Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Guest Blog: Toni Summers Hargis
The Other English
I married an American in 1990 and breezed over to live in the States without much thought of what it might be like. Well, how different could it be? They speak the same language, eat the same food and wear the same clothes don’t they? Err, no.
My English mother visited us shortly after the wedding. Being jet lagged, she was worried about over-sleeping, so on her first night she gracefully turned to my husband and said, “If I’m not up by eight, would you mind knocking me up?”
Fortunately, my husband had lived for three years in London, so knew exactly what she meant, but also took great delight in explaining that in the States, the phrase “to knock someone up” would only ever mean to get them pregnant. Of course, in the UK, it can also mean “to knock on someone’s door in order to wake them”. Tee hee.
Another thing I didn’t fully appreciate was that I would have to drop some of my favorite words. Since I have three children, I am quite often tired, and the English word of choice for me is “knackered”. Unfortunately it just doesn’t translate at all in the States, and I end up resorting to the boring “quite tired”. I have given up most of my swearing since becoming a responsible parent, but the expressive “sodding” can still escape from time to time. It can be interchanged with “bloody”, which Americans understand, but somehow with “sodding” you can spit out so much more venom. Most Americans have never heard it before, forcing many Brits to seek out other Brits just so they can sit around and say “sodding” as well as “the dog’s bollocks” and “chuffed” without encountering blank looks.
After all this time, I still regularly come across words, phrases and references that leave me guessing. Most of the time the language differences are funny and interesting, but once in a while you can really make a fool of yourself. I have found it’s much safer and easier to admit my ignorance as soon as possible, since sometimes my guesses at American words have been about one hundred and eighty degrees incorrect. I mean, come on – would you know what a “boondoggle” was without some form of explanation?. Does the phrase “bought the farm” suggest anything, or references to your “druthers”? These are real Americanisms that left me clueless when I first heard them. (Translations – useless or time wasting activity; died; and personal preferences, respectively).
Toni Summers Hargis
Author, “Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom”, (2006) St. Martin’s Press
Monday, December 29, 2008
My name is Lauren and I run an online zine called Shooting Stars Mag. You can find the link to that in the right hand sidebar. The zine is all about entertainment, and this blog will be very similar...except Bridge the Gap won't have anything American (or nothing completely American). Shooting Stars Mag, on the other hand, might have some non-American posts but will be mostly American.
The reason I'm trying to separate the two is because as an American, I find it kind of annoying when other countries get all of our things (music, TV, music, etc.) and yet, we hardly ever get the things they produce. Shooting Stars Zine, as I said above, is all things entertainment and I'll post just about anything (even cross-posting things from here if people want me too), but Bridge the Gap is simply for those other Americans out there looking for more foreign types of entertainment and news, as well as those who aren't American and would like to hear about the things that hit more close to home.
Again, I'm an American teenager and I don't know everything about other countries out there, so I'd love any input, ideas, or help. If you want to hear about something, let me know! I'll even try and get some non-Americans to guest post so you can see an insiders' view of a topic, so to speak.
I want this to be fun. I want to share the things that I've found and love and hopefully help myself and others learn more in the process. After all, America isn't the only country out there, and I know I'm definitely not the only person who wishes we saw more from others.
Thanks for reading this and I hope you stick around. Follow the blog however you wish, keep checking back, and remember: I'm an American Girl Blogging about a Foreign World.