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Last updated at 12:26 BST, Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Blah blah blah

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Finn is on the phone to Mildred. He can hardly concentrate on what she is saying. Listen to the programme to find out why.

A mouth

Are you paying attention?

The script for this programme

(Mildred talking on the phone)

Finn: Yeah, yes... yes, Mildred, yeah I know.

(Mildred on the phone)

Finn: Yeah, I know... I know, I know.

(Mildred on the phone)

Finn: Yeah, right. Thanks, Mildred. Bye!

Feifei: Hi Finn, what did Mildred want?

Finn: I don't know, Feifei.

Feifei: But you kept saying you knew.

Finn: I know. Mildred had this ongoing dispute with her neighbour and she went on and on and on about it. It's always "my nasty neighbour blah blah blah blah blah..."

Feifei: Yes, I have to agree it's always the same thing.

Finn: And in English we use the phrase "blah blah blah" when we want to represent a boring conversation.

Feifei: Where does it come from?

Finn: Well, according to an article I read the other day, in ancient Greece, the term "bar bar bar" was used to indicate "meaningless noises".

Feifei: Oh yes! It has the same root as the word "barbarian".

Finn: That's right. And that explanation came from Geoff Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California.

Feifei: "Bar bar bar" might have evolved to what we have today...

Finn: ...Blah blah blah. And Americans might say: "yada yada yada", but it conveys the same idea of a repetitive, boring conversation.

Feifei: Yada yada yada…

Finn: Yes. And from "blah blah blah" we have the related verb "to blabber", which is used informally to mean to talk a lot in an annoying way, and it can be used for people who tend to reveal secrets because they talk too much.

Feifei: Shall we listen to some examples?

Finn: Yes. "Blah blah blah" is today's expression in The English We Speak.

  • A: Can I borrow your car tonight?
  • B: No. I need to go to the supermarket and then I’ve got to pick up a package… and, well, the car is not working properly, and, you know, today is a busy day for me…
  • A: Johnny, I am sick and tired of you "need to do" this and you've "got to do" that and … blah blah blah. Don't give me any more excuses. You don't want to lend me your car, do you?
  • Don't tell Amanda you're leaving school early to go to the cinema. She's always blabbing about other people's lives.

Feifei: Oh. I certainly don't go around blabbing.

Finn: That's good to know.

(The phone rings)

Finn: Hello... Let me pass the phone to someone who is keen to talk to you. Just a moment, please. Feifei, it's for you.

Feifei: Thanks, Finn. Hello.

(Mildred is on the phone)

Feifei: Oh, hello, Mildred!

(Mildred on the phone)

Feifei: Yes, yes, that was Finn, my best friend!

Finn: This is the beginning of a long conversation... Blah blah blah... Bye.

Feifei: Bye.

(Mildred on the phone)

Feifei: Oh, sorry, Mildred, that was not to you, but to... No, no, never mind...

(Mildred on the phone)

Feifei: I know, I know... yes, I know...

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