I’m slowly learning my newly adopted language, despite the galling lack of a rosetta stone (of either the granite or CD variety) in American English to help me along the way. Admittedly I’m still thinking in the English language and consciously translating into American, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, huh?
This lunchtime in the
liftelevator, for example, I managed to correct myself just before telling somebody I’d spent ten minutes in the queue at Hale & Hearty, and reluctantly spluttered out the word ‘line’ instead. In a meeting this morning, I impressed even myself when I was able to say ‘process’ with a hard vowel sound rather than the more soothing soft ‘oh’ that we use in, well, English.
But there are plenty of Englishisms that I simply can’t – and when it comes down to it, won’t – remove from my vocabulary, however incongruous they sound when used on this side of the pond. I’m still on the pavement, for example. I won’t wear a sweater and pants, but I will wear a jumper and trousers. And most of all, I’m still completely brilliant.
‘Brilliant’ is one of those words that I’ve now used for approximately 30 years, to describe anything from Manchester United’s
attackingoffensive play through to a great meal. I’ve used derivations such as ‘brill’ and ‘skilliant’ (and the closely associated ‘skill’), and I’m more than capable of saying it three or four times a day if I’m having a particularly pleasant time.
Sadly, of course, saying it in America suggests that I’m referring to whiter-than-white whites, or a remarkably striking blue sky. And I suppose technically they’re right, according to the dictionary:
adjective 1 (of light or colour) very bright or vivid. 2 exceptionally clever or talented. 3 Brit. informal excellent; marvellous. Derived French brillant, from briller ‘shine’, probably from Latin beryllus ‘beryl’.
While Americans will generally understand what I’m saying, they’ll give me one of those looks that says “you think you’re from a classic line of eccentric Englishman and that you can get away with it, but you’re actually just an idiot.”
I suppose I should start using ‘awesome’, brilliant’s lesser American cousin. But given that Americans appear to pronounce it ‘are-some’ (hello, there’s a ‘w’ in it, people!) it’ll be a cold day in hell before I fall into that habit. In any case, by switching to an alternative, I’d be losing one of my favo
urite words in the English language. And that would be far from brilliant.