Last updated at 18:31 BST, Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Throw the book at somebody

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Rosie has a very bad habit of arriving late at the office. Helen is not impressed, neither is their boss. Rosie tells Helen that he will throw the book at her and this concerns Helen a lot as she remembers that he has massive encyclopaedias. Will she end up getting injured?

a book, bbc image

Will Rosie's boss injure her by throwing the book at her?

The script for this programme

Helen: Hello, I'm Helen and I'm here today to co-present The English We Speak… and… the presenter is… Rosie. Where is she?

Rosie: Hi, I'm Rosie! Hi Helen! I'm sorry I'm late. The traffic, you know?

Helen: Is it that bad? I live in North London, like you, and I've managed to be here on time. Maybe you should take a different route so you wouldn't be late anymore. Yesterday you were a bit late too. And the day before. I saw when you arrived in the middle of an important meeting. This is not good!

Rosie: I know. The boss was not pleased and he called me afterwards into his office. He says he will throw the book at me!

Helen: Oh! That's bad! That's very bad!

Rosie: Yes, it is! I'm very concerned now. I know that I should be more careful.

Helen: They are very big! Have you seen these massive encyclopaedias he keeps on the dark wooden shelves behind his desk? He's not into electronic books and neither into those so-called paperbacks. The man likes heavy leather cover traditional books and old collectors' antiques and furniture.

Rosie: I know he likes antiques, that does not bother me. He's going to throw the book at me, Helen! He said it yesterday. He sounded very angry, very crossed and he said: "Rosie, it's happening too often now! You're always late for meetings, for programmes, you have been absent frequently and I'm going to throw the book at you!" That's what he said, Helen!

Helen: Oh, the books are heavy and you might get seriously hurt! He's a strong man; maybe he will throw the other things too! I don't like to see him angry! He is a good boss but he's got a temper. There's that Queen Victoria bust from the 19th century he loves. It's an antique too… if you get him angry enough he might even throw the bust on you!

Rosie: Queen Victoria's bust!? What are you talking about? Helen, in English, to throw the book at somebody means to impose the maximum penalty on somebody who has been breaking the rules. The book is supposed to be the list of rules and regulations and the expression is used by people in a position of authority. Let's listen to some examples:

Judge: Mr. Jones, I'm tired of seeing you in my courtroom! If you don't stop trying to steal cars I'm going to throw the book at you! You'll face a long prison sentence!

Prisoner: I'm sorry, Judge. I think I've learnt my lesson now and will behave properly!

Teacher: I'm your teacher! Pay attention to what I'm saying! If you continue cheating in your exams I'm going to throw the book at you!

Helen: Oh, I see! So he will not actually pick up that heavy Encyclopaedia Britannica and throw it in your direction and hurt you.

Rosie: Of course not! He probably will send me a formal letter and start disciplinary procedures with the human resources department and might end up sacking me!

Helen: But at least you will not be hurt and the book will be preserved. I like that book, you know. When I was a child I used to enjoy looking up things in encyclopaedias – they're very interesting. This was before the internet was so accessible...

Rosie: It doesn't matter what happens to his old books, Helen. This is serious. It might not hurt me but it will hurt my pocket! No job, no money!

Helen: Well, if you don't want him to sack you, then buy a watch and don't come late anymore! Follow the rules! And I don't want to finish the programme late. Nobody will throw the book at me! Goodbye!

Rosie: I will buy a new watch. Thank you for the advice. Bye!

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