Monday, November 10, 2008
Bugger Off, Ya Soddin Wanka!
I saw the new Guy Ritchie movie over the weekend. It was a lot like his previous two films. I refuse to acknowledge that garbage he made with Madonna (she is repulsive). I am referring both to Swept Away and their marriage. But RocknRolla was clearly an inferior product. It lacked a lot of the charisma of Snatch and Lock Stock. Which is to say it is lacking Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham. But, if you were a fan of those films, RocknRolla would be worth your time.
As I was enjoying this movie, I had to squint my ears quite a bit to catch everything that was being said. English slang has always been something that both entertains and irritates me. By that I mean, I am entertained when a real live Brit uses their slang in a real live English accent. And I am totally irritated by some American douche effectively doing a bad Austin Powers Impression. But that doesn’t mean we Americans can’t usurp a phrase or two. Usurping other cultures is what we do best.
I wanted to include a brief list of British slang that Americans should start saying. And by “saying” I mean just that. Not imitating. No bad impressions. No fake accents. Say it like it’s a phrase you own. Many of these words are a regular part of my lexicon. Having played a lot of Rugby in my day, I have had a fair amount of exposure to the linguistics of Imperial Britannia and its subjects (England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand are the one's I have the most exposure to). I have also included a second list. English terms Americans do use, but shouldn’t.
British Slang Americans should start using:
1. “Bollocks” - What a fun way to say “bullshit”. Even better is the shortened version “Balls!” You’re swearing, but not really. It can be funny or angry. Also it opens the door to a fantastic expression. “That’s the Dog’s Bollocks” which is very high praise. Much like “This apple pie is the shit!” means “This apple pie is of high quality.” It sounds bad, but it’s quite good.
2. “Takin’ a Piss” - Which is to say, “I’m giving you a hard time.” It can be said in a friendly joking manner or in a confrontational scenario. “I’m just takin a piss, bro. Don’t worry about it.”, or “He’s taking a piss? I’m gonna kick his ass.”
3. “Bird” – I’ve never liked the term “chicks” to refer to young, attractive women. It just sounds stupid. “Dude, any chicks at the party?” Makes you sound like a mook. But “birds” presents a unique alternative.
4. “Clunge” – This refers to one’s butt crack. “These shorts are riding right up my clunge.” It works perfectly, although it does sound better with a slight Scottish accent.
5. “Minge” – This refers to female genitalia but I would never use it to directly refer to that. I prefer to use it as an emasculating insult for men. “That guy is a total minge.”
6. “Good Night Irene” – This is a classic from BYU Rugby’s head coach, David Smyth. He is jolly Irishman whose accent is so damned entertaining it’s hard not to laugh even when he’s tearing you apart. For example (you must imagine a sing songy Irish accent for the following phrases) “For the love of Goshen! Teaching you mongrels is like pushing crap up a hill with a pointy stick!” Keep in mind that he was livid when he would say that and all I could do was laugh, compounding his frustration.
“Good Night, Irene” is like saying “you’re home free”. “If we can get the ball to the outside, it’s good night Irene. Good. Night. Irene.”
British Slang Americans should stop using:
1. “Cheers” – I spend a lot of time on the phone, talking to people from all over the country. Every once in a while, I get a guy who closes the phone call with a “Cheers.” It just sounds wrong. Unless you’re referring to the bar owned by Sam “Mayday” Malone, the word “cheers” only works with an English accent. When I talk to a Brit, the “cheers” thing works great. But not with us Yanks.
2. “Brilliant” – Now let me clarify this. I am all for using the word “brilliant” as an adjective. But not as a complete sentence. “Hey, did you get that quote to the customer? You did? Brilliant.” Again. It totally works with an English accent, but when Americans try it, it sounds out of place. I blame the Guinness Beer ads.
3. Any Monty Python catch phrase – That means every single one of them. “Bring out your dead!” “Wink, wink. Nudg, nudge. Say no more.” “I don’t like SPAM!” “Only a flesh wound!” “What is your quest?” “Ni! Ni!” All of it. Stop saying it! Please, if you have any affection for their comedy at all (which I do), then stop murdering it with your terrible, high pitched English accents. I blame my irritability on this subject on a guy I went to High School with, Britain Morrrris (Yes, his name was actually "Britain"). He was a funny guy. But for some reason he felt compelled to speak in a fake English accent for most of the day. And with the accent would come whole scenes of rehearsed dialogue from The Holy Grail. No one requested it. No one really seemed entertained by it. But it never stopped. Look, I’m nerdy enough to really like the 5% of Monty Python that is actually funny. But America, please stop butchering it. It ends now!
And now, a genuinely funny scene from The Holy Grail. Please don't ruin it by repeating it at work all day.
And while we're on the subject of British humor, here is a clip from Extras. Nothing kills a date quicker than a blocked toilet.
One more from Extras. Have a lovely bit of muffin.
I can't stop. I love this show too much. Stephen Merchant (creator of The Office) is a comic genius.