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Quiz Love

I love British TV and one of my favorite genres is the quiz-themed.  For me, it is relaxing, and at the same, ironically, provides a chance for me get hyped shouting answers at the telly– cathartic when you’re in a country where you have no friends, family or work colleagues to talk to just any time.  My favorites (in order) are:  University Challenge (BBC), Mastermind (BBC), The Chase (ITV) and Eggheads (BBC).

I began to follow a full season of University Challenge (meaning, start to finish) last year. When I was in the US, I would catch it on delayed run on YouTube. I have also introduced a few American friends to it, and they love it.  Which makes me wonder why Quiz shows are not as big or common on American TV, but anyway.  I digress.  University Challenge got a spike (not just in viewership but in social media buzz) largely because of Canadian Eric Monkman and his team mates Justin Yang (also Canadian), Ben Chaudri (who has made “Nominate Chaudri” a popular byline when you need help with answers) and Paul Cosgrove (he of the bemused smile and closing-bracket sitting position) from Wolfson College, Cambridge.  And also the team from Emmanuel College Cambridge led by Bobby Seagull and his baby-faced teammates.  Monkman’s tight-browed intensity and booming voice is a stark contrast to Seagull’s smiley enthusiasm, but they seem to share an endearing lack of arrogance or self consciousness.  And altho neither team won the Championship — that honor went to Oxford’s Balliol College (led by Joey Goldman) — they came out with their own cult following.  The bromance also produced radio stints and a book  (which I must admit I have yet to get a copy, but I will).

So far this year, the show is at the quarter finals level.  My favorite team is Ulster University — if only because, or maybe precisely because, they are so out-of-the-mold of the teams or winners:

  1.  They are from Northern Ireland (largely under represented in UC)
  2.  Their average age is 50 which makes them often more than twice the average age of their opponents (“You’re never too old!”)
  3.  They are a very good, solid, cohesive and fast team
  4.  They are NOT Oxbridge (to point out the obvious)
  5.  Their spirited, excitable and animated expressions when they get a question right or wrong.

They have that underdog quality that makes you just want to root for them, because they represent the quiet and deadly potential, nay power, of the unexpected.  I really hope they win (they lost to St. John’s Cambridge, but still have another shot) or at least go through to the semis.  Go Ulster!

"Britishisms" · British "stuff" · Canterbury · Life On The Road · Lost In Translation · Road Signs · Travel · UK

Sign Language

A couple of days ago, while walking down the streets of Canterbury (Kent) towards the center, I found this little sign by the under-serious-renovation St. Mildred’s Church:

Yeah, I too always thought signs best served their purpose when they are very simple notices.  If possible even understandable by older kids.  In the US, this same sign would probably read “Watch Out (or Keep Out).  Falling Debris.”  But this one looked, amusingly, more like a legal document.  “Falling Masonry”?  and “Inclement Weather Conditions”??  As I often tell the hubby, …. “seriously, who talks like that in daily conversation?”  :)

"Britishisms" · UK

“Mating” Season

A common word used to refer to a friend here is “mate”.  I realize I am not quite used to this yet.  It makes me think either of two things:

1.  “mate” as in a person of the opposite sex, in the context of someone with whom one is “mating”; OR

2.  a sailor — a (ship)”mate”.

Either way it’s still a bit strange.  I should get used to this quickly.  :)  Meanwhile I’ve caught up with the accent (again) and now have my “British ears” back.

"Britishisms" · British "stuff" · Fitting In · Life On The Road · Lost In Translation · Road Signs · UK

Legalese In The Loo

“Separated by a common language” — how often have we heard that screech used to describe the divide between good ol’ Jolly Olde, versus the Colony across the pond.  You know the proverbial usuals —

“MIND THE GAP” instead of “watch your step”;

“TO LET” instead of “For Rent”;

… “TOILET” instead of “rest rooms”

and the list goes on.   I’ve seen a road sign that said —

“BEWARE : These Roads May Tend To Flood During Rain”,

and pointed out to C how “CAUTION – ROADS MAY FLOOD” would’ve made a much smaller signboard.

The uber-nice hotel we stayed in Canterbury brags of “Easy and Quick!” (note exclamation point) access to the Internet. But where’s all that quick-and-easiness that when the textually-challenged guide/instructions tell you this?   —


Yeah! — “24 hours from 12 to 12 unlimited usage”. (or 11 to 11, 10 to 10…. so on :)). Ok, let’s go through the instructions. Step 1, check. Step 2, check. Now, Step 3 — serious stall. “Select ARGUMENT”? — Hmmm, I had to consult the hubby on that one. Might we even draw swords at some point if the argument gets too heated? [Note: To be fair, the hubby confirmed that he, too, was “a bit confused” by the use of the word “argument” here, and that the usage is somewhat questionable.]

And then just last week, at the women’s restrooms at the lobby of the hotel in Falkirk, Scotland, that we stayed in, THIS sign —


“Whilst” is still happily used in everyday conversation. “Licensed Premises”? — ok. “Within sight of an accompanying adult at all times” — yes. Just dig it. This is all “PLEASE KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR KIDS” in legalese. or in English. :)
"Britishisms" · British "stuff" · Fitting In · Lost In Translation · UK

Lost In Translation

Over the weekend, C and I had dinner with Charles and Elizabeth at our favorite local Chinese buffet place, creatively named “The Chinese Buffet”.  Charles was C’s classmate from way-back when they were yay high in primary school, and Elizabeth is Charles’s wife.  I first met the couple when C’s friends threw a “welcome and post-wedding congratulations party” for us in late June.  This dinner was our turn to introduce them to one of our eating haunts before they show us theirs next.

As expected, dinner conversation (and bantering) centered on C and Charles’s childhood and growing up antics, their college escapades, and exaggerated stories about their good friends and worst enemies — the usual and expected he-men legends men try to concoct to impress their wives (hmmm….).  They also traded updates on their other passions (read:  sports) :  C’s motorsports, and Charles’s target shooting.  And so it went, until out of the blue, or what seemed to me like out the blue, the conversation went this lane:

Charles (to C):  So, are you now into property?  (the usual silent “r”– thus pronounced “propeh-tee“)

Me (thinking to myself):  Oh, is Charles selling us real estate?

But as the convo progressed, I found myself losing my way — one of those many moments of panic, now becoming common with me, where I hear English words, I know its English, yet somehow can’t really make sense of any word.  It was only when Elizabeth mentioned “silver needle” and its “exceptional, smooth taste” that I suddenly realized that Charles had asked about “proper tea” (since he observed that C and I were drinking Chinese tea), and not “property” as I mistakenly thought.  I found myself silently amused, feeling slightly silly, and made a mental note to tell Craig about how my ears have (again) played tricks on me with the sleight of a British accent (one of many).

So earlier today, I mentioned this to C.  And this is how the conversation continued:

C  :  What?  “Property”?  No, of course not.  I knew very clearly that he was talking about “proper tea”, you know — “real tea”.

Me:  Yeah, But I thought he was talking about “property”, you know — “realty”.

As they say:  “separated by a common language”.

My favorite window at St. Giles in Edinburgh.  All women, representing from upper left:  Spes (Hope), Fides (Faith), Caritas (Charity), then lower left to right, Veritas (Truth), Justitia (Justice) and Misericordia (Mercy).  Thank God for Latin in all that law school.
SHOW AND TELL AGAIN: My favorite window at St. Giles in Edinburgh. All women, representing from upper left: Spes (Hope), Fides (Faith), Caritas (Charity), then lower left to right, Veritas (Truth), Justitia (Justice) and Misericordia (Mercy). Thank God for Latin in all that law school.