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[word-lover] 【整理】2008-07-27 Words and Their Stories

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Homework (After the music)

Now the VOA Special English program: Words and Their stories. Today's word pan takes us back to the days of the Gold Rush in California. On January 24th 1848, a man named James Welson Martial discovered gold in the territory of California. The news spread quickly.Thousands rushed to west. They traveled on foot, by horseback and by boat to reach the gold fields. By 1849, the Great Gold Rush was on. Towns and cities grew overnight. Throughout the territory, in the mountains along the streams and rivers , thousands of people searched for gold. They had food to eat and blankets to cover them .They also had muse to ride and picks and pans to search for gold. Some found areas of mountain rock thick with gold. These men got rich. But such areas were few and quick claimed by the first man to find them. Others searched for gold in the rivers coming down the mountains. They were after the pieces of gold that the rains had washed down from above. The only way to find this gold was by panning. First, a gold miner put dirt in the metal pan and added water. Then he shook the pan so that the water would wash the dirt. Slowly, he poured the water out of the pan. If he was a lucky miner, pieces of gold would remain. Across the nation, newspapers carried stories of the gold being found. One told how thousands of people climbed the mountains looking for gold. Some stories told how others followed rivers and streams with pans. Each one hoped that the place he claimed panned out well had some gold. For many, gold mining did not pan out. For a few, it panned out well. But in time, huge machines were built that could wash many tons of dirt at a time. Panning died out. The word, however, remained in the language. Today Americans still say "it panned out well" when something they have done pleases them. A business , a discovery, a simple event pans out well if it is successful. Unhappily sometimes things do not pan out. In recent years, the word pan has taken on another meaning. Today it also means to criticise. How it got this meaning is hard to discover, but the job of a critic is to sometimes pan the work of a writter, artist or singer. Sometimes, critics may pan a movie or a play so severely that no one would go to see it. There are times, however, when a play became highly successful even though most of the critics panned it without mercy. The pans should have washed out the play, but as acters have pointed out: sometimes a critic's pan turns out gold.
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