Preserving British Culture #1 Adjectives

I was reading an article from The Guardian entitled ’My 2 Alien Life Forms’ ,in which the author Emma Beddington, discusses her experience of raising children in Brussels and her realisation that they have little understanding of British language and culture.  One would assume that raising children in an English-speaking country would not be too different from home. Your kids will more than likely grow up with a different accent and some new words for things but on the whole it’s not that different is it?

Having only been here a short time I realise it is. There are many things about living in America that give my children amazing experiences but there are some things that I  hear them do or say that set my teeth on edge.

This is the first of a number of posts outlining some of the ‘British’ things I would like to preserve.


Mum, R is talking American again!

This usually means my 3-year-old has said the word ‘Super’.  This seems to be the most over-used word in American English. Meals are ‘super-sized’, kids get ‘super-tired’, cars are ‘super-fast’ and people get ‘super-excited’ about everything.  When I hear the local children describe things, the word ‘super’ appears time and again, as if it’s the only adjective they know.

My 3-year-old has begun to correct herself when she uses it. We talked about it at the dinner table this week.

My friends say that they swing super high on the swing

I know, but we could say something more interesting like really, high or extremely high.

Or very high, … or up to the clouds.

That’s a good one, we could use similes – do you know what a simile is? * addressing my 8-year-old.

Yes it’s when you compare something to something else, like I swung as high as the sky.

Yes that’s it so what else could we say? …..

This became a fun game and seems to have worked to help them think about what they say.

There seem to be certain words that have become such a regular part of American English that they are perfectly normal.  To an outsider like me it simply looks like a lazy use of adjectives.

Yesterday I stood in a queue at a festival whilst my kids made a toy. A mum, who had clearly had enough, came to collect her child. The child wanted to decorate her toy but her mum said,

let’s decorate it at home, there aren’t many  pens here.

Her daughter showed her the toy she had made

That’s awesome

she said her tone of voice clearly portraying how unimpressed she was.

To American kids everything is awesome or super. Everything they do is greeted with ’good job’, I’m certain these words can have little effect.  I love the way the American’s encourage their kids with constant praise, I just wish they’d use a little imagination in their use of adjectives sometimes.

It has taken moving away for me to realise how rich the British vocabulary is. If you ever hear me use the word super, feel free to throw rotten vegetables at my head.

2 thoughts on “Preserving British Culture #1 Adjectives”

  1. Hi! Michael gave me a link to your blog since I recently did the same thing in opposite – moved my two kids to the UK for three years. We’ve just returned and miss the UK hugely although we’re very happy here. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll read a lot in your blog that is amusing and familiar. I was really struck by the difference in language richness as soon as I moved to England. I would describe it to people – the newscasters, the taxi drivers, the woman checking you out at the store – *everyone* has what an American would consider an advanced vocabulary! And yes, my kids’ vocab is definitely richer for their time in the UK although they’re starting to lose some of it. They even said “pants” for trousers this week! Ack!


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