The Brits

Spoiler alert: I am an Anglophile. My father was born and raised in England until he was seventeen — born in a suburb of Oxford and raised near Worcester. His family, going back generations, was British through and through. And his mother who married an English gentleman had roots going way back in Scotland. Ironically, her great-grandfather came to this country and fought against the British to assure American Independence from England.

I visited England twice, once on a Fellowship which allowed me to visit Oxford University and travel a bit and later I visited with a friend during which we traveled for a week in the Cotswolds — and visited Oxford once again. My friend is a former student and an attorney and while we were in Oxford we decided to visit as many Pubs as possible (doing sociological research, of course). We learned a great deal, as you can imagine. I don’t remember much.

I love England and most of the English people I have met. Moreover, my wife and I are addicted to British television shows, especially the mysteries in which detectives solve crimes with their brains rather than with their fists and guns. My favorites are such shows as: “Vera,” “Inspector Gently,” “Endeavour,” and “New Tricks.”  And I must add two brilliant British comedies: “Mum” and  “Detectorists.” Beautifully done.

But, let’s face it, some of the things the Brits say are a bit bewildering. They put in syllables where they don’t belong — as in aluminium. And they pronounce lieutenant “leftennant.” Of course, it might be said they invented the language and they can bloody well do with it as they choose. And speaking of “bloody” note how often this word gets a workout in British parlance — as in a “bloody big boat” sitting in the Thames. But there are other expressions that are equally endearing. I list a few here and would welcome additions from other anglophiles (or even British readers themselves).

For the British “Worcester” becomes “Wooster.”

The family of Beauchamp is referred to as “Beechum.”

“Telling porkies” means telling lies.

They “chat to” others while we “chat with” others.

Things are “different to” for the British while they are “different from” for us.

They speak of “maths” while we say “math” or, when we feel a bit full of ourselves, “mathematics.”

The British live in “flats” while we live in apartments.

They play football while we play soccer. (Their word makes much more sense since the game is played with the feet for the most part while our game requires that three hundred pound men run at one another as fast as possible and try to smash each other to pieces. Their game requires finesse, ours requires steroids).

They try to avoid “Yobs” while we try to avoid thugs and delinquents.

They line up in queues  (or queue up) while we wait in line.

Their “bobbies” are our policemen.

When they know someone has misspoken they shout “bollocks” while we shout “Bullshit” or “Horsepucky.” (Their word seems so much more refined!)

The Brits whinge while we just complain.

We think of an exceptional student as bright the Brits think of her as clever.

When the Brits want to know they ask “What’s that in aid of?” On the other hand, we ask: “What’s that for?”

In Great Britain when your car breaks down (from driving on the “wrong” side, perhaps) you open the boot and get the spanner after which you raise the bonnet to check out the engine. In this country we open the trunk, take out a wrench, and open the hood to check the engine.

And if it’s dark you will need your torch, which we call a flashlight.

Great fun! There are many more and any you can think of please pass along. (And if you would like to you may copy this and take it along with you on your next trip to Great Britain. No charge!)






18 thoughts on “The Brits

  1. Oh so much fun! Having gained a number of UK friends since starting my blog, I have learned many new words and phrases … some the hard way! For instance, we eat cookies while they eat biscuits, which are not to be confused with our biscuits which are similar to their scones. And if we are tired, they are knackered. And one of my friends is still puzzled that our hamburger contains no ham! The one I learned the hard way is never say you bonked your head … I’ll leave that one for you to figure out. And you just can’t beat their “chuffin’ heck” for an expression of surprise! I find myself these days saying ‘mum’ instead of ‘mom’, and calling people wazzocks instead of idiots! It’s almost like learning an entirely new language! Fun post, Hugh!

  2. As a Londoner, born and bred, I don’t speak English per se. My lingo of choice is, ‘Cockney’, a bewildering alphabet soup of rhyming slang, profanity, and indecipherable gooblydook. If pushed, I can even speak the wholly incomprehensible, Cockney backslang, used by the criminal fraternity in the taverns of yore to confound anyone trying to overhear their dastardly plans.
    Here’s a quick tip for my American cousins. Don’t call a limey, ‘a fag’ as they will think you are asking for a cigarette.
    Also, it’s ‘a lift’, not a bloody elevator!
    Why I outta…!

  3. one of the strangest phrases is when a parent is telling his child to hurry up, they will say, ” Come on Then”, in USA they say Come on NOW… why the Then referring to past tense?,

  4. Dr. Curtler.

    I enjoyed your recent post, as always.

    Both formal and vernacular English have been of interest to me for some time. I grew up speaking Rural Southwest Minnesota Construction Worker and had to learn Standard English (American) in college. I could produce grammatical sentences with correctly-spelled words, but meaningful sentences well-embedded in logical arguments — not so much. Still working on those.

    I was fortunate to have good teachers who transmitted their higher expectations to me. As a result, I have been fascinated by “language codes” and vernaculars ever since.Reading a lot also promoted this awareness.

    It seems to me that once you’ve encountered Chaucer and Shakespeare, the English languages (British or American) become a lot more fun. Poetry is a big help, too, as is watching BBC.

    Fun post. Thanks. I am chuffed.

    Respects and regards,
    Jerry Stark

  5. Hugh, you are a clever chap. I think Mary recommended Vera to us. We love it now. We are also big on Endeavour.

    I don’t think I knew (or remembered) your father was British. Maybe that is an impetus to read great literature.

    Cheers, Keith

  6. Arriving quite tardy for class, I might face detention or might have to write an essay about the merits of controlling one’s temper, but arriving late has its rewards! It’s always nice to read the comments which often add much color to the final credits!

  7. There’s lots more, a most annoying one are parents telling their children to, “ Come on Then”, instead of what Americans say.. Come on Now!, why use the past tense?, and also annoying , they say on the weather, it’s Hotting Up, instead of Heating up

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