I’m learning to speak English (proper English) but more importantly I’m learning to understand it. There have been a few embarrassing moments (like when I asked a work mate what his brother’s medical speciality was upon learning he was an M.D. – turns out M.D. means Managing Director – I think he’s a real estate developer) but more often I just vaguely understand what is being said. So I am often dependent upon context clues but I’m learning some new words and old words with new meanings (to me anyway).
Here are a few examples:
Shortly after arriving here I was driving to work and listening to the radio. The traffic report warned of a bonnet on the Motorway and that traffic was being diverted to avoid it. I wondered aloud, “Who still wears bonnets?” “Maybe there’s an Amish community nearby?” “And why can’t cars just drive over it?” Of course now I know that a ‘bonnet’ is the hood of a car. Also the ‘boot’ is the trunk. Too bad – because “junk in your boot” just isn’t as poetic!
‘Cheers’ is not just a toast but means ‘thanks’ or ‘good day’. Sort of an all-purpose greeting. Like ciao or aloha.
‘Fancy’ means ‘I would like’ something. As in, “I fancy a cup of tea and a scone!” Whereas something fancy is ‘posh’. As in, “My favourite Spice Girl is Posh Spice!” Besides, Fancy Spice sounds stupid. ‘Posh Spice’ just sounds a little dated and very 1990’s now that Posh is married to Beckham and they have little Spices and Becks.
‘Mad’ means ‘crazy’. No explanation required unless you’re mad.
‘Brilliant’ – everything and everyone is ‘brilliant’ or wants to be.
‘Keen’ means ‘I love it/I like it/I want it/I covet it’. As in, “I’m keen on Adele’s latest Album.” “Or I’m keen to see Season 3 of Downton Abbey.”
You should never wear a ‘fanny pack’ here in the UK or refer to one – ‘fanny’ means ‘vagina’ and this could be very embarrassing for all involved.
‘Knackered’ means ‘worn out’ or ‘tired’ but getting ‘kicked in the knackers’ means something else entirely.
A ‘bap’ in a bakery is a roll but don’t ask the woman behind the bakery counter if you can see her ‘baps’, that will likely get you a ‘kick in the knackers’!
A ‘bloke’ is a guy. A ‘bird’ is a young woman. A ‘duffer’ is not a golfer but a ‘geezer’. An old lady might be called a ‘twirly’ because they show up at the Post Office at half past eight and exclaim, “Am I too early???” (pronounced twirly)
Of course I’ve learned much of my new English from my work mates but the bulk of it is from watching English television. Probably not the best way to learn the language but at times it is very entertaining. My favourite adverts (they’re not called commercials here) are Aldi or Dulux. They’re brilliant!
I must admit that the accents and regional dialects can be a real challenge. And it’s complicated further by the Welsh, Irish and Scottish folks that we encounter. Just about the time we think we have a handle on the language we encounter a shop clerk or neighbour that we can’t understand. Of course they probably just think that Deb is a ‘twirly’ and that I’m a ‘duffer’.