Mind Your Language

By night, I roam as an intrepid, creative writer/fun-loving Muppet. However, as soon as the sun rises, mild mannered Sara earns her buck as an English Copywriter in an advertising firm. Needless to say, the two have very different demands. And working as a copywriter in Abu Dhabi has even more constraints, since such a cosmopolitan city invariably puts you in touch with American and British English, and the differences between the two.

I was never one for rules. I like pushing the red button and coloring outside the lines. Grammar however is a stern, uncompromising prison guard, who punishes sexually deviant punctuation with stiff commandments. For example, I was taught in an American school and survived for most of my life without the semicolon; I didn’t find out till I worked with British people how vital the semicolon is to breathing (and paragraphs).

The spelling differences are also a pain in the ass. I’m sure the ‘re vs. er’ rule (fiber vs fibre, center vs centre, etc…) has some dyslexics hiding under their desks trying to chew their own digits off. And there’s the s/z thing (Americans write apologize, as opposed to the British apologise); give the letter Z a chance, it’s already at the end of the line and doesn’t get used enough in daily matters, unless you work at a zoo or have an imaginary friend called Zebra.

Apart from the grammar and spelling, common or slang expressions are another source of mass confusion and delirium for me. I’ve met a few Scottish and Irish folks and I swear to a higher power, I don’t think these people are speaking English. We know the same alphabet, but that’s as far as it goes. The first time I heard “what’s the crack big girl?” I thought the guy was calling me fat and in need of some grade A uppers.

In another incident, I heard/saw ‘smeg off’ for the first time, and I thought the moron was calling me Meg and giving me a dancing peace sign. Smeg off doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even think the internet knows what it means. The only interesting things about this funny sounding word is that it might have been invented to curse on TV and get past censorship and the second being that, well, we all know two fingers are more fun than one.

Moving on, I once uttered lunch box in an office packed with Brits and faced sniggers and jeers. Apparently in the tea sipping UK, it refers to a man’s dressed genitals. Why lunch? Probably because they can only have sex in the day, I assume many are too drunk to fornicate at night.

Bollocks is another common and abrasive one. According to Your dictionary, it literally means testicles. I was shocked to learn this, especially as I always thought it sounded so much like buttocks that it would have surely been ass or cheek related. Nonetheless, the idea of saying “balls” as a retort carries its own merit. “Hey Sara, how was your day?” “Balls.” And this got me thinking, can you ever use ‘bullock’? Does any situation ever warrant a Lance Armstrong bullock? I wonder.

The American system isn’t without its faults; I’m just used to it hence less thrown off by it. However if we look at history, the Americans are completely to blame for this mess seeing as they were the ones who decided to change the language, just as they did with the metric system. The solution? Emoticons. Yup, luckily, it seems our race is de-evolving and relying more and more on images to express thoughts and feelings, so in the end, the smiley face may save us all.  😀grammar

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