The Famous Titanic Starkiss

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I just returned from a trip-of-a-lifetime with my family —  Northern Ireland, with a day trip to Dublin, and almost a week in London. So many sites and many fond memories.

But this blog isn’t a travel memoir, it’s about writing and language, so I’ll limit my reflections to that topic. I find it interesting that dialects within English can be so distinct that it’s often difficult for two native English speakers to understand one another. For example, I had the following conversation with a typically friendly taxi driver in Belfast about our visit to the just-opened Titanic exhibit (FYI: the ship was built in Belfast).

Taxi Driver: Did you see the starkiss?

Me: Sorry?

Taxi Driver: I hard they were goon to raplicate the starkiss. Loyk in the movie.

Me: No, I didn’t see it (wracking my brain to remember something called a “starkiss”).

Taxi Driver: Maybe they nahver built it.

Me: (sudden revelation) Oh! The staircase! No, they didn’t have a replica of the staircase.

I was so pleased with myself for finally figuring out that starkiss was Northern Irish for staircase.

Wee

The Irish, like the Scottish, love the word wee. Everything is wee. A check-out clerk actually said this to me:

“Just swipe your wee card through the wee slot. That’s it. Now, wait a second and I’ll give you your wee receipt.”

Words I’m Keeping

I’ve decided to adopt several British idioms that I find endearing. We’ll see how long it lasts. Here are a few I want to begin using:

Brilliant Instead of Awesome

Brilliant in the United Kingdom is as ubiquitous as awesome in the U.S. A movie is brilliant. My daughters’ dancing is brilliant. The weather is brilliant.

It’s worth stealing; I’m tired of awesome.

Clever Instead of Smart

One of the cutest things I overheard was a five or six-year-old boy at a museum ask his mother, with all sincerity, “Mum, am I a very clever boy?” A tour guide in Cambridge told us Prince Charles wasn’t nearly clever enough to get into the school (his mum made a phone call, however). We Americans use clever to mean a particular kind of intelligence. Brits use it when they mean generally bright.

Cheers Instead of Thanks

Cheers is sort of a blend of thanks and goodbye. It’s more than just see you later. It seems to mean “thanks and all the best to you.” It’s a little thing, but I liked it when we parted from a waiter, cashier, or taxi driver and they said, “Cheers!”

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I’d like to think that I’ll be more consistent with posting, but I’m off to Alaska early tomorrow. We’ll see. In the meantime, feel free to chat amongst yourselves!

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Paul Schwarz
    Paul Schwarz04-18-2012

    Another British idiom I enjoy: When someone is “into” something, they’re “quite keen on it,” as in:

    John, Paul, George and Ringo were quite keen on music even as young boys.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko04-19-2012

      Yes. That’s a good one. We heard it more than once. Brilliant.

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