Can you guess if these “facts” about the UK are true or false? James and Luke read out the facts and then discuss them one by one. Learn some odd things about the UK, pick up some vocabulary about laws and customs, and try not to laugh on the bus.
Video Version (with facts written on the screen) Try activating automatic subtitles
Hello everybody, before I play this episode I think I should give a kind of disclaimer about the content. I just want to say two things.
So this is an episode about Britain recorded with my brother in August, which is obviously before we all got the news that The Queen had been taken ill and had died, and we do talk about The Queen a few times during the episode, but of course she is no longer with us and now we have King Charles III.
So, firstly, the things we say about The Queen will be a bit anachronistic now as you listen to it – anachronistic, meaning belonging to the past, and a bit out of step with the present. So that’s the first thing – this was recorded when the Queen was still alive and when she was the head of state, which is now obviously no longer the case, so there are a few little anachronisms and we refer to The Queen in the present tense.
And secondly, when we do mention The Queen and a lot of other things, it’s done in a humorous way – and I’m aware that some people might find that inappropriate, but we aren’t really mocking her harshly or specifically. We copy her voice a bit and parts of the episode are just a bit silly and funny, but our intentions are decent. I don’t think we could be indicted for treason or anything like that. So, I hope you take it all in the spirit of good natured British humour, which is our intention, and let’s remember that The Queen has been praised a lot over the last week or so for her good sense of humour, so hopefully she would see the funny side (but who knows) In any case, I think it’s ok and I’ve decided to publish this. I hope you enjoy it, and actually I hope you see it as a sort of celebration of British stuff, for what it’s worth.
Alright then, now I have said that. Let’s start the episode properly. Here we go.
— Jingle —
50 Random British Facts (True or False Quiz) with James [Part 1]
Hello listeners, welcome back to my podcast.
Are you ready to do some more listening, to improve your English?
If the answer to that question is “Yes” then, good! Keep listening!
Here is a new episode featuring James, my older brother. This is a 2 part episode actually, and you’re listening to part 1.
In this one you’re going to hear James and me discussing various facts about the UK, that’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of course. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A few weeks ago, James and I came up with a list of 50 facts about British life, customs, laws, history and culture, which we could talk about on this podcast. We thought you might find it interesting.
So that’s what you’ll hear. But the thing is – some of these facts are true and some of them are not true. They’re false, completely made up, invented by James and me.
So the game is, can you guess which of these facts are true and which ones are false?
Here’s how this is going to work.
First, you’ll hear us reading out our list of so-called facts and you can decide if you think they’re true or not
and then we will discuss each fact, we’ll reveal if they are true or not and we’ll explain some bits of language and culture along the way.
On the subject of vocabulary, two things:
- You will find a list of all the “facts” on the page for this episode on my website. They’re all written there for you, so you can go and read them if you like. If you hear a word and you’re not sure what it is, you can check all the sentences there. Also, I recommend trying to read those sentences out loud. All the facts – try reading them out loud. It’s quite good pronunciation practice. You can then compare your version to the the way James and I read the sentences, and perhaps you can shadow us, or repeat the sentences after us. Some of them are actually quite challenging, quite difficult to say clearly as you’ll see. That’s just something you could try doing. There are always other ways to push your English with these podcasts beyond just listening, or if you prefer not really doing any extra practice or anything you can just sit back, listen, enjoy and eat a chocolate biscuit.
- Some of the facts presented here are about UK laws, and you might hear a few different words to describe laws – things like this:
- A rule
- A law
- To Ban / to be banned
- An act of parliament
- Provisions in an act
- A royal decree
- An initiative
- A custom / to be customary
I’ll go through those words briefly at the end of the episode, giving you a little tiny taste of LEP Premium, with definitions, explanations and a couple of examples, just to make sure you understood the full meaning and difference between them, because lots of words like that will just pop up in this episode and you might think “Hold on, how many words for laws and rules are there? What’s the difference between a law, an act, a decree and legislation?
If that’s you – just listen on until end of this part to hear some vocabulary explanations from me, which no doubt will just be really helpful.
This is an audio-only episode, but if you are listening on YouTube you will see that the facts are written on the screen with a few pictures to illustrate them in most cases, which again should help you not only understand everything but also to notice vocabulary, with your eyes, and your brain.
And you can always switch on the automatic subtitles in English on YouTube, which are surprisingly accurate these days.
But now, that’s enough waffle. Let’s get started with part 1 of this, recorded at my parents’ home in England a couple of weeks ago, during the summer holidays, just after we’d eaten a large lunch with the whole family.
OK, so, this is part 1 of 50 Random British Facts, with James.
Random British Facts 1 – 25
True or False? 👉 Listen to the episode to find out the answers.
- In a recent poll by The BBC, 71% of British people said that British food was the best in the world. Examples given included curry and lasagne.
- 8% of British people live in London.
- Work meetings in the UK often commence with a short joke before people get down to business. The joke is usually printed on slips of paper or distributed in advance by email.
- All pubs must have a picture of the Queen displayed somewhere behind the bar.
- Another way to say “thanks” in the UK is to say “Ta”
- Big Ben is the nickname of a large clock tower in Westminster.
- British people drink 100,000,000 cups of tea a day.
- Cockfighting is illegal, but heron fighting is still commonly practiced in rural areas.
- During the Second World War a fake “mock up” of London was built in the Kent countryside with an intricate system of lights, to confuse German bomber pilots during nighttime air-raids.
- Every year on the 5th November children burn an effigy of a Catholic terrorist who once attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the King’s visit.
- Every year the Mayor of London is given a dozen oxen as part of his annual pay packet. The livestock are usually donated to a charity of the Mayor’s choice, or slaughtered.
- A recent excavation of the site of Shakespeare’s former home in London turned up a number of clay pipes containing the residue of cannabis resin or “hashish”.
- In the UK, by law, if one man’s dog gets bitten by another man’s dog, the owner of the dog that did the biting must buy the other man a pub lunch, or something else of equivalent value.
- If the UK flag is flying at Buckingham Palace it means the Queen is in the building. FALSE – It’s the Royal standard.
- If you live to be 100 years old you will receive a personal letter from The Queen in the post.
- In 2020, English winemakers Langham Wine Estate of Dorset won the International Wine & Spirit Competition Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year, which is one of the most prestigious awards a winemaker can win. They beat every top French Champagne brand in the competition.
- In 1976 a huge rat was discovered in the London sewer system. The police lost 2 dogs in their attempt to capture and destroy the animal.
- In the UK we drive on the left side of the road, but in 1987 the UK government introduced plans to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right, to bring the country in line with European standards. The initiative, which was eventually scrapped, was to be phased in over a period of 6 months, with heavy goods vehicles and buses switching first, followed by cars and then motorbikes and bicycles.
- It is always raining, somewhere in the UK.
- It is customary to buy a packet of crisps to be shared while having a drink in a pub, and the crisp packet is often ripped open in a certain way to allow everyone to take crisps from the bag. (crisps, not chips)
- It is customary to make tea for any tradesmen (plumbers, decorators) who visit your house.
- When going to the pub with friends or colleagues, it is customary to order drinks in rounds.
- It is illegal in the UK to be drunk in charge of a horse.
- It is illegal in the UK to be drunk on licensed premises (a pub).
- It is illegal to carry a plank of wood along a road in the city of London.
To be continued in part 2…
So, that is the end of part 1. How many did you get right?
You are keeping track of your score, right?
It might be tricky to keep track of your score, which is fine of course.
To be honest, I don’t expect you to do that really. But I wonder if you generally managed to guess which of those things were true and which ones were bollocks.
Did anything surprise you? Did anything amuse you?
Let us know by leaving your comments in the comment section.
That was only the first 25 facts of course. We’re not done yet. This will all continue in part 2 when we look at facts 26-50, in the same way. I guess you can just look forward to that. It will require all your patience to do so, but I believe in you. You can do it.
Now, let me go through some vocabulary, as I said I would earlier.
A lot of these facts deal with things like laws, government actions and also traditions or customs and so I thought I would just clarify some words which relate to those things. Yet again I am doing this on the free podcast as a little taste of the kind of thing you usually get in episodes of LEP Premium these days.
The words I’m going to talk about now are:
- A rule
- A law
- Legislation / to legislate
- To ban / to be banned
- An act of parliament
- Provisions in an act
- A royal decree
- An initiative
- A custom / customary
Words for different types of law or government action
- A rule (countable noun)
A rule is just something which says whether you are allowed or not allowed to do something. The difference between a rule and a law is that the word rule is more general and is used in all sorts of situations, not just by governments and the police etc.
Schools have rules (e.g. no chewing gum in the classroom), people’s homes have rules (e.g. no mobile phones at the dinner table).
Also, sports and games have rules, like the offside rule in football.
- A law (countable noun)
Laws are the rules which determine wether things are legal or illegal. They are made and introduced by the government and enforced by the police and justice system.
To break a law
We also have the word “law” (opposed to “a law”) which means the whole system of rules which determine what is allowed, not allowed, what people have the right and don’t have the right to do or have.
- Legislation (uncountable noun)
Legislation is another word for law, but it is uncountable.
Here are some sentences which basically mean the same thing:
The government created legislation banning the possession of handguns.
The government created a law (or laws) banning the possession of handguns.
So it’s the same as the word law, but we don’t say “a legislation” because it’s uncountable. Instead we would say “a piece of legislation”.
The government introduced new legislation banning the use of diesel cars in urban areas.
The government introduced a new law banning the use of diesel cars in urban areas.
Legislate is a verb
To legislate for or against something – which means to create laws to oblige people to do things, or to prohibit certain things.
The government in 2007 legislated against smoking in indoor public places.
- To ban something (verb)
This means to prohibit or stop something and it’s usually used in reference to government laws which make something prohibited.
Smoking was banned in public spaces in 2007.
The government banned smoking in 2007.
Sometimes the word ban is used in situations outside the legal system, for example –
Mobile phones are banned in the classroom.
A person can also be banned from a certain place, for example,
Dave has been banned from the golf club for starting a fight last week.
It can be a noun or a verb.
The smoking ban. There’s a ban on smoking.
The government banned smoking.
- An act of parliament
An act is a specific piece of legislation which creates law.
When politicians make laws, for example in the House of Commons in London, there’s a certain process and we use different words for that legislation during the process.
First the law is introduced by a member of parliament as a bill which is a written proposal for a law. The bill is discussed by the MPs in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is voted on, and when that bill has been approved (including being given the Royal Assent by the Queen) it is written into law in the form of an act.
This act defines the law. It’s kind of like a contract. Each act, which contains various laws, has a name. For example, The Treason Felony Act 1848, which makes it an offence to do any action with the intention of deposing the monarch. This makes it illegal to plan or try to remove The Queen from the throne (or in fact to remove the crown from The Queen) and this includes planning and devising things in written form, spoken form and with the use of images etc. So that’s the Treason Felony Act, which was created in 1848, which makes it against the law to try to depose the monarch.
Another example is the The Data Protection Act 2018, which controls how your personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government. The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
And another example is the Homicide Act 1957, which makes it illegal to kill someone, or commit murder. By the way, it says 1957, but of course murder wasn’t legal before 1957, it’s just that in 1957 the law relating to murder or homicide would have been redefined somehow, and a new act was created, which contained provisions relating to all acts of homicide.
- A provision (countable noun)
This is like a specific section of an act of parliament, or a specific detail in an act of parliament. You also get provisions in contracts between people.
- A (royal) decree
A decree is an order that something must be done. A royal decree is when the king or queen orders that something must be done. These days it doesn’t happen in the UK, so royal decrees are only heard about when referring to history.
King Edgar in 957 decreed that all settlements (towns) in England were restricted to having only one “alehouse” per settlement. This was a law to try to control the number of pubs or places selling ale across the country. The decree lasted until after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 after which more and more alehouses, inns and pubs started arriving.
Here’s an example from The Bible, of a decree by a Roman Emperor.
The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 2 Verse 1
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
- An initiative (countable noun)
- A custom (countable noun)
This is a way of behaving or doing something which has existed for a long time. It’s like a tradition.
The adjective is “customary” and is often used in the phrase:
It is customary to do XXX.
It was customary to do XXX.
It is customary to bring a gift to someone’s house if you are invited to lunch or dinner.
It’s customary in Japan to remove your shoes when you enter someone’s house.
It’s customary in the UK to shake someone’s hand when you first meet them, especially in more formal contexts.
- A crime
- An offence
These two words 👆 are synonyms.