British-English as a second language
Eight years on and still no British accent. Some people think they hear a slight English accent when I speak, but I’m no Madonna. No transatlantic accent for me. In fact, recently I was told I have the most American accent ever.
Then I took the NY Times dialect quiz that was making the rounds on social media. The three American cities where my dialect seemed to be derived from were all in Nebraska. I took the quiz a few more times just to be sure. Goddamn you Lincoln, Nebraska. I just can’t quit you.
(I have never been to Lincoln, Nebraska. But I guess that’s what you get when you have a father from the south and a mother from the Midwest and you’ve spent your childhood on US military bases around the world. Plus almost all of your adulthood in England.)
Anyway, I may not have a British accent, but I have adopted quite a few phrases and pronunciations. It’s a mishmash with the pronunciations because ta-mah-to and a-lu-min-eee-um just don’t roll off the tongue. I’m totally ok with rhyming leisure with pleasure though.
As for words and phrases, because there are so many I love I decided to start a list.
So far, I have included:
An alternative to quarrel or argue.
We’ve fallen out and are no longer speaking to each other.
Another alternative to quarrel or argue. Rhymes with cow.
They had a massive row last night.
Use when describing a situation that has failed or gone wrong.
It’s all gone pear-shaped.
He was absolutely gutted to hear the news.
Another word to describe being very pleased.
I’m chuffed to bits!
Mad as a box of frogs
Use when wanting to describe someone as crazy; very eccentric.
That woman is as mad as a box of frogs.
Another word for crazy or very eccentric.
He’s gone bats.
Lost the plot
To go crazy, to act in an unstable way, to no longer be able to act in a rational manner.
He has completely lost the plot.
Use when something is not acceptable.
I can’t believe he canceled our plans. After all we’ve been through, that’s just not on.
Another way to say, “What are you talking about?” It’s a shortened version of “What are you going on about?”
What are you on about?
Short for nightmare. Use when describing a bad time or bad day.
I’m having a mare trying to file taxes.
Another word for tired or exhausted. It can also be used to describe something that is overused or worn out.
After all that traveling, I’m knackered.
Chaotic, disorganized or mismanaged.
The organization of this event is absolutely shambolic.
Used to describe being a little drunk. Can also be used to describe something that’s gone awry.
She was feeling a bit squiffy after the champagne toast.
Another word for whine.
Quit your whinging and just get the work done!
Doing someone’s head in
To disturb, frustrate, or irritate someone.
All this whinging is doing my head in!
Take the piss
To take liberties at the expense of others, or to act unreasonable. It also means to make fun of or pulling someone’s leg.
I already asked my boss for a day off next week so I can’t show up late. I don’t want him thinking I’m taking the piss.
Use when describing something breaking, or becoming inoperative, or dead. An alternative to “belly up.”
The company went tits up after the stock market crash.
Run or run for it.
We had to leg it to the last train.
Used to describe food that is so good you want more.
That chocolate cake is moreish, isn’t it?
There are many more phrases and words I like but haven’t yet adopted. Some I never will because they just don’t work in my American accent. I do consider myself fluent in British-English, even if I don’t speak it completely and consistently.
Before you think it’s all just take-take with me, I do my part in sharing American sayings. Just last week I taught my British colleagues the phrase “rode hard and put away wet.” Of course, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Mind. Gutter. I had to reassure them that I was not taking the piss.
(I also had to do a quick search to make sure I was right about the etymology of that one. Phew!)