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Last updated at 13:04 GMT, Tuesday, 04 February 2014

Treading on eggshells

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When Li drops some eggs, Rob tells her not to tread on eggshells - but he's not worried about her feet. What can he mean?

Eggshell

Eggs are not the only thing you have to be careful with

The script for this programme

Li: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. I'm Li and with me is Rob. Hi Rob.

Rob: Hi Li. It looks like you've been busy.

Li: I've just picked up some groceries from the local shop, you know - milk, eggs, bread, flour - I'm going to make a cake.

Rob: Oh good. So how was Mr Brown, the shopkeeper? Hasn't he just split up with his wife?

Li: He has. It was tricky in the shop. I didn't want to say anything to him just in case I mentioned his wife. I only said: "Good morning", and he just said: "Is it?"

Rob: Hmm, it sounds like you've been treading on eggshells.

Li: Oh no, the shop was very clean, nothing on the floor - I don't really think he's the sort of person to throw food around!

Rob: No Li - I mean you were trying very hard not to upset him - that's what treading on eggshells means.

Li: Oh! So it's about being nice - it's about being sensitive to the situation?

Rob: Yes.

Li: Well, I was very sensitive. But what have eggshells got to do with it?

Rob: Well, if there were eggshells on the floor literally you would have to be very careful where you put your feet!

Li: OK, but this phrase means you are being careful about what you say. Let's hear some examples:

  • I had to be so careful with what I said to my ex-girlfriend. The smallest thing made her angry: it was like treading on eggshells.
  • Ever since my argument with my neighbour about parking, I feel like I've been treading on eggshells.
  • Since my friend's father died, I don't know what to say to him: it's like treading on eggshells.

Li: So, treading on eggshells can be awkward because you don't know what to say and you don't want to offend someone. So Rob, what should I have said to Mr Brown?

Rob: You could have said 'plenty more fish in the sea!'

Li: What?!

Rob: Or... 'I didn't like her much anyway'?

Li: Rob, I think that's the opposite of treading on eggshells.

Rob: Really? Anyway let me help you with your shopping... oops (Rob drops the eggs!).

Li: Rob! You've dropped the eggs all over my kitchen floor.

Rob: Now you really will be walking on eggshells!

Li: That's not funny.

Rob: I didn't like your cakes much anyway.

Both: Bye.

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