BBC Learning English: The English We Speak – Off the back of a lorry: means it was received in suspicious circumstances. It’s a humorous way of describing stolen property.
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.
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.
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.
The English We Speak – Off the back of a lorry Transcript Video
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