A colleague who teaches French knocked on my door today to ask about an Americanism that his student had encountered in a translation exercise: dishpan hands. The student was imagining someone with hands shaped like dishpans. Oh no!
Dishpan hands are hands that have spent too much time in the dishwater--i.e. they've suffered the drying effects of soap and water. I was amused to see that it's a condition that's listed in the Houghton-Mifflin Medical Dictionary--I had no idea it had reached disease status! Oh, how we suffer.
Dishpan is an AmE word for the basin in which one washes dishes, though I wouldn't use the term myself, as it sounds old-fashioned to me. But I see that Rubbermaid use(s) the term, as do lots of other folk on the web, so what do I know? I'd probably say dishwashing basin (as do some others on-line) and others also say dishwashing tub. In BrE, it is called a washing up bowl. Here's a beautiful one from Norman Copenhagen. I can't decide whether I wish I could afford a £35 dishpan/washing-up bowl (though the brush is included!), or whether I think I'd disgust myself if I spent that kind of money on trying to look cool while (AmE) doing the dishes/(BrE) washing up. I just (BrE, informal) bung everything into the dishwasher anyhow.
Thinking about dishpan hands reminded me of a recent interaction with Better Half, in which he was searching for something-or-other that was right in front of him. I exclaimed, You're soaking in it! (I do a lot of exclaiming), only to discover that he had never had the joy of Madge the Manicurist in ad(vert)s for Palmolive (AmE) dish detergent/(BrE) washing-up liquid. I believe you can see one of those ad(vert)s here (though I don't have the plug-ins to see it on the computer I'm on now). Catchphrases don't travel well through time or space.