Friday, March 04, 2005

Words that Americans don't understand

So we all know that when we're in the US we need to say garbage or trash instead of rubbish, faucet instead of tap, mom instead of mum, sidewalk instead of footpath, period instead of full stop, restroom instead of toilet, etcetera. But it turns out there are many many words that I didn't even know Americans didn't use until I used them.

I either get puzzled looks or laughed at when I use the following words:
  • wonky
  • porridge (they know this one, but are surprised to find it's the same as oatmeal)
  • hassle (meaning tease)
  • aircon
  • teatowel
  • lounge (as a room in the house)
  • bench (in the kitchen, not something you sit on)
  • lovely
  • morning tea
  • park (as a place to put your car)
  • to take the piss
  • snog
  • pash
  • fancy
  • root

In illustration of the last few, some anecdotes. I was having breakfast in a cafe with some friends, and I guess we started talking about grammar (as you do). I think I mentioned the excellent book by Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, of which the title refers to a little joke about a panda. [By the way, I just discovered the Punctuation Game on the above website, and I'm proud to report I'm 100% stickler.] Anyway, so I told the New Zealand version of the joke, as follows. "Why are New Zealand men known as kiwis? Because, like the kiwi, the NZ male eats roots and leaves." To which my breakfast companions said, "What's root mean?" Thanks to Austin Powers, they have at least heard of the word shag. I then asked them what word they use in American then. In somewhat muted voices (i.e., a touch quieter than they had been, which was still louder than anyone else in the cafe by far), Hew & L simultaneously exclaimed, "f*ck!". To the consternation of the young children sitting at the next table.

Then the other night I innocently asked a friend how long he'd fancied this girl he'd just started dating. Everyone fell about laughing and then Hew asked what he no doubt thought was a hillarious question. "So, would you say, 'Do you fancy a snog?'?" (hmm, struggling with the punctuation on that one. Never mind, I'm sure the Editter will correct me).

I mean, of course you would say, "Do you fancy a snog?".

Who hasn't at one time said that?