December 12, 2003

Bob's Your Uncle

Oh my God, does my head ever hurt. Not only do I have a hangover, but I simply cannot remember all the earth-shatteringly important solutions that Best Friend and I came up with last night.

Sorry about the mix of British English and American English here. I have recently noticed that I use a lot of British English terms. For example, I call an apartment a flat. I don't mail things, I post them. I don't get drunk I get pissed, but when I make fun of things then I take the piss out of them. And I have picked up the Aussie phrase "No worries", which I use with abandon, even when the situation maybe isn't suitable for it. Late for an appointment? No worries. Did you hurt my feelings and you're apologizing? No worries. Bleeding out of your eyes? No worries.

I think I picked it all up from Dear Mate, Best Friend, and Mr. Y. They're all English, and remember I have a thing for Englishmen. Plus, being an American living over here I got a bit tired out of everyone making fun of my phrases and terms, so I think I just adapted in order to survive. This change has not gone unnoticed by my family, who think I am being uppity. Whatever. I think they can lecture me about how I speak when they realize the term "fixin' to" is not socially acceptable either.

It isn't helped by my choice of viewing material either. Whenever I watch the stodgy Victorian films I start talking like them. It's annoying, both to the listener and to myself.

I have just watched (again) the film "Pride and Prejudice", you know the 6 hour bonanza starring Colin Firth. I fucking love that film, but it really messes with my language for a while afterwards. For example, I had a phone call with Dear Mate the other day after finishing Disc 1 of the boxed set.

Me: Whatcha' doing?
Him: I'm headed to a customer meeting shortly, in my whistle and flute.

Let me explain here: in Cockney, they have this language pattern in which they take rhymes and make that the object. You have to be pretty up on the Cockney to have a discussion with Londoners, or you can get very lost very quickly as it becomes patently clear that you are not speaking the same language. Whenever I talk to someone who uses Cockney, I am generally about three sentences behind while I try to think of stupid rhymes that could match their meaning. So "Whistle and flute"= suit. "Dog and bone"=phone. "Sceptic"=Sceptic tank=Yank (American. And I hate that one).

Me: Your quaintly aggravating colloquialisms do tire me out.
Him: What?
Me: What?
Him: What the hell are you talking about?
Me: I would apologize for my superfluous terminology, but that would be foreswearing myself, as I feel no regret.

Geez. I need to get off the Victorian period dramas for a bit. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some job surfing to do and then I think I will watch "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", to bring the language and the IQ levels down a bit.


Posted by Everydaystranger at December 12, 2003 08:39 AM | TrackBack

I refuse to use the word "y'all". It's just a step too far. And anytime I have been to Canada, I come back with "eh?" in my voice, and it won't go away.

And the Mary Poppins bit-I think Dick wasn't human. That's not normal.

I think I shall start up an "I want to fuck Colin Firth" club. I imagine membership response will be huge.

Posted by: Helen at December 13, 2003 10:41 AM

The most unique adaptation of cockney rhyming slang ever attempted by Hollywood has to be dick van dyke fabled ran tings in Marry poppins.
32 CORE BLIMEYS’ and he was only in shot 13 minutes

Posted by: Paul uk at December 13, 2003 09:43 AM

The term, "No worries" aggravates the hell out of me simply because I had a roommate who used it all the time...and I didn't like her.

I'll try to get her voice out of my head and put my version of Helen's voice in its place...maybe I'll like it once again.

But I know what you mean about the different words. When I read your first sentence of your last post, I asked myself, "I wonder if she means angry or drunk." Obviously I got my answer.

Often I use words I picked up along the way in different countries and finally got everyone I knew used to them.

Now I'm in Texas and I have to start all over with all these new people I'm meeting.

I like your Victorian can insult someone without them knowing it. Must learn this!

Posted by: Serenity at December 13, 2003 06:44 AM

HI H ,Bobs your uncle ,the uncle
Either describing a simple task or used when a task is completed.
P. Brendon, in Eminent Edwardians,1979, suggests an origin: 'When, in 1887, Balfour was unexpectedly promoted to the vital front line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland by his uncle Robert, Lord Salisbury.'
PS this may give you somthing to go seems it was a a popular scandal at the time
pps i will sign my posts "paul uk" as we have now a paul from irland "paul irl" HI mate!

Posted by: paul,uk at December 13, 2003 02:41 AM

Wow, i thought i was the only one to confuse my friends and family after watchin' Pride and Prejudice. lol.

Posted by: jane doe at December 12, 2003 11:30 PM

hilary: i wonder how may people got your double double reference...i work at tim ho's. ew, i have to work tomorrow.

H-oh yes, P&P is the most wonderful thing...i am so very madly in love with Mr. Darcy. Nothing can cure a bad day quite like watching the Pemberly bit! *big sigh*

Posted by: Laura at December 12, 2003 10:20 PM

laura: this explains why my husband uses "no worries" all the time--he picked it up at UBC!
a friend of ours postdoc'd in the southern US and thought it was awfully funny to go around saying "i'm fixin' to reckon...."
in nova scotia, it's "some", as in "that was some good, wasn't it?" "it's gonna be some cold tonight", etc. and buddy. everyone you don't know is buddy, the pet name for your baby boy is buddy, your dog is buddy, and buddy up the lane there nearly drove over me this morning when i was comin' back from the horton's with my double-double an' a maple dip.....

Posted by: hilary at December 12, 2003 08:46 PM

I am surprised no one has mentioned two of my favorites, "y'all" and its plural, "ally'all"

I worked for a year and a half with a group of engineers from Alabama, It used to just throw me when these really bright people would talk like they had just fallen from the back of a turnip truck. Valuable lesson in not judging people by how they speak.

Helen, you should probably be very careful mixing Victorian and Modern American skater dialects, the results could be really bad...

"Dude, your quaintly aggravating colloquialisms like really bum me out and stuff" Not pretty.

Keep up the great work, You rock!


Posted by: Datol at December 12, 2003 08:29 PM

ah, i adore a british accent. in high school i did the play "noises off" and had to learn to speak with one. perhaps that's why when a british couple asked me directions once, i answered them with a british accent. doh!


good luck on that job search. and have a lovely weekend! ;-)

Posted by: kat at December 12, 2003 06:13 PM

Hi H,
"Bob's your uncle" is right up there with "...and that's where things went pear-shaped"! Bless my dear friends in London! They never once resorted to calling me a "Silly Sod" (at least to my face) for all my incessant "hey, what does that mean?" pestering.

Today is Day 3 of my newly-discovered 'H' addiction! It's glorius. OK to refer to you as 'Smack'?

Oh yeah... Nice Butt!
Cheers, Paul in IL

Posted by: Paul at December 12, 2003 06:07 PM

H, I think your next stop into IQ sludge should be Better Off Dead. 'Gee, Ricky, I'm sorry your mom blew up!'

Anything with Colin Firth in it makes me pant. Forget Farrell; he's tainted. Give me the sexy mature man who looks like he'll throw down instead. Anyone want to see "Girl with a Pearl Earring" with me?

As for the Cockney bit - I'm the only one of my friends who understood *any* of LS&2SB or Snatch. Fucking love it. I think it's from years of PBS. My parents are BBC snobs.

Posted by: Kaetchen at December 12, 2003 05:43 PM

Mike the Marine-now I can't quit saying "Dude!"

Sarah-I LOVE the Liza one. Must use it.

Jiminy-you've been missed, babe. Sorely.

Posted by: Helen at December 12, 2003 05:34 PM

Hey there, H! Let me just throw my lot in with the crowd who says that "fixin' to" is a fine turn of phrase. Where I grew up, Memphis, Tennessee, nothing ever happened, everything was "fixin' to" happen: I'm fixin' to go to the store; it looks like it's fixin' to rain. I miss some of the southern accent phrases I've lost in my four years in Boston, three in D.C., and now 10 in New York. So don't make fun. I had no idea, however, that "fixin' to" had made it all the way out to Indiana. Thanks, Sue, for that tidbit.

Every once in a while, I come out with a phrase that stops everyone around me with a look like, "what the hell did he just say?!"

And, the Cockney word phrases are not made any easier to understand when hidden behind the heavy curtain of their accent. It finally explains a line from the movie "Ocean's Eleven." When the explosives guy says that they're all in "Barney." They look at him. He explains, "Barney...Barney Rubble...Trouble!" I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I spent the entirety of Lock, Stock without understanding half of what was being said, and still loved the movie.

Have a great weekend, H. And everyone else, too.

Posted by: Jiminy at December 12, 2003 05:13 PM

"And don't let some stuffy fart-and-shit make fun of your American English."

Oh MAN, I'm still giggling about that one. Best Friend and Dear Mate are going to kill me, but that's way they get for calling my people Sceptics.

Good to know that Amber, Ilyka and I are all parrots that pick up accents. We're like Meryl Streep, only without the bad nose.

Posted by: Helen at December 12, 2003 04:27 PM

Mike, read up on your Irvine Welsh. It will keep you schooled in the way of rhyming slang.

Helen, I knew you'd get it. Which is why I did it, of course. Friends of mine from England (north country boys) were telling me about LS&2SB when they came for a visit. It wasn't out here yet. They had seen it but couldn't figure out why they were calling the telly a "Liza." My mate Dan felt like a fucking tool when American Girl Me explained it to him.

I use it in writing quite a bit, but as I can't pull off a proper accent, I rarely use it in everyday chitchat. Though I do call Jaime my china, no matter what. People look at me weird. I don't bother explaining.

Posted by: Sarah at December 12, 2003 04:27 PM

I think they can lecture me about how I speak when they realize the term "fixin' to" is not socially acceptable either.

No, no, no . . . fixin' to rules. It's no "might could," but it's still plenty handy for everyday use.

As you know, I do this same sort of thing too, but don't lose your roots. And don't let some stuffy fart-and-shit make fun of your American English.

Posted by: ilyka at December 12, 2003 04:22 PM

Cockney sounds cool, but good God, how do you keep up with it? I mean I love Lock Stock and Snatch and used to watch Red Dwarf on BBC America and I cannot for the life of me figure out how Brits keep up on that stuff. I mean, you're talking about a "language" that can change daily, depending on who's in the news and cultural norms.

For instance, "pony and trap" is NOT a phrase most Americans would be familiar with. Hell, I'd never heard it until Gareth mentioned it below, so how the hell would I deduce that pony=crap?

Helen, definitely dumb it down with Bill & Ted. Just remember: San Dimas High School Football RULES!!!

Posted by: Mike the Marine at December 12, 2003 04:10 PM

lock stock ... awsome flic... and of course Snatch was a better follow up, trying to understand Brad Pitt, forget about it.

Posted by: pylorns at December 12, 2003 04:05 PM

This is the closest thing to an accurate account of the origin of the phrase "Bob's your uncle."

It seems that no-one knows for definite where it came from originally.

Posted by: Gareth at December 12, 2003 03:53 PM

I do that all the time! I've always been an unconscious mimic for accents and phrases, but until I was a teen, I never realized it. The worst time I had of it was when I was working tech support at a local ISP (SE Georgia w/a Navy base). I had two lines running at the same time, and I was flipping back and forth between a Scottish woman (heavy brogue) and an older man who had never once stepped foot outside of the county (one of the heaviest Southern accents imaginable). My boss had to stop and just watch and listen to me until I got them both settled. He told me to go and take a break to sort out what I wanted to sound like after I got off the phone.

Posted by: amber at December 12, 2003 03:17 PM

Laura, we can now bond over how great that film is. *Sigh*. And you're a better person than I am on the "Lock, Stock" side-I had to turn the subtitles on.

Kyle-I have absolutely no idea where that saying comes from. We have a lot of English readers here-come on, help us out!

Posted by: Helen at December 12, 2003 03:04 PM

I too have picked up 'no worries' from living in a BC mountain town that attracts so many aussies in the winter we celebrate austraila day at the pub. Going to school in alberta (canada's texas) i get a lot of quizzical looks when i use it.

It took about six watchings of Lock Stock before i was able to understand the cockney bit without looking at the subtitles...i think it's because i memorized them rather than that i now understand it, but no worries :)

And the six hour pride and prejudice is my favorite thing! my roomate and i watch it every few weeks and then attempt to speak in that manner for the rest of the day. Much to the distain of anyone that might visit.

Posted by: Laura at December 12, 2003 02:58 PM

I do that to the people I work with, I call them all wankers and tossers..

Posted by: pylorns at December 12, 2003 02:57 PM

What makes all this cockney stuff harder (when you're reading sv hearing) is that you have to hear it with the proper cockney inflections to even have a fighting chance.

Bein borned in ‘merica, I s’pose I jist wooden rather spek ‘merica.

Stuff like jaeetyet? To which you might respond nojew?

Posted by: Clancy at December 12, 2003 02:46 PM

Thanks for bringing this up. Can anyone help me with the definition and origin of 'Bob's your Uncle"?..

Posted by: Kyle at December 12, 2003 01:51 PM

There's a key difference between "no worries" and "whatever": "No worries" is never used sarcastically, as "whatever" often is. It really does mean "That's quite all right, it doesn't worry me, so don't let it worry you."

Posted by: Pixy Misa at December 12, 2003 01:29 PM

I just had to also mention the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

I love the ryming slang scene where they include subtitles "...and orders the ping pong tiddly in nuclear sub".

Ping pong = strong(est)
tiddly wink = drink
nuclear sub = pub (bar)

Posted by: Cheekysquirrel at December 12, 2003 11:06 AM

Thats the old rhyming slang. There is a more modern version now which really does require knowledge of english known celebrities to understand.

Britney Spears - beers
e.g. "Give us a couple of Britney's will ya Doreen".
Leo Sayer - an 'all-dayer' (drinking or a rave etc).
Nelson Mandela - Modern Rhyming Slang for 'Stella' (the lager).
Pat Cash - Modern Rhyming Slang for 'slash' (to urinate).

You have to be careful with Pony as it is also a sum of money. Lend us a pony.

Posted by: Cheekysquirrel at December 12, 2003 11:03 AM

Cockney rhyming slang gets really confusing for the uninitiated when people just use the first word rather than the rhyming one or couplet.

Hence, describing something as "pony" means it's crap (from pony and trap = crap).

So you could fall down the apples and rip your whistle in your haste to get to the dog before it stops ringing. Which all makes perfect sense.

Posted by: Gareth at December 12, 2003 10:25 AM

No worries simply Australian for "Whatever". And without being too picky, in rhyming slang an American is a "sepo" = septic tank. Though I'm quite sceptical about Americans too.

A helpful dictionary is here

Posted by: Simon at December 12, 2003 09:48 AM

>even when the situation maybe isn't suitable for it. Late for an appointment? ...etc

These are all perfectly correct uses for "no worries"!! :) also suitable for use when someone burns down your house, kills your pet...and so on

Posted by: nisi at December 12, 2003 09:31 AM

You can say it any way you want to, as long as you keep saying it. Umm... I know what I meant, the question is: Did you? Oh well, I'm fixin' to (which is perfectly acceptable out here in Indiana, by the way) grab a bite to eat.

Posted by: Sue at December 12, 2003 09:04 AM
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