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English as a second language keeps my co-workers laughing
Lesley Francis - 2016
Lesley Francis

With Labor Day well behind us, I have been having a very busy and very rewarding time working with Lesley Francis PR’s wonderful clients and my fantastic co-workers. Some of our employees are relatively new to our organization, so are not quite used to some of my British expressions yet. Although Winston Churchill famously said the Americans and English are “divided by a common language,” the laughter we share over any confusion is actually bringing us closer together as a team.

While BBC America, PBS and Austin Powers have meant that my co-workers (who come from the Midwest, Deep South and Texas) understand that when I “nip to the loo” I am going to the restroom, and that shagging is not a dance in the UK, I have seen varying levels of bewilderment on their faces at different times. Let me share some of our more confusing but amusing recent exchanges:

Hearing about the bad behaviour of a local celebrity, I said that I was “gobsmacked” and it made me “chunde.” Translation: I was shocked and it gave me the desire to throw up.

Talking about our plans for the next day, I told the team to be “suited and booted” and meet at the TV station “at the crack of sparrows,” despite being “knackered.” Translation: Be dressed professionally for business, and arrive at our meeting at the crack of dawn, despite the late night client event from the evening before. Sparrows are the most common bird in Britain, and start singing about 30 minutes before dawn.

Staying with a bird theme, I recently told someone that if they took a certain course of action that we had advised against, it would “set the cat among the pigeons,” meaning that total chaos would ensue.

When a client had a problem and appointed us to help, they asked us to test the water with the media on a certain issue. I told them that we would “send the budgie down the coal mine” to see what happened. This is, of course, a reference to small caged birds that miners would carry down into the tunnels with them. If dangerous gases built up, it would kill the bird, thereby tipping off the miners to get out. It is interesting that Americans seem to sacrifice canaries in this analogy, while the British use “budgies” (from budgerigar, which is a parakeet).

When discussing a company that I used to work for in England many years ago, I mentioned that “my line manager was a tosser. He was sacked before the redundancies” — translated as “my boss wasn’t very good, and he was fired before the layoffs.” He also used to “skive off and take a lot of sickies,” meaning he would fail to turn up for work by pretending to be sick.

When we won a piece of business recently and I was very happy I said that is “blinding news and the client is really ace,” meaning really excellent news and our new client is amazing.I can also occasionally declare something I don’t like as “total rubbish” or “complete tosh,” and things that make me very sad leave me “gutted.”

On a more positive note, our account director brings in home baked cookies, cupcakes or muffins every Monday for our weekly team meetings, and last week I declared her muffins “scrummy.” A very British combination of the words scrumptious and yummy.

When I explained to our newest recruit that this column runs every “fortnight,” she looked completely bewildered until I explained it runs every two weeks. “Fortnight” comes from Old English, a very Germanic version of the English language spoken in the middle ages. “Fowertene niht” translates as 14 nights.

At LFPR, we work hard, get excellent results for great clients, and really enjoy ourselves. Working with these wonderful women has made me realize how much Coastal Georgia has become my home over the last seven years, and in some ways we at LFPR have developed our own internal shorthand language…a combination of English English, American English, and good ol’ Southern English. It also reminds me of the Confucius quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

God bless America!

 Lesley grew up in London, England, and made Georgia her home in 2009. She can be contacted at or via her PR agency at

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