Friday, March 28, 2008

Same word, entirely different meaning

If we were to sum up our findings thus far, I think we would find two categories of words. First, there are words the British use which are entirely foreign to Americans. These are mostly the kinds of words and phrases we have been talking about and making jokes about so far. But there is also a second category, which we haven't been talking about much, and that is those words which we both understand and use, but which we use them to mean different things. To make it even more interesting, sometimes the word might mean something bad or vulgar to one party, and rather innocent to the other. I have especially found several words that are commonly used by Americans, which would be quite nasty to the British.

I can't think of a better example of the first type than the word "bloody." Used in the UK as a mild-to-forceful expletive; used a lot, actually. Americans also use that word, of course, but it is almost always to describe how a bad wound might look. An American using the word in the same manner as the British would be perceived as trying to put on false airs, or affecting a non-genuine manner of speaking. Such an American, if he persisted, would very likely soon be beaten bloody. In other words, if you use the word "bloody" in regular conversation in America, you damn well better have a British accent to go with it. Else you will be extremely annoying.

Then there are the "deliciously different" meanings. Unlike "bloody", there are some words that Americans need to be cautioned against using when visiting the UK. An example that comes to mind was given to me by O My Word Blog in an email not long ago. She said she was cautioned by her husband, when they moved to Europe, not to stand up after eating a big meal and say, "I'm stuffed!"

Humorous examples abound in that "American2English" dictionary that Grumpus mentioned in a comment not long ago. One that I found really funny was the story of an American woman who moved to Britain and was interviewing for a job. She was told by the receptionist to have a seat and wait, because "The boss is outside blowing a fag right now." Brits reading this will simply shrug their shoulders; Americans will be rolling on the floor (at least mentally.)

Who can think of some more? (I have purposely left out the word "fanny.")

And--by the way--who else besides myself would like to see another story by Claire? Only this time, let her pick her own words to teach us backward Americans. What do you say? Let's all get together and twist her arm!


  1. Max feel free to push this post down :)

    You can set me a new task if you like? I rather enjoyed writing the little story,it would make sense if I used words that confuddled you and other confuddled folks for the next chapter.

  2. I thought you might be out for "a night on the tiles?"--is that how you put that?--since it was Friday night and so late already. Should have known you would probably be still up and about. Night owl. Of course I'll put up some new posts. I don't know why I seem to have a need to talk like that--I never really was very good at this double-entendre thing until I met you. You are so good at it. And even better at ignoring it when it is right to do so. I have not real intention of that little post going out for all the world to see; it was for your eyes only. Speaking of eyes, I guess the Charles Manson post is as good as any.

    Thanks for the comment. It always cheers me up to see your name come binging through on a comment notification.

    last smiley of the day for me I think: :)

  3. Claire I need to talk to you about all of us doing this kind of thing in the actual book. It really is a funny format. But I have so much to say, I guess I'll write to you over on BS2. Perhaps later tonight so you can read it when you get up. I think I am starting to see how it should be now. How to make the book actually fun to read instead of just stupid. The thing is, I am frustrated because I can't be a writer. If you think about it, you'll understand what I mean.

    PS-did I do ok today, in the main?

  4. Aussies use the word 'bloody' too ;)
    So, if you can't manage a British accent, try sounding Australian :P

  5. Welcome Another Girl.

    It's 3:15 am here and I can't sleep. Working on some posts. Glad for your company. Love Aussies. Can't seem to get them to stay and play very long, though. I hope you're not just passing by. Do stay for a while. :)

  6. Hear, hear! More stories from Claire!

  7. I will toddle over mow and have a gander.

  8. Aerten, I think we are all with you. I am, anyway.

  9. I need a story idea or something! :)

  10. You don't want only MAX's story ideas, precious one. That's how Floo Z ended up in her present mental state.

    I will ask Aerten to supplement my own one track mind.

    I'm still out gathering words. At least those dictionaries are good for that sometimes. I have been knocking on Aussie doors this morning. No response. Don't know if they are in bed right now or just ignoring me. :)

    Maybe I should just rewrite those dictionary example sentences to include more interesting things. :)

  11. @Claire.

    I'm getting confused chasing you between the two blogs. You meant that comment to be directed at folks on THIS blog. Sorry. Same answer, though.



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