Tuesday, January 20, 2009

As an Anglophile, I must admit that I am occasionally puzzled by the odd word or phrase that I encounter in a book or TV series. Sometimes, I will consult the Internet or the OED in an effort to find out just what in the world that odd word meant, but generally, I forget it almost as soon as I hear it. This does not add to my understanding of the work in question, I'm sure. That's why I was so happy to discover the delightful tome The Septic's Companion by Chris Rae. This book undertakes to explain common British terms to confused Americans.

The book is not only a dictionary. The front part of the book contains some helpful explanations about British life and culture in general. Among the sections covered are the political geography of the U.K., weights and measures, the British educational system, and getting around. I was especially glad to see a section on "telling time." You'd think this would be obvious, something that you'd mastered by the time you entered second grade, but even something so elementary is fraught with opportunities for misunderstandings. I was especially relieved to see an explanation of the term "half three" (3:30). One really doesn't like to ask someone for a clarification of such a basic term ("Excuse me, when you say 'half-three', is the little hand on the two or the three?"), but it might be necessary. Unfortunately in my case, I've lived in Sweden, so the waters are even more muddled. In Sweden, when someone says "half three", they mean 2:30 -- because you're half-way to three, get it? So I wasn't sure if it was the same way in Britain or not (I've been set straight -- NOT!).

There is plenty of other useful information in this book, and it's all presented in a very humorous style that makes for enjoyable reading. The dictionary that comprises most of the book is helpful as well as laugh-out-loud funny. If you encounter an unfamiliar British word, just look it up in the back and, well, Bob's your uncle!

Chris Rae, the author, also keeps a very entertaining and enlightening blog at America: Things America does right. Things America does wrong.

Final Verdict for The Septic's Companion: Four Gherkins, for being a very amusing and educational explanation of unfamiliar British terms


MikeH said...

I read this book, as well. It is very funny, and I learned quite a bit, which came as a surprise. After all these years I thought I knew it all.

Lisanne624 said...

Well I hope you've been putting your new vocabulary to good use!

Chris Rae said...

Four gherkins! That should put a stop to my mother complaining that I've never achieved anything in my life...

Lisanne624 said...

Chris, I hope that you are not going to slack off now and rest on your laurels after achieving such lofty heights!

Unknown said...

Well I'm chuffed you found this book, as an Anglophile it will certainly make life easier for you!

Lisanne624 said...

Sarah, since I'm a huge fan of Eastenders, the Cockney Rhyming Slang explanations were ever so helpful!

Anonymous said...

I agree with absolutely every syllable you've written about this fabulous book. Nice blog you have here, too. Well done!

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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