Monday, July 09, 2007

Fifty's nifty

On the bus to Portsmouth, I noticed that English motorways give you a lot more information than elsewhere in the world. Where there were some pylons ("cones" as they were called) blocking off some sections for some sort of road work, there were signs advising drivers that in the event of an emergency they could drive in that section. There were also signs telling drivers of wide vehicles that they were to straddle the white line on the shoulder. The transportation departments in the rest of the world just leave it up to the driver to figure out how to do these things.

Then again, roads in the rest of the world don't go from being straight to being circles every few hundred yards. Yes, I'm talking about roundabouts again. I am just plum astonished by their frequency.

I have seen road signs that rhyme over here. One is "Twenty's plenty", referring to speed in miles per hour (doesn't quite work in Canadian cities: Fifty's nifty?). Another I saw on the bus from London to Portsmouth and thought it was quite good, but oweing to my mental fatigue I didn't retain it and I'm kicking myself for it.

Maybe I just haven't been around children in Canada much and they are snot-nosed little punks as well, but English children seem to be an ill-behaved lot. In the centre of Portsmouth, on the high street, my bus drove by two young boys who appeared to be opening packets of sugar and sprinkling the contents over the bottoms of their bicycles, which were overturned on the sidewalk. They were then tossing the papers on the ground. I could not figure out any purpose to it. I've had children crawl over me while their parents were seemingly powerless to stop them. English parents in particular always seem to be shouting at their children in shrill voices.

While waiting for a lift from Stacey on Saturday, three boys who could not be much more than 10 years old each sat near me and one expertly rolled a cigarette. I was stunned. Upon hearing my accent, the boys asked me if I was American, and then asked me to say "potato chips". They seemed to find how I say it funny.

I met two Brummies (fellows from Birmingham) for the first time the other night. Stacey was making fun of their accents, as most English people will tell you that they dislike the Brummie accent the most, but I thought it was pleasant. It reminded me of the Beatles, even though I knew they weren't Scousers (Liverpuddlians). They also said "pop" like me for things like Coke, instead of "fizzy drink" so that made them ok in my books.

England sure does pack a lot of accents into a small country. Down here I find that people talk as though they are reluctant to let their lips touch each other, so it's an open-mouthed form of speech. Many of the women speak in a tone that at first made me think that I was annoying them but I now realize that it is just the accent. It is still a little disconcerting as it feeds into my paranoia about offending anyone.


mischief said...

You can't put PYLONS in the road!!! Not English Pylons anyway!

A pylon by our definition is a fixed large metal thing that carries the electrical cables from one place to another! If you stick that in the middle of the road people will die and YOU will be responsible due to your flagrant abuse of the language!

Megan said...

Yes, I became aware of that word difference after I told someone that when I was a kid that we learned to skate by holding on to pylons that we could push around the ice, and received a puzzled look in response.

So I put cones in, but I reserve my right as a Canadian to use pylon. I'll even show my passport to do so if necessary ;)