AE 535 – Expression: Fly On the Wall

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast  where I teach you to use the expression FLY ON THE WALL.

AE 535 – Expression: A Fly on the Wall

Well, this is Outback Australia. Look at these flies.

Yeah, try not to eat too many, ‘cause if you get stuck, I think you’d get a feed off of these fellas.

Eventually, you get used to them and you don’t blink. That hasn’t happened to me yet. I still blink.

I don’t think they’ve got anywhere to go. (It’d) be a good place to test fly spray.

Anyway, Outback Australia.


G’day, you mob. How’s it going? Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.

Man, I have just gotten back from whisking Kel off, taking Kel, driving Kel to the station. So, I get to do that a few times a week as she goes off into Melbourne, which is about an hour and a half’s drive from here. Although, we don’t drive the whole way. I take her to the station. She gets on the train. The train takes it to Melbourne. She crosses the road and she gets to class. So, she’s up there at business school at the moment studying. Anyway.

So, I hope you guys are going well. Welcome to the Aussie English Podcast. If it’s your first time listening, it is an absolute pleasure to have you here. Thank you for joining me. If you are a long-time listener, thank you for joining me once again.

So, this is the Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone wanting to learn Australian English. But if you want to up your English in general, it is a podcast that focuses on advanced English, so you won’t hear me dumb things down, you won’t hear me speaking incredibly slowly, apart from maybe in the listen and repeat exercises.

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And there’s a bit of news, there’s a bit of news, guys. I have my guys working on merging these websites. So, before we get into the episode, I’ll tell you a little bit about that and what I’ve got planned. I want to merge these two websites together so that they’re all in the same place. (I) Don’t know why I didn’t think of that earlier. And then, I want to turn this into an app that you can use on your phone. So, you’ll be able to listen to the podcast directly and you’ll also obviously be able to sign up to get the transcripts and the MP3 downloads as well as sign up to the classroom too all through this app. So, that is coming this year. I’m not sure when. I going to do my best to get it done ASAP, but you’ll just have to wait and see. Anyway.

With all that aside, guys, big intro. Thanks for putting up with it. Let’s get into the expression episode today.

So, the video at the start there was from Gavin Clark’s YouTube channel. There’ll be a link in the transcript if you want to go check out his channel and have a few views. And it shows how numerous and invasive the flies in outback Australia can be. They have no sense of personal space. If you come to Australia, especially in summer, you’re going to be swatting your face, you’re going to be giving “the Aussie salute”, as we call it, quite a lot.

Anyway, let’s dive into an Aussie joke. And I had to tie this in with flies today for obvious reasons.

What do you call a fly without wings? What do you call a fly without wings?

Are you ready for this? Hold your sides, hold your sides, because it’s going to be funny.

What do you call a fly without wings? A walk. A walk.

Do you get it? Because a fly flies, and if he can’t fly, he can’t fly anymore, obviously, he’s got no wings, so he is “a walk”, because he has to walk. Oh my gosh! So, terrible! So, terrible but hopefully you guys like these ‘punny’ jokes, right. These jokes that are funny because they are puns.

So, today’s expression is “to be a fly on the wall”, and it was suggested by Vivian in the Aussie English Classroom group. So, good job, Vivian. It was a great suggestion. And she won by a landslide. She won. Everyone voted for her expression. So, I’m happy to be doing it.

So, let’s go through the words in the expression, okay. A fly. *Bzzzz*. A fly. I’m sure you guys know what a fly is. It’s a flying insect in Australia. There are heaps of different kinds of flies. They normally land on poo, on your food, in your face, everywhere, and they’re trying to, like, suck up moisture with their sucking mouthparts, right. That is a fly.

‘On’. I’m sure you guys know the preposition ‘on’, right. My hand is on the table. It is physically in contact with and supported by a surface. ‘On’.

The last word here a noun, ‘the wall’, ‘a wall’ is a continuous vertical brick or stone structure, right, something that encloses an area. It could be land, it could be the walls in your house, right, (they) are enclosing a room. But that is ‘a wall’.

Alright, let’s move on to the expression. So, have you guys heard the expression “to be a fly on the wall”, right. If I said to you, “Man! I would love to be a fly on the wall.”, do you think you know what that means, right. If you’re a fly on the wall, if we say that you are a fly on the wall, it means that you would like to hear what is going to be said or done without being noticed, right. So, it’s to be an unnoticed observer of a particular situation. And we’ll go through some examples of that in just a sec.

But expression origin wise, it alludes to the position, right, of being on our wall as a small fly and being freely able to observe some kind of situation without being noticed. And it dates back to about 1920-1921 when it was used in America in the Oakland Tribune, which I assume’s a newspaper, and they said “I’d just love to be a fly on the wall when the right man comes along.”.

So, let’s go through some examples, guys. Imagine, example number one, that you are an architect or an engineer or a scientist, right. You have a job, you have a career, as one of those. You’re working hard to advance your career. You know, you’re putting in the extra hours, the extra… you’re going the extra mile, you’re putting in a lot of extra hard yakka, right, meaning working hard, you’re working really, really hard, and your manager or your boss, the people above you, have a meeting each week to discuss their employees and discuss what needs to be done that week. So, you don’t get invited to that meeting, but if you wanted to go, you might say to the other employees, to the other architects, engineers, or scientists, “Man! I would kill to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. I would kill to be a fly on the wall and be able to hear what they’re talking about or to see what they’re doing, right, but without being noticed. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.”.

Example number two. Imagine you’re out with your mates, you’re having a drink, right. You’re sinking some piss, as we say, which means to be drinking some alcohol. So, you’re at a pub or you’re at a party or you’re at a barbie hanging out with your mates and you get a call from your missus, right, from your wife, from your girlfriend, from your better half, from your partner. She is raging up at you because you meant to be home with her for date night, but you forgot and you went out with your mates and you started drinking some beer with them. So, you hang up the phone and you say, “Look, guys, I’ve got to bail. I’ve got to go home. My missus is really pissed. She’s really angry and I need to hang out with her tonight or I’ll be sleeping in the dog house, right.” That means I won’t be in the bedroom with her, I’ll be sleeping somewhere else because she’ll be so angry. So, when you leave, your friends might all turn to one another and say, “Man! I would love to be a fly on the wall when he gets home. I would love to be a fly on the wall when he opens the door and she loses it. You know, I would love to see what’s going to happen between those two, all the drama, everything that’s going to go down, I would love to see that but without being noticed. I’d love to be a fly on the wall.”

Example number three. Imagine you are a coach of some kind of sports team, maybe a footy team, right, AFL footy, Australian Rules Football. Imagine you’re a coach and you’re trying to train your team with a bunch of new training techniques, you know, different kinds of drills, in order to sharpen their skills up and give them a better chance of dominating this year in the footy season. So, other coaches from other teams hear about this. They hear about your plans through the grapevine. They’d heard it through the grapevine, right. You know, they hear it through a whole bunch of other people, and they want to sneak into the stadium and see what you’re doing, to learn what you’re doing, to see the techniques you’re using in order to learn from them and beat you, right. Fortunately, they can’t get in, but I’m sure they’re all thinking, “Man! I wish we could be flies on the wall to be able to see what he’s doing, right. We would love to see what he’s doing, we’d love to take his ideas, to steal his ideas, to flog his ideas, to learn from them, and then beat him this season.”.

So, that’s it, guys. Hopefully now you understand the expression “to be a fly on the wall”. If you say you wish you were a fly on the wall, it means you wish you were an unnoticed observer of some situation, some particular situation.

So, as usual, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise where you guys can practice your pronunciation, and then after that, we’ll smash out the Aussie English fact and I’ll let you guys finish up your weekend, okay. Let’s go.

A fly
A fly on
A fly on the
A fly on the wall x 5

I’d love to be a fly on the wall.
You’d love to be a fly on the wall.
He’d love to be a fly on the wall.
She’d love to be a fly on the wall.
We’d love to be a fly on the wall.
They’d love to be a fly on the wall.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall.

Good job, guys. Good job! There’s a lot of connected speech going on there with some contractions as well. And remember, I’ve just released a course in the Aussie English Classroom about spoken English where you will learn heaps and heaps of different contractions, how to contract words, how to use connected speech, in order to sound more like a native speaker, but also to tune in your listening comprehension so you can hear when native speakers use those kinds of contractions or connected speech, right. “I’d love to be a…” “I’d love to be a…”. So, anyway, let’s get into the Aussie English fact and finish up.

So, today I wanted to give you the lowdown on flies in Australia. ‘The low down’, that is like information about them details about them. The lowdown on flies in Australia. And I’m also going to tell you how flies will help turn poo into birds. That’s right. They can turn poo into birds.

So, no summer barbecue in Australia would be complete without a certain uninvited guest who always shows up before the meat even hits the barbie and begins to sizzle, and has you giving the great Aussie Salute to keep them out of your eyes, ears, and mouth. The Australian fly. However, there isn’t just one type of fly. There are estimated to be more than 30,000 species of flies in Australia more than enough species to make sure every single cubic inch of Australian airspace is occupied whether in the desert, rainforest, or at the beach.

Despite the extensive fly diversity in the Land of Oz, in the land Down Under, you’re only likely to come across four different groups of flies, which aren’t necessarily all equally as annoying. And these groups are: the bush fly, the housefly, the blowfly, and the mosquito. Yes, the mosquito is in fact a species of very specialized fly, right. The mouthparts of mosquitoes have obviously changed to become much more about injecting, well, piercing, and then sucking blood.

So, why a fly population skyrocket in summer. This occurs because of the warmer temperatures, which really speed up the life cycle of flies as well as other insects, obviously. So, it allows their numbers to explode into fly-swattingly irritating proportions. Their life cycle from egg to maggot to pupa and to adult is only between 7 to 14 days usually. So, imagine when that speeds up, right. Imagine how many can breed and how quickly their numbers can increase.

How long have flies been pissing off the average Australian? Well the earliest records show that from the moment Europeans set foot on the Land of Oz in Australia they were wholeheartedly welcomed by millions sweat-thirsty flies invading their eyes, ears, mouths, and any part of their body that they could get their suckers on to. Their aptitude at being a formidable nuisance was instantly noticed by Captain Cook who discussed them as being “horrendous”. Needless to say, though, Indigenous Australians would have been thinking, “Yeah, mate! No shit Sherlock! We’ve had to deal with these pesky things for 40,000 years or more.”.

Although, I am sure most of you think flies are incredibly irritating and you wish they would just buzz off–Get it? “Buzz off”.–they’re actually an integral part of the Australian environment and without them, we’d be up to our necks in poo.

So, what would happen tomorrow if flies just disappeared from Australia? Well, I’ve been a number of year thinking, “Pete, they’d probably just cross the ocean from Indonesia or Papua New Guinea from our neighbouring countries and repopulate the country within a few weeks.” Yes, okay. You got me. Well done. But let’s imagine that their return was indefinitely put on hold. Their absence would lead to a number of unpleasant and unforeseen issues.

So, there’d be a cascading effect on the food chain, right? And it would sort of be a cascading upwards effect, because flies are at the bottom of the food chain. So, you may not realize it, but flies are actually an integral part of the ecosystem because they feed so many other animals like spiders, reptiles, frogs, and birds, and other insects, and those animals would all be affected and they may die off. Animals that feed on these flies would all die if they no longer had food.

As this famine started picking up pace and more and more bodies started dropping–“dropping like flies” you might say–there would be no flies to lay their eggs on the carcasses of these dead animals as well as the poo that these animals had deposited prior to kicking the bucket, prior to dying. And normally, these eggs would hatch into larvae, into maggots, and then consume the poo or the rotting carcasses of these animals, and then themselves grow into nice juicy flies that can continue the cycle of life as they get eaten by birds or spiders, etc..

So, that is why flies in Australia may be an incredibly irritating pest, you may have to swat your face a little bit when you get here and it’s summer time, but they are definitely an important part of the ecosystem in Australia, and we should all be thankful that we have flies here, because without them, we’d be up to our necks in poo.

Anyway, guys, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. I hope you have an amazing weekend. I hope to see you in the Aussie English Classroom. And I hope to see you next week as well. Peace out.

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