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English as a Foreign Language May 25, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Language, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


I’d like to think I’ve got Culture – only it’s spelled with a “K.” So that’s how Lesley and I ended up having a posh lunch at The Swan in Southwold on the Suffolk coast.

The bartender explained that we could have a drink OR if we wanted to eat in the dining room, we could have two courses AND a drink for a bargain price.

Lesley literally sprinted to the dining room where I enjoyed gammon (think thick ham) and mash (as in potatoes) and a glass of wine. Everyone was wearing a suit and tie and looked frightfully proper. But when you’re wearing Converse aka Chucks in the UK, you can just pass yourself off as eccentric. We had the most lovely lunch and convinced the waitress (who confided her nickname was “The Rottweiler”) to take our picture.

Though we share a common language, I confess that when I’m in England I feel like I’m an English Language Learner. Just when I’d gotten used to “car park” and “pegging out the wash,” I was inundated with a barrage of new expressions that bear repeating.

Take “bovver boots.” While in Southwold, Lesley and I popped into Daddy Longlegs, where I sprang for a pair of red boots. There were Doc Martens on the shelf above, but I loved the cherry-stained color of the ones I bought. The clerk informed me they were handmade in Spain. (I asked if a man named Manuel had manually caressed them, and she rather fancied that idea.)

Back in Fram, I put them on to wear out to the pub. As we walked down the street, Lesley informed me I looked like a “bovver boy.”  Huh?  “They’re “bovver boots” she replied, and then seeing my blank stare, informed me that “bovver” is the working class equivalent of “bother.”

When we got home from the pub, us giggling Googlers found “bovver boots” and “bovver boy” in the Urban Dictionary. I learned that they (and yes, Doc Martens are the ultimate bovver boots) are worn by undesirables looking for trouble. Moi? I’m flattered, though to achieve the real bovver boy look, I’d need to shave my hair and wear braces (suspenders). There’s also a lot of saying “oi” involved, as it’s Cockney slang for “hey.” (Thanks again to the Urban Dictionary.)

I’ll leave you with a few English expressions that will add spice (and not just curry) to any conversation:

I’d like to p%ss on his chips!
I don’t know whether to take a p%ss or to comb my hair.
I don’t trust her.  She’s got one eye on the pot and the other up the chimney!



1. elissestuart - May 27, 2009

Welcome home. : )


2. Bev from england - May 29, 2009

Language is a great thing…but personally i dont know any of the expressions you left us with so it even depends on where in england u are !

i do know bovver boys however…and the word bovver is used lots by one of comediene cathrine tates characters…… “does this face look bovvered ? “…” am i bovvered tho? ” etc love it !


Bev – “Bovvered” is in the Urban Dictionary as well. England is such a small country (compared to the U.S.), but it’s amazing how the accents and expressions change from region to region. There’s actually a website devoted to Suffolk slang. I know you people “up north” have your own expressions (including some “Bev-isms!”). 🙂 Jan


3. Ginger - May 30, 2009

How exciting for you, to be having this adventure! And I feel so happy that I get to tag along, albeit vicariously. I love the Converse feet shot, but I would LOVE to see those red boots! You GO, girl!

Ginger – My boots look “very Berkeley” according to my friend, Martha, who went to Berkeley. I’m taking that as a compliment as she wears Doc Martens. They’re combat boots with style, so I might have to use them in a post come September. That’s when I’m gearing up to put the new kids through Boot Camp. 🙂 Jan


4. Catherine Sherman - May 31, 2009

Doc Martens (and we’ve had a pair or five in this household….) kind of remind me of the boots the guys wear in Clockwork Orange, and boy were those boys looking for a bit of bother. I’d love to see yours in a photo, because I know they must be beautiful and charmingly quirky.

Cathy – That’s funny you mentioned “Clockwork Orange” cause when we were in Westminster Abbey, a student orchestra was practicing and they played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I blurted out, “A Clockwork Orange!” I just went onto youtube and listened to it again. It featured stills from the movie, and yes, I’m afraid that in my boots, I do look like a droog! Jan


5. elissestuart - June 1, 2009

I haven’t made it to England, but England came here one year. My pen pal and I finally met. I showed her CA. She didn’t teach me about shoes, but instead about tea time. I loved it and kept it a tradition for many months after she left. I keep thinking I need to start a new tradition to leave work early and come home and have a cuppa.


6. janelleholden - June 1, 2009

How does one acquire “The Rottweiler” for a nickname? I hope she didn’t look like one – now that would be dreadful.

Aren’t new English expressions fun? I’m going to try out “bovvered” this week.

Looks like you had great time, and I agree – a picture of those red boots is definitely in order!

Janelle – “The Rottweiler” earned her nickname due to her foul disposition before she’d had her morning coffee. I overheard her telling this to another woman and asked her about it. She said when she arrived at work, her coworkers always have lined up several cups of coffee to tame the beast. Jan


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