Translate for Me, Please?

Years ago, when I first arrived in Qatar, I determined that I would learn English.  For you see, it appeared that for years I'd been duped into believing my limited Canadian grasp of the Queen's tongue would serve me the world over.  In reality, there was so much more out there left for me to learn.

And so began my foray into a new style of English ... one that included a vocabulary far exceeding my finite North American lexicon.  

So many British terms struck me as odd.  Words that would crop up in conversation daily, but that were either entirely new to me, or used in a sense that was new to me. 


My first awakening came as we drove from the airport and I saw storefronts adorned with signs advertising "Saloons".  I was amazed that a 'dry' country would openly allow so many drinking establishments.  I quickly learned that these storefront signs were in fact advertising salons/beauty parlors/barber shops ...  (N.B.  to my knowledge, this is simply a mis-spelling that has self-perpetuated, and not been influenced in any way by British English.)


Everybody delivers here, even McDonald's, even Krispy Kreme (for those PMS'ing moments where nothing but a fat-packed, sugar-laden, 1,000-calorie ball of glazed dough will do).  Anyhow, I digress.  We called a local Turkish BBQ pit, ordered the "mixed grill, tabouleh, hummus, moutabel, and falafel plate".  The decidedly un-native English speaker with the really thick Arabic accent asked me if I would like delivery or "takeaway".  Takeaway?  Me: "you mean takeout"?  Person on the phone: "You like delivery or takeaway?"  Me:  "is takeaway 'takeout'?"  Person on the phone (irate):  "Delivery or takeaway, Madame?"  Me (big sigh):  "Delivery."  We have since confirmed that "takeaway" is in fact "takeout" (Canadians do "takeout".)

Fanny Pack.  

For any UK readers, please do not take offense at my use of the term.  Canadian readers, do not assume that the world over understands that a 'fanny' refers to your buttocks.  Apparently the term is taboo to some in the Commonwealth, and refers to the female genitalia.  Lesson learned the hard way after loudly exclaiming to Smilin' Vic at my first-ever 10 km run (organized by a local British school) that I'd forgotten my fanny pack.  Duly chastised for my profanity, I now know that the proper term in these parts is "bum bag".  (Goodness, I can't even type that without giggling!)


My first boss in the ME used to refer to everything I did or said as "brilliant".  For my first few weeks on the job, I thought I could do no wrong.  I have since learned that 'brilliant' is sprinkled into British conversation the same way I would acknowledge a statement with 'cool'.  It doesn't really mean 'brilliant'; it's more a simple acknowledgement of what I've done or said - not a commentary on my exceptional productivity or thought processes. 

Here are a few other words (in bold) that have made their way into my vocabulary, with the Canadian equivalent on the right:

  • Chuffed = quite pleased
  • Tin = can (as in a 'tin' of tomatoes)
  • Flat = apartment
  • Loo = bathroom (as in 'go to the loo')
  • Dust bin = trash can
  • Cooker = stove
  • Cellotape = Scotch tape
  • Dosh = money/cash
  • Tissue = kleenex
  • Tissue = paper (as in 'toilet tissue')
  • To 'fancy' something = to like something (as in 'I'd fancy a cold drink right now')
  • Mate = friend (as in 'hello, mate!')
  • Handbag = purse
  • Bollocks = nonsense

I'm not 'taking the piss' out of anyone here.  My misinterpretation of some of these words left me utterly knackered and looking like quite the numpty on occasion.  But Blimey, I think I've figured it out!