divided by the same language part 2

October 10, 2006

The culture shock on my first visit to the States continued when I entered a shopping centre (I don’t know what you call these) and saw a stern notice saying ‘No Strollers’.I naturally immediately quickened my pace and sped past the shops as if I was on the last mile of the marathon, anxious lest my speed should drop to the point where it coud be considered ‘strolling’. It was only when I noticed that nobody else was racing round the place that I suspected I had misunderstood something. Another misunderstanding came when I heard a news item on the TV about ‘some pacifiers being withdrawn’. I assumed this concerned the UN peace-keeping force in the Balkans and was surprised to see pictures of perfectly healthy looking babies. When I told my American friend that in England if we wanted to keep a baby quiet we got it to suck a dummy, for some inexplicable reason he started laughing. Later, he invited me to ‘wash up’. Now I’m quite happy to help friends wash the dishes but as he had the latest model of dishwasher displayed proudly in his kitchen I asked him why we didn’t use that. Then there was the first time I entered an office and a young man came bounding out proclaiming ‘Hi, I’m Randy’. I didn’t know whether to flee or tell him to go and have a cold shower. I was similarly puzzled when I asked a young lady how she was feeling and she answered ‘good’. It was with difficulty that I was able to resist the temptation to tell her that it was her health I was enquiring after not her morals. Then the first time I hired a car I discovered that it is not only elephants that have trunks, that a flat is not somewhere you live and that a tailpipe was not some form of smoking accessory but what I called an exhaust. After a few trips I thought I had pretty well mastered the language. Then just as I had learned to ask for a ‘cookie’ not a ‘biscuit’ I suddenly discovered that ‘cookies’ are not snacks at all but things your computer picks up when you visit certain web sites. I guess I’ll have to start learning all over again.

4 Responses to “divided by the same language part 2”

  1. SilverTiger Says:

    They possibly call a shopping centre a “mall”, as they do in Canada. This is not pronounced “mall” but “morl”.

    We sometimes still say “morl” to one another for amusement. It makes your mouth feel funny.


  2. Do you call a stroller a pram? Or is that an older word?

    “Suck a dummy”! đŸ˜€ Oh, my. One gets visions of a pornographic ventriloquist act.

    Generally (but not always), a “shopping center” (with the Americanized inversion of the “re”) is a group of stores that are together but that all have outdoor entrances. A “mall” is a bunch of stores that are together in a single huge building and that have entrances off common indoor hallways. Where I live, it’s pronounced “mawl”; the further south you go, the more the vowel is drawn out, until in some areas it might be pronounced in two syllables: “mah-ul”. Tiger’s “morl” is a northern U.S./Canadian version.

    A fairly new term in U.S. shopping is the “big box store,” which means Wal-Mart or any other humongous entity that builds a store that looks, well, like a giant, ugly box.

    I know a man who lived in England for a while and who found himself longing for the American version of a biscuit (sort of like a scone, but not sweet, and with a somewhat different texture; round; generally eaten with butter and jelly, or sometimes gravy). Some English friends tried making him U.S. biscuits, but they just weren’t the same; I’m not sure whether England sells the same sort of baking powder and/or buttermilk, which is what makes them high and light.

    One of my favorite things about reading old British mystery novels is hearing about the different cultural habits: the bathroom, which is separate from the W.C. and which is specifically for bathing, and in which everyone apparently takes a complete bath before dinner every evening (do they still do that? and why not a shower?); the sandwiches made with such exotic fare as “tinned tongue”; the timing and composition of tea and other meals.

  3. crazymac Says:

    I cracked up when I heard Americans use words like ‘faucet’ and ‘elevator’-what;s wrong with the much less pretentious ‘tap’ and ‘lift’? Some American friends of mine had a lot of difficulty driving over here with roundabouts, Pelican and zebra crossings.

  4. tomeemayeepa Says:

    I am not the best person to ask about this but I believe that there are two wheeled methods of transporting infants. In one, said infant is recumbent and I think pram is still used for this though in the shops they tart it up with terms like ‘baby carriage’.’Pram’ is defined in my dictionary as ‘a four-wheeled carriage for a baby, pushed by a person on foot. ORIGIN late 19th cent.: contracted abbreviation of perambulator.’ In the second method, the infant sits up, facing backwards and this, if I am not mistaken, is called in the UK a ‘pushchair’, defined as ‘a folding chair on wheels, in which a baby or young child can be pushed along’.

    The baby carriage was, apparently, invented in 1733 by English architect William Kent for the 3rd Duke of Devonshire’s children. William H. Richardson patented an improvement to the baby carriage in the United States on June, 18, 1889.. You can see a picture of it at http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blbabycarriage.htm. Basically, it’s a basket on wheels, not the most creative of inventions.
    I recommend the Inglesina 2006 Sofia AR7 Fuoco Cariage & Stroller Seat with Choice of Chassis- it has an acceleration from 0 – 5 km/h in 3.9 s, variable-ratio gearing, six-piston fixed caliper braking system and contact-sensitive exterior protection and radar-based interior surveillance alarm system.

    I have never seen either form of transport out here: babies are either carried like a sack of potatoes or stuffed into a sort of sling arrangement. Just as well as pavements (aka sidewalks) are about the most dangerous part of the outside world, being used equally by pedestrians, teenage motorcycle racers, absent minded car drivers, tuk-tuks and unpredictable dogs as well as forming a precarious link between piles of rubble and uncovered six metre deep drains. Most people seem to transport their babies on mopeds, the more safety conscious have a special little seat which places the baby just above the speedometer, ie in the point of maximum risk should there be a mishap. Most of the time the parents wear crash helmets if they think the cops are out, leaving the baby unprotected.
    I’d better stop on this subject before I get too interested.
    I don’t think many people have a bath before dinner nowadays. Regrettably, showers have become more popular. In my opinion much of the angst of present day living can be washed away by a good soak.


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