Words to have fun with

Friday, February 10, 2012

Let's talk about some more words.  I'm sorry if you're getting tired of these wordy posts, but I find the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in language fascinating, and I love learning new words.  I've been here for a year and a half now, and while many many Britishisms have become part of my daily vocabulary (quid, rubbish, trousers), there are soooooo many more out there, and they just keep coming.  I've got a list of words that I add to as I encounter them, and it's currently hovering somewhere 300, so I don't think I'm going to run out of materials for these posts any time soon.  Today, we look at words to do with sex, love and relationships.

Chatting up = Trying to make headway with the opposite sex. (Or same sex, depending on your inclination) (Ok look, much of this post is going to be about relationships, and it's going to get really tedious to keep saying "women, or men, or both, or people in teddy bear costumes, or ring-tailed lemurs, or inflatable dolls, or left-handed rainbow coloured unicorns or blah blah blah".  So can we just assume that when I say "the opposite sex" or something similar that I mean "who/whatever-turns-your-crank-about-which-I-am-passing-no-judgement-whatsoever-just-please-keep-your-whips-and-gags-off-the-kitchen-table" and leave it at that?).  If you're chatting someone up, you might kick things off with a chat up line.

Chat up line = Pick up line.  As in "If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?" and other cringingly similar offerings.

Smart = Yes it means intelligent, but that's really a secondary meaning over here.  If you want to comment on someone's intelligence you'd be more likely to say they were clever rather than smart.  "Smartness" is more commonly about appearance. You might, for instance, have a few smart shirts or a pair of smart trousers for special occasions which, when worn, could elicit the comment, "Ooooh, don't you look smart!  Are you going out on the pull?"

Trousers that take themselves to the corner shop for toilet roll and teabags are clever, not smart.

Pull, pulled, "On the pull" = If you're out in the pub chatting up someone you're interested in, you are "on the pull" because you're trying to pull women (or men, or see above...). As in this particularly short-and-to-the-point chat up lie: "Get your coat, luv, you're pulled."

Snog, snogging = If you're successful in pulling someone (or allow yourself to be pulled), and things are going well (or you've had a few too many) you could well up up snogging. Most similar to the North American term "necking", with all that implies (tongues mostly, I suppose, and good measure of feverish groping to go along with).  You would snog the cute boy from your English class.  You would not, or at least I certainly hope you would not, snog your grandmother.

Shag, shagging = If the snogging goes well, things might progress to shagging, which is a common term for the act-of-a-thousand-euphemisms.  Screwing, doing the nasty, bonking, getting laid, making the beast with two backs, blah blah blah.  You can shag or be shagged or have a shag or be shaggable or be in desperate need of a good shag.  I don't think it has anything to do with carpet.


Fanny = This is one of those words that means something quite different here than it does in North America.  Imports from overseas do well to learn this one early and never, ever slip up on it.  If you're shagging someone female you're almost certainly going to encounter a fanny, which is not, as we know it in North America, a somewhat quaint term for bum.  Fanny refers to the female genitalia and is roughly equivalent to "pussy", so you can see why you want to hesitate before blithely tossing it into a conversation.  For the record, the term for those awful pouch-around-the-waist things here is "bumbag", which is important to know for the following anecdote:

Everyone in the office helped with processing the thousands of people who came to audition for the ceremonies last November, and some of us were assigned to the costume team. Costume people had to take the measurements of each auditionee, including numbers for the waist and hip.  I'm not the only Canuck on the ceremonies, and one of my countrymen was also on the costume squad one afternoon when a quite posh woman came in for measurements.  As he proceeded to read out the numbers he encountered the woman's bumbag and politely said, "I'm just going to move your fanny pack so I can..." at which point he was drowned out by the gales of laughter from everyone else in the room and had to have his error pointed out to him, which led to acute embarrassment on his part, and much repeating of the story on the part of everyone else.  Fun times.

(No pictures, please, we're British...)

Minge = (rhymes with "fringe") I get caught on this with alarming regularity, and it's not much better than fanny.  I often use "mingey" in the sense meaning titchy, ungenerous, scant or generally small.  Here, minge is the fuzz that surrounds the fanny, hence not something that often comes up in a meeting at work (unless your line of work is, shall we say, not something you'd discuss with the vicar at Sunday lunch).  A few times now I've unconsciously said something like, "Only six days to build all those widgets seems a bit mingey." And then people snigger and I realise what I've said and quickly blurt out, "THAT DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME THING IN CANADA AS IT MEANS HERE!!!" and then offer to fetch tea so that I can leave the room.

Mills and Boon = If your smart trousers and night out on the pull and chat up lines lead all the way to snogging and shagging then you might have a genuine Mills and Boon romance on your hands.  Mills and Boon are publishers of several series of cheap romance novels that are exactly equivalent to Harlequin Romances.  In fact, Mills and Boon were acquired by Harlequin Enterprises in 1971, though they were independent until that time, having been founded in 1908.  Mills and Boon, like Harlequin Romance, they tend to be schlocky, formulaic, and incredibly popular, accounting for three quarters of all romance novels published in Britain.

They even look like Harlequin Romances

Stag Weekend = If your Mills and Boon romance ends in a proposal of marriage, then the groom might well end up on a Stag Weekend.  Similar to a North American Stag Party, the full-blown Stag Weekend is an evolution of the form, likely as a result of the advent of discount airfares to cheap (often eastern European) destinations.  A typical Stag Weekend would see the groom and his mates on a Ryanair flight to somewhere like Tirana.  It's quite likely that no hotel room would be booked, since the intention is to start drinking before leaving the airport, arrive at the destination, continue drinking all night, decorate the streets of Tirana (or Prague, or Dublin) with a rainbow of vomit, and then carry on seamlessly the following day.  It's also possible the groom might end up semi-conscious and handcuffed to a lamp post, wearing nothing but Union Jack boxer shorts and shaving cream in his hair.

Hen Party (or Hen Night) = The female equivalent of the Stag Party.  Different from the male version because many Hen Parties require the participants to wear matching t-shirts (normally pink) or other gear.  T-shirts will identify the bride-to-be and will usually be emblazoned with something semi-literate like "Beckys Hen's" (sic).  The bride-to-be will also invariably be required to wear a large red "L" on a white background, which is the symbol learner drivers here have to display on their cars.  This is a not-overly-sly reference to the bride's supposed innocence of those same things we don't discuss with the vicar.

Hen Party Gear.  I've actually attended one Hen Party since I arrived, which was a first for me on any continent.  Luckily, this one did not require matching t-shirts, only fuzzy bunny ears.  And there was drinking champagne, and eating ice cream, and, unconventionally, running, so it was all quite fun.  

Pram = If you survive the Stag Weekend, and the Hen Night, and manage to get in a bit more shagging, odds are you'll eventually end up pushing a pram, which is the UK equivalent of a baby carriage.  It's a short form of "perambulator", which is a perfectly excellent word, and one whose abbreviation I think we should all mourn. (Interestingly, a pram is also a "flat-bottomed, snub-nosed boat", which sounds very much like the shape of an old-fashioned baby carriage, don't you think?  I wonder which came first?)

Prams also feature in a nice turn of phrase used when someone has a bit of a hissy fit. Where in Canada we might say, "he took his toys and went home" here they say "he threw all his toys out of the pram."

Buggy, pushchair = Once the occupant of your pram gets a bit bigger, you'll likely transfer them into a buggy or pushchair, the equivalent of a stroller.

Creche (rhmyes with fresh) = And finally, when you go back to your job and have to send your little pride and joy into the care of strangers you will entrust them to a creche, the UK term for daycare.  Similar to the situation in Canada, most people have to pay for a creche or other child care services themselves, though the government have introduced a childcare allowance by which employers can make payments for childcare, prior to tax, on employees wages.

Once your ankle-biter reaches school age there's a whole other universe of words and concepts that we need to deal with - A levels, O levels, GCSEs, league tables, revising, headmasters, prefects, school uniforms, and on and on - but I shall leave those for another time.  For today I think it's quite enough to have made it all the way from chat-up lines to the creche in just 1600 words.  Besides that, I'm actually on vacation this week, and it's high time I had a nap. Or possibly a drink.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I find your blog a MUST READ cos, although British, I have learned so much from your slant on us! Ax

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