I’ve worked with several Americans over the years. One of the best things about that is the language differences. It’s there for all to see on these blog postings. People like to try and use phrases they think will resonate with those on the other side of the pond, right?
There – I just did it! Saying ‘right?’ at the end of a sentence is a classic Americanism. It’s a kind of passive-aggressive way of saying ‘challenge me or tell me I’m wrong’. But if you have an English accent it just sounds weird! Believe me I’ve tried.
For the Brit’s part we come out with some dreadful stuff. A mate of mine (there’s a good British phrase) went to live in California many years ago and was taken out to dinner by his new work team. After eating, drinking and making merry he stood up and announced in a loud British accent ‘Right, I’m off outside for a fag’. The restaurant stopped dead; 70 pairs of eyes fixed on him. He found out why pretty quick.
So if you ever visit Britain you might find this book handy:
Written by an LA-based Scotsman, this book presents the most common British phrases and translates them into American English (well kind of). Here are a few to whet your appetite:
- Don’t mention that your fanny hurts – we don’t talk about fannies in the same way
- Sound as a pound – meaning something is really stable and in good shape (refers back to the days when the British Pound was more reliable and sturdy than the American Dollar (oh for those glory days)
- Maths – In Britain there is no such thing as ‘Math’. We don’t do mathematic. We do mathematics!
- Codswallop – rubbish
- Fillet Steak – If you ask for this juicy morsel in Britain pronounce the ‘t’ otherwise the waiter will think you are ‘taking the mickey’ (you can work that one out yourself)
- A good innings – As in ‘He had a good innings’ meaning he led a long productive life. ‘Innings’ comes from cricket – you know, like rounders (Sorry I mean baseball) but it lasts 5 days!
Should you find yourself in the East End of London (which you will do if you come over for the Olympics next year) you might meet some of these:
They’re a Pearly King and Queen’ and they speak ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang’. God only knows why. A few choice gems:
- ‘Butchers’ = Look. As in ‘I’m going to take a butchers at that’. Butchers Hook – Look!
- ‘I’m Lee Marvin’ = Starvin(g).
- Porkies = Lies. As in ‘You’ve been telling porkies again haven’t you? Pork pies – Lies!
Enough of this. I wonder if they do a reverse book – weird American phrases the British don’t get – eg what’s with ‘Close, but no cigar’?
Or ‘Going Postal’?