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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Greatest Movie Songs / Bill Clinton's Book / How Americans Get Middle Names - 2004-07-02

Broadcast: July 2, 2004


DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English. This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week: Some of the greatest movie songs ever. And a listener wants to know how Americans get their middle names. But first, a report on some reaction to the new book by Bill Clinton.

“My Life”

Last week, a book by former President Clinton went on sale in the United States and Europe. Experts say it had record sales for a non-fiction book. So far, the book “My Life” has sold about one-million copies. Faith Lapidus tells us about it.

FAITH LAPIDUS: It took Bill Clinton almost two years to write the more than nine-hundred page book. The book’s publisher reportedly paid Mister Clinton ten-million dollars to write “My Life.” The book begins with his birth and ends with the present day.

In the book, Bill Clinton tells about his parents, Virginia Kelly and William Blythe. His father died before he was born. He describes his family life in the southern state of Arkansas with his mother and grandparents. He tells about his stepfather, Roger Clinton, and his younger brother, Roger. He tells about his friends and the schools he attended.

Bill Clinton describes his college and law school days, meeting and marrying Hillary Rodham and the birth of their daughter, Chelsea. He goes on to describe his rise in Arkansas politics, his terms as governor, his presidential campaigns and his two administrations. He writes about his sexual relationship with a young White House worker, Monica Lewinsky, and his feelings of regret that it ever happened.

He tells about the effects of the scandal on his marriage and relationship with his daughter, Chelsea. He describes his successes and failures as president. And he writes about what he feels was a conservative plot to punish him for becoming president.

Critics have not been kind to Mister Clinton’s writing abilities. They have called the book uninteresting and poorly written. But the American people do not seem to care what the critics say. They want to read what Bill Clinton has written.

Many people waited in line at stores to buy the book and have Mister Clinton sign it. They say they want to read it to better understand the former president and his effect on the country. And they want to know how Mister Clinton feels about all that happened during his presidency. One bookstore official said people are buying the book because they want to know what Bill Clinton has to say, not how he says it.

Middle Names in America

DOUG JOHNSON: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Canada. Zhengliang Liu asks about how Americans get their middle names.

Most parents in the United States give their babies a first, middle and last name when they are born. The last name is generally their family name. First names are a different story.

Some children’s names are also the names of cities, such as Geneva or Savannah. Others are plants or flowers, such as Rosemary, Daisy, Lily or Iris. Religious names from the Bible or Koran are also common, like Isaac, Mohammed or Eve. Americans even choose names from other countries. Liam is a popular Irish name. Pierre and Sebastian are French.

Stone and Sky are popular names from nature. American actress Gwyneth Paltrow named her new baby girl Apple, like the fruit.

Americans are interested in the names that famous actors, entertainers and athletes give their children. Some famous people like names that have been around for many years. Actor Bill Murray named his son Homer. Actor Denzel Washington named his daughter Olivia. Last names as first names are also popular. Actor Tom Hanks named his son Truman Theodore.

Middle names have become important because many famous people use them. One example is movie star Sarah Jessica Parker. A middle name is also a way for parents to honor a family member or hero. Eleanor is a popular middle name honoring the wife of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Another is Ray, honoring jazz musician Ray Charles, who died last month. Some parents give a girl a boy’s middle name, as did the parents of movie star Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Sometimes, parents consider the monogram that will be formed from their child’s name. A monogram is made with the first letter of each name. Special English writer Jill Moss named her son Adam Isaac Moss. His monogram is A-I-M, or the word aim.

Finally, some American women use their former last name as a middle name after they marry. For example, American Senator Hillary Clinton uses her former last name, Rodham, as her middle name. She was born Hillary Diane Rodham.

Greatest Movie Songs

DOUG JOHNSON: The American Film Institute has named the greatest songs from American movies. Gwen Outen tells us about them.

GWEN OUTEN: The American Film Institute asked experts in the motion picture industry to choose the best one-hundred songs from American movies. They did so as part of a celebration of one-hundred years of American movies.

The experts chose this song as the movie song of the century. It is “Over the Rainbow.” Judy Garland sings it in the nineteen-thirty-nine movie “The Wizard of Oz.”


The American Film Institute asked the experts to consider several things when choosing the best one-hundred songs from American movies. For example, the song should establish a feeling, define a character, advance the story or express the film’s ideas. The song should be loved by the American public and be remembered as representing the movie.

In second place was “As Time Goes By” from the nineteen-forty-two film “Casablanca.” “Singin’ in the Rain” was third. Gene Kelly sang it in the movie of the same name released in nineteen-fifty-two.

This song was selected as number four: “Moon River” from the nineteen-sixty-one film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Andy Williams sings it here.


The ninth greatest song is from a more recent movie, “Saturday Night Fever,” released in nineteen-seventy-seven. We leave you now with that song, “Stayin’ Alive,” performed by the Bee Gees.


DOUG JOHNSON: This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This program was written by Shelley Gollust, Jill Moss and Nancy Steinbach. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Jim Sleeman.