This Side of the Pond – Dec. 20

By Sarah Pridgeon

This week’s column is brought to you at the behest of your police chief, whose requests I seldom feel inclined to ignore. I must remain in his good books for the inevitable day on which I skid across the ice into a tree and it decides to have me arrested for dreadful driving.
“I think you should use more English sayings in the newspaper,” he said to me. “Nobody will have a clue what you’re talking about – but that’s how you learn.”
This pronouncement came shortly after he bounded from his office in greeting, declaring it had been a fortnight since he last saw me. It had actually been two days, he just really likes the word ‘fortnight.’
He’s right, I do talk funny. At first I didn’t realize this, but the consistent blank faces have taught me to curb my odd choices of word lest I confuse the whole state and am shunned as a gibbering idiot.
This has already happened in Walmart, where sales assistants now scatter at my approach. I see the veil of fear and incomprehension descend as I plead for help to locate what I need, and then they scuttle away to hide.
I’ve even watched the lady serving at the delicatessen sink down behind the counter in the hopes I would forget she was there.
I once asked a poor sales assistant if the store happened to carry the movie In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell. He stared at me for a full minute before stuttering, “Um…what… how…. what letter does that begin with?”
“I,” I replied. “For ‘in’.”
Needless to say, I did not go home with the DVD I wanted. Nor did I manage to acquire suet, teabags or one of those nose sniffer thingies that make your sinuses feel better (although the latter was probably the fault of my descriptive powers.)
Not a week after Sundance became my home, the ladies of my new family thoughtfully arranged a hen party for me (that’s a bachelorette party to you lot). As we waited for our table at the restaurant, someone asked me for the time.
“It’s half six,” I replied, without thinking, and was as surprised as everyone else that my time-telling was unintelligible. It’s my way of saying the time is six thirty, you see.
My brother once had the same problem when faced with a tourist from this side of the world. He told the nice gentleman that the time was “half two” and was met with a long silence, followed by a tentative, “So… one?”
Fortunately for those who must deal with my Englishness on a regular basis, my husband has become my personal translator. He now automatically says “two weeks” when I say “fortnight” and is rewarded with grateful glances. I should probably take him everywhere I go.
Despite the confusion my strange utterances cause, Sundance has been kind enough to embrace them. I am always greeted by surprisingly accurate English accents in Deckers, for example, as the girls call, “Well halloooooo!” to me across the aisles, and I am regularly asked if I should like “a spot of tea.”
Mrs. Teresa Brown, one of the spot-of-tea culprits, nipped over to my office this week to hand me some school district-related documentation. “Smashing!” she exclaimed with a grin, as I thanked her for taking the time to bring it over. “I’ve been waiting to use that on you for ages.”
Incidentally, the confusion does go both ways; Wyoming has some wonderful verbal idiosyncrasies with which I battled upon my arrival. I have since embraced many of them as part of my own vocabulary (much to the consternation of the mayor).
For example, I have never before heard someone say, “I don’t like it very well,” although I can’t for the life of me think of a grammatical reason why not. In my dialect, that sentence would be, “I don’t like it very much.”
My favorite is the idea of “visiting” with someone, which sadly has no direct equivalent in Brit-speak. It’s a beautiful turn of phrase, although my reaction the first someone asked if they could visit with me was, “Where are we going and why do we need to go together?”
Mayor Brooks thoroughly disapproves of the inclusion of “I reckon” into my everyday speech, on the other hand. In my defense, “reckon” is as common in my homeland’s speech patterns as it is in Sundance, but I will admit that my use of it has warped over time.
And so, now you’re all aware of the daily trials of owning an English voice, perhaps you’ll be able to help me? If you happen across a Walmart employee with a deer-in-headlights stare, please tell them that the strange woman meant “two weeks” when she said “a fortnight” and she could do with some sinus medication. I’ll be waiting in the café, having a nice cup of tea and a sit down.