I had another paper aeroplane conversation with someone yesterday. We could still be at it today, burying ourselves deeper into complete misunderstanding of each other, if he hadn’t broken the deadlock in a simple way. By spelling it out.
Our front door buzzer went and I went to the phone to find out who was there. It was a delivery man from UPS. He told me he had a delivery for someone else, and asked if I would collect it. This is how the conversation went:
“You all right? I’m from UPS and I have a delivery, it’s 4A.”
“You must be at the wrong block.”
“No, it’s 4A.”
“This is Flat A, but we’re not block 4.”
“No, it’s FOR A.”
“But this is A.”
“Yes, but this is for A.”
“But this is A.”
“Yes, this is for A.”
“Is the delivery for me?”
“No. It’s for A.”
“Yes, A for egg.” (he had a well cockney accent, you see.)
I really laughed to myself, as I ran down the stairs to collect the parcel for my upstairs neighbour, and I wondered what Mr Delivery Man thought about this person who spoke well forrin!
Which is a perfect opportunity to segue into more examples of UK English words that I don’t know, and Saffa English words that no-one here knows!
- A while ago, a local friend of ours talked about someone who had “popped his clogs”. He said it dead seriously (excuse the pun), and couldn’t work out why we found it so comical. It means “died”. Isn’t that just the funniest expression? To me, it doesn’t really fit with what you’re saying, and makes me want to chuckle. I’ve included an explanation of the expression below*.
- Blag – I’ve heard this a few times. I thought it could mean “to use your blog to brag” but it means “to lie” or “to wheedle yourself into a situation through tricking, lying or cheating”. For example, I blagged my way into that club/job/relationship.
- Pants – I know I’ve talked about the different meanings of pants and trousers. But it can also be used to mean “bad” or “rubbish” (see below). The first time I heard the word used was in an interview with Andy Murray (the Scottish tennis player who, I heard a comedian say this week, makes Gordon Brown look charismatic.) The interview was a post-mortem of a match he’d just lost and he said, “I wasn’t happy with the way I played. My service was pants.”
- Rubbish – in my use of the word, it can mean garbage or poor quality. For example, Why do I always have to take out the rubbish? or This TV programme is a load of rubbish. Here in the UK, the word is used slightly differently, and I love it. I sent a friend a text a few weeks ago to say that both of my interviews had yielded no’s. She replied with, How rubbish!
- Cagoule – this word fascinates me. I had never heard it before I arrived in London last year, and now notice its use quite often. It means light raincoat, one that can fold up and be carried easily. It reminds me of a silly story a friend told me years ago, of a chap walking up to someone in the street and, with unlit cigarette in hand, saying, “Have you got a light, mac?” and he said, “No, but I do have a heavy overcoat.”
- At the minute: this means right now, at the moment. As in, I’m between gigs; I’m not working at the minute.
- And now on to the Saffa-isms! Pitch up or pitch: this means to arrive, to turn up. I find it hilarious. Especially when I heard it on the TV news in SA once: “He held a press conference on his arrival, but not many people pitched.”
- Bring with/come with: Use can include: Where are you going? Can I come with, and can I bring the kids with? I grew up in a home where these expressions were absolute no-no’s (along with the word kids!). We had it drummed into us that we should say with you at all times, in place of with. My sister continued the tradition and drummed this into her children. When her son was a toddler, I remember her thinking aloud, “What shall I mix this with?” Her son said very bossily, “WITH YOU!”
- Eina! This is an expression of pain, and is pronounced aynah. If you stand on my toe, I’ll say EINA! Not usually without adjectives and expletives. But you get the picture.
- Sis! This word is one which expresses disgust. Like yuck! And you usually pull a face when you say it, nose turned up and mouth splayed in ugliness. Last week at our local supermarket, I thought I’d stood on someone’s toe but discovered I’d stood on a half-chewed milky-jelly-sweet in the shape of a set of dentures. It stuck to my shoe. Sis.
My education into the English language continues and never ceases to fascinate. A few years ago, a new colleague at work was observing me and the joking banter I was having with a colleague at tea time. She said, “Yor! I fasciNATE myself with you!” I have decided that here in London, I fasciNATE myself with talking forrin!
Sunshine signing out for today!
*idiomdictionary.com defines the expression as a “light-hearted euphemism, implying that after the person’s death, his shoes or ‘clogs’ and other personal effects are pawned (‘popped’)”.