RHYS BOWEN: I've just returned from England and every time I go there I notice that the language is changing. The latest thing I've noticed is that if you go into a shop or restaurant people no longer say "Can I help you?" or "What would you like?"
They say, "You all right then?"
This flummoxed me at first. Did I look sick? About to pass out? In need of help? It took me a while to realize they actually wanted to know what I wanted to pay for or order. How strange is this? And it was pretty universal all over UK. "You all right then?"
I was tempted to answer, "No, I'm not feeling wonderful today. My big toe is throbbing and I have some digestive problems," and then watch their faces.
I have been bemused for years by the ever evolving language in Britain. First it was "going pear-shaped" which took me a while to work out meant plans being derailed, everything going wrong.
Then there was "throwing a wobbly" which I realized meant having a fit, losing ones cool.
In the US my least favorite developments in language are a waiter or server saying "No problem" when you order something.
Me: Could I have a glass of water?"
Waiter: No problem.
Of course there should be no problem, I want to yell. You are being paid to bring me water. Bringing me water is the only reason you are standing by my table right now.
The other one that drives me mad, even though I can tell they are trying hard, is "absolutely!"
Me: Could I have the swordfish?"
Me: And the garlic mashed potatoes with that?"
Me: And a side salad?
"Waitress (even more fervently) Absolutely!
It is interesting how slang and common speech has changed during my lifetime. Things have been "smashing" "groovy" "far out" "cool" "nasty" "bad" and how wrong it sounds when a person of the wrong age-group tries to sound hip and gets the vernacular slightly off. This is a big challenge for me as I write historical novels. I have to make sure that Molly Murphy speaks as if she is in 1905, not 1890 or 1910. And some of the slang words used at the time can't be used in my books simply because they sound too modern. Far out, for example, was in common use in 1905, but who would believe it?
Lady Georgie is a lot easier for me as I remember how older people spoke when I was a child. Older folks still said things like "Spiffing" and "top hole" and "You are a brick, old bean." Yes, they really did. And I only have to read a little Bertie Wooster to get right back in the feel of the Thirties.
So I'm interested to know what expressions have caught you by surprise? Which modern sayings drive you up the wall? Up the pole? Bananas? or whatever it is right now?