Now that I am working at a London-based firm, I have even more intensive daily exposure to just how different British English is from American English. Since we moved here in February, my brain is on constant guard to make sure I know what people are talking about. An even bigger concern now is to make sure I am understood. What if by accident I tell someone to use the ‘pound key’ on the phone, or that I ‘checked’ certain boxes on a form? There could be dire consequences.
Just a few that I am processing lately:
- keen on: very excited about something, or not…
- chat up lines = pick-up lines
- ginger = redhead
- fortnight: unit of time by two weeks, used CONSTANTLY
- hash key = pound key/sign
- tick = check mark
- remit, as a noun: ??I’m not even sure about this one
- sort: “Thanks for telling me where the office supplies are, now I’m sorted.”
- muck about: to spend time idly
- muck up: bungle or ruin
- “hospital pass” = expression meaning unwinnable case; annoying project dumped on someone
- “don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs” = expression meaning a caution against offering advice to someone wiser or more knowledgeable than one’s self. Or as my IT trainer said to us, in response to the fact that she wasn’t going to teach us computer basics, “It’s not as though I’m going to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.” I kept worrying I hadn’t heard her correctly.
And then this totally different way of talking about lawyers in firms. Instead of lawyer/attorney, it’s trainee, qualified, fee-earner. Everybody went to uni and when they leave a job, there’s a handover, and when they start they’re a new joiner. I think. And… I… well… maybe I should have paid closer attention to Ricky Gervais in the BBC’s The Office.
I feel annoyed that during the American Revolution, the colonists clearly decided to change words for no good reason.
Patriot to fellow American militiaman: I don’t like the look of that British soldier’s trousers. I think we should kill him by bayonet, and also change the word to pants.
It’s bad enough I am learning a new language. Then throw in learning a completely new job and my inability to discern accents, and I am a constant mess. I went to a work happy hour last night (someone’s leaving do) where I didn’t know a soul. I was patting myself on the back for being so outgoing and fearless. This girl asked me to guess her accent, and truthfully it sounded so nice and normal. So to not offend her at all, I said, “I am guessing you are from London originally.” Turns out she’s from New Zealand. And I don’t think she wants to be my new best friend. So I’m still looking.