An author who grew up in Florida and now lives in London debuts with a breezy, and sometimes-irreverent, disquisition on the significance of certain slang locutions on both sides of the pond.
Moore elects to follow what has become a popular organizational principle—what could be called the ten-objects-that-tell-Texas-history model. She examines 31 expressions (each with its own chapter) that, in most cases, exist on both sides of the Atlantic but often mean something different to native speakers. Sometimes, the differences are striking and illuminating. Early on, Moore explains why she focuses on England—not the British Isles, not the United Kingdom. Some of the locutions readers will expect: bloody, Yankee and way out (England’s meaning: exit). But others are surprising and sometimes revelatory. The English term brolly, for example (umbrella), permits her to expatiate upon the differences in attitudes about the weather (the English expect lousy weather; Americans grouse about it). She uses the English term mufti (ordinary dress) to discuss why the English are more comfortable with school uniforms than Americans are. Very early in the text, Moore shows how the word quite varies in meaning. In America, a sentence like She is quite lovely indicates high praise; in England, the term is more an expression that indicates she’s really not all that lovely. Occasionally, Moore weighs in on touchy cultural issues. The word partner, for example, has in England no connotation of homosexuality. She also enjoys employing some occasional potty humor. She mentions that neither the English nor the Americans are comfortable using the word toilet in conversation, so we’ve both developed different sets of euphemisms. She ends the section with this: “[I]f you don’t give a shit what anyone thinks, you know what word you can use.”
Although Moore sometimes sees a bit too much significance in the differences, her brisk, self-effacing style is appealing.