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Clare writes inspirational romance, usually of a suspenseful nature. Her books are available through her publisher Pelican Book Group and Amazon. She is married with three kids and lives in the UK. She loves watching sci-fi, crime drama, cross stitching, reading and baking.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

What Brits say v what they mean. Or rather a translation for the rest of the world.

What Brits say v what they mean. Or rather a translation for the rest of the world.

As a Brit writing for a US publisher, I’ve had to relearn English. Yeah, seriously. I mean whose language is ENGLISH anyway? (insert winky face here :P). The grammar is different – they put a comma before the word ‘and’ for a start, and don’t even get me started on the spelling. Z’s (that’s zed by the way) instead of s’s and no u’s and …. (is laughing quietly while writing this bit which you won’t be able to see. And it has to be quiet. It’s almost ten to two in the morning).  
I often get comments back on the manuscript highlighting something I’ve put with a “huh?” in the margin. Not so much now… Well, occasionally I still manage to chuck something in that I understand perfectly, as would every other Brit who reads my books, which knocks my editor for six.

Anyway here are some of those things that other people have asked me to explain. If you can think of anymore, leave a comment and I’ll do that next time.

Throw a spanner in the works - completely and utter mess something up for someone so it no longer works. Think tossing a spanner into a bike wheel and it jamming.
Spend a penny - go to the loo. Originally using the public toilets involved putting a 1p coin in the lock on the door. So you'd literally spend a penny to go to the loo. These days it’s more like 50p in the train stations. Probably more in London.
It's monkeys outside or brass monkeys. Means its freezing. Cold enough to freeze the nuts off a brass monkey. Yes, I know they don’t have them. It’s a sailing metaphor.
Bangers and mash - sausages and mash potato. A British fave.
Oh and toad in the hole. Something my kids and hubby love. That’s sausages in batter pudding (pancake mix.)
Shepherd’s pie. That’s minced lamb topped with mash.
Cottage pie – see above but use beef mince not lamb.

Spotted dick – a perfectly innocent and yummy sponge pudding with currants in. Served with custard. See picture.

Up the duff / knocked up/ bun in the oven – pregnant.
Knocked for six – something totally unexpected
See a man about a dog - where I’m going is none of your business
Blow a gasket – lose your temper suddenly and violently
Throw someone into the middle of next week – not wanna see them for a very long time
Boozer – pub.
Plastered / blotto / three sheets to the wind / paralytic - drunk

So if your 13yr old daughter came home and announced she was up the duff, you’d likely blow a gasket, be knocked for six and go see a man about a dog down the boozer until you're either three sheets to the wind or you’d calmed down enough not to want to commit murder or throw someone into the middle of next week.

Mobile - cell phone
Trousers = pants
Pants/knickers = women’s underwear
Boxers/ y fronts = men’s underwear
Suspenders = what women use to hold stockings up with (so a bloke saying he's got suspenders holding his pants up will send any Brit into hysterics. Quietly of course)

Time is another good one. Whereas we sometimes say six ten for example, its far more common place to use the words past or to. For example
Five past six – 6.05
Quarter after or quarter past six - 6.15
Half six or half past six - 6.30
Quarter before or quarter to seven - 6.45
Ten to seven – 6.50

And then there's the rubber. Stop sniggering and get your minds out of the gutters. I had Niamh in Thursday's Child pick up a rubber from her desk and throw it at her boss. I had to change it to eraser. ... It's a perfectly innocent little word in Britain. Every school kid has at least one rubber to rub out pencil marks! You can even get HUGE ones that read for BIG mistakes. If I'd have meant something else I'd have said it. Not that I would as I don't write that kind of fiction.

The houses we live in all have their own individual name as well as being a house. Yes, some of them have names too. Not telling you what my house is called. Anyway with pictures for you...
Detached - one house on its own.

Semi-detached - Two houses joined together. Looks like one big one. 

Terrace - three or more houses joined together. Sometimes all painted different colours (note the u in colour :P) Sometimes not. I live in one of these. Each house is totally self-contained. 

Maisonette – a single house divided into two – upstairs is one living space. Downstairs is another. Call it two self-contained flats in one house. Each with its own entrance.

Flats - block of flats is an apartment block

Bungalow - a single story house on its own like a detached

Hope these have helped shed some light on weird things we say. Like I said, if you have any more, comment either here or on FB and I’ll do my best to address these in another post.

I’ll be back next week with a look at British life. Cricket and pubs and village greens, parks, duck ponds, Sunday afternoon naps and photos,
Come back next week and find out then.


LoRee Peery said...

Clare, thanks for the info. I find this valuable as well as humorous. As in, I won't have to go, "Huh?" sometimes when I'm reading. It makes me wonder, do you "get" everything Americans refer when there are many colloquialisms unique to different parts of our country?

Jan Elder said...

Terrific, Clare and very funny. If I'm ever in the U.K., I will be sure not to say that my husband wears suspenders. Grin. Looking forward to next week's post!

jericha kingston said...

These are great, Clare! Thanks for sharing. As for cricket...that sport has me stumped (pun, yes?!) I've been watching cricket with hubby the past three months, and all I understand is 4, 6, and LBW. We used to laugh about it, but now the hubs prefers that I don't comment during the innings, er, overs...or whatever they're called. My one consolation is, he doesn't understand baseball when I try to explain it to him.

Tammy Doherty said...

What's interesting to me is how many of these are in common usage here in Massachusetts. Maybe we're still close to our British roots. However, you say "see a man about a dog" to as where I’m going is none of your business...we say "see a man about a horse" to mean going to the loo. Which, btw, is not called a "loo" here in the States!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Love it LOL!


Davalyn Spencer said...

Priceless post. Thanks!

Marianne Evans said...

This post is ace! ;-) Speaking as one who has benefited from your British know-how, I can't thank you enough for the info and laughs. <3 xo

Susan Lyttek said...

Amazed how many I know and use. Maybe some is because I've lived a lot of places? Knew all the food because one of our favorite restaurants when we visit Richmond, Virginia is a British pub. We used to live in a semi-detached when we first moved to Virginia. "Blow a gasket" is one I picked up from my mom growing up so who knows where she got it! Thanks, Clare for the education and I look forward to more.

Delia Latham said...

Priceless! Love it, Clare! I, too, am surprised how many of the phrases you mention are familiar to me. Both of my parents were born and raised in Texas, and I'm thinking maybe folks there really did cling a bit to their British roots...and then added a few branches. lol Things like "don't take any wooden nickles," "flatter'n a flitter," "dark as ol' dunger," etc. Fun stuff! :)

Wendy Davy said...

Love this Clare! Made me laugh and very informative!