Before moving to London in 2011, I thumbed through a few different books that were meant to help with the transition from living in the US to living in the UK. Having already been to LDN numerous times over the past 20 years, I felt secure in the knowledge that I did know some things of value already. However, I had expected to make some horrible gaffs along the way. I only hoped that folk would find them funny and not offensive.
From Gaff to Goff
We call the artist who painted the above image ‘Van Go’. However, to those in the UK he is ‘Van Goff’. I didn’t know how many times old Van Gogh would come up in conversation while I was living in London, but I’d be ready!
Slang terms and differing vocabulary
I had read that people from the UK, in general, are not to be called ‘Brits’. That would be like calling us Americans ‘Yanks’ (although I was referred to as such while living in Blighty :D). And, no, the Republic of Ireland is not a part of the British Isles. If you want to piss off a chick from Co. Dublin, then tell her that.
‘Panties’ are reserved for girls and not the kind of girl you’d find taking such things off for cash at, ahem, Gentlemen’s Clubs. Women in the UK wear ‘knickers’. However, when I hear that word I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.
|Probably wore knickers|
Nowadays, I think American women wear underwear.
In the UK, being made ‘redundant’ means you’ve lost your job. Buildings, too, can lose their job, as it were, and, all over the country, one can hoist pints in former churches!
When last visiting Douglas, granddad (not grandpa) to a friend’s child, he asked me how life was in ‘Barkley’. Knowing that he meant ‘Berkeley’ made answering fairly straightforward. Prior to moving to the UK, I had thought that his was a particularly So. London pronunciation, given that that’s where he had grown up. However, having consulted the ‘Rules Britannia’ book on English/Scottish/Welsh place name pronunciations, I then understood that when most folk over the pond say any word with ‘erk’ in it, then it sounds like ‘ark’. Easy enough. Although I was never too sure how to say ‘Berkshire’. Is it ‘Barkshu’? ‘Barksha’?
Jacko, Macca, and Madge
I much prefer the way musical celebs are named by the UK press. Michael Jackson goes from ‘MJ’ to ‘Jacko’ abroad. 'Jacko' rhymes with 'Wacko', and, when I think of Michael dangling his baby over the balcony of a German hotel, this British moniker fits.
Macca, actually, seems rather uninspired given that I had read that it’s common for those with a surname beginning with Mc/Mac to be called ‘Macca’. Maybe Paul McCartney should be called ‘Sir Macca’ in order for him to stand out just a bit?
Madonna, a one-named music making power house for the last 30 years, is taken down a notch, and made, somehow more accessible to the ‘little people’ by being called ‘Madge’ in the British press. I guess it’s meant to be a term of endearment. Whenever I hear the name, ‘Madge’, I think of the old TV advert for a dish soap called ‘Palmolive’. In it, manicurists can be seen sitting in a ladies' salon talking about Palmolive. The tag-line was: Madge, you’re soaking in it!!
Ha, I’d like to see Madonna give a mani/pedi.