AE 533 – Expression: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I teach you to use ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY like a native speaker.

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AE 533 – Expression: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

My home Australia is the land of ‘the deadlies’, in fact, what I’m going to show you next is the second most deadly snake in the world, our common brown snake. (There’s) nothing common about his poison, though. (It) kills you dead.

I’ll just slip him out on the ground here. You can see they’re quite quick by snake standards, even though snakes are reasonably slow.

See, unlike the cobras, these things want to run away all the time. But (they’re) pretty quick, as you can see.

Some people mistakenly think that little snakes are more dangerous or deadlier than big snakes. The venom’s exactly the same potency, but this thing’s got longer fangs and a lot more venom than a little one, so that’s a silly notion.

I say it’s like putting Mohammad Ali in a ring with a kid, so the kid hits harder. (It) ain’t true.


G’day, you mob, and a welcome to this episode of the Aussie English Podcast.

I hope you guys have had an amazing week. Hope you guys are going well. It’s been a little while since I’ve put an expression episode up. I’m still sort of getting into my rhythm of things at the moment in 2019. I tell you what, guys, I’ve been doing a lot of interviews recently, as well as My Country episodes. There’s so much content that I’ve sort of built up. I have this folder full of episodes that I need to finish and put on the podcast. So, there’s a lot coming back and there’s a lot more interviews coming as well. I’m looking forward to chucking those up. Anyway.

This is the Aussie English Podcast, guys. If you’re listening for the first time, guys, welcome to the Aussie English Podcast. The podcast is focused on Australian English, although, it will help you improve your English in general.

If you want to get access to the transcripts and the downloads for this episode, check out where you can sign up for the price of a coffee a month. And if you would like to get access to all of my courses in the Aussie English Classroom, you can try that at the moment for one dollar for your first month, just head over to, and you’ll get access to all of my courses. So, that means bonus content for these expression courses, which includes videos and quizzes, stuff built to improve your vocabulary and speaking abilities. And then, there’s a whole bunch of other courses in there put together to help you improve your speaking and listening comprehension. Okay? So, go check that out, guys. It’s a dollar for a month and it’s an amazing deal you, can cancel at any time, and you’ll get to upgrade your English.

Anyway, you mob, that clip at the start today was Rob Bredl. It was his YouTube channel that I took that clip from. So, go over there and check that out where he handles the second deadliest snake in the world. And… if we’re talking venom that is, and the snake in Australia that causes the most deaths, and we’ll talk a bit more about that at the end of this episode. But go check out his channel, subscribe, and you’ll get to tackle the Broad Aussie accent. Okay. So, it’s worth it. Go check it out.

Alright, so the introduction aside, guys, as usual, I have a joke for you guys, I have a joke, and I was thinking I have to find an animal that can bite me, because the expression is related to biting today. So, I was on there. I was searching, you know, “big cat joke”, “leopard joke”, and here we are. Here’s the joke, okay. It’s atrocious, but it’s a joke.

Why can’t a leopard play hide-and-seek?

You know that game hide-and-seek where it counts to 10 with your eyes closed as a kid and the other one has to go hide somewhere, and then you have to go try and find them, and then “(I) found you!”, and they, you know, you switch turns.

Why can’t a leopard play hide-and-seek?

Are you ready for this?

Because they’re always “spotted”. Because they’re always “spotted”.

So, the joke there, guys, “spotted” in this case is an adjective, right, but it can mean two different things. If you’re a leopard and you are spotted, it means you’ve got spots on your body, right. A leopard is a big cat from Africa covered in spots, as opposed to, say, stripes like tigers.

But if you spot something, and that thing is spotted, we can use that verb to mean that you see the thing, you’ve noticed the thing, you’ve found the thing, right. So, in this case the leopard is always spotted, because it’s always found. Right? So, that’s why he’s so bad at hide-and-seek.

So, anyway, today’s expression is “once bitten, twice shy”, “once bitten, twice shy”. This was suggested by my lovely wife in the Aussie English Classroom. She’s been winning a few of these in the last few months. So, good job, Kel.

So, let’s go through and I will define the words in the expression “once bitten, twice shy”, I’ll go through the expression definitions itself, talk about its origin, give me some examples, do a pronunciation exercise, talk about an Aussie fact, and then we’ll finish up, okay?

Alright. So, “once”, “once”. “Once” means one time a single time.

“Bitten”. “Bitten” is the past participle of the verb “to bite”, which is when you seize something with your teeth or your jaws so as to enter, grip, or wound that thing, right? To bite.

“Twice”, as opposed to “once”, “twice” means two times, you know, two times.

And the last word “shy” is an adjective for when you are nervous or timid, right, in the company of other people. You’re incredibly shy. So, kids are often shy. They don’t want to talk much. You know, they kind of hide behind their parents when they meet new people.

So, let’s define the expression “once bitten, twice shy”. I wonder if you guys have heard this one before. “Once bitten, twice shy”. If you say that someone is “once bitten, twice shy”, it means that they have been hurt once, and as a result of that, they are doubly cautious in the future. Right? So, you use this, you say this when you’re frightened to do something, because the last time that you did it you had an unpleasant experience doing it, right? So, you have to be cautious, you have to be vigilant. So, an unpleasant experience that induces caution. “Once bitten, twice shy”.

So, this would probably originate… expression wise, it would probably originate from the observation that when you walk up to an animal and it bites to you, you’re going to probably be shy about touching that animal again, you know, whether it was in a zoo back in the day or someone’s pet. But it dates back to the 1800, the late 1800s. So, this expression is 100 or so years old.

So, let’s go through three examples guides of how I would use this expression in everyday life, “once bitten, twice shy”.

Alright, so example number one. Imagine you’re in your first relationship. So, you’re a teenager, you know, a young boy or a young girl, and you’re with your first boyfriend or girlfriend ever, things are going well, but after a little bit of time, as always, or pretty much always, the relationship fails, it falls apart. Maybe because something bad happened where things got rocky after one of you cheated on the other one, right? You burned the other person, you upset them. Maybe you dumped them all of a sudden. You know, it doesn’t have to necessarily be cheating on them. Or you strung them along and then you lost interest in the person. Either way the person who’s been hurt could say if they’re sort of avoiding getting into a relationship in the future, they could say, “Well, once bitten, twice shy”. So, because I was rejected or hurt the first time, i.e. I was once bitten, I now find it difficult and I am reluctant to get into a new relationship, i.e. I am twice shy, right. I don’t want to fall in love again. So, once bitten, twice shy.

Example number two. Imagine you’re a young kid and you’ve grown up without any pets in the house, right? So, you’re a little naive when it comes to dogs or cats or, you know, more exotic pets like lizards and snakes, ’cause you just have never been around them. Your parents take you to a dinner party. You get to… you get to hang out with friends and they happen to have some pets. They have a dog or a cat. So, you don’t really know how to behave around these animals. You don’t know that you shouldn’t pull the tail. You shouldn’t pat them too roughly. They may get narky. They may get angry. And worst-case scenario, they may have a swipe at you or scratch you or even nip or bite you if they’re really upset. So, you do something like that where you pull the cat’s tail and he turns around, scratches you or bites you, you might get scared to pat the cat in the future, because you’re worried you’re going to get bitten. So, once bitten, twice shy. In this case, literally and figuratively, right. Once bitten, twice shy. I want to touch the cat, because it bit me. So, once bitten, twice shy.

Example number three. This is a real-world example. Okay, because I’ve been doing so many interviews recently. I had one of my mates who recently got his black belt in jujitsu, and I thought, you know what, I’ll try and get him on the podcast so I can talk about his journey learning a martial art and fighting in Australia, and ’cause he’s got a pretty good accent. Anyway, so I organise this interview and organise the time, told him to add me on Skype, everything like that, it was all set. The time came up and he was a no show. He didn’t show up. So, I sent him a message and said, “What are you doing, (are) you coming to the interview? We’re on for three o’clock today.” And he said, “Oh, I forgot about it. I’ve got a meeting at work. Sorry, man.” And just left it at that. So, now, I’m a little bit sort of reluctant to get him back on or to try and organise another interview in the future, because I can’t rely on him being there when I want him to be there. So, once bitten, twice shy.

So, hopefully now, guys, you understand the expression “once bitten, twice shy”. It’s effectively that you get hurt whether physically or metaphorically, and then as a result of that, that event where you’ve been hurt or upset or scared, you’re doubly cautious in the future. So, once bitten, twice shy.

All right, guys. So, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise where you guys can practice your pronunciation. As always, guys, if you want to nail your Aussie pronunciation, well, first and foremost, jump over to the Aussie English Classroom. Get in there and do the courses in there. But secondly, copy my accent as best you can. Okay? If you’re not after an Australian accent, because I’ve seen plenty of you guys listening to this podcast from places like America, Canada, and New Zealand, and plenty of other countries around the world, if you guys don’t want an Australian accent, just practice, just work on whatever accent it is that you are perfecting. Okay. So, let’s go.


Once bitten

Once bitten twice.

Once bitten twice shy x 5

I was once bitten twice shy

You were once bitten twice shy

He was once bitten twice shy

She was once bitten twice shy

We were once bitten twice shy

They were once bitten twice shy

It was once bitten twice shy

Good job, guys. You might notice there too that I’m sort of pausing between “once bitten, twice shy”, and that’s because there’s a comma between these two, okay. They kind of opposing clauses or phrases in the single expression “once bitten, twice shy”.

Anyway, guys, let’s go through the Aussie English fact today where I want to talk to you about snakes and snake bites in Australia. Okay? And then we’ll finish up.

Alright, so why is Australia renowned for its snakes?

Australia has approximately 140 species of land snakes, just land snakes, and 32 recorded species of sea snakes, and they’re recorded because there are other species that scientists are sure they haven’t found yet.

So, a hundred of these are venomous snakes, although, only 12 of those are likely to inflict a bite that could kill you. And there are many different types of snakes in Australia including solid-toothed non-venomous snakes such as pythons, blind snakes, and file snakes; as well as the venomous rear-fanged snakes, snakes with fangs at the back of their mouth, at the rear of their mouth, such as brown tree snakes and mangrove snakes; and then, we have the venomous front-fanged snakes, and these are the ones that are the most numerous. The elapids. Okay. And they include things like tiger snakes, brown snakes, taipans, death adders, and some sea snakes.

So, of these, the most dangerous snakes are the last mentioned, the front-fanged snakes, the elapids. These snakes are found all across Australia in most if not all of the different habitats in Australia, although, the warmer areas, the places with a warmer climate in the north, are going to have many, many more species that are more active in general compared to the south, you know, in places like Tasmania.

So, as a result of their ecological diversity, Aussie snakes have a really wide-ranging palette, meaning they eat a very wide range of different animals from tiny insects, frogs, crustaceans, lizards, birds, fish, rats, mice, and even larger animals like crocodiles and kangaroos. You know, some of these huge pythons will actually eat kangaroos and crocodiles. So, if you can pass through their jaws, they’ll pretty much eat it.

How many people are bitten by snakes down under?

So, approximately 3,000 people are bitten by snakes each year, between 3 to 18 per 100,000 people, but only 200 to 500 of these people receive antivenom. So, these are the ones that end up in hospital. On average, only one to two bites are fatal annually. So, in comparison, and this is, you know, to give you an idea of how many deaths occur from other things, heart disease kills 20,000 people, between 10-20,000 times as many people die from heart disease as they do snakebites. 1,200 people die in car accidents. And 190 people die at work every year.

So, how do they stack up though against other animals? Snakes kill about as many people as crocodiles and sharks, between one to two year, as we’ve said, granted sharks and crocodile attacks are much fewer in number, but much more likely to kill you due to the fact that they’re large animals treating you as prey compared to small snakes that are defending themselves against you with venom. However, you might be surprised when you compare this with other animal-related deaths in Australia where you’re much more likely to be killed by things like horses, from falling off of horses while riding them, or cows and kangaroos, albeit, when you’re driving a car and you hit one during the night, and even bees, bees are more likely to kill you than snakes. And in fact, dogs kill as many people as snakes at about 1 or 2 a year.

So, why are Aussie snakes so venomous? The most venomous snake in Australia is the Inland Taipan, which has a venom strong enough that a single bite could kill 250,000 lab mice. That said, this snake lives in the desert on the, you know, inland of Australia and far, far, far away from most humans. And interestingly, there is not a single recorded death attributed to this snake. Number two on the list, however, is the Eastern Brown snake. That one you heard about at the start, which does leave around humans and claims the deaths of about 65 percent of human snake bite sufferers.

So, these snakes have such potent venom, one, because it has evolved to target rodents. So, no surprise that the lab mice were particularly susceptible. But, two, snakes use their venom to either incapacitate or kill their prey as fast as possible. You know, they want to be able to safely consume their prey without the chance of that prey inflicting injury on themselves. This obviously makes life much easier when you have no arms and legs, right, to secure your prey. You just inject them with venom, the thing dies, and you swallow it.

Furthermore, it’s likely that there is an evolutionary arms race going on between natural prey of these snakes and the snakes themselves. So, this is where you have the prey item of a snake, for example here, evolving some resistance to the snake’s venom over time, and in return, the snake has to evolve a more and more potent venom. And this keeps escalating.

Anyway, that’s a little window into the world of snakes in Australia, guys. I recently interviewed a guy called Ross McGibbon, and he talked was all about snakes. That interview will be out soon. So, stay tuned for that.

Thanks again for joining me, guys. Don’t forget to review the podcast on Facebook, on iTunes, or whatever platform it is that you’re listening to this podcast on. Join the Aussie English Classroom, guys, get access to all my courses. This is the best way to help me keep doing what I’m doing as well as improve your English at the same time. And other than that, have a ripper of a day and I’ll see you soon! Peace out!

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