Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Wow. Just when you think you know the English language…you hang out with British people. Last night was a potluck end-of-year party with my book group—a chance to hang out together one last time, bid bon voyage to those members who are leaving Woodstock, and stuff ourselves with tasty treats. It was also an opportunity to try out a charade-type game that my friend Melanie owns. Melanie is British. The game is British. Most of the members of book group are American. Let the good times roll.

The point of the game was just like charades—act out a word or phrase and have your team guess. The twist was that the words and phrases were supposed to be well-known English sayings. They came on little cards with six phrases to a card and you were supposed to get through as many as possible in a minute. Sometimes this was not a problem – phrases like slippery when wet or quick on the draw were easy enough to act out and understood by all.
But then we entered the hilarious realm of “weird British phrases no one outside the island has ever heard of.” Take, for example cocking a snook. Or playing conkers. Or comparing cucumbers at the allotment Or, my personal favorite hanging nuts for the blue tits. Not only was it impossible for us to act out these “well-known phrases,” we were also incapable of even reading them aloud without collapsing into tear-inducing gales of laughter.

The best thing about the game, though, was watching Melanie respond to these bizarre sayings. She knew them all and would nod understandingly while the rest of us stared in bug-eyed confusion. Then she would realize that we were all lost and explain, in tones of incredulous exasperation that of course "cocking a snook" means to look down your nose at someone. And that a blue tit is a bird and they like nuts so you put nuts outside for them. Well, of course.


At 7:51 PM, Blogger Emily said...

personally the mental image I get from comparing cucumbers at the allotment is even better than getting out your blue tits (not, I suppose, to be confused with your blue footed boobies).


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