Posted by: Natalie | May 5, 2010

American Lingo

I am determined not to whine at you all today about how rotten I feel. Instead I will focus on my forth coming Vegas trip! Writing may as well go out the window this morning as I appear to have no vocabulary. Or appropriate understanding of grammar. Worrying.

Anyway, yesterday’s wander into Waterstone’s led me to the travel section. This doesn’t happen often, but I have found I really like travel books! When I was at University, my fellow corridor dweller, Claire and I decided to inter-rail around Europe with a tent. It was then I discovered the amazing Lonely Plant Guides. But, part of the problem as I have got a little older is that I resent paying for the bible sized tomes that weigh down the traveller. So much more research is done on the internet now. Some travel book companies, such as the AA also allow you to buy individual chapter downloads from books, so you don’t have to lug around all the needless information just for the few pearls it may contain.

However, The AA Citypack Guides are genius. I have used them for trips to Bangkok, Rome and Prague. So it was of little surprise to me that when perusing the Vegas shelf, it was this book that seemed the most useful (and cheapest!!). The books are a handy size, with decent maps (including a fold away one which you can take out without the actual book!), they surmise quickly, succinctly and with some entertainment. Unlike its heavier counterparts, it doesn’t over labour with pointless opinions and information. Even though Steve knows pretty much everything there is to know about the shiny city, this little guide means that I have further options for when he is gambling his life savings away!

As with most travel guides, they have a section at the rear with some key ‘helpful’ information.  Some of it is essential – for example the language section in the Bangkok book, helped to understand some of the local lingo. To be honest, I didn’t expect there to be a language section in the Vegas book. But there is! I can’t work out who is the more moronic; me for assuming it would not be necessary, the AA for assuming people are that thick, or American’s for the same reason!

Knowing a wonderful American lass in Christie I know the types of words we sometimes stumble over. But these words are not so strange that we cannot understand one another. I know that when Christie says ‘purse’ she actually means her handbag – although she has corrected her habit now, after much abuse, although her Welsh husband now makes the ‘mistake’ on her behalf! It is the same with the word ‘daiper’. We understand. We are not stupid. We are able to translate American English into English without too much hassle and vice-a-versa. So, I am struggling to understand just who this list in the AA guide is aimed at. Allow me to share some of the 50 translated terms . . .

shop = store
cinema = movie theatre
film = movie
trousers = pants
glasses = eyeglasses
policeman = cop
cheque = check
eiderdown = comforter
luggage = baggage
car = automobile

I could actually go on writing the whole list, but you might get bored! I am heartily entertained! Is it just me that finds this exercise entirely pointless?! On the food list, I agree, one word was useful – ‘broiled’ apparently means ‘grilled’. However, I think I could cope without the translation of ‘chips’ into ‘fries’. I know one of the reasons I like these books is because they are simple and easy to read, but this simple?! I have found myself giggling while reading this, I know I am sad and need to get out!

What I would like to know though, is whether there are any American words that we Brits don’t necessarily know the instant translation for. So, if any of today’s readers happen to be American, please, share with me some words you think should have been in the AA travel guide. I love these books for my hols, and I really want there have been some purpose to the list. Help me redeem my faith. Prove to me that translation between our two countries is essential! Or at the very least, find me a simpleton who needs this pointless list of random words.

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Responses

  1. I agree that most of these vocabulary difference are pretty easy to decipher. However, I was genuinely surprised when I spent a good deal of time on two long holidays in America, how many people found it hard to understand me. I think it was my accent (which Americans are not nearly as used to hearing as we are American accents), my phrasing and my vocab. Someone asked me the time and after 3 or 4 attempts, he lost is temper (he was from New York) and grabbed my watch to see for himself! Apparently, Americans (or New Yorkers) don’t say ‘quarter to four’.

    When we stayed at a hotel in Savannah, the girl behind the counter really didn’t know that I was British and not from America!! When I was telling her my home address, she couldn’t get over that I didn’t live in a state! I was shocked by her ignorance but it just goes to show how much less British culture the average US citizen is exposed to. I think are so used to American TV that a lot of American differences become second nature to us.

    • That’s so true. My brain is so addled today, I completely dismissed the whole media reference points. I think I need another lie down!! Having never been to the states I don’t really know how we brits are perceived. I understand many of us get mistaken for Aussies. I am a little worried about people thinking I am mocking them though. Anyone who knows me will understand how my accent can change at the drop of a hat – I don’t mean it to, it just does! So bring on my American twang and the confusion of all around me!! Heehee!

  2. I am a brand new blogger and I must tell you I love your writing! A new one on me is “hols”, which I assume means holidays? I hope you enjoyed your trip to Vegas.

    • Thank you for the comment! And yes, I had the most amazing time in Vegas, completely bewildered – like Alice down the rabbit hole! ‘hols’ does indeed mean ‘holiday’, that the American blackjack players found very entertaining! They also seemed to think it really strange that we didn’t eat our meals at home from paper plates – is this a Vegas thing?!

      Thank you for reading, I hope you will come back soon!

      Natalie x


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