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Introduction

Buttons are what we have on our clothes to fasten them but the word is also used for things that we push to make things happen. Things like your bedside alarm, radio, toaster, kettle. We press hundreds of buttons every week without thinking about it. Sometimes we are just drawn to pushing them, but as this programme discusses, some people have a button phobia

This week’s question

Not everyone likes buttons, particularly the ones we have on our clothes. It’s a recognised phobia

What is this fear called? Is it

A: buttonophobia
B: koumpounophobia
C: coulrophobia

Listen to the programme to find out the answer

Vocabulary

buttons
small, usually round, objects we use to fasten clothes, also objects we can press to make different things happen, e.g. You press a button to call a lift

temptation
something that makes you feel like you want to do something you shouldn’t, e.g. Having a big red button with the words ‘Don’t Press’ on it, would be a big temptation, I’d just want to press it

convenient
something that is convenient is easy to use without difficulty, e.g. the buttons on are lift are convenient to use

fidgeting
not being able to stay still, always moving around to get comfortable or prevent boredom. e.g. My mum always told me to stop fidgeting in the cinema as it was disturbing the other customers

digital
fingers and toes are digits – digital = having fingers and toes

grooming
making ourselves look nice by cleaning, washing and doing our hair, for example

Transcript 

Note: This is not a word for word transcript 

Rob
Hello. This is 6 Minute English and I’m Rob

Neil
And I’m Neil

Rob
Today we’re talking about buttons

Neil
Yes, buttonsButtons are what we have on our clothes to fasten them but the word is also used for things that we push to make things happen

Rob
Things like your bedside alarm, radio, toaster, kettle. We press hundreds of buttons every week without thinking about it. Not everyone likes buttons though, particularly the ones we have on our clothes. It’s a recognised phobia. What is this fear called? Is it

A: buttonophobia 

B: koumpounophobia, or

C: coulrophobia

?Any ideas Neil

Neil
Er – I think I’ve got a fear of pronouncing these words! No idea what the answer is, I think buttonophobia is much too obvious – so it’s one of the others – or is it? It’s a hard one

Rob
Well, I’ll have the answer later in the programme. Thinking Allowed is a BBC Radio 4 programme which covers a range of interesting topics. Recently, they featured a discussion about buttons and how important they are to everyday life. Steven Connor, Professor of English at the University of Cambridge, was on the programme and he talked about appeal of buttons. What does say about children and buttons

Professor Steven Connor
We do love buttons and I think the pleasure and the temptation of buttons… this temptation and everyone feels it, which is why buttons have to be very convenient. On the other hand they have to be kept away from children, so they’ve got to be put high up on the wall, and buttons that really matter have to be made quite hard to push – like put behind glass or something

Rob
?OK. What does he say about children and buttons

Neil
That they have to be kept away from them! As I said before, I loved pressing buttons as a child. I would press any that I saw, so important ones did have to be out of my reach

Rob
Yes, he said buttons are a temptation. A temptation is something that makes you want to do something and it’s often used when it’s something you shouldn’t really do. So buttons that lead to potentially dangerous or serious consequences, like a fire alarm, need to be protected, maybe behind glass, so temptation doesn’t get the better of us

Neil
But many buttons have a useful, practical purpose in everyday life, like calling a lift – so these buttons have to be easy to use without difficulty. The adjective for this is convenient. These everyday buttons have to be convenient

Rob
?Professor Connor goes on to say a bit more about why buttons are so appealing. What’s his opinion

Professor Steven Connor
You know what I think? I think it’s down to the fidgeting instinct of very digital or manual creatures. I think we want to fidget with things and adjust them, we want to make them slightly better…  I guess it’s the grooming instinct in apes

Rob
?So then, why can’t we resist buttons

Neil
Because as humans we have a fidgeting instinct. We can’t stay still for very long, we need to move around a lot because we are very digital creatures

Rob
?The use of digital though, is nothing to do with modern online technology, is it

Neil
No, a digit is a finger or toe. So we are digital creatures – we have fingers and we like to use them

Rob
And one thing other digital creatures do, creatures like apes, is grooming. That is they use their hands to clean the body hair of other apes. They look through the hair for insects and bugs and pull them out and eat them. But we can also use the word grooming for humans, someone who is well-groomedfor example is neat and tidy, clean and well presented. Here’s Professor Connor again

Professor Steven Connor
You know what I think? I think it’s down to the fidgeting instinct of very digital or manual creatures. I think we want to fidget with things and adjust them, we want to make them slightly better… I guess it’s the grooming instinct in apes

Rob
Before we wrap up, time to get the answer to this week’s question. Some people have a fear of buttons, it’s a recognised phobia, but what’s it called? Is it

A: buttonophobia

B: koumpounophobia, or

C: coulrophobia

?And Neil, you said

Neil
I didn’t, but I don’t think it can be ‘buttonophobia’, that’d be too easy. And I think coulrophobia is a fear of clowns, so I’m going for the other one – koumpounophobia

Rob
That it right. Buttonophobia is a made up word, and as you said, coulrophobia is a fear of clowns. Right, now let’s review today’s vocabulary

Neil
We’ve been talking about buttons. These can be small round things we use to fasten our clothes, or the things that we push to make something happen

Rob
Buttons can be a temptation. We see one, we want to push it. So a temptation is something that makes us want to do something we know we shouldn’t

Neil
And then we had the adjective convenient. Something that is convenient is easy to use without difficulty. For example the buttons to call a lift are at a very convenient height, they can be reached easily

Rob
Professor Connor went on to talk about our fidgeting instinct. As humans we love to fidget, we like to keep moving around, we can’t stay still for very long and we love to do stuff with our hands

Neil
The professor talked about us being digital creatures, which means creatures with fingers – a digit is another word for a finger or toe

Rob
And finally we had grooming

Neil
This is the habit of making ourselves look nice by cleaning, washing and doing our hair. It’s something some animals, such as apes, do for each other

Rob
Well the button here in the studio is flashing, which tells me it’s time to wrap up for today.  Do join us next time and if you can’t wait, you can always find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube our App and of course on our website bbclearningenglish.com. Bye for now

Neil
?
Bye! Can I just press that button

Rob

!Oh go on then, if you like

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