How To Speak British
It is a well known fact that if you are traveling to England you’re going to have to learn to speak British. When you talk to an English person they will quickly explain to you that they will not speak English, but only Proper English. This is a British language term to mean British and, as you are about to learn, British and English – while sharing a common syntax, many of the same sounds and quite a bit of vocabulary – are completely separate languages. If you wish to take some English classes with a native British speaker before you travel check out skypeclasscom
Cockney Rhyming Slang
Cockney rhyming slang began either as a fun exercise or as a deliberate attempt to confuse people. That’s not a joke – most slang is used as a way to express an idea or further a concept. Cockney slang has a reputation of being started as a thieves cant, a way for londoners to talk business without outsiders being able to understand it. With cockney accents already employed you wouldn’t think they’d need any help being unintelligible but I guess you’d be wrong. Or maybe they just enjoy it.
Cockney rhyming slang makes absolutely no sense. It far surpasses using opposite words like bad for good. The meaning of a statement is derived in a roundabout way by what it rhymes with. Apples and chairs can mean stairs, knife life can mean wife, and so on. This might seem like it’s not so hard to decipher – and it’s not, really, if you have a bit of context – but they take it to another level. Take, for example, Barney. What could Barney mean, you wonder? Does it mean carny? Like carnival? Nope. Barney means trouble. Why? Because of Barney Rubble, of course, Fred Flintstone’s neighbor and sidekick. I mean, isn’t that just OBVIOUS? No? ok then.
Here’s a great little article about cockney slang with a bunch of examples. I highly recommend you marvel at the lengths these folks have gone to in order to make themselves sound ridiculous. If you’re a sensitive American, however, you might not want to notice the slang for a Yank is Septic Tank.
The Little Things U Never Notice
The British language has an unhealthy affinity for the letter U. It’s very important that you understand there are no neighborhoods in England, only neighbourhoods. There are no colors, only colours. And the Us are silent. So be sure to pronounce them silently.
OK, so, before the revolutionary war we in the USA would have said, “The United States Are,” and not, “The United States Is.” Well, all collective nouns in England suffer from that same pre-war fractious identity. Guns ‘n’ Roses is a hard rock band. Except in British where Guns ‘n’ Roses are a hard rock band. If you say, “The royal family is driving down main street,” then a Brit might think that means “the royal family” is a new model of car. They would say the royal family are driving down main street to mean they’re in the car and not the car itself. Bizarre, I know.
In conclusion, these aren’t even all of the differences between British and English. In a future article I will cover a bit of the vocabulary differences. For example, in back of a British car there is no trunk. There is only a boot. As a Canadian would say, “What the heck is that aboot?”