Wednesday, May 16, 2007

English-isms thus far

  • bugger : Fluf once told me what this word literally means, but all I remember is the gist of his definition, which is that it deals with a person who has sex. The English have adapted it, much like we have adapted the word “fuck,” to fulfill all linguistic categories and a variety of meanings. To say “bugger” by itself is akin to saying “drat” or “darn it” when frustrated. (Oh, bugger. I forgot get milk at the store.) To call someone a bugger is to insult them mildly, as if you were calling them a “jerk” or a “rascal.” (You bugger!) *I haven’t quite figured out the precise meaning of the verb form of bugger, as it is less common, but I know it is possible to use the word in this manner. (I’ll bugger you!)
  • plaster: The American equivalent of Band-Aid. I don’t believe they sell that brand here, so if you are bleeding for death, you must ask for a plaster or else no one will offer you any form of adhesive. Do you have a plaster? I’ve just cut myself.
  • mate: The most common meaning of this word is friend. (I’m going out with my mates tonight.) The word could mean “significant other,” but the English usually use the more specified term “partner” for this sort of relationship. Nevertheless, “mate” can be degraded, in a sense, to a looser relationship between two people, showing one’s gratification or good will toward the other. (Thanks for the tip, mate.
  • fancy: This can generally mean “to like” or “to appreciate” (Do you fancy that dress?), or it can mean to have a romantic crush on a person (I think you roommate fancies James.)
  • candy floss: The English name for what Americans refer to as “cotton candy.” Really, we should just compromise and both call it what it is: sugar fluff. (I’m getting candy floss when we go to the carnival tomorrow.)
  • pants (vs trousers vs knickers): In England, “pants” and “knickers” mean the same thing—what Americans would term “panties” or “underpants.” (He saw me in my knickers!) Alternatively, the word “trousers,” which we would consider old-fashioned, is what they use for the American term “pants.” (That boy’s pants are showing; he should pull up his trousers.)
  • jumper: I have referred to this one before; it means what Americans would call “sweater.” (It was so cold today, I wore my new jumper.)
  • toilet: This is how you say “bathroom” or “restroom” in England. (I need to use the toilet.) In reality, it makes a good deal more sense, because when you say this in a restaurant, for instance, you certainly don’t intend to take a bath, nor do you intend to rest. In fact, there is probably no bath inside the room where you will be going. There will, however, be a toilet, and that is probably what you need to use. An acceptable alternative to “toilet” is “loo,” although this form is found less frequently in print (on signs, etc.).
  • dodgy: If you are from Rochester, you would recognize this word as meaning “sketchy.” Otherwise, if referring to a person, it means “suspicious” or “untrustworthy.” (That man looks awfully dodgy.) If referring to a place or thing, “dodgy” means “seedy” or “run-down” or “broken.” (That club looks dodgy. Let’s find another one.)
  • jelly: This is the English word for Jell-O. Again, like with Band-Aid, Americans—for some reason—insist upon using the name brand to refer to the noun. Here, they say “jelly” to mean “gelatin dessert” and “jam” to represent the fruit mush that you spread on toast. (I made some jelly today; it’s in the fridge.)
  • flapjack: Unlike the American definition meaning “pancake,” the English definition of this word refers to a food appears and tastes something like extra-gooey granola bars. To eat it, you simply cut yourself a slice from what looks like one large pan of uncut granola bars. (I think I’ll buy some flapjack from Tesco today for a snack.)
  • trainers: Americans sometimes argue whether to call this particular style of shoes “sneakers” or “tennis shoes.” The English call them trainers, a rather appropriate term, I think, because these are the shoes you wear when you train athletically. (I need some new trainers before I start running again; my old ones gave me shin splints.)
  • wicked: This word is akin to calling something “amazing” or “awesome.” (You’re coming to my party? Wicked.) However, it also has another more general use, which is to fill in for the word “very.” (That bag is wicked cool.)
  • purse: Not to be mistaken for “handbag,” which is how Americans use it, interchangeably. This word specifically means “women’s wallet,” the larger kind usually including a change purse and multiple slots for credit cards, etc. This item can be fit into a handbag, but one term cannot be substituted for the other. (I’m terrified of losing my purse on trips, because I always have to carry so much cash in it.)
  • uni: Short for “university.” (I’m going to uni today.) Not to be confused with “college,” which for the British is the level of school Americans would equate with high school.

    Gordon said...

    More specifically, buggery is anal sex. Don't believe it's gender-specific. Derives from some time in the distant past when then English had some Bulgarian enemies and certain damning rumours about them inevitably spread.

    I'm partial to the way these people use the words "fancy" and "trainers."

    The Canadians have done them one better in one regard, though... in Canada you go to the washroom to relieve yourself.

    Julie said...

    I enjoy your dictionary entries. I especially enjoy your sample sentences - they are well designed.

    Kelly said...

    I think that "wicked" is not exclusively English. It's a New England thing, too. Matt (my friend from Rhode Island) uses it on occasion within the same contexts.