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Last updated at 17:43 BST, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Knickers in a twist

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In this week's programme, Vera is upset that William doesn't like her washing line. He's not being critical - he just wants her to learn a new phrase!

A washing line

Does this washing line look perfect?

The script for this programme

Will: Hello, I'm William and here I am in Vera's garden to present the programme today…

Vera: Hi Will! Yes, I'm Vera, and well, before the programme I've got to hang up my washing!

Will: No problem, actually Vera that's quite handy to have you doing that as we have an expression to teach today that many people might find quite amusing. To get your knickers in a twist!

Vera: No, Will, my knickers are not twisted. I've got my knickers nicely hung here from this washing line, as are my blouses, my tablecloth, my jeans… What are you saying about my washing hanging technique? Do you think I'm not doing my washing right?

Will: No, I didn't mean that. I even like these pink pyjamas with yellow polka dots that I can see hanging further down the line. Vera, people can probably see them from the moon! They are a bit too bright for my taste, I've got to say.

Vera: You see, now you are poking fun at my taste in fashion! My mother's taste, actually! She gave me these pyjamas for Christmas. I hate them but … I didn't want to disappoint my mother and she keeps asking me if I wear them often.

Will: Alright! Okay. Well, don't get your knickers in a twist!

Vera: Here you go again! Stop criticising my knickers! How about your own knickers? Maybe they are twisted!

Will: Well, okay, I must confess that sometimes … well, lots of times perhaps, I do get my knickers in a twist. And it's not when I am hanging up my washing. Knickers is a British word that refers to ladies' underwear – they're what Americans call panties. But 'to get your knickers in a twist' has got nothing to do with it: it can be used for either a man or a woman.

Vera: Oh, it has nothing to do with underwear?

Will: Exactly. That's right. It's an expression in English that you use when you want to say that someone is getting upset about things that are not important, trivial matters. Let's listen to some examples:

(Phone ringing)

  • Female 1: Your phone's been ringing all morning and you haven't bothered to pick it up.
  • Female 2: Alright! Alright! I will do it now. Don't get your knickers in a twist!
  • Male: My teenage son is very sensitive. Whenever I tell him to tidy up his room he gets his knickers in a twist and slams the door!

Vera: Ah, so it has nothing to do with knickers!

Will: That's right. And, by the way, the ones that you have hanging from your washing line aren't twisted either. You're doing a really great job, Vera.

Vera: Thank you, Will. But… I've been doing it for some 20 minutes but now I have to take them down! It's going to rain quite heavily and I won't have dry clothes to wear tomorrow… This is so annoying! Why does it have to rain so often? It is not fair! Just when I've managed to make some time to wash all these clothes. And even the pink and polka dot pyjamas I hate so much. Why can't my mother just give me socks or something else? She has never allowed me to wear what I like. When I was a teenager I wanted to wear miniskirts and she told me off.

Will: Here we go again! Knickers in a twist! Goodbye.

Vera: Goodbye. But why do we always have to finish the programme so soon. People like to learn English. We should have longer programmes so that we can talk about some more expressions. It's not fair with learners that come to the website to improve their language skills…

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