Tuesday, July 03, 2007

eating faggots

My family (AmE) is/(BrE) are here this week, so I haven't a lot of time for blogging. You'd think that there would be a lot to blog about, with six Americans clashing with English culture constantly, but the linguistic conversations are mostly of the "Chips are French fries!" variety, and the miscommunications mostly occur when asking waiters for water (OK, I'll blog about that next).

Most menus need a fair amount of translation, both for the dishes that are not eaten as much in America and for the food names that are different. So far, the one that's caused the most raised eyebrows was beef and herb faggots. Better Half described these as English meatballs, which seemed like a reasonable description, but all of the recipes I've found this morning (for beef or pork faggots) involve a fair amount of offal--which is not what comes to mind when I think 'meatballs'. Here is a recipe for the curious.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Asking for water in restaurants here is an annoyance for an American in the UK. I know that to avoid trouble I should ask for it with an English accent ("waugh-tuh" or in East London / Essex "waw-ah"), but that makes me all self-conscious -- it's the only word I can think of that I have to mimic a Brit pronunciation to be understood.
I can hear with my own ears that my American pronunciation is pretty different ("wah-durr"), but I'm still surprised that it's so often unrecognizeable.
I'll bet the "water" of a person with a strong NYC-area accent would be understood. Likewise with a Southern drawl.

Anonymous said...

The name of most famous frozen variety of faggots always entertains Amercians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mr-Brains-Faggots-Pack.jpg

barnoid said...

Mr Brain's Faggots, gives you a clue as to what's in them. Hideous things.

This reminds me of the time UK based IT news site The Register ran a story about a woman who tried to open the door on a plane so that she could "pop out for a mid-flight fag". They then got a quite strongly worded letter from an American complaining about their use of "one of the most bigot-flavored words in English". Not in BrE where the first assumption for the meaning of the word fag would be cigarette, except perhaps in the context of public schools of the past (fagging, which doesn't necessarily have to involve homosexuality). Besides most of the slang words for homosexual seem to have lost most of their bigotry associations round here in recent years, thanks in part at least to Matt Lucas and Little Britain.

Chris said...

"Besides most of the slang words for homosexual seem to have lost most of their bigotry associations round here in recent years, thanks in part at least to Matt Lucas and Little Britain. "

Or perhaps Queer As Folk.

Fnarf said...

Or Dan "Hey, Faggot" Savage.

Wendy said...

Most of my favorite military memories as an American sailor working in a joint UK/US shop involved unexpected slang. Best ever - one of the Charge Chiefs (Royal Navy) saying "I've got to pop round back and blow a fag", causing my own Senior Chief (US Navy) to spew coffee all over his summer whites.

I have always suspected he did that just for the spit take. Lovely.

TasmanSea said...

I am interested to read a post about ordering water in restaurants, because I am regularly unsuccessful at it here in the US with my foreign accent. It always seems to me that in a drink-ordering context there are only a limited set of options, and even my weird foreign pronunciation must sound closer to "water" than to any of the other common beverage choices... and surely it would be the same in a UK restaurant with a US accent.

Although the restaurant-related thing that I puzzled over the longest was the word "entree", somehow I had never discovered before I moved to the US that it refers to what I would call the main course, rather than what American English calls appetizers. I have been wondering how that difference in meaning came about.

dearieme said...

HHHHerbs, of course. Anyway, faggots are offally good.

flatlander said...

TasmanSea said...
It always seems to me that in a drink-ordering context there are only a limited set of options...

Yes, you'd think so. Once I went to lunch on a summer day with someone with a heavy Appalachian accent in a restaurant in Washington, DC. He ordered iced tea, but the waiter brought a bottle of Asti. That time of year and day in that part of the country, 90% of the patrons (including myself) were drinking tea, yet somehow the waiter concluded my friend wanted sparkling wine. Amazing.

Nick said...

Your first sentance reads as. "My family is here this week". After repeating this to myself a few times. I think I would say. " My family are here this week".. If it was one member of my family, then I would use the term 'is'.. By the way I'm british...

Angie said...

Not sure about that. A 'family' is a singular noun for a group of people. "Our families are here..." - "My family is here...".

lynneguist said...

Nick--yes, that's a well-known difference between AmE and BrE, and one that I irregularly mark in my posts, but missed this time. Someday I'll give it its own post. In the meantime, I'll put in the variation in this post.

Meg said...

TasmanSea said...
It always seems to me that in a drink-ordering context there are only a limited set of options...

Like Flatlander said, you would think so. Once a waitress was listing kinds of tea, and the entire table of us were ready to swear she had offered us Uruguay tea. Triple bonus points if you can guess what common kind of tea she was actually offering. She was American, we were American, goodness knows why we couldn't figure it out.

flashgordonnz said...

Earl Grey?

John Cowan said...

For the record, New Yorkers say approximately "waugh-duh".

As for "family", AmE can use a plural verb form if the family members are being treated individually: "Most of my family live in North America" is perfectly sound AmE. See http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001874.html for more details.

Anonymous said...

As an American who used to live in London, the names of food I had to translate from AmE to BrE were: zucchini/corgettes and eggplant/aubergenes. And after living in the UK, I moved back to the US and people made fun of my speech since my mind was still on GMT!

Anonymous said...

As a waitress in the US, I find that when a person with a British or SA accent orders water, it is usually one of the (if not the first) words that the person has uttered in addressing me. Since my mind has not realized that I need to parse an accent, it sounds rather like gibberish.

Anonymous said...

I imagine (though I have never tasted English meatballs), based on the description, that they resemble scrapple to some degree. (a favorite sausage-related food of Pennsylvania-Dutch folk containing everything not allowed in sausage).

Ian Eiloart said...

I (BrE) asked for a "pint of diet coke" in a pub recently. The bar man (also English) went through to the other bar to fetch me a pint of "Dark Oak", a beer. Fortunately, they didn't have any.

On several occasions I've seen Americans get a pint when they asked for a half. It seems that AmE pronunciation of half is too close to BrE "have".