Went to a comedy improv show in Leith the other night. They gave everyone a sheet of paper and said you could doodle on it and I played myself a game tic-tac-toe in the corner. It was a draw of course, just like thermonuclear war.
Then they had us name a play. I tore off my suggestion and it included the little game. The guy who read my title said, “The Caterpillar Christmas, and a game of naughts and crosses.”
It may be a Scottishism, but it is very different.
If you are a Dr Who fan you already know this one, but they refer to thin rectangular pieces of breaded fish as “Fish Fingers”. I guess it is no more unusual than our calling thin fried pieces of chicken as Chicken Fingers, though I haven’t seen chicken fingers on a UK menu yet.
The Mrs has been having back problems since we got to the UK. In the US she’d make a couple of trips to the chiropractor and this would be fixed. In the UK, there are no chiropractors. The are osteopaths, which are like chiropractors, but have a different methodology which uses a slower method of manipulation. They also aren’t like a US D.O. (Doctor of osteopathic medicine), which is equal to an M.D. Osteopaths in the UK have the same kind of position in medicine that chiropractors have in the US.
There are also physiotherapist which do similar things. She went to a Osteopath when we were in Brentwood, but when we came to Edinburgh we ended up at a physiotherapist, which is where I saw this sign.
The British say you “attend” an appointment. If you don’t go to your appointment it is “unattended”. They also use attended with events. For instance if you ask how many people should be at a concert, they’ll say it will be “well attended” or “12 attended”.
I’m using the term British to refer to all of the UK, ie England, Wales and Scotland. I do this because I need a word for that, and because technically the big island is Britian. (The smaller one is Ireland).
This can be a point of contention for some in the UK. The Mrs submitted an academic paper to WorldCon in London this year, and used this term. The person reading these submissions, Ms England – and yes that is her real name – found the proposal confusing because it referred to people as British in a way most here wouldn’t. In the end she said the issue is very complex and confused even to people in the UK, giving an interesting example.
Even something as simple as the identity of Andy Murray, the Wimbeldon tennis champion, is an interesting case. He is Scottish and identifies as Scottish. When he loses, English newspapers call him a grumpy Scot, when he wins he is declared British (which most non-British people equate with England).
The UK is made up of a number of different sub countries. All of which have a strong national identity and don’t like being called by another countries name. Refer to a Scot as English and you might get a punch in the nose. Heck in a little under 100 days, the Scottish will vote wether they will stay part of the UK.
I remember a line from Torchwood, where an American refers to one of the characters as English and she responds sternly, “Actually I’m Welch, not English.” There are whole TV channels where everything is in Welsh. So you have to be careful not to use the wrong word.
Then of course there is Ireland. Geographically Ireland is the “smaller” island in this group. (In this kind of thinking, I don’t think we want to use the term British Islands). Politically it is split with most of it being the independent Republic of Ireland, and a small portion of it in the north being part of the UK – whose name is technically “The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland”.
Still, these three countries have a lot in common and when you want to refer to them together, you need a term. I’m using British. Any UKians reading this please don’t take offence.
Since I learned the word ethnocentrism from Gaylen Van Rheenan in Missionary Principles and Practice way back in college, I’ve understood that just because another culture does something differently than I do, that doesn’t make it bad.
I thought I should make a point of mentioning this since I’m writing a lot about how things are different here in the UK. My posts on Britishisms should not be taken to mean they are wrong or even silly because they use different words or have different practices.
Different Isn’t Always Culture
I try to only post things I know are actually different because they are British or Scottish, not just that they are different. For instance I haven’t posted that the shower in our flat has a very different kind of fixture than most in the US, because there are really lots of different kinds of bathroom fixtures in the US. I have mentioned how almost every intersection in Brentwood, Essex is a roundabout, which is because they are British.
Somethings Are Actually Bad
Back in MP&P we did understand that somethings were evil even if the culture approved of it. It was the missionaries job to differentiate between differences that were cultural, which meant the missionary need to change and adapt to the culture, and which things were evil in the culture and new Christians needed to change.
There is only one thing in UK I’d actually say the British were wrong about. They have no concept of a no passing zone. It’s insane given how narrow their roads are. When you come up on a blind curve in the UK, they caution you to slow down and watch for oncoming traffic “overtaking” ie. passing. In the US there would be a solid white line indicating that no one should be passing till you can see traffic in the distance. It is possible there is such an indicator, but my expat friend didn’t know of one.
Here’s what it’s like driving on a one lane road in the UK.