I have an Uncle Bob. this post isn’t about him though, it’s about Slang. Something I do a lot of on my little community message board, is compare my American slang with my UK ‘cousins’. The word we were recently discussing was sprinkles, that multicolored candy topping that some sprinkle on their ice cream. I learned that the UK version is hundreds & thousands. You do indeed use hundreds and thousands of them at a time, or, at least so it seems if you’ve ever had to clean them up afterward!
I also often find myself “translating” for my husband or parents when we watch British television shows and movies together. Things like Flat instead of apartment or Torch instead of flashlight, don’t cause much confusion
but if someone mentions pushing a trolley through the market? Well, we automatically picture a San Francisco streetcar.
Years ago I had an amusing instance of slang confusion while reading a book. The main character was visiting his mate (I figured out this meant friend instead of Sailor, straight away *pats self on back*)
and while walking through the home, noticed a Fruit Machine in the corner. It was just a simple mention that had nothing to do with the story itself, but I found myself distracted by it. A fruit machine. Was that a vending machine that dispensed fresh fruit? Did it provide apples and oranges at the touch of a button?
Months later I came upon another mention of this futuristic fruit machine, which turned out to mean a casino style slot machine. Fruit, because of the pictures of cherries and oranges that win you money if they match up!
This also brings to mind an interview where Richard jokingly said fans were throwing pants at the studio window. This seemed odd to my American ears, because when we hear pants we think of trousers, not underwear. In a different interview, when the pants incident was being recounted by the host, Richard mistakenly heard “pans” instead. No, Richard, we won’t try to get your attention by throwing intimate undergarments at you and only hinting at our intentions, we’ll throw cast iron and knock you out, then just drag you away; we’re an Army, we don’t mess around!
Come to think of it though, if you call underwear ‘pants’, then what image comes to mind when you hear Cargo Pants? They do indeed carry cargo, of a sort, I suppose…
I greatly enjoy these types of differences, as my well worn British and Scots dictionaries can attest.
There are times though, when the differences are just too much to wrap my head around; reading the book Borstal Boy was one of those times. I had never heard of rhyming slang, so I was quite confused by the select phrases those boys used to communicate with each other. Thank heavens for the index in that book!
Rosie Lee= Tea
ones and twos= Shoes
Confession: As a child I always imagined the song Waltzing Matilda to be an epic love story.
As an adult, I was quite disappointed to learn it was about stealing sheep. And Matilda was a knapsack!
What slang differences have you found interesting or amusing?