A Fate Worse Than Death – Mind Your Language

A Fate Worse Than Death” is the third episode of the first season of Mind Your Language. It was first broadcast on the 13th of January 1978. 

Danielle tries to convince Max to help her with the homework until Giovanni comes by the class to sell the answer sheets to everyone for 10p. Miss Courtney enters the classroom, tells everyone to settle down and asks where Mr. Brown is. While waiting for him, she finds out how much the class has learned, only to end up being given a wrong answer by Juan when she asks him to use the word “catalyst” in a sentence.

As Mr. Brown arrives, he is carrying newspapers for his students to practice reading. Ali is revealed to have started a job as a travelling salesman.

Ranjeet comes late again, but claims that he will not be coming back. It turns out that it is because when Ranjeet was 12, he was engaged to the then 10-year-old Surinder, the daughter of his father’s best friend. It’s now time for them to be married, but Surinder is far less attractive than she used to be, so Ranjeet wants to kill himself. Mr. Brown and his students attempt to help him hide from Surinder when she comes to the school, then take him to the cafeteria where he hides behind the curtains.

When Surinder comes to the cafeteria in search of Ranjeet, Gladys tells her where he’s hiding, but she finds only Ranjeet’s shoes when she pulls back the curtains. Ranjeet has slipped out the window and is using the ledge to make his way around the school building, but startles Miss Courtney as he passes by her office window. He pretends to be a window washer, but she lets him inside and tells him to get out of her office.

Ranjeet is relieved to be away from Surinder, but she finally finds him, much to his terror. So he pretends to kill himself and then says that he is going to get a cup of coffee. Mr. Brown tells him to put away his knife to avoid “killing himself” and settles the situation. Surinder agrees not to marry Ranjeet, but is saddened by not knowing who’s going to marry her. Ranjeet sheepishly says that Mr. Brown is the one she can marry, much to the students’ excitement.

Mr. Brown writes a letter to Surinder’s parents that he cannot marry her because of different religious backgrounds and also because he hasn’t got any intention of marrying anyone, which he tells his class the next time they meet. Ranjeet informs Mr. Brown that Surinder’s father is coming to see him and hoping to be “slicing him into pieces”, thinking he is bringing disgrace on her. Mr. Brown insists that he’ll be able to reason with Surinder’s father because slicing people up over disagreements isn’t the English way, but gets chased out of the classroom by the angry man who arrives soon after.


(Ranjeet has said that he’s going to kill himself.)

Ali: Please, if you are wanting any assistance I am…I’m happy to be helping.

Mr. Brown: I thought you didn’t like Sikhs.

Ali: That is why I am happy to be helping.

(Ranjeet has just told Mr. Brown about his fiancée.)

Mr. Brown: Well, if she’s got eyes like black diamonds, hair like silk and a figure like a tender bamboo shoot, what are you complaining about?

Ranjeet: Blimey, that was 20 years ago! Now she’s putting on so much weight, that from behind, she’s looking like an elephant. Matter of fact, she’s looking like an elephant from front also.

Mr. Brown: Can’t you just tell her that you’ve changed your mind?

Ranjeet: Not at all! Only lady can change mind. I am up the creek without a poodle.

(Mr. Brown is having the students read the newspaper.)

Juan: Increase…in London…rats.

Mr. Brown: London rats?

Juan: Sí. Increase in London rats.

Mr. Brown: Rates.


  • Giovanni’s price for letting his classmates copy the homework off of him is 10p. This was the price of coffee in the previous episode.
  • Miss Courtney mentions that times are hard. The mid- and late 1970s were a difficult time for the UK as the Arab countries had reduced their oil exports, which badly hit the economies of the western world.

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