But how to get back into the blogging groove? Doing 'Differences of the Day' on Twitter has kept me and the groove on a nodding acquaintance, but which of the multitude of un-blogged-about topics should I start with? It's inbox roulette time again. This post's winner is Astro Brat, who wrote to ask:
Is the British version of "token" different than the American one?AB has correctly surmised that in BrE a token is a kind of (AmE) gift certificate/(BrE) gift voucher. These days, one most often hears token in this meaning for one of two things: National Book Tokens or Theatre Tokens. These are sold at bookshops/box offices, but usable at almost any (BrE/AmE) bookshop/(AmE) bookstore or (BrE/sometimes AmE) theatre/(AmE) theater, not just the one at which it was purchased. For shop/store-specific gifts, I more often hear voucher, rather than token in BrE, but the OED has examples (latest from the 1980s) of shop-specific tokens, so there's not (historically, at least) a hard-and-fast meaning difference.
I ask because in the last few days I've run across the term used by Brits that sounds more like where my mid-western US dialect would say voucher or perhaps coupon?
One was in a television show and I just assumed it meant the same -
"I hope you like this gift, because honestly it's either this or tokens"
But when I read this later in the week:
"it’s not a book that would have been top of my reading list, but I was in a bookshop and I had some book tokens so you know how it is!"
Where I come from token is a kind of coin used for amusement parks or kid's restaurant sort or things. It can also be a little small gift, a token present. Does Britain give out specific-use coins for bookstores?
AB's little error is in transferring the coin property of (AmE) subway/amusement park tokens to the British context. Tokens are like American gift certificates, so traditionally paper, nowadays likely to be in the form of a gift card. There's a gallery of these at the National Book Token website, and while I could photograph the two in my (AmE) wallet/(BrE) purse for you, I am far too lazy, so here's one from the 1930s, courtesy of the NBT site (the relevant details would have been on the back) and the modern plastic type.
My two are really Grover's. They're paper ones with a value of £1 each, given to children in schools and (BrE) nurseries on National Book Day. I can't tell you how many books I've bought while holding the wallet/purse that holds those book tokens. I generally think of them about 10 minutes after the purchase, even if I've stepped into the bookshop with the specific goal of spending the tokens. So, Grover gets books and I contribute £2 more than I'd intended to the recovery of the retail sector.
(I also want to mention Bookstart, a lovely UK institution, which gives children free books (through their local libraries or at health check-ups) at three points in their preschool years. I've only just missed mentioning them on National Bookstart Day (11 June this year). Bookstart is a charity, funded by the government and book publishers. Given the slash-and-burn approach of the new (BrE) government/(AmE) administration, I am crossing my fingers for it. Not to mention for all jobs in higher education. *sigh*)
The notion of a token as a coin is not foreign to BrE. The OED has this sense-definition (though it includes subway tokens under the same sense as gift token):
11. a. A stamped piece of metal, often having the general appearance of a coin, issued as a medium of exchange by a private person or company, who engage to take it back at its nominal value, giving goods or legal currency for it.You might need metal tokens in the UK for use in amusement parks or cloak-room lockers or such things--I don't know of any public transport systems using them here at present, but I'm happy to be informed otherwise.
From the reign of Queen Elizabeth to 1813, issued by tradesmen, large employers of labour, etc., to remedy the scarcity of small coin, and sometimes in connexion with the truck-shop system. bank-tokens, silver tokens for 5s., 3s., 1s. 6d., were issued by the Bank of England in 1811
Most other uses of token seem to be the same in the two dialects, though a draft addition to the OED marks this sense as US:
[3.] c. A nominal or ‘token’ representative of an under-represented group.
the South Park character Token's name has gone over some British heads? (Say it ain't so!)
And on that note, welcome back to my blog. I've missed you!