Last updated at 13:16 BST, Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Off the back of a lorry

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Li was offered a brand new computer for a very low price. But Finn advises her not to buy it. Listen to the programme to find out why.

A laptop

Is it off the back of a lorry?

The script for this programme

Li: Hi Finn. I'm so happy. I'm going to buy a brand new computer this afternoon and it's very, very cheap.

Finn: What a bargain, Li! Where are you going to buy it? Can I go with you?

Li: I'm going to meet a friend of my neighbour's cousin. He's selling it.

Finn: Do you know this man, Li?

Li: No, but he sounded very nice on the phone. He's nice but a bit clumsy.

Finn: Alright. Why?

Li: He told me the computer fell off the back of his lorry but it works perfectly.

Finn: It fell off the back of a lorry?!

Li: Yes. But it came in a very strong box and he said it was in perfect condition.

Finn: Li, the computer didn't actually fall off anywhere. It was taken.

Li: What do you mean?!

Finn: In English, when you say something 'fell off the back of a lorry', or if you say something is 'off the back of a lorry', what you mean is that it was received in suspicious circumstances. It was probably stolen.

Li: Stolen?!

Finn: Yes. In the US and Australia they say 'fell off the back of a truck', but it means the same thing. It's a humorous way of describing stolen property.

Li: Oh. It's a crime! There's nothing humorous about that.

Finn: 'Off the back of a lorry' is today's expression in The English We Speak. Let's hear some examples of how it's used.

  • The police have been looking for a local man who doesn’t mind selling mobile phones that fell off the back of a lorry.
  • The black market was thriving when the war ended. It wasn't difficult to find all sorts of things off the back of a lorry.

Li: Thank you, Finn, for the warning. I'm not going to buy that cheap computer now.

Finn: Well. I'm sorry to have disappointed you. Li, but it's always good to know these unusual expressions in English!

Li: Well, there goes my bargain. Back to saving money to buy a computer in a real shop.

Finn: Good idea. What is cheap might end up costing much more than you expect.

Li: Indeed. I won't buy stuff off the back of a lorry. Better safe than sorry. Bye.

Finn: Bye.

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