“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”
-George Bernard Shaw
One of the most reassuring facts about our international move was that we were headed to a country where they speak English. However, we have quickly learned that there are major differences between the English and American languages (and even more between English and Texan). And the problem gets even worse when you consider the British accent, the speed of their conversation (way faster than Simon Cowell), and their slang. I must say that when you think about their slang terms, most are intuitive. However, they are strange at first and take some getting used to. Here are a couple of our favorites (with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for your reading pleasure):
Brilliant: Used in the same way as ‘great,’ and not necessarily limited to someone’s intellect. The same as ‘lovely’ but my insider British sources tell me that ‘lovely’ is the trendy term and ‘brilliant’ is somewhat outdated (but made more poplar by the Guinness beer commercials).
Cheers: Not necessarily limited to the name of the greatest 80's sitcom, but instead used as a general expression to say ‘thanks.’ Also, used to toast before having your first sip of a drink.
Dodgy: The equivalent of our ‘shady.’ If someone or something is a bit ‘dodgy,’ it is not to be trusted.
Example: A few of the Indian food restaurants near our house look a bit dodgy.
Fancy: Used more broadly in England than just the name of Leah’s favorite Reba McEntire song. If you ‘fancy’ something, then you desire it.
Flat: The exact same thing as an ‘apartment,’ but about twice as expensive and half as big.
Lovely: An expression used to describe just about anything as being somewhat nice. The British standard for something being classified as ‘lovely’ is much lower than the U.S.
Example: The weather in Oxford is lovely.
Peckish: This is a great one. It means you are hungry and need to nibble at something.
Example: Leah and I would be peckish more often if they had guacamole in England.
Pavement: The equivalent of our ‘sidewalk.’ I guess they did not know what to name it, so they called it what it was made out of.
Pop in: The equivalent of our ‘drop by,’ but it is not limited necessarily to short visits.
Example: To get a bank card, just pop in at the bank for the forty-seventh time and they might give it to you.
Right: The term means the same, but can be used with varying degrees of sarcasm. It can mean (a) I absolutely agree with you, (b) I am somewhat doubtful of what you just said, or (c) your last statement was the stupidest thing I have ever heard. The longer the word is drawn out, the more sarcastically it is being used.
Ring: You do not call people in England, you ‘ring’ them on the telephone.
Ring road: The equivalent of our ‘loop,’ although the road does not necessarily have to form a circle. I assume they are also made out of pavement.
Smart: When a Brit says someone is ‘smart,’ they are talking about the way they are dressed. Roughly the equivalent of our ‘sharp.’ If ZZ Top were British, their most popular hit would have been ‘Smart Dressed Man.’ However, ‘smart’ is also a defined style of dress. The invitation for my induction dinner stated that the dress was ‘smart causal.’
Whilst: The equivalent of our word for ‘while,’ just more uppity-sounding. I am definitely adding this one to my everyday vocabulary.
Example: I will try to improve my grammar whilst studying at Oxford.
X-Factor: The equivalent of American Idol, but (a) I do not think the public votes, (b) the contestants perform in the judges' homes, and (c) the plugs for AT&T are replaced by ‘TalkTalk’.
I will leave you with a very accurately labeled bag of bricks. For some reason, I find this hilarious: