Bend to

Lesson #
January 23, 2020

To "bend to" means to change a little bit to be more like or please another party.


Transcript

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Bend to

I’m not going to lie. Today’s expression is difficult. It is “to bend to.” Let’s first start with the literal meaning of “bend.” Use bend when something starts straight, but later becomes curved. Picture the branch of a tree—not a big one, a small one, a living one. If you pull down on one end, you might make that branch curve a little bit. If you do, the branch is bending. You drive down a straight road and then the road turns just a little to right or the left. In that case, the road bends to the right or to the left. You can bend your knees—make them not straight—you can bend over, if you want to reach forward and bend your whole body at your hips.

That’s bend. You ought to know that word. If you don’t know that word, look it up in a multi-lingual dictionary because it’s a good word to know.

But that’s not it. And that’s not how I used it in the first part of this episode. Here’s what I said. About 150 years ago, Japan believed that it had to bend to the Western world’s conventions in order to grow as a great power itself. Japan had to bend to the Western world’s conventions.

In this example, “bend to” means, Japan had to change a little bit, to be more like or to please another party, in this case the Western world. I want to emphasize “a little bit.” In English, we often draw a distinction between the words “bend” and “break.” Go back to the tree branch example. If you pull down too hard on a branch, you might break it off. Or if the branch is dead, you might break it off. To bend is really to change shape a little.

When Japan “bends” to the Western world’s conventions, Japan isn’t making a radical change. It’s not like Abe Shizo becomes John Smith. It just becomes Shinzo Abe. Just a little change. Japan is bending to Western conventions.

The most common way to use “bend to” in this sense is to say, “bend to someone’s will.” To “bend to someone’s will” means to make little changes so that another person is happy. To make little changes so that another person is happy.

A politician can bend to the will of wealthy supporters. A wealthy supporter gives a lot of money to a politician’s campaign, maybe they supply a lot of volunteer hours, they have some influence with that politician in the future. And that politician might bend to the will of that supporter. At least here in the US, that doesn’t mean that the politician only does what that supporter wants; and it doesn’t mean that the politician makes radical changes just because of that supporter. But it does mean that the politician might make little changes, might take little actions, that other might not notice, but that nonetheless help that supporter.

If the supporter pays a bribe and the politician awards him a contract, then that’s different. That’s not bending to someone’s will—that’s making a big change. Bending to someone’s will is making small changes to make that person happy.

Let me give you another example. I doubt this is true in other parts of the world—maybe it is. In the United States, when big companies want to build a factory or move their headquarters, they go the local government and say, “We want to create 500 jobs in your town. But we’re only going to do this if you give us stuff.” For example, they want a special tax break. Or they want, I don’t know, an exception to some building-code rules. They want something. It’s generally not outrageous, but they want something, something more than what Joe’s Hardware on Main Street gets. And very often cities will bend to the will of the large companies because the leaders of that city want jobs for their town and they want to take credit for bringing a large company to town. If they don’t bend to the will of this company, then another town or another state nearby just may bend to that company’s will.

JR’s song of the week

Today’s song of the week is “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. It’s a classic rock song from 1964 and a really popular song on classic rock radio stations. It was originally sung from the perspective of a woman, but the version by the Animals tells a sad story of a man who follows his father into a gambling addiction.

There is a brief tie-in to today’s episode. Japan is often called the Land of the Rising Sun; in fact, it has been known that way for 1,400 years. Although the song, House of the Rising Sun has nothing to do with Japan, we nevertheless thought it was appropriate for today.


That’ll do it for today. Thanks for joining us. We’ll be back on Monday with another episode of Plain English.

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¿Hablas español?

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The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

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The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

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Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

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The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

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The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

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The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

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The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

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Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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