AE 411 – Expression: When Push Comes to Shove

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of The Aussie English Podcast where I teach you to use the expression WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE like a native English speaker!

Subscribe to the podcast: iTunes | Android | RSS

Complete this episode as a comprehensive English course in The Aussie English Classroom!

Learn More Here

Download the PDF + MP3

Watch this podcast episode on YouTube!

AE 411 – Expression: When Push Comes to Shove


Yes, J. B., boys, (I) had this email sent to me about 1,000 times this week. It’s a bunch of Collingwood jokes. I don’t know why people send them to me. But anyway, Sammy, we’ll just bang off a couple. You can stop sending them.

Sammy, what does a Collingwood supporter use as protection during sex?


A bus shelter.

What do you call a 30-year-old woman in a Collingwood jumper?



Let me see. Two Collingwood supporters in a car without any music. Who is driving?

The policeman.

And finally, what do you say to a Collingwood supporter with a job?

I’ll have fries with that, thanks.

Intro joke explanations at the bottom


Let’s do it! How’s it going, guys? Welcome to this episode of the Aussie English Podcast. I’m glad you’re here! I’m glad you’re listening!

So, this is the Aussie English podcast, guys, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone learning Australian English. If you want to speak like an Aussie or you just want to understand what we’re saying when we talk in our various accents, this is the podcast for you.

So, that scene at the start today was an interesting clip from a TV show called The Footy Show, and it was in 2004 that clip, where Trevor Marmalade is telling a few Collingwood jokes.

So, today’s episode is going to be themed around Australian Rules Footy or Australian Rules Football with special reference to a team called Collingwood, which is Australia’s most hated AFL footy team.

Anyway, in today’s episode, guys, we’re going to go through an Australian joke, an Aussie joke, as usual; we’ll learn the expression “When push comes to shove”; we’ll go through a little listen and repeat pronunciation exercise to help you learn your Australian accent, improve your English speaking; and then I’m going to tell you a little bit about the origins and history of the sport that is loved by everyone in the south east of Australia called Australian Rules Footy or the Australian Football League.

So, let’s go, guys, and let’s get started.

Aussie Joke:

So, the Aussie joke today is yet another Collingwood joke. This was my favourite from the ones that I could find online, and you heard about four there at the start. So, you’ll have to go back and check those out, but this joke is: imagine you’re trapped in a room with a crocodile, a tiger and a Collingwood fan. You have a gun with two bullets. What do you do? So, you’re in a room, you’re trapped, you’re stuck, there’s a crocodile there, a croc, there’s a tiger, you know, with the orange and black stripes, the cat, the big cat, a tiger, and there’s a Collingwood fan, so, someone who likes Collingwood, someone who barracks for Collingwood, and you have a gun with only two bullets. What do you do? And the answer: you shoot the Collingwood fan twice. So, you have two bullets, but despite there being a croc and a tiger, you shoot the Collingwood fan twice. So, that’s the joke, guys!

And, yeah Collingwood… for some reason everyone just seems to hate Collingwood and give Collingwood supporters a lot of hate. There are constant jokes about Collingwood supporters. So, I’m sharing that with you guys so that when you come to Australia and you get into Australian Rules Footy, you choose wisely when picking a team to support.


So, today’s expression is “When push comes to shove”, “When push comes to shove”. I wonder if you guys have heard this expression before. And you might also have heard this as “If push comes to shove”. So, it can also be “if push comes to shove”. And you may have noticed that’s an if clause. So, if push comes to shove, I will blah… when push comes to shove, I will blah… So, those if clauses are ever present in English.

Alright. Before we get into the definition of the expression and how to use it, let’s go through and define the words within the expression, “When push comes to shove”.


So, the word “when”. The word “when”, I’m sure you guys know how to use this, means at or during the time that… at or during the time that something. So, he was there when I arrived at his house. He was there at the time that I arrived at his house. I’m sure you guys know how to use the word “when”.

“A push”. “A push” is the act of applying force to someone or something, so, obviously pushing someone or something, in order to move them away from you. In order to move something away, you’re pushing it, usually with your hands or your body. So, the man saved the child by pushing him out of the way of the oncoming bus.

“To come to something”, “to come to something”. This isn’t often used in this sort of figurative sense, where something has come to something, which sort of means to get to the point of, to reach something, to become something, in that figurative kind of sense. Usually, if you come to something, like say the beach, it’s that you have arrived at the beach, you’ve reached the beach, you’ve gotten to a destination, except this time the destination is figurative. It’s not a literal destination. Ok? “To come to something”, to get to the point of something, to reach a certain point figurative.

“A shove”. So, “a shove” is effectively the same thing as “a push” and when you look up the definition you will see it is a strong push. So, it’s effectively the same thing, but a little stronger. Maybe it’s a little more abrupt and a little more violent than say a standard push. So, you might push a table against a wall, and it’s something that you might do gently, you know? You slowly push the table against the wall. Whereas, if you shove the table against the wall, that would be the idea that it’s a little more violent, maybe it’s not as elegant, the way that you do this, it’s not as nice. So, “a shove” tends to be a strong push.

Expression Definition & Origin:

Alright, let’s go and define the expression, though, “When push comes to shove” or “If push comes to shove”.

So, obviously this kind of means when a push becomes a shove, you know? When a push ends up being a shove, when it reaches a higher intensity and becomes a shove. So, it’s that idea of things increasing, ok? But the definition is when push comes to shove it is when someone must commit oneself to an action or a decision. So, if push comes to shove it is that the pressure is on. The situation is critical, it’s urgent, and it’s time for action, even if that situation is difficult. So, when push comes to shove, it’s usually when a situation becomes incredibly difficult and action is required.

So, I looked up the origin and I couldn’t really find a specific well-known origin for this expression, though it seems to date back to at least the early 1900s. There were some examples from 1930. Someone suggested this could have rugby origins, but there was no real evidence for this, though it would make sense, you know? When push comes to shove, if push comes to shove, you can imagine two guys playing rugby, they’re competing for the ball, they’re pushing each other, they’re shoving each other, and they’re trying to get that advantage, and when push comes to shove, they don’t shy away from it, they don’t give up, they keep going, you know, they keep trying hard, even in a difficult situation that calls for action.

Enjoying Aussie English?

Support AE on Patreon today so I can bring you even better content!


So, let’s go through the examples, guys! I’ve got three examples for you, as usual, of how I would use this expression. And the whole point of these examples, the reason I kind of flesh these out, meaning I get very descriptive, I talk quite a bit as opposed to just saying a single sentence, as example, is because I want to give you guys access to more vocab, more, you know, conversational English where I’m kind of just riffing. I’m just making this up on the spot. I have a few dot points here, but I want you to get access to more vocab, more English, and more slang. That’s why I flesh these out and to flesh something out means to make more elaborate, ok? To make it more complicated, more sophisticated.


So, the first example here is that imagine you are a Collingwood fan, you’re mad about Collingwood, you absolutely love the team, ok? So, you’re a Collingwood fan, and Collingwood can also be referred to as “the Magpies”. So, every sort of football team in Australia will tend to have a mascot, and Collingwood is black and white and those are the colours of the magpie, which is an Australian bird that is also black and white. So, they’re often referred to as “The Magpies” or just “The Pies” or even “The Maggies”, ok? So, you go for Collingwood, you’re a fan, you’re a mad Pies fan, you’re mad Maggies fan. You’ve barracked for them your whole life. You’ve gone to every single match that you can remember being around, nearby, as a kid. You’ve always gone to every single match. You’re always wearing black and white. You’re wearing the scarf, you’re waving the flag, you’re eating a meat pie with some dead horse, some tomato sauce, on that meat pie, you’re drinking a beer at every match, and everyone gives you a hard time for barracking for Collingwood. So, every time you go to one of these games and you’re yelling out, you know, “Carn, The Pies!”, everyone’s giving you a hard time, but when push comes to shove, you don’t give in and you keep barracking for your team. You keep supporting The Pies. “Carn The Pies!”.

And as a side note there, guys, “Carn”, which is sort of a slang term, it’s an abbreviation of the words, “Come On”. So, you’ll often hear people screaming out “Come on!” when they’re supporting their team or their sport player, they’ll say “Come on! Come on!”, and that kind of evolves into “Carn, carn, carn The Pies! Carn The Pies”. It’s something you’ll hear in Australian English quite a bit. “Carn the…” and then the team. “Carn, The Pies”, “Carn The Maggies” or “Carn someone”, you know? “Carn, Lleyton Hewitt, carn!”. So, it’s a way of supporting them.


Example number two. So, now imagine that you are a dishy, what is affectionately known as “a dish pig”. So, this is kind of a derogatory term that we use for someone who works in a restaurant cleaning dishes. The derogatory term would be “a dish pig”, someone who sits over the sink all evening cleaning dishes, and they can also be referred to as a “dishy”, which isn’t as rude. So, a dishy, you’re a dishy in a restaurant in Melbourne. It gets incredibly busy during summer, in the holiday season, you know? Sometimes the restaurant completely fills out and gets fully booked, and there’s not a single empty seat in the restaurant. You know, these nights are full on, you know? Lots of work, they require a lot of people to be working incredibly hard, but when push comes to shove, you work hard and you get the job done. If it gets busy, if loads of people show up, you can handle it. If push comes to shove, you work your arse off in the kitchen washing dishes and you get the job done.


Example number three. Alright, so recently I interviewed my cousin Rhys, and that will come up eventually on the podcast when I get around to it, but I interviewed Rhys, and Rhys worked as a tradie, he worked as a brickie, someone who lays bricks, they’re a bricklayer. He did this for probably about six or seven years. So, he worked his arse off as an apprentice from the age of about 16 when he left school until the age of 23 or so, and he’d have to work incredibly long days working in the hot Aussie sun. He used to be incredibly tanned as a result of working outside constantly. He’d be busting a sweat and he’d be laying 300 to 400 bricks down every single day. So, he’d be building walls and other structures for people’s houses out of bricks every single day. Sometimes his boss would require that he and the rest of the workers complete a job incredibly quickly, but he, the boss, knew that he could count on Rhys and the team, because when push comes to shove, they are incredibly hard workers and they would get the job done. When the situation got difficult, they could all smash the job out, they could smash the work out, they could complete it. If push came to shove, Rhys would work his butt off, he’d put in the hard yakka, the hard work, and he would get it done. He would finish everything on time.

So, that’s the expression, guys. That is the expression “When push comes to shove”, which you may also hear as “If push comes to shove” from time to time, and remember it is when the pressure is on, when a situation becomes incredibly difficult, you can do it, you know? It calls for action, but you can succeed, you can work hard, and you can get it done. That is when push comes to shove.

So, as usual, guys, let’s go through a listen and repeat exercise where you can practice your pronunciation, whether in English, your accent, or even Australian English. If you want to copy my accent, this is your chance to do so. So, listen and repeat after me, guys!

Let’s go.

Listen & Repeat:

When push
When push comes
When push comes to
When push comes to shove x 5

When push comes to shove, I never give up
When push comes to shove, you never give up
When push comes to shove, he never gives up
When push comes to shove, she never gives up
When push comes to shove, we never give up
When push comes to shove, they never give up
When push comes to shove, it never gives up

Great job, guys! Great job. And remember, if you want access to all the bonus content for today’s episode with lessons covering things like phrasal verbs, the vocab, you’ll get listening comprehension quizzes to test your listening, and a whole bunch of other exercises to improve speaking and grammar, everything like that, if you want access to that, don’t forget to sign up to The Aussie English Classroom, guys! And remember, you can try it for one month, 30 days, for just a single dollar. You’ve got nothing to lose. So, if you enjoy studying and you’re trying to get your Australian English to the next level, sign up and give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose, and when push comes to shove, I know that you guys can work hard!

Alright, guys. So, that is it for the episode today, but before we finish up, let’s go through an interesting Aussie fact.

Aussie Fact:

Ok, so, today I want to talk a little bit about the history of Australian Rules Footy or AFL, Australian Football League.

So, how did footy begin? In order to talk about how footy began, we have to talk about also how rugby began in Australia, because actually these two sports evolved from the same sport.

So, AFL stands for the Australian Football League, which plays the game of Australian Rules Footy or Australian Rules Football. We often just refer to this as “football” or as “footy”, you know, we put the “-y” sound on the end of “foot”, which is how we make a lot of slang words in Aussie English. So, it’s no surprise that we’ve done the same to the word “football”.

As a side note, “soccer” is the way in which Australians will refer to the sport known as “football” elsewhere in the world. So, in places like Europe and South America where they have rugby and they have soccer, they’ll actually refer to “soccer” as “football”, but we in Australia and I think Americans as well will refer to this as “soccer”, because “football” is a different sport for us, ok? So, that’s a little side note.

Alright, so how did football evolve in Australia? How did it begin? It actually dates back longer than the country of Australia, ok? So, it predates the Federation of Australia in 1901 when Australia became a nation. So, how crazy is that? Football and rugby, sports, are older than the country of Australia.

So, in 1857 a bloke named Tom Wills, one of the founders of Australian footy, returned to Australia after schooling in England where he was the football captain of Rugby School, and he was also a brilliant cricketer. So, he played both sports. Initially, he really advocated using the winter game of football, sort of a mix between football and rugby, at the time, in order to keep cricketers fit during the off-season. So, cricketers would play during summer. They would have an off-season during the winter, and in this period, they would play another sport, usually rugby, in order to stay fit. So, this is why football and cricket often played on the same fields and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or MCG, as it’s known, is also where the AFL Grand Final is held every year. So, there you go, guys! Cricket and football are actually very, very closely tied together.

So, this was the same game that would eventually evolve into Rugby Union and later Rugby League in the 1900s, the same game that Australia Rules would evolve from.

So, the first Australian rugby team was formed in 1864 at Sydney University, which was actually several years after Australian Rules Footy had originally been started up and played by the people in Australia.

So, rugby is actually more popular around places like Sydney and New South Wales, in central eastern Australia, and in Queensland, in north eastern Australia, as this is where the game was played in these colonies, not Australia, not states, but colonies, at the time.

So, the game that would eventually be known affectionately as footy, Australian Rules Footy was founded and developed in the south eastern colony of Victoria in and around the city of Melbourne.

So, by the 1860s Melbourne, the city of Melbourne, was actually only 10 (20*) years old, and the colony of Victoria had only existed for about 10 years.

In 1865, the Waratah Rugby Club invited the Australian Rules Footy Club, The Carlton Footy Club, to play two matches, and one of those matches would be in rugby rules and the other in Australian Rules. So, I found this interesting, because it obviously showed that, at this time, there were a lot of teams playing rugby and footy, or what would eventually become rugby in footy, but they were sort of testing out these different rule sets and it was evolving at the time.

So, these games pooled about 3,000 to 4,000 spectators, which is funny, because the largest game that’s ever occurred had 121,000 spectators at it and that was in 1970. So, how crazy is that? There was actually 48 years ago that the largest-ever crowd to watch footy game occurred at the MCG.

Rugby made its way to Melbourne in 1888 when the Melbourne rugby union was formed in Victoria, but it never got the same attention as AFL. It never got embraced as much as AFL. And teams from Britain, New Zealand and other places around the Commonwealth, the English colonies, toured Australia, and so the game continued to evolve in that direction whilst AFL went in a different direction.

So, back to the story of AFL and footy. This new game of Aussie Rules Footy was devised by Wills so, this was the late 1850s, who had the help of his cousin H.C.A. Harrison as well as two other blokes called W.J. Hamersley and J.B. Thompson. So, these guys worked hard to develop this game, and the Melbourne Footy Club was formed on the 7th of August 1858, the year of the code’s first recorded match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School. And these are two schools that I actually competed against in soccer when I was at high school. So, these schools are still around. That’s pretty crazy. Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar.

So, the game quickly took off and it blossomed and it began to evolve. The Geelong Footy Club was formed in 1859, and in 1866 an updated set of rules was put in place and competition started.

Originally, this association was known as the Victorian Football Association or VFA, and it was established in 1877 and quickly became Victoria’s major Aussie Rules Footy competition, but a power struggle ensued where stronger and weaker teams were competing and the stronger teams wanted more of the money from ticket sales, because they were bringing more of the crowds. So, eventually this led to the stronger teams leaving the VFA, the Victorian Football Association, including the teams Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, and South Melbourne. These guys seceded from the VFA and later invited Carlton and St Kilda to join them in the founding of a new competition, the Victorian Football League.

So, the Victorian Football League lasted 94 years and kept its name all the way from 1897, as the VFL, all the way to 1989. That was two years after I was born and then after this period it became the AFL once teams actually started occurring in other states around Australia, because obviously it had gotten bigger than Victoria.

So, a little bit about the history of the teams in the sport, guys. The Victorian Football League was established in 1896, as we said, in the following year the league’s first games were played among the foundation clubs: Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda, and South Melbourne. In 1998, Richmond and University joined the competition, but after the 1914 season, the team University left the league.

In 1925, the team Footscray, now known as the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn and North Melbourne also joined the VFL, and this line up of 12 clubs would remain unchanged until 1987, the year I was born, when the competition expanded to include the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears. So, obviously now we have a team from Perth and a team from Queensland.

So, by 1997 the competition comprised 16 clubs after Adelaide in 1991 joined, Fremantle joined in 1995, and then port Adelaide in 1997, and the foundation club Fitzroy merged with the Brisbane Bears to form the Brisbane Lions after 1996.

So, in 2011 the Gold Coast Suns joined the competition, followed by The Greater Western Sydney Giants, creating the 18 Team National Competition that we see today.

So, that was a lot of facts, guys, but I hope for anyone listening who is into AFL, it gives you a little bit of insight into the origin of the sport and why it’s played so heavily down in Victoria, and why it isn’t played as heavily and people aren’t as interested up in New South Wales and in Queensland.

So, it’s funny that that has continued on for well over 150 years now.

Anyway, guys! I hope you have a great week and I chat to you soon.

Peace out!

Intro Joke Explanations:


Yes, J. B., boys, (I) had this email sent to me about 1,000 times this week. It’s a bunch of Collingwood jokes. I don’t know why people send them to me.

Eddie McGuire, the host of the TV show, is the President of the Collingwood Football Club

But anyway, Sammy, we’ll just bang off a couple. You can stop sending them.

Sammy, what does a Collingwood supporter use as protection during sex?


A bus shelter.

This joke is playing with the word “protection”, which with regards to sex, refers to a condom, but a bus shelter is protection from the weather while you wait for the bus. The joke suggests that Collingwood supports like having sex in bus shelters out in public.

What do you call a 30-year-old woman in a Collingwood jumper?



The joke here is that you’re calling a young woman “Nanna” suggesting she has grandchildren. This suggests she had kids at a young age, and those kids also had kids at a very young age. It suggests they are of very low socio-economic background, e.g. bogans.

Let me see. Two Collingwood supporters in a car without any music. Who is driving?

The policeman.

This joke suggests that if Collingwood supporters are in a car with no music it’s because they’ve been arrested by the police.

And finally, what do you say to a Collingwood supporter with a job?

I’ll have fries with that, thanks.

This joke suggests that if a Collingwood supporter has a job, you’ll say “I’ll have fries with that” because they are working at McDonald’s behind the register. This is the kind of job a 15-year-old would have while in high school, and it would be pretty shameful and embarrassing if an adult had it.

Download the PDF + MP3

itunes-logo (1)
spotify-small (1) (1)
icon-stitcher (1)

Get more out of every episode!

Here's what you get when you sign up!

  • Read while you listen using the Premium Podcast player.
  • Understand every word in every episode.
  • Download all PDF transcripts and MP3s for 600+ episodes.
  • Get access to bonus member-only episodes.

Download my eBook!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Recent Podcast Episodes

    Related Articles


    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Download on Android or iPhone below!