The words coming out of my mouth …

2 Apr

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 …


15 Responses to “The words coming out of my mouth …”

  1. Lisa April 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    First off love Belmheim Palace! Second I say ‘I can’t be bothered’ all the time and I talk to my sister over the pond so much I have her saying it too! I have been here nearly 7 years and everyone is amazed I still sound American! Love this post! And you’re blog!

    • Monique April 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

      I’m kind of glad to hear you’ve kept your American accent. But do you ever find people can’t quite understand you? Funny that you’re spreading Britishisms by phone!

      • Lisa April 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

        When I was working with the public I found people struggled to understand me. Receipt was one of those words That no one understood when I said it. I asked my husband if I said it funny and he said no. But maybe not a fair assessment as he is used to my accent!

      • Monique April 7, 2012 at 8:50 am #

        I think sometimes it’s that I’m using words in ways people don’t expect to hear — like asking for a “roundtrip” ticket instead of a “return”. I can almost see the “does not compute” wheels spinning in my auditors brains.

  2. Zazzy April 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    As a natural mimic, I’m sure within a couple weeks I’d sound – like an American doing a British accent. Some of the phrasing I’ve picked up just from hanging with Brits online and my Aussie friends. Can’t be arsed to list them, tho. Beautiful pics of Belmheim!

    • Monique April 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      I’m terrified of sounding like fake-accent Madonna, but I can’t seem to help but pick up some common phrasing. But it’s fun to have that perfect word — arse is a good one. 🙂

  3. satnavandcider April 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Boy, did I just learn a lot (and fear my use of “quite” now ;)). Thanks for sharing!

    • Monique April 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      And of course … I may be completely confused. When you decipher any more alternate word meanings, don’t forget to share!

  4. satnavandcider April 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that I really liked your use of the maze pictures in this post. Very appropriate and beautiful, too.

  5. haitiruth April 2, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    I loved this post! I used to be bilingual (British/American) but it’s been so long since I lived in England that I wouldn’t be able to slip back into the phrasing easily, I’m sure. Every once in a while someone says I sound British, though. Like if I say I’m peckish.

    • Monique April 3, 2012 at 6:37 am #

      lol I admire your bilingual talent! I bet you’d pick it right back up.

  6. haitiruth April 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    I loved this post! I used to be bilingual (British/American), but it’s been so long since I’ve lived in England that I’m sure I’m not any more. Every once in a while people do still say I sound British, like when I say I’m peckish. 🙂

  7. Living Life as an Expat Parent April 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Sounds like you’ve picked up loads. I still find people can’t understand me at times. I tried to order a prawn baguette for a colleague today and the lady thought I said ham!?

    • Monique April 7, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      I can’t get past wanting to eat a prawn baguette–on purpose. lol


  1. Day out: Olympic Blenheim « Crumpets in Camelot - July 31, 2012

    […]  And: A wooden I, Robot?  I dunno, but it looks very cool.  And: Run through the playground and maze. With all the activities around, we were able to hang out on the lawn and watch plenty of Olympic […]

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