Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lost in translation

In two weeks, I'll be home - a cause for both joy and panic, as I have far too much to accomplish before then...Consequently, the quality of the posts may drop for a bit - I just discovered that the world's bloody "best" university doesn't have a single periodical I need. But hey, the University of Northern Arizona does! Fantastic! I just have to hop a quick flight to...whatever's in northern Arizona...I'm sure the officials here will understand when I submit my expenses.

Big changes are on the horizon; I learned about them on Friday and am slowly but comfortably letting them settle in for the winter.

We had our pseudo-Thanksgiving on Saturday. Originally, the plan involved grabbing fresh, authentic sushi (a rare treasure here) and going to see Harry Potter. However, for a town typically comatose by 4pm on Sundays, Cambridge is a happenin' place come Saturday nights. The sushi joint was full, and our second choice couldn't offer a table until 10:30pm (a lovely Italian restaurant nestled onto the quaintest of British back streets). So, off we went for a pint and a platter of fish and chips at the nearby pub, aka, the World's Most Representative British Pub. Want mimeographs of long-dead British lords? Check. Want a crackling fire and a hearth lined with old plates and candlesticks? Check.

Pub food is fantastic and completely underrated. For about six quid a head, you purchase vast quantities of lightly breaded fish, chips saturated with malt vinegar (I recommend at least 1/3 of a bottle), and Britain's best dessert: sticky toffee pudding. The temptation to forego silverware and dive in with both hands is almost too strong to resist, especially when they bring out the pudding, drenched in custard and just oozing sticky, chewy goodness...It's warm, moist and the best thing you could imagine on a night when the windowpanes are edged with frost. throw in a Cider and Black (hard cider with blackcurrant flavoring), or a pint of Explorer, and you're set for the night. If any of you ever come out this way, I'll be sure to take you along for a pub visit.

I even managed to pass for British - in typical me fashion, I managed to knock into a few local patrons as I maneuvered my drink upstairs to the loft. Whenever you do anything here that could cause offense and doesn't, "cheers" is the standard response to an entire gamut, from cutting someone off on the sidewalk to accidentally running them through with sharp implements). Okay, now try saying it the British way: "Chairs" -- except swallow your "r" and drag the "ai" part out, so it's half-Boston, half-British. If you feel like you're swallowing your tongue and talking through your nose at the same time, you're on the right track.

Anyway, everyone uses "cheers" here...except Americans, because we sound like absolute idiots either way we say it. If you say "cheers" like the television show, you just sound like an ignorant twat. If you say it the British way, you sound even dumber because everything else you say is twattish. Try saying "water" here sometime, and watch your friends roll in the streets.

Thus, the only way to use "cheers" is in a context where you don't have to say anything else at all -- like when you knock into someone with a glass of Cider and Black, which is fuschia colored and not the nicest thing to spill. If you manage to avoid splashing their shoes, and they avoid walloping you, smile quickly and slip in an apologetic "cheers." In this case, "cheers" translates into: "I'm sorry that I'm a daft bloody bugger who traipses into your local pub, orders the girliest drink on the menu, and promptly sends half of it onto your person. If you don't kill me when I turn my back, I'll be eternally grateful and will ensure that our paths never cross again."

English: the universal language...


Bourgeois Wife said...

Do Americans say bugger and twat? Or are you acclimatising??

Meg said...

It's really hard not to pick up the language when you're around it all the time...and it depends on how many British comedy shows you watched as a kid. ;) Seriously, though, I just find myself slipping into it now and then - particularly when I write, because then it flows more naturally. In conversation, I'm always conscious of my accent...