Showing posts sorted by relevance for query better half. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query better half. Sort by date Show all posts

fools and cream

I'd told myself I was going to take a break from writing about food, but that decision seems to be in conflict with my determination to write about linguisticky things that come up in my day-to-day doings...and it seems like all I do is eat.

Better Half is mad for (AmE=crazy about) gooseberries, a fruit I'd never experienced in the US, though I did know that the kiwi (fruit; BrE) used to be called the Chinese gooseberry. Anyhow, this is the label on the punnet (BrE*) that he bought this week.


I said to him, "Sweetie, you don't have to buy things just because it says on the label that they're perfect for you."

Better Half was not amused. It is a trial to live with me, I must admit.

Gooseberry fool is a traditional British treat, which involves gooseberries (duh), sugar and lots and lots of cream. BH made some when his nan (=grandma) visited Friday, but in an attempt to make it less calorific, replaced some of the cream with yog(h)urt. (Myself, I think that yog(h)urt has its place, but that any excuse to eat cream should not be taken lightly.) Fools can be made with other fruits as well, but gooseberry fool is the king of fools.

Now, I have to give two links for recipes, suitable to each continent's measures and ingredients. For the American version, click here, for a British version, click here. Some recipes include custard in the fool, but that's newfangled tomfoolery.

If it's just about berries, sugar and cream, why do you need different recipes? Well, because cream just isn't the same in the two places. In the US, there are three (basic) types of cream: light cream, heavy cream and whipping cream, which I always thought was a con, because it doesn't seem to be terribly different from heavy cream. In the UK, on the other hand, there are single cream, double cream, whipping cream and clotted cream. Clotted cream has been subjected to heat and is very butter-like, and perfect for spreading on scones with a bit of strawberry jam. As for the first two, one might believe that these are easily translated. Single cream = light cream and double cream = heavy cream. Right?

Wrong!

...as I discovered when I first made my chocolate mousse recipe here. It called for heavy cream, so I bought some double cream. Some double cream is label(l)ed "suitable for spooning"--when you scoop a dollop onto your cake, it'll keep its shape. I made my mousse with non-spooning double cream, but it was still much heavier (48% butterfat) than a heavy cream (36-40%). The mousse was perfectly edible, but it was more like eating a truffle than a mousse. No one could finish their portion, except for BH's sister's better half, The Gardener. The man has the sweetest tooth (full of cavities) and the kind of metabolism that I mention in my prayers. Not only did he finish his own, he finished everyone else's plus the "safety serving" I'd held back in the fridge.

Single cream and light cream have around 18% butterfat. Whipping cream has 30-40%. So, if you have a US recipe that calls for heavy cream, use whipping cream if you're in the UK. North America also has half-and-half, which has 10-12% fat. I've seen it claimed that single cream and half-and-half are the same thing, but really you have to add a little milk to single cream to make it like half-and-half.

Cream is a more serious business in the UK because it is so central a part of pudding (AmE = dessert). Cream is poured over most puddings/desserts, including a cake, true puddings ("sweet dessert, usually containing flour or a cereal product, that has been boiled, steamed, or baked." --American Heritage Dictionary), apple crumble (AmE = apple crisp), or even fresh fruit salad (which, even though I am a great fan of cream, I find a little disgusting). For some desserts/puddings, one is offered warm, pourable custard as an alternative to cream. The only puddings/desserts that I can think of that one doesn't always get cream, custard or ice cream with are those that are already made of cream, custard or ice cream, like fools or trifle--a concoction of sponge cake, (BrE) jelly (AmE=gelatin, usually called by the brand name Jell-o), custard, sherry, cream, and jam. In the US, one might get whipped cream or ice cream with cake, pie or crumble/crisp, but not poured cream.

Another oddity in the gooseberry label: it says "ENGLISH MID SUMMER GOOSEBERRIES", but the county of origin (almost legible in the photo) is Perthshire--in Scotland. I fear for Waitrose (supermarket) if the Scottish nationalists pick up on this slight. (I could say something about the space in mid summer, but hyphenation will have to wait for another post.)

* A note on punnet. Historically, this word refers to a shallow basket for collecting fruit, but these days it's the (often plastic) container that soft fruits are sold in. In AmE, we tend to say a pint of strawberries, referring to the amount, rather than the container, whereas hereabouts one buys a punnet of strawberries. When I refer to the container itself, I'd probably say a pint box. If it were a bushel of strawberries, I'd probably call the container a crate, especially if it were wooden.
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telling (the) time and dates

The time-telling construction exemplified by quarter of four was among the first Americanisms to be beaten out of me (metaphorically, of course) ex patria. People challenged me to explain why I'd said of when I'd meant 'before', and since I couldn't explain it, I gave up saying it. This is the most opaque of the differing time expressions in AmE and BrE, but there are others. In the table below, the ones that are in bold are particular to one dialect. If they're not in bold, they're used in the other dialect too:

timeAmEBrE
10:15quarter after 10quarter past 10
9:45quarter of 10quarter to 10
10.30ten-thirtyhalf-ten


In either dialect, one could say half past 10, but Americans generally call it ten-thirty. The BrE half-ten is informal, but common in speech. What's very confusing, if you're someone who is learning both BrE and Swedish at the same time (ok, so maybe it won't bother you), is that in Swedish halv-tio ('half-ten') means 'half an hour until ten', i.e. 9:30.

Some Americans say quarter till ten, which Michael Swan on the BBC Worldservice reports is due to old Scottish English. Hence its effect in the US is strongest in Appalachia.

The other main time-telling difference between the UK and the US is the relative prevalence of the 24-hour clock. In the US, 24-hour time-telling is associated with the military, and with spoken expressions like 'oh-four-hundred hours' or 'twenty-three hundred hours'. Since everyone else only counts up to 12 in telling time, we have to append a.m. and p.m. on everything.

Until recently, Britain did the same, but increasingly the British are following the Continent in using the twenty-four hour clock in writing, for example on invitations, bus and train timetables (AmE=schedules) and digital clocks. In speech, twenty-four-hour time-telling is still a bit artificial. Say you were asked when the next train is. You look at the timetable/schedule, and it says: 18:42, 19:00. It'd be fairly natural to say that the next train is at eighteen-forty-two (or six-forty-two), but for the one after, one would be more likely to say seven o'clock than nineteen hundred. Saying *nineteen o'clock is definitely out.

(Better Half chips in that in the a.m. meaning 'in the morning' is very American.)

Dates, of course, are written differently on either side of the North Atlantic, with North Americans (most strongly US Americans) putting the month before the day and the rest of the world putting the day before the month. I used to be confident that international communication via computer would force a regulari{s/z}ation of date formats, but this doesn't seem to be happening. I assume that underlying mail programs there is a universal way of dating mail, but in the interface it is translated into the format that is local to the recipient. So, emails from my computer have shown up on others' computers in the following formats:
Skickat: den 11 augusti 2006 07:26 [Sweden]
Date: Thursday, August 10, 2006 9:29 pm [Sweden via a US e-mail program]
Sent: 26 July 2006 14:35 [UK]
Sent: Mon 24/07/2006 17:51 [UK]
Sent: Mon 4/24/2006 8:59 AM [US]

There go my hopes for world peace through shared date formatting.

It has been interesting, however, to witness the evolution of the name of that horrible day in September 2001. It didn't take the US media long to settle on Nine-Eleven (usually written 9/11) as the way to refer to that day and its events. In Britain, it was referred to as September 11th for some time after this, but nine-eleven is creeping in. Better Half points out that some Brits have started to refer to the day of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot as five-eleven. This stands for the 5th of November, not the eleventh of May, of course, so it's both an homage to and a corruption of the 9/11 formula. Two such-named plays about the plot were produced for its 400th anniversary last year: 5/11 and Five Eleven.

Myself, I avoid saying 9-11, and become a bit sad when I hear it with a British accent. Perhaps because I was not living in America during and since the events, the term didn't grab hold of me, and I can't help but perceive it as jingoistic and, well, disrespectful. I found the following bit of blogging (from By Neddie Jingo) on this phrasing:
I guess I'm bothered by the idea that "Nine-Eleven" has become a shorthand for a bottomless reservoir of symbolism and automatic, reflexive emotional associations, a thing that's so fraught with meaning that "the terrorists were responsible for 9-11" is used as a justification for the most idiotically disastrous war my country has ever embarked on. It's become, in short, a brand name, a thing used to sell the Iraq War to the people paying for it, and I (and, I imagine, a lot of you) would like to see it subverted.

And that's where you, my international friends, can make a difference.

My suggestion: Insist on calling it "Eleven-Nine," just as your own national conventions dictate. Boy, that'd confound a lot of people who desperately need some confounding. Imagine -- just by gently insisting on the rightness of your own nomenclatural convention, you remove at one blow "Nine-Eleven's" mystical associations. You'd also strike a major blow against the notion of American Exceptionalism, of linguistic hegemony, of cultural imperialism. Strike a blow for Relativism.

I think the notion of 9/11 as a brand name is what strikes me here, and explains to me a little while I've felt so uncomfortable with the term.

Let's hope no other dates need names like this.
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sticks and canes, walkers and frames

I've started several longer posts, but keep putting them aside in favo(u)r of topics that I can whip up a post for with very little research. I'd claim that this is an effect of having an 11-week-old child, except the real truth is that I'm congenitally lazy. I'm afraid that little Grover has inherited this from me, since she usually can't be bothered to burp (orig. AmE--considered slang in BrE according to the OED, but I think that info is out of date) after eating. But she has the good fortune to be gorgeous, which makes laziness a workable lifestyle, since everyone therefore has infinite patience with her. My laziness just causes people to roll their eyes and wonder aloud how I got so far in life.

But out on a walk today, after mocking an innocent bystander's footwear selection, Better Half noted the beauty of another bystander's walking stick, which led me to abandon linguistic-analytical subtlety and do another simple 'they call it this/we call it that' post.

So, say walking stick to me with my American ears on, and I imagine something like a staff--a big stick, possibly picked up while walking in a forest, used by a hiker (or BrE rambler) who wouldn't normally require that kind of support for day-to-day walking. (See photo here.) It probably wouldn't have a handle. But walking stick is what BrE speakers call what AmE speakers call a cane--a stick, like the one to the right, with a (usually curved) handle and often with a rubber anti-slip bit at the end, used by people with (BrE) dodgy feet/legs/knees/hips/ankles. Very often, walking stick is abbreviated to stick, as in Could you pass me my stick?, which was said by my hospital ward-mate last week. (Yes, if you couldn't guess from the last post, I was in (the) hospital again last week.) I asked Better Half if he'd ever use the word cane. First he came up with (AmE--but making inroads in the UK) candy cane, then he supposed that he might use cane for a walking-stick-as-accessory, for instance, as carried by a male Victorian opera-goer. So, in my AmE dialect, canes are for people who can't/shouldn't walk unassisted and walking sticks are for the able-bodied, whereas in BH's BrE dialect, the stick is for the disabled, and the cane is just for decoration. That said, all the photos on this post are taken from this British company's site, and they do use cane, but only for the type that has four feet--they call it a quad cane.

But sticks/canes are not the only differently-named ambulatory aid. If you're even less steady on your feet, you'll need a walker if you're an AmE speaker, and a Zimmer frame if you speak BrE. The latter is a proprietary name from a London company. The former is not marked as AmE in the OED, but I've only ever heard Zimmer frame used here (and I have heard it a lot, as Better Half's roommate when I met him--his grandmother--used one). Back on Mobility People's site, however, one particular model is called a walker--possibly because it is not made by Zimmer and it would be somewhat nonsensical to talk of a CASA Zimmer frame. Kind of like talking about a Canon Xerox machine--you might say it, but the people selling the Canons had better not.
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pet, stroke and limerick winner

One of my newer internet addictions is Ross Horsley's My First Dictionary, which is wicked in every sense of the word. One must (if one is me) pause here to note that the 'excellent' sense of wicked is originally AmE. Several of my UK students have assumed that they'd have to explain this trendy BrE slang to me, but I was saying wicked pissa cool with my Bostonian university mates before my current students were even born. (I had a Master's degree by the time my youngest students were born. Who is going to cure me of this senescence?) MFD makes me feel incredibly uneasy and extremely amused at the same time. I don't know if that's a good thing, but I like it.

This dose of MFD, from 26 June, raised a lot of discussion of BrE versus AmE in the comments:
The comments at MFD were mostly about (mostly BrE) pussy versus (mostly AmE) kitty and the use of having as a light verb in the first sentence. But what struck me, because Better Half strikes me with it all the time, is the use of stroke for where AmE speakers would use the (originally Scottish English) verb pet. So, when I say to Grover Are you petting the kitty cat? Better Half is not far behind with Stroking! Stroking the cat! (He tolerates kitty, no doubt because of the nudge-nudge, wink-wink effect of pussy.) I'm starting to say stroke in this context, in the interest of marital harmony and getting my own back later, but to my AmE ears, it sounds a bit more, um, sexy. This, of course, makes not a lot of sense, since (orig. AmE) (heavy) petting is about (probably orig. AmE) feeling people up. But why should English and my feelings toward(s) it start making sense at this late date?

At any rate, I thought an introduction to a very funny website would work as an introduction to our very funny limerick competition. As promised, the judging involved a panel of my friends, whom you may know through their SbaCL-character alter-egos: the Blinder, Maverick, the Poet--and of course Better Half. (With the exception of the ubiquitous last judge, the links take you to their first appearances on the blog.) I asked each to send me their three favo(u)rites, assuming that the cream would rise to the top and there would be a clear front-runner. But there was too much cream. A few got two votes, thus limiting the field a little for my final judging. It came down to Dunce's Rubber and Richard English's Hooters, re-published here:

An eager young Yank on the make
Thought he'd finally had his big break.
She asked for a rubber
but she wasn't a scrubber.
Just had to erase a mistake.

My girl has a fine pair of hooters
Attractive to gentleman suitors.
But don't rush too far
They're both on her car
And she toots them to warn slow commuters.
My decision comes down to the fact that one of these poets had other efforts in the judges' top threes. So, congratulations, Richard English! Your copy of Britannia in Brief will be on its way to you soon, and the authors have asked to reprint the winner on their blog. (Let us know if that's not ok with you!)

On a last humorous note, British-Canadian singer-songwriter Luke Jackson (shouldn't he have a hyphenated name?) has sent me a link to the video for his song 'Goodbye London'. This animated treat might strike a chord for the American exchange students out there who've headed back home.

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baby talk: introducing Grover...

Being rather superstitious, I didn't mention the reason why I spent most of the last 6 weeks in (the) hospital, but now that there's a happy outcome, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm back...and I've brought someone with me. Better Half and I are pleased to announce the birth of our daughter, who, for the sake of her tiny privacy, will be referred to here as "Grover". That's what we called her in utero, before we knew she was a girl. I've mentioned before that one can often guess the nationality of an English speaker by their given name, and it would seem that Grover is one that marks an American (not that many Americans are named Grover these days; a great pity, I think). Many BrE speakers didn't seem to recogni{s/z}e it as a human name, confusing it with Rover. (And we'd say, "As in Grover Washington, Grover Cleveland...").

Grover had to be born five weeks early because of her mother's scary blood pressure, and consequently she's tiny (2kg --approx. 4 lbs, 6 oz). Happily, due in large part to the wonderful care we were given, she was born healthy and perfectly formed. (Three cheers for the antenatal staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital!) Already, she's given us plenty of opportunities for dialectal comparison. For example, AmE tends to prefer prenatal (as in prenatal care, etc.) and BrE, antenatal. A popular informal term for premature babies in AmE is preemie (rhymes with see me), whereas in BrE it's prem (rhymes with stem). The hospital staff seemed to have their own language for talking about small babies--on meeting Grover, they'd exclaim that she was "a diddy one" or that she was especially tiddly. Diddy is originally a Liverpudlian colloquialism (meaning 'tiny'), but it now seems well-established in the world of midwifery here in the Southeast. BrE tiddly ('tiny') is similarly colloquial. I'd never heard those two syllables used outside the game name tiddlywinks--but that use is related to a set of different meanings for tiddly: 'an alcoholic drink' (noun) or 'a bit drunk' (adjective).

Due to my hospitali{s/z}ation, shopping for baby was left mostly to Better Half, kind friends and family, and that's probably not a bad thing, since there are lots and lots of AmE/BrE vocabulary differences in the 'baby equipment' semantic field. Here, to demonstrate, is a list of essential supplies for new babies, cobbled from a few different UK/US website baby shopping lists. Many of these we've seen before...click on the links to see where we've seen them before:

AmEBrE
cribcot
bassinet
Moses basket
stroller
push-chair
onesie
babygro
diaper
nappy
washcloths
flannels
cotton swabs
cotton buds
cotton (balls, etc.)
cotton wool
nipples (for baby bottles)
teats
t-shirt [undershirt]
vest
pacifier
dummy

Another new thing/term that I've learnt about is muslin squares, which are billed as a babycare necessity on many UK advice sites. I wondered why I'd never heard of these in the US (though maybe they are sold as such now--my baby-handling AmE vocab may not be up-to-date). The answer is: because they're basically used for the same non-excretory uses that American cloth diapers/nappies are used for--e.g. to put on your shoulder while (AmE) burping/(BrE) winding (that's pronounced with a short 'i', not like winding a clock!) a baby, to clean up baby-related messes, etc. I wondered why cloth diapers/nappies weren't used for the same purpose here--but that became obvious when I saw the traditional British cloth nappy/diaper--the (BrE) terry/(AmE) terrycloth square, which is HUGE, thick, and not as soft as the type we used in the US (see this site for a comparison of the terry type that Better Half wore in the mid-1960s and the 'prefold' type that I wore in the same period). It may be that terry(cloth) nappies/diapers were used in the US in earlier days (many cartoon representations of babies in diapers/nappies look like they're representing a square-cut fabric, rather than the rectangular type that I know from my youth), but I'd never seen a terry type nappy/diaper in use in the US in all of my nappy/diaper experience. These days, of course, there are all sorts of newfangled diapers/nappies that are shaped like underpants and have Velcro fastenings and sometimes psychedelic colo(u)r schemes...so maybe there's the need for muslin squares everywhere. In France (according to a short piece in last week's Saturday Guardian), they're promoted as 'security blankets'. Very clever...get the kid hooked on a thoroughly generic piece of cloth and you'll never have to worry about what happens if it gets lost or needs laundering--just replace it with a fresh one.

No doubt my posting habits will be erratic as I try to find the routines that can be found in caring for a tiny one (while mourning my Technorati rating). The next post, I promise, will be the Word of the Year post...so please make any last-minute nominations here.
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the names of the games, part 2: games children play

It was probably Better Half's and my visit to the Strong National Museum of Play that inspired me to think and write about board games a couple posts ago. Then I promised a follow-up on children's games, but come to think of it, a lot of the games I've blogged about so far are games I played as a child (Parcheesi/Ludo, Clue/Cluedo, checkers/draughts, slapjack/snap). So, while not repeating those, here are some more.

It's not surprising that a lot of playground games (like a lot of nursery rhymes--there's fodder for another post) are different (in name and rules) in the two countries, since they also vary a lot from playground to playground within a country. Those kinds of games are passed on by oral tradition, and traditions get muddled and/or developed from time to time, so that we're left with games with just vague family resemblances. One of these was raised by the mysterious Dearieme on the previous games post: (BrE) British bulldog(s). When I looked up the game on some website, I didn't recogni{s/z}e the rules as those of (AmE) Red Rover, but according to the Canadian Dialect Topography site (skip down to item 73), the two terms are used synonymously in Canada. The games are no doubt related, but the description of British Bulldog on Wikipedia sounds little like the game that we called Red Rover on my old playground. There, there was no breaking through a chain of people or getting tagged, as described on various website descriptions of Red Rover. No, it was a game of social exclusion at my school (that and kickball were the only kinds of games we played)--the person who was 'it' would say "Red Rover, Red Rover let X come over" where X would be a colo(u)r (of clothing) or another physical/clothing attribute (e.g. "let t-shirts come over"). The 'it' would do this until some poor soul they didn't like was the only person left on the other side and they then knew where they stood on the social hierarchy. But apparently that's not how the game was meant to be played. Better Half says "That's not a game. That's bullying with a rhyme!" Perhaps it's explained to him some of my less appealing adult behavio(u)rs. ("Explained, but not forgiven," crowed BH.)

Kickball, while we're at it, does not mean (BrE) football/(AmE) soccer, as it can (BrE can do) in BrE, where, according to the OED, it's spelt kick-ball and started out as a Scotticism. In the US, kickball is much the same as baseball, except that an inflated ball (about the size of a soccer/foot-ball) is rolled on the ground and kicked instead of a smaller ball being thrown and hit with a bat. It was a staple in my (AmE) gym class (=PE [physical education]) and on our playground. (Since I went to a poor (AmE) Catholic school/(BrE) convent (school), our playground was a church parking lot. So none of this new-fangled climbing equipment and such that kids get these days. And I had to walk there, waist deep in snow. Past man-eating earthworms. Yeah, you kids don't know how good you've got it. I tell you, in my day...)

Let's get back to board games, though, as that's where I meant to be. The most shocking discovery at the Strong Museum was that Better Half had never seen, played nor even heard of Candy Land, a game that only three-year-olds could love. It's one of those games where one has to advance around the board to a final goal. To make it easy for tiny tots, the spaces on the board are different colo(u)rs, and on each turn one takes a card with a block or two of a colo(u)r or a picture of a landmark on the board (like the (AmE) Candy Cane Forest). That way, the child can tell where they need to get to without having to count their way there. Parents and (orig. AmE) babysitters/child-care workers (BrE child-minders) soon learn to stack the deck so that the child will pick the Lollypop Woods card early and the game will soon be finished. I pretended that I felt sorry for BH that he'd missed out on this game, but really I was seething with jealousy.

The advancing-up-the-board game that one does find in Britain is Snakes and Ladders (picture left from here), which was marketed in the US as Chutes and Ladders by Milton Bradley (picture right from here)--the same evil geniuses who brought us Candy Land. As the names suggest, in the more traditional British version the board has ladders that one can advance up and snakes that one must slide down, to a less advantageous position. But who in real life goes down snakes? The literal-minded Americans changed them to chutes, and the boards there reflect this.

Another game for playing with very young children is the memory game (AmE)Concentration/(BrE) Memory, which proves that the Americans don't have the patent on literal-mindedness. That's the one where you have a set of cards in which each card has a matching mate. A player turns one over and then gets one chance to turn over the mate. If the two cards match, the player keeps them and has another go. If they don't match, the cards are turned back over and the next player has a try.

One of the toys at the museum that BH was able to wax nostalgic about was the Erector Set--except, of course, that he knows it by the name Meccano. (I've just discovered there's a Meccano web ring. There's a web ring for everything these days.) But as a child in England in the 70s he didn't have Slinky or Mr Potato Head or Silly Putty. And he certainly didn't have Lincoln Logs. Disraeli Log just doesn't have the same ring.

Postscript! I forgot to discuss a children's amusement that I'd promised to M.A. Peel. (Apologies, Mrs Peel.) Remember dot-to-dot puzzles? In AmE, one must connect the dots, while in BrE one joins the dots--and thus the puzzles are sometimes called connect-the-dots or join-the-dots, depending on where you are. The verb difference carries over into metaphorical use of the phrases--i.e. 'to find the connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of information' (or something like that).
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Zamboni


This entry is mostly an excuse to post a picture of the pretty (and, in person, pretty imposing) Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre, which Better Half and I visited a week ago. This was the first time I'd been to New York City during the (AmE-preferred) holiday/(BrE-preferred) festive season, and I was excited to watch the ice skaters in the rink below the tree. But when we got there, all I got was an opportunity to teach Better Half an AmE (or, as the OED puts it, "Chiefly N. Amer.") word: Zamboni. This is a proprietary name for a machine (in vehicular form) used to resurface ice in ice rinks, introduced in 1962 (patented in 1965) by Frank J. Zamboni & Co. of Paramount, California. BH had never seen one before, however he was not content to watch it do its job for more than 10 minutes before declaring that we weren't going to see any ice skaters. Instead, we merried ourselves with the fantastic light show at Saks Fifth Avenue.

A few days later, in a (AmE) book store/(BrE) bookshop, I spotted a children's book called Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet, illustrating that in AmE hockey refers to a sport played on ice. In BrE, one must say ice hockey to refer to that sport, and hockey refers to what Americans would call field hockey.

Merry Christmas from Better Half and me!
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johns, punters and ponces

Grover and I went out for a lovely lunch with our friend Maverick the other day, and now I find that her pseudonym creates a linkage problem. Do I link to her blog (as is my usual courtesy to people-I-mention-who-have-blogs) or to our previous discussion of AmE/BrE differences in the use of the word maverick? The solution of course is to make a roundabout way of doing both, as I have in this paragraph, but I'll have to (chiefly AmE) figure out a less verbose way of doing it before she points out something else to blog about...

So, Maverick got some good deal on magazine subscriptions and has started reading Time magazine. Though she receives the European edition, she finds that it doesn't make much allowance for the fact that its readers won't necessarily be speakers of American English. So, she was confused by the following sentence (or one like it--not sure if the on-line edition is exactly the same) in an article about recently shamed New York governor Elliot Spitzer:
Just last year, Spitzer had signed a law that lengthened jail time for johns from three months to as much as a year.
Maverick had assumed that john meant 'pimp', and so she was led astray, as it actually means 'prostitute's client'. Now, I think this means that Maverick doesn't watch Law and Order or CSI or any of the other 'gritty' American murder mysteries that are on (UK) Channel Five all the time. The OED marks this meaning of john (there are many more that I don't want to get into here) as 'orig. U.S.', meaning that it has made inroads into BrE.

Maverick and later Better Half tried to think of a BrE word for a man who pays for sex and came up dry. I've heard (BrE) punter used in this way, and there are thousands of examples of it on the web, including:
Meanwhile, lads' magazines continue their assault on British women with articles that aggressively blur the line between girlfriend/boyfriend and prostitute/punter relationships. -- Katherine Viner in the Guardian

The trio all use a website where "punters" - the men who visit prostitutes - go to discuss their encounters. -- Finlo Rohrer in BBC News magazine

Better Half and Maverick both protested, "But punter really means 'gambler'." Yes, I've heard that before, but it's a tough word to (orig. AmE) get a handle on (especially as a newcomer to these isles) because its meanings slide all over the place. The first sense that the OED (draft revision Sept 2007) has for it, dating back to the 18th century, is 'A person who plays against the bank at baccarat, faro, etc.' It then was generali{s/z}ed (as early as the 19th century) to mean any type of gambler and from there to mean someone who pays for something, and particularly a man who pays for a prostitute's services. As a side note, in AmE punter is one who (AmE) punts (drop-kicks the ball) in (American) football, and in the UK another kind of punter is one who propels a punt (a kind of flat-bottomed boat) down a river. The latter kind of punter is not marked as BrE in dictionaries, but much more punting goes on in the UK than in the US.

Back to john, in the OED, it defines the prostitute-client sense as:
A ponce; the client of a prostitute. slang (orig. U.S.).
Now, ponce is another difficult word. But according to the self-same OED (draft revision Mar 2007), it means 'pimp', not 'client':
derogatory slang (chiefly Brit.).
1. A man who lives on money earned by another person (esp. a woman); a kept man. Also: a person (usually a man) who lives off a prostitute's earnings; a pimp.
But I've only heard it used to mean:
2. depreciative. An effeminate or affected man or boy; (also) a male homosexual.
Searching for ponce + prostitute on Google.co.uk, I can only find evidence of it meaning 'pimp', and not 'john/punter'. So, it looks to me like a bad AmE-to-BrE translation in the OED--they haven't got(ten) to the Js yet in the current revision--but I expect this will be changed!

Postscript (1 April--but not an April Fool's joke!): Here's another example of punter, and how easy it is for a newcomer to misinterpret it. It's from The Guide (The Guardian's entertainment listings section, 29 Mar-4 Apr 2008), in a listing for Lucy Porter's stand-up show:
As she said of one of her younger punters, "I want to rip his clothes off -- but only so I can wash and iron them."
Now, they are not claiming that Porter turns tricks, though I originally thought that it meant someone she'd taken home (since they'd just said that "her specialist subject is relationships"), but Better Half was quick to dispel this impression by explaining to me that the 'younger punter' is a member of her audience.
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(the) Gambia, (the) Lebanon, etc.

I wasn't going to do a whole post tonight. Really, I wasn't. I was going to be a productive member of academia and get some real work done--having spent all of my day in meetings. But in a clever moment of self-sabotage, I brought the wrong version of my document home, so there's no point in working on it. Genius!

This post is in response to some off-topic commenting after the (the) menopause post. (I do have some rather control-freaky tendencies when it comes to off-topic commenting. If someone comments about something that deserves its own post, then I try to stem the tide of comments on it. It's not [necessarily!] that I want the glory for posting about it. It's that the comments are not searched when one does a 'search this blog' search, thus no one can ever find those interesting comments again--and I aim for searchability here!)

So...the comments back there are about which geographical names get a the in front of them, and whether or not these differ by dialect. Before I get into listing these, let's start with a little primer on the relationship between proper nouns (particularly place names) and definite determiners like the.

A referring expression--that is to say (typically) a noun phrase that is uttered/written in order to represent some entity in a (real or imaginary) world--is definite if it is used in a particular context to refer to something that is uniquely identifiable. So the indefinite noun phrase a linguist is used when the speaker does not expect that the hearer will be able to identify a unique linguist for the context--as in (1).
(1) A linguist walks into a bar...
Once you've said (1), there is a unique linguist in the context, so you can then go on to say (2):
(2) The linguist says to the bartender "Is that a Canadian accent I'm detecting?"
Proper nouns, like England or lynneguist are (sometimes phrasal) nouns that refer uniquely. Even if you knew your conversational partner didn't know someone named Letitia Bogbottom, you would (usually) utter it without any determiner, as in (3), because there's no reason to mark it as definite since it's inherently definite.
(3) (*The) Letitia Bogbottom walks into a bar...
But some proper names include a definite determiner (and some languages put determiners with proper nouns more regularly--so in German, I'm told, it's much more natural to call someone the equivalent of the Donald than it is in English). In English, a number of types of place names take a definite determiner as a matter of course:
River names: the Mississippi, the Yangtze, the Ouse (which, along with the Uck ranks among may favo(u)rite British river names. Fancy a paddle down the Uck? Aren't you glad to know that Harveys Bitter is made on the Ouse?)

Plural names: the United States, the Outer Hebrides, the Netherlands

(Some kinds of) descriptive phrasal names often take a the: the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union
And then there are some apparently exceptional cases. For instance, cities generally don't take the but the Bronx does (because it's named after its river). Mountains generally don't, but the Matterhorn does (I have no idea why). And countries whose names aren't plural or descriptive phrases generally don't take a the (Canada, Russia, Sri Lanka), but some do. Which brings us (finally!) to: which ones do, which ones don't, which ones are AmE and which ones are BrE. Last night, I sat down at a very nice pub (with a sausage-and-mash [BrE; AmE mashed potatoes]-themed menu; woo-hoo!) with BrE-speaking Better Half and AmE-speaking Recyclist (whom I called the Recyclist last time I mentioned her, but what's a definite determiner among friends?) in order to quiz them on country names. Here's what we came up with:

BrEAmE
the Congo (referring to the river or the country)(the) Congo (referring to the country--aka Congo-Brazzaville)
the GambiaGambia
(the) Ukraine(the) Ukraine
the LebanonLebanon
ArgentinaArgentina
SudanSudan

Each of these deserves some comment.

Congo: The name of the country is based on the name of the river, and any river gets a the. Confusingly, there are now two countries that border that river that have Congo in their names, but the country formerly known as Zaire (and before that the Belgian Congo) is generally referred to these days as DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Now I have to say here that this is more my judg(e)ment than Recyclist's. In Africanist linguistic circles, at least in the US (in which I used to travel), the name of the country doesn't have a the, as the the gives it a kind of 'colonial' feel. So, I might say the Congo to refer to the place in pre-independence days, or to refer to the region more generally, but in order to refer to one of the sovereign nations, I'd leave off the the. Note that in the full names of the countries ([Democratic] Republic of...), there is a the, translated from the French name.

Gambia: Here I'm cheating and ignoring Recyclist's evidence. Recyclist says the Gambia, and so I insisted to her that she couldn't, because she's an AmE speaker. After some prodding, it turns out that she has a Gambian sister-in-law and she learned to say the Gambia from her, not from other AmE speakers. I don't think I'd ever heard the Gambia until I left the US, but I hear it frequently from a fellow Scrabbler, the Twitcher, who travels often to that part of Africa. He is of a certain generation. A certain generation older than Better Half, who says: "I'd never say that. It's too colonialist." Again, this has a the because the name of the country is based on the name of the river.

Ukraine: Both AmE and BrE have the Ukraine, but both my informants and I believe that since it's become a country in its own right, we're more likely to call it Ukraine. We've probably been influenced by the fact that many newspapers are now eschewing the the. It's thought to have originally meant 'borderland', and the the came from the sense of the name as a description.

Lebanon: While Better Half generally thought most of the definite-determinered examples sounded "old-fashioned", he was adamant that it's always the Lebanon. I think he's been unduly influenced by the Human League. The the here apparently comes from the name of the mountain that the country is named after: Mount Lebanon or the Lebanon. But why does this mountain have a the when most others don't? Don't ask me. Other than in the context of discussing 1980s music from Britain, I've never heard the Lebanon from an AmE speaker.

Argentina/Sudan: Neither of my informants had any inclination to say the Sudan, perhaps demonstrating that that the is pretty far on its way out of regular use. (Sudan comes from the Arabic for 'black land'.) And while neither would say the Argentine to refer to the place, BH recogni{s/z}ed it as a really old-fashioned name for Argentina. The Argentine seems to have poetic roots.

After that tour of the world, I'm exhausted. Feel free to leave other examples in the comments.

P.S. 22 August 2014 Twitter follower  @maceochi
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language play--not getting it

It's come up before on this blog that it sometimes happens that people will see an error or non-standardism in English, spoken or written by a speaker of another dialect, and assume that that way of saying/writing is standard in the other dialect. It's a shame, though, when such 'errors' are intentionally non-standard, because then the assumption that it's "just a different dialect" leads the assumer to miss some nuance of the communication. For instance, sometimes I'll say to Better Half, Ya done good. By putting it into a non-standard dialect (and not a dialect that I speak), I'm trying to add a bit of light-hearted affection to the compliment--something that's not communicated by You did well. Better Half knows enough about AmE to get this, but if I said it to a student, they might assume that that's part of the standard dialect that I usually speak and not get that I was trying to build rapport.

Anyhow, a nice example of this 'assuming it's standard' behavio(u)r came up on recently on the (AmE) copy-/(BrE)sub-editors' blog The Engine Room. There, blogger JD admitted to having believed until recently that Americans spell cemetery "sematary" because of the spelling in the title of the Stephen King book, Pet Sematary. In the book, one is supposed to understand that it's misspelt because children wrote the "cemetery's" sign.

That reminds me of being informed by BrE speakers that "thru is the American spelling of through". No, it's not. It's an abbreviated spelling form that is used mainly on signs (or painted on a road surface), and thus it's become the typical way of spelling it in drive-thru. You won't see thru replacing through in American newspaper articles (though it might be handy for an occasional headline--but I cannot recall seeing it in any) or novels--and you'd better not use it in essays for school/college/university.

Do you have any stories of misunderstood intentions due to "it must be the way they say it in American/British English" assumptions?
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yard sales, car boot sales and other sales

Getting back to Kelley of Delaware's queries (which I started answering here):
Every weekend this time of year there are dozens of yard/garage sales in my town. Do such things exist in the rest of the English-speaking world, and, if so, what are they called?
I can't speak for the rest of the English-speaking world, but similar things do exist (to some degree) in England, though not by the names yard sale or garage sale. These things are allegedly named after the locations in which they occur, however the ones I've passed by this week (in NY state) that have been advertised as 'yard sales' or 'garage sales' were mostly actually in (chiefly AmE) driveways (BrE drives) next to (AmE) yards or garages. AmE has other terms for such kinds of sales, including tag sale (popular in New England). Many of these terms can be seen at the Dialect Survey map here.

(Side note: The pronunciation of garage was a point of discussion at dinner tonight. Better Half's mum said it in her normal way, so that it rhymed with HAIR ridge carriage, and my mom expressed her admiration of BHM's unfamiliar pronunciation. BHM countered that the AmE (and sometimes preferred BrE) pronunciation gər-RAZH was nicer. Garage is one of the few words (maybe the only word?) that BrE speakers have complimented my (AmE) pronunciation of. This is another case in which the AmE pronunciation is closer to the original [French] pronunciation than the BrE--which only matters if you're one of those people who think 'older' means 'better'.)

Of course, part of the reason that people don't have yard sales in Britain is that they would not call the un-built-upon fronts of their properties yards. That would instead be the front garden (at least, if it's planted). (This was a point of contention between an American and an English friend this summer. The American kept calling the Englishwoman's garden a yard, and the Englishwoman kept letting the American know that she felt insulted by this description.) Nevertheless, there is nothing called a front garden sale either. I've not seen many sales of household merchandise on/in residential properties in the UK, but those that I have seen have been advertised as moving sales. Obviously, that term only applies to certain situations, when people are trying to get rid of things that they don't want to cart to their new abode. There may be a term for non-moving household sales that I've not come across. (Answers in the comments, please!) But these kinds of things are pretty rare--at least in my neck of the English woods.

What the UK does have (and the US generally doesn't) are car boot sales. These take place in public spaces, usually a (BrE) car park/(AmE) parking lot [or a field--see comments]. People put the things that they want to sell into their car's (BrE) boot/(AmE) trunk, then set up a little stall of their wares (often using a folding table, etc.) by their car in the car park/parking lot (typically paying a fee to the organi{s/z}er/landowner). These happen all year round--there is one that happens every week, for example, at Brighton station. Big ones like that often have professional sellers, who may be selling new or used goods (so they resemble flea markets). Others, like the one at a school near our house, are more geared toward(s) the occasional seller.

Both countries have other types of sales in which people donate their used goods for a one-off sale (and possibly social event) to benefit a charity--for example a church. In the greater part of the US, these are called rummage sales, although they may have other regional names. In the UK, they are jumble sales. White elephant sale is a term that I heard as a child in the US (and it was already old-fashioned at that time), but that I've seen more often in the UK.

When I asked Better Half if he knew of any BrE equivalent of yard sale, he drew a blank and noted that such things are a rarity in Britain. One reason for this is that most British homeowners wouldn't have the space for such things. Front gardens/yards tend to be very small, drive(way)s are quite short, and garages are a luxury in town cent{er/re}s. Another reason is that most British homeowners just don't have the space to store as much unwanted junk for as long as American homeowners can--and thus they can't store up a sale's worth of merchandise. BH's mum, for example, has a good-sized three-bedroom house. But as is typical of a post-war London home, she has no basement, no attic to speak of, no garage, and no walk-in closets. In that situation, one doesn't wait long to get rid of clothes that don't fit, gifts that didn't hit the mark, and decorations that have been replaced. People have various ways to get rid of unwanted stuff (and, it must be said, they tend to buy less junk in the first place), with charity shops (AmE: thrift stores) playing a major part in the second-hand economy.
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peek-a-boo, beebo

The special vocabulary that adults use in talking to babies has the potential to be very family-specific. After all, you're talking to a baby, who can't talk back (yet) and who's getting little other language input outside the family, so why not just make things up? We've got a number of 'inside jokes' that we use with Grover. For example, despite her lady-like appearances, Grover is a very farty baby. We started out saying poot poot when we heard the reports from down south. Then we'd say Are you pootin'? And this has turned into Is that you, Vladimir? So now, Vladimir = farty baby. And then there's the fact that we say knickerschnitz whenever Grover sneezes, which goes back to my brothers convincing (well, almost) my sister-in-law that this is what the English say instead of Gesundheit (which is, in fact, more popular in the US than in the UK).

But at the same time, babytalk is remarkably widespread within a culture--though the ocean often gets in the way of a generic, international babytalk. When talking to babies, we call cats kitties and wounds (orig. AmE) boo-boos. There's (BrE) bicky for (BrE) biscuit and (chiefly AmE) choo-choo for a train. And so on and so forth.

So, when I hear Better Half or his family using new-to-me babytalk, I'm never sure if it's something that's part of their 'family-lect' or more generally part of BrE. Since there may be a natural tendency to view one's in-laws as strange ('they're a family, but they don't do thing the way my family does!'), I tend to assume that their babytalk is 'theirs' until I hear someone else use it. Such was the case with (BrE) windy-pops, which came up in the comments back here. Now, I've found another case.

When I play the game Peek-a-boo with a baby, I hide my face, then show it suddenly and say Peek-a-boo! in a sing-song voice. Sometimes I vary it and say "Here I am!" or "There you are!", which follow the same three-syllable tune. And that's the only way that I've known the game.

But when BH's mother plays it, she says Beebo! I make a mental note to say peek-a-boo twice as much later, to reassert my influence (Jealous? Moi?), and put it down to her own creativity. Then I heard BH's sister say it, and I figured that she learned it from her mother. But then...we had a picnic in hono(u)r of Grover's half-birthday with other parents and babies, and I heard another mother say Peebo! So, yet another occasion on which I learn with disappointment (but, alas, not surprise) that I'm the strange one, not my in-laws.

The Wikipedia entry on peek(-)a(-)boo mentions nothing about alternative
exclamations, but the OED mentions peep-bo and bo-peep. I've also found this line from a London blogger, indicating that the variation in interjections is well known in these parts:
We've been playing beebo, peepo, peekaboo, whatever you want to call it for months.
So, am I right in thinking that most Americans stick to peek-a-boo? Are there other alternatives?

And is Better Half the only person who calls hands pandies or is that general BrE babytalk? (AmE snowclone): Enquiring babies want to know!
I know this derives from the nursery rhyme Handy Pandy, but I'm wondering about pandy on its own.
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semi-detached, duplex and other houses

In the comments to the last post, I promised a posting on housing types...so here we go!

In his book The English: Portrait of a People, Jeremy Paxman quotes from (an English translation of) Hermann Muthesius' Das englische Haus (1904-1905):
There is nothing as unique in English architecture as the development of the house . . . no nation is more committed to its development, because no nation has identified itself more with the house.
Paxman (and he is not alone in this) attributes English interest in house and home to the English sense of privacy:
Because the English dream is privacy without loneliness, everyone wants a house. Given a choice between their own back garden and life in a communal living project where they might share the benefits of a common swimming pool or playground, most will choose their own plot of ground. In France, Germany and Italy, about half the new homes being built in the 1990s were apartments. In England, the best estimate was about 15 per cent. It reflects a belief that at the end of the day, instead of sitting on the street chatting, the English would rather go home and slam the door.
The English passion for houses, and insistence on owning rather than renting them, is often remarked upon by European observers, but there's something of a family resemblance between English and American attitudes about optimal housing situations. A major difference between them, however, is that the US has a lot more space in which to fulfil(l) the dream of every nuclear family having their own house with their own siz(e)able (BrE) garden/(AmE) yard. England has one of the highest population densities in Europe, with 383 people per square kilomet{re/er}. For London, the figure is 4,700 per km2. (For more figures see this.) Compare this to the US average of 31.7 per km2. My home state of New York averages about 195 per km2. This includes New York City, which has an average density of 10,316/km2. That just goes to show how sparsely populated my part of the state is.

So, every time my mother comes to England and sees views like this (from my university's website), she cannot help but wonder aloud at the fact that people can live this way--with no lawn separating them from the neighbo(u)rs. This type of housing is called terraced housing or a terrace (and thus terrace is a frequent element in UK street names. In pre-Better Half days, I lived on/in Denmark Terrace). In AmE, these are townhouses or row houses--but they're not nearly as common in the US as in the UK. The ones here may be single-family dwellings or they may be divided into (AmE) apartments/(BrE) flats. Better Half and I got lucky in buying our current flat/apartment, as it's end-of-terrace, meaning that we have windows on three sides, not just the front and back.

The next step into privacy is the semi-detached house, known in AmE as a duplex--that is, a building that is divided into two houses, so that each shares a wall with the other. In fact, it was only in adulthood that I learned the term duplex--we referred to the duplexes in my neighbo(u)rhood as apartment houses when I was a child.

Going one further (privacy-wise) than semi-detached, are detached houses, which are what Americans would simply call houses. To get a detached house in an English town, one must have a pile of money--especially down here in the South East:
The average property price in Brighton in 2006 was £187,309 with detached houses selling for just over £350,000. The average property in Brighton now costs £213,566 (up to £248,000 according to Halifax figures) with detached properties selling for over £400,000. The national average stands between £177,000 and £228,000. (from Edison Ford; for rough US dollar conversions, double all the numbers).
One can see here why assumptions about class are made on the basis of what type of house one lives in--although it would be extremely déclassé to go around mentioning that you live in a detached house. My first experience of these words was back in the US, watching Are You Being Served? (an old British sitcom that is--to the bemusement of many British people who lived through it--incredibly popular with PBS viewers. John Inman, RIP). Miss Brahms, the junior ladies' department assistant, frequently defends her claims to middle-classhood by proclaiming in her working class accent that she grew up in a detached house, but Mr Lucas seems to have knowledge that it was really semi-detached.

Postscript (4 May): Dean over at Brighton Daily Photo has provided us with a great view of the housing density in Brighton.

Speaking of déclassé, Ben Zimmer points out that the New York Times has caught up with the rest of the world and has published an article about Kate Middleton's mother's alleged class-signifying no-nos--including and especially using the word toilet. All the news that's fit to already have been printed.
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onions, green and spring

Allie (the Kiwi) wrote to say:

I have a friend from LA staying with me at present. This evening she cooked supper, and one recipe included spring onions (or whatever those are called in the US). Anyway, after supper, I was doing the dishes when I noticed the spring onions sitting beside the pig bucket waiting to go out. The green ends had been neatly snipped off, and the white bulb parts left. Now, I use the white bulb parts, and throw out the green tips. Hilarity ensued when we realised we made a good pair and would get far more use out of spring onions as she'd use one half and I'd use the other. Apparently she was told by her mother to never use the white part as it is poisonous. I've no idea why I do not use the green tips, but I know my mother never did - and nor does anyone else I've seen chop onions - so I just followed suit.
Is it a usual thing in the US to not use the white part of these onions, or had my friend (and her mother) got the wrong end of the stick (onion) somewhere?
I grew up not seeing the white bits used either, and whether to use the white bits is a matter of dispute in American cooking, it seems. Better Half grew up using the whole onion, but for the rooty bit at the very bottom. But Allie's observation did lead me to wonder whether we might see the hand of linguistic relativity here.

Linguistic relativity (aka the Whorf Hypothesis, or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) is the idea that the language you speak influences how you think. (Hit the link for more details.) Whorf , an American insurance investigator, was inspired to argue for this position based on his experience of how particular phrasings influenced people's behavio(u)r. In particular, he noted that if (AmE) gasoline/(BrE) petrol drums were described as empty, people would treat them as non-dangerous, even though such drums would be filled with very dangerous fumes.

Now, I don't know if all BrE speakers are like Better Half and use the whole onion (do you?), but the BrE term for this variety is spring onion. In AmE, the most common term is probably green onion, but they are also called scallions. Does the fact that the name of the food includes green inspire users of that name to perceive the edible part as the green part? Hmm...

Incidentally, the 1960s tune 'Green Onions' has been given lyrics by Raymond and the Circle (a performer from 1980s western Massachusetts who no one but me seems to know/remember; until recently I was the only person to have mentioned him on the web). It goes like this:
Onions
We're eatin' those green onions
Onions
We're eatin' those green onions
They go great with grunions
And they're good for puttin' on your bunions.

Scallions
Some people call 'em scallions
Scallions
Some people call 'em scallions
They're the size of medallions
And we've got enough to feed three battalions.
If you know the tune, it's pretty easy to sing along...
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anti-Americanismism, part 2

As promised, here's my reaction to the second half of the BBC's list of 'Your most noted Americanisms'. Since part 1, many others have weighed in on that BBC piece, including Stan Carey, Not From Round Here, and on the BBC website (huzzah!!) Grant Barrett. The commenters at the BBC site, you may discern, are not completely taken with Grant's message.

So, back to the list.  And can I ask again:  if you'd like to discuss further any of the items that I've discussed in other blog posts (linked here), please comment at the original post. This is more helpful for people who come this way looking for answers, and it keeps the repetition down. Thanks!

26. As an expat living in New Orleans, it is a very long list but "burglarize" is currently the word that I most dislike. Simon, New Orleans
In the last instal(l)ment, I pointed out that bristling against -ize in AmE was a bit rich coming from a culture in which one can be (BrE) pressuri{s/z}ed to do something (where AmE would pressure them). Another such example is the BrE preference for acclimati{s/z}e in contexts where AmE is likely to use acclimate. In the comments of that blog post, the discussion turned to burgle/burglari{s/z}e, and I responded:
[D]on't be tempted to think that Americans have added syllables to burgle, as both words are derived (burgle by back-formation and burglarize by adding a suffix) from burglar. The two forms seem to have come about simultaneously in the 1870s. Oxford notes that burgle was at first a humorous and colloquial form.

Both burgle and burglarize are heard in the US, though burglarize is more common.

27. "Oftentimes" just makes me shiver with annoyance. Fortunately I've not noticed it over here yet. John, London
You haven't noticed in England because the people who used to say it died out. Or emigrated, perhaps.  This is one of those things that's an archaism in BrE (OED has it going back to the 14th century), but not so much in AmE. Still, you're almost 140 times more likely to hear often in AmE than oftentimes (according to the Corpus of Contemporary American English--henceforth COCA).

28. Eaterie. To use a prevalent phrase, oh my gaad! Alastair, Maidstone (now in Athens, Ohio)
I'm not sure whether Alastair is reacting to the word (also eatery) or the alternative spelling with -ieEatery is informal originally AmE, emphasis on the 'originally'. P.G. Wodehouse used it in Inimitable Jeeves (1923) and the OED has other examples of the UK press using it decades ago.

But the -ie spelling? That's looking more and more BrE to me. Trying to find the source of Alastair's ire, I looked for things called eaterie around Athens, OH--but I could only find things called eatery.  Looking at Wordnik's page for it, I noticed that many of the quotations were from UK-based writers/publications. So, I compared COCA and the British National Corpus. Eatery outnumbers eaterie 464:2 in the US corpus. Compare this to the UK corpus, where there are 7 cases of eaterie versus 4 of eatery.  Conclusion? Eaterie is the preferred (oddly Frenchified) British spelling and almost unknown in AmE. 

29. I'm a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
Fortnightly would not suffice in the US, since most Americans wouldn't know what you mean. It is generally not found in AmE, so to complain about Americans not using this British word is kind of like complaining about the British saying football when they could be saying soccer.  The adverb fortnightly has only been used in British English since the 19th century--so it's exactly the kind of thing that Americans shouldn't have been expected to preserve.  The noun fortnight is much older. But America hasn't bothered with it. It's a contraction of fourteen nights (or the Old English version of that), but two weeks is more transparent.

30. I hate "alternate" for "alternative". I don't like this as they are two distinct words, both have distinct meanings and it's useful to have both. Using alternate for alternative deprives us of a word. Catherine, London
This is something that people complain about on both sides of the Atlantic, and something my British students do all the time (and that their American (BrE use) tutor corrects).  Here's Grammar Girl's post on it, speaking to an American audience. While the OED marks it as 'chiefly North American', their first quotation containing the form is from a British legal text in 1776. Catherine should note, however, that alternative is in no danger of slipping from the language. The noun meanings of alternate and alternative continue to be separate, and the adjective alternative outnumbers adjectival alternate by about 7:1 in AmE (according to COCA).

31. "Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers! M Holloway, Accrington
Rambler here is a very BrE word--one that Americans in the UK tend to find amusing, since we only use the verb to ramble with the older meaning (from OED, bold added):

With reference to physical pursuits: to wander or travel in a free, unrestrained manner, without a definite aim or direction.
But the later BrE meaning is somewhat opposite to this, involving:
Now also (chiefly Brit.): to walk for pleasure through the countryside, freq. in company and on a specified route
But back to hike.  Most senses of hike are originally AmE; the word itself is of obscure origin--but probably from a colloquial and dialectal BrE word.


32. Going forward? If I do I shall collide with my keyboard. Ric Allen, Matlock

The OED's first citations of 'go forward' to mean 'make progress' come from Sir Thomas More, the Coverdale Bible and an elliptic use (now forward with your tale) from Shakespeare.  Probably overused in business jargon now, and everybody hates that.


33. I hate the word "deliverable". Used by management consultants for something that they will "deliver" instead of a report. Joseph Wall, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire

Another bit of jargon. None of the dictionaries I've checked mark it as an Americanism, and some of the American dictionaries I've checked (AHD, M-W.com) don't have it at all. It's just jargon. People don't like jargon, no matter which country they live in. Especially jargon that's used to demand things of people, like this one is.


34. The most annoying Americanism is "a million and a half" when it is clearly one and a half million! A million and a half is 1,000,000.5 where one and a half million is 1,500,000. Gordon Brown, Coventry
If I go somewhere for an hour and a half, I am going for an hour and a half an hour. If a horse wins by a length and a half, it wins by a length and a half a length. On the same analogy, a million and a half is a million and a half a million, rather than a millon and a half of one. If one, for some odd reason, needs to refer to 1,000,000.5, one could say one-million-point-five. [Attempted jokes at the expense of the former Prime Minister deleted.]


35. "Reach out to" when the correct word is "ask". For example: "I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient". Reach out? Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can't we just ask him? Nerina, London
Really, someone's said this to you in this context? I agree. Obviously the evil doing of the Bell Telephone company. (American cultural education link.)


36. Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London

Not this one again.  Here is the true, muddled story of maths. Short story: it was only maths after it was math. And no, it's not plural.

37. I hate the fact I now have to order a "regular Americano". What ever happened to a medium sized coffee? Marcus Edwards, Hurst Green
Another one that everyone hates because it's just put there by marketing people to fool you. I have seen regular refer to small, medium and large--and that's just in Brighton (England, that is).  And why order an Americano when you could have a strong (BrE) filter coffee? (Yes, I know they're not quite the same, but in the name of patriotism...)

38. My worst horror is expiration, as in "expiration date". Whatever happened to expiry? Christina Vakomies, London
Expiration in the 'ending of something that was meant to last a certain time' sense goes back to the 1500s. First recorded use of expiry is in 1752. So, shouldn't it be Whatever happened to expiration?


39. My favourite one was where Americans claimed their family were "Scotch-Irish". This of course it totally inaccurate, as even if it were possible, it would be "Scots" not "Scotch", which as I pointed out is a drink. James, Somerset
It is completely possible. Scotch-Irish is an American term to refer to a particular immigrant group. It describes a historical group that (AmE) was/(BrE) were in their time referred to (and referring to themselves) by that name. Wikipedia reproduces a number of sources on the early (18th century) use of that name, so I won't do so again here.


40.I am increasingly hearing the phrase "that'll learn you" - when the English (and more correct) version was always "that'll teach you". What a ridiculous phrase! Tabitha, London
This brings us back to the not-recogni{s/z}ing-linguistic-humo(u)r-in-the-other-dialect problem. If you express a 'that'll teach you' message, you're putting yourself above the person you were talking to. If you want to soften that grab for social/moral superiority, you make it a non-standard way of expressing it, in order to humorously put yourself down a (more BrE) peg/(more AmE) notch. To do this in an emphatic way, people who wouldn't usually do so sometimes spell/pronounce this as that'll larn ya.


41. I really hate the phrase: "Where's it at?" This is not more efficient or informative than "where is it?" It just sounds grotesque and is immensely irritating. Adam, London
See the comments thread at this old post: Where I'm at

42. Period instead of full stop. Stuart Oliver, Sunderland
Another case of Americans using a British cast-off. (Now-AmE) period for this .  punctuation mark dates to the 16th century. The first record of (BrE) full stop is from just a few decades later, in 1600. It looks like both terms were introduced around the same time, and a different one won the battle for supremacy in different places.

43. My pet hate is "winningest", used in the context "Michael Schumacher is the winningest driver of all time". I can feel the rage rising even using it here. Gayle, Nottingham
Oh, I could have sworn I'd written about this one before, but it seems I haven't. I haven't much to say about it, except that it fills a gap and demonstrates a willingness to play with the language.


44. My brother now uses the term "season" for a TV series. Hideous. D Henderson, Edinburgh
But I have done this one. The upshot: AmE uses the term season and series for different television-related meanings, but BrE doesn't make that distinction at the lexical (word) level.

45. Having an "issue" instead of a "problem". John, Leicester 
This has been much-maligned in AmE too, but I think it's thrived because it's less negative and confrontational to talk of having an issue with something rather than a problem with it.


46. I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as "zee". Not happy about it! Ross, London
Fair enough, but why has zed come to us from zeta, but beta hasn't turned up in English as bed? (Because it's come from French and they did it that way. But still!) I have two zee-related suspicions: (1) Some BrE speakers prefer zee in the alphabet song because it rhymes better (tee-U-vee/double-u-eks-why-and-zee/now I know my ABCs/next time won't you play with me). (2) Fear of 'zee' is a major reason that Sesame Street is no longer broadcast in most of the UK. Both of those issues (not problems!) are discussed in this old post.


47. To "medal" instead of to win a medal. Sets my teeth on edge with a vengeance. Helen, Martock, Somerset
"Americans have an awful habit of turning nouns into verbs" I'm often told. But in this case, the noun already was a verb. Here are the first two and the most recent OED quotations for to medal in the sense 'to decorate or hono(u)r with a medal':

1822    Byron Let. 4 May (1979) IX. 154   He was medalled.
1860    Thackeray Nil nisi Bonum in Roundabout Papers (1899) 174   Irving went home medalled by the King.  
1985    New Yorker 18 Mar. 125/1   He was eulogized‥and was renowned and medalled for his war record.
But the AmE sense that annoys Helen is different, in that the one who gets the medal is the 'agent', rather than the 'patient' in the sentence. For the sense that Lord Byron used, medal must be in the passive in order for the medal-recipient to be the subject of the sentence (as they are in all of the examples, because one wants to put the most relevant person first). In these cases, the agent of the medal(l)ing is the giver of the medal, and if they're in the sentence at all, they go in a 'by' phrase (the King in the 1860 quote). The sports sense 'to win a medal' makes the athlete the agent--the active getter of a medal, rather than the passive recipient of one, and therefore the verb is in the active voice (She medal(l)ed, rather than She was medal(l)ed). It would be inappropriate to say that a soldier 'medalled', as they did not set out to get a medal, a medal was conferred upon them. (Yes, I'm using singular they. You got a problem with that?) The athlete, on the other hand, was (to use an apparently orig. AusE phrase) in it to win it.

While it may seem confusing to have two senses of the verb with different roles attached to the subject in each case, it's not terrifically uncommon. For example, I hurt. Someone hurt me. I was hurt (by someone).  The ice melted. I melted the ice. The ice was melted by me. And so on and so forth.



48. "I got it for free" is a pet hate. You got it "free" not "for free". You don't get something cheap and say you got it "for cheap" do you? Mark Jones, Plymouth
On this logic, Mark, are we to assume that you say I got it expensive?  Maybe you do. I cannot.

But anyhow, this use of for before an adjective is found in AmE in other contexts as well--notably for real; but the range of contexts in which it's found seems to be narrowing. Some of the early OED examples--from just 1887 and 1900--sound very old-fashioned, if not completely odd: a for-true doctor and goin' to railroad him for fair. So, it looks like for free and for real are fossils of an earlier more general use of for+adjective.

49. "Turn that off already". Oh dear. Darren, Munich
If I were to make a list of BrE peeves, I think the list would have to be topped by The Oh dear of Condescension.

Utterance-final already comes to AmE via Yiddish. It's used to mark exasperation, and it does so very well. William Safire, in this old On Language column, quotes Lillian Feinsilver's book Taste of Yiddish (1970), which suggests now as an alternative. But Turn that off, now is a bit ambiguous and certainly doesn't give me the flavo(u)r of that sentence-final already. I'd be more likely to translate it with some  rather impolite words (e.g. Turn that off for ****'s sake. or Turn that off, you ****ing ****). Isn't it beautiful that we don't have to resort to such language?


50. "I could care less" instead of "I couldn't care less" has to be the worst. Opposite meaning of what they're trying to say. Jonathan, Birmingham
Unless they're trying their hand at irony, of course. But Americans couldn't do that, could they? At any rate: old post on could care less and old guest post on irony.



I know I should probably go back and edit this, but it's late, I'm tired and I've accidentally partially published this twice already today. So, I'll post it already.  Let us know what you think...
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Abbr.

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