Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Lost in Translation - the English Language

Let's talk about it. And not the Sofia Ford Coppola movie (as good as it is). I'm Australian, and we talk English. I live in England and they talk English. Some of my readers, and most of the blogs I follow are American, and they talk English.

So why, given we all talk English, do I seem to put my foot in it or say the wrong thing seemingly every other day?  Some words mean completely different things in the different countries and some things are just called different things.  Knowing that I call things something different to my colleagues doesn't make it easier.  In theory, I should be able to pick up the lingo, but I just can't seem to.  Here are some differences:
To an Australian, these are slacks/daks/tracks/trousers etc. To the English - they are undies/knickers/jocks.

To an Aussie, a vest is along the lines of a waistcoat or a sleeveless knit jumper. To the English, it is a singlet or slip that you wear as your base layer when cold.

To an aussie, thongs are for your feet.  Flip flops to the Aussies or Jandals to the Kiwis.  To the Brits, thongs are...well you've all heard the thong song.  Some flossy underwear (which we Aussies call a G-string).

To Australians and English, only girls have these. To American's, am I right in saying everyone has one? What you call a fanny pack, we call a bum bag. Reading of fanny packs (in the Baby Sitters Club books) growing up never ceased to elicit a giggle.

Examples of me getting things wrong or lost in translation:

To then colleagues, after looking out the window to see if it was raining/windy/grey etc
"Do you think it is warm enough outside to head up the street in my pants and vest or will I need my coat"
What I meant: I'm wearing suit trousers, a shirt and a sleeveless wool knit over the top. Will I be warm enough?
What they take it as: Will I be warm enough if I strip down to my undies and slip?

"Damn, the hem on my pants has come down and is dragging on the floor"
What I meant: The hem on the bottom of my suit trousers had come down and was indeed dragging on the floor.
What they take it as: The hem on my undies is now dragging on the floor (as to why my undies would have a hem that big…hmmm…that added to the laughs)

When asked by a colleague what I wore when I travelled around Turkey (specifically after we had been discussing shoes in this context).
"I pretty much just wore my thongs everywhere"
What I meant: I wore tees/tanks/jeans/shorts etc with my haviana's on my feet.
What she pictured:  Me wandering around turkey with some floss between my cheeks.
Other distinctions are with the names of food. 
Yoghurt - Australians say Yo-gurt, Brits say Yog-urt. Incidentally, it is spelt without the H here in Britain. How do American's spell and say it?

Completely different words for the same thing.
Zucchinis or Courgettes? Or something else?

Eggplant or Aubergine? Or something else?

Butternut Squash
Butternut Pumpkin or Butternut Squash?

Harvest - Mangetout
Snow Peas or Mange Tout? (pronounced Monge Tooo, and not Manga Towt as I found out when some former colleagues asked about them!)

Summer peppers
Capsicum or peppers?

Homemade potato chips
Chips or Crisps?

I could probably go on and on but I'll stop there. What are the differences you notice in the English language across the different borders and cultures? Have you ever put your foot in it previously?


  1. Hilarious post. I was literally laughing out loud at the stories.

  2. This is so funny, I didn't realize some of the differences, but then again I've never lived anywhere else other than the US. And you were right in saying that in the US everyone has a fanny lol

    As for the pictures, in the US they are as follows:

    butternut squash
    snow peas
    and chips!

    :) Loved this post! xx