Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fags, boots, bonnets and other mispronunciations

I've been a little lax in posting since I returned from my 2.5-week vacation across the pond. I could blame the jetlag (over 24 hours of travel in one day) but if I'm being honest (and I usually am), it's because my vocabulary has undergone a transformation and I'm finding it hard to find the right words.

I was in Scotland first, mesmerized by the hills, the sheep and the accents (not in that order). I got used to driving on the other side of the road - looking both ways just in case - and I got used to the jargon. A truck is a lorry, there is no such thing as going to the bathroom, a hood is a bonnet, gas is petrol... you get the picture. I drank a lot of wine, held a lot of babies (my cousins' two and my best friend's 3-year-old daughter and relaxed in general. Maybe it's the rolling hills, but I felt the stress slip away as we drove from Peniciuk to Peebles, from Edinburgh to Gorebridge, from Dunfermline onwards. The roundabouts scared me, the close roads thrilled me and I felt that familiar tug at my heartstrings. I was home.

Fast forward to one week later and I was on a bus with my full suitcase, off to visit a friend along the coast of England. A bus ride and a tricky manuever down the stairs at the train station (thanks go out to a kind, very cute Edinburghian who took pity on me and my accident-prone self who carried my suitcase down the rest of the staircase) and I was on my way to the train, my train, that would take me into another world.

And it was another world. Gone were the lilting accents, the white-dotted hills and the lochs. In its place was a transition to coastal England and countryside out of Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy, are you there? Seriously, I thought I saw him meandering on a horse through one pasture that passed outside of my window seat. I tried to make the train stop, slow down, so I could do a cat-whistle but the engineer was not having any of it. "Wipe the drool of yer face lady, and sit the feck down!" And that was my seat-mate. No, she was whistling too, but she was a local so she could go back and conduct an indepth search. And besides, she's used to Darcy sightings so it was merely a passing fancy.

Nerves took over as I pulled into Bristol where I would rest my head for the next four days. Will the train doors close on me as I'm trying to pull my heavy suitcase off of the train and onto the platform? Will I be able to manuever the said suitcase up the many stairs? Will there be pay toilets and me with no pound coins? Or worse, will there be no one to meet me at the station and welcome me to the thriving metropolis of Bristol? I need not worry. Everything went without a hitch, save a small stumble on the stairs under the weight of my entire wardrobe.

What I didn't expect was a language barrier. I speak English. They speak English. But the words are different. The first thing my friend said to me as we left the confines of the station was "I need a fag." I took a double take and breathed a sigh of relief as he pulled out a cigarette and proceeded to light it. We continued on to the parking lot where a van.... um, sorry, a lorry awaited us. A family friend had offered to drive me back to my friends' humble abode. It had a passenger seat up front (for the guest of honour) and space in the back for... wellies (rain boots) and the tools of his trade, farming. There was even a sack of potatoes.

My language lesson continued from there. We passed a few gas stations and I commented on the price. Gas station? Oh no. Gas is flatulence. Farts. These stations offered petrol. A few pints of Cheddar Valley cider (evil, beautiful nectar of the gods) and I was explaining the origin of fag and it wasn't something you could smoke. I hate the word fag and it annoyed me to hear it used for the burning embers held between two fingers and inhaled. Then came another shock: the horrible, descriptive word of C U Next Thursday, used not to describe a woman but a man (oh, the horror) and it's used ubiquitiously. Constantly. In pubs. On the street. In everyday conversation.

On that note, I will sign off. Not for good, but I need to get my vocabulary back. In the meantime, I have some hoovering to do. My holiday (read vacation) is truly over.


  1. I've seen some smokin' hot fags And the C. U. Next Thursday? I say if the shoe fits..........I know some men who fit into that category.

    Nice to have you back Scribe!


  2. Thanks Magnet! It's good to be back!

  3. I knew fags were cigs and petrol was gas, but using that word for men is kind of hysterical. Is it ever proper to use it for a woman?

  4. It was rather disconcerting, Akilah, but I laughed just the same. It's not a word I wield around readily, though man or woman, sometimes it's warranted. It just shocks people when it comes out of a woman's mouth!