A Confused American Deciphers English

Labyrinth

 Ah, my biannual trip to England! So much fun promoting the Percy Jackson books, meeting children across the country, and trying to figure out what the heck you all are saying. Two great nations separated  by a common language? You bet!

Some of my favorite and most perplexing moments of translation on this trip:

“I am chuffed.”  – Is this condition painful? It sounds like something that could only be alleviated by a prescription-strength ointment. The first time a child told me he was chuffed to get my book, I almost apologized and offered a refund.

“It’s half eight.” Does this mean half until eight, or half after eight? For all I know, half eight means four.

“That’s brilliant. That’s lovely.” Brilliant = Einstein. Lovely = petunias and ballerinas. How this applies to handing a train conductor the correct ticket, I’m not sure. He must really love his job.

“Don’t you have a jumper?” Why would I want a person who is about to jump off a bridge or building? And how on earth would I wear one? He wouldn’t go with my pants . . . er, trousers?

“Cheers.” Yes, the ubiquitous substitute for ‘thank you.’ Honestly, does everything in this country revolve around drinking? Wait . . . don’t answer that.

And my favorite non-vocabulary dilemma of the trip: A parent came up to me at a school book signing and lavished praise on me, saying her son loved my series and could she please get an autograph? Of course I signed a bookplate for her and she went away “chuffed.” A moment later, I realized I’d been sitting behind a stack of Mr. Gum books for sale and she’d assumed they were mine. What would Mr. Gum say about that, I wonder?

Rick Riordan

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