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

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Next in VOA special English is words and their stories. Then we tell about the first African-American to serve on the United Stated Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Transcripts and mp3s of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com.

 

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, twenty-fourth 1848 a man named James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in the territory of California. The news spread quickly, thousands rush to west. They traveled on feet by horseback, and by boat to reach the gold fields. By 1849 the group gold rush was on. Towns and cities grow overnight. Throughout the territory in the mountains along the streams in the rivers thousands of people search for gold, they had food to eat and blankets to cover them, they also had mules to ride and picks and pans to search for gold.

 

Some found areas of mountain rock thick with gold, this men got rich. But such areas were few, and quickly cleared by the first man to found them. Other search for gold in the rivers coming down the mountains, they were after pieces of gold that the rains had washed down form above. They only way to found this gold was by panning, first a gold miner put dirt in the metal pan and aid the water, then he shook the pan, so that the water would rush the dirt. Slowly he pouts the water out of the pan, if you were a luck miner pieces of gold would remain.

 

Across the nation, newspapers carried the stories of the gold being found. One told how thousands of people climbed the mountains looking for gold.  Some stories told how others followed the rivers and streams with pans. Each one hoped that the place he claimed panned out well –had some gold. For many gold miner did not panned 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 says 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 criticize. How it got this meaning is hard to discover. But the job of a critic is to sometimes pan the work of a writer, artist or singer.

 

Sometimes, critics may pan a movie or play so severely that no one will 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 actors have pointed out, sometimes a critic's pan turns up gold.

 

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