23 February, 2010

Idle Musings as I Procrastinate...

Somehow, midterms week is right around the corner, and yet I feel as though I just arrived. Funny how time seems to stand still when I'm anticipating something, but when I want time to stretch on, it flies.

At work today, I actually heard the British pronunciation of the word "aluminum" for the first time. I mean, I know they pronounce it "aluMINium," but it was funny to hear someone use it. I giggled, and she looked at me a bit funny.

And speaking of words, I have not heard a single person use the term "bloody hell," nor the word "bollocks." I have, however, learned that the British don't use the words "garbage" or "trash," and will indeed look at you oddly if you use them. They prefer the term "rubbish," which sounds silly to me. A trash can is called a "rubbish bin," or just the bin. I've heard several people refer to bathrooms as loos, but I feel silly when I use that word, so I've taken to calling it the toilet, since they don't really use the term bathroom that I have heard. Today I learned a new word: swish, which means posh or swanky, and I rather like it. I don't really try to use British slang very often, although sometimes a phrase or two will just pop out. (The other day I used the word dodgy and didn't even mean to! The accidental times are the only times I feel okay about doing it, because it's far more natural than forcing it into my everyday speech.) I have started using the words "quite" and "rather" more often than I have in the past, and I've found that especially when I'm speaking with an English person, my accent changes noticeably. Not on purpose, but just sort of naturally.

I've also realized how much I've had to "neutralize" my own speech. Like I said, I don't force British slang into conversation, but I've significantly cut down on my use of the word "awesome," as well as a few other American-y words. I've learned that when people ask where I'm from, answering, "The US," makes me sound stupid, and answering, "New York," makes everyone think I am from the city. (Anyone who has any idea of where I am actually from knows that this is FAR from the case.) I've taken to telling people that I am from, "New York. But the part of it you've never heard of."

A lot of the Brits I've encountered seem to think that the US is comprised of a few cities: NYC, LA, DC, Chicago... and that they are all spread out about our vast country. The rest of the US, as far as they are concerned, is full of cowboys and rednecks. One thing they all know, though, is that the US is far bigger than their tiny country. A very drunk guy asked me a few weeks ago to name all 50 states and took my inability to do so to mean that our country is far too big for us to handle.

People on the streets have stopped making fun of our accents, or at least, we haven't heard them do so. I've stopped hearing people yell "HOWDY!" if I utter a single word while in South Kensington (A very studenty district. Full of rude, drunk British uni students, at least on weekends.) and we, in turn, have stopped being noisy on the tube. (British people DO NOT TALK on the subway. Unless they are drunk. It's horrendously unsettling.) We either encounter people who love Americans, or think they are far better than us. We met a group of (again, drunk) guys on the subway on Superbowl Sunday, wearing miniskirts and football jerseys of teams not even playing that night (They were supposed to be cheerleaders. Hence the miniskirts.) who absolutely loved us. One got down onto the ground to examine my friend Lindsay's jeans.

"Are these bootcut?" he asked, taking the fabric into his hands and pulling it, as well as Lindsay's leg, up to his face. "Yes," he decided after a minute. "They are definitely bootcut."

They also enjoyed my exciting new hat that I bought at a market, although one claimed it was a bit too "mainstream" for me, and they were absolutely shocked that we weren't planning on watching the Superbowl that night. (the Superbowl didn't start here until midnight, and we all had school/work the next morning.) After exclaiming loudly how much they loved Americans, and after one flew right down the subway car during a quick stop, yelling at the top of his lungs, "IT'S NOT ME, IT'S PHYSICS!" we bid our incredibly inebriated friends farewell and went home to giggle about our encounter.

The city of London has been really fun to explore. I live literally a block away from Hyde Park, and this weekend I woke up, got dressed, and decided a walk in the park was exactly what I needed on one of London's rare sunny days. Let me tell you, the place is HUGE. Ponds dotted with swans, geese, ducks, and plenty of birds I can't name, the edges lined with children holding out their hands to feed them. Dogs roaming without a leash, entire herds of them barking and playing until their owners call that it's time to go home. Rollerbladers, cyclists, skateboarders, lovers walking hand in hand, mothers with infants in strollers, tourists with their cameras, artsy folk with their sketchbooks, lone intellectuals with their books of poetry, people like me, taking everything in. I walked that park for three hours, never once stopping or leaving, never once checking my watch, and I only managed to see maybe half of it. It was the closest thing I've felt to home since coming here, probably because for a few hours I forgot I was in the city. It made me miss my dogs a lot, and trees. I even saw hoof prints in the mud, and it made me miss the barn.

We also adventured in Covent Garden this weekend. Full of street performers, magicians, acrobats, Captain Jack Sparrow impersonators, human statues covered head to toe in metallic paint, and little markets, it was a fun place to be. We wandered in and out of there for awhile, and then took a walk to Piccadilly Circus. We found Somerset House, where Fashion week is being held, and tried to pretend like we belonged there, faux-confidently weaving in and out of skinny models and fashionistas who were eyeing us suspiciously, silently glaring as if to say, "You're not a size two..." Giggling at our own audacity, as we walked out we literally nearly knocked over Bonnie Wright, the actress who plays Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films. It was our little brush with fame, even though we didn't realize it was her until we'd already passed. Don't worry though, I'll find more famous people. Thursday, I'm going to Leicester Square for the Alice in Wonderland premiere. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton, Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman... I'll take lots of photos.

Well, I feel like I have sufficiently procrastinated away the past hour or so. It's nearing dinnertime, and I'm seeing a show tonight for one of my classes. No Dame Judi Dench in this one, though. I saw her last week. And yes, I'll stop shamelessly name dropping.

No, that's a lie, I probably won't.

Anyway, until next time!

Love you all,
Em

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