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Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

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Patreon Patron Level 2 is really the BEST level, with the most rewards for your money!

Here are the details for Patron Level 2: Instructors and Serious Self-Study Students.

I consider Level 2 to be the best level for the money. The cost is $10.00 USD per month, which is only about 34 cents per day.

This level is for teachers of ESL (English as a Second Language) and serious students who want to work on their own to improve their English skills.

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  • Teachers: Each Exercise Worksheet is a ready-made lesson! You can photocopy it up to 30 times per term/semester. Your students will appreciate the extra reinforcement, and you’ll appreciate the time savings!

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  • Serious self-study students, use this recording to practice listening to faster, natural-speed speech.
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Episode 49: President George Washington

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 49: President George Washington

Before we begin, did you know that you can buy Slow American English workbooks? Each workbook contains the Exercise Worksheets, answer keys, Bonus Material and transcripts from each podcast episode. There are three workbooks so far. Each contains a year’s worth of podcast episodes. Volume 1 has episodes 1 – 12, Volume 2, episodes 13 – 24, and Volume 3, episodes 25 – 36. You can buy all the workbooks on Amazon. The link is on the podcast website at www.slowamericanenglish.net.

And very soon there will be a new workbook, Volume 4, with episodes 37 – 48. I will announce it when it is published.

Also, I want to thank my Patreon patrons for pledging a small amount every month to keep the podcast going. Your contributions help pay for web hosting and other expenses. Without you, I could not produce this podcast every month. Thank you! If YOU think this podcast is helpful, please visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish and become a patron. It’s very inexpensive and helps everyone around the world who listens to this podcast.

In addition, you can become a website subscriber for free at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. Find free transcripts there PLUS links to become a patron and to buy the workbooks.

Subscribe to the podcast feed via Apple Podcasts, Android, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and any other RSS feed reader.

Contact me directly via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net. Now for the podcast:

Transcript:

George Washington was born in Virginia in 1732. His family had a successful plantation, which he later owned. During the Revolutionary War for independence against Great Britain, Washington was commander of the American army. He became a national hero because of this. He was one of America’s Founding Fathers. They wrote the Constitution of the United States. He was the first to sign it, too.

The electoral college elected George Washington as the first president in 1789 and again in 1792. He is the only president to be elected unanimously. For this and many other reasons, Washington is called the Father of Our Country.

He decided not to be president for a third term, although everyone wanted him to. This tradition was followed by all other presidents for 150 years. In 1947, this two-term limit was made into law.

Washington knew that everyone was watching everything he did as the first US president. He knew his actions would be examples for all other presidents to follow. Therefore, he was very careful to be a very strong leader. For example, he organized the president’s Cabinet well. He also allowed the other branches of government to balance the power of the president.

Of course, you can look up all this history if you are interested. However, I want to tell you some of the things about George Washington that Americans learn as children:

  • There is a story about George Washington which is probably not true. It says that, when he was a child, George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree. It was a terrible thing to do. When his father asked who did it, George replied, “I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree.” This legend shows how honest he was.

  • Another story says that, as a boy, George Washington threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River in Maryland. This can’t be true. There were no silver dollars then and the river was too wide.

  • A true fact about George Washington: He had false teeth made of wood!

  • George Washington’s wife’s name was Martha.

  • Washington’s plantation and home was Mount Vernon, VA. You can visit it today.

  • When he led the army during the Revolution, Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776. They went into New Jersey for a surprise attack on the enemy. There is a famous painting by George Cableb Bingham called Washington Crossing the Delaware.

  • Also during the Revolutionary War, Washington and his soldiers camped in Valley Forge, PA. It was the hard winter of 1777-78. They survived and trained there to become a strong army. They were able to defeat the British soldiers in the spring.

Today, George Washington’s face is on the US dollar bill and the quarter coin. In addition, many parks, streets, schools and even people have been named after him. The state of Washington and Washington, DC, are also named after him. In addition, the very tall Washington Monument stands in front of the nation’s capitol building in Washington, DC.

### End of Transcript ###

That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

For free transcripts and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

Episode 40: The Mississippi River

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 40: The Mississippi River

But first, are you a regular listener to the Slow American English podcast? Do you think it is helpful? Show your support and become a patron. Patrons get free Natural-Speed Recordings and Exercise Worksheets for each episode. To become a patron, visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish.

Also, you can buy Slow American English workbooks on Amazon.com. Workbooks contain all the transcripts and Exercise Worksheets for each episode for an entire year; 12 episodes in each workbook.

In addition, you can become a website subscriber for free at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. Find free transcripts there PLUS links to become a patron and to buy workbooks.

Subscribe to the podcast feed via Apple Podcasts, Android, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and any other RSS feed reader.

And, as always, you can contact me directly via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net. Now for the podcast:

Transcript:

For this episode, I recommend listening to the United States Regions episode of the podcast. Also, you can visit www.patreon.com/slowamericanenglish for a FREE downloadable map of the Mississippi River river basin. The map is helpful when considering the information in this podcast.

The Mississippi River

Geography

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States, but it’s the most well known. From its headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, water flows about 2,300 miles south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It flows through or next to 10 states. The river is narrowest at Lake Itasca, only about 20 or 30 feet wide. It is widest, about 11 miles, at its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois.

Smaller rivers and streams that flow into a river are called tributaries. All of the tributaries together are known as its watershed or river basin. The Mississippi River’s watershed is the third largest in the world. It covers about 1.2 million square miles, which is about 40% of the continental United States. Water from all or part of 31 states plus two provinces in Canada drains into it. The eastern boundary of the watershed is the Allegheny Mountains; the western border is the Rocky Mountains.

The Mississippi is a slow-moving river and it is very muddy. It flows about 1.5 miles per hour (mph) on the surface as it leaves Lake Itasca. Even at the Gulf of Mexico, the water flows only about 3 mph, a little slower than most people walk. It takes about three months for water leaving Lake Itasca to reach the Gulf.

The muddy Mississippi River deposits all the sand and silt that it carries over its great distance into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, Louisiana. Over time, this sand and silt has built up into low-lying land. This land is called the Mississippi Delta.

History

Oral histories of Native American tribes and some archaeological evidence show that Native Americans lived near the Mississippi River as long as 12,000 years ago. Unfortunately, there is no existing written history about the lives of these people, so it is difficult to know much detail.

Then, in the 1500s, Europeans began exploring the river. The first one, Hernando De Soto from Spain, led an expedition from the Gulf of Mexico northward up the river from the delta. His plan was to plunder the tribes living there. His group encountered floods and hostile Native American attacks. De Soto was killed in an attack near the present-day city of Memphis, Tennessee, and his body was left in the river.

Next came the French expedition of Marquette and Jolliet in 1673. They came from Canada southward. A few years later a French explorer named La Salle traveled all the way from the north to the delta. He claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France, even though Native Americans were living there long before he arrived.

In the 1700s, Spain took control of the lower Mississippi south of Cairo, IL. Eventually, France regained control of the river then sold it to the young United States as part of a land-transfer deal called the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. For many years the Mississippi River was considered the western border of the United States.

Because the river is so shallow, boats with flat bottoms were used to carry goods in the early days. These boats had no engines and were propelled by people using small paddles, sails or long poles. In the early 1800s, steam-powered riverboats with wheel-shaped paddles were used to travel both ways. These paddle wheelers could operate in shallow water and were like floating hotels with restaurants, bars and casinos. The Mississippi riverboat gambler is a common stereotype. Today tourists can still ride on a historical paddle wheeler on the Mississippi.

Because of its shallowness, the river floods often and the channel changes. Therefore, modern flood-protection was engineered to control it, especially on the lower Mississippi. These controls include locks, dams, spillways and levees, which still exist today. Some of the dams help generate electricity, and the river’s channel is dug out regularly to allow ships to carry goods up and down the river. However, these controls have changed the environment drastically, and many groups are fighting now to remove them and let the river become its natural self again. This would greatly affect those living near the river because the unpredictable floods would return.

American Culture

The Mississippi River, especially the lower part, was a popular topic in blues, jazz, gospel, folk and country music. Even today, songwriters mention the river in their lyrics.

In addition, the river has been the subject or setting of much American literature. For example, Langston Hughes, an African-American poet, wrote a famous poem in 1921 called “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” which features the Mississippi. Tennessee Williams wrote plays and poems involving life on the river. William Faulkner is a famous author whose work reflects life near the river, too.

Probably the most famous author to write about the Mississippi River was Mark Twain. One of his books is even titled Life on the Mississippi. It contains stories about his experience as a steamboat pilot and what the river was like in the late 1800s from St. Louis, Missouri, to New Orleans.

There are many more examples of literature that is based on, mentions or features the Mississippi River. Just do an online search and you’ll see what I mean.

Language Notes

Certain Native American tribes near St. Louis, Missouri, called the river misi sipi, which literally means ‘big water’ or ‘father of water’. From this Native-American name we get ‘Mississippi’. The idea of the river as father continues in American English: the river is known as “Old Man River” in literature, songs and informal conversation.

In addition, the Mississippi River is so big and is such an important river to North America and US history that it is often called the Mighty Mississippi.

Lastly, remember that Mississippi is not only the name of a river, it is also the name of a state. Mississippi state lies to the east of Louisiana and has the Mississippi River as most of the border between them.

Episode 37: Money in the USA

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 37: Money in the USA

Before we get started, I have some announcements:

Are you a regular listener to the Slow American English podcast? Do you think it is helpful? Show your support and become a patron. For only $1.25 per month, you get free Natural-Speed Recordings for each episode. For $2.50 per month, you get the Natural-Speed Recordings PLUS free Exercise Worksheets for each episode, including answer keys. To become a patron, visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish.

I am happy to announce that Slow American English Workbook Volume 3 is now available on Amazon.com! It contains transcripts and Exercise Worksheets from podcast episodes 25 – 36. It costs only $10.

You can buy all three Slow American English Workbooks on Amazon.com. Each workbook contains all the transcripts and Exercise Worksheets for an entire year; 12 episodes in each workbook. Visit SlowAmericanEnglish.net and click the links to buy the Workbooks.

Also, you can become a website subscriber for free at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. Find free transcripts there PLUS links to become a patron.

Subscribe to the podcast feed via Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Android, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and any other RSS feed reader.

And, as always, you can contact me directly via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net. Now for the podcast:

Transcript:

The money of a country is its currency, and US currency is the dollar. In America, pieces of paper currency are called ‘bills’ or ‘notes’. Small, round, metal pieces of currency are ‘coins’.

Bills are used for amounts of one dollar or more, and coins are used for smaller amounts. Paper money and coins together are referred to as ‘cash’. Money used in daily life is said to be ‘circulated’. The face value of a bill or coin is called its denomination.

The dollar is abbreviated either as USD, or, more commonly, with the dollar sign, which looks like a capital letter S with a vertical line through it: $. Therefore, to write one dollar, write either 1 USD or $1.

US currency uses a decimal system, which means it is based on the number 10. That means higher denominations can be divided by ten into smaller denominations. So, a ten-dollar bill is equal to ten one-dollar bills.

The dollar can be divided into 100 cents. To write amounts under one dollar, use either the cent sign (99¢) or the dollar sign with a decimal point: $0.99. For amounts over one dollar, use only the dollar sign. For example, one dollar and ninety-nine cents is written this way: $1.99. Use a comma to separate every three digits for one thousand dollars or more. For example, ten thousand dollars is written thus: $10,000.

Paper Money

All the denominations of US bills are the same size. A one-dollar bill is the same size as the 100-dollar bill. Also, the back of each bill is green, and so dollars are sometimes called ‘greenbacks’.

Older bills were green on both sides. Newer bills show greens, grays and other colors on the front, depending on the denomination. Also on the front of each bill is a famous US leader, and most of those leaders are past presidents. Therefore, if someone speaks about ‘dead presidents’, they are talking about money.

Here is a list of currently-circulated US paper money, whose picture appears on it, and other information:

  • one-dollar bill: $1.00; President George Washington
  • two-dollar bill: $2.00; President Thomas Jefferson; rare/not commonly circulated
  • five-dollar bill: $5.00; President Abraham Lincoln
  • ten-dollar bill; $10.00; Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of the Treasury)
  • twenty-dollar bill; $20.00; President Andrew Jackson
  • fifty-dollar bill; $50.00; President Ulysses S. Grant
  • hundred-dollar bill; $100.00; Benjamin Franklin (not a president but an important statesman)

Coins

Unlike bills, US coins are different sizes, depending on denomination. The smallest coin, the penny, is the smallest denomination. The dollar coin is the largest. Coins, too, have pictures of presidents on them.

Here is a list of presently-circulated US coins, their value, the president who appears on each, plus other facts:

  • penny: one cent (1¢); President Abraham Lincoln; copper-colored
  • nickel: five cents (5¢); President Thomas Jefferson; silver-colored because of the nickel in the coin
  • dime; ten cents (10¢); President Franklin D. Roosevelt; silver-colored
  • quarter: twenty-five cents (25¢); President George Washington; silver colored; a ‘statehood’ quarter has a picture from one of the 50 US states on the back
  • half-dollar: 50 cents (50¢); President John F. Kennedy; also called a 50-cent piece; rather rare to see this coin
  • dollar coin: one dollar ($1); four different kinds: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lady Liberty, Susan B. Anthony (who was the first woman to vote in the USA), and Sacajawea (an early Native American explorer); dollar coins are not used much; rather, people keep them for collections

A group of coins, such as may be in your pocket, is called ‘change’. For example, ‘change for a dollar’ is a collection of coins that adds up to one dollar. So, if someone asks if you have change for a dollar, they want to trade their paper bill for your coins.

A bonus document with additional information, slang words and idioms about Money in the USA is available for download FREE on the Patreon site at Patreon.com/slowamericanenglish. You will need the free download bonus material to answer some of the questions on the Exercise Worksheet.

### End of Transcript ###

That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Play Music, TuneIn, Spotify and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

Episode 33: US Postal Addresses

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 33: US Postal Addresses

This podcast is about how to read and write a US postal address.

But, before we get started, remember that the old episode numbers and the podcast feed have changed. For details, please visit www.slowamericanenglish.net. There you can subscribe to the podcast and get free transcripts.

And, even though this podcast is free to you, it costs me money to produce and host it. If you like the podcast and think it is useful, please consider contributing money for it. Visit patreon.com/slowamericanenglish and become a regular supporter for as little as $1.25 per month. You can also make a one-time contribution on the podcast website at www.slowamericanenglish.net.

And, as always, contact me via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net.

Now for the podcast:

===

Transcript:

Even in this age of email, cell phones and text messages, understanding the format of postal addresses in the US is still important. To send a letter via the postal service or to find a place on a map or GPS, you will need the address. Other names for a postal address in American English are “street address”, “physical address” or, in slang, “snail mail address”.

Mail in the United States is handled by the United States Postal Service, also called USPS, the US Mail or, simply, the Post Office. It is a government agency responsible for mail delivery, issuing postage stamps and so on.

Postal codes in the USA are called ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) codes. Implemented in 1963, ZIP codes divide the country into sections. Each section has a five-digit code to make it easier for the USPS and other delivery companies to sort and deliver mail. Numerically, ZIP codes in the Northeast start with 0, and the numbers increase toward the west. Therefore, California ZIP codes start with 9.

Note that, in 1983, an additional four-digit extension was added to ZIP codes to further define delivery locations. This system is called ZIP+4. Although every street address technically has this nine-digit code, in reality, you usually need only the first five digits of a ZIP code to send a letter.

Some people and businesses rent a mailbox at the US Post Office or similar facility. In that case, instead of writing a building number and street, you would write “PO Box” plus the box number.

US postal addresses consist of three lines. Follow this pattern:

Line 1: Recipient’s name (and optional title for business correspondence)

Line 2: Building or house number + street name, or “PO Box” + number, then apartment or suite number

Line 3: City, state abbreviation ZIP code

Example:
Mr. Michael B. Hancock, Mayor of Denver
1437 N. Bannock St., Rm. 350
Denver, CO 80202

And remember the following formatting tips:

  • You can use abbreviations in a postal address for words like “Street” (St.) and “Road” (Rd.). Click on the Extra Materials link on the SlowAmericanEnglish.net website for a list of such abbreviations.
  • Use the official, two-letter, USPS abbreviations for state names. Click on the Extra Materials link on the SlowAmericanEnglish.net website for a list of those.
  • For a business address, write the name of the company on a separate line above or below the recipient’s name.
  • For international mail, add the country name after the ZIP code or on a separate line below it.

The following points are also useful:

  • The general format of a street address is smaller to larger. By that I mean that the first lines will be relatively small locations, such as a person or company.
  • Later lines will be larger locations, such as towns and states.
  • Addresses in the US territories follow the same format as domestic addresses.
  • Use the same format for the return address and the recipient address on an envelope.
  • Write the return address in the upper left corner of the envelope. Write the recipient address in the middle of the envelope.
  • It is best to omit the ZIP code if you don’t know it, rather than guess at it.

===

That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via iTunes, Google Play Music, and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

Episode 30 (formerly 1706): New York City

Transcript:

The original inhabitants of what is now New York City were the members of the Lenape native tribe. Early in the 16th century, European explorers began to arrive in North America and set up trading posts and forts. They founded their first permanent civilian settlement in 1624. Its name was New Amsterdam because the settlers were sent there by the Dutch West India Company, a trading company from the Netherlands.

In 1626, New Amsterdam’s governor purchased Manhattan Island from the Lenape for a small selection of tools, cloth, farming equipment and shell beads called wampum. Although not entirely accurate, this is where the saying that ‘Manhattan was bought for $24 worth of beads’ comes from. When the New Amsterdam settlement moved to Manhattan Island then, it numbered about 300 people.

In 1664, British forces seized New Amsterdam and renamed it New York City. Over the next hundred years or so, the city grew quickly. New York and the other trading posts and forts in the area would all eventually combine to form the colony of New York. It was one of the original 13 colonies that became the United States. The colony later became New York State in 1788.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, British forces quickly seized control of the city again despite the resistance. They used it as a military base until 1783, when the Revolutionary War ended. Then, in 1785, New York City became the capital city of the USA. It was the national seat of government until 1790 when it moved to Washington, DC. And, just so you know, the capital of New York State is Albany.

Throughout the 1800s, New York City grew quickly. Thousands of immigrants from all over the world poured into the city. The Statue of Liberty opened in 1886. The port continued to be very important to the new nation. City streets, a water system, subways and other infrastructure were built. Municipal agencies such as a police department were established, too.

Up til now, New York City was located just on the island of Manhattan. In 1898, four other surrounding cities, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn, combined with Manhattan into one giant New York City. Today, these five former cities are called the boroughs of New York City. At the time of combining, the city’s population was about 3.3 million. Today, its population is more than eight million people. About one-third of the city’s residents were born outside of the USA.

New York has always been a trade and culture capital of the world, with many diverse, ethnic neighborhoods, which are mainly the result of immigration. It is well known as a tourist destination for sights such as the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and the Empire State Building.

Here are some language and cultural notes about New York City:

  • New York City is also known as the Big Apple or abbreviated NYC. The borough of Manhattan is known as “the City”.

  • Only residents of New York City, not New York State, are known as “New Yorkers”.

  • American children often tell the story that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building can kill someone on the sidewalk below or will embed itself in the sidewalk when it hits. However, this is not true.

  • Broadway is a New York City street famous for stage plays and musicals. Because of the lights of the theaters there, it is also known as the Great White Way.

  • Times Square is the commercial and tourist center at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. This is where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

  • The underground public transportation train in New York City is called the subway, not the metro or underground.

  • Because New York City is so high-energy, the phrase “in a New York minute” means very, very fast.

  • The area of Manhattan SOuth of HOuston Street is called SoHo. It is known for its trendy shops and galleries. And remember to pronounce the name of the street “HOW-ston”, not Houston, like the city in Texas.

  • A neighborhood in Manhattan called Greenwich Village (note the pronunciation) is also called just “the Village”. It’s famous for artistic trends, Bohemian lifestyle and many countercultural movements, as well as being the location of New York University.

  • The location of the former World Trade Center twin towers, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is now a memorial to the people killed in those attacks. It’s known also as the Ground Zero Memorial.

  • Any place north of New York City is called upstate. For example, Albany is in upstate New York. No other state in the USA uses this word in the same way.

  • When giving directions within New York City, people use the word “uptown” instead of “north” and “downtown” instead of “south”.

    ### End of Transcript ###

    Click here to buy additional study materials, such as Exercise Worksheets, Workbooks and Natural-Speed Recordings for this and all Slow American English podcast episodes:
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Episode 25 (formerly 1701): Blues Music

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Transcript:
Blues music (also called ‘the blues’) originated in the USA in the mid-to-late 1800s. Its birthplace was in the Mississippi River Delta, just upriver from New Orleans, where jazz originated.

Like jazz, the blues evolved from the music and songs of African-American slaves and their descendants.

Many people claim to have discovered the blues, most famously W.C. Handy, an African-American musician, songwriter and composer. Even if he wasn’t the first to discover the blues, W.C. Handy was definitely one of the first to publicize the blues and bring it to the public. In 1912 he wrote and published the first commercially successful blues song, “Memphis Blues”. Because of his career of spreading the blues to the rest of the world, he is now called the Father of Blues. One of his most famous songs is “St. Louis Blues”.

Eventually, the blues traveled up the Mississippi River to Chicago. Just like jazz, it spread to all areas of the United States and the world. Also just like jazz, the blues has morphed into many different styles. Here is a list of blues styles and a bit of information about each one:

  • Delta Blues:
    one of the earliest styles
    originated in the Mississippi Delta
    guitar and harmonica are the main instruments
    famous for this style are Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton and R.L. Burnside
    Dockery Farms near Cleveland, MS, is said to be the birthplace of the Delta blues
    the Delta Blues and Heritage Festival is held annually near Dockery Farms
  • Chicago Blues
    has been described as Delta blues amplified or electrified
    originated on the West Side of Chicago
    features high-energy guitar music
    famous for Chicago blues: Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, and Otis Rush
  • Boogie-Woogie Blues
    a piano style that evolved from a jazz style called “stride” in the early 1900s
    became a craze in the USA during WWII
    famous for this style are Clarence “Pine Top” Smith, Pinetop Perkins and Big Joe Turner
  • Country Blues
    a hybrid category including components of R&B, gospel, country and other types
    interestingly, early Delta blues musicians could qualify for this modern category
  • Jump Blues
    a fast-tempo popular in the 1940s
    originated in Kansas City
    a swing style combining honking saxes and shouted vocals
    notable artists include Cab Calloway, Smiley Lewis and Sam Taylor
  • New Orleans Blues
    also called Louisiana Blues
    consists of many different types of rhythms, even Latin rhumba and zydeco beats
    notable artists include James Booker, Fats Domino, Guitar Slim, Smiley Lewis, Little Richard and Steamboat Willie
  • Piedmont Blues
    musicians pick the guitar strings in a unique way
    originated in the Carolinas and Georgia
    musicians include Etta Baker, Blind Boy Fuller, Peg Leg Sam and Bumble Bee Slim
  • Soul Blues
    more commonly called Rhythm and Blues (R&B)
    developed in the 1960s and ’70s
    combines soul and urban contemporary music
    record companies that produced R&B include Motown, Stax and Atlantic
    artists include Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ray Charles, Robert Cray, Etta James, Denise LaSalle, Bobby Rush and Ike Turner
  • Texas Blues
    a hard-driving swing style with repetitive segments
    has more swing than Chicago blues
    famous musicians in Texas blues are Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Freddie King, Lonnie Mack, Big Mama Thornton, Jimmie Vaughan, T-Bone Walker and Edgar Winter

This list is not complete, for there are many sub-genres and hybrid styles of blues music. However, it gives you an idea of the diversity of the blues and how popular it is. Many rock-and-roll and pop artists, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, have been influenced by the blues. Even the Rolling Stones took their band name from a song by Muddy Waters.

If you are ever in Memphis, Tennessee, be sure to visit the Blues Hall of Fame.

Language note:
You might know that the English phrase ‘to have the blues’ means to have a sad feeling. The name of the blues may be related to this phrase because many blues songs are about bad luck and a life of struggle, especially in love relationships. However, lots of blues lyrics also tell about happiness and even make jokes.

So, how exactly did the blues get its name? I have read at least five different stories about why the blues is called that. The real reason remains unclear, but the stories are very entertaining. Do some internet searching if you are interested.
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Episode 22 (formerly 1610): The US Presidential Election Process

Transcript:

America holds a presidential election every four years. The date is in November on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month. In 2016, election day is November 8. Election day is not a federal holiday.

Election day is the end of a long process that begins with many candidates declaring their intention to run for president in the summer of the year before the election. After that they campaign with much advertising, debating and traveling around the country to meet voters.

Then, from January to June of election year, each state holds either a caucus or a primary election to choose a candidate to represent each political party. In most cases, only voters registered as members of a specific political party can participate in that party’s caucus or primary. The two major political parties in America are the Republican and the Democratic parties.

In a caucus, voters show their support for a candidate publicly. In a primary, voters use a secret ballot. It is up to the individual states whether to have a caucus or a primary. Most states hold primaries. Only 11 states use caucuses.

From July to early September in an election year, political parties hold conventions and select their official presidential candidates. The official candidates of any political party are said to be on that party’s ticket. The party’s official position on issues is called the party’s platform. Over the next two months, the official candidates choose their vice-presidential running mates, participate in presidential debates and continue to campaign right up until election day.

Now it gets a little complicated. Instead of choosing the president by the majority of the popular vote, the US uses the Electoral College.

  • The Electoral College consists of people called electors from each state. There are 538 electors in all. See the Slow American English blog at SlowAmericanEnglish.net for a diagram of the electors for each state.
  • The number of a state’s electors is based on the number of members of Congress each state has. For example, Florida has 29 electors (two members of the Senate + 27 members of the House of Representatives).
  • Each state counts its popular vote after the election. The candidate that wins the popular vote in that state receives all the electoral votes for that state. Therefore, the candidate with the most popular votes in Florida receives all 29 electoral votes, even though not all the people voted for that candidate.
  • A candidate must receive a majority of all the electoral votes, or at least 270, to win the election and become president. If no candidate receives a majority, the House of Representatives chooses the president, and the Senate chooses the Vice-President.
  • Although everyone knows who will win the election, the electors don’t officially cast their votes until December of election year. Congress officially counts the electoral votes in January, and the chosen president is inaugurated on January 20th.
  • Because of the configuration of the Electoral College, it is possible for a candidate to receive the majority of the popular vote nationwide but still not be elected president. This has happened four times in the history of the United States.

Many consider the Electoral College process unusually complicated. However, the Founding Fathers included it in the US Constitution as a compromise between the group that wanted the president chosen by popular vote and the group that wanted the president to be chosen by Congress. To change the election system, America would have to go through the process of amending the Constitution, a long and difficult procedure.

The Constitution also stipulates that a president must be at least 35 years old, must be a natural-born American citizen and must be a resident of the US for at least 14 years. The Constitution’s 22nd Amendment imposes a two-term limit on the president, meaning a person can only be president for two terms, or eight years total. The only president who ever served more than two terms was Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Constitutional amendment imposing term limits was added after he died.

Diagram of the number of electoral votes for each state (from USA.gov):

electoral-map

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Episode 4 (formerly 1504): April Fool’s Day

Transcript:

Each April 1st in the USA people participate in April Fool’s Day. Other countries also celebrate April Fool’s Day or a similar “fool’s” day. However, it is not an official federal holiday; it is just for fun.

On April Fool’s Day people play harmless practical jokes on each other. In addition, print and broadcast media often create hoaxes that are then explained the next day. Of course, the Internet is a perfect place for jokes and hoaxes to appear every April 1st. Some even go viral.

A day set aside for jokes and tricks has a long history in much of the world. Ancient Romans had a festival of Hilaria in which pranks were part of the revelry. In India, playful teasing is part of the longstanding Holi festival every spring. Nowadays, in addition to America, other countries celebrate April Fool’s Day, or All Fool’s Day, such as Canada, Australia, South America and across Europe. In France and other countries, the victims of pranks and hoaxes are called “April Fish”.

Mention of April 1st as a day of tricks and shenanigans has been found in literature since the Middle Ages. In The Canterbury Tales, which date from the late 1300s, Chaucer writes in Middle English of April 1st as the day a sly fox tricked an egotistical rooster named Chauntecleer.

April Fool’s Day is so well known that it is referred to often in songs, poetry, books and films, either as part of the title, references in dialogues and descriptions, or as inspiration for the plotline.

Many notable, creative April Fool’s pranks have been perpetrated globally throughout the years. For example, in 1698, people were tricked into visiting the Tower of London to see the annual (nonexistent) lion-washing ceremony. In 1957, England’s BBC broadcast a fake documentary about Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. There is even a virtual Museum of Hoaxes online at www.hoaxes.org which claims to have a location in San Diego, California, but in truth does not exist aside from the website.

One category of April Fool’s hoaxes is a company announcing a phony product. For example, American fast food company Taco Bell one year announced it had bought the Liberty Bell, a cherished American historical artifact. Another fast food company, Burger King, promoted a new “left-handed” hamburger on April 1st a few years ago.

Individuals must be on high alert on April Fool’s Day because friends and family may prank them by replacing their deodorant with cream cheese or by putting plastic pink flamingos in their front yards. Co-workers may secretly change one’s computer operating system to a foreign language. Their bosses may send them on wild goose chases, or ridiculous, pointless errands.

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Episode 3 (formerly 1503): St. Patrick’s Day

Transcript:

Many places around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 each year. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Britain and was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16. After spending several years in captivity in Ireland, he escaped and made his way back to Britain. He became a priest and returned to Ireland later in life as a missionary. He died there in the year 461. Today he is venerated by several religions, including the Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches.

St. Patrick’s Day became important in the USA because of the sudden influx of Irish immigrants in the late 1840s. Hundreds of thousands of Irish people came to America then because of a famine in their home country. Since the first Irish immigrants were persecuted and discriminated against, early St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US afforded them a way to demonstrate not only religious dedication, but also Irish culture and pride. Thus, St. Patrick’s Day evolved into a secular holiday.

Soon the Irish immigrants realized they had political power as a large group and organized for their rights. Eventually they formed a large political group known as the Green Machine. Politicians recognized the importance of this group’s vote and began changing policies and attitudes toward the Irish. Still today, politicians attend the festivities to show support and garner votes.

Nowadays in America, people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day even if they aren’t Irish. Many choose to be “Irish for the day”. Special church services are scheduled, school children have lessons about Ireland, and cities hold parades.

Even though St. Patrick’s Day is not a legal holiday, individuals, neighborhoods and most bars, especially Irish pubs, throw big parties with Irish music, food and dancing. Decorations consist of Irish flags, banners and cartoon leprechauns with cartoon pots of gold. Hosts commonly dye the beer green for a St. Patrick’s Day party, and you can even find green cupcakes at the supermarkets.

St. Patrick’s Day parades actually began in America. The first parade, held on March 17, 1762, in New York City, consisted of little more than a group of Irish soldiers serving in the British army before America declared its independence. Their small march has evolved into the largest and longest St. Patrick’s Day parade outside Ireland. Some of the biggest and most well known parades also occur in Boston, Chicago and Savannah, Georgia, where large populations of Irish immigrants settled. In addition to green clothes and shamrocks, you can almost count on seeing and hearing a bagpipes-and-drums corps in any given St. Patrick’s Day parade. The Chicago River, which flows through that city, is dyed green for their parade.

Green is the color of Ireland, owing to St. Patrick’s purported use of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity during his missions, and also to the fact that Ireland is called The Emerald Isle. On St. Patrick’s Day, people wear green clothes, party hats and shamrocks. Many green T-shirts say “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. This tradition of green clothing on March 17 is called “the wearing of the green.” People who don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day are subject to be pinched. Even some baseball teams wear green uniforms on St. Patrick’s Day, notably the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox.

Although St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious observance and there are annual church services especially honoring St. Patrick, today most celebrations are more about Irish culture and fun. So, on March 17, don your green clothes, see an Irish parade, and raise a green beer to Ireland. Erin go bragh!

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