In this The English We Speak podcast: Rob needs Li’s help in completing a quiz in the newspaper to win a holiday. But does she know her onions? Listen to the programme to find out what a phrase about onions has to do with being knowledgeable.
Li: Hello, I’m Li and welcome to The English We Speak, and today I’m here with Rob. Hi Rob.
Rob: Hello Li. Now come on Li, concentrate, I need you to help me finish this quiz in the newspaper. If I get all the questions right, I might win a holiday.
Li: Oh right. I love quizzes, especially if it means you can win a holiday! OK Rob, what’s your next question?
Rob: Right. It says here, what is the capital city of Chile?
Li: Easy. Santiago.
Rob: Good. Next, what is the name of the world’s largest ocean?
Li: The Pacific – of course!
Rob: Wow – you’re good Li. You really know your onions.
Li: I know my onions? Err, was there a question about onions?!
Rob: No Li!
Li: Good, because that is one thing I don’t know anything about, onions – except that they make me cry.
Rob: Don’t cry Li. It’s a compliment. If someone says you know your onions, it means you are experienced in something or you know a lot about a particular subject. So really, it means you’re clever!
Li: Oh really?! But why ‘onions’?
Rob: It is a strange term and some people say it comes from a man called S.G. Onions who made fake coins to help teach children about money. If they learnt about money they would know their onions.
Li: I see. But I suppose now we just use it as a silly expression.
Rob: We do. Like this…
- If you ever need someone to fix your computer, ask Bob, he really knows his onions!
- Look, you got full marks in the maths test – you really do know your onions.
- That tour guide really knew her onions, didn’t she?
Li: So knowing your onions means knowing a lot about something. Well that describes me very well then!
Rob: Hmm. Now another way of saying it, is that you really know your stuff.
Li: Stuff. You mean like this…
- When it comes to making cakes, my mum really knows her stuff.
Rob: Well, knowing your onions or knowing your stuff, is very useful when you’re doing a quiz like this. So Li, here’s another question Li. Complete the name of this flavour of crisp… ‘Cheese and something…?’
Li: Oh, that’s tricky… cheese and ham? Cheese and apple? I’ve got it! It’s cheese and onion crisps!
Rob: Brilliant Li. You really do know your onions. And now I might win a holiday.
Li: That’s great but who are you going to take with you?
Rob: Probably my girlfriend.
Li: Oh right. I didn’t want to go with you anyway – you have got onion breath!
Rob: Oh dear. Join us again soon for another programme about everyday English sayings.
The English We Speak – To know your onions Transcript Video
Source: BBC Learning EnglishMore Series for You: