Vernacular-Turgidity Avocation (learn yerself sum words)

Over the past few months, the wife and I have observed various differences between our homeland and the culture of this little island where we now reside. These societal variances include driving on the left-hand side of the road, the willingness of strangers to help a person in need, accents, pork consumption, nationalized healthcare (amazing!), old things, pronunciation of biblical books, walking, and numerous other items that would require more commas and extended synaptic firing, so I will conclude the list here and progress to my aim. Though these divergences gain our attention, they haven’t nearly the impact as simple locution. We gots different words folks! The slogan that the UK and the US are “two nations divided by a single language” demonstrates itself on a daily basis. We have come to accept these differences but in varying ways. Bethany, as a church office administrator, has collapsed under the weight of necessity. She pronounces “schedule” as “shed-ule” and sings Mary Poppins songs indefinitely. I have taken a more obstinate stance and even create new words simply to cause confusion. I may have a conversation with a Brit during which they make reference to the “boot”of the car. I stand there staring, as if in a state of confusion. They quickly clarify, “Oh, I’m sorry- I mean the ‘trunk.'” I continue to stare until they either point one out or draw a picture. Then I perk up and chime, “Oh, you mean the ‘grocery-hole’,” or “the ‘car bung’.” Occasionally it takes some convincing, but I generally persuade them to accept my view as authoritative. You might not take the pleasure I do in such jocularity, but, alas, I cannot help myself.
For those of you who may find yourselves in our new stomping-grounds, I have put together a list of terms that cause confusion, in order to make communication as smooth as possible. Pay attention, there will be a quiz… when you least expect it. Here’s the list (British- English on the left and American equivalent on the right):

Pudding= “dessert”; it seems like this term would refer to Bill Cosby’s favorite treat, which it does, but it is not limited to this classification. Generally speaking, “pudding” refers to any dessert. If you are asked whether you would like a pudding, the person means dessert in general. The only exceptions to this are Yorkshire pudding and black pudding- exceptions that Brits are unable to explain or rectify.

Lollipop= both “lollipop” and “popsicle”; as a side note, a lollipopman/woman is a “crossing guard”

Tip= “garbage dump”

Bin= “trashcan”

Fly-tipping= dumping one’s waste in a business’ dumpsters or anywhere to avoid having to pay a dumping fee

Toilet= “bathroom/poop-station”; it’s not just the contraption, but the whole room. You ask for the “toilet” even if you don’t have to use the toilet in the same way that we ask for the “bathroom” even if we won’t be taking a bath, or a “restroom” even if we won’t be taking a nap… I miss my public restroom naps, though.

Hoover= “vacuum cleaner”

Black pudding= “disgusting thing that one should never eat”

Gutted= “devastated”

Being sick= “vomiting”

Pants= “underwear”; they use a term we (and apparently Australians) consider archaic to refer to jeans and slacks: “trousers.”

Mobile= “cell phone”; they simply do not refer to it as a cell phone… ever!

Icing sugar= “powdered sugar”

Candy floss= “cotton candy”; it sounds like the best visit to the dentist ever, or the worst and stickiest trying-on of “pants.”

Egg/tuna mayonnaise= “egg/tuna salad”; it’s an accurate description, but it sounds absolutely unappetizing.

Jacket Potato= “baked potato”

***As an added bonus to today’s post, I would like to toss in some extras. If you go shopping at a supermarket in the UK, you can expect not to find the following American staples:

Graham crackers
Large bags of chocolate chips

I would also like to add to my list of utterly undesirable food items:

Ye Olde Oak “Lunch Tongue”; no deceptive labeling here. It’s simply tongue slices for your sandwich. Who wouldn’t want to partake? I think this comes between jellied eels and Gü brand pud varieties, thereby bumping “pulses” off the top-ten list.

At this juncture, I will take my leave, dear friends. The thought of “lunch tongue” makes me feel like I’m going to be “sick” on my “pants” and no “hoover” will be able to clean up the mess, because I had a colossal serving of “pudding” this evening. Ciao.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Justin Fung on February 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    As a former UK resident, this warms my heart. Are you a tea addict yet?


    • Posted by friartalbert on February 16, 2010 at 8:12 am

      I’m growing accustomed to tea, Justin. I mainly drink it to be part of the crowd. My phd colleagues and I have elevenses every weekday and every meal we have with others concludes with a tea. Likewise, every church service ends with tea and coffee, but the church varieties of these beverages taste like dishwater or “gray.” In the meantime, wife and I are consuming large amounts of herbal teas (which Brits tend to describe as “disgusting”) to stay on the healthier side.


  2. Posted by Sylvia on February 17, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Actually tongue sandwiches are really good–like the most tender of roast beef. Add a little mayo, mustard, and horseradish……yum, my mouth is watering!

    I will make sure you get my version when you visit again….


  3. Posted by TC Keene on February 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    English is more complicated than you have experienced. Because of our weird and wonderful (or foolish) class system and regionality, some things are referred to differently according to class and age and region. So for instance the upper classes would never refer to the toilet but to the lavatory. Some of the older generation would certainly refer to baked potatoes; it was the term I was brought up on. Tea is the strangest word. Does it mean a drink or a meal? If a meal, which meal? It all depends on whom you talk to. And do you make the tea, brew the tea or mash the tea? Pudding is often referred to as dessert or sweet in ‘lower’ class households.

    I cannot understand what you have against tongue. It is delicious.


    • Posted by friartalbert on February 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks for these additional comments. Certainly, the wide-ranging complexities of (British) English are beyond my ken, but its intimate relationship to region and class has frequently been the focus of discussion when amongst UK natives. At the same time, growing up in the States meant exposure to similar issues under the guise of different accents and articulations. In the end, I just wanted to pass along some reflections on linguistic confrontations in the East Midlands to friends back in the US, and perhaps to give them a heads-up, should they find themselves having traversed the Atlantic span. You’re certainly right about tea. I have no idea how it escaped the list, as it caused us a great deal of confusion with some friends.
      As to tongue, I am afraid I cannot waver. Though I enjoy a wide variety of foods, there is something persistently unappealing about tongue. I think this is the case with all people- there is something about certain foods, whether taste, smell, texture, association, processing, etc. that will prevent one from partaking. I have come to this conclusion with tongue. Perhaps it has something to do with being simultaneously licked while consuming…


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