Separated by a Common Twitter: competition results!

Thanks to Twitter-followers who re-tweeted to me their nominations for 'most impenetrable to cross-ponder' tweet.  We have a winner, Transblawg (Margaret Marks) who sent two--one that I declare the winner, and one that I declare a runner-up.  First, the winner (I'm deleting the identities of the original tweeters, since they didn't ask to be here...):

KP v.lucky to wring that lbw decision out of Enamul Haque: that was missing off-stump by a mile! Bangladesh 163-5 and in trouble

Of course,  anything with personal initials/names is going to be hard for anyone to read, but with a little BrE knowledge, one can figure out at least what the roles of KP and Enamul Haque are.  The tweet, for anyone who needs translation, is about cricket, the only sport that Better Half follows, but still one whose scoring system has to be explained to me every single time he tries to engage me in a conversation about the game.  KP is Kevin Pietersen, who was (BrE) bowling (equivalent to pitching in baseball--except that it's done differently) and Haque must be an umpire.  'That lbw decision' refers to a leg-before-wicket call made by the umpire.  In this case, spelling out the initials doesn't help much, does it?  You have to know that the aim of the bowler in cricket is to knock the bails (little pieces of wood) from a wicket (three little poles, called stumps, with the bails on top--image from Wikipedia). The batsman (baseball equivalent = batter) tries to hit the ball, preventing it from getting to the wicket.  But the leg-before-wicket law means that the umpire can decide that the batsman is out because the ball would have hit the wicket, had the batsman's leg (or the pads on it) not been in the way.  The three stumps are called the off stump (which is on the off-side, nearest the bat) the middle stump and the leg stump (on the on-side, the leg side).  So, to translate: Kevin Pietersen is very lucky that EH decided that the ball Pietersen had bowled would have hit the stumps, since, in the tweeter's opinion, it was nowhere near the outermost stump.  The rest is the score, to be read as 'Bangladesh is 163 for 5', which means that they've scored 163 runs and lost 5 wickets (yes, I had to look that up).  In other words, you're only told the number of runs for the team that is batting.  The team that gets more runs wins, so you know from this information how many runs the other team needs to get when it's their turn to bat.  But don't expect me to tell you more than that.  Instead, I'll point you to a site where an American tries to explain cricket to Americans.

I'll ask the winner to send her address and her choice of biscuits/cookies to me directly.  Here's the runner-up that she sent:
blooming knackering. I've got a sales conference in a couple of weeks too. I liked garden leave!! boo hoo
And maybe this should have been the winner, since it's not in the jargon of a sport, but in general BrE--but since it means sending the biscuits/cookies to the same place, perhaps I'll just declare it a (BrE-prominent) draw/(AmE-prominent) tie. A glossary for the tweet:
blooming = is a bowdleri{z/s}ed version of the vulgar BrE modifier bloody--akin in this context to saying (AmE) darned.

knackering = exhausting, tiring (slang). 

garden leave (also gardening leave) is, to quote the OED: "Brit. (euphem.) suspension from work on full pay for the duration of a notice period, typically to prevent an employee from having any further influence on the organization or from acting to benefit a competitor before leaving."
Janibach sent the only American tweet among the entries, which was related to American football--and not as impenetrable for the average British reader as the cricket tweet:
Who do you want the Cleveland Browns to take in the draft. Where are they in line? #NFL
The NFL (National Football League) occasionally comes to the UK to play exhibition games, and some games, including the Superbowl, sometimes make it onto wee-hours television.  That doesn't mean that the average Briton knows much about the sport--but still, this one is fairly decipherable (It was the wrong time of year to get tweets about less transparent things like first downs and Hail Mary passes).  Cleveland Browns are pretty clearly a sports team (since they follow the code of city name + plural common noun found in many team names across the English-speaking world).  The AmE spelling of draft for draught has been populari{z/s}ed for several senses of the word even in BrE, and particularly when referring to American military conscription.  While reference to drafts in the context of selecting players for a team may not be usual in BrE, it's part of a general sense that BrE does have: "The withdrawing, detachment, or selection of certain persons, animals, or things from a larger body for some special duty or purpose; the party so drawn off or selected" (OED).  And while BrE speakers would usually say in or on the queue rather than in line, they can certainly understand it.

This probably was an unfair contest in that respect--since BrE speakers are generally subjected to more AmE than AmE speakers are to BrE, a winning tweet would probably have had to use either fairly low-frequency words or very current slang in order to be more impenetrable than the BrE entries.  Ah well.

I'm tempted to go through all the entries (as there were only six), but having spent most of my Saturday night at this already, I think I'll stop and leave the others as inspiration for future blog posts.  Thanks to all who (re-)tweeted!  Catch me in Brighton, and I'll buy you a cuppa (bring your own biscuit).


  1. Thanks for the mention! I'm a Brit in America and that was the only one I could find for you. I agree that it's hard to find American tweets that are hard for Brits to understand - unless you include all the ones that use strong language, non-pc words and abbreviated text speak. Pity they weren't discussing the sweet sixteen or the final four.

  2. Cricket explained

    You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

    When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.


  3. You didn't mention that sometimes (usually?) in cricket you have to quit to win. Oh, and the difference between a draw (common) and a tie (vanishingly rare).

    Other than that, though, your explanation seemed admirably clear -- for cricket. 8-)

  4. I think the abbreviation "v." for "very", found in the first tweet, is also particularly BrE. It took me a while to get used to it when I first saw it in the Secret Diaries.

  5. Try watching the movie, Lagaan (sp.?). They explain and play several games of cricket. I don't claim to understand everything about the sport, but this movie sure helped.

  6. Many UK followers of rugby football are likely to be familiar with a 'Hail Mary' pass, as it's a term also used in rugby. I suspect it's a borrowing from the American version of football since I can't recall hearing it in my playing days, some 40 years ago.

    Similar is the 'Hospital Pass', which will put the receiver in immediate danger of being tackled and possibly injured.

  7. I think Brits could be very confused by any tweet in which the word 'Jumper" as an item of clothing was referred to - particularly if the reference was to only wearing a Jumper. AIUI in AmE it refers to what we call a Pinafore dress in BrE.

  8. And while BrE speakers would usually say in or on the queue rather than in line

    Never, ever heard "on the queue".

    "In line" is quite common in British usage, but it has a slightly different range of meaning from "in a/the queue". Whilst "get in line" can be used to mean "form a queue" it can also (more commonly??) mean, "You're in a queue of sorts, but it's a horrible straggling thing - sort yourselves out into something more orderly."

  9. On balance I think transblawg's two tweets are more impenetrable than Janibach's, but still I want to chime in with a defence of the impenetrability of Janibach's to BrE speakers. Possibly I am particularly well-equipped to see the impenetrability, as a follower of the UK's most popular team sport, football.

    The impenetrability is in the fact that (as far as I am aware) no sport in the UK has anything like the sports draft. If I hadn't lived in the US, I would have no idea what that meant.

    As far as I understand it now, this draft is the selection of new players by NFL (and baseball?) teams at the beginning of a season, from the pool of people who have just come out of college/University and thus become eligible and available to play professional sports.

    This is different from the UK system because, here, players can be selected to play for a football club at any time of year, and it's done individually: some big club's scout goes to see an interesting player play in whatever team they happen to be in at the time, and, if they like what they see, they invite them to have trials with their big club, with a view to possibly playing for them. If the trials are successful, contracts are signed and it all proceeds like any other job from that point of view (except with the accompaniment of much more money than most other jobs).

    These contracts can be signed at any stage of life from the mid-teens onwards (when they're known as 'schoolboy contracts' and don't entail the boy leaving school). That said, it is mildly unusual for a professional football player to continue his schooling beyond the age of 16 (at which point it's legal to leave school) and highly unusual for a professional football player to go to University/college. They're usually playing for their club by the time they're 18; some might go to University after they retire, in their 30s or early 40s, but even that's rare, since many continue their careers into football management or coaching, or alternatively go into a blue-collar career like being a pub landlord, owning a sports shop, or similar.

  10. further to John Cowan's comment: "v." as an abbreviation for "very" is used by some in colloquial speech [i.e. pronounced "vee"]. I think it's too early to say whether that's a fad or a sticker.

  11. Of course,just after your deadline an American Twitter friend began to live-tweet her daughter's baseball(I think, but wouldn't swear to it) match. I did DM you one typical tweet... I had no idea what was happening, except that eventually her daughter's side won.

    @Anonymous - thank you for posting the Laws of Cricket - I would have done so had you not!

  12. @Damien: as I understand it, it's no longer possible to buy in new players at any point in the UK football season. This was explained to me as a reason why Portsmouth (I think it was Portsmouth) was about to go bankrupt--they overspent at some point, didn't get the income to match it, and now can't dump the really expensive players they have.

  13. Cricket may not be as unknown in the US as you are suggesting. Back, maybe 20 yrs ago I was at a conference in SF when there was a baseball strike. The paper that was left at my door in the hotel had a big article about cricket as a sort of "methadone for bb addicts" including a list of the surprisingly large number of games that were being played around there.
    Since then (without particularly trying to) I've been to three or four in various parts of the counter.

  14. Cricket follows Commonwealth immigrants everywhere--one's particularly likely to find it in places where there's been a lot of recent immigration from South Asia. But I would maintain that there are very few Americans who don't have much contact with such populations who know anything about it.

    On the status of cricket in the US, this NYT article is interesting:

    It's about college/university students trying to populari{s/z}e cricket, but notes that nearly all players in these college games were born abroad.

    Baseball is similar to the UK game 'rounders', which is mostly considered to be a school children's game.

  15. Ah, cricket - impenetrable even to those who speak British/Australian English...if they're not already fans.

    I'm constantly trying to explain cricket ot my wife, who while being Australian, had German parents and has no appreciation for the greatest of all sports...

    And some good points about cricket in countries not known for it's cricketers - generally the teams are populated entirely by ex-pats from Pakistan, India, & Bangladesh. There is a general kind of push towards popularising cricket in the USA, however this is more to do with dollars than any major local support.

    I love this blog, although I find some of it quite baffling as I use Australian English - and while Australian English falls more on the side of British English than American English, some of it is plain bewlidering...

  16. Here's an alternate explanation of cricket, that compares it to baseball. It doesn't get into the intricacies of lbw's and terminology, but I've used it a few times to help somebody who understands baseball understand the basics of cricket.

    He also has an incredibly detailed explanation of cricket linked from the bottom of the page if you wanted more detail.

  17. Since you're talking about absurdly confusing cricket rules, and you mentioned that "draw" is AmE and "tie" BrE, it's worth a mention that cricket has both terms, and they mean different things. Don't quote me on this, but I think a tie is the very-unlikely result that both teams have the exact same score, while a draw is a result where the scores are deemed too close for either team to be declared the outright winner.

    TV Tropes has a good summary of cricket rules here. Warning - don't click any links, or you won't emerge from the site for days.

    @John Cowan and mollymoony; repeated 'v.'s seem to be more popular than single 'v.'s, presumably for clarity. It's like how you never hear "plusungood", it's always "doubleplusungood"...

  18. In lay terms the difference between a draw and a tie in cricket is that a draw happens when the allocated time runs out (which for a full international match will be five days) with neither side winning. A tie occurs when the total scores are equal when the side batting last looses its last wicket and therefore can't score any more runs.

    The above applies to the traditional form of cricket. There is a variant called limited overs cricket which has a set maximum number of overs (an over = six consecutive deliveries or pitches in baseball terms). In this whichever team scores the most runs wins, there are no draws.

  19. @Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth): If her daughter was playing, it's likely the game was softball, not baseball. And just to make it more confusing, probably fast pitch rather than slow pitch. Though I think it would be interesting to know how many in the US understand those distinctions. I surely didn't prior to raising daughters who played softball.

  20. @pw All of which means less than nothing to me! I did watch a baseball match during the last Olympic Games, but the BBC had obviously taken a feed straight from the American broadcasters, who obviously assumed their audience would know what they were looking at, and it was gloriously incomprehensible!

  21. My fiancee was born in the Bronx in New York, and as such is a fan of the New York Yankees. Trying to take an interest in each other's activities I have been slowly introducing her to AmE soccer/rest of world football, and so when the Yankees reached their championship series and got within a game of winning it I subscribed to ESPN and sat up late to watch it. Somewhat to my surprise, I LOVED it, and stayed up to watch live coverage of every game of the World Series, even keeping her up to date with the goings on because she had to work on some evenings. So I am now (well not NOW exactly as it's the off season) slowly getting up to speed with the game. But you can read much more detail of this stuff at my blog, Dodophobia, which is on Blogspot as this one is.

  22. "Damien: as I understand it, it's no longer possible to buy in new players at any point in the UK football season."

    You can't buy players from another club outside the transfer window, but you can take on a triallist or a player who is out of contract.

  23. I'm so pleased you're talking about cricket on this website because I'm an absolute fanatic of the game.

    I've always thought that in order for Americans to really understand the British way of doing things, they have to be able to sit through five days of cricket, most of which is delayed by rain, ends in a draw, and then be able to describe it as a fantastic and interesting experience!

    Of course many British people absolutely hate cricket. It's a game you either love or hate, with very little in between.

  24. To Andy JS:

    And it is almost exclusively loved only in England (with some pockets in Wales). Although Freuchie, in Fife, did once get to Lord's and win the village championship!

  25. Cameron - Soccer is actually a BrE word; it's old-fashioned slang for Association Football (as distinct from Rugby Football, or rugger). These slang terms ending in -er go back, I think, to the early 20th century.
    The totally un-sporty Kate in Derby, UK

  26. "Rugger" and "Soccer" are obsolescent in this country, if not obsolete - I associate both with public schoolboys.

    As the US default "football" is quite a different game, it's understandable that they use "soccer" for Association football. I gather they still do at those public schools (=prep schools in the US, more or less) where the default football is, in fact, rugby!

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. @Mrs Redboots and @anonymous:

    "soccer" is hardly obsolete in the UK:

    see this link, for example.

    The sun (the best selling daily newspaper in the UK) used to have an entire section entitled "soccer" when I lived there (13 years ago). I see it's now been changed to "football".

  29. The funny thing about "Cricket Explained" is that it almost applies to baseball as well, except that the team at bat is not normally said to be in, there is only one umpire (though he may have assistants), and a game is nine innings for each team (inning is a count noun in AmE) rather than just one or two.

    "Nine" is subject to some qualification. A game may be called for hostile weather (the most usual reason), lack of light natural or artificial, earthquake, fire, etc. If less than five innings were played, it is no game at all; if more, the final score stands unless there is an agreement to suspend and later resume the game. Per contra, a game tied after nine innings must continue until the score is not tied after ten, eleven, twelve, ... innings. (For non-fans: The reason these numbers are not preposterous is that runs are hard to score and batters are easy to get out in baseball. For a batter to succeed even 40% of the times he comes to bat is unheard-of in modern times.)

    The longest professional baseball game on record had 33 innings (!), with the Rochester Red Wings scoring in the top (first half) of the 7th and the Pawtucket Red Sox in the bottom of the 9th. That left a tied game, and there were no further runs until both teams scored in the 21st. The score was of course still tied at that point, so they carried on through the 32nd inning, which ended at 4:07 A.M. on April 19, 1981, Easter Sunday. The game was then suspended and resumed on June 23rd, where the Pawtucket team scored in the 33rd and last inning for a final score of 2-3 and a total playing time of 8 hours 25 minutes. Words cannot convey how preposterous all this sounds, and yet it happened.

    Trivia question for baseball fans: There are six ways for the batter to advance to first base without hitting the ball. Most people can think of three easily, four with a little work, and five if pushed. What are all six? No fair looking them up, and looking at the Official Rules won't help anyway, as it only lists four explicitly -- the remaining two are inferred from other rules.

  30. How old is 'gardening leave'? I thought I remembered it being explained to Jim Hacker in an episode of 'Yes, Minister'.

  31. First citation in OED makes clear that it existed for a while in the civil service before 1985:

    1985 Daily Tel. 2 Feb. 2/1 Then he had a spell of what he described as ‘*gardening leave’, Civil Service jargon for a paid leave while a job could be found for him.

  32. As the O.E.D. citation indicates, "gardening leave" is long standing Civil Service slang (not in this context euphemistic, or ever "garden leave"), which recently has escaped into the outside world with a shift of meaning.

    [The use of the word "leave" is an indicator of civil service (or forces) origin.]

    I suspect that it's originally an F.C.O.* term, because diplomats routinely returned from a foreign tour and then had to wait around for a while whilst a Whitehall job was found them during which time they sat at home taking the said g.l.

    * Another civil service usage: the public and media almost always say "Foreign Office".

  33. Many thanks for the Ginger Nuts, which arrived here in perfect condition due to fastidious packaging.
    On the subject of cricket, I am fairly ignorant. I remember a New York cab driver from the Caribbean being very keen to discuss it when he heard I was British.
    As for garden leave, I had never heard the Civil Service term gardening leave and am grateful for the information. It must have got changed when it began to be used to mean the period after dismissal when a person is not permitted to work for fear they may poach clients. I heard this term a good 15 or 20 years ago. I can't find the entry in my OED (2nd ed. CD?)

  34. Bill Bryson's description of a broadcast of a cricket match in "down under" is quite amusing, and somewhat lingusitically interesting: He makes up terms and phrases, but manages to completely capture the flavour of cricket terminology and british and indian names.
    Some choice examples:
    " Longwilley is caught leg-before in middle slops by Grattan."
    "I don't think I've seen offside medium slow fast pace bowling to match it since Baden-Powell took Rangachagabanga for a maiden ovary at Bangalore in 1948"
    "I wonder if he'll chance an offside drop scone here or go for a quick legover. "
    "Neasden, it appeared, was turning in a solid performance at square bowel, while Packet had been a stalwart in the dribbles, though even these exemplary performances paled when set beside the outstanding play of young Hugh Twain-Buttocks at middle nipple."
    "So as we break for second luncheon, and with 11,200 balls remaining, Australia are 962 for two not half and England are four for a duck and hoping for rain."


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)