Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Bob Doughty. On our show this week…
We answer a question about long English words…
Play some music from Paul Simon…
And report about Superman.
(SOUND: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!)
America’s most famous comic book hero, Superman, has returned in the new movie “Superman Returns.” Faith Lapidus tells us the history of this popular superhero.
Superman was the first comic book hero who had super powers. Superman can fly. He has powerful vision and hearing. He is called the “man of steel” because he is very strong. Superman protects innocent people from harm, fights evil and carries out justice.
Superman was born on the planet Krypton. His father sent him to the planet Earth as a baby to keep him safe. Krypton exploded soon after. When Superman landed on Earth, an old couple made him a home on their farm. As he grew, he learned that he had super powers. During the day he works as a quiet newspaper reporter named Clark Kent. He tries to keep his identity as Superman a secret.
Superman was really born in Cleveland, Ohio in the early nineteen thirties. Two young men named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the Superman character as a comic strip. Jerry and Joe both liked science fiction. Joe drew the pictures and Jerry wrote the story.
The two friends wanted their comic to be published in the newspaper. But newspapers rejected Superman. Finally, in nineteen thirty-eight “Superman” was published in a comic book called Action Comics Number One. Superman was immediately popular. In less than a year, Superman became a newspaper comic strip.
Mister Siegel and Mister Shuster did not make much money from their creation. They sold the legal rights to the comic for one hundred and thirty dollars. Still, the Superman story was very successful. It is still published in comic books today.
In nineteen forty, Superman became the star of a radio show. In the nineteen fifties, George Reeves starred in the popular Superman television series. In nineteen seventy-eight, Christopher Reeve starred in the first of four Superman movies. The last was released in nineteen eighty-seven.
Sadly, Reeve was severely injured in a horse riding accident in nineteen ninety-five. He was paralyzed and could not move from the neck down. He died in two thousand four. The new Superman movie stars Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel. This superhero has returned to the movies after almost twenty years. Superman is still very popular. In its first week, the movie earned more than one hundred million dollars.
Longest English Word
Our VOA listener question this week comes from Japan. Yuji Ishibashi asks us about the longest word in the English language.
The Oxford English Dictionary Web site says the longest word listed in Oxford dictionaries is this one: “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.” This forty-five letter word is the name of a kind of lung disease. The dictionary’s Web site says that the word is like other examples of the longest words. They are not really spoken in everyday life.
The Oxford English Dictionary Web site also lists other interesting facts about words. For example, what are the longest English words containing no letter more than once? They are two fifteen-letter words—“uncopyrightable” and “dermatoglyphics.” There are several one-syllable English words that have nine letters. Examples include “screeched”, “scratched”, “scrounged,” “scrunched” and “stretched.”
Another source of long English words is the Guinness Book of Records. It says the longest real word in the English language is “floccinaucinihilipilification.” It is also the longest non-technical word listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. It has twenty-nine letters. It means the act of estimating something as worthless. The Guinness Book of Records says it was first used in seventeen forty-one. In recent times, United States Senator Jesse Helms used the word. So did former President Bill Clinton’s press secretary.
The best known long English word is probably “antidisestablishmentarianism.” This is the word for a nineteenth century movement in Britain that opposed the separation of church and government. The word is twenty-eight letters long.
There is a well known song about another long English word. It is from the nineteen sixty-four Walt Disney movie “Mary Poppins.” It has thirty-four letters. It is “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The song was written by Robert Sherman. He said he and his brother created the word when they were boys at summer camp. The song describes using the word as a way to talk oneself out of difficult situations, and even as a way to change one's life.
Paul Simon's "Surprise"
Paul Simon started writing and recording songs in the nineteen sixties. Simon’s first songs were calm and poetic with a folk music style. Now Paul Simon is sixty-four years old. Mario Ritter tells us about his latest album called “Surprise.”
This album is different from Paul Simon’s earlier music because it has an electronic sound. Simon worked with Brian Eno who is known for electronic music. Eno produced music for the bands U2 and Talking Heads.
Paul Simon’s voice sounds the same as in his past records. But the electronic sound makes the new album more exciting. Simon told the New York Times that he thought about the September eleventh attacks against America while making the album. Simon wanted the songs to have American sounds. One of his earlier albums, “Graceland,” was influenced by the music of South Africa.
The song “Outrageous” is from Paul Simon’s new album. This song has lots of energy. It sounds like a pop song. It asks the question, “Who will love you when your looks are gone?”
Another song from the album “Surprise” is called “Sure Don’t Feel Like Love.” In this song, Simon says there is a lack of love and caring in the world. The music has a hip-hop rhythm, unlike his past music.
We leave you with another song from Paul Simon’s new album, “Surprise.” “Another Galaxy” has a very electronic sound. The song also has softer guitar music. Simon sings about leaving home and other changes in a person’s life.
I'm Bob Doughty. I hope you enjoyed our program today. Our show was written by Erin Schiavone and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
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