Fresh off of a year spent living in England, I thought it appropriate to share over the next several posts many of the differences in language used between America and our neighbor across the pond. Instead of focusing on spelling differences (honor vs. honour; donut vs. doughnut; realize vs. realise), I thought I would inform you about colloquialisms and words that hold entirely different meanings once you’re in the land of Queen Lizzy. So whether you’re trying to provide authenticity to a British character in a novel, or in correspondence with someone from Britain, trying to decipher this language that looks a lot like English, but surely can’t be, I hope this will be useful information.
Today we tackle the most important–and often challenging–word, “cheers.”
Cheers, as used in America, is a word you say when you clink glasses before taking a drink. It’s limited. It’s weak.
In Britain, however, they took ‘cheers’ and turned it into the fulcrum of their lingual identity. It’s really the perfect British word—just polite enough to be socially acceptable, but not strong enough to constitute a meaningful social engagement. In fact, legend has it that every time you use the word you get bumped up a spot on the list of heir to the throne. And have you ever tried to say “cheers” in a posh London accent? It just sounds right.
While its more formal use is to replace “thank you” or “congratulations,” the British also use “cheers” to greet people, say goodbye, and even just to acknowledge someone else. While hearing cheers in those circumstances in America might take you off-guard—as it did me—knowing this information really makes the word quite easy to use.
Just in case anyone is still unsure, here are some examples of when and when not to use the word:
Appropriate times to use the word, “cheers”:
-When somebody holds a door open for you.
-When your friend offers you free Taco Bell.
-When your wife finally gets that raise she was working so hard for.
Inappropriate times to use the word, “cheers”:
-When somebody insults you.
-When your friend offers you free Del Taco–they clearly have horrible taste in food and you should seriously consider re-evaluating your friendship with this person.
-In response to someone who just said “cheers” to you. This is very bad and awkward, please never ever do this.
Stay tuned for more British-isms. Until next time!