Accessibility links

WHY? WHY? WHY? - Commonly Asked Questions from Listeners


Many thanks to listeners who have e-mailed us pictures of themselves for our 45th anniversary. The pictures will appear on our site in the coming days.

Broadcast: October 19, 2004

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Welcome to a special presentation of AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English. I'm Doug Johnson.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Phoebe Zimmermann. We're here today to mark the forty-fifth anniversary of VOA Special English.

VOICE ONE:

AMERICAN MOSAIC is normally heard on Friday. Every show includes a question sent in by a listener. But today we are going to answer several of the most commonly asked questions.

VOICE TWO:

These include questions about some of the music used for Special English programs. So here now is the theme from “Words and Their Stories.” This is called the “Bethena Concert Waltz" by Scott Joplin.

(MUSIC)

Special English was first broadcast on October nineteenth, nineteen fifty-nine. VOA wanted to help people get to know American English while they learned about the United States and world events.

So, we begin with one of the questions asked most often: Why is America called the United States?

VOICE ONE:

Colonial leaders used that name when they declared independence from Britain in seventeen seventy-six.

In seventeen seventy-five the Second Continental Congress had established the "United Colonies of America." Once the Declaration of Independence was signed, and war declared against Britain, the thirteen colonies became states.

Now you may also ask, why is America is called America?

Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to the New World in fourteen nineteen ninety-two. But it was the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci who described the new lands as a separate continent.

A mapmaker in Europe, Martin Waldseemuller, drew a map of the continent in fifteen-oh-seven. He named the continent America. He chose a Latin version of Amerigo to honor the explorer. Today the last remaining copy of that map is owned by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

VOICE TWO:

This leads to another commonly asked question: What does D.C. mean? The answer takes us back to the early years of the United States.

The states approved the Constitution in seventeen eighty-eight. But they disagreed about where to build a permanent capital. Finally they compromised.

The capital city would be in a federal area built on land provided by Virginia and Maryland. Congress agreed to build the capital city along the Potomac River between the two states. Later, officials announced that the city would be called Washington, to honor George Washington, the first president.

The larger federal area would be known as the District of Columbia. Columbia was a name for the United States used by poets and writers. It came from Columbus, as in Christopher Columbus.

Here now is another Special English theme. From PEOPLE IN AMERICA, this is “Prelude Number Two” by George Gershwin.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

People sometimes call the United States government "Uncle Sam." Uncle Sam traditionally appears as an old man with a tall hat. His clothes are red, white and blue, like the flag. Many listeners ask, who is this man?

History experts are not really sure. But people in Troy, New York, have a popular explanation of how the name began:

There was a meatpacker in the city named Samuel Wilson. People called him "Uncle Sam." During the War of Eighteen-Twelve, he supplied meat to troops fighting the British.

The shipments for the government were marked "U.S." U.S. meant United States. But, the explanation goes, U.S. also came to represent Uncle Sam to the troops.

The imaginary Uncle Sam that Americans know came to life in the eighteen thirties. Newspaper cartoonist Thomas Nast drew him to represent the government.

Now, here is the theme from SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, the Special English program normally heard at this time. The composer is unknown. The music is called “Expansion of Knowledge.”

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Many listeners ask about famous places in the United States. One of the most common questions is about Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore is in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in the Midwestern part of the country. Cut into the mountain are the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Each president was chosen to represent something different about America. George Washington represented the founding of the country. Thomas Jefferson represented faith in the common man. Abraham Lincoln represented the unity saved after the Civil War. And Theodore Roosevelt represented the progressive spirit of America.

The stone faces are eighteen meters high. The man who carved them was Gutzon Borglum. He began exploding away pieces of rock in nineteen twenty-seven. The work was completed fourteen years later, a year after he died.

Here now is the music from the Special English program EXPLORATIONS. The name of the piece is “All Souls Waltz” by Carlos Nikai.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Another popular question about places is about a place on the West Coast: Hollywood, the capital of the American movie industry.

Hollywood is part of the city of Los Angeles, in California. The wife of a local land developer named the area Hollywood in the eighteen eighties. She liked the sound of the word, even though there were no holly trees in California.

At first, Hollywood was surrounded by orange trees and farms. Then, in nineteen eleven, independent movie producers moved from the eastern United States. They wanted to get away from large companies that were trying to stop them from using new movie-making technology.

They liked Hollywood because of the warm weather and sunshine all through the year. Soon, the quiet community of farms and orange trees had changed. By the nineteen twenties, Hollywood was the movie capital of the world.

And now, we present the music from the program AMERICAN STORIES. This is “Warm Valley” by Duke Ellington.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Another name-related question often asked is about the name of our program. AMERICAN MOSAIC was chosen in a contest when the show began in nineteen eighty-five.

A mosaic picture is made up of different pieces. Each piece has its own shape and color. Our program brings together different stories to form a picture of American life. So listeners in China and Egypt suggested the name AMERICAN MOSAIC.

Now, here is our theme music. This is "Lover’s Leap” by Bela Fleck.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

All the answers you just heard are on the Special English Web site. The address is voaspecialenglish dot com. And we will be adding other commonly asked questions.

Our e-mail address is mosaic@voanews.com. Please include your full name and where you live. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington D.C. two-zero-two-three-seven U.S.A.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. VOICE ONE:

And I'm Doug Johnson. SCIENCE IN THE NEWS will be back next Tuesday. And be sure to listen again this Friday for another AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

XS
SM
MD
LG