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Last updated at 12:52 BST, Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Phone slang


Ring, dog and tinkle... how are these words connected with phone calls? Finn and Feifei play some fun BBC sound effects in this programme to help you learn about phone slang.

Phone Box

The script for this programme

Finn: Hi, and welcome to The English We Speak. I'm Finn.

Feifei: And I'm Feifei. This is the programme in which we teach English slang, idioms and new language in general.

(Buzzing sound)

Feifei: What was that?

Finn: Oh sorry, I was going to mention I brought along some sound effects today from the BBC sound effects cupboard.

(Buzzing sound)

Finn: That one there, was a... well how would you describe it, Feifei?

Feifei: A buzz?

Finn: Yes, a buzz, very good. Now another one, much lighter this time...

(Tinkle sounds)

Feifei: Yes - I'd call that sound a kind of tinkling sound.

Finn: A tinkle. OK, we've had a buzz and a tinkle, now listen to this...

(Bell sound)

Feifei: Well, that's easy - it's a bell.

Finn: Absolutely right. A buzz, a tinkle and a bell...

Feifei: OK - I'm hoping you're going to explain the connection with English slang?

Finn: Well, it's about this...

(Phone ringing sound)

Finn: ...phones. All three words can be used instead of the word 'call' in this sentence...

  • I'll give you a call later tonight.

Feifei: I'll give you a call. Right - we could say:

  • I'll give you a buzz later tonight.

Finn: Or:

  • I'll give you a tinkle later tonight.

Finn: Or, yes, you guessed it:

  • I'll give you a bell later tonight.

Finn: That's it, easy. Right; so you now have three new ways to talk about making phone calls. But what about the word for phone itself?

(Dog barking sound)

Feifei: OK - well, that was the sound of a dog!

Finn: That was my dog, Frankie. Shhh, Frankie! Believe it or not, 'dog' is a slang word for 'phone' - it comes from a special kind of London slang called Cockney rhyming slang...

Feifei: Yes - this is a good one. Dogs like bones, and the phrase 'dog and bone' rhymes with 'phone'... Dog and bone, phone!

Finn: It does, in some parts of the UK you'll hear it used in the same way as the phrase: 'on the phone'... So, you'll hear: 'on the dog'.

  • A: Where's Malcolm?
  • B: He's on the dog.
  • A: Tell him to come and find me when he finishes, ok?

(Dog barking sound)

Finn: Be quiet, Frankie! On the dog. Great, so we've heard buzzes, tinkles and bells - even a dog, and now - one more: listen very carefully...

(Finn blows on microphone)

Feifei: Finn, you're blowing onto the microphone...

Finn: I am indeed. Another word for 'phone', used in the same way as 'dog', is 'blower'...

Feifei: As in, you're on the blower...

Finn: On the blower. Perfect.

  • Marc's been on the blower for three hours!
  • Philip loves to talk on the phone. He's always on the blower.

Finn: Great - I hope we've learned some useful expressions today! And hope the lovely BBC sound effects can help you remember them...

Feifei: Actually, I have one sound effect for you:

(Lion roaring)

Finn: A lion?!

Feifei: Indeed...

Finn: Oh, I don't know this slang expression, Feifei. It must be very new! So, can we say: 'I'm on the lion'?

Feifei: No...

Finn: Or, maybe: 'Give me a lion'?

Feifei: No, again, I'm afraid...

Finn: Or: 'That's the lion ringing'?

Feifei: No. It has nothing to do with phone slang, I just like the sound of lions roaring!

(Lion roaring)

Finn: (sighs) Join us again for more The English We Speak.

Feifei: Bye.

Finn: Bye.


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