It will only take two ticks to learn these useful phrases with William and Wang Fei in The English We Speak.
The script for this programme
William: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak, I'm William Kremer.
Wang Fei: And I'm Wang Fei. So how are you today?
William: Two ticks...
Wang Fei: What?
William: Give me two shakes, Wang Fei, I just need to...
Wang Fei: Eh? What's that?
William: I'll be with you in a jiffy...
Wang Fei: In a jiffy. What's a jiffy? William, what are you talking about?
William: There, done now. I just needed to send a text.
Wang Fei: But what were all those ticks and jiffys?
William: Ahh, and shakes?
Wang Fei: Yes.
William: Well they're all expressions of time, Wang Fei. So they're ways of saying 'just a moment', or 'just a minute'.
Wang Fei: I see.
- Can you come and help me lift this sofa?
- Yeah, I'll be with you in two ticks.
William: Two ticks. In English, we say clocks make this noise: tick tock, tick tock. So two ticks is just like saying two seconds.
- I said, can you come and help me here? It's too heavy for me.
- Yes, yes. I'll be there in two shakes.
Wang Fei: Hmm. Two shakes?
William: Yeah, the full phrase here is 'two shakes of a lamb's tail', but we shorten this to 'two shakes'.
Wang Fei: Oh I see. Two shakes of a lamb's tail. English can be a very weird language!
William: Yes, it can be! I guess that this is because lambs' tails shake very fast, so two shakes is a short time! And finally...
- Look Neil, this sofa isn't going to lift itself. Get a move on!
- I know, I know. I said I'll be with you in a jiffy.
Wang Fei: In a jiffy. So in a jiffy also means 'in a short space of time'. But what's a jiffy?
William: Well, you know what, Wang Fei? Nobody is completely sure of the origin of this word. But it has been in use for over 200 years!
Wang Fei: 200 years! That's quite a long time. More than a jiffy!
William: Yes, and that's several billion shakes of a lamb's tail.
Wang Fei: Yes and all those ticks of a clock! Bye for now.
William: Bye bye.
- Are you going to help me with sofa or not?!
- What sofa? You need help with a sofa?