More than Words
So, it was a campaign about how a little dash of colourful make up can build somebody's confidence to start enjoying even more colour in their life. It was called a Dash to Begin.
Geddit? A Dash meaning a small smidge. A Dash meaning a rush, a race, a hurry!
A Dash to Begin?
My two colleagues looked at me with a strange combination of perplexity and pity.
"I kinda get it," one remarked, "but not really."
This look of perplexity is not uncommon in my new life in Los Angeles.
And the reason?! Americans and Brits are often speaking two different languages.
Yes, this of course applies to the pronunciation of words - "shhhhhhhedule", "vytamin", "aluminium" - but also the words themselves: "lift" and "trousers" needlessly becoming "elevator" and "pants". With that said, many Americans have suggested that they swap their "elevator" for the UK’s "lift" because the latter is kayooter. But I doubt any Brit could bring themselves to call trousers our word for underpants. Pantaloon, perhaps?
My personal favourite (sorry, favorite) is the word for that book where we keep dates and appointments. While I suggest I'll put my next meeting or reservation in my diary, Americans insist it's a calendar (or cal - puke emoji). And by putting details of my next meeting in my diary, I manage to imply that I'm journaling about it. "Dear Diary, I have a meeting with a man tomorrow at 2pm. He's my new accountant. I think I like him."
The difference in words, and worlds, often runs much deeper.
One such word that has a landmine attached to its usage is "boy". In the UK, "boy" or "boys" can be applied to any man as a sign of endearment, fraternity or just a synonym - even "boyo" has its place. And while there are certain contexts where it works stateside ("I'm hanging with the boys tonight"), it's oft considered a fairly disrespectful term for full grown men. And understandably has some pretty hideous associations in the context of racial injustice.
And similar rules apply to swearing—I mean, cursing.
While Brits swear habitually - even professionally - dropping an F-bomb in the USA is a sudden "no". People visibly cringe.
In fact, it's kinda upside-down that Americans think of Brits as really proper, as Americans appear to lean more towards the prudish, hierarchical and mannered. It's more like Upstairs, Downstairs here but the stairs are called "elevators". It's Downton Alley if you will.
Plus, the language in the US is far more flowery. "I'm pissed off" is replaced with "I'm experiencing a high level of negative emotion in this situation." (And don't get me started on pissed and pissed—very different).
The biggest distinctions lie not in what we say but how we say it.
And here is where the experience has been an overall joy to date.
Firstly, having a British accent has been the greatest gift of all time.
Not only does it take me from a 5.7 to a 6.9 in dating, but my colleagues and clients assume I'm being smart and charming at every turn. Meanwhile, anybody across the pond knows I'm being shallow and obnoxious.
Secondly, but most importantly, people in the USA are far more comfortable with externalising/externalizing. Yes they use strange versions of our words, and, yes, they use five words too many on occasion BUT at least they use them. One lazy accusation Brits often make about Americans is that they're loud - but I think everybody could benefit from being a little louder in life. A Dash of Loudness? Anybody?
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