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Freyda

You'd think we were all speaking the same language, but...

I'm starting a thread to help with English when words clearly don't mean quite the same thing across the pond, and possibly also right around the other side of the tennis ball...? (mixed metaphor number one)

I don't have one of those helpful trans-Atlantic dictionaries and I'm sure Bill Bryson must have written something on the subject, but I don't have that either. So I'm hoping others here will contribute both answers and new questions.

1. "visiting" - in the UK we mean that just as "to go and see someone" either socially or as in a visit to the dentist. But I seem to gather from reading American English that it may also mean to sit and chat sociably, since I'll read that "we visited for a few minutes" when someone is clearly already in the house. Am I right in this, or is there more to it? It feels like a nice old-fashioned phrase in that way, from the days when neighbours or ladies did a lot of "visiting".

I had another query but I've forgotten it!  Embarassed
Evie

Yes, I have an American friend who says things like 'Did you have a good visit with your friend?'. meaning did you have a good time when went to see her.
Ann

One of the funniest americanisms I found was that to them 'braces' meant only on teeth and not on trousers - (of course I mean pants!).
Evie

Which leads onto the difference between the use of the word 'suspenders' on either side of the Pond...   Wink
MikeAlx

Just don't go in a shop ('store') in the US and ask if they sell rubbers.  Wink

(unless you actually want condoms, of course!)
Gino

You beat me to it I was going to suggest if you wan't to erase your penciled jottings you should not ask around the office for a rubber also when your leave the office for a smoke do not say you are going for a fag!.
Chibiabos83

A recurring feature of my schooldays was the throwing of items of stationery across classrooms to eliminate the trouble of walking. On one occasion I remember a pencil eraser whizzing just past the ear of a friend of mine. "What was that?" he cried, to which I sarcastically replied, "It's called a rubber, Jonny." It took me a couple of seconds to work out why everyone else was laughing. Halcyon days... (Or, in the case of chemistry lessons, halogen days).
Jen M

We probably all know that "sidewalk" means "pavement", but what about "crosswalk"?  I assume it means pedestrian crossing, or is it a crossroads, or something else?  I've come across this a couple of times recently and was not clear from the context what was meant.
Green Jay

This is well-timed, because I'm reading The American Wife and some things don't really translate. I've read so much American literature that I have grasped things like some brand-name foods and shops, and am sort of au fait with the US school system, though could do with a brief lesson on the equivalent school years. 10th grade etc doesnt mean a particular age to me, though with the recent adoption of years 1 -13 at British schools it is a bit more familiar. I'm not sure if they are the exact same, though.

Americans talk about 'school' when they mean university. Or what I mean as university! (it's hard to be tactful)

I read a book recently where the woman keeps decribing herself as wearing a knitted 'jumper' but it clearly wasn't what I'd mean by the same - our jumper is the equivalent of a sweater - knitted, top half garment with long sleeves, since we'd also say 'short-sleeved' or 'sleeveless jumper' to differentiate that. What on earth was she wearing???

I suppose my queries are about things that don't readily spring to the mind's eye when reading because they don't mean anything much to me. I think fags and rubbers are well-worn (no pun intended) jokes and wouldn't stop my understanding of a piece of fiction. But sometimes brand-name products are totally obscure to me, as are the arcane habits of American life. What is Junior League? I know Little League is sport for kids, but this is for housewives.
Green Jay

Jen M wrote:
We probably all know that "sidewalk" means "pavement", but what about "crosswalk"? I assume it means pedestrian crossing, or is it a crossroads, or something else? I've come across this a couple of times recently and was not clear from the context what was meant.


Yes, but 'pavement' doesn't mean pavement either! I think it means the roadway, so if you told an American or Canadian to keep on the pavement they'd get run over.

This subject is much more fraught than the familiar elevator/lift, sidewalk/pavement examples might imply.  Confused
MikeAlx

I recall, some years back, an American female sub-editor (at our printworks to sign-off magazine articles) wanted to use a guillotine. Unfortunately, she asked one of the blokes in the studio: "Do you have a big chopper?". After everyone had fallen about laughing, someone explained the UK slang meaning.
Melony

1. Visiting does mean going to see someone, but also just sitting around chatting.

2. We do know that suspenders are braces, also, but hardly anyone wears them anymore, so it is an antiquated term.

3. Mike, if someone actually went into a store and asked for rubbers, they would be very low class!! lol  But we refer to rubber erasers as gum erasers.

4. A crosswalk is a pedestrian crossing marked with white lines. You are supposed to cross the street only at the crosswalk, otherwise you are jaywalking and can be fined.

5. Green Jay, a jumper is a dress under which a blouse is worn.  I am wondering what you call them - Laura Ashley had many dress patterns for jumpers.  Junior League is a rich women's service organization - I'm not sure of the name of a similar organization where you are.

6. Mike, by guillotine do you mean paper cutter? One of those big things with a slicing arm? Why on eath would she call it a big chopper?!  Those uncouth Americans! lol  

Why is a car hood a bonnet - because it covers the engine I assume, but is a bonnet also a hat in England?

My son watched Leeds United (the movie) the other day and had the closed captions on.  How bad is that?! He said he couldn't understand all of what they were saying. lol
Evie

Hi Melony - what you call a jumper, we call a pinafore.

I think overalls is another clothing thing, isn't it?  I think what you call overalls are what we call dungarees - overalls are sort of coverall things that mechanics and other people who do dirty jobs wear - including cleaners and, once upon a time, houswives!   Shocked
Evie

Oh, and the car thing - I can see how bonnet and hood both relate to headgear, but does anyone know why we Brits call the back storage bit of the car the boot...?  I've always thought it was a funny word for it!
Green Jay

That makes complete sense now, Melony, thank you - I knew you would come to the rescue.

I don't think we have any equivalent to Junior League in England - maybe we just don't have enough rich women! There are women's service organisations, though I'm not sure we'd call them that, they are sort of community and social gatherings - Women's Institute, Womens Royal Voluntary Service (who seem to run meals-on-wheels, and shops and sales trolleys in hospitals), and church groups like Mothers Union, though I am pretty ignorant about them. They all seem fairly old-fashioned to me. My mum is in the WI and everyone in her branch seems to be about her age, 70s-90s! But I think in some areas they are trying to be more modern and appeal to younger women. Britain has a large and long-standing culture of volunteering for all sorts of good works, thank heavens. It is supposed to be declining, especially with so many women in the paid workforce now, but I think that's a bit of a myth. Lots of youngsters and students volunteer still.
Green Jay

Evie wrote:
Hi Melony - what you call a jumper, we call a pinafore.



I think we'd call it a pinafore dress, wouldn't we, Evie, as pinafore also means apron? I'd call it a tunic or a smock, too, depending on the cut. Clothing vocabulary is very complex, as my husband always claims. he is hopeless at it - does not know the difference between a blouse and a dress, or a dress and a skirt. If he was female he soon would, or he'd find himself in very embarrassing situations.

I think American words for shoes are a bit obscure to us Brits, too. I can get penny loafers but there are other things that don't mean anything to me. Wingtips, Oxfords. We've also adopted the term Mary Janes, (plain girls' shoes with a strap across the top of the foot) but I don't think we used to call them that when I was young and wore them.
Evie

Tunics and smocks are both something different from pinafores (and from each other), to me...and while pinafore does mean apron, I always used to refer to my school dress simply as a pinafore...but yes, perhaps pinafore dress is more accurate generally.  I suppose it just shows that the differences are, as you say, more complex than simply American and British!

We use the term Oxford for a particular type of shoe, surely - but I don't know what a wingtip is.
Ann

Yes .... Oxford brogues
mike js

For cars, is it also fender = bumper, and windshield = windscreen.

For clothes, vest = waistcoat as well as suspenders = braces, and pants = trousers.

Dressing in just trousers, braces and waistcoat would be a little odd for a gentleman, but dressing in just pants, suspenders and a vest is liable to lead to arrest!   Wink
mike js

P.S. So I'm told ...
Melony

Evie, overalls are things farmers wear. Those denim things that buckle over the shoulder, as opposed to coveralls, like racecar drivers wear.

We have pinafores too, that look like little apron jumpers. For tiny babies they are loos fitting, but for school girls they have a banded waist and usually have capped ruffle sleeves.

Wingtips are men's dress shoes that have a "wing" design with tiny holes in them - that doesn't sound right, but like Oxfords, lace up.  Here is a link to a picture, if it will open:
http://www1.bloomingdales.com/cat...gleProduct&utm_medium=organic
Castorboy

mike js wrote:
....but dressing in just pants, suspenders and a vest is liable to lead to arrest! Wink

So why aren't some of the pop singers arrested? Silly me, they have arrrested development!

I always worry about the word vacation for holiday. To vacate can mean to leave, whereas with holiday you are going somewhere.
Jen M

Castorboy wrote:

I always worry about the word vacation for holiday. To vacate can mean to leave, whereas with holiday you are going somewhere.


I'd not considered that one before, but you are leaving your job behind for the duration of the holiday.  In the UK we also refer to time away from work for the purpose of a holiday as "annual leave".

Melony, the Leeds United film is called The Damned United here.

What exactly is a condo?  I know it's somewhere to live, but what is it?
MikeAlx

Short for 'condominium'. I think it's like an apartment complex where there are certain rules for the community, agreed by a residents' committee.
MikeAlx

Another one that springs to mind:

nappies = diapers

Evie, "car boot" is a strange one, isn't it? I can only think it refers to the watertight nature of the boot (presumably dating back to when they were external storage units). "Boot" is used elsewhere in cars - there is a steering boot, CV Joint boot, spark plug boot etc. - in all cases they refer to rubber units that seal something in.
Caro

New Zealand words a bit of a mishmash of English, American, Maori and old Scottish dialect. The thing I found awkward when we were in England is that you have different words for cuts of meat. My silverside is a sort of better grade of corned beef but at the Sheffield butcher's it was some form of steak.

My English-born husband talks of vests where the rest of the country talks of singlets. We say gumboots where you say wellingtons/wellies. NZers frequently use the Scottish 'wee'. And there are plenty of words we have in common with Australia but that aren't much in use elsewhere, like drongo, wowser, cow cocky, crook (to mean ill), creek. And we always say kiwifruit where the rest of the world just uses kiwi. Bush means rain forest really. I was surprised when I used 'a box of birds' once on a BBC board and people didn't know what I was talking about. It means 'fine' and is used as a reply to "How are you?"

What do you call what I call a slater? Just woodlouse, or do you know the word slater?

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

Mike - I wondered if 'boot' had anything do with the place you keep your boots and outdoor shoes!

Caro - I haven't heard the word slater for woodlouse (gives a new meaning to a particular family in Eastenders though!) - we also say gumboots, though not as much as wellies - and we use kiwi fruit a lot too.

I still have no idea about cuts of meat, despite being a voracious carnivore!  There used to be charts in butcher's shops, though both charts and butchers are rare these days.
Ann

[quote="MikeAlx"]Another one that springs to mind:

nappies = diapers

quote]

When I was guiding last year we took round a group of embroiderers. They were amazed at the fabulous alter cloth which I informed them, as I had been taught, was made using a stitch called 'Or Noue' but they informed me that most of it was done with diaper stitch. I did wonder what that had to do with nappies!
Joe Mac

I so enjoy this topic, but for now (too many people looking over my shoulder at work) just two points:

Jen: Do you suggest what Brits call 'pavement' is what we (Americans and Canadians) call 'sidewalks'? Here in Canada, the sidewalk is the concrete footpath beside the paved street. Pavement has pretty much become synonymous with the asphalt surface on roads or parking lots. In the rare case when a sidewalk is made of asphalt and not concrete, we would say it is 'paved', but would still call it a sidewalk, not 'pavement.'

I think the  Aussies must use 'footpath' for sidewalk. When I encountered this use in a book by the mountaineer Lincoln Hall, I imagined a path wandering through a park, whereas he seemed to refer to the plain old streetside walkway.

There's another very minor difference between American and British lingo that nevertheless continues to trip up British writers (probably Americans too, although I've not seen it). It's 'on' the weekend as opposed to 'at' the weekend. Many times British authors will put 'at the weekend' in the mouths of American characters, producing a jarringly false note.
county_lady

'Pavement' does refer to the pedestrian footpath at the side of the road. They can be asphalt but 'paved' usually means 'slabbed' with concrete 'paving slabs' or the increasingly used 'brick pavers' Confused
Freyda

MikeAlx wrote:
Short for 'condominium'. I think it's like an apartment complex where there are certain rules for the community, agreed by a residents' committee.


So what is a duplex? Is that an apartment on two levels?
Freyda

Jen M wrote:
Castorboy wrote:

I always worry about the word vacation for holiday. To vacate can mean to leave, whereas with holiday you are going somewhere.


I'd not considered that one before, but you are leaving your job behind for the duration of the holiday. In the UK we also refer to time away from work for the purpose of a holiday as "annual leave".



This is getting very interesting!  So many variations.

Just to add to vacation, that holiday in French is vacance (also congees, which I think is more like leave)) and in Italian, vacanza, so that root is obviously the same. In England we talk about vacataions in connection with university holidays, where students have vacated the university and  their halls of residence. The summer one is the 'long vacation'. Or 'vac', but this rhymes with 'back', so does not quite work as a short form of vacation.
Freyda

Another word is 'yard' or 'backyard'. In UK this refers to a small, usually enclosed and paved bit at the side or back of a house, and 'garden' is the more verdant bit.  'Backyard' always summons up something small to me, and I have to rethink when I read descriptions of them in  US books, but then English houses are seldom built on acre or half-acre plots (lots) these days. If they are, the garden often gets sold to developer to stick a load more houses in the space! A 'garden' here can be the size of Versailles or be tiny, in which case we sometimes describe it as 'pocket-handkerchief', though usually that means the lawn itself.

But who now carries a pocket handkerchief, a real cotton one, rather than l a load of crumpled tissues?
Evie

Re duplex - the 'house' I currently live in was listed as a duplex apartment - I didn't know what it meant!  I assume it does mean on two floors.  I call it a house as duplex means nothing to me, and it is a house to me, with a proper upstairs and downstairs.  But it is built over a row of shops, which is why I assume it's thought of by estate agents as a flat rather than a house.

I remember being told at university to 'remember that the vacation is not a holiday' - not that it made much difference to most of us, who definitely treated it as a holiday from studying!  No wonder I didn't get a great degree.
Caro

Footpath in NZ does indeed mean that strip of concrete outside homes that you walk along.

A path in the mountains or bush is called a track. Can be well-defined or hardly there at all.
Jen M

Here's an interesting one.

In a park in Atlanta we came across a sign listing the Park Rules. One of these stated that Moonwalking was forbidden. The only reasonable explanation we could come up with (assuming that it had nothing to do with Michael Jackson) was that it was forbidden to walk in the park after nightfall (which didn't really make sense as the park was closed at sundown).

We later found out that Moonwalking referred to bouncy castles - the full rule is "Moonwalks or any equipment that needs independent power is forbidden".
Jen M

Evie wrote:
Re duplex - the 'house' I currently live in was listed as a duplex apartment - I didn't know what it meant! I assume it does mean on two floors. I call it a house as duplex means nothing to me, and it is a house to me, with a proper upstairs and downstairs. But it is built over a row of shops, which is why I assume it's thought of by estate agents as a flat rather than a house.

I remember being told at university to 'remember that the vacation is not a holiday' - not that it made much difference to most of us, who definitely treated it as a holiday from studying! No wonder I didn't get a great degree.


So do other English-speaking countries have maisonettes, which are flats (apartments) with their own entrance from the street, as opposed to from a lobby?

To me, "Duplex" is double-sided photocopying!  Smile
Joe Mac

A duplex on this side of the Atlantic (at least as far as I know) does not imply anything about the number of floors. A duplex is a building made up of two homes, usually side by side.

Condos are usually indistinguishable from apartments, except in the matter of ownership; in fact many apartments are being sold off as condominiums, in which case the tenants pay a mortgage instead of rent, and are also collectively responsible for maintenance. There are also 'time share' condominiums, which have multiple owners, each entitled to a couple of weeks (or whatever) use per annum.

But you've probably already googled it and found a better explanation.
Joe Mac

I've encountered three odd British terms since entering the world of online interlocution: twee, naff and chuffed. I was in each case quite surprised I'd never run across it before, either on British TV or movies or in books, leading me to suspect they were new-ish terms.
I've since seen twee used by an apparently serious movie reviewer, implying it is a serious term, universally understood.
Evie

They are all very common words - I am not sure how long any of them have been around, but they are standard words now.  They are very much colloquial terms, though - at least, naff and chuffed are, twee is a more orthodox word, perhaps - so that may be why they don't crop up in books that much.  Even twee would, I think, only come up in dialogue - I can't imagine an author using it as part of a narrative.
Green Jay

Jen M wrote:
Here's an interesting one.

In a park in Atlanta we came across a sign listing the Park Rules. One of these stated that Moonwalking was forbidden. The only reasonable explanation we could come up with (assuming that it had nothing to do with Michael Jackson) was that it was forbidden to walk in the park after nightfall (which didn't really make sense as the park was closed at sundown).

We later found out that Moonwalking referred to bouncy castles - the full rule is "Moonwalks or any equipment that needs independent power is forbidden".


I love the idea that you mustn't do Michael Jackson impressions in a public park.  Very Happy

I was always amused by the forbidden signs at our local swimming pool. 'Bombing' meant jumping into the water in a sort of high crouch, at least that's how the cartoons in the sign depicted it, especially aiming at others (usually your friends!). Also 'petting' - a cartoon of a couple embracing in the water. Useless for improving your lap time. The one thing that did often happen - I leave it to your imaginations - specially in the junior pool, was never mentioned at all, but always meant complete evacuation (oops) of the pool. Over the tannoy they always referred to it elliptically as "an incident".
Green Jay

[quote="RN Singer"]A duplex on this side of the Atlantic (at least as far as I know) does not imply anything about the number of floors. A duplex is a building made up of two homes, usually side by side.

quote]

That's what we call semi-detached. And what we call terraced houses, I think Amercians refer to as row houses, which probably makes more sense.
MikeAlx

A bit of googling reveals the following:

The etymology of 'naff' is highly uncertain. One theory (suggested by author Keith Waterhouse) is that it comes from the military slang acronym "nasty, awful, f*** it".

"Chuffed" is rather easier to pin down. It's recorded in its current sense of "highly pleased" from about 1860 onwards, and derives from an obsolete usage meaning "swollen with fat". I think it's actually in decline; the popular slang these days seems to be "made up"; if someone was really pleased with something you'd say: "he was made up".

"Twee" dates from at least 1905 and is thought to derive from an infant's attempt to say "sweet". I would say it's moved out of slang into standard usage nowadays, though Chambers still lists it as colloquial.
Chibiabos83

It's often claimed that 'naff' is an acronym from the gay slang Polari (think Julian and Sandy) standing for 'not available for f***ing', i.e. straight. Difficult to pin its origins down when it crops up in lots of different places at roughly the same time.

Anyone know anything about 'nerk'? I have vague recollections of its having been invented specifically for Porridge, but as a substitute for which presumably taboo word exactly I don't know.
Evie

I do associate 'nerk' with Norman Stanley Fletcher, and am not sure I have heard it anywhere else, but it's a great word.

I was quite shocked when I discovered the origins of such a seemingly innocuous word as 'berk', though... Shocked
Jen M

MikeAlx wrote:


The etymology of 'naff' is highly uncertain. One theory (suggested by author Keith Waterhouse) is that it comes from the military slang acronym "nasty, awful, f*** it".


I thought 'naff' was backslang.  I'm not sure where I got that from - I've also googled it and found numerous other suggestions.
Evie

What's 'backslang'...?
MikeAlx

Backslang's another theory (as is the one Gareth mentions). Backslang was a way of getting away with swearing, cussing etc. by reversing or partially reversing words. According to this theory, 'naf' derives from backslang for 'fanny'.
Evie

I looked up backslang, and knew about the phenomenon without knowing that's what it was called.

Is 'cussing' and American word that has come into British usage, or have Brits always used it?  It's not a word I would use (cursing is my preferred term!), but perhaps it's been around longer than I think.
Mikeharvey

An american word I like and sometimes use is 'sassy' meaning cheeky and impudent.  Seems stronger than 'cheeky'.
MikeAlx

Evie wrote:
Is 'cussing' an American word that has come into British usage, or have Brits always used it? It's not a word I would use (cursing is my preferred term!), but perhaps it's been around longer than I think.

My Dad (b1932) has been using it for years.
Caro

I didn't know 'sassy' was an American word.  I was thinking about it the other day and it seems a lovely word to me, with no negative connotations (unlike cheeky which can have).  Sassy has a swish to it that I like.  There's a cafe in Invercargill called Sassy and the name itself draws you it.

Cheers, Caro.
Melony

I think the no moonwalking in Atlanta might be in reference to no Jupiter Jumps, Moonwalks - those things that inflate really big and kids get in them and jump around?  Or did someone already say that?
Gino

What we refer to as a skip is known as a dumpster made notorious as a receptical for unwanted new borns
Apple

I have relatives in the US and more than once I find myself explaning my terminology! (the thing is I often find myself explaining my terminology this side the pond as well!!)  Wink

One Americanism which seems to have swept over here and my daughter uses on a regular basis is "my bad" when something has gone wrong, now is it me but I really don't get that term to me it just does not make any sense!!
Evie

I know, I don't get that either!  

The other one I don't get is 'I could care less' when they seem to mean 'I couldn't care less' - surely if you could care less, it means you care quite a bit!
Caro

I think with that last one there might be an implied 'as if' or 'like' before the 'I could care less'.  

I find 'my bad' grates too, since it doesn't follow a grammatical structure that I am familiar with.  'Me bad' I could manage.

I don't know nerk.  (Was it nerk?  Not a word I have come across or know the menaing of.  I don't have a lot of contact with youngsters who use modern language, so I never know if my ignorance is due to that, or because these forms aren't used in NZ.  NZers don't really know 'chav' for instance, and indeed my son, who lived in Ipswich for a year, often corrects my pronunciation of this unfamiliar word.)

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

Oh, that makes sense, Caro - to put 'as if' before it - thanks!
Chibiabos83

No one says 'nerk' outside the classic 1970s sitcom Porridge, Caro, so you haven't overlooked a linguistic milestone. I wonder if together we can insinuate it into the language.
Ann

I always imagined it as nurk but spelling is not my strong point.
Melony

My bad did bother me, too, until I started looking on it as "mea culpa," which gave it a classier sound.
Evie

Except that 'bad' is an adjective and 'culpa' is a noun - at least the Romans knew how to form a sentence!  Wink
Caro

Ah, thanks, Gareth.  We didn't watch Porridge much for some reason. Don't know why - we watched most British sitcoms of the era and other Ronnie Barker things.

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

Porridge is the best of all those sitcoms, for me - I have all the series on DVD, and they still make me laugh out loud.

I think 'nerk' is a word we ought to try to reintroduce!  I am going to start using it.   Cool
MikeAlx

"My bad" is clearly reinventing 'bad' as a noun.

As children, my brothers and I used to use 'bad' as a noun to refer to any black bits in a banana: "I've got some bad in my banana". No idea where we got that from!
Evie

Of course it is - but it's still ugly.
Marita

Ive enjoyed reading all your posts on the English language. No wonder we foreigners are confused sometimes. I pity the people who do the translations for the subtitles.

Marita
TheRejectAmidHair

...and Indian English is a bit different yet again!
Evie

Innit?!
Joe Mac

Regarding the trouble translators may have with English, the Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum www.wwnorton.com/pob/forum/ceilidh.htm
is visited occasionally by translators seeking clarification of some of O'Brian's mystifying bits of humour or naval jargon. This can be fun, as the jargon is often every bit as obscure to the native English speaker.
Many readers, I think, don't need to understand everything, but the translator doesn't have the luxury of putting the confusing bits down to 'atmosphere' and moving on.

Below is an example:

My name is Marcin and I have the honour to be the Polish translator of Patrick O'Brian's books. So far they have been the best thing I have ever worked with, but not the easiest one. As in every volume, I have come across certain phrases that are beyond my comprehension.

1. At one point Jack calls Rowan a second Bossuet, which is so funny for him that he almost laughs his head off. I know who Bossuet was, but I still see no reason for this joke to be so hilarious. Many of Jack's jokes are amusing only to himself, but I wish I knew what the punchline here is.

2. Then Stephen declares himself a urinator, just before persuading Jack to let him go down to the sunk galley. What is the meaning of the word in this context? Does he mean to say that he is some sort of underwater explorer?

3. Cook to the foresheet. I take it is a part of a naval saying, but what is its meaning?
Jen M

Evie wrote:
Of course it is - but it's still ugly.


So ugly, in fact, that I feel my hackles rise at the thought of hearing it.   Shocked

Evie wrote:
Innit?!


I have an educated and well-spoken Indian colleague who says "Isn't it?"
TheRejectAmidHair

Jen M wrote:
Evie wrote:
Innit?!


I have an educated and well-spoken Indian colleague who says "Isn't it?"


Well, some of us do speak proppah, y'know !  Wink
Evie

Although doesnt 'innit' originate from a Hindi word?  A word like 'haini' or something...sorry, profound ignorance of Indian languages...  Embarassed  I just remember hearing or reading ages ago that it isn't a form of the English 'isn't it', but a corruption, or anglicisation, of an Indian word.
Jen M

Evie wrote:
Although doesnt 'innit' originate from a Hindi word? A word like 'haini' or something...sorry, profound ignorance of Indian languages... Embarassed I just remember hearing or reading ages ago that it isn't a form of the English 'isn't it', but a corruption, or anglicisation, of an Indian word.


I found this interesting article:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6122072.stm    The comments at the end are also interesting.
Evie

Thanks, Jen, I enjoyed reading that!  I think it might have been Sanjeev Bhaskar talking about 'Hinglish' who talked about the origins of 'innit', but I could be wrong.

I love the bit about 'stepney' - and hadn't realised 'shampoo' was an Indian word.
TheRejectAmidHair

Thanks for that link. I must admit I had thought "innit?" was a corruption of "isn't it?"

I must admit that virtually all of the "Hinglish" words mentioned in that article were new to me. This may be because my native language is Bengali rather than Hindi. The only words there I knew was "badmash" and "balti". The latter means "bucket", and "badmash", in Bengali, can mean (depending on the context in which it is used) anything from "naughty" to "evil".  

But as far as I can see, this particular set of words hasn't really a particularly wide currency: they haven't really taken on as yet. But then again, I am certainly not qualified to judge the latest trends!
Mikeharvey

An American usage that always gives me pause is when they say 'erb instead of herb. I wonder does it derive from French settlers? I suppose it's no odder than the way we drop the aitch of heir.

A challenge:  make up a sentence using as many Indian - now English - words as possible in a sentence.

Has anyone come across a fascinating work of reference called 'Hobson-Jobson' (subtitled A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive)? It was first published in 1886 and edited by Colonel Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell.   This is a fat book of 1000 pages which goes into very great detail about the meaning and origins of Anglo-Indian words in use then, at the apogee of Empire, and deriving from Indian words.  The curious title is a corruption by British soldiers of a religious call that they were unable to pronounce.  'Hobson-Jobson' is a lovely, time-consuming, browsing book for anyone interested in words, full of curious information and a unique work of reference.  My copy - which appears to be a facsmile of the first edition - which I bought in 1985, has an introduction by Anthony Burgess.
I haven't had this book off the shelf for a long time, and I found slipped between the pages a bill from the Casino Hotel in Cochin, South India.  The memories came flooding back from this fascinating city.  Especially some men attacking a snake in the street!  And the enormous punkahs hanging from the ceiling in the English church. And seeing the Kathakali dancers by moonlight.....
Joe Mac

I'm dying for an example or two from Hobson-Jobson, Mike!

You had more fun in Cochin than I did, I can see that. I was exhausted, probably sick, and feeling lonely and sorry for myself. Not a great combination. I remember beastly heat, awful crowding, bad smells, unpalatable food. No doubt on another day I would have found it all delightfully quaint.
Mikeharvey

Hello R.N. I'm sorry you had a miserable time in Cochin. I was with a small group of six people touring South India in a mini-bus and was well-looked after. I was entranced by India and long to go back.
I remember having a cup of tea in a cafe which was one of the best cups of tea I've ever had, but in the filthiest cup!
Melony

Mike, I had never thought about 'erb...the man's name is Herb with an H, but many people do pronounce the other without any aspirated H.  It must be French.  We're not normally that couth, otherwise!

The juggernaut collided with some thugs in the bungalow because they refused to go see Avatar, if he insisted on wearing a cumberbund, so he lay on his cot in his pyjamas and thought about the jungle and the loot he would find there, but his mind turned to political punditry and Obama's health care reform, and he decided, "What the heck, I'm going to go shampoo my hair."

Can anyone fit in more Anglo-Indian words? Or is that not what you had in mind, Mike? Mine are just off the top of my head - I'm sure there are more I don't know!!!
Mikeharvey

Excellent. Might I insert the following?
So he lay on his cot on the VERANDAH in his pyjamas eating TIFFIN and thought......
Evie

Pukka!
Chibiabos83

The thing that gets me about 'innit' is that it is so often spoken without a question mark at the end, used as a mere appendage to a statement, not even to form a rhetorical question. It doesn't bother me, it just interests me innit.
Evie

That's what I love about it - and it also shows that it doesn't really have the same roots as 'isn't it', which is a question.  I love 'innit' - when it's used in its appendage sort of way.
TheRejectAmidHair

I don't think I could beat that, Melony. That's terrific!

Although, it has to be said, the word "tiffin" has acquired an entirely new meaning since Carry On Up the Khyber. In the immortal words of Sid James, "Any time is tiffin time!"
Evie

That's got to be the best Carry On film.  Wasn't the Khyber Pass actually Wales?
TheRejectAmidHair

Yes, they extended their budget for that one to go all the way up to Wales.

Carry On Cleo and Carry On Screaming are up there as well, I think.
Melony

Oh, verandah, dang it!!  Good addition, Mike, but I don't know what tiffin is....
Evie

Tiffin is lunch, essentially, thiough I have seen it applied to a fairly elaborate afternoon tea.

Though curiously, it has also come to mean that sort of cake we have, made of chocolate and crushed up biscuits and dried fruit or cherries, refrigerator cake as it's sometimes called - not sure how it came to be called tiffin.
Caro

Tiffin is not a word I am familiar with either, Melony.  Must be fairly specific to Britain and India, perhaps.
TheRejectAmidHair

Usage varies, of course, but in Indian usage, "tiffin" is a snack between meals, usually in mid-morning. But in Carry On Up the Khyber, it comes to mean somthing a bit bawdier ("How many times must I tell you? Memsahib and I are not to be disturbed when we're having tiffin!")
Evie

Oh, that's interesting - I have always associated tiffin with the afternoon, and something substantial enough to carry in your tiffin tin.

But yes, the meaning in Sid James terms is quite different!
Mikeharvey

I was going to post a representative entry from 'Hobson-Jobson' but was defeated by the complexity of the entries.  For example there are nine and a half columns about SUTEE with many quotations showing its usage.

I was just reading the interesting entry about the DURIAN fruit, famous for the delicious taste of its buttery, creamy, cheesy inside, and for its overpowering unpleasant smell when opened.  English residents in India insisted that it be opened outside the house.  I have never eaten Durian but have seen them in markets in the East.  I have also seen signs (like no-parking signs) in public places - forbidding the eating of them - a picture of a Durian with a red line across it.   I wonder can you buy Durian in the UK?
A quotation in HJ about the Durian from a Governor.  'Carrion in Custard'.

'Hobson-Jobson' informs me that MANGO is originally an Indian word.  Now there's a fruit!  But I have never eaten a mango in the UK that tasted as gorgoeus as the fresh ones I've eaten in the East. Such a lovely delicate flavour that seems to leave a fragrance in the back of the nose.  Mmmmnnn....... But I find them difficult to peel and slice.
Freyda

Melony wrote:
Mike, I had never thought about 'erb...the man's name is Herb with an H, but many people do pronounce the other without any aspirated H. It must be French. We're not normally that couth, otherwise!




I've always wondered about this, as I do find "'erb" an ugly American pronunciation - and an affectation, almost - and could not understand where it came from. It is also quite hard to  leave the "h" off deliberately when saying the word, you have to put more effort in. The French is "herbes" (pronounced airb) i.e. grass, lawn, as in 'Dejeuner sur les herbes'. Another related one that sets my teeth on edge is the herb basil pronounced "bayzil". Very ugly.

I wonder if a Southern states French/cayjun infuence is in there, but it seems unlikely as most US pronunciation of French words does not seem to be influenced by the French version!  Wink For example, "Pareezhan" for Parisian is nothing like how the French would pronounce  this adjective about their beloved capital city, although it sounds as if it's an attempt at a French accent.

Still, who am I to talk - the English famously mangle foreign words and have dreadful accents in another tongue. We are always impressed when overseas footballers speak reasonable English with a lovely accent, when our homegrown footballers cannot even speak their own tongue very well!
Freyda

In the Elinor Lipman bok I just read I was reminded that Americans say "Me either" where we would say "Me neither." I'm now flummoxed as to which makes more sense - if any.
Mikeharvey

I was surprised and interested to learn that CAJUN is a corruption of the word ARCADIAN originally applied to those people.
Freyda

How fascinating. Et in arcadia ego?  Which takes us back to Brideshead Revisited on the other thread.
Freyda

In the 1930s book I've just been reading, the author refers to an umbrella as a "gamp". Does anyone remember this and know where it comes from? It certainly rang a bell with me, but I'm sure in my childhood it was a shortening from something longer like "umbi-gamp" - but was that just one of those silly family words ?

She also frequently used the word "tumpkin" for any size of pot belly, in the nicest possible way; it sound rather fond.
Chibiabos83

I'm sure gamp for umbrella comes from Sairey (Sarah) Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit, who is imvariably accompanied by her umbrella, but someone who's read it will be able to offer more detail than I am.
Evie

Yes, I've never been sure if Sairey Gamp's name was taken from an existing term, or if she gave rise to 'gamp' as a word for umbrella - I always assumed the latter (that we have taken the word from Dickens' character), but I have no evidence for that!

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