Sunday, 17 October 2010

Proper English In it?

Having been here in Cambridge for nearly six months, I've become accustomed to hearing American accents. But it seems that the English accent is still somewhat a novelty.

It's nice to hear, "oh I just love your accent!" and "I could listen to you talk all day, great accent." However, in comparison to Hubby, I reckon I sound very English as he has a northern twang to his dulcet tones. Obviously living in Blighty for a good many years, and having been married to Hubby for eight, I'm pretty used to hearing different regional accents, especially the Northern ones; so much so when a fellow Yorkshire mans bids me an "'ow do lass?" I know he's saying hello, how are you?

But like the UK, America has its regional accents too and I love hearing them and working out where people come from. And I'm not talking state accents; Boston and the surrounding area has its northern and southern regions like London and therefore regional accents. The ones heard around Cambridge are fairly neutral ones with the odd South Boston accent thrown in. What's a South Boston accent like I hear you ask? Well, its almost like a Brooklyn accent (and if you're not sure what that sounds like, tune into CSI: NY and listen to Danny) - but I wouldn't say that out loud as me thinks they (South Bostonians) may take it personally! They tend to exaggerate the vowels of some words or replace some letters with others; so "how are you?" becomes "how ah yah?", "Boston cream pie" is "Bawstin cream pie" and "chowder" is "chowdah"

On a daily basis, my interaction with the American public is limited and therefore the language used is, er...basic - everyone understands 'thank you', 'please' and 'can I please have a tall pumpkin spiced latte'. Whilst most folk around here say nothing about what or how I say things (I haven't quite drifted into a 'sow-fth' London twang as yet) it seems that Hubby has had to endure a constant (?) ribbing about certain expressions that he uses.

One day he came home (from work), saying that the guys didn't understand some of the things he said and started saying "guv'nor" to him. And, giving him an odd look when he said "half-past ten". I then looked at him with an odd expression on my face - what's wrong with saying half-past ten I cried (ok, more like asked but I'm prone to the dramatics). He said apparently, you just say ten-thirty....oh, right...I'm sorry...and the difference? A few days later he mentioned that he wasn't allowed to say 'bloody hell', apparently it was a disturbing phrase. Or something like that...odd people.

I said to Hubby that technically they shouldn't say "guv'nor" to you 'cause, well your Northern innit? They should really say things like, 'our lad' and 'fella'. Tell them that if they really wish to start with the taking the proverbial p*ss out of your accent then learn a bit of Northern. In fact, the next time they start, say "eh, blummin eck you lot, give over and shut yah cake 'ole about my accent." That should keep 'em quiet for a while 'cause they'd have no clue as to what you were talking about.

My dental nurse is originally from London and one time when I left the office, she said "you take care now and speak to you later." Nothing wrong with that but I think there was because as she passed by her colleague, she said to her, that she could say that because I'm from the UK and I wouldn't be offended. I was a little confused as I really didn't think she said anything offensive in the slightest! But I suppose it's the myriad of little phrases that makes the English language a difficult one to learn.

This teasing also got me thinking about my 'real' accent - the south London one, mixed in with a bit of east end slang - not the one that I call my telephone voice, which I use when out and about (and on the phone!) It seems that if I were to speak 'normally', my American allies would have even more of a difficult time understanding me! Ok, it's not that bad, but I have found myself on occasion having to speak a little slower to be understood!

If I thought about it I suppose I could get quite miffed, after all I'm speaking the Queens English...its the Americans that have added odd expressions, an 'ize' to most things and dropped the letter u. So, I reckon I should do the opposite of Professor Higgins' experiment; I'll find a Harvard student and teach them proper English. Cor, can you imagine? I tell yah mate, it would be a turkish bath listenin' to how much barney rubble they'd 'ave speakin' my language. And, I'd test 'em by takin' them to the local rub-a-dub with one of their china plates, ask 'em not to order a pint but a rosy lee, (convince 'em that an Ayrton Senna is not that much for a brew) get 'em to gregory peck it, leave before lager and lime but before we do, call the trouble and strife on the dog and bone, lettin' 'er that you're a bit strapped for bangers and mash and would she pick you up. *

Yeah, there's nothin' like the Queens English...the Pearly Queens English!

* In case you needed a translation....

Gosh, can you imagine my friend what a laugh (turkish bath) it would be to listen to how much trouble (barney rubble) they would have speaking English correctly. I'd take them to the local pub (rub-a-dub) with a mate (china plates) of theirs, ask them not to order a pint but a cup of tea (rosy lee) whilst convincing them that a tenna (ayrton senna) is not too much to spend, neck it (gregory peck) before time (lager and lime) is called but prior to that, call their wife (trouble and strife) on the phone (dog and bone) informing her that you do not have enough cash (bangers and mash) and would she pick you up?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Chilli - American Style

As a huge fan of most things American (good thing too eh, what with me being here!) I looked forward to trying american style know the ones...pound cake, meatloaf...

So whilst watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa (great series, huge fan of Ina Garten - she makes cooking very easy) she happened to make chilli. Now, Hubby loves chilli, probably his second favourite dish (lasagna being the first) so I watched with interest as she made the dish.

Firstly, they don't use minced beef (maybe they do in other areas of the US but this particular recipe didn't call for it)...they use a stewing beef and they leave it to cook for two hours! It looked really lovely and I thought I'd try it...but me being me, I didn't exactly follow her directions and made a few adjustments....

1lb of stewing beef cut into medium chunks
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2tbsp of tomato puree
1 shallot, diced
2 spring onions (or scallions!), chopped
1 large garlic clove chopped finely
1tbsp of butter
1tbsp of oil
1tsp plus a dash of cumin (powder)
1tsp of paprika
1tsp chilli flakes (rounded tsp!)
1 can of red kidney beans
1 green or red pepper (I used half of one and half of the other)
1tsp of parsley (dried or fresh)
salt & pepper to season

1. brown the beef in the oil and remove from pan
2. saute the onions (both kinds) with the garlic and butter
3. add the cumin, paprika, parsley and chilli, fry for a few minutes
4. add the beef back in and cook together for a few minutes
5. add the tomatoes and puree, season, mix throughly
6. add enough water to the beef mixture so its about an inch and half above the meat
7. simmer for minimum of 11/2 hours. Check occasionally the water level and to stir. Meat should be fork tender at this point
8. add green/red peppers and kidney beans
9. cook for a further 1/2 an hour

Serve with rice and grated cheese on top

Hubby enjoyed it. He said that he wasn't used to chunks of meat in a chilli but it was a pleasant change...(I'm paraphrasing...Hubby doesn't readily use the word 'pleasant'!) Oh and by the way it makes a lot so there is plenty to stick in the freezer for those days when you couldn't be bothered to cook!



Just a quick NB before I even start...I'm thinking of changing the title of my blog to "Whilst in Starbucks...." as most of my stories start there!

Anyway...whilst sipping my cuppa in said coffee shop, I happened to look up from the book I was reading (plug: and noticed that I was surrounded by students.

I smiled (inwardly) as they sat around me surrounded by their huge text books, sticky notes, highlighters and the obligatory laptop. Ok, so is it necessary to have a laptop whilst studying? I mean why do they need one if they a) have a text book and b) they have sticky notes...are they typing up the notes as they make them and if so, why bother wasting paper? Or is the need to update Facebook with "OMG, this legislation is so killing me." that important? Hubby said to me that technically you can hold a class without anyone being in the lecture hall - something he saw from a film me thinks. But what's the fun in that? Isn't gong to Uni all about interacting with people, not paying that much attention to the class and nabbing notes? (did I write that out loud?)

Now these students - most are from Harvard Law, have these huge volumes in front of them...perfect bound, hardback books and some take to using actual pen to highlight what they need to remember! Highlighters are one thing, but pen? I'm being silly about it I know, but the revulsion of using said tool stems from my love of books and not liking to deface them. But then again, how many people are that attached to a text book?

I do love watching them as they sip their frappuccino and contemplate exactly what Professor 'Langdon' was talking about in their lecture. And I am so becoming a narky old can you study with headphones on? If it's to drown out the noise from everyone else in Starbucks then er, why study there?

One guy made me laugh; he sat down, took out his book, then got up to get his coffee, sat down, opened his book, started to read, got a phone call (I forgot to include that in the list of things that students take out when settling down to carry out some revision), went outside to take the phone call....and he stood outside for nearly 40mins talking...I looked at his book that he came in to study, can't remember the full title but it was regarding Hinduism, Spiritualism and Ghandi. An interesting topic I thought...but he was obviously not that enlightened by it as he decided to talk for 40mins!! I was amazed that he took so long on the phone...did you get here on a scholarship or something because it costs an arm and a leg to study here! Eek, grouchy woman rearing her head again...

Now, I pop in to Starbucks to have some 'company' as I read; and I go there knowing that there will be moments when the place will be saturated with noise. So this time whilst catching up on emails as well as reading, two law students sat opposite me. All was fine...although it was very busy (folk were escaping the semi-torrential downpour taking place) it was a level of noise that wasn't bothering me. But then the girl, who sat in front of me, turned to her partner in crime (get it?) and started discussing a was something about how could this woman knowingly do something, wasn't it just assumption on her part blah, blah, blah.

Now, I'm not being cantankerous for the hell of it but woman, turn the volume down please? The girl next to me must have been slightly irked too although she didn't appear to notice and her topic on Aristotle and Jesus diverted my attention ever so slightly away from the incessant chatting. The guy the law student was discussing the problem with could hardly get a word in edgewise but I reckon it was more the point that he didn't agree with her argument. There was a momentary break when all three of us spotted a very wet dog looking very sorry for himself cross the road; but it was a momentary break, 'cause she was back to making her (very vocal) point.. "so, I don't think the assumption that she thinks she's going to be killed...". The guy still wasn't buying her argument and said to her that they would have to agree to disagree..tactful and a true lawyer in the making?

But despite his 'agree to disagree' comment stopped the chatter, by then she had disturbed me too much and I left although I was inclined to swipe my book at her head as I placed it into my bag...