The thought of schooling in England never appeared stressful to me. For one, no language barrier was in sight. Is it not common ‘Queen’s English’ I would speak? Spiced with British accent here and there, please I was good to go! Plus I had imagined my high school and A-Levels English lessons had prepared me for the life.
People, I got to England it was not a joking stuff. I wasn’t ready. Apparently, there was more to speaking English than I knew and I needed to start learning British slangs and catch phrases- another language on its own if you ask me.These are words or phrases one would chip into a conversation to either sound British, sympathetic or to fake appear polite. It took me a while to comprehend, the grammatical structures of some words were confusing and at other times, I just squeezed my face and spoke the one I understood. Somebody cannot be taking Panadol for another person’s headache.
Here are some I picked up:-
Coming from a country where we only say “cheers” when we intend to express good wishes before drinking- at events and then attempt to look cheerful as we plaster a smile on our face, this was a fairly tough nut to crack.
In England, you say it every time. You receive your receipt from the cashier, “cheers”; you hold the elevator for someone, “cheers”; you disembark from the bus, “cheers”. Then, the more notorious ones and even an old Baba would say, “Cheers mate”. Ah daddy what do you mean? I am not your mate sir.
Without much ado, I have come to realise the multiuse of “cheers” to mean, thank you; you’re welcome; sorry; goodbye and see you later.
“I’m afraid, I can’t”
This has to be the most famous phrase used by Britons when they attempt to sound polite but firm while replying a request in the negative. “Do you give student discounts here?” “I’m afraid, we do not…but you could subscribe to our monthly newsletters for promotional discounts”. “Did I qualify for the scholarship?” “I’m af-” (That’s all I need to hear, I know what would follow).
At first, the phrase alone sent instant queries to my head. Like, why are you afraid? What is ‘fearing’ you? Kindly go straight to the point and tell me yes or no. Over time though, I’ve realised that the phrase is only an attempt to appear sympathetic.
“Do you want to…?”
As much as I’ve been adamant to adopt most British catch phrases, this is the one I have found most polite and appealing. Now, I hear myself using the phrase. So, rather than telling someone to out rightly do something, you ask them if they want to. I’d give examples.
*Walks into doctor’s office* “Hi Miss W, do you want to sit?
“Hi Prof South, I’m afraid I didn’t comprehend the feedback you sent…any help? “Sure Waazaki, do you want to come into my office sometime today for a chat?”
I guess it gives you a sense of choice, even if you don’t really have one. For me, it’s a polite way of telling a person to do a thing without saying ‘please’.
“Are you alright?”
At first, I found this really creepy when I walked into a small shop and the cashier asked me “are you alright?” I started wondering if my button was open or my foundation was melting or I was looking sick. Fast fast, I brought out my hand mirror to be sure my face was still on fleek (gatts, I was still fleeking *whew*) and breezed out the store.
After a while, I realised that most of it wasn’t just some over sabi effort but an attempt to start a conversation or break the proverbial ice. The best ones are when the old taxi driver asks “are you alright, love?” that just makes my day! (These times when legitimate baes are hard to find in the market, at least someone still called me “love”).
This is definitely the one everyone knows. It’s a London-breed slang, not too popular in other parts of England. A lot of times though, it is grammatically incorrect when put in context, and a rather informal phrase.
Thankfully, my sister who lived in London was my first introduction to this phrase; the universe did not let me embarrass myself to the world. The first time she said it, I went off like, “Is that proper English? What do you mean, in-it? in-side it? In-hit? inn’t it?” at this point, she was literally rolling on the floor laughing. But then I got it. It meant, “Isn’t it!” Eureka! *pats self on the back* So much for “Queen’s English”.
Honestly, I avoid this one like a plague. Every time I try to chip it in a response, it sounds like I try too hard. “You’re eating Eba, innit?” (No way!) I gave up. I’d advise you to use this phrase only when you’ve mastered the Cockney accent.
On a much lighter note brethren, I shall be sojourning to Paris for my Easter break. (once in a while shake body with your savings). Any language or cultural discrepancies to keep in mind? Someone cannot go and get arrested. My father will just off his phone.
I’m sure catch phrases and slangs differ from place to place. Let’s share slangs we’ve had to learn in order to adapt in foreign countries.
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