English 101

Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Salisbury-postcardpolite
Salisbury-postcardsorry

Life as an expat can be frustrating, hilarious, nerve-wrecking and just plain weird at times. We live in a small medieval town where Asians are rarer than aliens. The 3 of us (hubs, Lil L and I) often leave the locals scratching their heads - nothing to do with head lice but the confusing conundrum of listening to 3 very different accents befuddled most people that meet us for the very first time. The hubby has a strong Kiwi accent which often means that all his sentences end with a question mark? Him: Eh? Me? I don't have an accent? See? No, I mean see here! I've spent the past 12 years trying to teach him the importance of a full stop.  ← yeah that little pimply dot there.

But my point is, being a foreigner is great. You're instantly forgiven for dressing a little too eccentric - hat, ripped jeans and leopard print sweats instead of Barbour jacket, wellies and good ol' proper jumper (not sweater) and saying all the wrong things - are we talking about the same type of thongs here? I've since learned that one should never, ever, sully thy name by mentioning the word thongs in refined and cultured gatherings. The Kiwi in me did not realized that thongs are in fact G-strings in England. I've now included the word flip flops into my ever expanding English vocabulary.

Despite the fact that many countries in the world may claim to be English speaking, the reality is we do not truly understand each other. "Say kids, anyone up for a popsicle today?", I asked. "Excuse me Marlene", interrupted Lil L's friend. "What is a popsicle?" What?! Poor poor deprived English kids. The poor darlings. "Oh, ignore my mummy, she's a New Zealander.  She wants to know if you would like to have a lolly?" my daughter translated. "Ahhh why didn't she just say so?Your mummy speaks funny", her friend whispered. "She says to-may-toes and waderrrrrr". Giggles all around. I now subscribe to the old Victorian values - children should be seen and not heard.

As a learned and educated individual in England, it is of utmost importance to speak formally and politely to a stranger. An educated English - "Excuse me, if you don't mind me asking, may I know the time please?". An educated Kiwi - "Mate, what time is it?". An educated Malaysian - "What time?" 

There's the complexity of describing the meal which one partake after lunch. It's dinner, supper or tea depending on who you're talk to. Who knew that a cooked lunch is also called dinner? The mind boggles. Seeing that I'm a typical Asian which means that I prefer cooked meals, does that mean that I can call my breakfast dinner too? Imagine the incredulous look on the school secretary's face when this rather clueless foreigner argued with her that Lil L simply can't stay behind for school dinners, only lunch.

Now if you don't mind, I'm off to make tomorrow's dessert pudding. Which is in fact, not a dessert with a creamy consistency but a tart. Have I confused you?

37 comments:

  1. Hahaha I loved this post! I recently saw something circulating around Tumblr about the different connotations of the word 'quite.' It said that Americans use the term to mean 'very' while the English use it to mean 'somewhat.' And suddenly about half a dozen encounters with those on the side side of the pond made sense!

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  2. i can't speak much for living in england but i more than half my office is english and friday 'dinners' confused me for ages and it still catches me off guard every now and then. when i was in wanganui too being invited over for tea at dinnertime was another confusing thing..

    steph / absolutely-fuzzy.com

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  3. You are too funny! Love the postcards! ;)

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  4. Marlene, you always crack me up! I love that you're always able to take things with humor! :)

    xxTheresa

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  5. I love this post! It really is so true, and it's funny that you don't even notice the huge cultural differences until you're in the other country. I still find the english use of the word lolly instead of ice block or popsicle a little strange - I use lollies to describe sugary candy type treats.

    PS. If you want to buy KW, I would suggest getting it from Maximillia - she sorts out the duties herself apparently and has some pretty good discounts. Otherwise I am always happy to help try and get you something from the store in Wellington (I get a 15% discount if that helps!). Just let me know!
    xx

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  6. Very funny! We're lunch for lunch (the one after breakfast) and we're dinner (the one after real lunch) which makes us posh in these parts :o) Now if they had lunch ladies instead of dinner ladies at school - it would clear up all the confusion.

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    1. Good point! I think the south must have adopted a northern term but lunch ladies does sound hilarious!

      Great post Marlene, found myself chuckling! Love the opening line! I think if you grow up in London and are exposed to US TV you find the boundaries blurring, sometimes forgetting that certain terms are American and not British English. I find, like Silk Path Diary has stated below, that a lot of people educated in English outside the UK speak the language more eloquently with a wider selection of vocabularly. 2006 was a sad year for Britian when Shilpa Shetty highlighted the problems of English speakers in the UK when she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother! Shilpa spoke with poise and elegance with a vast understanding of the language that was missing from most other housemates! I should point out at this point I do not watch this programme anymore...promise :)

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  7. Utterly hilarious! I've just written about post about tea and dinner for next week,yep it's a minefield out there!

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  8. Ha Ha love this post, I suppose we don't really think about it, until now, but we all use different words for different meals, I often say supper instead of dinner as it seems the trendy thing to do and I suppose lots of people eat later than me and that's how it started but some people call their dinner "tea", "come in for your tea" instead of "come in for your dinner". Now I'm confused! Oh and by the way, if you don't mind me asking, what time is it?

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  9. My friend, you are simply hilarious! I adore your writing. I also find now that when I'm prepping for a trip to USA I start saying things their way before we leave home to get into the groove. Route is pronounced differently for example. Ahh so much fun in just one language! x

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  10. Lol! So funny and true! Many, many years ago I exchanged a few pleasanteries with an old lady at a bus stop in London. She said,'you know, even I was blind, I'd know that you foreign and LEARNT English because you talk properly.' The funniest for me is being Oriental and talking French with a bad English accent - that REALLY get them :-)

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  11. haha i love this post Marlene! Hilarious! :))

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  12. Love this post - the postcards are so funny. Definitely agree that there's a minefield of lingo in England. It definitely takes some getting used to. xx

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  14. Hahaha I love this post! The postcards are brilliant!

    Off to get me some pudding too. and it's not in a liquid/semi-solid form.

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  15. Soooo funny! Soon, I will see/hear/experience this all for myself! Wink!

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  16. Oh yes, I do feel your pain:) Im a foreigner in England too, and despite being taught British English (or at least that what they told me in school) I still get confused from time to time:) Adding to a fact that I once worked in English-speaking India (or shall I say Hindish-speaking;)its easy to go crazy with all this subtlety:) Regarding dinner, I was once told by my English,Oxford educated friends, that dinner is a sitting, more formal meal while supper is more relaxed and can inlcude cold dishes. So here we go. And yes, I do have tarts for pudding too;)))

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  17. Very funny and love the postcards.
    Re popsicle, in the States it is a frozen fruit flavoured thing to suck on and in the UK it is an ice lolly. A lolly here is a sucker in the States and is not frozen.

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    1. That's what we call them in NZ too. Lolly is definitely lollipop. But then again in NZ, sweets (candies) are referred to as lollies. So complicated!

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  18. This post is too funny, it literally cracks me up and makes my day. As a foreigner who comes from "English is not my official language" country, i have a strong accent i guess. Residing in a part of the country where i am now, i findhave that people here are more forgiving and pretty good at guessing/interpreting foreign accents because there are so many immigrants around. This is a fun and interesting read.

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  19. These are hilarious! I love the postcards, I would def. buy them and bring them home. I've definitely been to some countries where people stare at me being Asian which still surprises me. In Russia they were taken aback not because I was Asian but because I had perfect English. I was once sadly moved from a long security line at the airport to a much shorter one once I started speaking in English.

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  20. I religiously read your blog every other day and LOVE it, being an English born and 30 years living in New Zealand woman I can relate to everything you say. Popsicle is something I haven't heard in NZ, you mean Ice block? Thongs? You mean Jandles right? Does L'Lil call you Mommy or Mummy? I'm a little confused.Funny thing was that way back in the very early 80's when I went to NZ, being English of West Indian heritage the Kiwis were confused to say the least, they sort of knew I was 'English' by my accent, but not my looks, I had to tell them not all 'English' are all blond and blue eyed.Awww diversity, so interesting. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thank you for your continual support. I'm so pleased you like the blog. It's incredible the number of terms used to describe a simple pair of shoes - slippers, jandals, flip flops, thongs etc. I get plenty of baffled looks when I tell people that I'm from NZ. They're not all that surprised by my oriental features but the strong American drawl left many speechless. he world is so small now and people move about frequently.

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  21. Love this post! You know what? (and that's what every sentence in the US is prefaced with or "Wait- I have a question for you..." )I had completely forgotten about the thongs thingy! I can't even say "jandals' here though in the US though their fanny packs will always get me snockerchorkling like a schoolboy. As does "I'm rooting for you". Oh Im so unsophisticated...

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    1. *ahem* Yours truly tend to say "you know what....." Outside of the UK, the spoken English tend to be very informal. Now friends complain I sound like a stiff lipped English broad when I'm home.

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  22. amazing postcards love this post!!!! xO!
    www.thehautecookie.com

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  23. The postcard is so cute and you are so funny! Here in Singapore, we have our brand of English, called Singlish too..lol

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    1. I only recently found out what Abuden, shiok and kamchiong meant. Totally lost in conversations when I'm surrounded by my old classmates in Singapore and Malaysia.

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  24. Too funny!
    Visiting from Sam's blog. You have a wonderful way with words.
    How's about an Asian tawkin suthern?! Hey, ya'll! :D

    Jeannie from Georgia!

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  25. Love the postcards - hilarious - for the first time the other day someone said I sounded American - still think I sound as British as can be - I need to get with Jeannie above to compare Southern drawls:))

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  26. Haha, you are so funny! This post really made me laugh! I can imagine the confusion. :)

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  27. I just read this post out to Patrick! It made me smile as our kids are probably going to be in similar situations and people already look at P and I real weird! I find it odd that people call dinner 'tea'. It can get rather confusing. And that 'dessert' 'pudding' thing...so you could be making a pudding for pudding?

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  28. Hehe this reminds me of when I moved to the east coast of the US from the midwest. East coast to midwest translation: Soda instead of pop, aunt pronounced "ant" instead of aunt (I can only imagine the wrath if I referred to my father's sister as an insect) and my favorite is the children's game duck, duck, goose instead of duck, duck, grey duck.

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    1. My goodness, I didn't know that there's such a difference between East coast and midwest. LOLOLOL! There's NO way a game can be called duck, duck, grey duck!!

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  29. Ha I like this post. Funny!
    For us, it'd most probably be: What time har?

    It cen be very interesting to know that the same word means different things in different places though. I always thought Popsicles are those frozen flavoured cylindrical thingy for kids..kinda like ice cream.

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  30. we have found very similar things being Aussies in America... you'd never actually know we speak the same language with the looks I receive sometimes. Have also been guilty of using "thongs" in the incorrect way, and now use flip flops. I've had to change how I pronounce certain words like water, process... but have drawn the line at tomato, data and pronounce that in more of an english way...

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  31. This is hilarious! I'm saving the postcard pictures to show to my husband :)

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