Britlish

You're in Trouble

Listenings | Humour | Vocabulary

Listenings

Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.  

Humour

These English Activities are built around English jokes. The jokes may be old or new; they may be very funny or just amusing. The language of the joke is explored, and you will begin to understand a very important aspect of the English language - humour. Many students of English, be they students of English as a second language or of English as a foreign language, find it very difficult to "get" English jokes. British humour has a strong satirical element aimed at showing the absurdity of everyday life. A lot of English humour depends on cultural knowledge and the themes commonly include the British class system, wit, innuendo, to boost subjects and puns, self-deprecation, sarcasm, and insults. As well as this, English humour is often delivered in a deadpan way or is considered by many to be insensitive. A particular aspect of British English humour is the humour of the macabre, were topics that are usually treated seriously are treated in a very humorous or satirical way.

Vocabulary

Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.

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I haven't always been an English teacher. Indeed, I have done quite a few jobs, including two stints as a police officer. When I look back on my days as a police officer, I can recall many incidents that I'd like to share with you as anecdotes to help you develop your reading, listening comprehension, and vocabulary skills. Today's anecdote is about an incident I dealt with while working on my beat in the small village of Saint Martins, in Shropshire, England. I was, at the time, the village policeman, and spent my days driving around my beat in my trusty old Land Rover. It was a very sleepy village, and exciting incidents were few and far between. I should warn you that the incident I'm about to relate to you is not particularly exciting. Nevertheless, it's certainly one incident in my policing career that I shall never forget.        

Urine Trouble

I haven't always been an English teacher. Indeed, I have done quite a few jobs, including two stints as a police officer. When I look back on my days as a police officer, I can recall many incidents that I'd like to share with you as anecdotes to help you develop your reading, listening comprehension, and vocabulary skills.

Today's anecdote is about an incident I dealt with while working on my beat in the small village of Saint Martins, in Shropshire, England. I was, at the time, the village policeman, and spent my days driving around my beat in my trusty old Land Rover. It was a very sleepy village, and exciting incidents were few and far between. I should warn you that the incident I'm about to relate to you is not particularly exciting. Nevertheless, it's certainly one incident in my policing career that I shall never forget.

I was driving down the main road towards the village of Saint Martins when I saw a car stopped on the roundabout near the entrance to the village. There was little traffic on the roads, and I positioned my Land Rover behind the car and switched on the blue lights. As I approached the car, I saw that it contained an elderly lady and a small dog.

I walked up to the driver's door and tapped gently on the window to draw the driver's attention. The elderly lady looked up at me, a look of exasperation on her face, and wound down the window.

"Good afternoon, Madam," I said, not feeling the need to introduce myself as a police officer on account of the rather obvious uniform I was wearing. "What seems to be the problem?"

"I can't get it to start," moaned the old lady.

"But your car is running, Madam," said I over the sound of the revving engine.

"But I can't get it into gear," protested the lady, her dog yapping excitedly behind her as if in support.

"Perhaps if you get out of the vehicle, I can take a look at the problem for you, Madam," I suggested.

It took a few minutes to get the old lady, walking sticks, and her dog, out of the vehicle and onto the safety of the verge.

"It's frightfully annoying," she shouted as I made my way back to her car. "I was on my way to see my sister in Dorset."

I gave her a reassuring smile as I lowered myself into the driver's seat. My smile turned instantly into a grimace as my backside landed on the seat and discovered the old lady's incontinence. I tumbled out of the car onto the road, hoping against hope that I had been quick enough not to have soaked up too much of the stale urine from the seat. Gingerly feeling the back of my pants, I realised that I was not so lucky.

Professional as I was, and still not having resolved the problem posed by the car's position, I determined to carry on. I returned to my police vehicle and found a large black plastic bag which I placed on the old lady's car seat, fully aware that I was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. I soon confirmed that the car was in perfect working order, unlike the old lady.

Half a mile or so down the road to the village was a garage and I suggested that the old lady drive herself there where the mechanic could check her car out before she continued on her way to Dorset. I would, I promised, follow behind to make sure that she got to the garage safely.

The elderly lady revved the car alarmingly, crunched through the gears until she found one low enough to begin moving, and kangarooed towards the village. It was apparent that whatever gear she had initially selected would suffice all the way to Dorset though the car was unlikely to exceed even the lowest of speed limits.

Travelling behind with all my warning lights flashing, I became increasingly concerned that the old lady had little or no conception of lane discipline. She weaved slowly from her lane into the opposite lane. Luckily, there was no other traffic on the road, but such a situation was unlikely to be sustained. Then, when a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction was forced to mount the verge and almost hit a lamppost, I determined that enough was enough and that Dorset was a mere pipe dream.

I switched on my sirens, and flashed my headlights, signalling for the old lady to pull over to the side of the road. She continued on regardless and I was eventually forced to overtake, pull in front of her, and use my Land Rover to bring her vehicle to a halt. As I fought to stop her, I radioed for some assistance.

Two other officers eventually arrived, and I explained what had happened. Needless to say, I was the one who had to drive the old lady's car back to her house while the old lady followed in the police car, and the other officer followed in my Land Rover. We arrived at the old lady's rather grand house in the adjacent village just across the border in North Wales.

While driving, I noticed there were several empty gin bottles on the floor of the car, as well as a half- empty bottle in the driver's door. I began to suspect that the elderly lady might not actually be in a fit state to drive.

My suspicions were confirmed when the officer who had transported the lady home in his vehicle said, "She's completely soused!"

We entered the house and found numerous empty bottles of gin scattered around the place. "Have you perhaps had a drink, Madam?" I asked, as the old lady collapsed onto a leather Chesterfield sofa.

The old lady giggled and said, "Don't be ridiculous. I'm just rather old, that's all. I shall be ninety next week."

Drink-driving is obviously a very serious offence and one which would normally have led to immediate arrest. Turning up at the police station with a ninety year old offender, however, was not going to earn me any smarty points with the sergeant. Plus, there was another, more pressing task that I had to perform; I still needed a new pair of underpants and trousers.

"You are in no fit state to drive, Madam," I told the old lady. "Not now, nor in the future. I am, therefore, going to speak to your doctor in order to revoke your driving licence."

I was as good as my word. I spoke to the old lady's doctor, and he told me that he had revoked her driving licence ten years previously because of her alcoholism. I submitted my report of the incident and no further action was taken.

As the lady lived in a different police area, North Wales, we informed the local police officer of the incident and left it to him to monitor the situation. I later heard that she had, several times, brought the whole village to a standstill by getting herself, her car, and her dog stuck in the middle of the road. No action was ever taken against her, and she died a year or two later.

I have often wondered what might have happened had I not come across her on the roundabout that day, as Dorset is several hundred miles away from where I found her, and she had seemed awfully determined to go to her sister's.

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