How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

British Expressions

During the years it took me to write England Adventure, my creative sessions often immersed me in books, websites, films, and photos that brought English culture alive to me even before I was blessed to visit in person. Among my favorite things to study was the British way of speakingand when I heard it with my own ears in England, I was thrilled! 

I tried my best to give my English characters authentic tongues. (An English reader was quite helpful, too, in that department.) Fortunately a lot of people are also intrigued by the differences between British English and American, so I’ve had good sources to point these differences out; I also gleaned from informal posts by Britons on forums, Tripadvisor, and blogs. Anyway, this is a sampling of words and expressions I’ve found use for in my story. Many of these you’re probably already familiar with:

From Gregory Endicott, the wry, yet caring host for the six cousins:

Don’t go wishing too much or else you’re bound to bring rain down on the whole holiday.” [American equivalent: trip/vacation]

Your parents are rightly concerned about things like banking accounts when it comes to that.” [This is subtle! American equivalent: bank accounts]

These girls wanted to see what was on the telly in England,” Mr. Endicott explained when he saw us. “I told them it was all the same rubbish that’s anywhere in America, but you can tell who prevailed.”

All the way on the pavement, if you please.” [American equivalent: sidewalk]

I’ll be parking in a car park or two. We shall do lots of walking.” [Either a parking lot or a parking garage]

Mr. Endicott, answering no, he’d prefer a fizzy drinka sodaalso went out …

It was brilliant.” [wonderful, awesome … I heard this a lot myself in England]

And my two favorites:
Now, no turning off into sideshows and faffing about.” [dillydallying]
I hadn’t the foggiest when you wanted to get into it.” [“Idea” is dropped off the end]

From Celia Parker, Mr. Endicott’s feisty sister:

I don’t see the point in standing out here in the drive, with all the neighbors looking on. Come inside; is that all you’ve got?” [Drive: driveway. In England, I heard people saying “I’ve got” or “you’ve got” all the time instead of plain “I have” or “you have.”]

I tell you it was never more tempting to order takeaway than tonight.” [They never seem to say “takeout,” which is what I’m used to; it’s always “takeaway.”

All of you just wash your hands in the loo, not the kitchen, and come back to the dining room.”

And one more … this one is special to me, because it was the first Briticism my ears picked up on once we arrived in London:

Haven’t had enough of English accents, yeah?” [Chelsea, a teenage friend of the Endicotts’ granddaughter Paris, said this; it replaces the American “huh” or “right?”] As for when I heard it, when we first emerged into Central London from Victoria train station, we were turned around and couldn’t figure out where we were on our map to get to our hotel. A super nice, older man noticed we were lost, so he kindly looked at our map with us and pointed out the way we should take. While he explained the directions, he said something like, “We're on Victoria Street, yeah?” The fact that I heard him say that, a legitimate British man in legitimate London, stuck in my memory far longer than the directions did. 

Now how about a fun read on what Britons think is … unusual about Americans? This is from Joy Clarkson's blog, an American who is enrolled at Oxford. 

Do you enjoy British expressions? Do you have a favorite? 

Oh! And just a housekeeping survey ... do you like this font better than my other? Easier to read, nicer looking, etc.? 


  1. So fun! ^_^ To be honest, I'm so immersed in British books and film/shows that some of those things I barely noticed because it was natural to hear it! But I love how you captured the authentic sounds of British speech in your book. :)

    1. Thank you!
      True! I can relate. Sometimes dialogue just came that I didn't even have to think about, and I knew it was English. : ) Yay for being immersed in British books and film/shows!
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. This font looks nice--bigger--at least in the phone, which is what I'm using now.

    I think a touch of special phrases and slang adds a lot of color. The main thing is just not to get it WRONG--to misapply slang to the wrong region or era or to severely overuse it. On those occasions I really notice it. Other times, it just creates a seamless pleasant effect precisely because it feels natural.

    1. Thank you for letting me know about the font! I did it by accident, but then realized that actually it looked pretty nice.

      Exactly. Don't get dialect wrong. That would be disruptive to the reader and embarrassing for the author. :) I like the seamless effect, like you said; sometimes it's hard to know how much to include, but that's another thing beta readers can help with!

      Thanks for commenting!