Variety is the spice of life
Do you know when an old song keeps echoing inside your head? "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" is as old as it is witty and it has frequently popped up in mine. You should check it out on YouTube. Noel Coward goes on singing: "Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. The Japanese don't care to, the Chinese wouldn't dare to, Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one." And he goes on about British eccentricity.
The British are indeed eccentric, endearingly so, and they know that. I am Brazilian and have been living in London for a few years by now but you know what? I have to admit that some habits of the British still puzzle me. If someone steps on your foot accidentally, they say sorry but you are expected to say sorry too even if you are howling in pain.
And some of the language that I think I understand... well, I know the meaning of the words but I wonder if I really understand the sense. And then, there is the biggest mystery of all for many of us who weren't born in a Commonwealth country: cricket! They look very smart on the pitch but I don't get what is going on.
Some of my colleagues in the international team that makes up the Learning English department feel the same way about it - Chinese, Russian and Indonesian. And our British colleagues are always happy to enlighten us. They also find themselves a bit confused by us.
I slip into Brazilian-mode sometimes and literally translate some Portuguese idioms into English. You should see their faces when I say: "I have a pineapple to peel". They look around and guess what? There is no fruit in sight. This in Portuguese refers to a difficult task. I think you agree that it is quite awkward to peel a pineapple. The right idiom in English is "a hard nut to crack".
So we decided to start blogging about the things we find quirky about the British and our British colleagues will try to explain to us what it is all about. They are free to say what they do not understand about us too.
I will start blogging with Neil. He is English and loves cricket and I will tell him soon what I find strange about the sport. For the next few weeks I will also share a secret with you. I have learnt how to tell when a typical British person is really angry to the point where you should just give up on a discussion. I will check with Neil if I got it right.
How about you, what puzzles you about the British?
witty - quick and funny
popped up - appears suddenly and unexpectedly
wouldn't dare - would not have the courage to
endearingly - creating affection
puzzle - confuse
howling - making a loud sound expressing pain
I don't get - I am unable to understand
makes up - forms
to enlighten - to make someone understand
slip into - pass gradually without noticing
in sight - visible
awkward - difficult
a hard nut to crack - English idiom used to refer to a difficult problem to solve
quirky - unconventional