I’ve been in London 4 weeks now, and some things have changed about me since assimilating to the culture, more specifically to the language. Yes they speak English, but the British accent and terminology can make all the difference.
You know that voice in your head; your stream of consciousness that talks to you constantly? Well, mine has a bit of an accent now, and it’s quite irritating. There’s another thing — I’ve started adding unnecessary adverbs or phrases such as “quite”, “a bit”, and “rather” to my sentences. And when asked “how are you?” I often find myself responding with “lovely” or “fab”. I can’t help but pick up these words and phrases, because I hear them daily at work, in restaurants, and out on the streets. Because of this phenomenon that has been taking over my brain and my lexicon, I have decided to compile a list of the British terms that differ from typical diction in America. Make sure you know this list if you are traveling to England…or if you care to understand me when I return to the states!
Here’s a list of my favorites so far:
Jumper = Apparently this is a synonym for “sweater”, although I’m not sure why. After google searching the origin of this odd term for a “knitted garment typically with long sleeves”, I found it was historically used as a name for the jackets of sailors — Oh Europe, your history is evident even in words! Anyway, I haven’t been able to wear many “jumpers” here, despite packing about 7 having been told that England’s weather is awful. In reality it has been beautiful, sunny, and HOT 90% of the time! I just want to be able to wear a jumper and refer to it as such.
Crisps= Chips. This just makes sense. The first time I heard the word I was asked if I would like “crisps” as a side to my sandwich. I said yes, not knowing exactly what I would be served. I was delighted when ‘crisps’ turned out to be chips. I’m bringing this cute little term back to America with me.
Chips= French Fries. Typically thicker than American fries, and often served with mayo along with Ketchup.
Fries= Weird curly, crunchy things that you probably don’t want to order. Make sure you ask for CHIPS!
Cuppa’= Every day at work, I am asked, “would you like a cuppa’?”. This is a quick way to say “cup of tea”. Considering the Brits drink more tea than water, they need this shortened version of the phrase. They’ll be using it at least 15 times per day.
Plaster= My roommate knocks on my door asking, “do you have a plaster to spare?”. She’s from Italy, lives in Switzerland, studies in England and speaks 3 languages (so jealous). While she was learning to speak English, naturally she learned the British way and uses their terms. “A plaster? Why would I have any plaster? Is there a hole in your wall? And no, wait.. I’m not plastered!”, my American response to her inquiry. She laughed, then informed me that here “plaster” means Band-Aid or bandage.
Pumps= When I hear this word I think of some type of high heel shoe. But to the British, “pumps” refers to exact opposite. This term is used for sneakers, typically the more stylish type. There is a separate term for exercise shoes.
Trainers= Exercise shoes. Again, this just makes sense. Come on, America… Why do we assign the term “tennis shoes” to all of our sport related footwear?!
Cheers= This may be the most used word in England, or at least London. No matter what type of conversation you’re having with a Brit, I guarantee “cheers” will be said as you exit the chat. For a while I was confused whether it meant “thank you!” or “see ya!”, because both made sense in context. However after conversing with my waiter last night, I now know it is used as both. And they, similar to us, also exclaim “cheers!” while clinking glasses together.
Fairy Cake= HA. How do they say this without laughing or feeling stupid? I went to a bakery and saw that what I know to be a “cupcake” is apparently called a fairy cake. I couldn’t bring myself to order one.
Even though some of the words may sound a bit funny, the Brits sound eloquent when using them… and in all of their speech! Something about these people across the pond makes everything they do seem more proper. I enjoy listening to the British people speak because it has become a way for me to recognize the difference in culture, despite sharing the same native language. And I just love those posh accents.