Wednesday, December 12, 2012

English Lesson

I remember the first time I heard the term gobsmacked.  I was in a HOPAC staff meeting a number of years ago, with a British principal, and when he said it, all the Americans just stared at him.  What did you say? 
It's rather amusing, working in an enviroment with Brits and Scots and Irish.  We all speak English, but sometimes it doesn't feel that way.  The Revolutionary War did more than just make two separate countries; it also created two separate vocabularies.  And even in a school environment, sometimes we have difficulty communicating. Until you get used to it, there are a lot of blank stares.
Some examples:
Invigilate = proctor
Rubber = eraser
Full stop = period
Penultimate week = week before the last
Fortnight = two weeks
Squared paper = graph paper
Mark exams = grade tests
Dust bin = trash can
Maths = math
File = binder
And so on.
Then there's food:
Aubergine = eggplant
Biscuit = cookie
Sweets = candy
Pudding = dessert
Crisps = chips
Chips = French Fries (which they also like to stick between two pieces of bread with mayo and call a sandwich)
I could go on. There's more....oh, there's so much more.
This leads to some rather hilarious conversations.  For example, last week I was with some friends and we were discussing how the British say bum pack when the Americans would say fanny pack. The reason for this is because the British find the word fanny to be extraordinarily crude. (Very sorry to the Brits reading this post and forced to see this word in print.)  The laughter that ensued from this conversation (which included both Americans and Brits) was jolly, indeed.
Another example:
When Americans hear the word pantomime, they think of this:
But when Brits hear the word pantomime, they think of this:

A British pantomime is always a humorous twist on a fairy tale, the lead characters are always played by the opposite gender, and it is always performed at Christmastime.  There is most definitely talking (and singing) involved, and the audience always participates by booing and hissing and cheering at appropriate times. It is a important British tradition and the local theatre in Dar always puts on one, every December. 
And yes, that is Doug B., for those of you who know him. 

Since our friends were directing/starring in the pantomime this year, Gil got to be the photographer. 
 So just remember:  If a British child asks you for a rubber, you needn't be gobsmacked, he just wants an eraser. 

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