Friday, 15 February 2008
Αγγλικά για ξένους
The other day, Tracy revealed her "plan" to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the New World and to emigrate to England's Green and Pleasant Land. Having had a maths lesson the other day, I think we should try and learn some English today. British English. Like what the Queen speaks.
So here is my quick guide to British English:
Lesson 1: Making a Phone Call
This isn't difficult, but you must be very careful not to confuse the Telephone with the Television (see Lesson 2).
To make a telephone call, you can get on the blower. It is also known as the "dog and bone" (see Lesson 3).
Important Tip: On no account suggest that your interlocutor "have a nice day". Remember, that, even though you may feel safe, Britain is "slightly smaller than Oregon", and you will be hunted down.
Lesson 2: Entertainment
These days, most households in Britain have one or more televisions. These are referred to as "the box", "the goggle box", or "the telly". The latter is never used to refer to a telephone (see Lesson 1).
Americans will find the lack of channels somewhat confusing, as there are only 5 channels, and not all of the country can recieve the fifth one. In some places (Wales), one of the other four is in Welsh.
Important Tip: Avoid Wales.
You may also find the content offensive. After 9pm ("the watershed"), programmes may contain nudity, swearing and violence. If you're lucky. Otherwise, it's the same old tripe you're used to at home.
Lesson 3: Rhyming Slang
This originated with Cockneys. The idea is that you take a phrase, for example, "Butcher's Hook", where the last word rhymes with the word that you mean ("look"), and then you use the first word, i.e. the one that doesn't rhyme. So, we say "take a butcher's" to mean "have a look".
In this system, Americans can be referred to as "Septics" (Septic tank = Yank), a woman's, er, assets as "Bristols" (Bristol City), and the term "Berk" is used as a mild or playful "insult", despite the fact that it's short for "Berkshire Hunt". "Cobbler's", which means "nonsense", apparently comes from "Cobbler's awls" = "balls" ("bollocks" means the same as "cobbler's").
Lesson 4: Regional Variations
There are a lot of these. Unfortunately, I don't know most of them. Common Yorkshire-isms include "owt" (anything), "nowt" (nothing, so "You don't get owt for nowt"), "tha" (you).
Verb usage is often different in regional use, so "I tried to learn 'im 'ow to talk proper, but 'e weren't 'aving none of it".
Lesson 5: Americans Abroad
Americanisms have been around as long as American English, and most people wouldn't realise that they're using them. It is now standard to spell words like "connection", instead of "connexion", people increasingly "meet with" others.
However, we still write "colour", "programme" (though not for a computer program), "tyre" (this is only on a vehicle).
Road terms is a whole subject in itself. However, remember to drive on the left, and to slow down at an amber traffic light - they change a lot quicker than in the US.
In light of 9/11, US authorities recommended that Americans keep a low profile when overseas. For example don't wear your baseball cap the wrong way round, and don't be loud.
I hope this gives you a flavour of our language. You shouldn't have too much problem communicating, as most Brits have watched enough Quentin Tarantino films to be able to understand US English...