Last updated at 12:09 BST, Tuesday, 12 July 2011

To blow your own trumpet


William and Helen look at a musical idiom in honour of the BBC Proms which start this Friday. Listen to find out more about the phrase 'to blow your own trumpet'.

A trumpet

Are you good at blowing your trumpet?

The script for this programme

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

Helen: And I'm Helen.

William: I've got something for you, Helen.

Burst of loud classical music (Beethoven's '5th Symphony')

Helen: It's nice to have a bit of music William, but why...

Burst of different classical music (Mendelssohn's 'Dance of the Clowns')

William: What do you think... nice music, huh?

Helen: Well, it's certainly dramatic! So are we having a special musical edition today, William?

William: Well, yes we are Helen. The BBC Proms start this Friday, remember?

Helen: Ah, of course. The BBC Proms is a huge classical music festival that the BBC sponsors. It's over 100 years old.

William: Yes and every day for the next two months hundreds of music fans will queue to get their hands on a £5 ticket.

Helen: Wow. Are you going to go?

William: No, I hate queuing! But anyway, I thought we could have a music-themed programme. And our phrase this week relates to one instrument in particular...

Trumpet music solo

Helen: The trumpet?

William: Yes, do you know what it means to say someone 'blows his own trumpet'?

Helen: Yes. It means that someone is talking too much about his achievements, right?

William: Exactly. Let's listen to an example.

Woman: Who's going to be there tonight?

Man: I think Angela and Mark and that guy Martin...

Woman: Oh no, not Martin! He's such a bore. He's always blowing his own trumpet. Last time I saw him he went on and on about how he had been promoted twice in six weeks.

Helen: So this is quite a negative phrase then?

William: Yes, sometimes. But interestingly, it isn't always used in a negative way. Listen to this example. A woman is talking to her niece.

Woman: I didn't know you'd come top in the class again! Why didn't you tell me? You really must start blowing your own trumpet a bit more!

Helen: So in that clip, the woman was telling her niece she ought to blow her own trumpet more?

William: Yes. And English people sometimes use this phrase because they are embarrassed to talk about their achievements. Listen to this clip:

Man: How's it going at your work nowadays?

Woman: Well, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, it's going very well. In fact, I've just won an award!

Helen: She said "At the risk of blowing my own trumpet".

William: Yeah, so that's like saying "Excuse me while I talk about my achievements"!

Helen: Well, I wonder whether we should blow our own trumpet a bit more. I mean here we are with a really popular website,

William: ...yeah, making lots of little programmes that are entertaining, fascinating, useful...

Helen: …and best of all, it's all free! Brilliant, huh?

William: Yeah, that's brilliant! But maybe we should stop blowing our own trumpet now! Shall we have some more of that nice music again to finish off?

Helen: Oh yes! Bye!

William: Bye!