Friday, 11 April 2008

Do You Come Here Often?

I was musing over how German phrase books never seem to tell you what you really need to know, or what colloquial phrases you should know to sound like you're not ein dummer Ausländer  just off the Eurostar.

But then, I bet English phrase books don't really explain some of the expressions used in everyday life either.

As a service to foreign langauge speakers, and a suggestion to Berlitz that I am available as a freelancer, here is a list of some of the more mystifying phrases used in Britland. 
Pepper your conversations with these and you'll sound as British 
as the England Team manager!

1) Haven't we had cold / wet/ windy / snowy / blustery / freezing / grey / frosty / grotty / miserable weather recently? - useful in any situation when you're short of small-talk. And basically, you can take your pick of any word at random and be correct, except on the minimum two days of the year when you can say 'phew, what a scorcher!'

2) I'M the only gay in the village! - or indeed any phrase from the comedy sketch show 'Little Britain'. Now considered to supercede 'This parrot is dead', ' I'm sorry, he's from Barcelona', and 'Four candles' to show you have a British sense of humour.

3) Is this the right room for an argument? - sorry, that's also out of date (see 2).

4) Is there a chippy 'round here? - often heard said by people after leaving a pub, a football match, and Malaga Airport. Equals 'chip shop' and not to be confused with a branch of Nordsee, the latter not usually to be found selling mushy pea and curry sauce pie float with pickled eggs and deep-fried battered pizza.

5) Did you spill my pint? - don't ever, ever say this; just be aware that it is an invitation to go home in an ambulance. Of the same threat level as 'are you looking at my bird?' or 'do you support Arsenal?'. The correct response is to avoid eye contact and keep your head down. Don't panic and throw all your money at him (for it will invariably be a he) whilst making a dive for the window.

6) He or she is ... knitting with one needle; not the sharpest knife (in the drawer); eating with one chop-stick; a can short of a party pack; one floor short of a bungalow; a card short of a deck; a tuppence short of a shilling [ask your grandad]; a few fries short of a happy meal; a brick short of a load; two clowns short of a circus; missing a few buttons on the keyboard etc etc. - all meaning that he or she isn't all there mentally. In fact, they're not only a sandwich short of a picnic, but missing the lemonade as well.

7) Tut! - not really a full phrase, but the usual exclamation made if some other person pushes to the front of a queue, behaves boorishly, wears a cummerbund at a white tie dinner, or blows up the Houses of Parliament. Often followed by 'typical!'.

8) Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please - you can say this any time you're with me in a pub, thank you. The advanced version is 'and a packet of prawn cocktail crisps' if you want to be flash.

9) In the fullness of time / when we get 'round to it / at the appropriate juncture / when the time's right / sometime in the future - all of these phrases (and many more including, strangely, asap) mean 'never'. I am sure many times a for example US - English business meeting has broken up with the Yanks expecting something to happen the next day whilst the Brits were equally sure they've expressed it's a ludicrous idea and will file it away in the dustbin.

10) More tea vicar? - I don't think this phrase has ever been used seriously in the history of the English language, but it perfectly encapsulates English attitudes; the Church of England; afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches; and a polite deferential manner whilst totally failing to address the horror that has just preceded it, e.g. in levels of severity someone has farted; the dog is humping the vicar's leg; a naked man has just run across the lawn; the entire house has collapsed under a crash-landed UFO.

1 comment:

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