Tag Archives: British words

26 Things You’ll Want to Know Before Moving to England

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So you’ve decided to move to England and feel completely overwhelmed by the endeavor. Where does one even begin? Well, aside from packing up your flat, I will help you make this transition as smoothly as possible with these top tips.

This topic actually came about over coffee with my friend Tara. We were talking about ideas for another British book I’m writing and she mentioned moving to England. She knew it would be an enormous undertaking moving from the US to the UK but would love a book to guide her. Consider this your mini guide, my dear friend.

Before You Leave and After You Arrive

I know there is a ton of stuff to get done before you even think about leaving your country for England. Here are some necessities to tackle before you leave and after you arrive.

  1. Immunizations – there are routine immunizations required before moving to England, usually 4 to 6 weeks prior to your arrival. Your jabs depend on which country you come from so check with the CDC for details.
  2. Passport – make sure you have an update one and that it doesn’t expire for at least 90 days after you return to your home country. Remember to keep your passport current while you’re living in the UK.
  3. Work Visa – this is required for most countries right off the bat. Even US citizens, who can stay up to 6 months without one, would be required to get a work visa if you plan to move to England and secure employment.
  4. Banking –Once you arrived, make sure to bring your passport and work visa with you to your bank of choice. Standard bank fees and monetary exchange rates will apply. Check with the British Banking Association for details.
  5. Mail – most national postal services do not provide an international change of address online. Visit your nearest post office for proper procedure.
  6. Phone – using your own mobile service, even if they provide international service, will stick you with a massive bill. Best to get an inexpensive phone or a new SIM card for your smartphone at a UK service provider.

Traveling To and Around England

If you’ve read my post on the London Tube, you learned some helpful tips, tricks, and protocols when traveling by Underground. Below is some other savvy travel tips, as well.

  1. Your Flight – book your flight as far in advance as possible and at off-peak times if you can.
  2. Travel Insurance – A necessary evil in case your trip goes pear-shaped. If all goes well, consider yourself a jammy beggar.
  3. From the Airport – you’ll need to hire a car unless you have friends to pick you up. Rent a car instead of a cab to save loads of dosh.
  4. Oyster Card – this is a must for transport around London and when you want to scamper about the English countryside as well. Make sure to have cash on hand so you can buy a ticket anywhere an Oyster Card is invalid.
  5. Walking, Standing, and Driving – walk on the left, stand on the right when taking the escalator, and do drive on the left if you want to live.

Currency, Taxes, and Credit Cards

  1. Credit Cards – Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. It’s helpful for booking flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Check with your merchant to find out the fees and exchange rates that apply. Once you can get a debit card for your British bank account, this will help eliminate the need to carry cash.
  2. Cash – British pounds is the currency of the UK and it’s best to use until you secure your own British bank account. This minimizes banking and ATM fees.
  3. ATMs – use bank ATMs and avoid “independent” ones. Flat transaction fees and percentage charges apply when you use “out-of-network” ATMs so withdraw larger amounts. ATMs are still cheaper than exchanging your cash at a bank.
  4. National Insurance Number – the British equivalent of a social security number so you can work and they can take taxes out. Go to the UK government website for details.

Learning British English

On our BritWordaDay social media channels, you’ll see daily posts of British words. It’s our goal to help you learn these wicked words for when you converse with Brits. Dialects change as you move about England but I’ve got a perfect solution for you.

  1. Learn the Lingo –Great Britain has many dialects and you’ll need to swot up on those as you travel around the country. Trust me. It’s like learning a whole new language. Check out my book for a proper guide to British words and beyond.
  2. Proper Pronunciation – places like Derbyshire (darbuhshuh) and Leicester (lesstuh) are common examples. Listen and adapt to British pronunciations to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.

Basic British Culture and Customs

There are several I could mention here, including the quintessential sarcastic humor employed by Brits regularly. Trust me, if they take the mickey out of you then you’re in. Oh, and they use the word “sorry” quite a bit.

  1. Don’t Take It Literally – Brits rarely say what they mean so learn to read between the lines. Check this out to see several humorous examples.
  2. Compliments – they typically make many Brits nervous and they will often deflect with self-deprecating remarks, even if secretly pleased.
  3. Weather – can be dodgy so it’s best to carry a brolly. Be prepared to discuss the weather…A LOT.

Know Your Onions about Food and Drink

Don’t believe all the disparaging remarks you hear about British food. They have many  tasty dishes both savory and sweet. When in England, ask the locals where they prefer to get their fish and chips or Indian curry.

  1. Tea – the preferred drink of the UK, a solution to most problems (or so you will be told), and, yes, it is a meal. Read my blog post on British tea to better understand this revered British custom.
  2. Drinking – is a national past time in the UK and a cornerstone of British culture. Even if you don’t drink, go hang out a British pub if you want to know the Brits.
  3. Food – the Brits offer many tasty treats like Yorkshire pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding but the Brits do love their offal (organ meat) and you’ll find it in things like Steak and Kidney Pie or Lancashire Hot Pot.
  4. Dining Etiquette – place your napkin on your lap instead of tucking it into your shirt. Say “please” and “thank you”. This is “British Politeness 101” Put your knife and fork together in the middle of your plate to indicate you’re finished. My book has a whole chapter dedicated this sort of thing.

British Electricity and Measurements

  1. Plugs and Voltage – the Brits use a specific 3-prong plug and the outlets are typically 220-240 volts. You can by conversion adapters but if you don’t want to run the risk of frying your blow dryer, buy a new one when you get there.
  2. A Mixture of Measurements – Distances on roads are calculated in yards and miles. Objects are measured in centimeters and meters. Height is stated in feet and inches. Food is weighed in grams and kilos. People are weighed in stones and pounds.

Hopefully, you’re feeling more prepared for your move to England. In my upcoming book this autumn, I’ll be sharing more detail about this very subject. If you want an easy-to-read top guide to British words and the various dialects of the UK for your move to England, then download my book from Amazon or iTunes.


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Quiz: Do You Know These Ulster English Words?

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Hint: We’ve Been Posting Them Recently

If you follow BritWordaDay on social media, chances are you’ve seen these Ulster English posts. It was part of our March Madness social media campaign. Also, to honour of our Irish friends of Northern Ireland, from which this dialect hails.

So, I was curious how much our followers were actually seeing these posts. Also, I thought a quiz might be a good way to assess our teaching progress as well as the absorption of our supporters. In other words, is BritWordaDay adding value? Are you learning this British dialect?

Do You Know These Ulster English Words?

Below is our quiz on this particular dialect. I’ve used common British words to give you hints as to the meaning of these Ulster English words. Best of British to you, mates!

Banjax

When something is ready for the knackered yard, one would say it is banjaxed, as well.

Blade

Blokes, if you’re chatting up a bird, then you are also chatting up a blade.

Carlin

A general term for a more mature bird, but don’t call your gran a carlin, ok?

Carnaptious

Caught in an argy-bargy or a row? Then you might be feeling carnaptious.

Drawky

Drawky would often describe Old Blighty which would require a brolly.

Foundered

When you’re feeling parky or it is quite Baltic, then you’ll be foundered, too, I’d expect.

Keenin’

Something wee bairns often do, keenin’ for their mummies to wipe those bums of poo.

Munya

The opposite of a boiler would be a munya bird, a top totty.

Poke

Take a holiday to the seaside where you buy a poke for 99p, perhaps for a bit more.

Whisht

Whisht would be the same as simply saying oi! or belt up!

Where to Find the Answers

BritWordaDay has Facebook albums, many of British words. If you’re curious as to the answers, for our quiz,  view our Facebook albums and see if you can find which album contains these Ulster English words. Email us at britwordaday@gmail.com with your answers.

If you answer all 10 of these quiz questions correctly, we will send you a special prize for the winners!


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Have You Heard About Ulster English?

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It’s a UK Dialect of Northern Ireland

Ulster is a province in Northern Ireland and made up of people groups which include Ulster Scots, Mid Ulster, and South Ulster speakers. The counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone are part of the United Kingdom, while Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan are part of the Republic of Ireland. The Ulster English dialect from this region of Ireland has been developing for centuries.

This Northern Ireland language began during the early seventeenth-century colonization of English settlers. However, Ulster English has not only been influenced by British English and Hiberno-English (language spoken in the Republic of Ireland) but also the Scots language and Irish Gaelic.

How I Learned About This Dialect

I never even knew about this language until I started writing my book for BritWordaDay. I began researching dialects of Northern Ireland and discovered Ulster English is the predominate language spoken there. The two major divisions of Ulster English is Mid Ulster and Ulster Scots.

My high school best friend, Jeff, often referred to his mother’s statements as her “speaking Irish” because they had an interrogative tone to them. Come to find out, Ulster English speakers have a noticeable tendency to raise the pitch towards the end of declarative sentences. Perhaps Jeff’s mum has Ulster in her blood.

Distinguishing Words of Ulster English

Irish speakers, as a whole, do not use the words “yes” and “no” very often but instead, repeat the verb in a question as a response. For example:

Question: Are you going to work soon?
Answer: I am (instead of saying “yes”)

Sometimes Ulster speakers use the verb “have” followed by “with me” or “on me” in this way:

Have you money for the train on you?

Ulster English mirrors Irish with the word “you” in its singular and plural form. Instead of “you guys” the Ulster English speakers would say “yous” like certain parts of Pennsylvania. Two other forms of “you guys” would be “yis” or “yousuns” which, again, the Pennsylvania natives would say “you-uns” to a group. It’s funny how particular Ulster English words or close variations have endured centuries after the colonization of America.

Examples and Usage of Ulster English

As a British word specialist, I will not only teach you these Ulster English words but how to properly use them in context. Here are some examples of these Northern Ireland words and their usage.

Using Ulster English

Blade – girl

Look at thon blade. (Look at that girl.)

Bout ye? – How are you?

Bout ye, fella? (How are you, man?)

Craitur/Craytur – creature

Aye, the poor craitur. (Yes, the poor creature.)

Foundered – to be cold

Are ye foundered? (Are you cold?)

Hallion – a good-for-nothing

Shut your gob, ye hallion! (Shut your mouth, you good-for-nothing!)

Munya – great, lovely, attractive

The grub is quite munya. (The food is quite lovely.)

Poke – ice cream

Yous want some poke? (You guys want some ice cream?)

Whisht – to be quiet (a command)

Whisht, ye aul eejit! (Be quiet, you old idiot!)

Ways to Learn More Ulster English

During the month of March, BritWordaDay is running a March Madness campaign for Anglophiles “mad” about British words. The focus is Ulster English, including all things Irish. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more of this amazing Northern Ireland dialect.


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Northern England Dialects: Do You Know the Difference?

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Each Northern English region has its unique pronunciations of common words and local expressions. To speak like a Northern Brit is more than just an accent; it’s about using the colloquial speech in the proper context. Many Britons outside the northern regions find some of these dialects difficult to understand. Truly, it’s like speaking another language. In my book, there is an entire chapter devoted to these dialects called Regional Dialects of the North. There is also a section in the back called Glossary of UK Words by Region and it has the main dialects of Northern England.

Yes, I am a British Word Nerd

I must confess that I was in word nerd heaven as I studied these northern dialects. I even searched YouTube for videos on northern speakers so I could hear how the various British dialects sounded. As I’ve mentioned in my Brummie post, I love imitating British accents and have a good ear for them. I will perfect these dialects so I can video myself demonstrating them in the near future.

Below, I’ve broken these dialects into 2 regions: the North West and North East.

North West

Cumbrian

Spoken in the county of Cumbria and is similar to the Lancashire accent. This dialect is not to be confused with the Celtic dialect of Cumbric spoke in the Early Middle ages.

  • Be reet – It’ll be all right
  • Garn’t bog – I’m going to the toilet
  • Garn yam – I’m going home
  • Hoo’doo – How are you doing?
  • Whut yer djarn? – What are you doing?

Lancashire (Lancy/Wigan)

Once inclusive of what are now Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cumbria, there is some cross-pollination of this dialect with those of Manc, Scouse, and Cumbrian.

  • Legit – Run
  • Muppet – you silly thing
  • Maun’t – must not
  • Oookin – jolly good
  • Trollied – drunk

Mancunian (Manc)

This Manchester dialect is said to have influenced other regions of England via TV shows like Coronation Street and rock bands such as Oasis, Joy Division and The Stone Roses.

  • Antwacky – Old-fashioned, no longer in style
  • Bins – Spectacles or sunglasses
  • Devoed – Generic proclamation of negativity, derived from devastated
  • Fettled – Fixed, repaired or mended
  • Give your ‘ead a wobble – To have a rethink about something

Scouse

Also called the Liverpool dialect or Merseyside English, this is the home and speech of those famous lads known as the Beatles. These speakers are called Scousers. The word “scouser” comes from the shortened form of “lobscouse” which is a meat stew eaten by sailors in the 19th century.

  • Beaut – idiot
  • Bevied Up – drunk
  • Deffo – definitely
  • Sack It La – stop that or don’t do it
  • Sozz – Sorry

North East

Geordie

Geordie is the nickname for residents of the Tyneside region and has its roots in the Anglo-Saxon language. The name “Geordie” comes from the miner’s safety lamp, invented in 1815 by George Stephenson’s called the “Georgie Lamp”.

  • Clamming – starving
  • Deek – a quick peek
  • Doylem – idiot
  • Gadgie – an adult male human
  • Giz a bag o’ crisps – no, I don’t fancy him/her

Pitmatic

Colloquially known as “Yakka”, it’s the primary dialect of the counties of Durham and parts of Northumberland. It evolved as a distinct dialect from both Northumbrian and Geordie partly due to the specialized terms used by mine workers in the local coal pits.

  • Gansey – have a go/turn
  • Nee way – no way, disbelief
  • Owt Else – anything else
  • Top House – public house (pub) at the top of the main street
  • Why Aye – yes, please

Mackem

The term Mackem originates from ship workers on the River Tyne who say that people on the River Wear (Mackems) “Tak’em jobs off us (Geordies) and mak’em (make them – i.e. ships)

  • Bait – food taken to work (lunch)
  • Divvent dee that – do not do that
  • Hinny – honey, a term of endearment
  • Man – often used at the end of a sentence even when talking to women: Howay, man – Come on, man
  • Why-Aye – Why of course

Teeside

This dialect comes mainly from Middleborough and is known chiefly as a “Smoggy or Smoggie”, a contraction of ‘smog monster’. This refers to the pollution once allegedly produced by the local petrochemical industry.

  • Come ‘ere, yer little get – Come over here, you rascal
  • Ee-ya mate – excuse me
  • Pretty Canny – quite good
  • What’s the matta with yer? – What is the matter with you?
  • Yerjokinarnyer? – You are joking, aren’t you?

Northumbria

This dialect is close cousins to its Geordie and Scottish neighbors. As a result, there are similar pronunciation of words and some shared vocabulary as well.

  • Belta – really good
  • Boule Aboot – mess around
  • Hairn (or Hen) – honey, a term of endearment
  • Nettie – toilet
  • What are the’ deein’? – What are they doing?

Yorkshire

Most people are familiar with Yorkshire because of the popular TV series Downton Abbey. When I was listening to Yorkshire accents via YouTube, I could clearly hear the voice of Paul Copley aka Mr. Mason in my head. He has the most classic Yorkshire accent, the one coveted by non-Yorkshire actors. No surprise as he is from Denby Dale of West Yorkshire so it only makes sense that he would nail it!

  • Cack-handed – clumsy
  • Daft as a brush – stupid
  • Flaggin’ – tired, worn out
  • Good ‘un – good one
  • Maffin’ – hot and clammy weather

Did you learn something about Northern British Accents? How did you like these quirky words and sayings? Login to post your comments. Download this companion infographic: 30 FUN NORTHERN BRITISH WORDS on your laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Anglophenia Does British Accents

Check out this YouTube video below to hear the lovely Siobhan Thompson amaze you with her British dialect skills. There are definitely northern ones included!


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For the Love of Black Country

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Black Country Flag of England by Hogweard – Licensed under Public Domain

A Facebook page called The Only Way Is Black Country has over 4,400 followers and is dedicated solely to Black Country with emphasis on bikers and, of course, its unique slang words. They found our BritWordaDay page and started by sharing our album called Black Country and then our Facebook activity absolutely skyrocketed! This is the inspiration for this particular article. Though a small part of England, I heard them loud and clear via social media. For my Black Country followers and word nerds, this is for you.

What is Black Country?

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Courtesy of Black Country Investments via cradleylinks.co.uk
I know some of you must be thinking what the heck is Black Country? Is it some sort of new musical group or alcoholic drink? Uh, that would be a “no”. Black Country is an area of the West Midlands in England, north and west of Birmingham, including Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. Although, traditionally Black Country encompassed a wider area of the West Midlands, no two locals can agree on where it starts or ends to this day.

The initial usage of Black Country, as an expression, dates back to the 1840s. The common belief is that this name comes from the black soot that once covered the area due to the heavy industry of coal mines, iron foundries, and steel mills widely-used during the Industrial Revolution. Another possible origin is owing to the 30-foot coal seam that is close to the surface.

Black Country Flag

The Black Country Living Museum launched a competition to design a flag for the Black Country in 2012. It was in response to the campaign launched by a Parliamentary Flags & Heraldry Committee, encouraging local communities to develop their own flags to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II and the UK’s hosting of the 2012 Olympics.

The flag’s creation was the catalyst for an official Black Country Day & Festival in 2014 which is celebrated annually on July 14. This is the anniversary date of the invention of the world’s first steam engine, the Newcomen Engine, built in the Black Country in 1712.

The design was inspired by the words of American diplomat, Elihu Burritt, as he described the Black Country region as “black by day and red by night”. This came from coal furnaces giving out smoke by day and glowing red by night, hence the colors of the flag. The chain was incorporated into the design given it was a typical product manufactured in the area.

Language of the West Midlands

Black-Country-Alphabet1The traditional Black Country dialect has its roots in Middle English (from around 1066-1470) and Early Modern English (from around 1470 – 1650) as well. Believe it or not ‘thee’, ‘thy’, and ‘thou’ are still in use by Black Country speakers, as is the case in the North East like parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The dialect’s perception was boosted in 2008 when an internet video, The Black Country Alphabet, described the whole alphabet in Black Country speak. As you can see, I’ve included a graphic to demonstrate their quirky alphabet.

Black Country in Literature

For the Harry Potter fans out there, our beloved Hagrid has been known to use the word ‘summat’ quite a bit which means ‘something’. Didn’t know the Hogwarts gamekeeper was a speaker of the Black Country, eh?

If you like British period literature, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is peppered with Black Country speak. Had I known back then what I know now of Black Country, I would’ve enjoyed the story much better. I think I need to dig out that book and read it again. It is a fantastic story!

Speaking Black Country

Here are some basic greetings and replies that you can try out on your mates. Or if you find yourself in Black Country you’ll know what they’re saying and how to respond.

  • Ow B’ist – How are you? (Contracted from ‘How be-est thou?’)
  • Bay Too Bah – Not too bad?
  • Bostin’ Ah Kid – very well
  • Kidda – friend
  • Wench – an affectionate term for a girl or young woman
  • Yow – you

Example: Ow B’ist, wench? Bay too bah, kidda and yow?

Note: Bost is slang for ‘broken’. The word bostin’ means ‘smashing’ aka a way to break something yet it means amazing, great, or excellent.

  • Am – are
  • Clemmed – hungry
  • Cob – round bread roll, which looks like the stones of a cobbled street
  • Fittle – food
  • Gooin – going
  • Snap – food or meal

Example: Am yow clemmed? Gooin’ to fetch some fittle. Yeah, but just a cob fer me. You could even swap ‘fittle’ with ‘snap’.

Final Words and a Special Offer

As a word nerd I find this particular British speech fascinating. What do you like best about Black Country words? Perhaps you might think it’s silly. Login and tell us your thoughts. If you quickly sign up for our newsletter on our home page, this coming Thursday, you’ll receive a special Black Country companion infographic!


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Why I’m Writing Another British Book

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Is the Info Current or Accurate?

As an Anglophile, I’m obsessed with British words and it happens to be my business as well. Awhile back I did some searching online to see what books were available, specifically on British slang. There were very few and most were in print which means some of the information is already outdated. When creating social media content for BritWordaDay, I usually search the internet. However, I do reference a few books on a regular basis but, in some cases, I wonder if the information is truly fresh and current. Languages of every nation are constantly evolving, including British slang words. In my business, I have to constantly keep up. It’s a challenge but one I happily accept.

Case in Point

Recently, as a result of interacting with some of my social media followers, I decided to broaden my British word posts to what’s known as the Black Country region. Honestly, I was nervous as I am not a native Briton, never mind a local of the West Midlands. However, I was still keen to post these Black Country slang words in which these specific followers expressed an interest. After all, people follow BritWordaDay because they love British words.

Oh, no. Did I Screw Up?

There was one word in particular that caused some debate between one follower and me. I saw it in the books I referenced but also from this website I found online, regarding various Black Country colloquialisms. Upon conclusion of the online discussion, this particular follower gave me a link to the very site I had used for the word in question. It turned out, thankfully, my post was correct. Whew! I dodged a bullet on that one.

Natives Not Always in the Know

The Black Country words I used that day began to spark discussion from these particular followers. They commented how they were unfamiliar with some of slang words I posted. One such male follower, from that very area, commented that he did not know some of the words as well. He owned the fact that language is constantly changing, especially where slang is concerned. Even the natives of an area aren’t always in the know.

I Decided on an Ebook

Neon-Book-SignNow that my point of the ever-changing dialects of the United Kingdom has been proved, I knew a printed book was not the way to go. This type of book warranted an electronic format that could be updated, as needed, with the most current slang words of the various regions of the UK.

For those Nook, Kindle, or iBook readers, you know the benefit of the most current version of an Ebook. Anytime the author makes changes and uploads them, a new version of your book can be downloaded to your mobile phone or tablet. It’s completely brilliant and of course, very practical. No one is going to buy a reprint of a book they own unless, perhaps, it’s a Harry Potter novel.

Subjects the Book Will Cover

My goal was to give the most comprehensive list of British words on as many applicable subjects as possible. I made an outline of all the topics I could think of but I didn’t stop there. I created a video and posted it many times on our social media platforms to get you, the reader, involved in the process. I did get some feedback from a few of my followers. Their reward, as promised, will be an acknowledgment in my book. I am more than happy to give free advertisement to these contributors in hopes it will help promote their businesses and social media platforms. I am a firm believer in reciprocity.

Here are the topics I’ve assembled so far:

  • British words – an exhaustive list, sorted A-Z
  • Popular sayings
  • Swear words and insults
  • British words out of fashion but still heard somewhat
  • British food and drink like tea and a Full English
  • British music, particularly those that use British words in their lyrics
  • England, Britain, and the UK – an overview of these regions as well as the various dialects from each.
  • British slang in TV
  • British humor
  • British social etiquette
  • British superstitions
  • British sports
  • British money
  • British schools
  • British clothing and accessories
  • British holidays
  • British transport – London mostly and the rest of England as well.
  • British royal family – past and present

Did I Miss Any Subjects?

If there is a subject that is not part of my initial book list, please feel free to log into our website and post your comments and ideas here.

BritWordaDay Book Promo Video


 

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Yanks vs. Brits – Battle of the Words

Battle-of-the-WordsThe United States and the United Kingdom are two entities that, for the most part, respect and seem to be genuinely fascinated by each other, even if we didn’t start out that way. Sometimes we still become baffled by each other, and one of the most obvious ways is with our language. Yes, we both speak English, but very different versions, due to a couple of centuries of our countries creating different identities for ourselves.

Given our vastly different vocabulary and phrases, the question remains. Who have the best words? Is it America with their Noah-Webster-shortened spellings? Is it Britain, with their deliciously posh words and quirky phrases? It’s time to find out! We chose these top examples to go head to head in Brits vs. Yanks battle of words! Let’s put on the gloves, step into the ring and duke it out! Ding, ding, ding!

America (blue) vs. Britain (red)

Sidewalk vs. Pavement

These words both describe the walkway found next to a road. While most of them are paved, the term pavement doesn’t describe where you walk, which is on the side of the road, hence the term sidewalk. This is a clear-cut winner, and America served up a whopping punch on this one. Point: America

Exit vs. Way Out

The word exit is actually Latin and has been around for centuries. Since neither nation speaks Latin regularly anymore, the British decided to use English and go with way out when it comes to leaving London’s Underground, for example. It may be more letters, but it’s clear and descriptive. Britain punches back! Point: Britain

Dessert vs. Pudding

The Brits call all kinds of food pudding, both savory and sweet. For example, Yorkshire pudding is nothing like an actual pudding and originated from the term for “sausage” in The Middle Ages which explains the savory reference. Pudding is also their common term for the something sweet that comes after a meal, which is confusing. The word dessert is French from the 16th century, meaning “last course”, and is the most logical choice. No contest here. Point: America (or should we say the French?!).

Cell vs. Mobile

“I’ll call you on my cell.” “I’ll ring you on my mobile.” The word cell was originally coined in the late 1970s, referring to the transmission towers and their ranges, creating a network of these “cells.” It still seems a bit odd to call your phone a cell as that describes the technology rather than the phone itself. Calling it a mobile, however, makes loads of sense, because that’s exactly what these types of phones are, mobile.  Point: Britain

Kiss vs. Snog

Snog is basically the British equivalent of passionate kissing or making out. While its etymology is unknown, the word snog  seems to have been around since the mid-1940’s. It’s a really fun word to say, is more distinctive than just a kiss, and even has an onomatopoeic flair to it. Point: Britain

First Floor vs. Ground Floor

Britons call their bottom floor the ground floor, the one above it the first floor, and so on. I get that logic. The ground floor is the floor on the ground but where the logic stops is the first floor being above the ground. Americans simply start at the bottom with the first floor, then second floor, and the like which is consistent. I’m fine with ground floor and first floor being used interchangeably, as long as the floor above it is the second floor. Point: America

Argument vs. Row

When I learned the word row was a term for argument, I originally thought it was pronounced like rowing your boat. But, in fact, it’s pronounced like you’re taking a bow. Come on, row just packs a bigger wallop when you say it, with fewer letters and syllables. Point: Britain

Vacation vs. Holiday

Vacation came about in the 14th century from the Old French word for “vacancy”, and the Latin word for leisure and freedom. Holiday came from the Old English word for “holy day”. Holidays aren’t just holy days anymore, and while there is a celebratory vibe attached with the word, the etymology of vacation is a lot more exact. When taking a vacation, you are vacating your responsibilities and enjoying leisure as well as freedom. While it sounds smashing to go on holiday, the word does not truly encompass the activity. Point: America

Gobsmacked vs. Astonished

Gob is a British term for the mouth and gobsmacked is what your reaction would be to being smacked in your gob, or if you were to clap your hand over your mouth in astonishment. Americans don’t have an exact equivalent, but if they did, I suppose it would be something like “mouth-punched”, and it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Gobsmacked effectively conveys the emotion and reaction happening, and it’s an utter delight to say. Point: Britain

Who Won?

With a final score of 5-4, the winner is… (drumroll, please) Britain! Really? How could it not be? We are all about our British words here at BritWordaDay! Do you have a favorite pair of words that didn’t make it on this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


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British Words and Wit

BWAD-Twitter-British Words-and-Wit-Blog-Post

When it comes to British humor, like opera, you either love it or you hate it. For some it’s too snarky and the straight-faced, cleverly-crafted insult can leave overly-sensitive people in a strop. The Brits do love to take the mickey out of innocent bystanders but only do so to the people they like, well, mostly. Learn to take it in stride and by all means, dish it back out. You’ll enjoy the interaction a whole lot more.

Another tell-tale form of British wit is the art of self-deprecation. I believe it must be adopted from a very young age as the truly hilarious Brits can slag themselves off skillfully and have you in utter stitches, crying with laughter. So you see? They don’t just dish on Americans or any other unsuspecting souls (bless them), but are very keen on self-disparagement. It’s a cornerstone of British culture.

British Words Greatly Enhance the Humor

When you blend a proper Anglophile with a total word boffin, and then throw in the love of quirky British humor, one is transformed by this marvelous experience of a not-so-common language and a uniquely brilliant culture.

The primary way I learned the meaning of British slang words was through television and the best delivery was by way of the stinging wit of British comedy. It’s one of the few things that have me literally laughing out loud!

A perfect example of this would be the former blockbuster hit TV show, Top Gear. The three main presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, gleefully and repeatedly, take the piss out of one another. There are constant insults, often consisting of British slang words, like James regularly calling Jeremy a pillock which is much deserved, I assure you. However, each one in their turn is a complete twonk but their idiosyncratic ways are why Top Gear fans love to watch the show. If you have not watched this totally mental British TV show, it’s a must see. You don’t have to be a “gear head” at all to enjoy it. I promise you will fall off your chair with laughter.

Witty British TV Quotes

For those of you who follow BritWordaDay on social media, you’ve seen that I quote lines from British TV shows from time to time. It is to primarily demonstrate the usage of British slang words, in proper context, but also to showcase the clever, self-deprecating, insult-encrusted wit of British comedy.

I thought we would have some fun with a few examples of British words and wit in British TV and film.

  • Harry Potter – Harry: You’re a right foul git, you know that? Ron: You think so? Harry: I know so!
  • IT Crowd – Roy: What happened to you? Moss: I’ve got Cockney neck. I’ve been speaking too much Cockney and it’s done my bloomin’ neck in.
  • Miranda – “A sugar-free beetroot (beets) cake?! What’s next, a pea and ham sponge (cake)?!”
  • Monty Python – Tim: Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! It’s a killer! Sir Galahad: Get stuffed! Tim: He’ll do you up a treat, mate. Sir Galahad: Oh, yeah?  Sir Robin: You manky Scots git!

What’s Your Take on British Humor?

I know I’m not the only one who loves to quote TV and movie lines. What’s some of your favorite one-liners and quotes from British TV or film? Feel free to log in and post them here!


 

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Detecting British Words in Writing

Can You Spot British Words in Writing?

British-Words-in-Writing-sm1Have you found yourself reading an article, novel, or blog and certain words seemed a bit different, confusing, or entirely new altogether? Perhaps the sentence read something like this:

“I went next door to visit my neighbour, but it turns out the bloke is in hospital!”

Wait, what was that? It certainly looks like English, but what’s a bloke, why is there a “u” in neighbor and wouldn’t they be in the hospital? Could it be you’ve stumbled onto a piece by a British author without realizing it? Can you spot these British words? Do you even know what they mean?

Anglophile Word Detective

One of my favorite surprises, as an Anglophile, is when I’m reading a particular piece and then realizing the material is British, by detecting certain words in the content. Distinguishing British words is not as hard as you may think. True, much of American and British English is the same but it is the differences that make British writing intriguing to the avid reader. Whether it is the spelling, a greeting, or a national colloquialism, there are clues and patterns you’ll notice  in identifying British English.

Dates, Times, Spellings, and Meanings

The following are some of the most common examples of British words in writing. While some of these aren’t exclusive to British English alone, there are some words of definite British origin.

The Difference in Dates and Times

  • US Date Format: In America, we write our dates in the month/day/year format, and we are one of the only countries that do.
  • UK Date Format: Britons, along with most of the world, write their dates in the day/month/year format, so Christmas last year would’ve been 25/12/14, which may look strange but I can see the logic in going from the smallest to largest unit.
  • British Time Span: It is common to hear Brits use fortnight to describe a 2-week period, which originated from the Old English feowertyne niht, which literally means “fourteen nights”. It was later shortened to the Middle English fourteniht.
  • British Time Format: If you were to ask a Brit to give you the correct time, they may say half past twelve instead of twelve-thirty, or just half twelve.

UK vs. US Greetings and Spellings

When it comes to obvious clues, none are more like neon signs than spelling differences between American and British English. You can thank Noah Webster for much of that, who standardized simpler, more phonetically structured spellings of words for Americans with his An American Dictionary of the English Language in the 19th century. The British have also developed unique greetings and terms of address that will jump off the page if you come across them.

  • Terms of Address: When reading British material, a man may be described as a bloke, a lady called a bird, or an employer addressed as guv’nor (also means sir). Love is the British way of calling a loved one honey or darling. Male friends often greet each other as mate, although women have begun to do the same.
  • Greetings: A common London greeting such as wotcher, a contraction of the old phrase what cheer, ayup, and alright?, means “what’s up?”. As for saying goodbye, you might hear ta-ra ( pronounced “churar”) or cheerio which is a bit of an outdated expression.
  • Spelling: The most obvious difference in spelling is the “ou” in words like colour, honour, and favourite. Maybe the protagonist has to walk a few metres to get to the theatre. If you’ve a keen eye, you might see a word such as realise and think, “Hey, shouldn’t there be a ‘z’ in that?” No, not in British writing. Or perhaps a character is putting on their pyjamas (pajamas) for bed or cashing their paycheque (paycheck). Then there’s one of my personal favorites, manoeuvre (maneuver). Though these words may be strangely spelled (or spelt), you’re not reading a bunch of typos but rather British English.

British Words that are Dead Giveaways

  • Around the House: flat (apartment), garden (yard), bin (trash can), loo (toilet)
  • Work: bumf (paperwork), made redundant (laid off), gaffer (boss), holiday (vacation)
  • Entertainment: cinema (movie theater), big dipper (roller coaster), fun fair (carnival), knees up (party)

With the Right Clues, You Can Solve the Mystery

The more you familiarize yourself with British English, the more easily you will detect British words in writing. In no time, you too will become an Anglophile word detective. Have you already had a literary experience like that before? If so, what were some of the words that clued you in? Let us know in the comments below!


 

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Why We Love British TV

It’s the Accent and the Stories They Tell

Truth be told, we Anglophiles love to watch keep-calm-and-watch-british-tv-smBritish television, or telly as it’s called, for the regular access we have to that beautiful British accent. However, if your repertoire of British TV is quite diverse, you may have discovered the rougher London Cockney dialect as used by Mr. Guppy in Bleak House, for example. Then there is the thick, often hard to understand, northern dialects uttered by the inhabitants of Yorkshire like Mrs. O’Brien in Downton Abbey. Whether you prefer the genteel or brash, the British accent is one of the biggest reasons why Anglophiles watch British telly over and over.

Another chief reason we watch British TV shows repeatedly, is the way these stories unfold that draw in both the closet and flagrant Anglophile. The often irreverent British comedy like the IT Crowd (for the geeks) or Miranda (for the socially awkward), leave you in stitches for their outlandish physical comedy (oh yeah, they go there) or the carefully crafted one-liners that you love to quote. Of course, you secretly root for the underdog character, with their often awkward and idiosyncratic traits, because you know you’re just like them.

For Me, It Was the Language

Ever since I was a child, I adored movies with British themes or British actors. Yes, I was immediately gripped with the accent but when I reached adulthood, it was the differences in our shared language that truly piqued my interest. As a writer, I am addicted to words so I made it my mission to find out what these British slang words meant.

It began years ago, with a friend and a colleague (co-worker to you) who is a Kiwi (New Zealander) and familiar with loads of British telly. I peppered him with questions to which he happily gave me answers. Based on my eager interest, he began making recommendations which I was delighted to explore. I became even more deeply immersed into the culture and language of British TV shows, and discovered period pieces are my favorite genre. These compelling and beautifully-rendered programs were littered with all these quirky British words that I would have had never noticed as a child. I was utterly fascinated.

British Period Dramas

I could watch a BBC British period dramas any day of the week, multiple times. For the most part, the British dialects in these miniseries are so elegant and refined, it makes one fall in love with British English again and again. However, you can count on hearing those rougher dialects of the north and London Cockney in any Dickens novel turned television show. For me, it is the British words that I listen for and I do have a knack for remembering TV and movie lines. Here a few from my favorite British period TV dramas that do use British slang.

  • Dr. Who – “I am definitely a mad man with a box!” ~ The Doctor
  • Call the Midwife – “It’s coming out arse-first.” ~ Chummy Browne
  • Downton Abbey – “Seems a pity to miss such a good pudding.” ~Violet aka Granny
  • Foyle’s War – “The whole country preparing for a giant knees up and once again you’re stuck with the body in the library.” ~Andrew Foyle

British Comedy

Although there is some British slang used in these period dramas, it’s the BBC British comedies that are absolutely littered with these quirky and intriguing words. Here are a few of my favorite lines that include British words.

  • Miranda – “Oh! Major Disaster and his friend Colonel Cock-up.” ~Tilly
  • IT Crowd – “Why don’t we just, well, bunk off and make a day of it.” ~Roy
  • Vicar of Dibley – “Get off your knees, you total tosser!” ~Geraldine Granger
  • Jeeves & Wooster – “Spode said he would beat me into a jelly.” ~Bertie Wooster

Why Do You Love British Telly?

Now that I’ve shared my love of British TV, what specifically do you love about these shows? Do you prefer dramas, comedies, or period pieces? Do you find some of the dialogue hard to understand because of the strong dialects? Use subtitles on your DVDs or during the online streaming of these programs? I would love to hear your thoughts on all things British telly!


 

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