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Last updated at 10:47 GMT, Wednesday, 08 February 2012

Get your hands dirty

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Why is Li getting her hands dirty in mud? Has there been a misunderstanding? Find out more with The English We Speak.

A person covered in mud

How's that for a bit of fun?

The script for this programme

Neil: Hello, I'm Neil. What a miserable day it is today! Hey, I think that's Li! What on earth's she doing?! She's on her hands and knees in the mud. Li!

Yang Li: Oh! Hello!

Neil: Are you okay?

Yang Li: Yes, I am fine, thanks.

Neil: Is there any particular reason you are in the mud?

Yang Li: Oh yes, I am making myself dirty.

Neil: Ri-ight.

Yang Li: For the neighbourhood festival – it's tonight you know!

Neil: I know. But I think I'm going to be having a shower and making myself clean, rather than dirty. Maybe this is some kind of low-cost spa treatment...?

Yang Li: No, this is not a beauty treatment, the festival coordinator told us to do this.

Neil: Did he?

Yang Li: Yes, last week he asked each of us to contribute and said if it's going to be a success, you must all get your hands dirty.

Neil: Ohhhhhh!

Yang Li: What?

Neil: I don't think he meant you should actually come with dirty hands. It's an expression!

Yang Li: An expression?

Neil: Yes. 'To get your hands dirty' means to get really involved in the work – including the parts that are not enjoyable - rather than standing back and watching others do it.

Yang Li: Oh.

Neil: For example.

Woman: Unlike other bosses, Mr Stevens really likes to get his hands dirty. It's as if he's one of us.


Man: Mary pretends to work hard, but I've never actually seen her get her hands dirty.

Yang Li: So what I was actually being asked to do was to get fully involved in festival preparations – I wasn't being asked to arrive with dirty hands.

Neil: Yes.

Yang Li: You know what? I don't care, I was really beginning to enjoy myself in the mud, and I'm sure my skin feels softer. Come on Neil, try, this is fun. Let's get our hands dirty – for real! Come on, come on…

Neil: I'd rather not... no, please... argh!

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