Daily Prompt: Jeopardise

When I first saw today’s Daily Prompt word my immediate reaction was to harrumph in annoyance at the decidedly American spelling of the word. The usual American use of ‘z’ instead of the traditional British ‘s’ in so many words is sadly becoming commonplace on both sides of the pond, and although I accept without question that Americans (including the Daily Post guys) can spell words however they like, I do feel a little bit miffed that this particular preference is creeping so insidiously into everyday British usage too.

And while I was laughing inwardly at myself for getting on my high horse and sounding like such a boring old stick-in-the-mud pedantic linguistic perfectionist (which I’m truly not), I thought about those everyday English words that are spelled the same way, but actually mean subtly different things in America than they do in Britain.

For example, ‘pants’ here in the UK is a shortened form of underpants, but in America pants refers to trousers, which of course are worn on top of underpants. And when we Brits walk on the pavement we are not referring to walking on the road surface itself but to the American sidewalk. A ‘garden’ in the UK refers to all the privately owned land surrounding a home – which in the US is the yard – and not just the particular cultivated plant-growing section.

Being a rural Scots lass at heart, ‘oatmeal’ to me refers to the raw milled oats that are then cooked to make porridge, which is the name of the finished dish. Yet in America, oatmeal seems to be used to mean the cooked porridge. And in the same vein ‘mince’ to me is the main raw ingredient (usually beef) in making hamburgers – yet in American recipes hamburger seems to mean the raw minced beef itself… confusing!

And pudding – here in the UK we use ‘pudding’ as a generic term for dessert – ‘What’s for pudding?’ being a common cry from kids across the British Isles. And that’s before we start to consider all the savoury puddings we get here – Yorkshire pudding, black pudding, white pudding – yum! But in America, pudding refers only to a particular kind of sweet blancmange-type dessert, which can cause some highly amusing cross-cultural conversational misunderstandings.

But then my rambling mind also remembered an Australian friend finding it hilarious when she first moved here that ‘thongs’ to her were what we Brits would call flip-flops, whereas here in the UK thongs refer to the kind of minimal underwear design that saws your bum in half removes the unsightly vpl (visible panty line) by effectively keeping your bum cheeks bare, with only the thinnest strip of fabric preserving your modesty.

Anyway, before I jeopardise my credibility as a forward-thinking modern-day mulitculturalist any further, I think I’d better just stop there before I think of anything else… πŸ™‚

Daily Prompt: Jeopardise


11 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Jeopardise

  1. Phil August 21, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    I loved your post. Being an American of British ancestry, I’ve witnessed the evolution of our language from spelling to meaning. Many of the British terms you cite were commonly used in my household. The “Z” thing has always troubled me a bit. I would prefer the British spelling but, alas, we have different spell checkers. I’ve always wondered how my WordPress friends from across the pond felt about the “Americanized” spelling thing. You confirmed my suspicions. Thanks for a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth August 21, 2016 / 8:43 pm

      Thank you! I’m married to an American, so over the years I’ve had lots of missed communication conversations with my in-laws and extended family around the differences in our apparently common language πŸ™‚


  2. Dan Antion August 21, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed hearing of the differences. I have no desire to infiltrate your spelling though. That’s just wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth August 21, 2016 / 8:48 pm

      Thanks Dan – it’s quite fun sharing a common language, but using it differently – I find culturally our British humour is slightly different too, as sometimes irony and sarcasm don’t seem to translate too well to US ears. What have you find most odd language-wise when you’ve travelled to the UK?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan Antion August 21, 2016 / 10:20 pm

        Well, I’ve only travelled once (I hope to add to that) but I worked with and became good friends with a man (initially in London, now in Ipswich) who is a language nut. He has introduced us to a lot of things. I like that you refer to our Revolution as a civil war. Of course here in the US, some people in the south refer to our Civil War as “the war of northern aggression.” It makes me realize that perspective is important.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. mrsreckless August 21, 2016 / 11:11 pm

    Imagine how frustrating this is to non-native English speakers! It can still be confusing even after years of using the language!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth August 22, 2016 / 7:36 am

      Oh yes, that must be even more confusing πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Claudette August 22, 2016 / 7:55 am

    I’m with you on the “z” thing – annoys me no end. Also, being an Aussie, I intensely dislike they way some of our words are being Americanised (no fault of the Americans in general I suppose, it is just the way of the world). languages are not stagnant, they evolve, still it gives me something to get worked up about. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thistles and Kiwis August 22, 2016 / 8:28 am

    I’m with you on the s/z thing, and also the letter u – colour, neighbour etc. You know what I mean! Another good word with a different meaning is suspenders…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth August 22, 2016 / 9:38 am

      Ha ha ha oh yes, I forgot that one! πŸ™‚


  6. joannesisco August 23, 2016 / 2:14 am

    Great post! I got a good chuckle from it πŸ˜€

    I did however discover that as a Canadian, I have an odd mix of both the British and the American depending on the word. It really is quite confusing.

    Liked by 1 person

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