English much better.

Ben: There is onelast thing before we play the original dialogue. What is the significance ofthe two coins when Priam said, “let me place two coins on his eyes for theboatman?” What are the two coins for and who is the boatman?

Danny: Well, this isa story that comes from Greek mythology. The Greeks believed that when they diethey have to cross the river Styx to the land of the dead and the only way tocross to the other side is using a boat manned by Charon who requests two goldpieces as a fare to ferry the dead across the river. If you do not bury someoneproperly and place two coins on his eyes for Charon, or the boatman, Charonwill refuse to ferry the poor dead to the other side and his soul will betrapped in between, which is the worst fate you may get according to Greekmyths. That is why Priam risked himself coming into the Greek camp to begAchilles to give him Hector’s body back.

Ben: That’s aninteresting story. I don’t think I need to know why you know it, but I like it.Now that we have talked about some words and phrases in this beautifuldialogue, let’s listen to the original with Brad Pitt as Achilles and PeterO’Toole as Priam.

(Original Priam and Achilles Dialogue from Troy)

Danny: Now for ourlast section and as we don’t want to drag this episode a lot longer, we havechosen to finish with a poem I wrote, and Ben will recite. The poem is calledAn Alien from Mars from my first poetry collection, The Scream. It talks aboutan encounter with an alien from Mars. We usually have that stereotypical imageof aliens, especially Martians. We usually think that they are green, stupidand evil. What if they were different than what we thought? I mean I know wehave no proof of aliens so far, but it is a poem and a poet can imaginewhatever he or she likes, can’t they?

Ben: Yes, surethey can. Especially you with all your imagination and philosophy.

Danny: All right,all right. So before I leave you with Ben and An Alien from Mars, I would liketo thank you very much for listening to our new episode from English Plus, andI hope you liked the new format and the variety of topics. Please let us knowwhat you think and don’t forget that you can get a lot of useful resourcesstarting from the transcript of this episode, to the PDF worksheet and the interactiveactivities, and the links to the courses and books you heard about in thebreaks. You will find all this information in the description of the episode,so make sure to check it out, or check the corresponding post for this episodeon our website dannyballan.com it’s DANNYBALLAN.COM. Thanks again and we willsee you next time, but before you leave, I will leave you with Ben and An Alienfrom Mars.

Beyond Language


An Alien from Mars

The crowd, the street was full,
all gathered around that green man
like a Christmas Turkey,
seemingly weak,
they were all ready
to stab him with their knives,
and victory to the human race—
survived another alien attack;
the rest were in the books,
this one was so real.

I pushed on to get a better view—
police surrounded that poor alien;
each stood brave and true
to keep the peace
and take some rare shots of fame.
What might he look like?
What language does he speak?
Is he a messenger,
or is he a spy?
What promise has he brought?
Why were all so obsessed
to welcome an alien from Mars?
one man asked what they drank,
gave him a Budweiser export discount;
people down from Shell
wanted to send a probe;
the old smiling man of KFC
whose man’s already fixed a franchise contract;
some stood in line to squeeze dry
all the commercial opportunities
before anyone else did.
The poor alien was shocked,
people kept pouring in with offers—
humanization deals—
he could not understand,
especially when came forth two men
in black, wired, sun-glassed,
suited like messengers from heaven
delivering messages from hell;
they almost had the poor soul convinced,
his Martian national security was at risk;
they offered him one official contract
to be the exclusive arms suppliers,
and two offers under the table
for an eternal mass conflict effect.
Then came two healers,
two priests from different sects;
they argued whose god was the one,
whose god would bring the aliens to light;
“The blind cannot lead the blind,”
the alien thought in his Martian logic
without even having met the Christ—
the obvious truth was obvious—
even an alien would know that.

The poor Martian alien friend
knew his people needed none of that;
he pretended he did not understand
years has he spent learning our tongue,
in vain.
He came up with a plan
to save our world;
they saw from there
we were already dying,
yet if he spoke a word,
the virus would spread—
we have been killing people to enlighten them
since the dawn of man.
He knew he could not enlighten us,
we already thought we were the sun;
He stood transfixed unable to speak.
Some men were watching from a distance,
confirmed Martians were stupid,
gave green light to operation Green Death,
and folks from NASA started to prepare
the first conquering mission in space.

Thank you very much. We’ll see you next week.

Vocabulary Booster 6 Wordlist

agenda (n.) the program for a meeting; a list, outline, or plan of things to be considered or done
amiable (adj.) friendly, good-natured
befuddle (v.) to confuse, make stupid
blight (n.) a disease that causes plants to wither and die; a condition of disease or ruin; (v.) to destroy, ruin
boisterous (adj.) rough and noisy in a cheerful way; high-spirited
clarity (n.) clearness, accuracy
compliant (adj.) willing to do what someone else wants; obedient
conserve (v.) to preserve; to keep from being damaged, lost, or wasted; to save
debut (n.) a first public appearance; a formal entrance into society; (v.) to make a first appearance
gory (adj.) marked by bloodshed, slaughter, or violence
gross (adj.) overweight; coarse, vulgar; very noticeable; total; (n.) an overall total (without deductions); twelve dozen; (v.) to earn
induce (v.) to cause, bring about; to persuade
leeway (n.) extra space for moving along a certain route; allowance for mistakes or inaccuracies; margin of error
limber (adj.) flexible; (v.) to cause to become flexible
maze (n.) a network of paths through which it is hard to find one’s way; something very mixed-up and confusing
oracle (n.) someone or something that can predict the future
partisan (n.) a strong supporter of a person, party, or cause; one whose support is unreasoning; a resistance fighter, guerrilla; (adj.) strongly supporting one side only
reimburse (v.) to pay back; to give payment for
vacate (v.) to go away from, leave empty; to make empty; to void, annul
vagabond (n.) an idle wanderer; a tramp; (adj.) wandering; irresponsible

Vocabulary Booster 6 PDF Worksheet

Vocabulary Booster 6 Quizlet Interactive Activities


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