Only in the United Kingdom have I found that people make a difference between “American” and “English” in terms of language (and here I thought we spoke the same language). However, apart from the phonetic differences, there are words that have either opposing or differing meanings and at times it has caused for a bit of confusion.
My first few months in London I wouldn’t even answer the phone for fear of not understanding the person on the other end. A few times I just politely said, “please hold” and then passed the phone to the closest person I could find with a quizzical look on my face when they would ask who it was or what they wanted.
It wasn’t the English accent I had a hard time with but rather accents from other parts of the U.K. like Scotland or Ireland. Also, London is a multicultural hotspot with people from Bangladesh, Portugal, West Africa…etc., and when you are not used to hearing these accents, it can prove to be quite arduous whilst trying to communicate.
Luckily, I have been here long enough now that I manage to find a line of communication with most accents I come across and when in doubt, well, I just guess. I work at my local pub now so when I’m at the bar and I have trouble understanding the local Scotsman, I just pass him a stout and hope for the best.
In linguistics class at Uni I learned that with time your ear is trained to distinguish between different accents rather quickly so I knew it was only just a matter of time before I was used to this array. However, its the lingo I am still not up to date with or the instant reflex to think of words in ‘American’ as opposed to ‘English’.
The other day a gentleman at the pub asked for chips. I looked at him and asked him which kind he wanted; sea salt, cider vinegar, chorizo, spicy tomato… he replied and said chorizo and then started laughing when he realised that I was thinking of crips, not chips which are fries in the United States.
Harmless mistake of course and if anything I just laugh it off and say I do it on purpose for the charm.
Another difference in language is the use of “love” and “darling”. Ladies, I am telling you now that if an attractive British gentleman calls you either of these two words, do not blush and instantly start planning your wedding day because everyone is either a “love” or “darling”. The first few times I had a bit of trouble with random men calling me “love” or “darling” because in my mind, only one person calls me either of these two things and that’s the person I am in a relationship with, but then I got used to it. However, I must note that there is a bit of a patronising undertone to these words that I hadn’t noticed until my bar manager pointed out a mistake I had made. I just smiled and responded with “ok, darling”.
As the only American girl in the pub I work at, people constantly mock my accent or repeat things I say like “trash” instead of “rubbish” or “restroom” instead of “loo”. There is a constant debate on whether “sidewalk” is a more appropriate word of “pavement” or vice versa. At the end of the day there is no winning as I am outnumbered and well, they did invent the language didn’t they? Though at times it is a bit frustrating and lets just say I don’t wonder why God, or whoever is up there controlling things, put the British on an island.
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