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Last updated at 11:36 BST, Tuesday, 28 June 2011



Do you enjoy drinking alcohol or are you teetotal? In this week's The English We Speak, Helen and William talk about the word teetotal.

Three people drinking orange juice

These people are enjoying a non-alcoholic drink, orange juice.

The script for this programme

William: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. My name is William Kremer.

Helen: And I'm Helen. Hello.

William: So, are you going to go out after work tonight, Helen?

Helen: You mean for Rob's birthday? What's the plan?

William: Well, I think we're just going to head to the Fox and Flowerpot at 6.00pm.

Helen: Going to the pub again? No, I think I'll give it a miss this time.

William: Oh no! Why? Have you got plans?

Helen: No, it's just...

William: You don't like Rob, maybe?

Helen: No, no – that's not the reason. I just don't like going to the pub all the time. I don't really drink, you know, and I always feel a bit awkward.

William: Ah, I didn't know you were teetotal, Helen!

Helen: Teetotal?

William: Teetotal. This is an adjective that describes a person who doesn't drink alcohol.

Helen: Right - so does this person just drink tea?!

William: Well maybe! But actually, the word teetotal doesn't have anything to do with tea. It's spelled T.E.E.T.O.T.A.L. Let's listen to this example of the word being used:

Man: Have you bought the drinks for the party yet?

Woman: Yep – I've got a case of wine and two boxes of beer. I've also got some soft drinks for Granny. She's teetotal nowadays.

Helen: Can you say, "I don't feel like drinking beer tonight... I'm going to have a teetotal evening"?

William: Well not really. We describe people as teetotal, and it means that they never drink alcohol. Now, teetotal is an adjective, but there is also a noun that we can use. See if you can hear it in this example:

Man: My father used to drink heavily, you know. Every night he'd have a bottle of Scotch. Maybe that's why I've always been a teetotaller.

Helen: I heard the word teetotaller. And the speaker in that clip was describing why he was a teetotaller. Now William, where does this word come from?

William: Well no-one is really sure, Helen. But it's worth saying that in the past it was used to describe someone who didn't drink and who also thought that drinking alcohol was a bad thing. I think nowadays it's a little bit softer.

Helen: Well, truth be told William, I'm not a teetotaller. I like a drink every now and then but I just can't drink pint after pint of beer like you English people!

William: Well, good for you Helen! But why don't you come to the pub anyway? You can just have an orange juice or a lemonade. No-one will laugh at you.

Helen: No, they won't laugh at me, but they will ask me to drive them home! No, please tell Rob happy birthday but I don't feel like it tonight. But thanks for telling us about this interesting word, William.

William: Well, don't mention it, Helen. Right, I'm off to the pub now.

Helen: Don't drink too much!

William: I won't! Bye!

Helen: Bye!


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