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Learning English

Two phrases I finally have down, although the first one requires active visualization to be sure I have it correctly for any given use now:

"the inside lane" - This always meant the lane furthest from the sidewalk or nearest to the median to me. A trawl of a few US sites mostly backs me up on this. This is the exact opposite of what it means in the UK. Here, in the UK, it refers to the slow lane the lane furthest from the median. So confusing! So dangerous to be able to confuse the two!

"What am I like." - Not actually a question, but a rhetorical phrase after doing something silly or flighty or accidental. Can also be used in the second person, i.e. "What are you like." I don't yet know if it can be used for any persons. First encountered twice on Sunday in Britannia High, followed up tonight, coincidentally, by the first instance I've noticed C. using it.

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
ineptshieldmaid
Oct. 28th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
"the inside lane" - This always meant the lane nearest the sidewalk or furthest from the median to me. A trawl of a few US sites mostly backs me up on this. This is the exact opposite of what it means in the UK.

Now, speaking as an Aussie, that confuses me. *Our* slow lane is the one nearest the sidewalk or furthest from the median (ie, the very leftmost lane). We drive on the same side of the road as the Brits, but perhaps we have different fast/slow lane conventions?
owlfish
Oct. 28th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
You may have thought I am British, to add to the confusion? I'm American, living in Britain.

In Britain - slow lane = lane furthest from the median = inside lane
In American (as I know it) - slow lane = lane furthest from the median = outside lane.

So regardless, the slow lane is the one furthest from the median/closest to the sidewalk/pavement. The difference is whether or not it's called an inside lane.
(no subject) - ineptshieldmaid - Oct. 28th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 28th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 28th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ineptshieldmaid - Oct. 28th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
sioneva
Oct. 28th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
I know you can use "What is he like" and "what are they like" because I've heard them used. I heard it a lot in Manchester - perhaps it has Northern roots and, therefore, you've heard it less as you're an evil Southerner?
owlfish
Oct. 28th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
That was C.'s hypothesis too. Had I a more useful ear for accents - or been paying attention when the students on the show all said where they're from - I would know where the character was meant to be from.
(no subject) - bookzombie - Oct. 29th, 2008 10:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 29th, 2008 11:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bookzombie - Oct. 29th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heleninwales - Oct. 29th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - owlfish - Oct. 28th, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sioneva - Oct. 28th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
gillo
Oct. 28th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
"the inside lane" - This always meant the lane nearest the sidewalk or furthest from the median to me. A trawl of a few US sites mostly backs me up on this. This is the exact opposite of what it means in the UK. Here, it means the slow lane. So confusing! So dangerous to be able to confuse the two!


But the slow lane
is
the lane furthest from the central reservation/median strip, surely? The inside lane is always the lane closest to the footpath.

Now I'm confused.
owlfish
Oct. 28th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
I was using "slow lane" as synonymous with "lane furthest from the median". This may have been what threw ineptshieldmaid about my post too. I will amend it.

Worse: I wrote the exact opposite of what I meant to say. Fixed now. See? I'm confused about it even when I'm trying to share it with others.

Edited at 2008-10-28 11:36 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - gillo - Oct. 29th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
4ll4n0
Oct. 29th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
The key to the inside lane might be the inside track. On the race track the inside track is the closest to the centre and the shortest track. If I remember rightly you always turn left when running on a track and field event.

The inside lane in both North America and the UK would be the inside for the left turn. Perhaps this is the origin of the term.

I'm now curious about this use of "What am I like." It sounds intriguing, I can't remember ever encountering. So it does not have the sense of a rhetorical question, "What am I like...[crazy]?"
owlfish
Oct. 29th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
"What am I like" - It's rhetorical, but self-sufficient. No adjectives need be applied to it. Also, no one needs to answer it - although formed as if a question, it isn't, really.
Yes, racetracks are the key - sawsyon - Nov. 3rd, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
a_d_medievalist
Oct. 29th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
Yeah -- to me the slow lane = the outside lane. And the fast lane is the inside lane. Because, well, crossing from the pavement, you work your way in, yes? and then, when you are in the middle/on the median, you work your way back out.
owlfish
Oct. 29th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
Precisely. It makes perfect sense.
sollersuk
Oct. 29th, 2008 06:51 am (UTC)
UK usage:

Inside lane: always the slow lane/lane nearest to the edge of the road. This is how it is used in road signs.

"What are you like!" as a rhetorical question is pure Manchester in my experience; it usually comes when the listener has done something strange, and I heard it all the time (yes, directed at me, why did you ask?) when I first moved to the Manchester area. In all the decades I lived in the London area, I never heard it once.
owlfish
Oct. 29th, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
"inside lane" - further evidence that I have yet to re-license to drive in this country. (But ought to eventually.)

I'm quite sure I've never heard "What are you like." in London in all my time here. What interests me is that several other commenters from other parts of the North also hear it regularly; so if it's originally from Manchester, it's spread a bit since. (Or they were hearing Mancunians use it and extrapolated?)
(no subject) - gillo - Oct. 29th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heleninwales - Nov. 15th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
flick
Oct. 29th, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
I've never been able to get my head around outside and inside lanes, either, so it's not just the US/UK difference.

And I say 'what're you like" all the time, with occasionally 'what's she like' thrown in, so good chance on it being northern.

I don't think I want to know what Britannia High is; it sounds like a teen drama about a US High School that just happens, for completely convoluted reasons, to have all British pupils....
owlfish
Oct. 29th, 2008 09:55 am (UTC)
Except, weirdly, it's not in the US. It's set in London, which explains the students. It's a musical teen drama on ITV (started Sunday). It being a musical was what lured me in to watching the first episode. Somewhat like Fame-the-TV-Series, apparently.

Oh wait - you didn't want to know that, did you?
sam_t
Oct. 29th, 2008 09:34 am (UTC)
Either 'what are you like' isn't just Manchester or it suddenly became more widely popular at some point in the 90s, which is when I remember hearing it most often. I'm an East Anglian relocated to Yorkshire, for reference.
heleninwales
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
I really don't remember it from when I lived in Manchester (which is my home city and where I was born and bred). To me "what are you like!" is a recent phrase that I first became aware of when my son used it -- and he lives in Cardiff!

Of course it could well have arisen in Manchester since I left. The language she never stands still.
hobbitblue
Oct. 29th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
You're not going to start *saying* "what am I like" though, are you? Cos then I'd have to track you down and kill you, especially if you say it with that whiny annoying tone it usually gets. That and the American import of "like, OMG!" both deserve instant punishment. And not in the fun way!
owlfish
Oct. 29th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
I shall do my best - for your sake - not to pick up the phrase.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )