Saturday, November 14, 2009

Words and Their Stories: "I Feel Very Blue." From Voice of America.

"Man With Guitar" by Pablo Picasso during his "Blue Period"



Now, the VOA Special English program, Words and Their Stories.

(MUSIC)

Every people has its own way of saying things, its own special expressions. Many everyday American expressions are based on colors.

Red is a hot color. Americans often use it to express heat. They may say they are red hot about something unfair. When they are red hot they are very angry about something. The small hot tasting peppers found in many Mexican foods are called red hots for their color and their fiery taste. Fast loud music is popular with many people. They may say the music is red hot, especially the kind called Dixieland jazz.

Pink is a lighter kind of red. People sometimes say they are in the pink when they are in good health. The expression was first used in America at the beginning of the twentieth century. It probably comes from the fact that many babies are born with a nice pink color that shows that they are in good health.

Blue is a cool color. The traditional blues music in the United States is the opposite of red hot music. Blues is slow, sad and soulful. Duke Ellington and his orchestra recorded a famous song – Mood Indigo – about the deep blue color, indigo. In the words of the song: “You ain’t been blue till you’ve had that Mood Indigo.” Someone who is blue is very sad.

The color green is natural for trees and grass. But it is an unnatural color for humans. A person who has a sick feeling stomach may say she feels a little green. A passenger on a boat who is feeling very sick from high waves may look very green.

Sometimes a person may be upset because he does not have something as nice as a friend has, like a fast new car. That person may say he is green with envy. Some people are green with envy because a friend has more dollars or greenbacks. Dollars are called greenbacks because that is the color of the back side of the paper money.

The color black is used often in expressions. People describe a day in which everything goes wrong as a black day. The date of a major tragedy is remembered as a black day. A blacklist is illegal now. But at one time, some businesses refused to employ people who were on a blacklist for belonging to unpopular organizations.

In some cases, colors describe a situation. A brown out is an expression for a reduction in electric power. Brown outs happen when there is too much demand for electricity. The electric system is unable to offer all the power needed in an area. Black outs were common during World War Two. Officials would order all lights in a city turned off to make it difficult for enemy planes to find a target in the dark of night.

(MUSIC)

I’m Warren Scheer. Listen again next week for another Words and Their Stories program in Special English on the Voice of America.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Words and Their Stories: "Nuts and Bolts"




Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

(MUSIC)

Every machine is held together by its nuts and bolts. Without them, the machine would fall apart. That is also true of an organization. Its nuts and bolts are its basic, necessary elements. They are the parts that make the organization work.

In government, industry, diplomacy -- in most anything -- those who understand the nuts and bolts are the most important. Success depends more on them than on almost anyone else.

In government, the president or prime minister may plan and shape programs and policies. But, it takes much more work to get them approved and to make them successful.

There is a mass of detailed work to be done. The nuts and bolts. This is often put into the hands of specialists. The top leaders are always well-known, but not those who work with the nuts and bolts.

This is equally true in the day-to-day operation of Congress. The majority leader of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, together with the chairmen of committees, keep the business of Congress moving.

Behind every Senator and Congressman, however, are assistants. These people do all the detailed work to prepare congressmen to vote wisely on each issue.

In diplomacy, the chief ministers are unquestionably important in negotiations. But there are lesser officials who do the basic work and preparations on the different issues to be negotiated.

A recent book tells of a British prime minister who decided to send an ambassador to Washington to learn if details could be worked out for joint action on an issue. The talks in Washington, the minister said, would be "of nut and bolts." He meant, of course, the talks would concern all the necessary elements to make joint action successful.

In a military operation, strategy decisions are important. But much more time is spent on the nuts and bolts -- generally called logistics -- of how to transport and supply an army. It has been said that Napoleon was successful because he knew the field position of every one of his guns. He gave careful attention to the nuts and bolts of his operations.

The extreme importance of nuts and bolts was expressed by the Elizabethan poet, George Herbert. He wrote:

For want of a nail, the shoe is lost

For want of a shoe, the horse is lost

For want of a horse, the rider is lost.

Benjamin Franklin carried these lines even further. He wrote:

For want of a rider, the battle was lost

For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

(MUSIC)

This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Marilyn Christiano. The narrator was Maurice Joyce. I'm Warren Scheer.