There's a pimple on my _____?
How’d you pronounce that? That’s right: Wim-pole, rhymes with maypole, mole, hole, Constantinople. You get the point.
But you’d be wrong.
Recently returned from England, I encountered glorious manipulations of the English language. Of American English, that is.
Vocabulary is one thing.
Here are a few phrases to give you just a taste (British on left; American on right):
Way out = Exit
Cheers = Excuse me; Thank you; Glad I could help you; F-off (they’re cunning, these Brits…)
Pardon = What the hell did you just say?
Fancy a…? = Would you like a…?
Franked = Pre-stamped mail
Right = OK then.
Word pronunciation is another.
The British said “Wha’?” every time I opened my mouth, and I said “What?” nearly every time they opened theirs.
Example: On my first morning run in London, I tried finding Hyde Park. I stopped what looked like a kind, sensitive guy, walking a very tiny, yappy dog (his look, down to the dog, made me think momentarily I was in France). Turns out he was very kind indeed but, damn, spoke only British English. “How do I get to Hyde Park from here?” “Right, you now are on Juke Street. You’ll stop at Oxford, and turn right.” I ran around in circles for a little while, searching for “Juke Street.” Then a street sign caught my eye: Duke Street. I paused. I’d been on the proper street all along; “D” comes out like “J.” I’d found the right street. I’d found the right street!!
On another occasion, I asked a bellhop the name of the neighborhood his hotel was located in. “You’re in Maw’bahre,” he told me. I asked him once to repeat himself, as that sounded more like an African town than a local neighborhood. “Maw’bahre.” “Thank you,” I said politely, like the dumb American lass I am. I hadn’t a clue what he said, so I went searching for signage. Indeed, we were in Marble Arch, just like the lad had said. Oy.
Inside London’s Tate Modern, I saw – no, experienced – an arresting piece by Cildo Meireles called Babel 2001. It is a tower comprised of about 800 radios – from the 1920s to the present – many of which are tuned to a just-barely-audible frequency so that the ear detects speech but cannot make out one single word being broadcast.
Much like how my ears struggled to decipher individual words despite their being in English.
While in the countryside north of London, the owner of a working farm-cum-cottage-for-rent recommended we drive only a few miles away to Wimpole, site of the Wimpole Estate, a National Trust property that looks right out of “Downton Abbey.” A home of Rudyard Kipling is on its grounds. As are myriad sheep in various stages of being shorn.
As it cost an arm and a leg to tour, for folks who don’t hold a National Trust card, I -- along with my husband and two daughters -- chose instead to have a look around the gratis parts. All the while making terrible fun of the actual pronunciation of Wimpole. We’d learned it rhymes not with maypole, but with pimple. And did I mention my children are teenagers? What a perfect age to become a veritable Dr. Seuss.
We spent the rest of the trip abroad, in what many consider America’s motherland, making up stories about the wimpole on my pimple and, via impressive turns of phrase, the pimple on my wimpole! I daresay that our loudest poetic efforts were met with scorn rather than praise. A pity.
Back in the States and back to work for our 2Bs clients, I -- in partnership with Merridawn -- think constantly about the proper, best, most appropriate (culturally and otherwise) turns of phrase for our clients, and how best to get our work out there for others to enjoy, learn from, be inspired by. We’ve all read pieces that are as clear as a Tower of Babel. For clarity -- with perhaps a little creativity thrown in -- 2Bs tells your story. Without the blemishes.