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  • Writer's pictureNancy, Hostess of Cup & Crown

What's That When It's at Home?

Now why can't I say that?


The other morning my husband complained that a loud boom had awakened him before his alarm was set to go off. "Yes, I heard it, too... it was a lorry of some kind," I responded. If he wasn't already fully awake, my answer certainly did the trick. "A what?"


I explained that a lorry is what the English call a truck. The room was still dark but I'm certain beyond a doubt he rolled his eyes at me. That's what he usually does when I use British words like "arse". Or like the time he asked when I'd have free time to assist with a task and I responded, "Free time? What's that when it's at home?" I know he loves me, but sometimes he thinks I'm right barmy.


Did I lose you now, too?


Barmy is British slang for crazy.


I watch a lot of British television. I mean a LOT. So much so that my son once quoted me to his elementary teacher, telling her, "My mommy says the voice in her head has a British accent." Wow. She must have thought I was barmy, too.


There are lots of words and quips that the British use that I want to slip into conversations (and sometimes do)... things like, "I'm skint so I need to get to an ATM"; or "I'm feeling knackered so I'm heading up for a kip"; or "I'm off to have a cuppa and a good chin wag with my mates...toodle pip!"


I mentioned in a previous blog that drinking tea makes me feel connected to my British roots. So does employing British colloquialisms on occasion. Only drinking tea doesn't render the dodgy looks I get. (Dodgy... slang for questionable.)


Like if it's pouring rain when it's time to leave the house, wouldn't it be fun to say, "It's monkeys outside! Grab your brolly!" Or I could say of my history-buff son, "When it comes to WWI, he really knows his onions!" Or when asked, "How's it goin'?" to respond cheerfully, "Tickety-boo! And yourself?"


I once pronounced scone as most British do - "skahn" and rhymes with "gone" - and was told, "Only posh people pronounce it that way." I think it was meant to make me feel a little snobbish, but it didn't work. "I'm no toff," I told her. "Actually, I'm chuffed you'd call me posh!" (Translation: I'm not wealthy and I'm actually pleased you might think me classy and elegant!") I got that dodgy look again.


My husband speaks fluent Spanish and so I speak a little myself. No one questions me when I use it occasionally. Sometimes I say "Danke Schoen" instead of thank you. Once in a blue I say "Moi" for me. Even my daughter uses the word "holiday" instead of vacation after watching every episode of Peppa Pig, and we all think it's cute. So why does my speaking British now and then cause others give me the squinty eye? Whenever someone uses a word I don't understand, I just ask them what it means. Knowing another language is a good thing, right? Knowledge is power!


Our own every-day language is filled with the same tired phrases, responses, and descriptions. I think it's high-time we enliven our speech with words tried-and-true elsewhere. I challenge you to learn a few phrases of Brit Speak and then give it a welly. You'll knock 'em for six!


Try these British words and phrases at your next tea party:

Daft: Dumb, foolish

Cheesed off: annoyed, displeased

Give us a bell: Call me on the phone

Snog: Kiss or make-out

Budge-Up: Move over

Codswallop: Nonsense

Spikey: easily annoyed, sensitive

Chockablock: Full

Prat: Stupid person

Bagsy: To call "bagsy" is to call shotgun or claim something for yourself

Chips: French fries

Crisps: Potato chips

Scrummy: Scrumptious, delicious

Squiffy: Tipsy, almost drunk

Donkey's years: A long period of time

Cockahoop: Triumphantly pleased

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