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Now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

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On this program, we explore words and expressions that Americans use in everyday conversations.

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Often, some of the most common expressions were first used many years ago, when life in the United States was very different than it is now.

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Today, let's consider the term circle the wagons. A great way to show your loyalty to a group of people is to protect them. One way to do that is to circle the wagons.

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"Circle the wagons" or "circle your wagons" means that members of a team or group must work together to protect themselves from some outside danger. Generally, they prepare for a possible attack.

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Some language experts say this expression comes from the time when many Americans were moving away from the East Coast to what is now the western United States.

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During the 1800s, many settlers traveled west from the East Coast in covered, horse-drawn wagons. At night, or when threatened during the day, the wagons would stop moving. The drivers then would line up all the carriages in a circle. This was a way of protecting the settlers from attack. They would keep their cattle and other animals within the circle.

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Although "circle the wagons" was first used in the 19th century, don't let it stop you from using it today.

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You can circle your wagons any time you feel you need to protect the interests of your group: from a sporting events to a political campaign to a project at work.

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Circling your wagons means you are in a defensive position.

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Now, if circling your wagons is a way of protecting your group, then a circular firing squad is just the opposite.

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A firing squad is one way to carry out an execution. In the military, soldiers form a straight line as they prepare to fire at the prisoner. If the soldiers are in a circle, they would shoot each other. So, a "circular firing squad" is a group that comes together to fight a common enemy or opponent. But in the end, disputes among the group's own members do more damage than the enemy.

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Americans often use this expression when talking about politics. A political party is rarely able to get all of its members to agree on every issue. And when they disagree on big issues, they can sometimes fight amongst themselves.

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Some other terms for a circular firing squad are "self-destructive internal conflicts" and "mutual recriminations."

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"Mutual" describes something that two or more groups or people share or have in common. For example, mutual respect is when people respect each other.

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A "recrimination" is an angry statement in which you accuse or criticize a person who has accused or criticized you. Children on the playground often use recriminations.

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"You're stupid!"

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"No, I'm not! YOU'RE stupid!"

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"Am not!"

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"Are, too!"

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Now, let's hear these expressions being used in a short conversation.

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Well, the meeting at work today was ... interesting.

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That's one way to describe it. I call it ... brutal. As soon as the chief said "budget cuts," people started circling their wagons.

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That's understandable. If there is going to be less money, she might cancel some projects. So, everyone wants to protect their people and their projects.

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That's true. But we have to remember that we're all working for the same business. Our bigger goal as a company is the same.

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You're right. We don't want to turn into a circular firing squad. Internal disputes are an easy way to destroy the company.

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Yes. And that is exactly what our competition wants.

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And that's it for Words and Their Stories.

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Hopefully, in work and in life, you circle your wagon more often than get involved in a circular firing squad.

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I'm Jonathan Evans.

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I'm Anna Matteo.

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重点单词   查看全部解释    
accuse [ə'kju:z]

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v. 指责,控告,谴责

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budget ['bʌdʒit]

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n. 预算
vt. 编预算,为 ... 做预算

 
campaign [kæm'pein]

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n. 运动,活动,战役,竞选运动
v. 从事运

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issue ['iʃju:]

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n. 发行物,期刊号,争论点
vi. & vt

 
loyalty ['lɔiəlti]

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n. 忠诚,忠心

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internal [in'tə:nəl]

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adj. 国内的,内在的,身体内部的

 
statement ['steitmənt]

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n. 声明,陈述

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execution [.eksi'kju:ʃən]

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n. 执行,实施,处决
n. 技巧,表演

 
conversation [.kɔnvə'seiʃən]

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n. 会话,谈话

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competition [kɔmpi'tiʃən]

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n. 比赛,竞争,竞赛

 
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