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Last updated at 13:38 BST, Tuesday, 02 April 2013

A white elephant

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Finn tells Feifei that he is worried about what he's going to do with the white elephant his uncle is giving him. Is he going to have a new pet? Find out more with The English We Speak.

A Namibian elephant, BBC image

Does Finn have space to look after an elephant?

The script for this programme

(Finn and Feifei on a visit to the zoo)

Feifei: Hi. I'm Feifei and joining us here today in the zoo to present The English We Speak is Finn.

Finn: Hi.

Feifei: What's the matter, Finn? You sound worried. The zoo is a place of fun.

Finn: Yes, and I love animals too. But I don't know what I'm going to do with that white elephant.

Feifei: That one over there?

Finn: No. The one my uncle is giving me.

Feifei: Your uncle is giving you an elephant?

Finn: Yeah, he is moving to South Africa and he's giving away some of his things.

Feifei: And are you ready to take care of an elephant?

Finn: That's the problem. I'm not. It is beautiful...

Feifei: Oh yes, I'm sure it is!

Finn: ...and it is powerful...

Feifei: Yes, very powerful!

Finn: But it needs too much petrol!

Feifei: Petrol?!

Finn: Yes. Old sports cars need a lot of petrol, you know.

Feifei: That's a relief. You're talking about a car.

Finn: Of course! I wasn't talking about an actual elephant.

Feifei: The elephant sounds relieved too.

Finn: Yes, he does. In English, when you call something a 'white elephant' you mean that it's large, costs a lot of money to keep and has no useful purpose.

Feifei: A sports car is useful.

Finn: Not for me. I am a cyclist and I love my bicycle. Listen to some examples of how to use this expression.

  • I've paid a lot of money for this posh designer dress that I never use. It is a white elephant!
  • The new airport is a white elephant! It's got four runways and it's equipped with the latest technology, but not many people visit this region.

Feifei: Oh. So a 'white elephant' is something that might look good but in reality it's a waste of space.

Finn: Yes, it is.

Feifei: Unlike these elephants we have here in the zoo. They seem to be very popular.

Finn: Shall we go and have a look, Feifei?

Feifei: Indeed and they're grey, not white!

Finn: Bye.

Feifei: Bye.

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