Learn any new languages lately?
To my flabbergastation, that’s what it felt like we were doing when we toured the UK – learning a new language: English. British English, that is. Considerably different than American English, let me tell you.
Here’s a small sample from my growing colloquial collection. Say, how’s about we don froo-froo hats and practice our jolly good accents over a luvly spot o’ tea? One lump or two? Would you fancy a biscuit with that?
“Biscuit”: If you’re expecting the flaky white doughy thing you use to sop up gravy or pot liquor, you’ll be out of luck. Across the big pond, biscuit means cookie, usually of the shortbread variety.
“Give way”: yield. Go figure. Two words for the price of one on all those triangular traffic signs. We win.
“Absolutely maaah-va-lous”: Our tour guide, Dan, was a tall, snowy-haired chap with an ale paunch, cheerful demeanor and quick wit. This was the euphemism with which he described every single excursion, hoping to entice us to fork out the pounds (bucks) and join him; occasionally accompanied by “simply smashing” or “quite luvly.”
“What was”: My favorite colloquialism. While regaling us with stories of old, dapper Dan often tacked on this quaint phrase to indicate long-past tense, as in, “Mary, Queen of Scots, had her head lopped off by her least favorite cousin, what was.” Being a bit of a story embellisher myself (I see that eyebrow lift!), I loved it when, after a long, dramatically astounding historical tale, Dan would add, “I don’t know if that’s all true, but it might be.”
“If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute”: Equally used in England, Wales, and Scotland, this popular “saw” proved true on more than one occasion. You’d barely get your umbrella up in response to a sudden downpour up before the sun would break out or a freak gale would rip the darn thing right out of your hands.
“Yank”: Not Yankee in the sense we would use it. Neither the baseball team nor the Civil War affiliation. As a dyed-in-the-cottonfields Southern belle, I was taken aback the first time I was referred to by this slang phrase. Come to find out, they simply mean American (as opposed to English).
“You’re barking mad”: same as being absolutely gobsmacked. As in “You’re barking mad if you think I’m going to give you my last bite of strawberries with clotted cream!”
“How very dare you?”: Spoken with great aplomb, tongue securely in cheek . Synonymous with, “Ya gotta be kidding me!” or “Get outta here!”
“Tally ho!”: Dan often roused our bleary-eyed tour bus troops with this familiar fox hunting rally call. Felt downright Downton Abbeyish. I just might adopt this battle cry when herding the grands to the bathtub.
“Tikety-boo”: Peachy-keen. Cool beans. I love just rolling this absolutely maaah-va-lous phrase off my tongue. Do try it. Make your consonants Mary Poppins crisp. Gives the tongue a smashing workout. I can just picture Mr. Bean spouting such as this, can’t you? Tickety-boo. Tickety-boo. Tickety-boo!
Stay tuned next week for details about another great giveaway!
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