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to American English
English Language Translations
(or some London phrases you might come across!)
In theory, coming to the UK means that an American doesn't have to worry about a language barrier... yeah, right!
A bit of Social History...
- Some terms that the English & British use may not be familiar to you. Many influences from India and Pakistan, Africa and the rest of Europe, especially France, are commonly used. Sometimes the English don't even know that the words they use are foreign, so what chance do you have?
- Although our language (English!) is the second* most spoken language in the world, the population of England** is only now around 50-55 millions.
* Chinese is the first language by shear population numbers in and around China, but English is the most widely spoken language worldwide.
** The British population is around 65 millions including the population of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- The population of England consists mostly of city dwelling, with 10-12 millions in Greater London and South-East England, 4 millions in Yorkshire (inc. Leeds, Sheffield, York, Bradford), 2.5 millions in Greater Birmingham, 2.5 millions in Greater Manchester, 1.5 millions in Greater Liverpool, 1.5 millions in Lancashire. This leaves English village populations with various colloquial words and accents which change throughout England in relatively small distances.
- English is an ever changing language, often influenced by immigration and other foreign languages. Throughout history, the English language has changed.
- Up until around the 11th century, the language spoken by the English (Albion/Celtic/Dane-Viking/Roman/Latin/French etc) changed and was modified by outside influence, migration and invasion.
- After the last invasion of Britain (1066), things settled down in England for a while and influence came only through religion (Latin) and from our neighbours (French/Germanic/Spanish). Being an island helped keep the language fairly unchanged, but variations of accent occurred from place to place.
- In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, English was to start changing radically once again. As the British Empire started to grow to be the largest ever known, English started to gain influence from lots of other languages once again, including Indian, African, and even Arabic. This evolution has continued.
- As the British Empire declined, our links with other languages did not. Many British Empire countries slowly gained independence and became members of the British Commonwealth instead.
- In the 1950's, after the end of World War Two, Britain needed rebuilding, so immigration was encouraged. Commonwealth Citizens were invited to come work in Britain's cities.
- At the same time, many thousands of British families moved to Commonwealth Countries including Canada, South Africa and Australia and New Zealand. This migration, together with the growth of the European Union and the increase in Worldwide Air Travel has caused one of the biggest changes in the English language in England. Couple this with the huge effect of Global Television and Film and you can understand how this evolution of language has increased and this will probably continue well into the future.
- Even American and Australian English is now creeping into British English!!!
The London language...
- London is famous around the world for it's Cockney Rhyming Slang, but this has almost died out now, as the immigration ripple effect has moved the Cockney's into Essex and other 'Home Counties' that surround Greater London.
- Traditionally, in order to be a 'true' Cockney, you must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells, roughly 6 miles around St Mary-le-Bow church in London's East-End. In this area you are much more likely to hear Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Turkish or even Polish, than Cockney nowadays.
- It is pretty much accepted that today's Cockney speaking areas are situated in Essex (inc. Dagenham, Barking, Romford, Chigwell, Harlow, Basildon, Thurrock) and North East London (inc. Tottenham, Enfield*, Cheshunt and Brimsdown).
(*Our original LondonAirConnections office was in Enfield, and the many of the locals spoke with Cockney accents, but the Rhyming Slang was less apparent).
- London itself is really a mixed bag, with at least 122 different first languages, and population of about 8 millions. Like most major cities in the world, the culture is varied, and ever changing...
- Many young Londoner's speak 'Jafaican' (Afro-Caribbean), 'Text-speak' (Cell phone SMS jargon) or a London youth ('init') speak! (The crazy youth become 'da crazi yout'). They will grow up (eventually!) and add this youth speak to the mass of rich London accents and words.
- In 2008/9 more than 2 million Polish migrants arrived in England, as Poland joined the EEC (United European States). Although many have returned to Poland as the economy there has grown, the English high street has been changed forever, and this has made our language even more varied.
- So, understandably, Londoners speak with various phrases and dialects, and the 'London Language' particularly evolves continuously... (sometimes so fast that parents have to ask their children for translations!).
- The Oxford English Dictionary* is updated every year, with much controversy in the media about words that were slang just a year or two before... so what chance does the American Tourist have? Well, hopefully we can help you with the basics...
(*The Oxford English Dictionary is considered the leading English dictionary in and for all of Britain).
- In the UK we go to the bathroom to have a bath, but in the US you pee in it! We use a toilet, but in the USA you use a "can"! (Is that a gas or a baked bean can?)
- In the USA you wear your 'pants' on the outside - our pants are underwear and we wear trousers over our pants!
- In the USA you join a line for the bus, but in the UK we join a queue behind the painted line on the pavement.
So here are our cosher translations to help you feel at 'ome with the natives down the local in town - 'ave a gander an' hopefully you'll find it useful wiv no agro, alwright? We 'ope it help your stay be well cushty, and you won't feel like a dipstick, cause we ain't takin' the mick, alwright geezer?
Also, if you clock any blinding or pukka phrases, that ain't on our list, please email us @ office(at)londonairconnections.com and we'll be happy to bung it on this list....
118: as in "try 118 mate!" (118-118 is a telephone directory & enquiry number).
KNACKERED: tired, worn out. (The 'knackers' yard was where they turned
old horses into dog food!)
You shouldn't use
those marked "o" or (RUDE) with people you don't know!
- If you visit the UK the main language law to remember is to use 'Please' and 'Thank you' or 'Ta' in every request or Transaction.
- Although many Americans & other Europeans may feel this is over polite, in the UK it is considered rude if you don't use these manners.
- You may get ignored if you don't say 'please' which may be annoying, especially if you've been in a Queue (Q) for a while! (translation "Queue" = "line").
- On the plus side for American guests, other than the historic experience of this great vibrant city, London has nothing if a fantastic variation of foods and drinks.
- We even have most major American beers in our pubs too!!! (But don't panic, we still love our warm beer!).
...so watch your gob and try not to look like a pissed nutter mate!
"There is a saying which
'the Americans and English are basically the same - it's
just the language that makes us different!' - I hope this little language guide helps shorten that difference just a
Sir Keife Iceni - C.E.O. KGC Group
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Updated September 2011