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… 🙂