Advanced English Listening 6: Love, Chocolate and Corporations                                                        

Hello, and welcome to the listening class 1.6 of Culture Clash. This week  we’ve been talking about love and marriage, but I have a strong suspicion that by the end of today’s class we’ll be talking about something quite different. 

Advanced Listening 1

Bruno Mars introduces our theme of marriage with his song, Marry you. First, though some information on Bruno. This pint sized singer (5 foot 5) is the son of a percussionist (father) and his mother was a singer and a hula dancer. His uncle was an Elvis impersonator. At the age of 4 Bruno was performing with the family band, the Lovenotes, and he had a cameo role as a mini Elvis impersonator in the film Honeymoon in Vegas in 1992. He left school at 17 and went to California to pursue a musical career, and the rest is history. He was the best-selling artist in digital downloads in 2011. 

Back to the song. Well…it sounds romantic, but it’s hard to know if Mars is parodying those crazy marriages that happen spontaneously in California and Las Vegas…or not. The lyrics are…

  • “It’s a beautiful night
  • We’re looking for something dumb to do
  • Hey baby
  • I think I wanna marry you
  • Is it the look in your eyes
  • Or is it this dancing juice?
  • Who cares, baby
  • I think I wanna marry you.”

The key word here is ‘dumb’ which means stupid. However, it can sometimes have more of a sense of ‘spontaneous’… you know it’s dumb and silly but it’s crazy and impulsive and romantic. What do you think of this song by Bruno Mars?

Advanced Listening 2

The mars bar was named after its creator, the American, Forrest Mars. In 1932, Forrest rented a factory in Berkshire, England, and began manufacturing the mix of nougat, caramel and chocolate we all know and love as the mars bar. The question is, though, why did he come to England to make it if he was an American?

The answer is that he had fallen out with his father, Frank C Mars, the founder of Mars Inc. – the American candy and chocolate manufacturer. When his father died 34 years later the two businesses were merged and a giant was created. Not content with creating M & Ms, snickers and bounty bars, the company moved into other areas and also owns the rice and sauce manufacturer, Mr Ben, petfood whiskas and wrigleys chewing gum. And there you have it: a mini history of Mars.

Advanced Listening 3

Because ‘Mar’ means ‘sea’ in Spanish, we can forgive speakers of that language for thinking that ‘mar’ in English has something to do with the sea. It doesn’t. Yes, it’s true that the latin prefix ‘mar’ does exist in English in words related to the sea: ‘maritime’ for example, but when it’s on its own ‘mar’ means something very different. ‘To mar’ is a commonly used verb of Germanic origin and it means ‘to spoil’ or ‘to contaminate’ or ‘to damage.’ It is often used in the news when an event that is supposed to be peaceful or enjoyable, is ruined by unexpected problems. For example “Celebrations of England’s victory were marred by fights with German supporters.” Or…”The play was marred by technical failures with the lighting.” And there you have it… the meaning of mar.

Advanced Listening 4

Johnny Mar was the lead guitarist of the Smiths, their most important song writer, and the architect of their trademark jangly guitar sound.  Born in 1963, his first career moves were in football. As a talented teenager he was approached by Manchester City but they weren’t so keen when they realised he was a punk who wore eyeliner.  

The Smiths came together in 1982 with original members Johnny and Morrissey later joined by Andy Rourke as bass player and Mike Joyce as drummer. Unusually for an indie band their first album went to number 2 in the album charts – a popularity which continued throughout their career and continues to this day. NME, for example, has dubbed the Smiths the most important rock band of all time and Johnny Mar was voted as the fourth best guitarist of all time in a recent BBC poll.

Listening questions

  1. Is Bruno celebrating or Parodying marriage? 
  2. What event allowed the merger of the two separate companies?
  3. From what language does the suffix ‘mar’ come from? 
  4. What caused the end of Johnny Mar’s sporting career?

Listening answers

  1. In the end we can’t be sure.
  2. The father’s death.
  3. Latin.
  4. Because he was a punk.



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