Friday, May 25, 2012

I accidentally raised my children to be British

 My first grade boy stormed into the house a few days ago and said, "Steven is a prat."
 "What did you just say?" I asked, certain I'd misheard.
 But I hadn't. "A prat. Steven is a dumb old prat."

Oh. Of course. Probaby most parents would be concerned about the name-calling. I just want my kids to be certain their name-calling is anthropologically appropriate for our geographical region.

My older son doesn't use the word prat very often. He says "git."

I categorically state here and now that if any of my children start talking about 'snogging' they are automatically grounded. What a heinous word that is.

Have you figured out where my children got their impressive vocabularies from?
They were raised listening to the audio versions of Harry Potter. Whether this was a good parenting choice or not is a matter of debate. But it is what it is. (When my youngest was about four, he was describing an injury he'd sustained while we were out on a walk. "Then it seared with pain," he said.)

I've been thinking about words a lot this week because I've been doing the final edits on a novel I've been writing. Although I've spent a lot of the last few years of my life editing, I'm not sure I've ever done it in such a concentrated time frame. It's helped me to notice my tendency to overuse certain words that have a plethora of appropriate (and not so appropriate) synonyms in my beloved thesaurus.

Plethora: overabundance, embarrassment, excess, surfeit, glut, surplus, superfluity

Or how about heinous: monstrous, atrocious, odious, terrible, dreadful, shocking, scandalous, wicked, disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, awful, horrendous, inexcusable, unspeakable, abysmal, dire, unpleasant, bad, poor, unpardonable, uncalled for, indefensible, unwarranted, unjustifiable, beyond the pale, reprehensible, terrible

My thesaurus doesn't even mention the words prat, git or snog. But I looked up the word "prat" on, and I learned something new.

Prat: rump. Synonyms include backside, bum, butt, moon, tail end, tush.

I had to move to to find git.

Git: A foolish or worthless person. Synonyms include: berk, booby, doofus (yay! Finally, a geographically appropriate word, though perhaps a bit outdated) and PRAT.

Do you suppose this means that 'git' and 'tush' are also synonyms? It makes you wonder...
(And no! I don't really think they are synonyms.)

The geniuses at Merriam-Webster agree with me that snogging is too yucky to be considered a real word, so I had to google it.

Snogging: 1. To touch with the lips, or press the lips (against someone's mouth or other body part) as an expression of love, greeting, etc. 2. To cuddle or kiss

Hey British people! That's NOT what it sounds like it means. 
Whenever I read the part where Sirius says he caught Kreacher snogging a pair of trousers, I still blush.

At this point, I could segue into zillions of wise writing tips:
ü      Read, read, and read some more!
ü      Study the dictionary and thesaurus to make sure you know lots of words and the subtle differences in meaning between them.
ü      Increase your working vocabulary.
ü      You can't always trust one resource to give you everything you want to know about a word you've just learned.
ü      When you are editing, if you are using the same words frequently, make sure you're doing it on purpose, and not just because you were too lazy to notice.  
ü You should definitely check out this link to see if you are using your gargantuan vocabulary correctly
ü      When your characters hail from geographically diverse areas, the differences should show up in their vocabulary (unless there has been a cultural phenomenon similar to Harry Potter in their lives).
(I'm sure you can think of more.)

But really, this was all just a buildup to show you this amazing clip a friend of mine posted on Facebook last week. Every time I watch it I laugh harder and feel a greater reverence for the English language. It's the story of The Three Little Pigs told in Shakepearean English by a comedian. Enjoy!


  1. Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?

  2. Great post Melanie.

    I love the word prat for some reason, but I do hate the word snogging. I also like bloody for a swear word, and going to the loo sounds better than using the restroom. Although I never use British terms when I speak, but I wasn't raised on Harry Potter. :)

  3. Alack this video, both educational and alarming, doth make my spirit light with glee and doth forsooth expel guffawing in the... dang that's hard.

    I'm impressed by the quality of awesome in that video, and by your mothering technic. My children wish they were British.

    Brilliant, yet again.

  4. It's more than just Harry Potter. Half the books that teachers assign students come from Britain (particularly the "classics"). Though by high school your kids will probably be embarrassed by their large vocabularies (a lot of high-school girls are, and they dumb down their dialect just to fit in). So I wouldn't worry too much about their language becoming Brittanized. Still, it's good to have those words for when you really, really need them.

  5. Love it. My kids go to sleep listening to Harry Potter every night, too. Half the magic of those has to be Jim Dale. Just an amazing narrator.

  6. Your post is so funny! I would love to hear my kids say "git" or "prat" one of these days. The Harry Potter books on cd truly are amazing and Jim Dale was a reading genius. I would absolutely listen to anything he narrated.

    I'm so glad I found your blog over at inkpageant!


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