Friday, October 31, 2008

I Need an English To English Dictionary

In general:
I've noticed that Brits are very fond of the word "loads," as in, "I have loads of reading to do." I've never heard an American use that exact phrase per se, but we do say, "I have s**t loads of reading to do." Is that because we are more crass than Brits?

Today, at a convenience store:

Me: Hi, do you sell chap stick?
Shopkeeper: No.
Me: Oh, you don't?
Shopkeeper: Chopstick?
Me: Chap stick.
Shopkeeper: Right, chopstick, like the Chinese use?
Me: Uh, no. Chap ... you know like when your lips (gesturing to lips) are chapped (imitate rubbing chap stick over lips)? Like ... lip balm?
Shopkeeper: Oh! You mean Lipsyl!
Me: Oh, okay, lip...syl. Yeah .... I think so.
Shopper: Yeah, we call it Lipsyl or ... er, Vaseline. 
Me: Okay, I get it, we just call it chap stick because it prevents chapped lips.
Shopper: Well, some places do sell chap stick, but it's not the general term. It's Lipsyl.
Shopkeeper: It's okay, she's learning now.

Lesson learned. Lipsyl. But now I know what to ask for. In other news, today I had to give a half an hour presentation, and I kicked its ass. Take that abusive boyfriend.


Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I've never heard that, must be a London thing! I've always called it chapstick!

JAM said...

Too funny! My husband is British, and he's lost a lot of his sayings but they come through every now and then. When I first met him his two favorites were "swings and roundabouts", meaning "you win some, you lose some" and "six of one" (short for "six of one, half dozen of the other"), meaning "same difference". He still insists on saying speciality instead of specialty, and aluminium instead of aluminum. If you're ever around kids, make sure you find a way to mention your pants in conversation, since when we say pants, they mean trousers, and when they say pants, they mean underwear. Kids find that just hilarious that Americans walk around talking about underwear all day, when of course, we're just talking about pants! For a school project one year my daughter made an American-English dictionary with all the words we could think of, with all the usual suspects like loo, lift, flat, mobile, etc. and it's just amazing how many we came up with - hundreds of them. What always amuses me is how many French words the English use even though they claim to hate the French (corgettes for zucchini, serviettes for napkin - that's another one to produce giggles since they think of napkins as diapers). And of course they never eat English muffins...

Anonymous said...

haha, that's hilarious. i have a feeling that's going to happen A LOT. when i was there the same thing happened every time i went out... like for example, a lot of the time people didn't know what i was referring to when i asked where the bathroom was. they just called it a toilet. i'm trying to remember the other ones... hmm...

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Diapers are nappies, not napkins! Napkins just means napkins (posh version, non-posh people say serviettes).

Misunderstandings of the word fanny are much funnier than the ones involving pants, in my experience.

Kelly S. said...

I think we call it chapstick because that's the company that makes kleenex and q-tips and band-aids.

Anonymous said...

I've always said "loads of", but then I spent two years in a British school when I was young. I still have a few other holdovers from when I attended school there. They were very particular that we spoke British English and not corrupt their little kids with our American accents *laughs*.

Kim said...

Cath, one of my favorite family stories involves misunderstandings of the word fanny.

Both of my paternal grandparents are Irish-- but my grandfather moved to the states as a pretty young child, so basically grew up an American kid.

He was in Ireland during the war, which is where he met my grandmother. When my grandmother first brought him home her brother asked my grandfather how they met.My grandfather got a big grin on his face and proceeded to tell the story of how she was waiting on his table, and he just thought she was so pretty and sassy... and he smacked her fanny as she walked away.

The storry delighted him so much-- but he of course meant he smacked her on the butt. My great-uncle-- well that's not what he thought at all and immediately set about giving my grandfather a beating as my grandmother's face reached a full flush! :-D

Spot-On said...

gotta say yes the fanny thing is more funny than any other misunderstanding between the countries. I'm British living in America.

US flashlight - UK torch (learned that the hardway when asking a guy in target and being directed to the gardening department.

US fries = UK chips
US chips = UK crisps

And yeah I've never heard diapers being called napkins, they are nappies.

Stroller = buggy or pram
trunk = boot
trash = rubbish

too many to mention really! Can cause some serious confusion at times!

Oh and I've called it lipsyl before, it was a brand name from ages ago. But mostly it's called lip balm or salve. (not from london so not a london thing)

Anonymous said...

And then there was the time when our B&B host told us we could get what we needed at the "spa" on the corner. Huh? Turned out it was the Spar store. Recently I finished Denise Mina's "Garnethill" series, where I learned what "madge" really is. I guess Madonna's nickname isn't so fond, after all? Eeek!

Anonymous said...

We spent 3 months traveling with our British friend a few years ago. Phil, the husband, would called us Muppets, whenever he deemed us stupid :)

Then last year, our families got together, with our then 5 and 2 year olds and their then 4 and 2 year olds. Man, the conversations were hilarious.

It did not seem to bother the kids though. When they did not understand each other, they simply moved on.

Ralph Mills said...

And then of course, after 10 years in the UK, my Canadian partner still says "CEEsill" for "SESSill" (Cecil) and "BerNARD" for "BERnerd" (Bernard), "erb" for "herb", "bayzil" for "bazzil" (basil), and the one that drives me mad... "orEGGanno" for "oregAHno" (oregano) etc etc. In return I of course say all kinds of things that have my North American friends in stitches. But it's all part of the fun of mixing nationalities.

ruchi said...

Commoner, hah! The funniest one for me is the Brit pronunciation of "mee-thane" for "meh-thane!" (When you're taking classes on the environment it comes up a lot.) :)

EcoGeoFemme said...

I'm a little late here, but I'll comment anyway because EGM and I are constantly having this conversation. There are a few American phrases that he couldn't stand at first, like "bunch" instead of "loads", "go ahead" (I'm going to go ahead and stop), "all set" (do you need anything else? No, I'm all set). He even made up gestures for these phrases. Guess what? Now he says them without thinking all the time. love it.

He also had to phase out a bunch of words when he came to America because they just didn't work. And when he says his last name, Americans often think he's saying a different word and that can be pretty funny. He spells it out in a characatured American accent. He hates to call to order the pizza.

scott adam ALF said...

Went to Devon for School in the 70's, but when I came back home, I had to explain "the size of fags in England" to my "King sized marlboro" smoking girlfreind at 17, you see dear #1o's are smaller,but they have different types, sized packs, and size cigarettes.
"Few" she said I thought you might be going gay on me.
What a loss of a good word to the "ENGLISH " language, ' I thought.'

scott adam ALF said...

Went to Devon for School in the 70's, but when I came back home, I had to explain "the size of fags in England" to my "King sized marlboro" smoking girlfreind at 17, you see dear #1o's are smaller,but they have different types, sized packs, and size cigarettes.
"Few" she said I thought you might be going gay on me.
What a loss of a good word to the "ENGLISH " language, ' I thought BACK HERE STATES SIDE.