Separated by a common language

To be fair, I think Americans have a far harder job understanding me, than I do them - mainly thanks to an education by Hollywood, I'm guessing. To avoid absolute confusion, I do try to remember to use American terms, but sometimes it's only when I notice my friends laughing at me that I realise that Americans don't use a certain term.

Probably my favourite story was when my dad was on holiday in the U.S. and had been playing with a new propelling pencil that he had purchased. He went into a stationery store and after fruitlessly searching for the item that he wanted for several minutes, he went up to the two young cashiers at the front of the store and asked, 'Would you be able to tell me where I can find some rubbers, please?'. At which point the girls blushed, then finally one of them stuttered that maybe he would have better luck in a pharmacy store down the road. Thinking that that was mighty strange, my dad went out to join my mum, incredulously wondering what kind of stationery store doesn't sell rubbers!

It was at that point that my mum informed him that to an American 'rubbers' refers to condoms and that he would probably have better luck if he went back in and asked for 'pencil erasers'...

Maybe I should start posting a word of the day translation as a public service...
US English: rubbers = condoms in UK English
UK English: rubbers = erasers in US English
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My son's school held a party today to celebrate Valentine's Day. I had learned from last year that over here a card for every member of his class is expected, plus a small gift (eg. a lollipop). I was very proud of myself for remembering to buy some small chocolate hearts and bouncy balls - and for only eating just under a third of the bag of chocolate hearts by myself (well, I had to divide them up equally amongst his classmates, didn't I?). I didn't do so well at remembering the cards, though. What with my husband accidentally putting my calendar in the recycling bin, today rather snuck up on me. It wasn't until I returned from swimming yesterday that I remembered. I faced the choice of running to Target or making some cards quickly (ruling out putting J to work on them). The fact that the swimming had left my hair a scary shock of nutty random curls turned out to be the deciding factor - the general public does not deserve to be permanently scarred by images like that. I decided that this picture that I drew for K's room would be an ok image, scanned it, added a wee bit of colour, then printed it 4 to a sheet of card. Bags were quickly folded out of the kids' supply of construction paper, decorated with stickers by J and Bob's your uncle. No doubt there are now kids across town saying 'What on earth is this rubbish? I prefer the Spiderman card I got from X'...
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oops, translation of the day #2: UK English: rubbish = trash in US English

9 comments:

  1. How adorable! I love reading your posts and miss you dearly. Keep the posts coming so I can feel a part of your life:)

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  2. LOL! I love the story about your dad. The girl in the store must have had the reddest face. LOL! In America, we definitely think something besides erasers!LOL! Yes-things do get lost in translation. Great Valentine things do! Thanks for stopping by my blog-I appreciate it!

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  3. I've just stumbled upon your blog, and you've made me smile with your stories ~ thanks for sharing them.

    Your creativity is devine and I look forward to reading more about you and your famiily.

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  4. Too funny! Thanks for stopping by - it made me check ya out and I'm so glad I did. Your blog is too funny! Try living in the south of the states - talk about having your own language! I was raised in VA but by New Yorkers - people often say "you're not from 'round here are ya?". He He

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  5. Hehe, we have that problem a lot here too! You'll never catch me saying pants for trousers!

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  6. Hi I saw the link to your pear tutorial and thought I'd give it a try. I also read about your problems with English which I found amusing. As an American married to a Scot and having lived in Scotland for a year, I totally understand what you mean, although in reverse! After a while, the ladies in the coffee shop in our town understood that when I asked for a cookie for my daughter, I wanted a biscuit. I figured out that hen is a term of endearment (that may just be a Scottishism). But the funniest thing that ever happened was one day when I was shopping in Glasgow, a lady who was trying on a short coat that had a band around the bottom, asked me if I thought she looked nice in it. I had to be honest and told her that the band looked too tight around her fanny. I couldn't understand why she gave me that strange look, almost as if she had been insulted. I was only being honest. When I told my husband he went into fits of laughter. I won't explain here what fanny means in the UK, but a Brit would know why this was so funny. How innocently we put out feet in our mouths!

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  7. I remember seeing fanny bags advertised on my first trip to the States and thinking "well, that's a bit more graphic than bum bag". I can just imagine the look she gave you.

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  8. The fact that I was obviously speaking with an American accent didn't seem to register with this lady. I guess she was in shock. Wouldn't a book about these types of misunderstandings be interesting and pretty amusing?

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  9. That is such an awesome story!!! And your sketch is amazing. I love it! My daughter would cherish it, and I'll bet the other kiddos did too.

    Now about Bob's your Uncle...is that "there you have it"? :)

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