An American perspective on the vagaries and confusion of the English language…reblogged from Barb Taub:
The first time I went skydiving, the instructor had to ‘help’ me out of the plane (via a boot to my backside). Five years ago, I started blogging because Mary Rosenblum, the Literary Midwife, gave me another kick to my tuchas (thankfully, virtual this time). Thank you, Mary, for allowing me to meet a world of wonderful new friends.
Following is my (slightly updated) very first blog post.
“Indeed, in many respects, she was quite English, and was an excellent example of the fact that we have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”—Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost, 1887
I used to say I was going to open a coffee shop on an island when I retired. It would, of course, not be a good coffee shop. (I was picturing a Mr. Coffee with some generic grind right out of a can.) That way I would have plenty of time to write trashy novels without constant
interruptions er… customers.
A few years ago, we actually made it to the island, although it’s a bit bigger than I expected. We moved into one tower of a medieval castle in England. There was no coffee shop, although a few Wednesdays each month I did take my turn making tea and coffee for that most sacred of institutions, Village Coffee Morning. I couldn’t make the de rigueur scones, but my neighbors were polite about eating the strange American puddings I brought in. (translation: In England, pudding = dessert. Actual American pudding has another name here: baby food.)
Americans sit on their buns, and sometimes their ass, while here in England buns are eaten and one’s sitter is an arse.
Of course, I had to learn a new language. Here pants are something men wear under their trousers. Women might get what they wear underneath—knickers—in a twist if you talk about your pants. In England, a bum goes under your pants or knickers, while in America that activity would certainly get the person going through the dumpster (skip) arrested. Americans sit on their buns, and sometimes their ass, while here in England buns are eaten and one’s sitter is an arse (and, often, one’s political representative as well). Jumpers aren’t just worn by little girls in kindergarten; grown men get them from their Mum at Christmas and have been known to wear them in public (although Americans think they’re wearing sweaters). The signs tacked up everywhere advertising boot sales don’t refer to an unexpected surfeit of footgear, but to things being sold out of the part of the car where Americans would expect to store their spare tire (tyre) and the three bags of old clothing they keep meaning to drop off at the Goodwill.