Before coming to Portugal, I thought I would struggle to learn Portuguese. Blimey, who knew the foreign language I would use the most would be English? As George Bernard Shaw said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”
One of my first winters in the Algarve, I met two lovely groups of Brits. Several of them visit the Algarve often and have become close friends. We are even vacationing (going on holiday) to Ireland with a couple of British friends this summer (plug for Wendy and Tony, you lovely people).
To get ready for the trip, I am working on my own Brit to Yank Rosetta Stone.
Bits and bobs Odds and ends
Bob’s your uncle Tah-dah
Brass monkeys Cold weather
Cheeky Impertinent, mouthy
Chinwag Chat or gossip
Chips French fries
Chuffed to bits Feeling pleased
Chunder Barf, toss your cookies
Gobby Someone loud, opinionated
Gobsmacked Stunned, blown away
Knackered Wiped out
Nutter (A Wendy favorite) Lunatic
Rubber Eraser (not a condom!)
Scuppered Ruined, ended
Silly git Moron
Skive Ditch early
Take Away Carry Out
Throw a wobbly Pitch a fit
Toff High class, wealth
Trainers Tennis shoes
Now that you Americans have a working Brit vocabulary, it’s time to advance to some fun phrases. Use them the right way in the pub, and maybe some toff will stand you a pint.
A right bodge job Screwed up
Fancy dress Costume
Find any joy? Have any luck?
Full of beans Full of piss and vinegar
Have a kip Catch some z’s
Horses for courses Different strokes for different folks
I’ll give you a bell I’ll give you a call
It’s a real dog’s dinner (breakfast) A mess
Like chalk and cheese Like oil and water
Pop your clogs Kick the bucket
Pull a blinder Do something skillfully
Sit for an exam Take a test
Spend a penny Take a pee
Splash out Spend serious cash
Taking the mickey Making fun of someone/something
That’s pants Crapola
Let’s try using our new vocabulary in a short conversation between Brian the Brit and Adam the American:
Brian: Adam, you look knackered. I told you that ginger at the pub last night was dodgy.
Adam: Hey, Dude, she was awesome. You’re just pissed because she wasn’t into you.
Brian: Pissed? I was sober. I was having a chinwag with the barmaid while you made a right bodge job of it with the ginger.
Adam: I’m not sure, but did you just insult that nice lady? Do you want a knuckle sandwich?
Brian: Now, don’t go and throw a wobbly. I’ll take my sandwich with chips.
I’ve missed quite a few words, but I couldn’t publish all the nasty ones here. Some of them are hilarious, I must admit. My British friend Brian said something about a barrel?
I’ve talked the language dilemma over with several of my British friends. Julie and her husband Bob have spent a lot of time in America. Julie pointed out to me that it’s more than just different words and phrases, it’s a different level of emotion behind statements.
She gave the example of “I’m excited”. We Americans throw the excited thing around casually: “I’m excited to go to the grocery store tomorrow” or “I’m excited I found purple nail polish”. I guess excited for Brits is more like “I’m excited that I just won a million pounds” or “I’m excited to meet the King”.
Let’s try a conversation between Bev the Brit and Arianna the American:
Arianna: Bev, are you going out with that hot Swedish guy again?
Bev: Oh, luv, he was a nutter. He wore his trainers on a first date and whinged about the bill. What a silly git. I’d rather be home hoovering.
Arianna: He wore diapers on a date?
Although we might not share a perfect common language, we all share an appreciation of living here in this peaceful paradise. I’m endlessly grateful for all of my British friends. Some days, I am blown away by how welcoming everyone is. Or am I gobsmacked?
By Glenda Cole
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Glenda Cole is a retired American executive loving her storybook life in the Algarve. She’s recently started writing and vlogging for International Living Magazine and she will be speaking at their annual conference in Denver, Colorado this fall. You can sign up for their free email postcards at internationalliving.com