Having lived in Canada for 24 years, you’d think a lot of my English-isms would’ve worn off. However, rarely does a day go by that I don’t make some quirky remark that forces the eyebrows of my friends to knot in puzzlement.
Funny Thing – Just Saying....
In the morning, the chinking sound of bottles of milk in crates can be heard as the milkman makes his steps to doorways.
They now chortle with laughter whilst I whinge at their lack of understanding.
Some obvious terms that most are familiar with are boot and bonnet for the trunk and hood of a car, or loo for toilet, and the phrase 'don’t get your knickers in a twist'. Point of interest – there is no definitive reason why the toilet is referred to as “the loo”. Some say it comes from the fact that the bathroom was often named room 100 and the numerical part looks like the word loo. Personally I rather like the explanation that it is named after Lady Louisa, the unpopular wife of a 19th Century earl of Lichfield. Two young pranksters staying at the house took the name card off her door and attached it to the bathroom, thus producing jocularity by stating to one another that they were “going to the Lady Louisa”. This inevitably got shortened to “the loo”.
Then there are those English words that are just wonderful to roll off the tongue – but can mean several different things. For example, “plonk” can be used as a verb to mean place down –“ plonk yerself down ‘ere mate” (sit down here.) Plonk – the noun - is a bottle of wine, as in: ”Did you pick up the plonk for the party.” One of my favourites is “plonker”, succinctly describing some prized idiot – similar in nature to that of the Mr. Bean variety. “What a plonker”!
English superlatives are brilliant! Things are referred to as being dead good, flash or jolly. It might be utter hogwash; twaddle, or complete drivel, but it emphasizes our point perfectly! Our peculiar terms of phrase conjure up Dickensian scenes - facets of everyday intrigue.
In England we will be awoken to sounds of the chinking of milk bottles that are tussled in crates as the milkman makes his way down the street. There will be the early morning dustbin men coming to get our rubbish, and the familiar thunking of letters as they are pushed through the letter flap and drop onto the mat below. Gone will be the haunting call of the loon making its way to the rocky shore. In its place will be the song thrush warbling in harmony with the wood pigeon.
We'll go to car boot sales instead of yard sales – where great finds are waiting to be snaffled.
In the winter our children will get all togged up. They will pull on their pommy hats rather than toques – and maybe, just maybe there will be enough snow for them to go sledging.
Armed with our brollies and wellies we remain stoic undefeated against the unenviable inevitable rain.
At petrol stations we will try not to look aghast at the extraordinary prices per litre as we pump petroleum into our much smaller car. Maybe we’ll just have to pick up a few sweeties to help relieve the shock. Or grab a bouquet of flowers which will also be available at the supermarket petrol station – we can even show our nectar card and earn some sweet points.
We will adjust to our meal times too. Breakfast won’t always be of the full English kind, but hearty it should be. Bearing in mind the adage, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
We will eat dinner at lunchtime, tea at suppertime, and supper will become a small snack and drink at bedtime.
At night we will climb the stairs to Bedfordshire, and snuggle under our counterpanes, eiderdown, or continental quilt, comforted by the thought that we have triple locked our doors, bolted the windows and set the burglar alarm … just in case.
Jane Ryder is a former occasional teacher with the Near North District School Board, and recently moved back to UK with her family.