Bitesize Episode 34 - Commentary on The Children's Book "The Tiger Who Came To Tea"

Apr 20 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode, Charlie retells the story of the British Children's Book "The Tiger Who Came To Tea" and then gives his own thoughts on the language and cultural references that come up in the story. This is also the prequel to a parody of the story that Charlie stumbled across and is keen to share with you but first to appreciate the parody let's not forget the original. So enjoy learning about why milkmen are a dying breed in the UK and see why Charlie thinks Sophie, the protagonist of the story, might not be biologically related to her "father".
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 34 - Premium Version - A Commentary on British Children's Book The Tiger That Came for Tea.mp3

Speaker1:
Hello, you lovely listener. Welcome to the British English podcast, the show with your host Charlie Baxter. All about the British English language and British culture. Today's episode, I felt like I would do something a bit different again. And I found the Tiger Who Came to Tea story. And this is a children's book and I felt like I would read this original one. And then I found a parody of this book. The... A parody is a comical redo of something, let's say, loosely speaking. So a comedian called Sean Lock, who passed away sadly in the summer of 2021, he created a parody of this children's book. So he's a British comedian, and there's quite a few British cultural references in his parody version of The Tiger Who Came to Tea. So I thought it would be fun to give you the original, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and then give you his version of it and talk through the cultural references and and things like that. And the reason that this came to mind is because I found a fun way of doing an exercise in another language is to take an original and then with your imagination, create a new version of it. And very often this ends up being kind of like a parody. So I wanted to show you how a professional can do the job. So here we go. Let's get into the Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.

Mind the Gap, please.

Speaker1:
So what I'm going to do is I'm going to read through the whole book, and then I'm going to go back through it and pick up on some interesting cultural references and maybe some language. If I don't cover the language that you want, I will cover it in the learning resources for premium and academy members. And then in the next bite sized episode, I'm going to tell you about the Tiger Who Came for a Pint, which is the parody that Sean Lock wrote in reference to the Tiger Who Came to Tea. All right. Here we go. Once there was a little girl called Sophie and she was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen. Suddenly there was a ring on the door. Alright, it's the mum speaking, so I'd better put on a mother's voice.

Speaker2:
I wonder who that could be. It can't be the milkman because he came this morning and it can't be the boy from the grocer's because this isn't the day he comes. And it can't be Daddy because he's got his key. We'd better open the door and see.

Speaker1:
All right. That voice got progressively more high pitched. Sophie opened the door and there was a big, furry, stripy tiger. God, I got to do a tiger voice now. Okay.

Speaker3:
"Excuse me, but I'm very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?"

Speaker2:
"Of course. Come in," said the mother. So the tiger came into the kitchen and sat down at the table.

Speaker2:
"Would you like a sandwich?" said the mother.

Speaker1:
"Yum!" The tiger didn't just take one sandwich. He took all the sandwiches on the plate and swallowed them in one big mouthful. And he still looked hungry. And the little daughter says.

Speaker2:
"Would you like some buns?"

Speaker1:
But again, the tiger didn't eat just one bun. He ate all the buns on the dish and then he ate all the biscuits and all the cake until there was nothing left on the table.

Speaker2:
"Would you like a drink?" said the mother. And the tiger drank all the milk in the milk jug and all the tea in the teapot. Then he looked around the kitchen to see what else he could find. He ate all the supper that was cooking in the saucepans and all the food in the fridge and all the packets and tins in the cupboard. And he drank all the milk and all the orange juice and all daddy's beer and all the water in the tap.

Speaker3:
"Thank you for my nice tea. I think I'd better go now," said the tiger. And he went.

Speaker2:
"Oh, I don't know what to do. I've got nothing for Daddy's supper. The tiger has eaten it all."

Speaker1:
Sophie found that she couldn't have her bath because the tiger had drunk up all the water in the tap. Just then Sophie's daddy came home, so Sophie and her mummy told him what had happened and how the tiger had eaten all the food and drunk all the drink. Right now, the father's voice. "I know what we'll do. I've got a very good idea. We'll put on our coats and go to the cafe". So they went out in the dark and all the street lamps were lit and all the cars had their lights on. And they walked down the road to the cafe. They had a lovely supper with sausages, chips and ice cream. In the morning, Sophie and her mummy went shopping and they bought lots more things to eat and they also bought a tin of tiger food in case the tiger should come to tea again. All right. So that was the whole of the Tiger Who Came to Tea. And now I'm going to go through it again and I'm going to comment on some language, cultural references and also some of the illustrations, because I know you can't see it, but they are rather amusing to me. The tiger looks like he's just had a big joint, a big bifter, meaning he smoked some weed, so he looks almost like he's high.

Speaker1:
And the little daughter has a fairly similar smile on her face, to be fair. But yeah, okay, let's get into it. So the first page, the narrator says, once there was a little girl called Sophie and she was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen. Suddenly there was a ring on the door. A ring on the door? Yeah, that's fine. Yeah. Fairly ordinary picture of them pouring some tea and having some some food with it. Fine. All right, then. Next page, she says, the mother says, "I wonder who that could be. It can't be the milkman, because he came this morning", and there's a picture of a milkman and his milk float. Cultural reference. In the U.K. we've had milkmen for many, many years. And actually, when I went back to England a couple of weeks ago, I saw a milkman. So they still exist, but they are dying out, sadly. So they deliver your milk in glass pints and they're very particular shapes, the milk bottles, and they would leave them on your doorstep or, you know, round the back. And yeah, it was a bit like a newspaper delivery service. You get your milk and you get your newspaper delivered to your door. But nowadays the supermarkets are probably outdoing the milkmen.

Speaker1:
I have heard that there is potentially the actual milkman is potentially coming back in the UK. I saw something about it on The Guardian and it said, Oh, this is interesting. It said The milkman is back. Can the smutty jokes be far behind? So smutty is meaning vulgar or dirty or rude, and the joke is often that the milkman is the father of a newborn baby in a household. The husband is out at work and the milkman comes to play. So there were lots of smutty, smutty jokes. I like that word, actually. So yeah, maybe the the milkmen and the smutty jokes will be back in the near future. But for now, you can remember that, you know, from I'm going to guess like what? Up until around about the end of the noughties, it was quite popular to have your milk delivered in a milk float, which is like a big vehicle that houses lots of pints of milk. All right. Moving on. And then the mother says "and it can't be the boy from the grocers because this isn't the day he comes and it can't be daddy because he's got his key. We'd better open the door and see." Moving on, Sophie, open the door. And there was a big, furry, stripy tiger.

Speaker3:
"Excuse me, but I'm very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?"

Speaker1:
So tea is an interesting one because it leads towards the vocabulary around mealtimes. From what I understand, traditionally we have breakfast, lunch and dinner in my vocabulary and I'm from the south of England. Supper means a late dinner. So if you have dinner at around 6:00 in the evening, that would be dinner. And if you had it at eight or nine, maybe even ten or something like a light version of that, then that would be a supper. But I went to Scarborough recently to see a friend and her husband calls lunch dinner, which intrigued me. So I found a BBC article on this and I'm going to read it to you. The terminology around eating in the UK is still confusing. For some, lunch is dinner and vice versa. From the Roman times to the Middle Ages, everyone ate in the middle of the day, but it was called dinner and was the main meal of the day. Lunch, as we know it didn't exist. Not even the word. Mindblowing for me. That makes sense. Let's continue. During the Middle Ages daylight shaped meal times, says Day. Who's Day? Day is not night. Day is day. We do not need a surname, nor a first name, if it is the surname. It is Day. And that is all we need to say. What's it? What am I talking about? With no electricity, people got up earlier to make use of daylight, says Day. Workers had often toiled in the fields from daybreak. So by midday they were hungry. Good word. Toiled. I like it. I like it a lot. Toiled means worked hard. So the whole day was structured differently than it is today, says Day.

Speaker2:
Who is this Day?

Speaker1:
Surely not. Is Day....? Oh, my God. That's so funny. This was written by an Ivan Day. He's a food historian, apparently. Oh, I thought they were talking about day. As in not night, Day. Goodness me. Somebody shoot me. Right, where am I? Where am I? So the origins of the word lunch are mysterious and complicated. But lunch was a very rare word up until the 19th century. One theory is that it's derived from the word nuncheon, an old Anglo-Saxon word, which meant a quick snack between meals that you can hold in your hands. Ooh, that sounds like a good old sandwich, doesn't it? It was used around the late 17th century, says Yelnham. Others theorise that it comes from the word nuch, which was used around in the 16th and 17th century. I'm boring myself talking. Okay. So basically lunch didn't exist. Dinner was the main event of the day. Maybe breakfast was big. An English breakfast. Wonder when that originated? Gosh, we could go into that, couldn't we? Let's not digress, people. So, yeah, that's why people in the North still call lunch 'dinner', because that's what it was called back in the day. But yeah, people from the South typically call the evening meal dinner and people from the north call it tea.

Speaker1:
Again, going back to the south, the word tea tends to mean a light snack with a cup of tea or a pot of tea in the afternoon. I do hear friends using tea and because the North and the south mix a lot, it it it is totally understandable. Dinner and tea, to me, are pretty synonymous. Let's have some tea. Let's have some dinner. Yeah, they're pretty synonymous in my vocabulary. But anyway, we've blabbered on a little bit too much around the word tea. So let's carry on, shall we? So we've had the milkman come in and knock up Sophie's mum. And the tiger has just burst through the door asking for some tea slash dinner. He's not wanting a cup of tea, is he? He's wanting a jug of it. So the mum says, "Of course, come in". And so the tiger came in to the kitchen and sat down at the table. And in the picture it shows that he's taken his shoes off because he listened to one of my podcasts. All right. He's very elegantly poised. Yes, well done. Well done, Tiger. All right. Then she says.

Speaker2:
"Would you like a sandwich?"

Speaker1:
Mm hmm. Lunch. You know what we were talking about earlier? A quick food that you can hold in your hands. A sandwich. He goes, "Yum". The tiger didn't just take one sandwich. He took all the sandwiches on the plate and swallowed them in one big mouthful. And he still looked hungry.

Speaker2:
"Would you like some buns?" said Sophie.

Buns? Can I say anything interesting about buns? We need Ivan Day back on the case, don't we? Yeah. The food historian. Ivan, I've got a quick one for you. Any interesting cultural take on the word bun? He might come back and say, Oh, I'd like to see your buns if he was very immature, because that could mean the human buttocks, the bum, the bottom, the anus, not the anus. The anus is not the bum cheeks. Okay, so again, the tiger didn't eat just one bun. Don't think of her little tushy. He ate all the buns on the dish and then he ate all the biscuits and all the cake until there was nothing left on the table. Nothing left to say there.

Speaker2:
"Would you like a drink?" said the mother.

I'm going to pause here and say that there's a general sexist vibe coming from this story. It's just the time that it was written. But in today's society, in England, in the UK, it feels a bit stale. It feels far from progressive in terms of gender equality. It's pulling on the stereotype that women stay at home and cook and are there to serve. So, yeah, I don't like it. Don't like it at all. All right. The next one: And the tiger drank all the milk in the milk jug and all the tea in the teapot. I would call him a greedy little gobble gannet as a good little tongue twister for you. If you want to wake up in the morning and say what a greedy little gobble gannet. What a greedy little gobble gannet. Greedy as in, he eats a lot. Gobble as in eats quickly. And then gannet, greedy person. So you could argue I'm being a little pleonastic. Pleonastic. I learnt this word actually when I was teaching English. It's a fancy word for using too many words. Pleonasm, the noun. Pleonastic, the adjective. Okay. Yeah. Then he looked around the kitchen to see what else he could find. The picture is of Sophie hugging the tiger whilst he's eyeing up some cabinets in the kitchen. And yeah, she's not really getting the message that he's got food on his mind because she looks quite content with this hug as if he's reciprocating the joy. But in actual fact, if he can't find anything decent, he might eat you. So, Sophie, I would argue that your mother is an irresponsible parent. All right, so he ate all the supper that was cooking in the saucepans.

Speaker1:
Interesting. So they've had tea, then? Supper. Hmm. Hmm. So, yeah, maybe tea is like four or 5 p.m.. Yes. Yes. That's what they've had. Yeah, they had tea. Sorry for taking ages to get to this but yeah. So in my vocabulary, lunch, tea, dinner, supper, usually I just have breakfast, lunch, dinner. But they have had, probably they had breakfast lunch, then tea probably four or 5 p.m. and then supper a smaller bit of food later on. Again, these words vary depending on the family you grow up in and the area in the UK. And again, it might be a generational thing. So he's eaten all the supper in the saucepans and moved on to all the food in the fridge and all the packets and tins in the cupboard. He's probably going to have digestive issues later on. IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Many people suffer from IBS, and this is where we will insert an advert for the local IBS clinic. Oh, and then he goes on the countertop and he drinks all the milk and all the orange juice and all daddy's beer and all the water in the tap. Now, I live in a household where the beer is kind of mine because Stacey prefers the wine and I like to drink beer. But still, it's adding to the assumptions of beer for men. Men come back from work and drink their beer and they get served their dinner. Yeah. Don't like it. "Thank you for my nice tea. I think I'd better go now". And he went.

Then the mum: "I don't know what to do. I've got nothing for Daddy's supper. The tiger has eaten it all."

Speaker1:
There's quite a few objects in this picture. Anything interesting?

Speaker1:
She's got a stove kettle. Maybe that's worth mentioning. Stove kettles. Well, firstly, I know that some cultures don't have kettles. A kettle boils the water, as does a saucepan, but it's got a job, and that's its only job. It doesn't cook any pasta in it? No. And a stove kettle as opposed to an electric kettle nowadays. In the UK, it's very common to have an electric kettle. And in America it's not. Typically they use stove kettles. If you're listening to this and you're American, you disagree. Tell me. Please tell me. But I heard it's to do with the voltage. In the UK we have a higher voltage, as does Europe and most other countries I think like 220 to 240 volts, whereas America is half that at 100 to 127 and because of that it takes longer to heat water so they don't have time for an electric kettle. Not until Elon Musk creates his own electric battery powered kettle. Maybe that's the new invention. But yeah, so they have stove kettles. But, you know, a couple of generations ago, maybe stove kettles were more popular in the UK.

And yeah, just to repeat an assumption that the wife has to cook the dinner for the father or the supper when he comes home from work. Naughty, naughty. By the way, I don't like that because it's assuming. It's assuming the roles. If if that is the role that you lead, that's fine. I don't mind that. But it's yeah, it's the assumption. Sophie found that she couldn't have her bath because the tiger had drunk all the water in the tap. That's weird. Taps generally continuously flow with water unless there's a drought. Unless she's meaning the hot water. But the tiger didn't drink the hot water. Otherwise he might have some blisters on the tongue. All right, then Sophie's daddy comes home and they explain what had happened and how the tiger had eaten all the food and drunk all the drink. And then the father says, "I know what we'll do. I've got a very good idea. We'll put on our coats and go to the cafe." So they went out in the dark and all the street lamps were lit and all the cars had their lights on and they walked down the road to the cafe. This is probably her weakest page of writing, like, why are we given that information? Of course, we've got the street lamps lit and all the cars with their lights on. It is a children's book, I'll give you that. But come on, add some spice to the story. They had a lovely supper with sausages, chips and ice cream all on the same plate. No, it wasn't. In the morning, Sophie and her mummy went shopping and they bought lots more things to eat and they also bought a tin of tiger food in case the tiger should come to tea again.

Speaker1:
Yeah, we don't have any tiger food in the supermarkets in the British Isles, so don't expect to be able to find any. Okay, so that's the end of my retelling of the Tiger Who Came to Tea. Look forward to the next bite-sized episode where I retell the parody of this book, which is called The Tiger Who Came for a Pint, and that is by Sean Lock, who sadly died at the age of 58. Tragic. He's a great comedian that was on TV a huge amount in the last 20 years or maybe ten years. Okay. But it was really funny. And I want you to acknowledge the parody. A parody is is like writing or music or art that intentionally copies the style of something famous and plays on it in a humorous way. So look forward to that next bite size episode where we don't have the tiger who came to tea, but we have the tiger who came for a pint. That's all from me today on the British English podcast. Remember to download the British English Podcast App on your App Store. Thank you very much for listening till the end of this. Lots of love. My name is Charlie and I'll see you next time on the British English podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

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Alright geezer, how's it going?

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Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

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Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

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Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

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Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

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Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

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Oh, hi.

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I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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