Again with the words

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's been too long since we talked about words (my backwards post about Canadianisms notwithstanding) and my list of glossary items just keeps growing.  This week it's time to cross a few off and talk about some more uniquely English words and phrases:

Tea = In its plainest context tea is, of course, the hot beverage that England is so famous for.  And you've already heard about the fancy and filling Afternoon Tea. However, in a more colloquial sense, "tea" can also refer to the evening meal. Wikipedia specifies it as a meal of the working class, served earlier in the evening, probably between 5 and 7pm, though I've heard it from all types.  Class distinctions aside, tea has a plainer, more everyday connotation than dinner. You make tea for your family. You invite friends over for dinner or supper.

Chippie (or Chippy) = a fish and chip shop. As in, "Stop at the chippie on your way home and pick us up something for our tea."  One will have a local chippie just as one has a local pub, though only the pub would ever be referred to simply as "my local".

A typical Chippie.

However, chippie is a remarkably versatile word because it has at least two other distinct meanings...

Chippie/Chippy = a cheap, common, promiscuous woman. A slag.

Chippie/Chippy = a carpenter. I'm not sure if the word is used in this context outside of Show Biz, but it's certainly the default colloquialism in that industry.  A chippie is distinct from a stagehand and is the one with the table saw and the sawdust in his/her hair.  I've even heard it used as a verb as in, "We need to start early on stage tomorrow because there's a lot of chippyin' to do."

Job and Knock = A favourite phrase of the tool-wielding type of chippie.  As opposed to having to work to the end of a stated shift, job and knock means "finish the job at hand and then knock off."  Useful for motivating an unenthusiastic work force, as in, "It's job and knock, boys! Get this truck loaded and you'll be at your local before last orders."

Local = Ah, the local.  Your local pub.  Likely to be the one closest to your home, or at least within stumbling distance.  To have a really good local with a few taps of well-conditioned real ale is a precious thing.  Like "Cheers" you should be known at your local, and expect to know other regulars such that you could pitch up by yourself and still find friendly faces to share a pint with.  I have a friends who lives a short bus ride away from his local, but it's such a good pub it's worth the trip.  All he has to do is remember which bus to get home after last orders.

Prince Regent
The Prince Regent near Brockwell Park, where I have been known to visit, though in fairness, not nearly often enough for it to really be called my local. 

Last Orders = Last Call. All pubs (or at least any pub worth its ready-salted crisps) will have a brass bell mounted near the bar, which will be rung ten or fifteen minutes before last orders, normally 11:00pm.  The ringing is often accompanied by a shout of "Last orders!" or the more genteel, "Time, please gentlemen."  As in North America, this is the signal for hardier souls to get the last few pints poured and for the more sensible patrons to make a move.

A last orders bell.  Obviously.

Make a move = Leave. Exit. Depart. As in, "He's rung last orders luv, I'm going to make a move.  I think I've got half a bottle of Bailey's in the cupboard, fancy coming back to mine?"

Mine, yours, his = Short form of "my place", "your place", "his place".  The place where I/you/he live.

On yer bike! = Get out! No way! You must be joking!  The woman who's been invited for a glass of Baileys might well be insulted at this casual solicitation and tell the poor bloke, "On your bike! Do you think I'm some kind of dirty stopout?"

On Your Bike
Not surprisingly, the phrase gets used a lot in the cycling community, as with this bike shop near London Bridge.

Stopout = Or dirty stopout. Or dirty little stopout. A woman who stays out all night, the implication being that she's sleeping around and quite possibly a bit of a chippie (and not the kind who knows where their framing hammer is...)

Own goal = An own goal is a goal scored against your own team.  It's used in its literal context in football and rugby commentary, but it's also used in a more colloquial sense to mean you've screwed up in some way that's injurious to yourself.  For instance, our man in the pub has scored an own goal by implying that his female friend might be a dirty little stopout, thus pretty much ensuring he'll be going back to his alone.  He's made a schoolboy error.  Not only that, he might also be sent to Coventry.

Schoolboy error = Rookie mistake.  The most basic of errors, a naive or careless one that would normally only be made by someone still in training for a particular task.  Often heard (again) in sports commentary as in, "Ooooohhh... what a terrible pass by Rooney! A real schoolboy error!"

Sent to Coventry = The Silent Teatment.  An idiomatic phrase meaning to ostracize someone, usually by not talking to them or acknowledging their existence.  Coventry is a mid-sized city in the west midlands and it's thought the phrase may derive from the belief that a monastery at Coventry was considered to be the strictest country, thus any monk who was punished by being sent to Coventry would be subjected to a strict vow of silence.  In the 19th century it was a term used in the military and was also regarded as the ultimate punishment for a girl in Enid Blyton's boarding school stories.  In mid 20th century the phrase was used in labour disputes when workers who refused to support job action might be sent to Coventry by their co-workers.  Someone who's been sent to Coventry may well be a Billy No Mates.

Coventry Cathedral Ruins
The ruins of the medieval cathedral at Coventry, bombed during WWII and now left as a ruined shell.  Still, it seems like it wouldn't be such a bad place to be sent...

Billy No Mates = Someone with no friends.  Also a phrase you might use if you've been abandoned or stood up by your friends. As in, "I arranged to meet everyone at the pub but the bastards never showed up!  And there was I, Billy No Mates."

Chinese Whispers = The English version of the party game Telephone, where a phrase is whispered around a circle, emerging back at its origin in a completely altered form. Also used to describe rumour or hearsay.  As in, "I heard Clive invited everyone to the pub last night and no one showed up, but that may just be Chinese Whispers."

And that's all I've got for you this week.  In other news, both the shows I'm working on are now quite busy meaning I'm actually having to set the alarm every day and go to meetings and call people and sit at a computer a lot.  I'm glad I've had a chance to ramp up to this, though it's still a bit of a shock to the system after four months of almost complete idleness punctuated only by the occasional afternoon spent in a coffee shop or aimless wander through Brixton Market.

Also, Thomas Heatherwick is not returning my emails.


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