Sunday, February 15, 2009

Learning the English Lingo

My mom never let us say "pop" when we were little. It was always "soda" or "coke." I suppose it was an effort to retain our Maryland roots in the midst of nasal-y Midwesterners saying "paaaap." Nonetheless, "soda" has stuck.

That was the only small regional language difference I learned. Other U.S. lingo can be easily picked up: east coasters sometimes say "wicked," or "shady, " and, according to my Californian roommate, "stoked," and "hella" are popular Cali terms. I may not live there, but I can figure out what these mean.

In Britain, it's a whole different ballpark. Phrases and common courtesies are completely lost on me. Here's my William Safire list of British say-isms that still boggle me.

1. "You all right?" or "You ok?" I jumped when the cashier at Parkwood Essentials asked this as he scanned my two gallons of Strongbow. "Ah, yeah, I'm fine?" I nervously glanced down to see if my pinky was bleeding or a pad was stuck to my shoe. Nope. Later my English friend Sam asked me this on the phone. I mumbled "Oh, yeah, uh," Just how do you answer "You all right?" I usually blush and quiver, worried that my face reads "My life is not ok right now. Please ask immediately." Apparently, it's the American equivalent of saying, "Whatsup," or "How are you." So now I answer, "I am all right. Are you all right?"

2. "Cheers." I love this one. My roommate and I have taken to saying it after any remark, like, "I have to go to the bathroom. Cheers." I still don't know how to correctly use it, for English people say it constantly. After you put your food in your own grocery bags at Tesco (ridiculous), or a server takes your plate away or you thank someone for directions, you hear "Cheers!"  I think it's like, "cya," "have a nice day," and "your welcome" combined. But I could be off the mark. In any event, it's great to say when clinking glasses or talking about how your cat just died.

3. "Manpoints."  Our English guy friends told us about this one. They said it's the universal guy code of giving points for doing "manly" things. I said, "Like hunting?" They said "Noo!" . Their example is if you run through a club naked and smack a girl's bum, you get one Manpoint. Or if you sleep with a girl and then do a backflip into the pool naked and the girl steals your knickers, maybe five (That's considered a lot). 

They constantly debate how many points to delegate. Not to be left out, my roommates and I have created "Geez points" (English people sometimes answer the phone, "Whatup Geezer!" and so developed Geez). I have 3/4 of a point for trying to do a dice move dance-off in a club, as does a friend who asked random boys in a bar to be our tour guides for the night (they declined). I don't know if we'll graduate to the "run through a club naked" points yet. Maybe we'll just settle for hunting.

4. "Wankers." This is a bad word, and not to be thrown around lightly. I didn't know that. My roommates and I were eating at a Japanese restaurant called Wagamama's, asking our waiter what Wagamama's meant. I playfully said, "Wanker?" He got quiet for a second and then said, "Woah! I wouldn't say that! Don't hear that from a girl." Yeah, maybe just don't say it. Just think of the word, and corresponding motion. Got it?

5. "Toilets" and "Pushchair." The British are so practical with their vocab. Where are you going? To the toilets (although I don't like to say this. I feel like it gives a vivid picture of what you're about to do. I stick with "restroom" or "loo"). What is a stroller exactly? Well, it's a chair you can push. Pushchair. Bam. It just makes sense. 

6. "Well, hello sailor!" I was walking through Whitstable yesterday, a quintessential English seaport town with pebbles on the beach, fish and chips shops at every turn and pubs galore, when a man stopped me. He said, "You've got something on the back of your leg." This felt like someone was saying "You all right?" again. I turned frantically, and then he said, "Well hello sailor!" I laughed and walked on. Still don't get it.

No comments: