Sunday, November 1, 2009

Autumn comes to my little street

The Queen's English

I am a lover of words, and language, and I believe that the language of a people says a great deal about who they are and what is important to them. Since I have been in the UK, I have come to appreciate many of their sayings, and to recognize them as a reflection of their culture. And others are just funny and entertaining!
Here are just a few:

Are you all right?: When I first came here, I thought my body language or facial expressions must be signalling that there was something wrong with me, because people were constantly asking me if I was all right. But I have come to know that the English use this as a more honest greeting than our American “how are you?” They don’t really want to hear a long tale about what is going on with you, they just want to make sure you are all right.

Well done: I overhear English parents say this to their children. It is used as we use “good boy,” or “good girl.” I like it because it praises the act of the child instead of tying the act to their essential goodness. It feels less conditional, and more real.

Unwell: The English use this to describe people who are sick or even mentally ill. It just seems less harsh than ‘sick,’ or ‘ill,’ and implies a temporary condition that is fluid, and subject to change.

No worries: This is often heard as a phrase instead of ‘no problem,’ or ‘not an issue.’ It feels like a kind of commentary on how they handle things in general—that there are no worries worth causing a problem in relationships, or worth troubling ourselves.

Leave it to me: This phrase is used when someone agrees to take responsibility for getting something done. Although it is used sometimes by people in the service industry and I don’t often trust that the person is really going to follow through! Sometimes it just feels like a way to get me to stop perseverating about the problem on the phone!

At the end of the day: I love this phrase because it reflects the idea that, in the scheme of things, whatever it is that seems so big and important really doesn’t matter, much. I hear this used a great deal in my work environment. It helps us to keep things in perspective.

Cheers!: This greeting is usually used at the end of a conversation, in place of or before saying goodbye.

Isn’t it, or i'n it: This phrase is used at the end of a sentence or thought, as we would use ‘you know,’ or ‘know what I mean?’

I am sure there are others, which I will share in the future as I encounter them. For now, here are some other entertaining turns of words and phrases that I have had to learn in order to adapt to the life here!

Pants: trousers
Sweaters: jumpers
Stove: hob, or cooker
Restroom: toilet, or loo
Umbrella: brolley
Thrift store: charity shop

Trunk: boot—I went to a ‘boot fair’ recently, expecting rows of boots for sale, and found only people’s junk that they had brought to sell in their ‘boots’—what we would call a flea market or garage sale!

Fries: chips
Chips: crisps
Cookies: biscuits

Life continues to entertain and amuse me here, as I settle into my new world across the pond!