Identities & Exchanges: small Town USA

Looking at the picture, let’s make some assumptions about what his life might be like.

I expect him to visit his mum every morning.

On his way there, he most likely say hello to one or 2 friends who are walking to college.

Then, he spends the day studying law before getting ready to start his night work at the steel factory.

At the end of the day, he is completely exhausted (= épuisé)

The town doesn’t seem to be very busy at night.

Places to socialize include the community center and the church; that’s it!

It is likely that most people work in steel factories since (= puisque) the map shows 3 steel factories in the outskirts (= la périphérie) of the town.

For entertainment purposes, the cinema is perfect!

What makes it a nice place to live is that you can easily escape to the countryside (= campagne) once (= dès que)  you are fed up with the hustle and bustle ( /ˈhʌsəl//ənd//ˈbʌsəl/ = l’agitation) of the town.

Yet / However, Jimmy wishes he could move to a bigger town.

Grammar time : expressing habit

– Be + used to + verb + ing OR be + used to + noun, = avoir l’habitude …

Ex : Harry is used to eating fast food every day. / We are used to the school being cold. / I’m not used to all the noise from the street.

Pronoun + get used to + verb + ing OR Pronoun + get used to + noun. = = s’habituer à

Ex : Jane is getting used to eating more healthily. / She is getting used to the baby’s needs.

– Be accustomed to/get accustomed to + verb + ing OR be accustomed to + noun. = avoir l’habitude / s’habituer à

Ex : I am accustomed to eating only organic food. / I am getting accustomed to his strange behaviour.

– Present simple Ex : Mum prepares lunch for us every day.

– Present continuous (for annoying habits) Ex : He is always spitting his food and I need to clean all the mess.

– In spoken English Will may be stressed to emphasise the annoyance at a habit. Ex : He will turn up late.

keep on to emphasise that the action is repeated frequently. Ex : Sorry, I keep on forgetting your name!

Here are a few examples:

Avoir / ne pas avoir l’habitude de:

Jimmy is (not) used to driving to work every day.

He is accustomed to walking to Jen’s place every evening.

S’habituer à / ne pas s’habituer à:

He is getting used to spending more time with Jen.

He is not getting accustomed to working at the steel factory.

Continuer à (faire quelque chose):

Jimmy keeps on doing shopping with his girlfriend even though he dislikes it very much !

Comportement sûr, à prévoir:

Jimmy will drive back home dead drunk every Saturday night !!

RECAP

Here are a few more examples about Jimmy’s routine:

Every Sunday, he goes to church to worship (= prier) God.

He is used to visiting his dad every day at 6:00p.m.

Over the years, he got used to waking up very early to go to work at the steel factory (= l’aciérie)

No he is accustomed to his tough (= hard / difficult)  job at the steel factory.

Yet, he keeps on going to evening classes (= cours du soir) although he works 7 hours a day.

He is a tough guy (= un dur) , isn’t he?

He was born in the small town of Middleton, wasn’t he?

He keeps on visiting his parents even if he a grown-up,  doesn’t he?

He never went to New York, did he?

He hasn’t played football since he left school, has he?

1) Comment faire remarquer quelque chose:

to point out / notice / observe / mention / stress / draw attention to (the fact that) …

2) Here are a few words to criticize something or someone:

to blame someone for (doing) something  / to reproach someone for (doing) something = reprocher à quelqu’un (de faire) quelque chose

to criticize the way …….= critiquer la façon de …….

to complain about something  / that…..= se plaindre de quelque chose / que…..

Small Town USA by Justin Moore, lyrics

A lot of people called it prison when I was growin’ up
But these are my roots and this is what I love
‘Cause everybody knows me and I know them
And I believe that’s the way we were supposed to live
I wouldn’t trade one single day here in small town USA
Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
A little Hank Jr. and a six pack of Light
An old dirt road and I’ll be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Here in small town USA
Around here we break our backs just to earn a buck
We never get ahead but we have enough
I watch people leave and then come right back
I never wanted any part of that
And I’m proud to say I love this place
Good ol’ small town USA
Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
David Allan Coe and a six pack of Light
An old dirt road and I’ll be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Here in small town USA
Oh yeah
I wouldn’t trade one single day
I’m proud to say I love this place
Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
« Sweet Home Alabama » and a six pack of Light
An old dirt road and I’ll be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Yeah, I’ll be okay here in small town USA
Oh yeah, small town USA

Merry Go' Round by Kacey Musgraves

If you ain’t got two kids by 21
You’re probably gonna die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe
Come Sunday mornin’, you best be there
In the front row like you’re supposed to
Same hurt in every heart
Same trailer, different park
Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down
Mary, Mary quite contrary
We get bored, so we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town
On this broken merry go ’round
And ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
And it ain’t slowin’ down
This merry go ’round
We think the first time’s good enough
So, we hold on to high school love
Say we won’t end up like our parents
Tiny little boxes in a row
Ain’t what you want, it’s what you know
Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’
Same checks we’re always cashin’
To buy a little more distraction
‘Cause mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
We get bored, so, we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town
On this broken merry go ’round
And ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
And it ain’t slowin’ down
This merry go ’round
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
We’re so bored until we’re buried
Just like dust, we settle in this town
On this broken merry go ’round
Merry go ’round
Jack and Jill went up the hill
Jack burned out on booze and pills
And Mary had a little lamb
Mary just don’t give a damn no more

People’s hardships in rural America

A report by the Washington Post online

This report focuses on (= se concentrer) on the difficulties met by numerous Americans over the last years regarding the increasing unemployment rate (taux) in rural America.

Michael, a Wilmingtonian testifies about (= témoigner à propos de) the evolution of the town after DHL, a parcel and express mail service, closed down (it probably relocated (= délocaliser) the company) and made its employees redundant ( = licencier) ; the firm laid off 7,000 people. (to lay off= to make redundant)

You can use the verbs « fire » and « sack » in informal English and when it is not for economic reasons.

In slang, lay me off ! = Leave me alone !

This company closure (= fermeture) had many impacts on its workers’ lives :

-They were devastated / shocked / stunned /overwhelmed / dumbfounded / traumatized / distressed

– some couples split / broke up / got divorced / got a divorce

– some families lost their houses / they were dispossessed = evicted= expelled from their houses (= exproprié)

– Houses were worth nothing (perdre toute sa valeur) / they lost their value on – in the real estate (= immobilier) market

– Many unemployed people gave up = abandonner / they called it quits (= jeter l’éponge) and decided to move to another place to get a chance to get a new job.

As for (= quant à) Michael , he did not give up (= to abandon) and started a small-scale (à petite échelle) business, making custom knives (couteaux artisanaux) in his backyard.

He acknowledges (/ækˈnɒlɪdʒiz/) (= to admit) that he is broke (= in debt / insolvent / in the red (slang) / short of cash …) but he succeeds in paying his mortgage (= home loan / « house payments)

To conclude, he says he ‘s doing okay / he’s fine/ he does well / he copes well = bien s’en sortir.

Presentation and analysis of the picture

The setting

– Owsley County, Kentucky (/kɛnˈtʌkɪ/), the poorest white county in the USA.

Why such poverty ?

– Most of the population ( 98 % of the population of Kentucky is white) live in tiny (= minuscule) towns where work is provided by a few big companies.

– With the economic crisis, a lot of factories closed down or relocated and Kentucky, which was part of the manufacturing belt (now called the Rust Belt) was hit hard by the recession.

– The other jobs available in the county are mostly farm-centered and that’s it (= c’est tout).

In this county, there is a big disdain for big cities in the counties and a distaste of traveling / commuting. Moreover, they don’t have the money for it (= they can’t afford travelling= ne pas pouvoir financièrement) and they wouldn’t want to if they had (no curiosity for lack of education).

By the way, the local education is mediocre. So people are stuck in their backward (= arriéré) communities.

Here the little boy is posing for the picture in a trailer which looks derelict (= délabré), shabby (=minable). The atmosphere is sad = cheerless and the kid looks depressed = dejected = miserable.

The character’s social background :

– poverty-stricken = défavorisé : his family probably lives below the poverty line.

– He lives in a white-only environment

– He may be living in a single-parent family with his mother who is jobless and lives on the dole (= vivre des allocations chômage)

– The other adults around him must be unskilled for lack of education ( there is a high rate of high school dropouts = décrocheurs and a low rate of bachelor degrees = licence) and they only get low-paid jobs / positions.

– There is a shorter life expectancy (= espérance de vie) :

– drug epidemic : opioid (/ˈəʊpɪˌɔɪd/) addiction

– obesity (junk food)

– alcoholism

This boy is part of a category of Americans called « Hillbillies » (=bouseux) 

They are said to be coarse = gross = rude (grossier) / uncultured = uneducated (inculte) / backwoods (arriéré) / hick (plouc) by urban Americans.

This boy and his community feel abandoned by politicians who did not manage to improve their living conditions and forgotten by the rest of the country. They resent (= éprouver du ressentiment face à) this situation and Donald Trump used this resentment (= rancoeur) and frustration 4 years ago to win the presidential race. Unfortunately for him, Trump did not win them over (= rallier à qqn) for a second term.

Grammar Time

Practise with the following exercises

Comparatives and superlative + NOUNS

The rule

 

comparative

superlative

+ nom que

MORE books THAN

MORE energy THAN

THE MOST books

THE MOST energy

– nom que

FEWER people THAN

LESS water THAN

THE FEWEST people

THE LEAST water

= nom que

AS MANY children AS

AS MUCH ice cream AS

X

X

Writing a letter