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Newsletter July 15 - 2011FREE email English course
As a parent one of the things that we tell our children is that it is wrong to tell lies. In English there is a style of expression that’s called rhyming slang. For example, ‘mouth’ is sometimes called your ‘north and south’. The stairs are referred to as ‘apples and pears’ and while we’re on the subject of Christmas, we can describe our eyes as ‘mince pies.’

You may think I’ve lost the plot (got confused) but I’m coming to another rhyming slang and this time it’s with reference to lies. What about ‘pies’? Well, yes that’s half right but we have developed this a bit further and called them pork pies. But even that sounds a little colourless and so we’ve changed that to ‘porkies’. So we tell children not to tell porkies. The question then is why we tell these young people that there’s someone called Father Christmas who comes down everyone’s chimney on Christmas Eve and delivers presents to all the children that have been well behaved throughout the last twelve months. Well, if that isn’t a porkie, then what on earth is?

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Now, when I was a child and that’s going back a long way, chimneys were not uncommon. On foggy days in London when all the home fires were burning, smoke was pouring out of thousands of chimneys and the result of the smoke mixing with the fog was so thick that when you walked along the streets you couldn’t see where you were going and you couldn’t, as we say, see the hand in front of your face. This mixture by the way of fog and smoke is called ‘smog’. Things have moved on of course since then and chimneys are a thing of the past.

So parents have to be more inventive (try hard to think of new things) when they say that Father Christmas will come to the house during the night before Christmas. They have to persuade the children to believe that he will come in through keyholes or cracks in the wall and of course bring all the presents with him. A bit of a tall order (a difficult thing to do) when you have to look your child in the face. But all said and done, it’s still a lie. When they get older and they realise it was just a story, you can use that other expression – a white lie. That’s when you tell a lie because you don’t want to make anyone unhappy.

Alan Townend

PS: I'm looking forward to your comments and questions which you can post here: Newsletter: Should you tell lies?

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