Saturday, August 23, 2008

2-level circular definitions

In the process of editing "The Book" that this blog has given birth to (and publication is now close enough that the actual title will not appear here) it has amused me to see certain words mean something in one country and something completely different in the other, but STILL have a secondary meaning in one country which has still a second meaning in the other country. Clear, right? It has almost become a game with me. Let me give you a few examples of what I am talking about. See if you can think of any more of these "circular definitions."

crisps chips
chips fries

[get it?]

scone biscuit
biscuit cookie

poof fag
fag cigarette

ground floor first floor
first floor second floor

waistcoat vest
vest undershirt

van pickup
pickup hooker

I was going to ask you to add some more of your own in comments to this post, but I suppose you would have to be fluent in both languages to do that. So never mind. Just tell me how clever I am for noticing these things. 


  1. Van is a box-bodied closed vehicle, pick-up is like a van with an open-topped rear body.
    We have many euphemisms and slang terms used for prostitutes, but pick up?
    not really indicating a prostitute, more a lady of easy virtue... who's ready to go home with the first man to ask.

  2. See, M. Soubriquet, there's a nice little pattern there. Do you see it? A little zigzag of words? Very clever I thought.

  3. yep...
    but i'm prone to be picky...
    and van does not equal pick-up.
    And pickup does not equal prostitute.
    All the others, i get.

    And racking my brains in a saturday morning getting ready to go out and get muddy and oily sort of mood, i can't think of any clever ones to add

    You can tap a faucet, but never force a tap.

  4. Goodness me, picky? I'd never have noticed :)

  5. Soubriquet, thank you. I should have double-checked. I just copied those two (van,=pickup, pickup=hooker) out of a slang dictionary written by one of your countrymen. In American, a van surely is an enclosed vehicle. But since a lot of British things are called by other names, I just shrugged and stole it right from his book. I don't think these are going to make it into my own book anyway, at least not in this form. :)

    a. - Ummmm. Ok, I guess you didn't say anything to me. I'll opt out now, if I may. :)

  6. The rest are clever, but I didn't get the last one either :)

  7. I too think you are clever, but alas, I am not too much for I have nothing to add.

  8. I hesitate, because I'm not entirely sure, but I believe others could be:

    UK US
    pinafore - jumper
    jumper - sweater
    state school - public school
    public school - private school
    jam - jelly
    jelly - jello

    Can't stop now.

  9. I've always disliked people calling cigarettes fags. It just doesn't sit well with me. The end of a cigarette is called a butt, and if that cigarette is called a fag, then essentially your sucking on some fag's butt. It's not pleasant. LOL

  10. @Alison - Well, that does it then. British author wrong and his whole book now suspect for source material. I would change it, but the picture is already up. :)

    @Ettarose - You said the important part: you think I'm clever. That's just fine. :)

    @a. - Good. Good. Didn't quite understand them all, but you are on the right track. In the US, a pinifore is an apron, like you wear in a kitchen, right? Anybody? Not a jumper, which, I think, is that one-piece suit you dress a baby in. I am out of my element here. American ladies? Your school thing is right on. And funny! :) I am not EVEN going to touch the jam jelly jello one, which I think I started. Much too complicated!

    @Chica - It is much worse than that, I'm afraid. The British are just terrible. They don't smoke fags - they blow them. As in, "You'll have to wait a few minutes because he's outside blowing a fag." Arrgh!

  11. Never heard of anyone blowing a fag. Normally you have a fag, often a quick fag. I'm not at all sure that's much of an improvement.

    Pinafore, I should have been more explicit and said pinafore dress, is a sleeveless dress worn over a jumper :) or a blouse.

    A pinafore (or pinny) would be open and tie at the back or possibly wrap around. An apron is briefer and just cover the front.

  12. fag 1 n cigarette. In very widespread use. One of the most amusing emails I’ve had concerning this word was from an American who had arrived at her company’s U.K. offices to be told that the person she was looking for was “outside blowing a fag.”

    English2American Dictionary.

  13. again, welcome to my world. I struggle with these things on a daily basis. And now, I am back in the UK, I have it the other way around from what I normally have to deal with.

    When I am state side I am english, on this side of the pond I am american... ergh... its a hard life being me, let me tell you :)

  14. a pinafore in the uk is the same as a jumper in the US. I had a fun experience with that one last halloween when I went shopping with my friend Meghan for a jumper... I kept pointing out "sweaters" much to her confusion, finally she was able to explain to me that she was infact looking for a dress type thing with straps and buttons... when I said you mean a pinafore, she got confused (again)... what a fun day it was... we finally found one, and all was cleared up! Thank goodness.

  15. those jumper things .... my owner took me over to a friend's house once. there was a baby in one of those jumper things hanging in a doorway. i was supposed to 'watch' baby. baby was supposed to pull my ears when it could reach me.

    i got real tired of this game. so i walked away. all of a sudden i felt a huge sucking wind pull my ears back. And the worst scream i've ever heard !!!

    When i looked back, boy was that baby red in the face. And man could it launch that jumper thingy. So hard that the jumper fell on the ground with baby stuck in it and baby barfed.

    I briefly thought of sticking around to sniff the barf. But i heard both owners running and screaming too. So i immediately ran to the nearest human toilet.

    Human toilets are good places to hide out. Plus there is water to drink if i have to hide out for a long time.

    ohhhhh.... my name was being called..... so i did one of my best tricks: i grabbed the end of the toilet paper, turned a few circles, and ran down the hall to the scream team.

    i looked so innocent standing there with toilet paper wrapped all around me. everyone laughed. except the barfer. it kept crying.
    i was scolded a little for the paper mess .... but i used my 'i'm sorry' face ... and got a pat on the head!


  16. This comment has been removed by the author.



Related Posts with Thumbnails