Words in the news: I’d rather be dead in a ditch

Boris Johnson is known for his shocking, non PC use of language, usually making sensational claims. And yet, it might prove interesting for English learners. For example, as the London mayor back in 2015 he said he would lie in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway from being built at Heathrow airport.

This is what Boris Johnson said about  the prospect of yet another delay to Brexit in early September 2019, as the Prime Minister (start at 00.45′):

I’d rather be dead in a ditch (than ask for a Brexit extension).

Later in the year, in October, after a defeat in the House of Commons, whereby Johnson was forced to write to the EU asking for an extension, this is what Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader and Johnson’s political opponent, said:

‘The Prime Minister has not deigned to grace us with his presence today, but I’m reassured, Mr. Speaker, that despite his pledge, he is not to be found anywhere in a ditch.’

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0009kz3

Words in the news- Come what may, do or die

Listen to this clip from a news report about Boris Johnson’s take on Brexit. It contains some interesting expressions you may want to use:


You can find the transcript to the clip below. Click on the links to find dictionary definitions or explanations for the words and expressions:

Come what may, do or die, and nothing ruled out in order to achieve it. Boris Johnson has been forthright in his promise to deliver Brexit by the deadline of October 31st, with or without a deal, should he become Prime Minister. And in recent days, Philip Hammond, who has long spoken of the risks of a no-deal Brexit, has become increasingly vocal [2nd meaning] in his warnings to a potential Boris Johnson government.

You can watch the interview where Boris Johnson makes these claims here (00’40”):

The first two expressions (‘come what may’ and ‘do or die’) are actually coming up regularly in the past few days in the media, in reference to Boris Johnson’s approach.

The Guardian

If you want a nicer context than politics to help you remember these expressions, you can also find the expression ‘come what may’ in the song by the same name featured in the film Moulin Rouge (2001):

Brexit and linguistic politeness- listening comprehension

Listen to this report related to British linguistic politeness and the effects it is having on international politics at the moment. Read through questions 1 to 7. Listen carefully and fill in the gaps with up to three words. You can listen to the whole recording twice.

Brexit in the classroom

As you know, the UK is holding a vote on June 23rd to decide whether they want to remain in the EU, or leave it. The potential exit of the UK from the EU (a “Brexit”) might be a topic to be dealt with in the classroom, from many perspectives: cultural, historical, geographical, economic… You may find some related resources below:

  • BBC radio London: 10 things Brits love about Europe

Source for the item: http://www.lastminute.com/press-office/2016/05/brexit-or-not-a-definitive-list-of-things-brits-will-always-love-about-europe/

Over to you: make a list of the ten things you love about Europe / about Britain (reach an agreement in your group). Then, make a vote with the whole group. 

  • The EU referendum official Government website
  • The UK’s relation to the EU, explained: in the 1980s, the BBC show Yes, Minister showed the tension between the European stand vs. the foremost British (English?) one. Also, lots of history involved in Sir Humprey’s speech:
Yes, Minister

Click on the picture to watch the video


  • What are the reasons why Britain should want to leave the EU?
  • How would you convince British people to remain a member state of the EU?
  • How would Spanish people feel the effects of the UK leaving the EU? (travelling, need for passports; it would be more difficult for Spanish people to spend long periods of time or find jobs in Britain; health insurance…)