The Queen’s English

It has been a quiet couple of weeks since the start of the new year. The I’m happy to report that the snow finally melted and I could take the car out again. The grass was still green under all that snow! I don’t have any pretty photos this time, but here is one from last week when it was snowing. It is taken from a pedestrian bridge near our house, looking out over the main rail line to London. It’s a nice place to walk the Boyz, as there are farm fields on either side.

I decided it would be fun to write about English vs. English today. Even in the US we know that the Brits often say “telly” instead of TV, “lorry” instead of “truck”, “boot” instead of “trunk” (of the car), motorway (or the more unwieldy “dual carriageway”) instead of highway or freeway. Car park instead of parking lot. But I’ve learned that there are even more differences in the names for things over here than I expected. Here is a random list!

The car we are leasing is a station wagon. In the Queen’s English (henceforth to be called “QE”) you call it an “estate”. If you had a 4-door sedan-type car, they call that a “saloon”.

If you want your hair cut with bangs, in QE you’d ask for “fringe”.

We line up for things, the Brits queue up.

We put our trash in trash cans or garbage cans; they put out their rubbish in wheelie bins. (You don’t throw something away, you bin it.)

Instead of thanking you, or if you say something like “excuse me”, they will say “cheers”. Sort of a replacement for “no problem” or “don’t mention it”.

In the London Tube (subway), instead of getting off the train, you “alight”.

We walk on the sidewalk, they walk on the “pavement”.

We yield, they “give way”. We exit, they often are directed to the “way out”.

We buy ground beef, they buy “mince”. But mince pies at Christmas are not generally made of meat, they are sweet fruit-filled desserts. And of course dessert here is usually called “pudding”. I don’t know what they call the dessert WE call pudding!

We go into the hospital, in QE you go IN hospital. Or TO hospital. (No “the”.) I can’t figure that one out. Because they don’t also say, “I’m going in library, to store, in park…”

We go to the movie theater, they go to the cinema. Theatres in the UK are for live stage performances. And they have more theatres per capita than any westernized country, or some statistic like that. They have a network of theatres all over the country—in most medium sized towns or larger—so they keep a lot of stage actors in work. That’s a fine thing I think!

There is a whole vocabulary of slang words all their own, mostly derogatory words used to describe people. Including: oik, chav, yob, asbo, toff… there seem to be lot of slang names for people depending on what part of the country they’re from or even what social class.

“Punter” is a word I hear used a lot, but I haven’t quite nailed down the literal meaning, it’s a bit fluid. It seems to refer to fans of something, or something attended or queued up for by many people, or something very popular, or maybe used to describe an “everyman”.

“Faffing about.” My current favorite expression. Used in context: “She stood at the shop’s till faffing about in her purse, holding up the queue.” (They say “till” instead of cash register or checkout stand.)

In the US we have a resumé when looking for a job, over here they have a “CV”. And when you are fired, you are “redundant”.

Pronunciation can be tricky. You’d think being all English speakers, we’d pronounce things the same, but not always. Especially when it comes to place-names. For example, we live in the county of Berkshire. They pronounce it BARKsher. (Or Baaaaahhksha, depending on your accent.) Southwark is an area of London on the south side of the Thames River, and it is pronounced SUTH-ick. I love the way some people pronounce the Tube (London subway). They say: Tschewwb. Paul says that at work he’s had to get used to answering to his name pronounced as “Pole” or “Pool”. But he’s not started saying it that way himself. I think I’d sound foolish trying to fully adopt any sort of British accent here, but honestly it makes things simpler if I pronounce the place-names like they do. And use their words for things. Otherwise they often don’t know what I’m talking about!

News in General
I’m happy to report that Paul is coming back to the UK this week, after 8 weeks in upstate NY. His father is doing really well and he finally got to the point where it was time to see how he does on his own. At 95 years old, he’s an amazing man.

Next Tuesday I’m going to be attending the London Toy Fair, as the guest of the company who is the UK distributor for Breyer Animal Creations, Treasure Trove Toys. I’m going to be at their trade show booth, helping promote the Breyer line to toy buyers in the UK. I’ll be participating specifically in “Meet the Inventors Day” on their Press Day. They carry quite a few other toy lines like Brio. I sort of qualify as an “inventor” because I sculpted one Breyer model (so far..!). Fortunately my model is out in a new color for 2010, so I will have something current to talk about. (I’ll get to see one of those for the first time at the show.) Plus I am bringing along the in-progress “Roundabout” cob sculpture as a demo. Should be a very interesting day, I’ll bring the camera!

I forgot to mention in the last post, that I’ve removed commenting from my blog. I decided I’d rather not risk any spam or unpleasant stuff showing up there. I also had to take down the list of followers after a porn site joined, which showed up right on my page. Blech. Why is there so much ugliness in the world? I want to remind you that if you are receiving my blog posts as an email, you can reply to that email and it will be sent directly to me privately, not as any sort of public comment or anything. I like hearing from people who follow the blog, so please do write.

Oh, and I am posting news “bites” fairly regularly on my Facebook page. You’ll see them if you are a FB user and become a “fan” of my page. I’ve been sharing in-progress photos of two customized china horses I’m working on this winter, and the two sculptures (Clarity and Roundabout).