It’s the little things, the greetings when you meet, the gestures as you leave. I have not mastered the cheek-kiss, and may never, but I have adopted the local “Hi-ya!!” upon greeting. Also, I think I know when to say “cheers” and when to say “ta” and with these three words I can pretend to be acclimated for the first and last milliseconds of every conversation.
I don’t think I’m picking up an accent, but some speech patterns are starting to stick. Like, instead of asking a question, you make a statement and then add “yeah?” at the end. Instead of: “Isn’t it a nice day?” say: “It’s a nice day, yeah?” Or instead of “Do you want to go to Blenheim Palace today?” say “We could go to Blenheim today, yeah?”
Go to hospital instead of go to the hospital is becoming natural, but mum instead of mom sounds strange when my kids say it. The kids have easily adopted calling desert pudding but I still think they are asking for actual pudding all the time. School dresses are tunics, school sweaters are jumpers, underwear is pants, pants are trousers, sneakers are trainers, the PE uniform is a kit, and an early evening meal is called tea. There are no round-trips, there are returns. There are no vacations, there are holidays. You don’t meet up at 3:30 in the afternoon, you meet up at 15:30. Or at half-three. Instead of using fifteens and forty-fives and thirties, everything happens at quarter-past, quarter-to, half-past. You don’t call AAA you call AA, which is not anything like Alcoholics Anonymous. People go unabashedly to the toilets — there are no “rest rooms”, and “bathrooms” are for bathing. A boot sale is when you sell stuff out the back (not out of the back) of your car trunk. An estate is not a peaceful place in the country, but government subsidized housing. Houses have wardrobes, not closets. Your living room is a lounge. We live in a posh area, and if you like something scrummy you think it is delicious. Something luxurious might be lush. And let’s not talk about fannies.
If someone disagrees with you but acknowledges your point of view, they might say “fair enough”. If you ask someone a question they don’t want to answer, they might say “I’m sure I couldn’t say.” Things that are “nice” are not really. Things that are “precious” are not highly valued, they are easily breakable. And if you think this post is “quite” interesting you mean … not very.
A phrase I enjoy is can’t be bothered. It seems to sum up more than one sentiment: don’t care, doesn’t worry me one way or the other, I’m too lazy to think about it, it may be annoying but not enough to make me do anything about it. Chuffed is fun, too, as it seems to mean either very happy or not happy at all, depending on context. Sod off is probably obvious, and the kids are worried about getting told off at school for various infractions. Rubbish is a bit like the opposite of fabulous or brilliant. If you are going to do something you might say “I will do” like: “You are going to Blenheim tomorrow, yeah?” “Yeah, I will do.” Or “I could do” or “I would do”. Many things are done or as one does, meaning not the fact of having completed something, but the act of doing it in the expected way.
What astonishes me is the British tendency to abbreviate words. Good friends are besties, presents are pressies a box of chocolates are choccies. Apparently it is so tiring to say “fam-i-ly” you might say “fam” instead. Everything is shortened, as if one might run out of breath or consonants.
Of course there are some great books about the divide between American and British English. I’m glad to have recently found the blog separated by a common language, although even having handy abbreviations like AmE and BrE doesn’t make me feel like I know what I’m doing (or saying). Even though I’m making progress, most of the time I think no one can understand me at all, and I need a guide along to understand not just the words I hear but the meanings behind them.
Photos today from the hedge maze at Blemheim Palace, where I wander, lost, trying to understand the words I’m hearing and trying to say …