How To Speak Brit by C.J. Moore

How to Speak Brit After living in the UK for three years, I decided it was time for me to look into the issue of language a little more deeply. And in walks How To Speak Brit. I think language and how one speaks in analyzed and thought about a little bit more in Britain than it is in North America. It is so revealing about who you are and where you come from. This comes down not just to the words one uses, but also how those words are said.

As an outsider I feel this acutely – both what I say and how I say it makes me stand out. I say ‘garbage’ rather than ‘rubbish’, ‘pants’ rather than ‘trousers’ and don’t even get me started on sellotape, kitchen roll or cling film.

Moore notes the importance of class in British society and how language often indicates class. In writing the book, he also revealed his own class biases. In cataloging Britishisms he includes words such as ‘pottering’ and ‘chavs’, but in order to potter one must have a garden (thereby indicating a certain level of financial attainment) and I wonder whether ‘chavs’ self-identify as chavs, or is a chav always someone else?

Who would like this book? This book is obviously for language lovers and Anglophiles alike. Shortcomings aside, it is a really fun look at the way Brits speak. I imagine How To Speak British would be a great companion to That’s Not English, which seems to be getting an awful lot of book blogger love at the moment.

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20 Comments

  1. This sounds like fun. Now that I think about it, I have noticed, in British books especially, that people’s origins are often quickly identified by the way they speak. It doesn’t happen so much here, unless you’re from Newfoundland or maybe Cape Breton. (Speaking about Anglophones only, of course.)
    The couple of examples you give of the words you use reminds me of my first experience with this that I can remember – while watching Sesame Street I noticed that Oscar lived in a “trash” can instead of a “garbage” can, and I remember thinking it was funny.

  2. What you say about language in this post reminds me of Hausfrau and the discussions around language and how the mistakes you make in a language that isn’t your native tongue say a lot about who you are as a person. Sounds like an interesting read! I bet it was super illuminating for you over there!

  3. Oh my goodness, when I was studying abroad in London, I walked into a store and asked if they had “Scotch tape.” They had no idea what I was talking about, and it took a while to figure out that Sellotape is what I wanted!

    I think it’s so interesting how language signifies class in the UK. This book sounds fascinating!

  4. I put this and That’s Not English on my list. During our visit to England, I kept saying “I brought my own sack” at the grocery and got funny looks. Apparently, that’s not a synonym for “bag” in Britain.

    Have you read Watching the English by Kate Fox? It’s about behavior more than language and it’s really funny.

  5. I should pick this one up. My daughter asked me yesterday why my mother and I speak so much “British.” My mother grew up with her British grandparents, so there’s a lot of it still in our vocabulary. It would always embarrass us as kids when my mom would go to McDonald’s and order a hamburger and chips (she still does it and I still have to explain to her why they say they don’t have them). My husband grew up speaking British English so now that wonderful tradition is continuing on in my home.

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