I've lived in the UK for a number of years now, and one of the things that's amazed me about this tiny Island in the sea is the number of people and accents that are packed onto it.
To name but a few you'd easily think of the likes of the Cockney's, Scousers, Geordies, Mancunians, the Cornish, the Welsh the Irish or the Scots.
Yet even within the more commonly known regional accents, there are more local dialects or variances of these, and it can get really confusing to say the least.
In addition to these accents, various areas have their own chosen expressions, terms of endearment or ways of greeting that for a foreigner can lead to some rather amusing and interesting situations.
Allow me to share a few of my own adventures from the last thirteen years here in the UK with you.
When I first came to the UK in 1999, I ended up in Basingstoke on my way to the coast, where I was forced to stop and get a job to cover my expenses. I got a job in security and topped that up with a job in a local pub called the White Heart.
I'd only been in the country for a few weeks, and my exposure to variations in accent was litterally non existent. So when a customer came into the bar, I moved over to serve him and he said to me, "Can I have a Cork please."
Now obviously I was somewhat puzzled, so I asked him to repeat his order, and he confirmed again to me that he wanted a "Cork".
Mystified, but assuming it could have been for some kind of pub/drinking game or weird prank I disappeared into the back, retrieved a cork from the bin and brought it through to the customer.
I placed the cork on the bar in front of him and looked at him with a smile. The customer just looked at me with a blank expression and then asked, "Are you trying to take the Mickey mate?"
"I beg your pardon," I asked.
"Is this meant to be funny?" the customer asked very dead pan while looking intently at me. The strange look on my face must have given away my confusion as he proceeded to say, "I want a pint of Coke (said Cork in his accent) not a fucking Cork!"
Well my eyes nearly popped out of my head, and I rapidly made to pour the young man a pint of coke while apologising profusely. This is one cock up behind the bar that I've never been able to escape.
Once when I was driving back from a meeting up north, I stopped at a service station in Birmingham which falls in the Midlands of the UK. I filled up the car with petrol and went in to pay. I got myself a sandwich and a coke and went to the till where a middle aged lady rang everything up and proceeded to tell me, "That'll be thirty two fifty please Duck."
I recall just staring at the woman wondering to myself, "Did she just call me Duck?" "What the hell did she just call me Duck for?"
Again my expression must have concerned the poor woman as she looked at me and asked in the most genuine voice, "Are you alright Duck?"
Well, sorry to the poor lady but I just burst out laughing. She must have thought I was high on speed or something, she took my payment, shaking her head and muttering under her breath. I was later to learn that Duck is a fairly common saying in the Midlands.
When we moved to Wales, I accompanied my mother and father to the bank to have all our details changed on our correspondence and the like. I'll never forget going into the bank that day, the three of us approaching the teller's window together, my mom in the middle, my father and myself either side as we listened to the young lady behind the counter rattle off something to us in a thick Welsh accent, tongue moving at ninety miles an hour.
Anyone who's ever been to Wales can attest to the speed at which the local's talk, and so my mother stood there with a blank expression on her face. So once more the young lady rattled off what ever it was that she was trying to communicate to us. Once more my mother looked at her in uncertainty, and which point my father elbowed my mom gently in the ribs saying, "Honey I think she's talking to you."
My mothers reply? "I know she's talking to me Mike, but I can't understand a bloody word she's saying!"
I nearly died!
Another common saying among the younger more rough and ready lads in Wales is to call each other Butt. Now I've learnt this is a shortened form of the name Butty Boy which was a common nick name for a young boy when he joined the miners in the coal mines in South Wales.
I'm sure you can imagine the confusion when one night, while when working on the door of a night club as a doorman I chose to refuse entry to a rather intoxicated young man. In bitter disappointment the guy decided to remonstrate with me about my decision.
"You, know something, I'm really disappointed with you Butt. (pause) (I'm waiting for the but...) Actually, to be fair, I think your well out of line Butt." The young man is now looking at me awaiting my response, I'm waiting for him to continue from the but....
Eventually in irritation I asked him, "But what?"
He looked at me like I was the class clown and says, "What do you mean Butt?"
And so it went on till the lad I was working with on the door could barely stand he was laughing so hard. Completely exasperated with the drunk I eventually convinced him to leave, not without the proverbial Butt being mentioned at least another ten times, much to my irritation.
I did get a giggle out of it though when Ben explained it to me.
But my favourite one of all has to be about a year ago when I moved to Yorkshire. Now I've worked in the pub and night club industry for most of my life in one way or another. I actually moved up to Yorkshire to run a pub in Mexborough, a town in South Yorkshire.
Anyway, as it happened the one day I was training a friend of mine how to use a new alarm system in the pub which was located inside the kitchen just off the bar.
An elderly gentleman came into the bar and ordered a pint of bitter which I poured and he paid me with a ten pound note. As I was getting his change I glanced up at Joe to see him about to set the alarm off. I rushed into the kitchen and stopped him with the customers change still in my hand.
When I came back into the bar the old man was watching me closely, and I was watching Joe closely.
"Where is my change Cock?" the old boy asked me.
Now initially I was distracted so I turned to look at the man wondering to myself if I'd heard correctly. I raised my eyebrows and looked at the man.
"You got my change Cock?" the man asked me again.
This time I'd heard correctly, and to be honest, in many ways I'm glad that the guy was an elderly gentleman because I'm quite sure that delayed my reaction slightly, but still, my heckles were up that a complete stranger who didn't know me from Adam, had just walked into my pub and had the audacity to call me a Cock!
"I beg your pardon." I asked, rather pointedly to which the old man replied, "I paid you with a ten pound note Cock. Where is my change?"
Now I was getting ready to tell the old guy to wind his neck in and leave. Thankfully, Joe had heard the tone of my voice when I spoke to the man, and as good friend's knew enough to pay attention, so when he heard the man call me Cock yet again, he came straight over to us. He would tell me later that he'd seen it all painted across my face.
He rushed over and spoke to the man, "I'm sure the boss hasn't forgotten your change sir."
I turned to look at him, my eyes wide, generally a look I give when I'm telling someone to back off I'm dealing with this.
"Leave it, its fine," Joe whispered to me.
"You what?" I hissed at him. "He's just called me a Cock three times."
Joe giggled, and by now I've realised that when someone starts laughing when I'm unsure about something that maybe, just maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick.
Joe dragged me into the kitchen where he proceeded to tell me that it is a common Yorkshire expression to call someone Cocker or use the shortened version of Cock, when addressing someone who's name you might not know.
I've never quite understood how Yorkshire people can happily accept Cock as a common expression in their local lingo, but I have to be honest, it is really quite nice when your serving someone you don't particularly like to be able to say, "Thank you Cock," and not necessarily have meant it in the way he's assumed you did.
I know that we all have expressions that mean something else completely wherever you are around the world. When I first moved here, Dope was a fairly common South African expression to mean Good. If you liked something it was said to be "Dope", however, that expression didn't work quite so well here in the UK, where everyone thought I was asking for pot all the time.
We used to call a good friend Oak, or a big lad Ox. Again things that go completely over the head of anyone here in Britain. We called traffic signals in Zimbabwe Robots. So when your giving directions to someone you say, "Go down the road until you come to the robots and turn left." Imagine the confusion on an English man's face when you give him these same instructions.
Ah well, I knew what I was saying.
What funny sayings and stuff have you come across?
Thought for today - "After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb." - Nelson Mandela
Song for today - Paradise by Coldplay [media=]