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

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

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

Vocabulary Booster

Ben: Our words for this 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 of these words in detail from their spelling, meaning, synonyms and antonyms, and of 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 the interactive vocabulary learning engine Quizlet, so that you can review them and master them on any device any time you like with the intuitive exercises and games Quizlet offers to vocabulary learners, and for paper lovers, we have also created a downloadable PDF with a crossword puzzle, word search, multiple choice quiz and more activities that you can print and do at your own pace to practice the words you have learned in this vocabulary booster and some of the words you will learn in the other parts of this episode. Now let’s start with our first word, “agenda”. Agenda is spelled AGENDA.

Now for the meaning of agenda, the most common use of agenda is to refer to a list of the subjects to be discussed in a meeting, like when we say “the next item or subject on the agenda. Notice here that we use on the agenda not in 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 particular time as an agenda.  For example, we can say, “The Danish president will put environmental issues high on the agenda.”

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

Ben: There is also a very common expression people use with the word agenda and that is “hidden agenda”

Danny: That’s right. If you say that someone has a hidden agenda, you are criticizing them because you 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 that shows disapproval. For example, we can say, “He accused foreign nations of having a hidden agenda to harm French influence.”

Ben: Now there are some useful collocations we have to mention to help you use agenda in real context 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 the agenda. 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, “Energy efficiency is top of the agenda.”

And something can also be on the political agenda, and that is to describe what kind of agenda we are talking about, and here we can use other words like environmental, financial, etc. For example, “Immigration is an important 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 the problems you want to deal with), for example, “The new government set an agenda for 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, which means to begin to have an agenda, for example, “We need to establish an agenda for future research.”

Danny: We can also say push an agenda, which means to try to make something happen, for the other person to agree that what they’re doing is right, even if we know it’s not. For example, “This weekend, sources at rival stores hit back, accusing them of pushing an agenda.”

Ben: I guess that’s all about the word agenda. We have talked a lot about it, but only because it is important.

Danny: Yes, that’s right. This is one of the things we have changed in our vocabulary booster for this year. We will try to talk in more detail about the more important words and we will be as brief as it takes when we talk about the other common but less important words.

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

Danny: Yep, amiable is spelled AMIABLE. This is much simpler than agenda. It simply means friendly or good-natured. For example, “Marty, whose sense of humor and good spirits never fail, is an amiable companion.”

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

Danny: Before we move on to our next word, let me remind you that you can find the links to the interactive exercises, the downloadable PDF and most importantly the transcript of this episode in the description of this episode, so make sure to check it out. Now for our next word, befuddle. Befuddle is spelled BEFUDDLE. Befuddle is a verb that means to confuse or make stupid. For example, “A difficult scientific experiment with many steps is likely to befuddle most beginners.”

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

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

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

Danny: Blight can also be used as a verb. If something blights your life or your hopes, it damages and spoils them. If something blights an area, it spoils it and makes it unattractive. For example, “An embarrassing blunder nearly blighted his career before it got off the ground.”

Ben: The synonyms of blight as a noun is an eyesore, and as a verb, spoil or nip. As for the antonyms for blight as a verb, we have the words foster, promote, nourish, and encourage.

Danny: And now for our next word boisterous. Boisterous is spelled BOISTEROUS. Boisterous means rough 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 the synonyms of boisterous we have the words loud, unruly, and disorderly. The antonyms are quiet, calm, peaceful, well-behaved or sedate.

Ben: And now for the next word clarity. Clarity is spelled CLARITY. Clarity is a noun that means clearness or accuracy.

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

Ben: The synonyms of clarity are the words lucidity and precision, and the antonyms are the words confusion, murkiness and ambiguity.

Danny: Now for the next word, compliant. Compliant is spelled COMPLIANT. If you say that someone is compliant, you mean they willingly do what they are asked to do. For example, we can say, “A compliant child is easy to discipline even when in an unfamiliar environment.”

Ben: We can also use compliant in a different context. It also means made or done according to particular rules or standards. And we use the preposition with in this sense. For example, “Future versions will be fully compliant with the industry standard.” 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 the next word conserve. Conserve is spelled CONSERVE. Conserve means to preserve or to keep from being damaged, lost, or wasted. For example, “Responsible citizens try to conserve our precious natural resources.”

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

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

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

Danny: Well now for out next word gory. Gory is spelled GORY. Gory is an adjective that means marked by bloodshed, slaughter and violence. For example, “The book’s descriptions of the killings were unbelievably gory.”

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

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

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

Danny: Gross can also be used in an offensive way. If you describe someone as gross, you mean they are extremely fat and unattractive.

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

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

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

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

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

Danny: Now for our next word leeway. Leeway is spelled LEEWAY. Leeway is a noun that means extra space for moving along a certain route; or it can mean allowance for mistakes or inaccuracies; or it can mean margin of error. For example, “Experienced planners allow leeway of a week or so in case a project runs into snags or delays.”

Ben: The synonyms of leeway are latitude, or elbow room.

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

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

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

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

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

Ben: prophet, seer and sibyl are the synonyms of oracle. And if you really need a clue to what oracle means, you should watch The Matrix trilogy, if you haven’t already watched several times like I did. The oracle is a major character that plays an important role in the movie.

Danny: Yeah. The Matrix trilogy is definitely among my favorite movies. And you will definitely understand the meaning of oracle if you watch the movie. And now for our next word partisan. Partisan is spelled PARTISAN. Partisan can be used as an adjective. Someone who is partisan strongly supports a particular person or cause, often without thinking carefully about the matter. For example, “He is clearly too partisan to be a referee.” It can also be used as a noun in the same sense. For example, “At first the eager young poet was a partisan of the Revolution.”

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

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

Ben: Repay, refund and compensate are the synonyms of reimburse.

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

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

Danny: And now for out last word in this long part of our episode today, vagabond. Vagabond is spelled VAGABOND. Vagabond means an idle wanderer or a tramp as a noun. It means wandering or irresponsible as an adjective. For example, “The vagabond carried 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 synonyms are vagrant or hobo as a noun and unsettled or footloose as an adjective. The antonyms of vagabond are homebody, or resident as a noun and settled as an adjective.

Danny: So that’s all for our first part of today’s episode Vocabulary Booster. We’ll stop now for a small 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 episode is about subject-verb agreement. We will not talk about subject-verb agreement in a general way, but we will focus on some irregularities. So, without further ado let’s get to it.

Ben: Well, first we all know that when we use a plural noun, which we usually know when we see an -s at the end of the noun, we should use the verb accordingly. I mean by that 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 boy sings, 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 say The United States is not are, the Philippines is not are, The United Nations has, not have. In these examples, which look plural at first sight, if the noun is changed to a pronoun, the singular pronoun it is used, not the plural pronoun they because the noun is actually singular even if it includes a plural noun in it. You see the United Nations is one thing, it is it, not they, so we treat it as a singular noun not a plural one.

Ben: Yes, this could be tricky for some people; they are usually misled by the -s. There are also other words that end with an -s but they are actually singular. For example, “The news is interesting not are interesting.” The news is a singular noun.

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

Ben: Certain illnesses 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 some more irregularities and that is when we use expressions of time, money and distance. For example, we say “Eight hours of sleep is enough. Not are.” We say, “Ten dollars is too much to pay. Not are.” We say, “Five thousand miles is too far to walk. Not are.” You see we consider the eight hours as a singular duration, the ten dollars as a singular sum of money, and the five thousand miles as a singular distance, so we use a singular verb instead of a plural one.

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

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

Say It Right

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

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

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

Ben: Obviously using 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, “Smoking affects your health.” But “Smoking has an effect on your health.” Both are correct, but you need to use them correctly.

Danny: So, the sentence should go like:

“The program is about computers and their effect on our lives.” Not affect

Ben: Now for another example that can also be tricky.

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

Danny: Here affect is 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 choose to use effect, the noun. For example, “This problem has also had an effect on the automobile industry.”

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

Between the Lines

Danny: Between the Lines is all about idioms and phrasal verbs or any other form of non-literal language, where we cannot simply translate word by word and understand the meaning, and to be honest, English is filled with that, so it is important to learn idiomatic language so you can understand more of what native speakers say.

Ben: But let me warn you against using too many idioms in your conversations because idiomatic expressions can be informal in a lot of contexts, so using them might be considered strange or inappropriate.

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

Ben: We don’t mean to 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 step closer to sounding like a native speaker, so it’s worth it.

Danny: Now without further ado, let’s get to some clichés and fixed expressions that we prepared for you today.

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

Danny: Let’s start with the first cliché:

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

Ben: When we say there are plenty more fish in the sea, we mean that there are plenty more people or possibilities. We often use that cliché to cheer up someone who has found one person or opportunity unsuccessful, like a job interview that didn’t work 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 this expression before? I bet you did, but what does it mean?

Ben: We use that expression to mean try to see something good in a bad situation, and this is usually followed by an explanation of what the bright side might be. For example, after failing a job interview you are told that you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the job if you’d got it.

Danny: Well that is not the best example ever because usually you would want to kill that person who says that because you saw that job as your dream job, but yeah that’s the gist, so let’s move to the next cliché.

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

Ben: Well, that means that you may be happier sometimes when you do not know all the facts about a situation. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and you cannot unknow something once 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 their conversations 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 because they are very easy to understand and very common. Let’s start with the first one. 

Ben: Get your stakes on!

Danny: That means hurry up.

Ben: I’ll believe it when I see it.

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

Ben: Good riddance!

Danny: That means I am happy something or someone has gone.

Ben: Take it easy!

Danny: That means calm down or relax.

Ben: Fair’s fair.

Danny: That means their behavior is reasonable.

Ben: So far, so good.

Danny: That means things are going well up to this point.

Ben: Give me a break

Danny: That means stop criticizing me.

Ben: And that was all for Between the lines for this episode. Now we will take a small commercial break and then we will come back to learn some interesting facts and insights with 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 might have heard about before or not, but this time you are hearing about it in English, so without further ado, let’s get to it and talk about Christopher Columbus. What do you know about Christopher Columbus, Ben?

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

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

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

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

Ben: I am not sure I 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 a good man?

Ben: Of course not. I believe everybody in the possession of their right mind would agree with me 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 with famous characters we tend to have without necessarily knowing a lot about the person. I gave you the example of Hitler because this man is one of the most hated 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 much about that person. Many people who hate Hitler know nothing or very little about him, 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’m not doing that, not on purpose, anyway. Back to my question, most people hold a positive 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 that right?

Ben: Yes, you could say that.

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

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

Danny: Well, yes and no. Yes, because that is a part of our spotlight for today. The spotlight should shed light on something without giving a clear answer. The answer is up to you. It’s just food for thought. Are we not all biased by the general image of historical characters or the images we like better about some of the historical characters and we tend to believe, or even sometimes seek out books and movies that prove our point and kind of neglect or even reject the ones that prove us wrong and kind of break the stereotypical image we have about a certain person in history?

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

Danny: No, no you shouldn’t say anything. Just think about it, and to help you with that, I mentioned Columbus. Most people think well of this man even though they do not know much about him, his life, his voyages, his motives, etc. But here is an account of what happened at the first encounter between Columbus and the native Americans he encountered.

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

Danny: It might be impossible to be completely objective because we are humans after all, but maybe we should keep questioning everything around us to keep stimulating that superpower we have inside our skulls.

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

Danny: As I told you, most people think of Christopher Columbus as a hero and one of the pioneers that helped link the world together and so on, but here is our story that tells us what Columbus did when he first encountered the native people in San Salvador.

Christopher Columbus received the warmest of welcomes when he first arrived in the New World on October 12, 1492, and he immediately claimed for Spain a Bahamian Island that he named San Salvador. The native people were so excited to see him that they swam out to his ship, the Pinta, to offer greetings. The explorer, in turn, was much impressed by their gentle hospitality and he wrote:

Ben: Who wrote that?

Danny: Columbus himself. He wrote, “They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things. They willingly traded everything they owned. They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves 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 so wrong about that? He was just describing what he saw. I didn’t see any criminal intent in what he said.

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

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

Ben: Wow! I didn’t think the man was one of those nasty slavers.

Danny: No, you didn’t. You had him down as a hero, a great explorer and in some accounts, you feel sorry for him because in some accounts they mentioned him as a man who died sad because Spain did now acknowledge him and reinstated his titles and wealth, and that is actually wrong because let me tell you that Christopher Columbus did not die poor. And some say that Amerigo Vespucci, after whom America was named, stole the name from him, but Columbus insisted that he was in 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 very day.

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

Danny: Yes, but here comes the real question. How do you know that my story is true, and if I am not making all this up just to prove my point?

Ben: What? Are you?

Danny: No, no, I’m just kidding. This story checks out according to many respected sources including National Geographic, but my point still stands. Why would you believe me? Why would you trust me and not your own quizzical mind? What if I am prejudiced myself and I am trying to sway your mind? What’s the point of seeking 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 Spotlight section. And now we will take our last break and get back to you for our last section. The interesting Movie School section and Beyond Language. Stay tuned.

Movie School

Danny: You are listening to English Plus Podcast. Welcome back to the last two sections of this episode. In the first we will learn some interesting words and phrases from famous movies. And the movie we picked for today is Troy.

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

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

Ben: I guess. I will 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 have endured what no one on earth has endured before. I kissed the hands of the man who killed my son.

Danny: Priam? How did you get in here?

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

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

Ben: You really think death frightens me now? I watched my eldest son die. I watched you drag his body behind your chariot. Give him back to me. He deserves the honor of a proper burial, you know that. Give him to me.

Danny: He killed my cousin.

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

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

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

Danny: Wow! I got goose bumps. It is so touching and emotional. Maybe not the way we performed it, but back in the movie, it was something and by the way, after we talk about a 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 earth has endured before.” What does endure mean? 

Ben: If you endure a painful or difficult situation, you experience it and do not avoid it or give up, usually because you cannot.

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

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

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

Ben: Here comes the philosopher again.

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

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

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

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

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

Ben: That’s an interesting 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 beautiful dialogue, let’s listen to the original with Brad Pitt as Achilles and Peter O’Toole as Priam.

(Original Priam and Achilles Dialogue from Troy)

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

Ben: Yes, sure they 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 like to thank you very much for listening to our new episode from English Plus, and I hope you liked the new format and the variety of topics. Please let us know what you think and don’t forget that you can get a lot of useful resources starting from the transcript of this episode, to the PDF worksheet and the interactive activities, and the links to the courses and books you heard about in the breaks. 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 episode on our website dannyballan.com it’s DANNYBALLAN.COM. Thanks again and we will see you next time, but before you leave, I will leave you with Ben and An Alien from 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

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