Watch The Video:
Alright mate! My name is Dan from Dansenseienglish.com and welcome to the Dansensei British English podcast. The show explains everything about British life, British culture, and of course, British English for intermediate and advanced English learners who love the UK.
This episode is full of strange facts about the UK, that you probably didn’t know. The UK is a weird place with loads of history and mystery for such a small island, so some of the stuff I am going to talk about today might be quite interesting. It might also help you out if you are ever taking part of a pub quiz!
Don’t forget you can find the full transcript for this episode over on dansenseienglish.com using the link in the show notes and if you want to download the free vocabulary cheat sheet for this episode, you can get in on the link below, but here are some useful words for this episode.
- Parliament – in some countries, a group of politicians who have been elected to make laws for the country:
- Adhesive – a sticky substance that is used for joining things together, usually permanently:
- A penny – the smallest unit of money in the UK, of which there are 100 in a pound, or a small coin worth this much. You use “pence” or, more informally, “p” when you are talking about the units of money and pennies when you are talking about the coins themselves:
- Archery – the art or sport of shooting arrows
- Staggering – very shocking and surprising:
- Syllables – a single unit of speech, either a whole word or one of the parts into which a word can be separated, usually containing a vowel
- Monarch – a king or queen:
- Census – a count for official purposes, especially one to count the number of people living in a country and to collect information about them:
Right then, let’s get cracking!
Big ben is not what you think it is.
The first fact I have for you today, is actually pretty well known, but even lots of Brits get this wrong too. You have probably heard of Big Ben before right? The big tower with the clock on it that is attached to the houses of parliament in London, right? WRONG!
The tower with the clock is not Big Ben. Big ben is actually the name of the Massive 13 tonne bell inside the tower. The tower itself is actually called St Stephen’s Tower, but I didn’t even know that until I was researching this episode. I knew the bell was called Big Ben Though.
The postage stamp was invented in the UK.
The next fact is that the first ever postage stamp that used adhesive and was used by a postal service was called the penny black and was invented in the UK in 1840. It had a picture of Queen Victoria on it and as the name suggests, it cost a penny.
Before this, the person who received the letter had to pay for it and the price depended on how far it had travelled before being delivered. When the stamp had been used, the post office would cross it out with red ink. The problem with this was that the ink could be wiped off and the stamp could be used again.
This lead to the “penny red” stamp and they would be crossed out with blank ink after they had been used which was much harder to get rid of. It was kinda of like the old style version of copy protection I guess.
Golf comes from Scotland
This next one is pretty well known, but not everyone will know this. The game of golf was invented in Scotland. That’s right, the game with the clubs and the little balls came from Bonne Scotland. It originated in 1457 and has been popular ever since, well kinda anyway.
It was actually illegal for a short period of time. This is because King James II of Scotland got pissed off with people playing golf as it interfered with the army’s archery practice.
Scotland is also home to the oldest golf course in the world. It is called St. Andrew’s Links and it is located in Fyfe which is believed to have been formed in 1552.
The next one is often a general knowledge questions in many a pub quiz. The city with the longest name in the world is located in the UK. Wales to be more specific. Now this city’s name is incredibly difficult to pronounce so rather than embarrass myself and do a crap job of it, here is a clip of someone else saying it.
Now this place name has a staggering 58 letters and 18 syllables. Now this is actually in the Welsh language rather than English, but it is still pretty interesting. People love to take pictures outside the train station because the sign with the name on it stretches half way down the platform.
The first ever speeding ticket was issued in the UK
The first ever speeding ticket was also invented and issues in the UK, so I guess you have got us to blame for that one…
Anyway this happened in 1896 and it was given to a driver called Walter Arnold in Kent because he was travelling at over 4 times the legal speed limit.
This might sound bad, but the speed limit at the time was only 2 miles an hour, so he was speeding along at around 8mph. What a speed freak!
The monarch owns the swans
Did you know that all the swans in the UK belong to the King or Queen? This is still true today and the official law is that the monarch owns any unmarked swan in open water in both England and Wales… so basically, most of the swans in Britain.
On top of this, every year there is something called “swan upping” which is basically a census for swans that takes place on the River Thames.
It is also highly illegal to kill a swan in the UK since the 1980’s and you could face jail time if you do? Unless, you are the monarch. Then you could kill one and have it for your dinner if you wanted. You own them after all.
We have some pretty strange transport
The UK is also the home of the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world. The distance is about 3 km and takes about 90 seconds, although the record is 47 seconds. It costs £7.50 one way and that will get you from Scotland to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands.
Speaking of pointless travel, it is well known that the London underground, or tube as it is more commonly known, was the world’s first underground rail network as it opened in 1863 and it is absolutely massive covering over 400KM. However there is one trip which is utterly pointless. If you take the train from Leicester square to Covent gardens, it is 0.3 KM and actually takes longer on the tube than it does to walk.
The food is weird too
Up next we will look at a strange piece of British food which is called the cornish pasty. Maybe you have heard, or even eaten on of these before, but if you haven’t it is a thick shortcrust pastry that is filled with meat and vegetables. They are pretty popular all over the UK. The strange thing is the origin of this food.
They were invented for the miners so they could eat their food while working. There is a thick crust on one side and this was so the miners could hold the food with their dirty hands and not ruin the rest of the food. They also used to have a savoury filling in one half and a sweet filling in the other so it was like a full meal.
This food also gave birth to the famous “oggie oggie oggie, oi oi oi” chant that is now much more associated with the Australians. Apparently “oggie” is the original word for pasty in the cornish language and they would shout this when the pasties were ready. The miners would chant oi oi oi as a way of saying thank you.
We love tea
Moving from food to drinks, you are probably aware that British people love drinking tea. However, you might not know that our tiny island consumes over 60 billion cups of tea each year, which is more than 100 million cups per day. British people are very particular about their tea too and there is a debate that has been raging for years about what should be put in the cup first, the tea bag or the milk. If you ever fancy starting an argument with a bunch of British people, just ask them what is the correct way to make a cup of tea.
So there are some interesting facts about the UK that you might not have known before this podcast. There are loads more, but I hope you found these ones interesting. Maybe I will make a part 2 in the future, but for now, I have a question for you. “What was the most surprising fact in this video and why?” If you are watching on YouTube, head down to the comments below and if you are listening to this podcast, send me a message on Instagram and let me know.
If you enjoyed this podcast, do me a favour and leave a review on Spotify, or wherever you are listening from. It is the best way to help the podcast grow and find new people. If you are watching this on YouTube, don’t forget to subscribe and hit the like button to let me know you enjoyed this one.
If you want to go one step further, and support the podcast, join me on patreon. From $5 per month you access to bonus episodes, videos, and all the good stuff, but the most important thing is you get access to the Study Squad community.
It’s the perfect place if you want to improve your English, especially your English speaking as you can chat with people and practice speaking about all sorts of different topics. We have weekly meetings where you can talk with me and other members and the more that the community grows, the more chances there will be to make friends and take part in English conversations. I’d love to see you in there, so be sure to check out the link in the show notes, it’s patreon.com/dansensei but that is it for this episode and I will catch you in the next one!
STUDY SQUAD CHEAT SHEETS ARE HERE!
Wish you could study anytime, anywhere… Even if you don’t have internet access?
Do you forget the things you have learned in my lessons? Do you want to be able to remember the new words and phrases for longer?
Don’t worry! I have got you covered! You can now get my Study Squad cheat sheets for my lessons!
These Cheat Sheets are a series of exclusive PDFs for learners of all levels. They provide the key points and details from each lesson, for you to study anywhere. The best part? It’s totally free, and you can even create your own textbook!
Join the study squad newsletter today and get access to every cheat sheet right now!