Category Archives: Language
My first year of living in England, I got sick a few times. Now in my American mind, sick can be a sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, Nyquil-swilling cold. Or it can be simply feeling under the weather. Or yes, it can mean a stomach bug.
What I didn’t know then was that in Brit speak, “sick” is vomit. If you tell someone you’ve been sick, it means you’ve literally just vomited (and that’s a graphic detail you probably wouldn’t readily volunteer in the same easy breezy way that you might tell someone you’re under the weather). Sick has very little to do with any kind of non-projectile spewing activity. “Ill” on the other hand is the umbrella Brit term for what we Americans would call “sick.”
And don’t even get me started on the reason Brits drop the “the” when speaking about the hospital. (“He’s been to hospital.” “She’s gone to hospital.” etc.) I still have no idea. If anyone does, please share!
I’ve been emailing some friends in the U.K. to plan some get togethers when we visit London. Curiously, all of them have mentioned that they’ve put our visit dates “in their diary,” a British term I’ve completely forgotten and not to be confused with the “Dear Diary, I’ve just met a boy” diary variety, which also does exist in the U.K. (Exhibit A: “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”)
I guess in British terms, a calendar is used to let you know what date it is (they have the same kind of themed wall calendars as we do), but it’s not quite the same as a datebook or whatever device you use to record your comings and goings. Google Calendar in the U.K. may need a renaming…
When I was living in Scotland, my ear became attuned to the Scottish accent. My first week there, I had no idea what most people were saying, but was good at smiling, nodding and saying “uh-huh” at what I imagined was the appropriate moments. I listened a lot.
But before long, I had a more clear, ballpark idea of what people were saying, particularly cabbies and it usually involved the weather. Or football. Or America. Or sometimes all three. And the longer I stayed, the more I understood, until I, too, began speaking in my own strange Scottish-ese (which sounded nothing like a Scottish accent).
I think I could have used the Speech Accent Archive back in the day, this cool little resource that can deconstruct accents anywhere on the globe.
I still adore the Scottish accent, so lilting and lovely, and am always pleased to hear it, however rarely I encounter it these days.
Q: When is a bird not a bird?
A: When it is a ladybird.
What exactly is a ladybird?
It’s the British name for the insect, which has become better known as ladybugs in the U.S. Entomologists actually prefer to call them ladybird beetles or lady beetles since they are actually not “true bugs.”