On Twitter, I do a 'Difference of the Day' each day highlighting a small way in which British and American English differ. But since (a) October features Lynneukah, the joyous festival of Lynne, and (b) I'm not going to be able to work in long-form (blogging) much during my Term from Hell, I'm doing something different this month. Each day I will feature an 'untranslatable'--that is, a word or phrase in AmE or BrE that has no true-complete-easy equivalent in the other dialect. The title of this post, intralexy, is my little word for it. Words (that's the -lexy) that exist within (that's the intra-) a particular one of my focal dialects. (These may be very translatable in another dialect or another language...but covering that is not part of my SbaCL shtick. Feel free to point out other equivalents, if you see them.)
Now, I'm sure that people will suggest lots of translations for the things that I present as 'untranslatable'. So be it. The expressions I present as 'untranslatable' will be those for which I feel that there is a nuance that cannot be captured by any near-equivalents. That might qualify most of the differences between the dialects. But, again I say: so be it. It's a bit of fun, and if it provides entertainment for people who want to challenge the notion of 'untranslatability', so be it.
(Hey, you know 'so be it' isn't a bad motto for a Term from Hell. You may hear more of it!)
The first one is going to be BrE punter, which can be translated in lots of ways (click on the link for discussion). Sometimes it means 'bettor', sometimes 'john', sometimes 'person who tries something'. Because all those meanings are joined together in a word that was originally to do with gambling, the other senses carry connotations that aren't found in the AmE version. In fact, it's one of the words that puzzled me most in my early years in the UK.
So, if you're on Twitter or following my Twitter feed through another means...I hope you enjoy this little diversion! And feel free to suggest more 'intralexis' in the comments!