The magic of unpredictable words

There’s nothing like spending a few days with people whose first language isn’t English to remind you how bloody awkward English can be.  Especially colloquial English.

If a native says, in passing conversation, “see you at ten-ish,” they mean “see you at approximately ten o’clock. Not necessarily on the dot, but within ten minutes either side of it.”

My in-laws grasped this early.  So, while were watching some particularly silly spaghetti western and a stand-off ended prematurely (I didn’t quite grasp why—no subtitles), my mother-in-law queried why the bad guys were being so standoffish.

My first attempt to explain the meaning wasn’t particularly successful, partly because I was fighting a fit of the giggles.

I got a grip while back in the kitchen, giving dinner another stir.  I wasn’t laughing at her, you understand.  It was a perfectly reasonable question, based on faultless rationale. But I couldn’t rid myself of the mental image of a group of hard men unfolding themselves from behind their various barrels and doorways with a collective, “fellas, I ain’t in the mood for this siegin’ bullcrap today. Let’s skin out.”

My second attempt was more successful. Being Dutch, they’re familiar with the word ‘Amish’ and they know that it does not mean ‘very much like an arm.’  I think I finally managed to demonstrate ‘standoffish’ with varied contrasting pictures of cats and dogs.

So, colloquial English can be sticky, but it can also be wonderful for evolution. I’d quite like to introduce the following couple of words into wider use:

  • GRIVING: A motional verb combining grimacing and jiving, most commonly performed by those wearing brand new shoes. You will find grivers out in force at any wedding or graduation ceremony.
  • URMERING: Speech verb. Urmering is very much like murmuring, but louder, and typically the result of someone being drunk. If you’re lip-reading, you know someone is urmering and not murmuring because when someone’s had a few too many, their consonants tend to go missing.

Please share the post 😊  And if you do, add words of your own creation to the list. That would be fun.