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Last updated at 16:22 GMT, Tuesday, 22 January 2013

To know your onions

Listen

Rob needs Li's help in completing a quiz in the newspaper to win a holiday. But does she know her onions? Listen to the programme to find out what a phrase about onions has to do with being knowledgeable.

Onions

Do you know your onions?

The script for this programme

Li: Hello, I'm Li and welcome to The English We Speak, and today I'm here with Rob. Hi Rob.

Rob: Hello Li. Now come on Li, concentrate, I need you to help me finish this quiz in the newspaper. If I get all the questions right, I might win a holiday.

Li: Oh right. I love quizzes, especially if it means you can win a holiday! OK Rob, what's your next question?

Rob: Right. It says here, what is the capital city of Chile?

Li: Easy. Santiago.

Rob: Good. Next, what is the name of the world's largest ocean?

Li: The Pacific – of course!

Rob: Wow – you're good Li. You really know your onions.

Li: I know my onions? Err, was there a question about onions?!

Rob: No Li!

Li: Good, because that is one thing I don't know anything about, onions – except that they make me cry.

Rob: Don't cry Li. It's a compliment. If someone says you know your onions, it means you are experienced in something or you know a lot about a particular subject. So really, it means you're clever!

Li: Oh really?! But why 'onions'?

Rob: It is a strange term and some people say it comes from a man called S.G. Onions who made fake coins to help teach children about money. If they learnt about money they would know their onions.

Li: I see. But I suppose now we just use it as a silly expression.

Rob: We do. Like this...

  • If you ever need someone to fix your computer, ask Bob, he really knows his onions!
  • Look, you got full marks in the maths test – you really do know your onions.
  • That tour guide really knew her onions, didn't she?

Li: So knowing your onions means knowing a lot about something. Well that describes me very well then!

Rob: Hmm. Now another way of saying it, is that you really know your stuff.

Li: Stuff. You mean like this...

  • When it comes to making cakes, my mum really knows her stuff.

Rob: Well, knowing your onions or knowing your stuff, is very useful when you're doing a quiz like this. So Li, here's another question Li. Complete the name of this flavour of crisp... 'Cheese and something...?'

Li: Oh, that's tricky... cheese and ham? Cheese and apple? I've got it! It's cheese and onion crisps!

Rob: Brilliant Li. You really do know your onions. And now I might win a holiday.

Li: That's great but who are you going to take with you?

Rob: Probably my girlfriend.

Li: Oh right. I didn't want to go with you anyway – you have got onion breath!

Rob: Oh dear. Join us again soon for another programme about everyday English sayings.

Li: Bye!

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