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Last updated at 15:50 BST, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Touchy-feely

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In this week's The English We Speak programme, William is sad about his cat and Li encourages him to get in touch with his feelings.

A cat playing with colourful feathers

William misses his cat Tigger.

The script for this programme

Li: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. I'm Yang Li.

William: (subdued) I'm William Kremer.

Li: So, what English are we speaking today, William?

William: (sigh) I don't know.

Li: Oh what a big sigh! What's wrong?

William: Oh, it doesn't matter.

Li: Oh, come on! I can see something's not right. What's wrong?

William: (sigh) It's... well, if you must know, it's Tigger... he's died.

Li: Tigger? Who's Tigger?

William: Tigger... Tigger is... Tigger was my beautiful cat. He was my best friend. I suppose you could say that. I'm going to miss his stripey face in the morning. And his purr, yeah, I'm going to miss that. But, you know, these things happen. I shouldn't get so upset...

Li: Why not? I think it's normal to be very sad when a pet dies.

William: No, no, it's silly! I'm getting upset over an animal! I'm not a baby! I should grow up.

Li: But you might find it helpful to talk about your feelings for Tigger.

William: No, no, no, no! I hate all of that touchy-feely stuff!

Li: Touchy-feely?

William: Yeah, if something is touchy-feely it's very emotional. If you are a touchy-feely person you don't mind talking about your feelings and maybe actually hugging people.

Li: I see. So is this a negative phrase, touchy-feely?

William: Yeah, a little bit. Let's hear a couple of examples of it in use:

  • Man: Do you know, I never once saw my mum and dad kiss or hug.
  • Man 2: Really? Gosh, that seems incredible.
  • Man: But I think they really loved each other. They just weren't all touchy-feely about it.
  • Woman: Did you go to that drama group?
  • Woman 2: Yeah. I don't think I'll go again.
  • Woman: Oh? Why not?
  • Woman 2: Well, the acting was fine. But it's all that touchy-feely stuff they do that I don't like.

Li: Look, you English people! You just can't talk about your feelings, can you?

William: Well, you might be right Li – we're not famous for talking about our feelings. Now, before we finish, I have heard this phrase touchy-feely being used in a very different way too. Listen to this:

  • Woman: I love your sweater!
  • Man: Thanks.
  • Woman: It's so soft! I love this material. It's so touchy-feely!
  • Man: OK. Shall I take it off and then you can touch it properly?!

Li: So in that example, 'touchy-feely' was being used to describe a kind of material.

William: Yes. If something is touchy-feely it is very soft. You want to stroke it, just like Tigger. I'm going to miss stroking Tigger.

William: The way he used to purr... And sometimes he would bring me a little present, you know. A dead mouse or maybe a little bird. So thoughtful.

Li: Hmm. It's OK to cry you know, William...

William: (recovering himself) No! No it's not. No touchy-feely stuff!

Li: Oh I give up. Goodbye everyone.

William: Bye!

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