As we all know, English is a global language, spoken as a first or second language in many countries around the world. So, it is not surprising that different forms of English, sometimes known as ‘Englishes’, have developed over time. We can see this most obviously in the differences between British and American vocabulary: humour/humor, petrol/gas, cash machine/ATM.
Students studying here in Dublin notice typically Irish expressions like ‘grand’, meaning anything from ‘okay’ to ‘absolutely awful, but I’m not going to talk about it’, but never meaning ‘great, famous, or very important’, as the dictionary will tell you.
With more and more people travelling and working in different places around the world, the different ‘Englishes’ are meeting, getting mixed up and reused in all sorts of ways. Irish people use slang from American or British TV shows, or words and phrases they’ve learnt living and working in places like Canada or Australia. Some people are against such changes, but I think they show just how vibrant and flexible the English language is.
How well prepared are you for saying ‘hello’ to English speakers from around the world? Let’s see how many you know:
1. Hi – the simplest, and for many the best. Some say ‘hi’ is the most egalitarian of greetings. No matter who you are, or how much money you have, ‘hi’ is the same for everyone. You can say ‘hi’ to your boss, your parents, or your best friends.
2. G’day – say hello in Australian English, with this wonderful contraction of the much more old-fashioned, “Good day (to you sir/madam”).
Check out some Japanese people giving it a go:
3. What’s the story? – one of the most popular in Ireland, with the Dublin variation ‘Story bud?’ Students often ask how they should answer this, but it really depends on whether the person wants to talk to you, or would rather say hello and keep going. If they want to talk, you can tell them how you are and what you’re doing. If not, then just say: ‘Story?’ and keep moving.
Have a look at this video with some other examples of Dublin slang. How many do you know already? http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/story-bud-a-video-of-dublin-phrases-with-notes/
4. Wha gwaan? – can you guess where this comes from? If you like to listen to reggae or dancehall music, then maybe you know it well. Here’s a link to find out more about Jamaican patois: http://www.learnjamaican.com/hello-in-jamaican.php
5. How’s it going? /haʊzəgəʊn/ Popular in Ireland, and many other places. The appropriate response is of course: How’s it going? /haʊzəgəʊn/.
Now, you’re ready to get conversations going with English speakers from all over the world. Before you do, try to find out how they say hello in Canada, different parts of the USA, in India, New Zealand, or Belize, and leave a comment for others to learn from.