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The Tipping Point

I guess the time comes in an exile’s life when they pass a tipping point when it comes to language. When I first came to Canada just over 15 years ago I was constantly translating British English into American English in my head when I spoke. The one I remember having to be most aware of was that here in Edmonton, the pavement is called the sidewalk and to some people the pavement is the road. Then on visits to Scotland I had to be careful not to use North American words or phrases when I spoke to people in case they thought I was showing off. I realised recently that I was beginning to have to translate in my head from North American to British English when communicating with Brits and that the language tipping point was near. Last Tuesday I realised I’d crossed over. I was speaking to a Scottish woman at the local supermarket and I said “pants” instead of “trousers”. And let’s not go into Scottish words. I think the one I miss most is skelf. Having to say I got a “splinter” in my finger just isn’t the same. One of the things that is the same is that Canadians understand “stay” for “live” as in “Where do you stay?” When I first stated working as a reporter in Newcastle upon Tyne folk used to look at me in bewilderment when I asked that question. I had to remember to ask “Where do you  live?”

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