Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pants, Brollies, and the Like

Okay, both Cathy and Andrea voted for #5, so I'll do that one first.

One of my favorites things about living in England was not only learning the slang, but getting the opportunity to use it. Using foreign slang/phrasing is great because:

1. It's amusing. You use phrases like dirty weekend* or skiving.** It's like you're talking gibberish, but people are actually responding to it!

2. It helps communication. One phrase that kept coming up during my volunteer year and again on this trip is college vs. uni. In the U.S., you go to college and get a bachelor's degree. Saying uni or university would sound pretentious.

But in the UK, college means a junior college, where you would come away with an associate's 2-yr degree, and uni is where you'd go for a 4-year degree. And school is just secondary school--they would never use school/college/uni as interchangeable terms, like we do.

Once you realize the difference between these terms, it felt to me like I was being obstinate or obtuse if I didn't conform to their usage. And we all know I'm neither of those things, so I started using the UK terms. And they made me snicker, but it also made me feel a little more a part of the society, when I would say something British and I didn't get laughed out of the room.

Of course, one slips out of the habit after 5 or 6 years. One word I had particular problems with was pants. In America, it can be used interchangeably with trousers or slacks. In the UK, it is used interchangeably with underwear or panties.

You see the problem.

We got into Glasgow on Saturday morning. On Sunday, Keith and I spent the day in town, and I bought some clothes as souvenirs. (More on that topic later.) One of the items was a pair of gray trousers. Of course, whenever I was telling Elaine's family about shopping and what I bought, I always said pants instead. And they laughed.

To fit as much slang as possible into one (already lengthy) blog entry, I've written below a sample paragraph—once in American and once in British.

American Version
The wedding took place at one thirty in the afternoon. I thought about wearing nice pants and a dressy shirt, but I ended up wearing a dress instead. The weather was great, and everyone had a very good time. The next morning we were really tired, so we slept late and then called home in the afternoon. For lunch I had a Coke and a couple candy bars. It was great!

British Version
The wedding took place at half-one in the afternoon. I thought about wearing nice trousers and a dressy top, but at the end of the day, I wore a dress instead. The weather was gorgeous, and loads of people said the day was brilliant. The next morning we were knackered, so we had a long lie and then rung home in the afternoon. For lunch I had a ginger and some sweets. It was fab!

*I never actually had an opportunity to use this phrase.
**This phrase I used loads.

***Update from Keith on the picture: According to Wikipedia, it was used in the first Harry Potter movie. The place—not our actual picture.


Anonymous said...

Megan -

A fun blog - can't wait to read upcoming entries. Glad it was a good time -


cat said...

What cracks me up is that my niece calls her undies pants because she calls her pants jeans. Who knew she'd be bilingual?! ;)