I thought I grew up speaking English. Little did I know.
|IMG_0853, a photo by Lorenzo Sernicola on Flickr.|
The Words Are Shorter
Brits love to shorten words. There’s something so desperately lengthy about “biscuit,” “breakfast,” and “lavatory.” These words become “bickie,” “brekkie,” and “lav.” In general I think it’s pretty cute. After all, it’s only here that you can munch on a “choccy bickie” or open up your “brill prezzies” on Christmas Day. But shortening “Christmas” to “Crimbo”? That’s taking it a step too far.
Everyone’s Your Lover
As a receptionist it often falls to me to sign for the dozens of packages delivered to the school. You Americans can imagine my confusion when the first delivery guy ended the transaction with, “Cheers, love!” I thought it was a personal oddity at first, but then I realized that everyone does it. Now I get called “love” about four times a day on average by men whose names I don’t even know. It’s also common to be called “dear,” “sweetheart,”or in some parts of the country even “My lover.” Disconcerting? Yes. Ultimately endearing? Certainly.
In the States when I ask, “Are you all right?” it means I’m concerned about you. You probably just banged your head against a brick wall or got a homicidal glint in your eye. Over here it’s the usual greeting. All my English coworkers will say, “Are you all right?” first thing in the morning. Gradually I’ve overcome the urge to say, “Yes, I’m perfectly healthy, thank you,” and instead reply, “Fine, thanks. And you?”
Incidentally, for some Brits the traditional answer is, “All right,” or even, “All right?” as a question, so that neither person ever finds out if the other is actually all right or not.
Is That a Serious Question?
Speaking of questions that aren’t really questions, there’s the inexplicable, “What are ya like?” (which I believe is more common up here in the North than the South). This is usually said after you’ve done something stupid or silly. It may even be followed by a pertinent comparison as in, “What are ya like, ya silly sausage?” Of course it’s rather obvious what you’re like, as you’ve just proved it without a doubt.
Thanks, Thanks, and Thanks Again
Brits have a thing for saying “goodbye” repeatedly, in various forms. Before hanging up the phone one might hear, “OK. Thanks. Cheers. Bye.”
- “Cheers” is pretty well known in the States, though it’s not an enthusiastic “CHEERS!” like we might say, but more of a halfhearted “Cheers” tacked onto the end of a conversation. It can mean the person wishes you well, but sometimes it’s used as a substitute for “thank you,” or “you’re welcome,” or really just about anything.
- “Ta” is also used to express thanks. Because thank you is just too much of a mouthful.
- “Ta-ra” is for when you have to say thanks and goodbye but you’re really in a hurry. It’s “Thank you ever so much, now I must say farewell” wrapped up in two convenient syllables.
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