Yankeee lingo ain’t all Anglo by jingo! | Daily News

Yankeee lingo ain’t all Anglo by jingo!

English! Ah yes, English! I am talking about the language most people in the world write and speak, or at the least understand. Did I say understand? What I mean is we at least try to understand as we are confronted by variations of the language as we traverse the different cultural landscapes of the globe.

No, not everyone speaks what is known as ‘Standard English,’ not even in the British Isles where it originated. And who the heck cares! We Asians speak it in one way or another. In Sri Lanka it has been dubbed ‘Singlish’. In other parts of the Sub-Continent it is described as ‘Hindlish.’ And in Mandarin-speaking parts of the region it is aptly termed ‘Chinglish.’

Undoubtedly, there are those among every populace who have been tutored to speak and write with a felicitous use of the language of the colonial masters. But in this neck of the woods there are thousands of other compatriots who can “ispeak” and others who can ‘istring’ a sentence together. And what is so wrong about our pronouncing the last letter of the English alaphabet as ‘Ezed’ when the almighty Americanos call it ‘Zee.’

As you know, the upper-crust blighters of Old Blighty are supposed to ‘talk posh’. Now, that’s assumed to be spiffy Brit English for you! Supposedly yes, but not quite standard English. Now ‘scuse me for saying so, but when they do, some of them sound like sophisticated turkeys talking gobbledegook with a ping-pong ball stuck in their gullets. It is decidedly, not the crisp, clipped speech of most BBC news readers. So what then is so wrong about some of us Sri Lankans being able to conjure up our own home-spun pronunciations?

Dearie, dearie me, British language purists have been mortified that across the Atlantic and a myriad other oceans many nations have turned English on its head. And no one cares a toss if it has offended any pukkah traditionalist sensibilities. Although the offended toffs still do consider this patois a type of linguistic anarchy.

But pure English? That’s balderdash! The subject of pure English is quite a subjective one. How can you anoint or purify a bastard tongue? How can even the most die-hard anglophile with a Lord Haw-Haw voice and mentality be offended when everyone speaks a different version of the world’s most bastardized lingo?

Certainly the Yanks don’t give a tinker’s cuss anyway. Right again the British also do speak a kind of English in the UK. As do the Yanks in the US. They think they speak the same language! But it ‘ain’t’ necessarily so. It is for that reason that the Americano lingo is certainly far from being pure Anglo.

It has been very amusing to compare different vocabulary used by the British Limeys and their ‘Yanker’ cousins across the Atlantic. It is understandable that the English language evolved a little differently in each area as the years went by, but the slang words make the differences particularly funny.

That is because the Brit shopkeepers’ and their cowpoke American cousins’ ignorance of each other’s slang terms can be fundamentally embarrassing. And I really mean toe-curling embarrassing. For instance we lotus-eating loungers usually use the old colonial terms which confuse the Yanks. As a case in point the Brits and we have the Americans befuddled when we talk about opening the ‘bonnet’ of a vehicle because they refer to it as a ‘hood.’

Or when someone once asked an American tourist to store his luggage saying: “Stick it in the boot.” His baffled reply: “Er, don’t you mean the trunk?” Worse still was when a young Lankan woman asked a New York cab driver to put her shopping bags in “your Dicky!” The term ‘dicky’ is another commonly used term for the boot or trunk that is a hangover from the colonial past.

Certain phrases could be totally misunderstood. In British vocabulary the word ‘Baccy’ is a slang term for tobacco. And has absolutely no association with the common local expression by kids who have fallen on their ‘Backies.’ For sure never panic when you hear someone say ‘Bleeding’ because there is no evidence of blood-letting. It is simply an alternative to an exclamation of surprise such as ‘Bloody hell.’ Or a politer substitute would be ‘blooming’

Take the word buns for instance. The Brits and we call them tea, fish or meat buns and Easter brings us the hot-cross buns. There are also sticky sugar buns with icing or frosting at the top. But what you probably don’t know is that in American parlance while reading this newspaper you will be sitting on your buns. So if you ever walk into a deli in Manhattan and ask for a couple of sticky buns you will probably be clobbered or even arrested.

Never be offended if a Brit suggests that you join the boys for a bender. It only means you are being invited to a monumental binge, a pub crawl or a heavy drinking session. Whereas in Sri Lankan terminology ‘a bender’ is usually associated with a bootlicker, a ‘chi-chi’ man or a gender-bender.

When a former British colleague of mine used the expression “Blow Me” in front of a large American audience, he brought the house down. It is simply an exclamation of surprise, short for “Blow me down”, meaning something like I am so surprised you could knock me over just by blowing. Similar to “Well, knock me down with a feather”. It is certainly not a request for what it implies to a dirty Yankee mind.

There has always been a lot of crowing by both the Anglos and Americans about the male of the hen, meaning Mr Rooster who is often referred to as Cock. There are four obvious meanings that are common to both the English and the Americans. First, it can mean a non-Shakespearean large or wee Willy, a male bird, to ready or prime a gun or to knock or place something off centre. In England there is a fifth. So never be offended if a Brit says: ‘Ello old cock!’ They are greeting you as a close personal friend. The first meaning may also apply if you are a very close personal friend and the third may apply if the first makes its unwanted presence known in an unsuitable situation. Now that would be a pretty embarrassing cock-up, to say the least!

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