“Your English is so good” I often hear people comment. Well after 20 years in England, so it should be. I was actually already fluent in English before I moved to England so surely there was never going to be a language problem? Wrong. You see, in Finland we get taught “Queen’s English” or “BBC English”, totally ignoring the fact that most people in the UK don’t speak like that!
My first few years in England were spent deciphering all the accents from Geordie (Newcastle) to Scouse (Liverpool), not to mention some Irish and foreign accents! I used to watch a TV soap called Brookside that was set in Liverpool, sometimes ending up using the subtitles for deaf people because I couldn’t understand the actors! It took me years to get accustomed to the different accents but I think I’m finally cracking it now.
Another problem with learning “BBC English” is that as a foreigner you are oblivious to double meanings and slang. Like many years ago, when my late father-in-law was listening to the radio and asked me to turn up the wireless and I thought it was the name of the pop group whose song was playing on the radio… Or when he broke his leg and was put in this contraption to stretch his leg. He had to stay in a hospital bed for weeks before they could plaster his leg, so when it finally happened and he could start moving, it was such great news that I decided to send him a cheerful card saying: “I’m happy to hear that you are up and plastered!” Apparently the entire hospital ward was crying with laughter…well at least it did cheer him up!
(Translation of slang for my Finnish friends; wireless=radio, to be plastered =olla huppelissa)
There are many occasions when I have embarrassed myself, but by far the worst one was quite a few years ago at a posh Golf Club where I had been caddying for hubby who was playing in a competition. Female caddies were quite a rarity at that time and Nick Faldo was the only well known player with a female caddie, a Swedish girl called Fanny Sunesson. So after the round of golf, I found myself at the bar waiting for hubby when some people spotted me and came over for a chat. Although I don’t play golf myself, I had caddied for my husband over the years, even on European Challenge Tour, so I was no stranger to the golf scene nor to the chat. I had in fact drawn a bit of a crowd and had a captive audience until it all went wrong…You see someone decided to ask me if I played golf myself to which I replied in a loud voice echoing all over the posh golf club: “Oh no! I’m just a Finnish Fanny!”
The entire bar went quiet with everyone looking at me horrified. It wasn’t until we were in the car leaving the golf club that hubby informed me of what I had unknowingly told the entire golf club. I was mortified. “It could have been worse” hubby said. “How?” I found myself whispering. Hubby smiled: “Well, you could have said: “I’m just his Finnish Fanny”.
I’m glad he had a sense of humour as mine had disappeared. Needless to say, I haven’t been doing much caddying lately.
Translation for my Finnish friends; fanny (British English) = naisen “etupeppu”, fanny (American English) =naisen “takapeppu”