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In s03e06 of The Thick of It, Ben and Ollie have a rapid exchange which is full of references that I've never heard of... Can anyone explain what these bold parts are about? I assume they're just references to specific elements of British culture.

GLENN: Ah, the prodigal Swain returns.

OLLY: Ben 10! Benstrual cycle. Ben on the 4th of July.

BEN: Olly put the kettle on, on the good ship Olly-pop, Olled Lang Syne

OLLY: How are things going at the, uh, Department of Education Education Education?

BEN: There's shit going up the foot pump, Olly. Mainly because you are the Robin Hood of politics.

OLLY: Well, Robin Hood was a hero. BEN: No, he was not a hero. He was a terrorist.

What is Ben calling Olly with all these nick names? Why does Olly say Education three times? And what is this "foot pump" reference?

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Brit here. Yasskier (in an answer he's apparently since deleted) got 2 and 3 right but the rest wrong, and I figured it would be easier to write my own answer than correct his. (No offense to Yasskier, I honestly didn't know 2 myself!)

  1. "Olly put the kettle on" is a reference to the nursery rhyme "Polly Put The Kettle On".
  2. "On the good ship Olly-pop" is, presumably, a reference to the Shirley Temple song "On The Good Ship Lollipop". Like I said, I've never heard of this song before, so credit to Yasskier for that one.
  3. "Olled Lang Syne" is indeed a reference to the Robert Burns poem "Auld Lang Syne", which in Britain is traditionally sung at New Years' celebrations.
  4. "Department of Education Education Education" - this is a reference to a famous speech by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he claimed that his three top priorities in office would be "education, education, and education". Given that The Thick of It is a series about politicians, the reference is quite apt.
  5. This is a foot pump:

enter image description here

It's used to blow up inflatables: you stamp hard on the pedal and it blows air out through the tube. "There's shit going up the foot pump" has roughly the same meaning as "shit's just hit the fan".

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    God this makes me love the show even more. The education thing is hilarious. Thanks so much – JacobIRR Jan 14 at 20:56
  • 5 out of 5 - nice. I do wonder whether there's more to the foot-pump reference though, most Brits would use "shits about to hit the fan" - so I wonder if there's more to that last one. – iandotkelly Jan 14 at 22:17
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    The Thick of It has a reputation for using very colourful language, so I don't think there's anything more to it than just the writers getting creative with the expletives. – F1Krazy Jan 14 at 22:32
  • Note for the OP: Shirley Temple was actually American (I’ve certainly heard the referenced song before), so she seems be at least a partially transatlantic phenomenon. – Todd Wilcox Jan 16 at 14:54

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