You wouldn’t think that there would be a language barrier between Americans and English. I mean, we both speak the English language… right? Not according to “P”, my lovely hubby. Apparently, I speak American and he speaks “proper English” but I beg to differ. Interestingly I have had my fair share of moments that were “lost in translation”. I am guilty of periodically giving “P” a confused look when he says something that just doesn’t mean the same thing in America or when he uses terms that aren’t commonly used but make him sound as if he is fit to sit at the dinner table adjacent to the Queen herself. You know, words like fortnight…I mean, REALLY, we are not in the Middle Ages. If you can imagine someone using words like dummy or nappy when having a conversation about your baby it can make you do a double take and wonder where the conversation is headed. That is, until you conclude that dummy is a common term for pacifier and a nappy is a diaper.
This brings me to my communication dilemma. In life I am hardly ever at a lost for words during an initial greeting but I find myself in that position at least 5 times a day, whether passing a neighbor on the stairwell, communicating with a shop-keep or having a chat with my in laws.The awkwardly uncomfortable exchange goes pretty much like this:
Person A: You Alright?
Me: (Blank Stare)
Person A: (runs along and doesn’t even look bothered about a reply or continues on with the conversation as if they didn’t just ask me a question)
Every single time, it never fails, I am left completely and utterly confused with a million thoughts running through my mind because of two simple words, “YOU ALRIGHT”. I don’t want to seem rude but was I supposed to say something in response? Why are they asking me this? Do I look like I’m doing bad? Do they really want to know how I’m doing? Seriously, I hear it so often and it catches me off guard so much so that I’ve even tried to catch the reaction of others when they are hit with the greeting, but it happens too quickly! My first few weeks here I was intimidated by greeting people. In my mind this is what it sounds like as I’m being approached and it sends me into a state of panic:
Totally exaggerated of course but you can see my dilemma. I’ve always thought that if you ask someone if they are alright that typically means that they look like they aren’t well or you are asking if they need help, hence, they aren’t ALRIGHT. In America asking someone if they are alright is synonymous to asking (typically out of concern), “Are you okay?”
After a few weeks of this I finally decided to refer to my “in-home British to American translator”, “P”. He reassured me that 9 times out of 1o the person initiating the greeting (a) isn’t expecting a long drawn out answer, or (b) doesn’t really care if I’m alright, they are just giving an informal acknowledgement of your presence. In other words it’s kind of like saying, “What’s up” or “How are you doing”. On the up side it doesn’t mean that I look as if I am in complete distress!
To keep you from showing up to a fancy dress party (costume party) in an evening gown instead of a mask or bunny ears here are more words that aren’t typically used in America and their meanings:
English to “American” Words and Meanings(click here)
England and America are two countries separated by a common language” ~ George Bernard Shaw