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Brits: Things not to say in the USA
Some of the differences between the British and American languages
If you're British, and you're visiting the USA, then there are one or two language differences that you should know about. They can keep you out of trouble.
I speak from experience, believe me. And I'm not alone. Even the chap you see here, Sir Winston Churchill, got into bother when visiting the States.
By all accounts, he was at a tremendously snooty dinner party. The main course was roast chicken and Sir Winston was asked which part of the bird he preferred.
Just like many Englishman, his response was 'breast'. His American hostess was appalled. 'Sir Winston' she exclaimed ' we do not use that word in America. We refer to it as "white meat"'.
Embarrassed, but unabashed, Sir Winston decided to send the lady a corsage the following day. He enclosed a note requesting that she pin it on her 'white meat'.However, here are a few linguistic cock-ups that you can avoid.
Of course, most people know this but I must mention it anyway.
In the UK, we call a cigarette a 'fag'. Now you Brits know what that means in America but it's easy to forget. We also have a habit of saying 'I could murder a [whatever]', simply meaning we'd really like one.
Therefore, if you want a cigarette saying 'I could murder a fag' will get you into trouble. Similarly - Americans please take note - 'I could murder an Indian' simply means that we'd like a curry.
It's easy to forget the misunderstandings that can be brought about by the humble potato.
I have lost count of the number of times that British people in American have ordered 'chips' and been surprised, when just where a pile of French Fries would be so very good alongside their burger, they have found a pile of crisps.
Loo, bog, toilet .... they just won't get it.
I was once in a K Mart in the Florida Keys and needed a (rhyming) pee. I asked a member of staff where the toilets were and she said 'Oh, we don't sell those'. Remember to ask for the men's room or the ladies' room.
If you wish,you can ask for the bathroom or the restroom, despite the fact that you don't want a bath or a rest...
Did your mum call you a cheeky monkey?
Mine did. It's a term of affection. 'Oh, you naughty but sweet little person', it means. To me, it trips off the tongue. If someone is being a bit of a tinker (also politically incorrect,I assume) then they are a cheeky monkey. I use it with my English granddaughters.
Take it from me. Don't.
Understand please that many Americans do not understand the 24 hour clock.
I once called an American secretary and told her what time her boss needed meeting at the airport. 'The plane arrives at 13.58' I said, Britishly. 'Oh' she said 'what time is that exactly?'
Oh, just be there at two in the afternoon....
There are some British people who love words and the English language (me, for instance).
If you want to describe a person who is miserly or small-minded, do not use the word 'niggardly'. You know why, if you think about it. All sorts of learned persons have been in serious trouble for using this old Chaucer-era word.
Mayhem will ensure.
Do not criticise Princess Diana.
Americans loved her much more than we did. Describe her as a shopaholic, slimaholic slapper and you'll be lynched. Suggest that the thousands of people who lined her funeral procession were the unemployed who had nothing better to do and you'll be vilified.
Do not use the word 'teatime'.
I know what that means - you know what that means - but no-one else will.
Ask an American to come to your house at teatime and they will have no idea what time to arrive.
Give them exact time to be clear.
When you buy cigarettes in the UK, saying 'twenty Marlboro' means one packet of twenty cigarettes.
But I remember an English bloke who, when he asked for this in the USA, being bewildered when the clerk (not shop assistant, note) started to assemble twenty cartons. That's 4,000 fags (cigarettes, rather).
Ask for a pack.
When I was a youngster at art college, there was an American student.
One person, who had just made a drawing error, asked the American if she had a rubber. Her reaction was interesting, to say the least. Here, a rubber is an anything-for-the-weekend-sir.
Say eraser instead.
Don't guffaw when you discover that a man is wearing suspenders.
He is merely wearing braces to keep his trousers up.(Or pants, as we would say here.
I know, that causes some funny confusions too,especially when bloke tells you that he likes to wear leather pants and wonders why you give him a funny look).
Getting back to faggots for a moment, my mum could out-malaprop Mrs Malaprop.
But it was a reasonable question, she thought, to ask an American lady 'do you eat faggots in the States?'
The lady's consternation can be imagined because she didn't know that a faggot is a traditional British food, somewhat like a meatball.
Probably the most famous difference in our languages is the word fanny.
Americans see nothing funny in the statement 'I hope your doughnuts turn out like fannies'. Or rather, Fanny's. (As in Cradock).
Of course, Americans in Britain need to be aware of this more than the other way around but Brits, don't be surprised by the way fannies are bandied about willy nilly.
Of course Brits know that Americans call biscuits cookies.
But do not make nasty yuk-yuk noises when you hear that Americans eat biscuits with gravy. These are not Hob Nobs. They are a savoury biscuit, somewhat like a fruitless (and I don't mean pointless) scone.
So if you're in an American supermarket (grocery store) ask for the cookies section if you could murder a Jammie Dodger.
Here's the famous fanny again. This time combined with the confusing bum.That sort of sums up the differences in the two languages really, doesn't it?Two languages?
Am I really saying that English and American are two different languages?After twenty years as a Brit living in America - yes!
© 2014 Jackie Jackson