Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why yes, I am speaking English

I’ve lived in the UK for so many years now that, as strange as this sounds, I sometimes forget I have an American accent. Quite often someone will ask me where I’m from and when I reply with the name of our village here they give me a funny look that tells me something didn’t compute and then they say, ‘Yes, but where are you from originally?’ Oh yeah, I’m from America. Now, let me just state for the record… I love America with all my heart. When you are in a country far from home and you hear your National Anthem played the tears come and you feel such a combination of love and pride and homesickness you don’t know what to do. There is nothing like living in a foreign country to give you a new found appreciation for all that is wonderful about your own home country. Let me also say for the record…I love England too. Because there is nothing like living in a foreign country to give you an appreciation for all that is wonderful all around this whole great big wide world.

Along with my American accent comes an American vocabulary which you might be thinking isn’t all that different from a British vocabulary but you might also find you are seriously mistaken. Shortly after we moved here I stopped by our local train station to pick up a ‘schedule’ of trains running into London (and no, I did not say shedjul in that posh English accent that I love). There weren’t any available on the display rack so I asked the man behind the counter if he had any more schedules behind the desk. And his reply was this, ‘No, we don’t have any schedules.’ (and he might have said it shedjul) Now in my American brain I think that means they ran out but then he says, ‘Do you mean a timetable because we do have timetables.’ Big sigh here because sometimes communicating is exhausting and I know we speak the same language but y’all we quite often (as in every single day of my life) don’t speak the same language.

Entire books have been written on this very topic and we personally own three different versions of British-American Dictionaries. Did you even know such a thing existed because I certainly hadn’t thought much about it before moving here? When we were told we were moving to the UK I’m pretty sure that the language was one of the things that went into my ‘pro’ column…you know, at least we speak the same language. However, upon our arrival I was completely gobsmacked to find that wasn’t the case. Actually it’s a stretch using the word gobsmacked in that sentence but it is maybe my favourite word in the entire universe and I’ll probably use it again now that I’ve put it out there. It’s a combination of gob (mouth), and smacked. It means utterly astonished and it’s much stronger than just being surprised. It’s used when something leaves you speechless.

‘A dog’s breakfast’ would also be near the top of my favourite expressions here. This is a term used to describe a real mess, a hodge podge of things as we might say in America, although my girls tell me no one says hodge podge except me. Nor does anyone use the word ‘hip’ but I digress. My hubs might say that my kitchen junk drawer is ‘a real dog’s breakfast’. This is not to be confused with a dog’s dinner which has an altogether different meaning. And that meaning has nothing to do with dog food either.

Words are tres fun here. I think for the next little while I am going to devote my Wednesday posts to British-English and I think I’ll call it Words on Wednesday -British English Words from A to Zed. Because ‘z’ is always zed here And ‘zero’ is always nought here. And an eggplant is always an aubergine and undies are always knickers and a bandaid is always a plaster and boy does this post have a whole lotta potential!

I’m going to sign off now because my brain is swimming just thinking about all the possibilities. As my friends here would say...I’m shattered. (That would be absolutely and completely exhausted in case you’re wondering).


  1. Hehehe, I can relate to pretty much every post you write about living here!

    I'll look forward to your Wed. Words. When we had our first child here 4 years ago, I was shocked when someone asked if they "could nurse my baby" EXCUSE ME? :)

  2. This post was so much fun to read!! Who would have thought there was such a difference between our languages. Oh and BTW, I use "hodge podge" all the time. :~)

  3. Just can't wait to hear more about this!

  4. So fun! The difference b/w Southern American and all other American is almost as vast as that b/w British and American English...maybe I'll have a fun post on that topic soon! Thanks for the laughs.

  5. This is going to be so much fun! I am looking forward to it.

  6. Love it. Make sure to tackle more food words. My faves: rocket and courgettes.

    Also, Did we know each other when I wrote this? It's my favorite never-to-be-repeated British English faux pas.

  7. I loved this. Years ago, Candid Camera did a stunt where they had a British woman asking for help in a mall parking lot because she left her brelly in the boot. It was a hoot, as people were commenting how they don't speak British.
    Oh, and I got here by following Steph.

  8. Hi, Joyce,
    I just discovered your blog through (I think) the Beth Moore blog, and have enjoyed reading it - I, too am thinking of starting a new blog and the only thing which has stopped me so far is that I can't think of a clever name for it!
    My daughter is a sophomore at a university not far from Greenville, and though she went through Quest and was asked to be a Younglife leader, she chose to lead a small group for FCA instead. Most of her dearest friends are YL leaders, though. I'm so thankful that her secular university has such a huge Christian community! I'm wondering if our girls are at the same school, and if in fact they know each other.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing your insights, photos and recipes here. I've enjoyed it!
    WendyB in coastal SC

  9. How fun! I can't wait to read this each Wednesday.

  10. This is so much fun to read about. I look forward to more posts. I just read a few posts back about the driving there and the one lane roads. Too scary!

  11. Well after being on the go for the past three weeks here my house is a bit of a Dog's breakfast! I hadn't any idea how many difference there were in our vocabulary over there, I just assumed it was the accent. I like reading your journals over here. How long are you guys living there? I lived in Sweden for four months and couldn't understand a word they were saying! I'd of really been better off in England. =o)

    I love your idea of the cake in the mug as a gift!

  12. Hello...... I came over here from Val's blog.. I lived in England for three years in Newmarket....... I love love loved it and would live in England if I could...... where are you living? We were Air Force but I was married to an English man and he was from Newmarket, so we lived downtown and not on the base..... What a JOY...... I can still taste the Fish and Chips....... I will come back here often and read.....

  13. I think I'm going to enjoy your Wednesday posts. We are contemplating a trip to London (found a group going at a great price) in late October/early November. What kind of weather can we expect?

    Thanks for visiting my blog.