'A Short Leash' Not Just for Dogs

06 July, 2019

Now, it's time for Words and Their Stories, a program from VOA Learning English.

Today our show is about control: Not self-control, but instead controlling others.

We begin with a short story set in a candy factory in the city of Chicago, Illinois.

FILE - Two employees prepare 'calisson,' a traditional French candy, in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, Dec. 14, 2005.
FILE - Two employees prepare 'calisson,' a traditional French candy, in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, Dec. 14, 2005.

The president of the candy company was Susan Cleveland. Her grandfather started Cleveland Candies as a small business in the downtown part of the city. Over the years, it became a favorite stop for candy-lovers of all ages.

Susan's father began working in the factory at age nineteen. He began at the bottom, cleaning floors and counting inventory, and worked his way all the way to the top. By age thirty, he was president of the company.

Because he started at the ground floor, he knew everything about the candy industry. His employees knew this and respected him for it.

As a leader, he was fair but firm. He paid employees well and treated them well, too. But he kept them all on a very "short leash." He made all the decisions involving the company.

He also kept his daughter Susan on a very short leash. When she began working at the company, he refused to let her make any decisions or take on any responsibilities.

But no one criticized the president. He knew exactly how to make the business a success. And it worked! The company expanded under his leadership. Soon Cleveland Candies had stores across the country and even shipped candy all over the world.

Then he died suddenly. Control of the company went to Susan. Because her father had kept her on such a short leash, she had no idea how to run the company. It soon stopped earning a profit. One by one, Cleveland Candies stores began closing.

After five years, the company was no more.

If Susan's father had passed the torch to her -- mentored her and taught her how to run the company -- things might have ended very differently.

Now, what do you think to keep someone on a short leash means?

A leash is like a rope. People use a leash to walk a dog. The leash keeps the dog from running away or getting into trouble. Keeping a dog on a short leash makes it easier for the dog walker to stay in control of the pet.

So, keeping someone on a short leash means to control them.

Now, in the candy store story, you also heard the expression "pass the torch." If someone is willing to pass the torch, they are willing to give control -- give responsibility -- to someone else. And they usually will not keep people on a short leash.

And that brings us to the end of this Words and Their Stories. If you enjoyed the program, remember to join us again next week!

Until next time ... I'm Anna Matteo.

Got me on a short leash, Tied to your screen door, I used to run with the big dogs, 'Til I stretched out on your front porch...

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. The song at the end is Toby Keith singing "Pull My Chain."


Words in This Story

candyn. a sweet made of sugar often with flavoring and filling

inventory n. a complete list of the things that are in a place

ground floor n. to be involved in a project or business activity from the beginning

mentor v. to teach or give advice or guidance to (someone, such as a less experienced person or a child) : to act as a mentor for (someone)

passed the torch idiom : to give one's job, duties, etc., to another person