Just for Fun: 10 Tips on Using the Queen’s English

Although England is an English-speaking country, as a migrant in a new country, I have encountered many new words, phrases and idiosyncrasies here. There are many cultural things that, while not exactly “culture shock”-worthy, have nonetheless caused me embarrassment. So that you may not face the same fate, the following is a list of ten things I have learned whilst (see #1) studying in London:

10 Tips on Using the Queen’s English

1. People actually say the word “whilst” out loud, as in “Whilst riding the Tube,  a woman wearing dinosaur footsie pajamas sat next to me.” (This did happen.)

2. You should say “sorry” if you bump in to someone, if you want to pass through a crowd, if you’ve interrupted…basically anytime what you’re doing could remotely inconvenience another person. Do not, on the other hand, say “excuse me”, which comes off as pushy and as though you are putting the fault on the person that you’ve knocked into. Or it means that you have expelled gas and are pardoning yourself. Stick to sorry, and you won’t be sorry.

3. When someone asks for a “cuppa”, they mean tea. I have determined that a nice cuppa English Breakfast tea is great, especially with milk and biscuits. Also, I was informed that America’s favorite hot drink–the good ole’ cuppa joe– is essentially “dirty water” anyway, so why bother? (Espresso is the way to go to get that coffee fix here!) Anyway, here is the cuppa I enjoyed today:


4. Biscuits are cookies. “Digestives” are a brand of biscuit that sound questionable, but are actually quite delicious. They are made from whole wheat flour, so they are healthy too! At least that’s what I tell myself.

5. Bathroom  = room with a bath. Toilet (or loo!) = room with a toilet. Who would have guessed?

6. “Cheers!” means “thanks”, and you can use it when someone holds the door open for you, gives you change, hands you your tea, etc. At first, I didn’t use the phrase, for fear of being immediately identified as a fraudulent foreign impostor, attempting to and miserably failing at using the Queen’s English correctly. I confessed this worry to an English friend, who responded that she hadn’t even realized saying “cheers” was unique to the UK, and suggested that perhaps I should just chill out. Cheers to that!

7. Quid = pounds (the currency), and is not in anyway related to Quidditch. Just in case you were wondering.

8. Rucksack = backpack and Wellies = rainboots. Don’t resist; just say it.

9. The past tense of “learn” is “learnt” in British English. How the formal spelling in England and the colloquial usage in the American South came to be the same, I’m not sure. But I kind of love it.

10. When someone asks if you want pudding, say yes! Pudding refers to all sorts of desserts, and not just the lame excuse for a dessert it is in the US. (No offense to those who like American pudding…however this may bewilder me.)

I’m limiting myself to ten for now, although I’m sure I could go on for much longer! It’s the last day of my mom’s visit to the UK, so some great touristy pictures will be up soon. (As will more migration musings!)


2 thoughts on “Just for Fun: 10 Tips on Using the Queen’s English

  1. Barbara says:

    In particular I enjoy the distinction between use of “excuse me” and “sorry.” I had a wonderful time in London, with an excellent guide by my side.


  2. Love the 10 choices, when we have attended Rotary Conventions in the UK, we always love doing tours and picking up on the unique words and trying to understand them. The various accents around the country are amazing as well; Oxford, for example, is a very flat, very formal accent and easily understood by us. Some accents around London, though, are almost impossible for us to decipher.Cockney is really difficult to understand, hope you have better luck than us. Take care.


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