Oct 152014

Marc Leavitt just sent me this delightful poem he’s written. Brilliant! This Victoria is extremely amused. Thanks so much, Marc!

To read more from Marc – there’s lots more great stuff where this came from – check out his blog here, which is aptly titled, Marc Leavitt’s Blog!

The Queen’s English
The language of Her Majesty,
Well-said, a verbal tapestry,
Is right for her in every way,
Although unpopular today.

Her dialect is very posh,
So upper-class, and oh, my gosh,
One people sometimes emulate,
In place of other types that grate.

Her Oxbridge accent leaves no place
For other accents we’d embrace;
You can assume it, but take heed,
It’s quite unlike the average breed.

Let’s hear a speaker on his rounds,
To find out how the accent sounds:
He makes a visit to your “hice”;
(That’s “house” to you; please say it twice).

And most important, this by far,
You must always drop your “R.”
It’s never far, but always “fah,”
When you take a trip by “cah.”

If you chance to utter “very,”
You must know it rhymes with “Teddy,”
One more point; the upper “clahsses”
Sound their A’s like “O’s in “flosses”;

These three tips are just a “staht,”
You must learn all rules by “hot.”
If you slip up, and say, my “house,”
You might as well go catch a mouse.

 Posted by at 3:32 am
Oct 182013

Here’s our latest 90 second video English lesson. (As always, the video is also available with a clickable transcript at http://www.simpleenglishvideos.com/language/)

This is one of many curious British and American differences that I’ll be exploring in my webinar for IATEFL this Saturday (19th Oct 2013), along with questions like ‘Are Americans really more direct?’ and ‘What’s the role of sarcasm in American English?’
To join the webinar, follow this link: http://www.iatefl.org/membership-information/iatefl-webinars
It’s suitable for English teachers or anyone with an interest in linguistics and British and American differences. It’s free and open to all so hope some of you can make it.

 Posted by at 3:51 am
Aug 202013

3994565602_21b9cc43ccI found lots to enjoy in this article from the New York Times Sunday review. One of their foreign correspondents, Sarah Lyall, spent 18 years living in London and she refects on the experience as she returns home.

I was surprised to read Sarah say that Brits are unduly exercised by the “special relationship” but then read:

— endlessly deconstructing what it meant, for instance, when in 2009 Gordon Brown, then the prime minister, gave President Obama a handsome penholder made of wood from a Victorian anti-slave ship, while Mr. Obama reportedly gave him a stack of movies that were incompatible with British DVD players.

Ha! I’d missed that story, but it is so funny. And yes, the Brit in me would want to endlessly deconstruct that too. Now why?

There are ways in which Brits can be surprising (some might think)  hard to offend. Consistently portray Brits as baddies in your movies, and we’ll just find you amusing. Rub our union jack in the mud and set fire to it and we’ll think you must be a bit upset about something without getting slightly miffed ourselves. No, the way to elicit a rise out of us (or our eyebrows at least) is to  give us a pile of DVDs we can’t play in return for our thoughtful gift. But look at the joke in that story – isn’t it at Obama’s expense?

I think playing the role of the unpopular kid with a much more popular friend might actually feel rather comfortable to us in an odd sort of way. If you’ve been brought up with a diet of self deprecating humour, it seems to offer a lot of potential for amusement – just so long as you can secretly feel superior.

Sarah described another incident that tickled me:

I got a friend at a party we were having to go up to a man he had never met. “Hi, I’m Stephen Bayley,” my friend said, sticking out his hand.“Is that supposed to be some sort of joke?” the man responded.

Ah wonderful! Click here read more on our greetings customs.

 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Jul 192013

Ask me what my all time favourite comedy show is and like many other Brits, I’ll say ‘Only Fools and Horses’. And I say that with confidence because it was rated the number one favourite in a poll conducted by the BBC a few years ago.

It was a long running sitcom starring David Jason as ‘Del Trotter’ – a south (sauf) London wheeler-dealer who traded in whatever dodgey goods came his way, always hoping his next get-rich-quick scheme would come good and always failing hilariously. Del Boy had a heart of gold and somewhat unusually for a British sit-com, the scripts never shied away from a sentimental and touching moment. (Yeah, we do like to keep an upper lip stiff where possible). But I’d have thought Americans would accommodate and appreciate that foible very well, so I’ve always been surprised that the show has never made it over here.

I don’t think its age can be the problem. Long after shows like ‘Monty Python’, ‘Are You Being Served?’ and a strange offering about someone called ‘Mrs Bucket’ left British consciousness, they managed to emigrate and find a comfortable home here for many more years. And I can’t put it down to differences in our sense of humour/humor either. I just don’t buy the stuff about ‘mericans not getting irony (what nonsense!) and I just haven’t come across that many differences in our humour. Think of all the shows that have been huge hits on both sides of the puddle. (Where to start: Friends, Cheers, Rosanne, Simpsons, The Office, AbFab, AliG, Gavin & Stacey, Coupling, etc etc)

There are differences of course. Obviously I wouldn’t enjoy Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as much now if I hadn’t lived here for 14 years. Shared cultural experience matters, particularly with politics perhaps. But surely that doesn’t apply to ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Is it just the accent that’s the problem? Any thoughts?

 Posted by at 1:22 am