Today’s lucky British-ism that will be dissected is, “are you all right?” This is a particularly important phrase to unpack considering its nuanced distinction in interpretation across borders.
The simplest way to describe the difference between its uses in America versus in Britain is to explain the reaction it typically elicits. If you were to ask “are you alright?” to someone in America, the question recipient would most likely think you are insinuating that something is wrong. This is a very sensitive reaction, and so the question is usually only used when someone is in distress–for instance, if you notice that your friend is eating Del Taco despite being within walking distance to a Taco Bell, or if someone is listening to country music at any point in time.
In Great Britain, on the other hand, the phrase, “are you alright?” should actually be likened to something like, “how’s it going?” or “what’s up?” In effect, it is much more cordial and has a much lighter connotation. In fact, sometimes shortened to “you alright?” which actually sounds more like “y’a-rite?” and often even further shortened to just “alright,” this phrase perfectly captures the essence of British communication: just considerate enough to be polite, but short and simple enough to not have to spend any effort.
Such energy must be saved. Too much talking might tire the throat, setting off an inevitable chain reaction where your throat soreness causes you to 1) finish last among your friends while chugging your pints on a Friday* night at the pub, leading you to 2) become the butt of their banter, severely diminishing your self-confidence. 3) Your wife picks up on this discouraged demeanor, but upon enquiry, you refuse to tell her the truth out of pride, and when that leads to damaging marital problems, you 4) sadly realize you’re British and therefore devoid of any meaningful communicative ability. So, unable to work out your differences, 5) your marriage spins into a death-plummet, like a plane without one of its wings, as your hopes and dreams, once safely fastened into reclined first class seats, are now flung into obscurity. Your marriage, which was destined for the peaceful island of Kauai, instead 6) hurtles straight into an active volcano, and so is incinerated into a swamp of molten lava-covered plane parts. So don’t be that guy. Save your words, save your marriage.
Stay tuned for more British-isms. Until next time!
*Or Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday