08 NOV 2020 The final furlong part I (US election)



The final furlong   part I

What will you learn from this unit? I will no longer call it a ‘module’ as we do in Russian talking about the parts of the content meant for students. Let us start from the title. The best way to believe that this phrase is used both in British and American English is to read and watch the materials in this unit: https://www.englishpatient.org/platform/app2/#/slide/ahFg2dNYhV Moreover, if you do it attentively, you will be able to answer a simple question: which word is missing in the transcript for this video: 

And on the brink of 2020 electoral vote we’re gonna ask his close personal friend and political ally how the former vice-president is feeling at this truly ??? moment.

These little tricks are used only to illustrate the simple logic – the more you learn the more the chances are that you will be able to grab the meaning of the phrase, especially when you hear it in the fast speech with the background music. So the purpose of this unit is to provide you with the information that would help you do exactly the same thing – to react instantly to the phrases normally used in political speeches in election season and beyond it. It will be unfamiliar words that may seem ‘rare’ to many, idioms and phrasal verbs. Let us start warming up:

At his marathon of rallies yesterday Donald Trump was firing on all cylinders. – Only in Pennsylvania! You know, we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole deal. You know that. 

It is not actually so difficult to find out the title of the song used in this video. Of course, you can use special app on your phone but it is better to be a smart person than always rely on smart gadgets. Simply type ‘Young man, there’s no need to feel down!’ and old but popular song YMCA will pop up immediately. This song was recorded nearly a century ago by the band Village People. As Paul McCartney sings ‘it was a hit before your mother was born’. But 2020 is the year of the politicians from that era. Even if they are firing on all cylinders which means ‘operating as powerfully and effectively as possible’. YMCA is a worldwide Christian youth organization with around 60 million members living in many countries. If you travel and need a budget hotel, look for YMCA hotels.

It is not only the political opponents who are preparing for the election night but also the owners of businesses: 

Cities across America are preparing for election unrest with some businesses boarding up. As if a hurricane is coming, businesses across the country are boarding up.  - Boarded up from end to end. They put barbed wire. Welcome to Manhattan! Guy just went through the red light. Boom! Nobody cares.

They have learned their lessons at the peak of Black Lives Matter riots and now turn their premises into fortresses. In the spring and summer of 2020 civil unrest resulted in pogroms and looting. Note, that the word ‘pogrom’ is one of the words of Russian origin used worldwide. Do you know what ‘premise’ means? You will probably be surprised if you inquire in the dictionary. You surely know what ‘barbed wire' means but quite often students forget to ask themselves a quesion: what is a ‘barb’? What is the difference between a ‘barbed wire’ and ‘razor wire’? This is where you can find the answers: https://www.englishpatient.org/platform/app2/#/slide/X4eJj2UYWj

Now look at the map of Pennsylvania and try to guess why it was so important for Trump to win this state:

This dialog may help:

Because of the Electoral College these votes from swing states can really matter. What if I were to tell you that I have something in my room that could change the entire election? - Sure you do. - What if I did Kyle? - What could you have in your room that could change the outcome of the election? - Pretty sweet ha? - - What the hell is this? - What's it look like? Hundreds of thousands of votes from all the swing states. - I don't believe it. - No, really. There are states full of swingers. Bunch of perverts, if you ask me.

Or this video:

In the final hours of the 2020 race both the President and Joe Biden barnstormed one state in particular – Pennsylvania. Why? 20 electoral votes, it made the race for Trump in 2016. He won by 44000 votes. The state could make or break ????

There are two reasons why it is difficult for you to grasp the meaning of the last words (question marks) even though all of them are for sure in your vocabulary. They simply have no meaning for you yet. We will get back to this a little later when you will be able to fill the gaps yourself. Before learning about key states, red states and blue states, swing states and safe states, battleground states and rust belt states you have to understand the system of voting called Electoral College. Let us go back in time and use the following old video from my collection:

You heard of the Electoral College? – I don’t know much about it, I remember learning about it in, like…grade school. – But most Americans do remember the 2000 election: the fight over disputed ballots in Florida when George W. Bush lost the popular election by nearly 544000 votes but won the Electoral College vote. It was the fourth time in American history that’s happened. Just how does the Electoral College work? Americans go to the polls, but the results aren’t official until electors in each of the states. cast their votes. The number of electors each state gets depends on the number of US senators and representatives they have. California, for example, gets 55 electoral votes, Montana gets only 3. It’s a ‘winner takes all system’ even if the vote in that state is close. And in the national popular vote plan whoever gets a majority nationwide wins. The Electoral College will be required to cast their votes for that national winner.  

The point is that no matter how close the numbers are all the electoral votes will benefit the candidate who got the majority of votes in any particular state. ‘College’ has nothing to do with teaching of voters to exercise their rights: the word came from Latin ‘collegium‘ (partnership). This is very controversial system though:

Remember, that on the night one of these candidates has to get to the 270 mark in the Electoral College. That is the magic number. – He has 37 electoral votes, Biden has 30 electoral votes. Remember once again: 270 needed to win the White House.  – Remember, this is not about winning the popular vote, this is about winning the electoral college, getting over that 270 mark that he did by getting…I think it was 306 four years ago. That’s what he’s trying to do again. Joe Biden, of course, is trying to break down Donald Trump support in those same states and both men spent huge amount of time in Pennsylvania. It does feel that the two campaigns are lasering in on that state with its 20 electoral votes. It’s, perhaps, the key in their paths to victory ah… which is why we’ve seen them spend so much time there. – Do you not fear that people are just simply understate and are underestimating how popular Donald Trump is? – You know our crazy system, it’s about the Electoral College. In any other system this election would have been over last night. - …President. And you look at our process. Because this is all…  The reason that we are talking about this is because of the Electoral College. These states we are talking about, these battleground states hold the key to whoever wins the presidency. And that means the person who got the most votes, maybe the most votes in American history, may not end up being the president.  Do we need to look at the way we elect president in this country? – Of course, we do. We always do at election time and then we never change it. There’s just never enough momentum. The good news is, that it looks like right now,that the person who won the popular vote will become president, and I think Democrats would be so disillusioned if they lost two in a row, when they had the popular vote. But the Electoral College is antiquated but I’m afraid it’s here for a while. – Yeah…

A new phrasal verb – to laser in. Now you know the answer to the question for the video with the verb ‘to barnstorm’ - the path to 270.

POTUS=President of the United State. Guess who FLOTUS may be? This term is used quite often. What is not used, however, is the word FGOTUS. Joe Biden is an old man and Kamala Harris is a married woman…

‘Red states’ are the states where Republicans are popular and ‘blue states’ where normally Democrats win: 

I don’t see red states and blue states. What I see is America - United States. – Texas is blue. Look at that. Florida is blue. Look at that. South Carolina is blue. Look at that. Georgia is blue. Ohio is blue. West Virginia is blue. 

To watch the news in election season is the best way to memorize the names of the states and their correct pronunciation:

Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri and New Hampshire. Are also New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee. – Well, a coronavirus surge in Dakotas and huge positivity race in South Dakota. 

Surge = a sudden and great increase

Some people learn English for decades but still mispronounce the word ‘percent’. The best way to help them is to make them watch this video every day for one week:

Key states, battleground states – these terms are easy to understand. Swing states are battleground states which could be won by either the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate. Perhaps the most interesting are the ‘rust belt states’. Rust belt = an area where there was previously a lot of industry but where most factories are now closed, especially used to refer to some states in the US. Example:

Joe Biden went into this campaign determined to win back the rust belt states. And it appears he’s done that. 

These states are Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, western regions of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Of course, this term is unofficial. It gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1980s.

US states consist of counties:

All across America in red states and blue states, red counties and blue counties counting the votes.

Here is an interesting word to describe the state – bellwether state. First read the following information from Wikipedia: A bellwether is a leader or indicator of trends. The term derives from the Middle English ‘bellewether’ and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading the flock of sheep. A shepherd could then note the movements of the flock by hearing the bell, even when the flock was not in sight. 

How concerned are you that Florida is not a bellwether state?  It’s a bellwether state.

You can also watch some videos with this word here https://www.englishpatient.org/share/i/bellwether

Ironically, the video from which I intended to start this unit happens to be the last one:

Welcome to Election Day in America. Certainly if you are on the East Coast. – In line with tradition at the stroke of midnight votes began to be cast. In the New Hampshire hamlet of Dixville Notch. – A quirky tradition of US elections is that is that the first place to vote is the small village of Dixville Notch in the mountains of New Hampshire. At midnight the polling station opened, it closed a few minutes later.

You can easily guess that hamlet is simply a small village.

There will be two more units about 2020 elections where will learn more new words and facts which will help you to understand the language of the news.  

Специализируемся на развитии навыков говорения и понимания реальной речи на слух. Используем только оригинальные материалы.