I recently found a cartoon in a book about British culture, in which one panel shows a man drowning in a river, calling to a passerby, “HELP!” In the next panel, the caption reads: “Proper British Behavior,” and the drowning man speaks, “Pardon me, sir, but could I trouble you for a moment? I seem to have slipped and fallen into a situation of grave peril.” The British English stereotype is to use as many words as necessary; “yield” here is give way and “exit” signs say way out. However, British English has way more discreet vocabulary differences than I anticipated, much more than pants meaning “underwear.”
For example, if I were asking help on a paper in British, I would say the following: Do come quickly– My essay is rubbish. Could you have a go at it? I need to sort it all out or my tutor will take the Mickey out of me. Right. That’s brilliant! Massively brilliant, indeed. Cheers, mate.
This is the same idea expressed in American: Come quick! My paper is awful! Can you look at it for me, please? Or my prof will eat me alive. That’s awesome; thanks, pal.
A couple other words and phrases that each of us should find useful in casual conversation:
You lot, referring to a group of people.
Bloody + noun! (Don’t say this in civilized conversation.)
Get something sorted, as in to figure something out or organize something.
What are you on about? as a question of indignant frustration and curiosity.
Bit, as in a small amount
Rubbish, which I wrote again because it’s my favorite
Your cufflinks are dreadful, to tell someone that you don’t like their cufflinks.
Right as a response to any statement from anyone in any situation and any conversation.
Right then. Last week I stumbled around this verse in 1 Peter (which in British is said “One Peter,” not “First”):
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet 5:8-9).
Reading this passage gave me a strange sense of comfort. Why would it soothe my soul to hear that everyone across the globe has the same kind of sufferings, pains and temptations? It’s sort of like finals week; no one is particularly happy, yet everyone in the dorm, plex, apartment or house is struggling together. Traveling across the ocean has shown me numbers of differences between peoples, yet a sense of sameness sits through it all. We are all God’s creation; we all suffer the agonies of sin. We all get stuffy noses when the weather drops below freezing. We’re all living, and, whether we acknowledge it or not, we all play a role in the fight against the ever-present evil Satan sticks in our world. And that’s rather nice indeed.