Who’s Bruce?It is important to fully understand that English is widely spoken around the world (in Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc). While students study a standard English which can be used in all of the countries there are sometimes differences that are only found in one particular English speaking country and not in any others. For those studying English this may seem confusing but don't worry, you are experiencing the same situations a native English speaker may have when he or she is in another English speaking country. Below is a small fun example of my own experience as a British English speaker (from London) while in a small town in Australia:
I was waiting for a bus one day. Next to me stood an older man and a young teenager (a school student). When the bus arrived I waited at the back of the line to get on. The old man went first and was standing by the driver for a long time trying to buy a ticket. When the older man had collected his ticket, the young teenager walked in front of me, gave his money to the driver, took his ticket, and I did the same. As I received my ticket, the driver gave me some extra change and told me: "Can you pass this to Bruce for me mate?" I was very impressed that the driver knew each passenger's name! However, I had no idea who Bruce was and I did not want to give the change to the wrong person.
I walked up to the teenager and asked him if he was Bruce. He looked surprised and answered: "No." I looked up at the whole bus, which was now half full with people, and walked up to the old man to ask him if he was Bruce. He also looked surprised and answered: "No."
I was shocked. Who is Bruce? I did not want to give this extra change to the wrong person so I returned to the driver and said:
- "I'm sorry, who is Bruce?"
- "I don't know, who is Bruce???"
- "But I thought you told me to give this change to Bruce?"
- "Yeah, so?"
- "So who is Bruce?"
- "Bruce! The man who got on the bus with you!"
- "Really?" I asked, "But he told me his name wasn't Bruce?"
At this point the driver laughed out loud! I turned back to see the whole bus had heard this and had also begun laughing, including the old man. I gave the change to him and said: "I'm sorry, I thought this was for Bruce." He smiled at me, took the money and said: "I am Bruce!"
I have since learnt that in Australian English, another way to refer to a man is to call him "Bruce." In British English no one says this which shows just how difficult and sometimes how funny it can be to use English across the world!
Edward Fisher, an ESL teacher from London for 4 years
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