AE 266 – Expression: To Scrape The Barrel

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of Aussie English where I teach you how to use the expression TO SCRAPE THE BARREL.

AE 266 – Expression: To Scrape The Barrel

G’day guys.

Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.

It’s Easter so happy Easter to everyone and anyone who’s celebrating this holiday.

And to everyone who isn’t, well, I hope you have a good long weekend anyway, especially if you are in Australia.

You get four days off.

We get Friday, the weekend, and then Monday off.

So I’m not particularly religious.

I’m not Christian.

We still sort of have this cultural celebration as Australians.

So, Australians aren’t overly Christian.

I think there is a higher percentage of Christians than say Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus here in Australia, and a lot of Caucasian Australians will be Christian as opposed to any other religion.

But it’s not a very overbearing part of our society or our culture say compared to America.

So, Easter for me, at least, is just a time that I see my family.

I do have Christian members of the family.

So, they often like getting together and just celebrating the religious side of the holiday.

But for me and my family, my direct family, my parents and my sister, we love just getting together with them and with other members of the family and our close friends and just hanging out, spending time together, seeing each other, probably eating a little too much chocolate, and a little too many hot cross buns.

So, that’s part of Easter as well.

For some reason, I don’t know where it came from, I should probably look it up, but the Easter Bunny is this aspect of our Western Culture with Easter where we get all of these chocolate Easter Bunnies and Easter eggs.

Go figure.

Why would a bunny or a rabbit lay an egg?

Who knows?

But that’s part of our culture.

We get a lot of chocolate.

We share the chocolate.

We give it to each other as presents.

I used to get it from my parents.

I think it was on the Saturday.

We’d wake up and have, like, a little basket with chocolate in it, my sister and I.

But for me, I’m much more addicted to the hot cross buns.

Those things are amazing, amazing, amazing.

So for anyone here in Australia, go to Baker’s Delight or Brumby’s, you know, your local bakery, and definitely buy some hot cross buns over Easter.

Put them in the oven for about 12 minutes.

You know, get them warm and crispy, and then put butter inside of them, and they’re amazing.

And for those of you who don’t know what hot cross buns is, it’s a small loaf of bread that’s sweet and it has berries and other things in it.

You can get chocolate-chip hot cross buns now.

But they’re absolutely amazing you heat them up and you put a bit of butter in them.

And they’re… I guess they’re kind of like scones, if you know what a scone is.

But, yeah, check them out.

They’re amazing.

Anyway, Happy Easter.

That’s the intro for today.

Let’s get into the expression for the day, which is “to scrape the barrel” or “to scrape the bottom of the barrel”.

So this one comes from Chris, who suggested this in the Aussie English virtual Classroom.

He was talking about the expressions that he wanted to work on, and I said, “This is a good one. Let’s do it!”.

So, as usual let’s define the different words in the expression itself.

So, “to scrape” means to drag or pull a hard or sharp implement across a surface or an object to remove dirt or matter, and it can also be to rub or cause to rub by accident on a rough surface causing injury.

So, if I scrape my leg on the concrete or on the ground it means that I’ve caused like a scratch on my leg.

I’ve scraped it.

I’ve pulled it across the ground and scratched it, scraped up.

So that’s “to scrape”, to drag across a surface, pretty much.


Obviously we all know that “bottom” is the opposite of the top of something.

So, the bottom of something is the thing right at the base.

So, for instance, if we dive into a pool of water, and we get to the bottom of the pool, we’re on the very very base surface of the pool.

Whereas, if we come up and we put our head above the water we’re on the top of the pool or at the top of the pool.

So, bottom, top.

If you enter a building you’re at the bottom of the building.

If you climb all the way up the building you’re at the top of the building.

So the bottom floor, the top floor, the bottom, the top.

“A barrel”.

So, “a barrel” is a cylindrical container that sort of bulges out in the middle.

So, it’s not a straight cylinder, but it curves and is a wider, it’s wider in the middle.

So, the top of the barrel is narrow, and the bottom of the barrel is narrow, but the middle of the barrel is wide.

So, it’s traditionally made from wood or what are called “wooden staves”, and it has metal hoops around the wood.

So, metal rings that go around it to hold them all in place.

And so, this can be used to store different things.

You might have wine that’s left in a barrel to mature.

So, often you’ll see wine in old wooden oak barrels, I think.

You might have gunpowder left in a barrel.

You could have say fish and other kinds of foods kept in a barrel.

They could be kept there to ripen or to be stored for a very long time.

So, that’s “a barrel”.

It’s a container that’s used to store something.

So, the definition of “to scrape the barrel”, “to scrape the barrel”, or “to scrape the bottom of the barrel”.

So, as in the barrel’s empty, and you’re right at the bottom trying to get the last little bit.

It means to use something or someone that you don’t necessarily want to use, because nothing else or no one else is available to you.

So, if you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel it’s like you are at your last choice.

You have no more options.

Nothing else is available.

You’re right at the bottom of the barrel.

So I imagine leaning over into a barrel that was originally full of food.

Say it was full of apples.

And the good apples are at the top and the bad apples, the rotten ones, the ones that have been so crushed, smooshed, under all of the other apples are at the bottom.

If you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, so literally dragging your hand or whatever implement you’re using to try and get the last little bit out of the barrel, across the bottom of the barrel.

So, you’re scraping your hand to try and reach the last little bit.

You’re only going to get the really really bad apples or the last of what was in the barrel.

So, you’re scraping the barrel because you’re getting the very very last little bit that is not your first choice.

You wouldn’t want this.

You’d want the nice apples that were on the top, but they’re not available.

The only thing that’s available is what’s at the bottom of the barrel.

So, because it’s not your first choice, you don’t really want it, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

So, let’s go through some examples as usual guys.



So, imagine you want to go see a movie, but your friends are busy, most of your family’s busy, and you can’t… you know, you want to go to the film with someone, but you can’t really think of anyone.

And so your last option, you ring up and you call your grandmother, and you ask her to come to the film with you.

And the movie is an action film.

Maybe it’s a James Bond or The Bourne Identity or something like that.

So, she’s not really keen to see it, but she wants to see you, and you may not be that keen to see your, you know, lovely old grandmother, but you don’t want to go alone.

So, you ask your grandmother and she decides to come with you, and you could say by asking your grandmother you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

So, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel by asking your grandmother to come to the movies, because she’s your last choice.

You don’t really like doing these kinds of activities together.

You wanted to go with other people that were your first choice, but you were left asking your grandmother.

So, you’re scraping the barrel.

You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

And I guess you could say too that your grandmother is kind of doing this as well because she’s going to a film that she doesn’t want to see.

So, she wants to see you, but she’s scraping the bottom of the barrel with regards to the film that she’s seeing, ’cause it’s not her first choice.

It’s her only option though if she wants to see you.


Example number two, imagine you going on a road trip around Australia.

So, you’re going on a road trip and you want to rent a really good van.

So, quite often backpackers who come to Australia, and other Australians who want to travel around Australia on a road trip, will rent or buy a van, which is kind of like a large car with a lot of room in it, in order to drive around.

They sleep in it.

They eat in it.

They keep all of their stuff in it.

So, you want to get this van.

You go and check out a few different van companies.

So there are companies that actually rent these vans out.

One of them is called Wicked Vans.

I think they’re the ones you see with images spray-painted all over them.

And they tend to be pretty controversial.

They’ve been in the news I think a few times with like pictures of Hitler and/or penises or weird things on these vans.


So, you want to go to Wicked Vans and rent one of these vans.

And when you go there to check them out you see that all the awesome luxury vans, and you’re like, “Oh man! We’ve got to get one of these luxury vans. I want one of these or some huge vans to take around Australia!”.

When you discuss your budget with one of the employees who’s renting out these vans you work out that you’re going to have to go a few tiers lower than the luxury van.

So, you’re going to have to go to the bottom of the options of vans to rent.

And so, they take you outside to see the van that you’re going to get and it’s a total bomb.

It’s a wreck.

It’s pretty much a paddock bomb, which is the kind of… a paddock bomb is a car that is left on a farm to drive around on the farm, but isn’t safe.

So, this thing is a total bomb.

It’s a wreck.

It’s very low quality.

You wanted something nice to hoon around in, to drive around in, but you’re left with the very very bottom of the barrel, effectively.

So, it’ll do though.

You’ve got no other choice.

You’ve only got enough money to get this bomb.

So, you could say by settling for this van, the bomb, by being forced to choose this van, you’re scraping the barrel.

So, it’s your last option.

It’s your last choice.

You’d rather something else, something nicer, but you’re going to have to go with this van.

You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

By choosing this van you’re scraping the barrel.

You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.


So, example number three.

Imagine you’re at high school and you want to go to a disco or a school dance with a girl or a boy.

But let’s just imagine that you’re a boy though, because it tends to be the boys who do the asking of the girls to these sorts of things a disco or a school dance.

So, imagine you have in your head the girl that you want to ask to the school dance or the disco, but you keep putting it off.

You keep delaying it.

You keep postponing actually asking her to the ball or to the disco, to the school dance.

So, this chick you’ve got a big crush on.

You really like her.

You want to ask her to dance, but you forget, and someone else jumps on the opportunity and asks her to dance, and she says yes, unfortunately.

She says yes to them.

So, she’s taken and you’re left having to pick someone else.

So, you look around and all of a sudden you realise that all of your other options, all of your other choices, have also been asked to the dance, and there’s no one left.

And so, say you end up having to ask a girl who was not your first choice.

She was right at the bottom.

You guys don’t even really get along.

You don’t know her.

Maybe you’re not attracted to her.

She doesn’t like you.

But neither of you want to go to the dance alone.

So, you end up deciding, “Alright, we’re going to go together”.

By choosing that partner, by asking out that chick, that girl, to the dance, to the school dance, to the disco, you’re scraping the barrel.

So, she’s not your first choice, but there’s no one else available.

You didn’t want to go with her.

You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when you asked her out.

By choosing her you’re scraping the barrel.

So, I hope by now guys you get this expression to be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

As usual, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise where this is your opportunity to practice your pronunciation.

So, listen and repeat after me guys.

Listen & Repeat:

To scrape.

To scrape.

To scrape the bottom.

To scrape the bottom.

To scrape the bottom of the barrel.

To scrape the bottom of the barrel.

I was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

You were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

He was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

She was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

We were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

They were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Good job guys.

So, as usual, I’ll give you a little pronunciation and connected speech sort of point here.

You’ll notice if you go back and repeat that exercise that I don’t pronounce it as “scraping” I say “scrapin'”, “scrapin’.

And so, this is common in all forms of English, but it’s particularly pronounced in Australian English by native speakers.

So, particularly bogans are going to speak this way.

They’re going to turn that “-ing” on the end of verbs or adjectives, whatever it is, where the “-ing” is into “in'” it’s going to sound like an “in'” sound.

So, instead of “scraping”, it “scrapin'”, “scrapin'”.

And it’s actually easier to say.

So, we’ll go over this exercise one more time, guys, and I want you to try and pay attention to the pronunciation of “-ing” as “in'”.

Let’s go.

Listen & Repeat:

I was scrapin’ the barrel.

You were scrapin’ the barrel.

He was scrapin’ the barrel.

She was scrapin’ the barrel.

We were scrapin’ the barrel.

They were scrapin’ the barrel.

Awesome stuff guys.

And just to end, I’ve forgotten in the last few episodes, but I’ll do it again in this one.

A little Australian fact.

Australia and Papua New Guinea are the only places in the world where you can find monotremes.

What are monotremes?

Monotremes are an ancient group of mammals for which there are only several species left, and they include the platypus, the short-beaked echidna, and the long-beaked echidna.

And the long-beaked echidna used to be found in Australia, but has since gone extinct, and is only found in Papua New Guinea now.

So these guys are unique because they are mammals that lay eggs.

Go figure.

So on that note guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode and I’ll chat to you later.

All the best.

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