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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us - Erin Moore, Lynne Truss

Given the number of times I read parts of this book out loud to MT, and the fact that it didn't drive him nearly as crazy as it usually does when I did so, I should rate this book higher than I did.  It's good: interesting, funny and informative.

 

The title is 80% accurate but I'd argue that it's aimed far more pointedly at Americans than it is at the British (and why is it 'the British'?  Why can't I just write 'British'... odd).  Most of the terms included are Britishisms and that makes sense; the British get far more American-culture exposure than Americans get of the British, so probably need less help.  Erin Moore is also an American expat living in London, so her view is naturally inclined towards her experiences and viewpoint.

 

Moore uses each of the terms as a springboard to discuss related cultural disparities between the UK and the US and I found a lot of these fascinating and sometimes hilarious.  I had no idea, for example, what sod was short for, or that stiff upper lip actually started out as an Americanism.  And she has made me hopelessly self-conscious, probably forever, of my use of the word quite.  

 

Americans use the word quite in the sense of "totally" or "completely".  As Moore uses for an example: to say 'he's quite naked' means, of course, that he's totally without clothing - he can't be partially naked.  That's pretty much the only way we use quite.

 

The British though, they use it to also denote a degree of negativity.  Moore's explanation puzzled me - I wasn't able to grasp the idea.  But luckily, I had a hair appointment yesterday, and my hairdresser is English!  I immediately quizzed him, asking for clarification (upon reading further in the book, I've also discovered I probably offend him regularly with all my direct questions...oops).

 

It seems (and may the Brits I know here correct me if I'm wrong) that they use quite the same way we Americans might say "meh" or "it was ok" (say if we were talking about a restaurant).  In other words it was quite good means, actually, no, it wasn't.  Aren't you quite clever? actually means You're a dumb-ass.*  

 

Well, hell.  Since reading this I have stumbled over every instance of quite in my speech and writing; if nothing else it has made clear to me how often I use the damn word.

 

The rest of the book was great and didn't cause me any more crises of confidence, thank goodness.  At the end, I can't say why I'm not giving this 4.5 or 5 stars except to say that when I finished it, I could say I enjoyed it thoroughly (notice the absence of the q word) but I didn't love it.  But I still highly recommend it.

 

 

*Aussies do this too, but they use average, as in The movie was average meaning that movie sucked which took me ages to figure out and caused me no end of confusion.