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Last updated at 11:02 BST, Wednesday, 06 July 2011

To nip something in the bud

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The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show opens today so William and Helen decide to talk about a gardening-related idiom: 'to nip something in the bud'.

A garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Gardening can be tough sometimes.

The script for this programme

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

William: Hi, I'm William. Today Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is opening.

Music, birdsong

Helen: Oh, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – the world's largest flower show! I've seen it on the news before. If only I had a garden!

William: Ah yes, you live in an apartment, don't you Helen?

Helen: Yeah. So William, let me guess, today we are going to do a phrase relating to flowers and gardening?

William: Exactly.

Helen: So...? What's the phrase?

William: Er... Well, how about... how about... er. No, it's gone. It's no good. I can't think of a phrase right now.

Helen: Oh well. Let's just have a chat instead. I'm tired of learning new phrases anyway.

William: OK. Well, how are you Helen? How are the kids?

Helen: Oh they are both really well. My little boy eats too much chocolate though!

William: Oh really? Well, you want to nip that in the bud.

Helen: Eh? Nip it in the bud?

William: Nip it in the bud. If you nip something in the bud, you stop it before it becomes a problem. Listen to this example from a business context:

Man: The last few deliveries we've had from this company have all had broken parts in them.

Woman: Well, we need to nip that in the bud. Tell them that unless their service improves, we're going to look for another supplier.

Helen: So in that example, the man was complaining about poor service from a supplier. The woman wanted to nip it in the bud.

William: That's right. She wanted to take steps to improve the service before it got even worse.

Helen: So where does this phrase come from William – to nip something in the bud?

Birdsong and music

William: Well, it comes from gardening, actually. A bud is the part of a plant that becomes a flower, a leaf or stem. If you nip something in the bud, you cut the bud off the plant before it has time to grow.

Helen: Oh. That's not very nice.

William: Well, gardening is a tough game, Helen. You have to nip things in the bud sometimes. You also have to kill slugs and snails.

Helen: Eugh! I'm glad I don't have a garden.

William: Bye!

Helen: Bye!

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