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Lynneguist's Separated By a Common Language
March 23, 2013 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Wondering about your British colleagues wearing tank tops in chilly weather and complaining about bumf? Trying to figure out what your American colleagues mean by poster child or hump day, or just where exactly kitty-corner is? Lynneguist's Separated By a Common Language will get you sorted.

(A 5-year-old previously to a particular post on this blog.)
posted by Nomyte (134 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Growing up I heard it as "catty-corner." Now everyone thinks I'm crazy. Can anyone give me back-up on this?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:02 PM on March 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I also always heard it as catty-corner.

A kitty corner just sounds adorable.
posted by The Whelk at 5:03 PM on March 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


3rding catty-corner.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:03 PM on March 23, 2013


Always heard it "kitty-corner."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:10 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heard it both ways.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:12 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is quite good.

(That's a compliment in the Americas and a damning with faint praise insult in the UK.)
posted by srboisvert at 5:15 PM on March 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Never heard they word "catty-corner", and it's odd that I've never felt a need for it. Weird.

Also, bollocks. I've only lately learnt that in the US they don't have that word. How do you refer to them otherwise? Just "balls"?

Also, bumf comes from "bumfodder"! That's great.
posted by Jehan at 5:16 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quite.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:16 PM on March 23, 2013


Also, bollocks. I've only lately learnt that in the US they don't have that word. How do you refer to them otherwise? Just "balls"?

Otherwise? Yes, they're just "Balls." Both in the noun ("kicked in the balls") and the profanity (though exclaiming "Balls!" is, I think, rarer than "Bollocks!")
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:19 PM on March 23, 2013


I hadn't thought about this blog in ages, but its reappearance here is timely for me. It's a lot of fun to read.
posted by immlass at 5:24 PM on March 23, 2013


By the way, I know most of the US calls a car trunk a trunk, but in NC we still call it the boot of the car, just like they do across the pond.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:30 PM on March 23, 2013


I can't believe I just learned that bollocks means balls.
posted by saul wright at 5:32 PM on March 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Balls
Nads
Scrote
Sac
Nards
Nuts
Giblets
Cajones
Family Jewels
Huevos
Walnuts
Junk
Privates
posted by cmoj at 5:33 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the now-classic "Anglo-EU Translation Guide".

What the British say: "That is a very brave proposal."
What the British mean: "You are insane."
What others understand: "He thinks I have courage."
posted by mhoye at 5:37 PM on March 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Tank top is a Britishism? That's news to me.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:38 PM on March 23, 2013


In the sense of US "sweater vest"?
posted by Nomyte at 5:41 PM on March 23, 2013


I think that in the US and the UK "tanktop" has different meanings. In the UK it means a jumper without sleeves.
posted by Jehan at 5:42 PM on March 23, 2013


I think if any Americans knew what "bollocks" were in the late '70s, the Sex Pistols would never have gotten one album released here...
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:45 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The first time I told someone in the US that I installed "pot lights" in my living room they sure looked at me funny.
posted by GuyZero at 5:45 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Where "jumper" doesn't really mean much to a US audience unless you're referring to a person who jumped in the past.

Clothing words really don't match up at all between the US/UK,
posted by delicious-luncheon at 5:47 PM on March 23, 2013


Tanks = vests, vests = tanks
posted by bleep at 5:56 PM on March 23, 2013


As a child in the thirties and forties, I wore jumpers which were sleeveless, loosely fitting garments with attached skirts, often buttoned down the front and always worn over a dress, or a skirt and blouse, or a skirt and sweater (what I understand is called a jumper in the UK.) A summer version of this type of garment was a pinafore. I believe they were intended to help keep the more expensive clothes worn under them clean and also to add layers for warmth in the winter. We also had half and full aprons with bibs that tied in the back for working in the kitchen. I wonder what aprons are called and what the garment we called a jumper would be called.
posted by Anitanola at 5:58 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been a fan of her blog for a while but it's been pretty quiet lately. She's active on the Twitter @lynnguist though.
posted by octothorpe at 6:03 PM on March 23, 2013


exclaiming "Balls!" is, I think, rarer than "Bollocks!"
Not if you're within earshot of me, it isn't. Although in my usage it's short for "balls on your heifer"!

Also:
Jibblies
Dangles
Package
Below the shoulder baby batter holder.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:10 PM on March 23, 2013


I always hear the term as "kitty-corner," but I think "catty-corner" is an acceptable variation of that. In my experience it might be somewhat regional, but I have heard it both ways all over the country. I think people just say it the way that they first heard it, and that sounds most correct to them.

Now "kittywampus" on the other hand, never heard that one until I moved to Minneapolis, and I have structured my life so I can say it as often as possible. (and some do say "cattywampus," and both are correct and awesome.)
posted by louche mustachio at 6:23 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favourite US/UK distinction is the use of the word 'fanny'. I'll never forget the day I was shopping with an American friend in Guildford and she told the saleswoman that she didn't know what size jeans she needed in UK sizes but she had "an enormous fanny". Oy-oy-oy ...
posted by essexjan at 6:27 PM on March 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


As a child in the thirties and forties, I wore jumpers which were sleeveless, loosely fitting garments with attached skirts, often buttoned down the front and always worn over a dress, or a skirt and blouse, or a skirt and sweater (what I understand is called a jumper in the UK.)

Having grown up in Illinois in the 1990s, I would have said jumpers are some kind of sleeveless dress that is (among other things, I suppose) the traditional girls' uniform at Catholic schools below a certain age (though not being a girl nor having gone to a Catholic school, I couldn't tell you what age).
posted by hoyland at 6:31 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Looks like catty-corner and kitty-corner are both common, with their roots in Middle English (not just an American coinage). I've never come across this word before now though I've been in the US for more than a decade). Looks like it may have died out in Britain but been continued in the US and perhaps elsewhere. Nothing to do with cats unfortunately
posted by Bwithh at 6:37 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess a jumper would be a pinafore in BrE. An apron is usually an apron, but the sort of cover-all wraparound ones my Granny wore were 'pinnies', which is pinafore abbreviated. But they were never ever ever called pinafores.

Catty-corner - never heard of that in my life. hardly even understood the definition given above. Why wouldn't you just say 'diagonally across from'?
posted by glasseyes at 6:38 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is quite good.

(That's a compliment in the Americas and a damning with faint praise insult in the UK.)
posted by srboisvert at 5:15 PM on March 23 [7 favorites +] [!]


In UK usage, the meaning of "quite" is complicated because it's very context and tone-sensitive. Yes, it can often be damning with faint praise. But it can also often mean praise admitting that something is sincerely outstandingly good in faux-circumspect fashion (with, for example, the praiser doing a micro-pantomine of pretending not wanting to admit that it deserves any more praise than "quite good" (a little act which is self-deprecating about the praiser's pride or even rivalry - so it's even more flattering to the praised). And it can even really mean (more rarely) literally quite good / not bad - but again this is highly contextual/tone sensitive.
posted by Bwithh at 6:43 PM on March 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had a friend from England who told me that in her first class in college in the US, her eraser broke, so she asked the guy next to her if he had a rubber. She got some really strange looks.
posted by eye of newt at 6:46 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Cajones" is Spanish for "drawers." Balls are "cojones."

Pet peeve.
posted by donpedro at 6:52 PM on March 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


but again this is highly contextual/tone sensitive.

See also the many uses of 'all right'.
posted by hoyland at 7:04 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Both in the noun ("kicked in the balls") and the profanity (though exclaiming "Balls!" is, I think, rarer than "Bollocks!")

Not in the Labour Party.
posted by eriko at 7:07 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Balls
Nads
Scrote


Oh, c'mon, James May has vastly better.

Gentleman's sausage.
Plums.
Wedding Tackle.
Twig and Berries.
The orbs and scepter.
Their Majesties.
posted by eriko at 7:11 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Cajones" is Spanish for "drawers."

The kind you wear? I keed, I keed…
posted by Nomyte at 7:15 PM on March 23, 2013


My favourite US/UK distinction is the use of the word 'fanny'.

Yeah. That was quite a surprise. And when my friends went over there, I suggested they go by Randolph and Francis rather than the more common forms.

I also decided that a fanny pack must be the ones worn with the pack up front, and a bum bag must be the ones worn with the pack in back.
posted by eriko at 7:16 PM on March 23, 2013


I have a second-grade student who has prompted some interesting discussions... my other students have learned that:

trainers = tennis shoes
jumper = hoodie
full stop = period
units = ones (in math)
maths = math
can I have a go = can I try

I'm sure there are others. Decades of BBC programming have made translation easy for me, but all my girls are fascinated with the accent and were talking in horrible British accents until I asked them not to.
posted by Huck500 at 7:27 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a friend from England who told me that in her first class in college in the US, her eraser broke, so she asked the guy next to her if he had a rubber. She got some really strange looks.

I went to a British school for two years (sophomore and junior of high school, for me) and the first time someone asked me for a rubber, my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out, or so I was told.
posted by immlass at 7:31 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard cater-corner growing up. Along with catty-corner and kitty-corner. I think I say kitty-corner, because kitties.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Catercorner is the "correct" term.

This evolved into catty-corner, because the "erc" part of the word is sort of hard to say.

I'm pretty sure catty-corner then evolved into kitty-corner because it makes more sense in a folk-etymology sort of way. Like, it's a corner to do with cats/kitties, not a snide, cutthroat sort of corner.

It's the kind of word you mostly use in casual conversation, to give someone directions, so it seems easy enough to morph. Sort of like the thing where, in the Northeast US, dressers have "draws" instead of "drawers".

I grew up hearing catty-corner, but grok kitty-corner just fine.

Why wouldn't you just say 'diagonally across from'?

Because catty-corner is shorter?
posted by Sara C. at 7:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Load of old cobblers.
posted by Decani at 7:37 PM on March 23, 2013


Huh, this is pretty interesting, from the wiktionary entry on cater-corner:
Old Irish cittach ("left-handed, awkward") is cognate to cater- words
I know vowels do very strange things in Irish, but I wonder if that partially explains the tendency to say kitty- rather than catty-?
posted by Sara C. at 7:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I'm pretty sure it's just a simple corruption. "Kitty" isn't really cognate to "cater".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:48 PM on March 23, 2013


Put wood in 'ole. As my Grandad used to say.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:50 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That "crossword (puzzles)" example reminded me of one I hear every now and then in Britcoms:

"Doing a jigsaw."

Ouch.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:01 PM on March 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


No, I'm pretty sure it's just a simple corruption. "Kitty" isn't really cognate to "cater".

No, but it's closer to cittach, surely? It's not as if American English is without direct Irish influence.

(But the only other cater- words I can think of, other than, you know, cater, are caterpillar and caterwaul, both of French origin, where the cat really is of the kitty variety.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:16 PM on March 23, 2013


> "Cajones" is Spanish for "drawers."

The kind you wear? I keed, I keed...


In the Mexican vernacular I learned, the drawers you wear are "chones".
posted by padraigin at 8:34 PM on March 23, 2013


I always love threads like these as a Canadian because our usage often seems to fall somewhere randomly on one side or the other. Or both over time. For example as a kid I called erasers 'rubbers' and so did all the other kids I knew. Now, no kids use that term (as far as I'm aware) and I don't either. It's erasers all the way.
posted by aclevername at 8:42 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


cajones = the drawers in a desk or a dresser.

caja = box

on/ona/ones/onas is an augmentative suffix, though its use can have a lot of different nuances. For example una solterona is an "old maid", not a "large single woman". So un cajon is a "big box", basically, but specifically a "drawer" rather than just any old large box.

There's also a musical instrument called a "cajon" which looks like a big wooden box. Or maybe a drawer turned on its side? The language geek in me is also curious whether an old-fashioned trunk would also be called a cajon.
posted by Sara C. at 8:47 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Nerd alert, I looked it up, and cajon is not a trunk in Spanish. Though it is a crate or a case.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:50 PM on March 23, 2013


Gracias, hace unos años que yo dominaba el español bastante bien.
posted by Nomyte at 9:05 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always love threads like these as a Canadian because our usage often seems to fall somewhere randomly on one side or the other. Or both over time. For example as a kid I called erasers 'rubbers' and so did all the other kids I knew. Now, no kids use that term (as far as I'm aware) and I don't either. It's erasers all the way.

Yep. I'm of the post-rubber generation (so to speak), and every once in awhile we'd get a teacher who'd consistently call erasers rubbers. It was always hilarious. Then there's my grandfather, who wore rubbers over his shoes. Good grief.

Also note, Britishers, that it's e-racer -- not e-razor. Say it right!

(Don't even get me started on the British way of saying garage. Sure, Canada has at least six distinct pronunciations -- "gradge" "gur-adge" "grodge" "gur-odge" "grozh" "gur-ozh" -- and they're all right. But you don't get to rhyme it with carriage, weirdo.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sys Rq, have you ever heard a British person pronounce the word "urinal"?
posted by Sara C. at 9:34 PM on March 23, 2013


I borrowed a book off a friend recently, a US edition of a novel by a British author and was surprised about the number of what I can only assume were edits of the language to suit US usage. Stuck out to me especially in the dialogue and I thought it's a bit of an insult to US readers, who I would expect are happy enough to go along with the context if they're reading a foreign novel, but then I suppose the publishers have done their market research.
I translate for a living myself and am often expected to produce a sort of neutral international English leaning towards US usage which as it turns out is not just a matter of using less 'u's when you spell. Been quite surprised at how many of my turns of phrase are apparently incomprehensible to the wider world (though, let's face it, it may just be I'm a crap writer).

Put wood in 'ole. As my Grandad used to say.
Eee, I'll go to the foot of our stairs (as our Grandad never did say, what with being Irish)
posted by Abiezer at 9:55 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq, have you ever heard a British person pronounce the word "urinal"?

Oh my god, yes! It seems all their -inal words are like that, if John Cleese (NSFW) is any indication.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:59 PM on March 23, 2013


(though, let's face it, it may just be I'm a crap writer)

crappy
posted by Sys Rq at 10:09 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The phrase Big Girl's Blouse always confused me, us the blouse part insulting? The bigness? The girl? I have no idea where to put the emphasis in there.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Growing up in California, I always heard it as 'kitty-corner', never 'catty-corner'. But I was unclear on what it meant. I always had an image of a high-speed velocity change, something that only a cat could do, going around a corner.

I haven't heard it in decades, so in my entire adult life, I've never felt the need to look it up.

I think she's slightly off on 'hump day'; it's definitely Wednesday, but the implication is that you're over the hump, and that it's all downhill from there, coasting into your weekend.
posted by Malor at 10:34 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why catty-wampus, but no kitty-wampus?

I think if any Americans knew what "bollocks" were in the late '70s, the Sex Pistols would never have gotten one album released here...

They had more than one album? :)
posted by readyfreddy at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2013


It is catty-whumpus, dagnabit!

My dialect is an insane mix, however, of 1970s Brit, regional dialect from central North Carolina, Brooklyn, and Atlanta.

I give my advisor the hebbie-jeebies from time to time when I say something like "bloody heck, left it in the back boot again" in the same breath as something like "y'all ok?"
posted by strixus at 11:17 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard it as "kittywampus" first. One of my friends was trying to put a box fan in a window, and it was sitting kind of kittywampus so he had to put a wedge in there so it wouldn't fall. True story.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:33 AM on March 24, 2013


I wish there had been something like this when I moved to Australia, except with US/Australian. It would have helped a lot. I still get confused by things like "Friday week" and "next Friday" and am puzzled that these, along with (referring to time) "quarter of" (AmE) vs "quarter to" (AusE) aren't mentioned. Maybe they're not different in the UK? Interesting though!

BTW for those of you interested in the kitty/catty/cater corner, she says it's a regional variation in her post on 18/11/12 (AusE) 11/18/12 (AmE).
posted by Athanassiel at 12:41 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


As far as I know, AmE has both "quarter of" and "quarter to." At least 80s/90s SoCal did.
posted by dame at 1:31 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


trainers = tennis shoes
jumper = hoodie


No.

Trainers = sneakers (I presume these are different from 'tennis shoes')
Jumper = sweater
Hoodie = hoodie
posted by Summer at 2:36 AM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Put wood in 'ole. As my Grandad used to say.

This is a classic Yorkshire expression
posted by Bwithh at 2:37 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as I know, AmE has both "quarter of" and "quarter to." At least 80s/90s SoCal did.

Northern California did too. I would probably say 'quarter to', but wouldn't notice someone saying 'quarter of' as unusual.
posted by Malor at 2:58 AM on March 24, 2013


I give my advisor the hebbie-jeebies from time to time when I say something like "bloody heck, left it in the back boot again" in the same breath as something like "y'all ok?"

Yeah, my default English tends to be of the British variety, but some Americanisms or even regional Americanisms like y'all are just too darn useful not to use.

But the real question is, the real dividing line in English is, do you stand in line or stand on line?
posted by MartinWisse at 3:18 AM on March 24, 2013


"Do you come from NY or do you come from somewhere else?" doesn't seem a very useful dividing line to me.
posted by Wolof at 3:24 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


My thought process on seeing this on the front page: I'm sure I've seen this on the blue before... Oh, there's a more inside "previously". What was the old post about? Wait, I posted that! That was five years ago?!?!

But yes, this is a great blog.
posted by mosessis at 3:28 AM on March 24, 2013


do you stand in line or stand on line?

You'd only stand 'on' line if it was painted on the sidewalk or something. Otherwise, the line is made of people, and you're soaking in it.
posted by Malor at 3:40 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was standing in line to get on the bus. Or was it on line to get in the bus? Trains are easy. You can ride in the train or on the train. Like those pictures of hundreds of people riding on top of the train in India. How many people speak English in India? How many in the world speak English as a second language? It won't take long for American and British and Australian English to become curiosities.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 4:26 AM on March 24, 2013


I'm an American. 2.5 years in an relationship with an Australian, nearly 1 year living in the UK, and I still don't know if "half eight" is 8:30 or 7:30. I keep having it explained to me and I keep forgetting because it just doesn't make sense to me enough to stick. Use your prepositions, people! Or just stick with good old "thirty"!

Also -- I grew up in the American midwest. Catty-corner was a very common term, and my more hickish coal-mining-country great grandmother (who also said "crick" and "warsh") said kitty-corner. After I moved to Boston in 2002 I don't think I ever heard the word again.

And you know, I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to a condom in earnest as a rubber. I don't know anyone who uses it to mean "eraser" or "galoshes" or whatever because "lol it means condom" but never in my life have I known someone in my demographic (early Millenial) who calls condoms rubbers. Am I alone in this?
posted by olinerd at 4:57 AM on March 24, 2013


do you stand in line or stand on line?
The real answer is, of course, that you "queue up".
posted by Abiezer at 4:57 AM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I presume these are different from 'tennis shoes')

A lot of Americans use "tennis shoes" to mean any athletic shoe, not just one you'd use to pay tennis. It was common in St. Louis in the 80s, at least. The more you know!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:32 AM on March 24, 2013


I think using "tennis shoes" to mean any athletic shoe was a lot more common in the 80s, and dropped off a bit as athletic shoes became more sophisticated/specialized/expensive. In my mind "tennis shoes" means "any athletic shoe made before 1985."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:48 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some regional variants (including mine) of British English have a second-person-plural "yous" equivalent to "y'all".

I hate "y'all". I hate it even more when people spell it "ya'll". I was pleased to discover via Pittsburgh friends the existence of "yinz".
posted by corvine at 5:51 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure people still say 'tennis shoes'. Both 'tennis shoes' and 'sneakers' were things that stood out to me when I went to a summer camp in 1997 or so because I call them 'gym shoes' (which I'm pretty sure was the 'normal' term at my school outside Chicago) and never really believed people not on television called them either 'tennis shoes' or 'sneakers'. I think both are still used in California, probably with a 'sneakers' majority, because this was still something that was still standing out to me in 2004. 'Parking structure' ranks much higher on my list of 'strange things people in California say', though I very definitely heard someone from Michigan say it recently, which made everyone in the room do a double take.
posted by hoyland at 6:16 AM on March 24, 2013


I give my advisor the hebbie-jeebies from time to time when I say something like "bloody heck, left it in the back boot again" in the same breath as something like "y'all ok?"

I do this in reverse: long stretches of colorful Texanisms ("that old dog won't hunt") broken up with the occasional Britishism.
posted by immlass at 6:26 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brits also distinguish between Wadder, which means nothing to them and Water. Furore versus the British Furor-eh! The Brummie "y'awrite?" greeting constantly wrong-footed me.
posted by srboisvert at 6:53 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that wadder is an east coast or maybe just NY/NJ thing. I still say it that way but it often gets commented on out here in Pennsylvania. I think it's the only remnant left of my New Jersey accent.
posted by octothorpe at 7:36 AM on March 24, 2013


"Kitty" isn't really cognate to "cater".

In German, it sort of is. "Kater" is the word for male cat or tomcat. (it also can mean "hangover", but that is beside the point here.)

Whether that cross-linguistic meaning carried the "cater" into "kitty" or not, I have no idea.
posted by hippybear at 8:02 AM on March 24, 2013


Oh and for some reason the word " kale" to mean money has been popping up in conversations and as far as I know it's last known usage was limited to young urban types in the US ...in the 30s.
posted by The Whelk at 8:08 AM on March 24, 2013


And you know, I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to a condom in earnest as a rubber. I don't know anyone who uses it to mean "eraser" or "galoshes" or whatever because "lol it means condom" but never in my life have I known someone in my demographic (early Millenial) who calls condoms rubbers. Am I alone in this?

No, you're not alone. My guess is it's died out because society has deemed it unnecessary to refer to condoms euphemistically anymore. Nevertheless, knowing that condoms were once called rubbers is what made the other two uses of the word so funny when they were still around.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:29 AM on March 24, 2013


it's closer to cittach, surely?

Based on my extremely limited experience with Gaelic, I'd be surprised if that word sounded anything like kitty. The German thing is interesting, hippybear. Could have been a contributor to the corruption, possibly. We will likely never know.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:31 AM on March 24, 2013


"Tennis shoes" meaning all athletic shoes, simplifying into "tennies," in turn changing into Spanglish "tenis," hence Gran Combo's "tengo que lavar mis tenis, mis tenis, mis tenis!" (I have to wash my sneakers!)
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:37 AM on March 24, 2013


> You'd only stand 'on' line if it was painted on the sidewalk or something. Otherwise, the line is made of people, and you're soaking in it.

Is this intended to be inflammatory?
posted by Nomyte at 9:20 AM on March 24, 2013


I watch a lot of UK crime dramas and my favorite UK term is punter and I wish it would catch on here.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:20 AM on March 24, 2013


Map of "in line" vs. "on line" usage in the US.
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on March 24, 2013


Surely the non-Northeast results for "on line" in that map are NYC transplants?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:24 AM on March 24, 2013


As far as I know, AmE has both "quarter of" and "quarter to."

Yeah.

Growing up in the south, it was more typically "fifteen till". I remember reading "quarter of" in a novel when I was 10 or 11 and having no idea what they were talking about.

Tennis shoes I feel like I hear less, though I'm not sure if it's dropped out of use, or it's just that I moved away from the south, where "tennis shoes", or sometimes "tennies", is the predominant term for athletic shoes. When I moved north for college and started letting Yankeeisms sneak into my speech, my family back home mocked me for "sneakers" almost as bad as they did for "soda" and "you guys".

I sort of mentally think of simple canvas shoes like keds (what I think Brits would call "plimsolls"?) as "tennis shoes", and more runner-style shoes as "trainers". Neither of which I typically say out loud, because "tennis shoes" is too Southern in an anachronistic Blanche DuBois sort of way, and "trainers" is too British in a pretentious showoffy sort of way. But all athletic shoes are "sneakers", and that's a term I'm comfortable using in public.
posted by Sara C. at 10:25 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surely the non-Northeast results for "on line" in that map are NYC transplants?

From where those dots are placed, I'm going to say yes.

There's a field of red in the "northeast corridor" which typically has lots of NYC influence and NYC "transplants" (to the extent that anyone is a "transplant" after moving 150 miles from home). Also locals who have strong contact with the NYC cultural zone, went to college in the NY metro area, married someone from the NY metro area, pick up local NY area TV and radio, etc.

Then you've got a smattering of red spread through the rust belt and New England. Probably transplants, or people who spent a few years living in NYC and then moved back home to Cleveland or wherever, taking "on line" with them.

You also have a significant bit of red in Southern California, which has a long history of NY area transplants going back generations. So not only do you have "on line" sayers like me (picked it up when I lived there and just recently moved to SoCal, where I continue to use it), you probably also have "on line" sayers who got it from their grandmother who grew up on the Lower East Side.

Besides that, you've got a few dots here and there, all corresponding to major cities where New York transplants might chance to find themselves.

I'd be curious to know how many responses constitute a dot. 50? 100? 1000? There are three dots over Southeastern Louisiana and the NOLA metro area, where "on line" is absolutely not AT ALL ever heard unless it's from someone fresh of the boat from New Jersey, and then it's promptly mocked out of existence.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on March 24, 2013


Jumper = sweater

Well, my student who just moved from London asked me where I got my jumper when I was wearing a hoodie. And tennis shoes and sneakers are the same, at least where I am.
posted by Huck500 at 10:37 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The phrase Big Girl's Blouse always confused me, us the blouse part insulting? The bigness? The girl? I have no idea where to put the emphasis in there.

The Whelk, the emphasis goes on Big (to emphasise how much of a girl's blouse the person is being), and the girl's blouse part is the insult. I guess it came from the idea that this feminine item of clothing could signify weakness.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:48 AM on March 24, 2013


Is "girl's blouse" like "wet blanket", then?
posted by Sara C. at 11:53 AM on March 24, 2013


Yes that's exactly it.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:45 PM on March 24, 2013


Thanks for all the anecdata about "quarter of/to" - my mostly NE US experience had only ever heard "quarter of" when I hit Oz. Now, of course, it sounds weird to me.

And re in/on line - neither, you stand in the queue!

I have heard some Australians ask for a rubber. Can't remember how old they are. I try not to snigger.

It's a funny thing. Trips to the US I encounter a lot of Americans who have trouble understanding me, especially when I ask for "water" which I guess I pronounce differently now. And yet Aussies think I still sound fresh off the plane, oblivious to my shifted vowels, simply because I still pronounce my "r"s and occasionally say "y'all". The Kiwis get it though.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:42 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, my student who just moved from London asked me where I got my jumper when I was wearing a hoodie.

Was it a sweatshirt material hoodie or a knitted yarn garment?
posted by cooker girl at 5:57 PM on March 24, 2013


-Well, my student who just moved from London asked me where I got my jumper when I was wearing a hoodie.

Was it a sweatshirt material hoodie or a knitted yarn garment?


I think (though I'm not someone who says 'jumper') that 'jumper' can cover both, in the same way 'sweater' can cover both. However, 'hoodie' in Britain and the US refers to the same garment.

(See also 'hug a hoodie', which is a different, but related, use of 'hoodie'. It's a metonymy.)
posted by hoyland at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2013


I think a big girl's blouse is equivalent to calling someone a great Jessie, and both of these imply the person (male) is something of a tit and a softie both.

The James May list is a bit precious, it's something you would get from from a ...vocabulary professional, ie journalist or broadcaster, trying to be witty. It's a bit twee.

Speaking of which I believe 'A little bit,' isn't a very common formation in the States, or is that just in the South?

All this talk of sneakers and trainers! Sneakers definitely sound American to British ears. But we calls em daps in Bristol, we does. Aaargh. Them's the canvas ones.

Oh yeah and all the kids need a rubber in their pencil case when they go to school - you dirty-minded Mefites!
posted by glasseyes at 8:12 PM on March 24, 2013


'A little bit,'

In (my experience of) the US, we tend to say "a little", or "a little bit". "A bit" is pretty rare and sounds vaguely British or possibly just posh.

I think it might be more common lately, because of the same British influence described in the FPP.
posted by Sara C. at 8:59 PM on March 24, 2013


Speaking of which I believe 'A little bit,' isn't a very common formation in the States, or is that just in the South?

In Canada, it's completely normal. A wee bit, even. But that's just it: Here, a bit is always little. "Just a little bit" can be (and usually is) shortened to "a bit" (or "a little") and still mean exactly the same thing. Britons seem more likely to refer to a big hunk of something, like the wing of a Boeing 747 for example, as that bit there. While not unheard of, that usage is much less of a thing here.

A bit also refers to a small number of things or amount of stuff or degree of severity, as opposed to a bunch. No one would bat an eyelash at the phrase, "A whole bunch of water."
posted by Sys Rq at 9:05 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forget the British vs. American divide. If you really want to confuse Americans, talk, with a Canadian accent (i.e. they can't tell you're foreign) about brackets. You know, those things I just used to enclose the parenthetical statement I made.
posted by CoureurDubois at 9:27 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always enjoyed the moments on How I Met Your Mother when they underline the surprising differences between Canadian and American English. Every once in a while Cobie Smulders will say something that barely sounds like English.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 PM on March 24, 2013


Forget the British vs. American divide. If you really want to confuse Americans, talk, with a Canadian accent (i.e. they can't tell you're foreign) about brackets. You know, those things I just used to enclose the parenthetical statement I made.

I don't get it. What's the punchline? (Is it that those are parentheses [and these are brackets]?)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:46 PM on March 24, 2013


Well, the How I met Your Mother writers kind of ham it up too. But yes, Canadian English confuses Americans.

Years ago when I first arrived I had to tell someone my license plate "number". BCXZ something something...

Anyway I said bee-cee-ecks-zed... and the person I was talking to just stopped, like I had crashed her brain. She looked up at me and stared blankly like I had just bleated or something. For several beats I stared back. Then I said "zee". She looked back down and proceeded to write down my details.

But I am always amazed by how many Americans refuse - by which I mean cognitively refuse, not like they're doing it to be rude - to comprehend that "zed" is the last letter in the alphabet.
posted by GuyZero at 9:46 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actual dialogue from Yorkshire many, many years ago.

Me: hesitating to try some blisteringly spicy and wildly potent shot with much heming and hawing
My Companion: C'mon Wally down in one.
Me: (confused) My name's not Wally?
My Companion: equal confusion, eyes closed, takes the shot from me and downs it himself.
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. What's the punchline? (Is it that those are parentheses [and these are brackets]?)

Indeed. Everywhere I have lived in the US, (these can only be parentheses and to call them brackets is to confuse people entirely). "Square brackets" elicits similar baffled looks. Because what other shape would they be? It took me a good ten years to stumble across this one, mind you; despite the amusing moments on How I Met Your Mother, Canadian vs. Americanisms tend to be pretty subtle.

Also fun: pencil crayons.

I've never had anyone not understand "zed." I have, however, been asked which part of Canada I'm from in response. Of course, I thought they were some kind of wizard, because I hadn't even noticed what I'd said (though I was, of course, aware of the difference) and the question wasn't posed immediately.
posted by CoureurDubois at 9:55 PM on March 24, 2013


Don't even get me started on the British way of saying garage.

Which one? It's garaaaj in the South of England, garridge in the North.
posted by mippy at 4:38 AM on March 25, 2013


"Square brackets" elicits similar baffled looks. Because what other shape would they be?

Angled. You know, like HTML tags.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:32 AM on March 25, 2013


"Square brackets" elicits similar baffled looks.

I have 'parentheses', 'square brackets' and 'curly braces' (and I guess sometimes 'angle brackets', but I almost never have to say that aloud), which makes little logical sense, but does let you dictate LaTeX without confusion.

But I am always amazed by how many Americans refuse - by which I mean cognitively refuse, not like they're doing it to be rude - to comprehend that "zed" is the last letter in the alphabet.

So, I hate tomatoes. I would vastly prefer they not be on my sandwich. But I say 'to-ma-to'. I have nearly trained myself to say 'to-may-to' when ordering sandwiches because apparently me saying 'tomato' is totally incomprehensible.
posted by hoyland at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So people say toe-ma-toe in places other than that song? I'm honestly surprised.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on March 25, 2013


Me too. I thought it was invented for the song.
posted by octothorpe at 2:33 PM on March 25, 2013


British people say Toe-mah-toe. Also Ba-nah-na as opposed to Ba-naa-na. And Basil as if it's the Eastern European saint's name rather than Bay-zul as Americans do.

Po-tah-to, I think, WAS invented for the song.
posted by Sara C. at 3:06 PM on March 25, 2013


Wiktionary gives you Britain and Australia. I think it's quite possibly North American Englishes vs all other Englishes (and I have no idea where the Caribbean fits in this).
posted by hoyland at 3:08 PM on March 25, 2013


Let me also break the news to you about 'yogurt', 'pasta' and 'been'.
posted by hoyland at 3:11 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Because, holy crap, do those words upset Americans when I say them 'wrong'.)
posted by hoyland at 3:13 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, there's a different way to say pasta? Pah sta. I haven't heard pay stah outside of unflattering caricurtures of Bostonites.
posted by The Whelk at 3:17 PM on March 25, 2013


Caricatured Bostonians say it PAYsta? Where?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:19 PM on March 25, 2013


Wait, there's a different way to say pasta? Pah sta. I haven't heard pay stah outside of unflattering caricurtures of Bostonites.

pasta. In my head, I'm saying past-uh, rather than paaaaaaaaahhhhhst-uh. (Unlike in that dictionary I linked to, for me, the first 'a' in pasta and in 'past' are basically the same.)
posted by hoyland at 3:27 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, I've totally heard past-uh, but I'd associated it with Chicago for some reason.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:28 PM on March 25, 2013


I am confused about yogurt. I know you put a silly "h" in there, but i am unclear on what an alternate pronunciation would be?
posted by dame at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2013


UK SO says Yuh-gut not Yo-gurt.
posted by The Whelk at 3:38 PM on March 25, 2013


Oh yeah, I've totally heard past-uh, but I'd associated it with Chicago for some reason.

You didn't happen to meet me in college did you? Because I avoided almost all hassle about my accent in college because Californians assumed that anything I said 'funny' was a Chicago accent. It was fairly amazing. (I was raised outside Chicago by someone from Yorkshire. My accent is mostly Chicago, except where it isn't. And people find those places deeply upsetting and want to tell me about how wrong I am at length. Which is why I then complain about such people at length on the internet.)

I want to say my dad (who is from Chicago) says past-uh. But I have no idea if that's accurate. I would believe my dad has 'been' and 'bean' as homophones, except I paid close attention once and he doesn't.

I am confused about yogurt. I know you put a silly "h" in there, but i am unclear on what an alternate pronunciation would be?

Basically, yog-ert vs. yoh-gert.
posted by hoyland at 3:39 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of these escape me because I'm all over the map when saying "router". 50% of the time I'm saying "fucker" in Australian.
posted by GuyZero at 3:49 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You didn't happen to meet me in college did you?

Probably not, unless you went to school in Boston (not a Harvard euphemism).
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:04 PM on March 25, 2013


Basically, yog-ert vs. yoh-gert.

Oh yea, that's ... disturbing. It just sounds kinda gross.
posted by dame at 4:24 PM on March 25, 2013


Past-a is very much an Ontario thing, too.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:31 PM on March 25, 2013


Was it a sweatshirt material hoodie or a knitted yarn garment?

It was a cotton sweatshirt-material zip-up hoodie.
posted by Huck500 at 5:11 PM on March 25, 2013


Probably not, unless you went to school in Boston (not a Harvard euphemism).

Nope. Neither Boston, nor euphemism Boston, but California (which I guess was obvious from my earlier comment).
posted by hoyland at 7:18 PM on March 25, 2013


I didn't have the yogurt problem. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard yog-gurt in Canada. But everyone laughed so hard the first time I said "pasta" I made damn sure to never do that again. Been continues to be a problem.
posted by CoureurDubois at 12:16 AM on March 26, 2013


As an Aussie, we plan a route with a map (pronounced root) with nobody laughing, but get a Brit to talk about our network and we fall about laughing.
posted by bystander at 4:13 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


As an Aussie, we plan a route with a map (pronounced root) with nobody laughing, but get a Brit to talk about our network and we fall about laughing.

Same here in Canada (and much of the US): Route* as a noun rhymes with a boot; route as a verb (what a router does) rhymes with about.

*I think this is because the other kind of router doesn't route, but rout, and the name of the tool just carried over.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:41 PM on March 26, 2013


British people say Toe-mah-toe. Also Ba-nah-na as opposed to Ba-naa-na. And Basil as if it's the Eastern European saint's name rather than Bay-zul as Americans do.

My wife and I used to have giggle fits when we drank with our UK mates and got them to say "Murdered in the Conservatory in Suburbia with a Banana". This will of course come up when they visit us now because nostalgia.
posted by srboisvert at 4:15 PM on March 30, 2013


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