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A lady yesterday accidentally drove out of a car park straight into a lake. Asked why, she answered "I must have been having a blonde moment". I assume that the Americans here know what she meant?


I can answer that one - it's what comes of hanging around with Americans for several years (at least online) Smile!

It's an extension of "having a senior moment" because seniors (to be politically correct, people of more mature years Smile) are absent minded and so "senior moments" involve being forgetful in one way or another. To be less accurate, stereotypical blondes are not the sharpest knife in the drawer (hence the proliferation of "dumb blonde" jokes and to have a "blonde moment" means to do something really stupid.
 
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Do the British say ground ground-nuts instead of peanut butter?
 
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No. Peanut butter is known to us, but isn't as popular as I understand it is in the States. The nuts themselves are peanuts, but sometimes also called Monkey nuts (only when sold in their shells.


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Kalleh - can you imagine raising kids without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? My son doesn't like PB, but he sure loves the J!


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No, CW, I can't. [If I recall, your son really loves grape jelly...unfortunately, the one kind I didn't have!]

The question came up because of a comment in 84, Charing Cross Road. Here's the paragraph; Helene was writing to Maxine, who was an American visiting England:

"I fail to see why you did not understand that groceryman, he did not call it 'ground ground nuts,' he called it 'ground ground-nuts' which is the only really SENSible thing to call it. Peanuts grow in the GROUND and are therefore GROUND-nuts, and after you take them out of the ground you grind them up and you have ground ground-nuts, which is more accurate than peanut butter, you just don't understand English."

I was struck by Helene's habit of using commas to separate sentences, as above.
 
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As far as I know it's always peanut butter over here- my girlfriend's daughter loves the stuff!
Getting back to 84 Charing Cross Rd I wonder at the use of 'groceryman', which is a bit ponderous- what's wrong with grocer? As for the ground nuts bit, Helene Hanff is an American, perhaps she was trying to imitate a British way of speaking? I'm not really familar with the book so I can't really comment further.
 
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My natural tendancy when writing letters (or emails) to friends (and sometimes posts on forums) is to write as much like I speak as possible. I will often put commas or dashes (or parenthesis) between sentences instead of full stops. I'm sure you've all noticed this bad habit of mine, but it feels more conversational to me.


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~Dalai Lama
 
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Ahhh, me, too, CW.

Erik, this book was actually a collection of letters between a British bookseller and an American book lover, from 1949 to 1969. Helene definitely wasn't trying to make fun of the British way of speaking, if that's what you meant by "imitate." Helene loved the British. Perhaps peanut butter used to be called "ground ground-nuts" in England?

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"Groundnut" is definitely a British term for "peanut" - or rather the tuber itself, which usually contains two peanuts. A lot of money was wasted by the government in the Tanganyikan groundnut scheme in the late 1940s, but I've never seen or heard the word used other than in reference to the scheme.

At a guess, "ground ground-nuts" is an attempt at a pun. I'm not sure here, but I suspect that peanut butter was pretty well unknown in Britain prior to the coming of the GIs in the second world war.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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"Groundnut" is a common term (for what the Americans call peanut) all over Africa, where it is often the main, or one of the main, crops.
 
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Mark, have you ever heard ground goundnuts used as a term for peanut butter?
 
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My friend overheard her ten-year-old son saying a prayer that included this mondegreenish line ... "Give us this day our jelly bread."
 
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Love it, Jerry! Big Grin
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
Ahhh, me, too, CW.

Erik, this book was actually a collection of letters between a British bookseller and an American book lover, from 1949 to 1969. Helene definitely wasn't trying to make fun of the British way of speaking, if that's what you meant by "imitate." Helene loved the British. Perhaps peanut butter used to be called "ground ground-nuts" in England?


I didn't mean she was trying to make fun of the British, more that she was perhaps an American trying to sound British- a bit like Don Cheadle in Ocean's 11 trying to sound Cockney- "Cor, luvaduck!" etc.! As I said I'm not at all familiar with the book although I have heard of it.
 
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Oh...yes, I see what you mean. I have seen that before. I wonder why Americans want to sound British, but the British don't want to sound American. [Or, to our British friends, is that obvious? Wink]
 
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but the British don't want to sound American
Huh! Mad You should listen to the radio here some time. There are plenty trying to sound American - or at least mid-Atlantic.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I didn't know that, Arnie. I thought the British only looked on the American accent with disdain.

I just read today that the British call colorful, rubber boots "Wellies." Is that true? Where does it come from? Why is it capitalized?
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
I just read today that the British call colorful, rubber boots "Wellies." Is that true? Where does it come from? Why is it capitalized?


The Duke of Wellington (back in the 19th century) made a form of long boot fashionable. Although they were made from leather rather than rubber, the style has been known as a Wellie (or Welly) ever since.

In rural areas they often have an event called "Welly whanging" at their village fetes - the idea being to fling the boot further than anyone else in order to win a prize. For pictures of this event (and others) at a typical village fete (this one being in Onchan on the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Channel between Ireland and Wales), see here. For an explanation of the Rotary Club see here.
 
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This morning on the radio one of the broadcasters was surprised to report that the British spend more hours per day on the Internet than watching TV. His sidekick said, "That's not a surprise. They have 3 channels and 2 only have gardening shows." Of course she was being facetious, but how many channels do you have in England?

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Originally posted by Kalleh:
This morning on the radio one of the broadcasters was surprised to report that the British spend more hours per day on the Internet than watching TV. His sidekick said, "That's not a surprise. They have 3 channels and 2 only have gardening shows."


I'm now in a position to catch glimpses of daytime TV and I can say that most of that is awful Frown. It seems to be mostly programmes about houses (buying in Britain and abroad, rebuilding and redecorating), game shows and buying and selling second hand junk Frown.

quote:
Of course she was being facetious, but how many channels do you have in England?


See here. I haven't had a TV since I moved into my present flat - which was 9 years ago. I get stunned reactions from people when I say I don't have a TV but, even if I could afford the licence (note the penalties for not having a valid licence), there is only a small handful of programmes which I really regret not being able to watch. I have my computer (a MUST), a radio (also a must), CDs and tapes and that's quite enough for me.
 
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We have 5 main broadcast channels but hundreds of cable and satellite channels.

On the whole our TV is extremely good (that programme on the Holocaust which was also broadcast in the USA is an example of the kind of thing that the Beeb does very well) - although clearly there is some dross.

I didn't bother to get a television for many years since I believed there was "nothing worth watching". However, since getting one I have seen the error of this reasoning, since all you need to do is watch what you choose to watch and use that feature of all modern televisions (so often overlooked) the off-switch, to avoid being upset by the dross.


Richard English
 
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"Peanuts are also known as earthnuts, goobers, goober peas, pindas, pinders, manila nuts and monkey nuts (the last of these is often used to mean the entire pod, not just the seeds)." Wikipedia. In Mexico, I found peanuts called cacahuates, and, in France, cacahouettes.

I never really much cared for PB&J sandwiches. While in Tamilnadu for a friend's wedding, I discovered a fruit that is quite popular in India and Africa, but of which I had never heard: the drumstick.

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Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Incredible! Have I got this right? You have to have a license to watch TV in Britain! Or at least to own one. And it only costs £126.50 for a colour TV Licence and £42.00 for a black and white TV licence (How much is that in US dollars?). Each year. But, you get a break if you're blind. If you move, you may have to buy a new license. If the TV police catch you watching TV without a license, you could be fined up to £1000. But a lot of people risk it. The TV police catch an average of over 1,000 people watching TV without a licence every day.

By the way, which came first, licence or license, and what's the difference?

Tinman

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Of course, not that I think of it, some in the US do pay inordinate sums of money so they can get 124 TV channels.

Tinman
 
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You have to have a license to watch TV in Britain!

You have to have a licence (spelt this way it's a noun) to watch broadcast TV but not to own a television. If you only use your TV to watch videos then you don't need a licence.

The reason for this goes back to the founding of the BBC (the world's first broadcasting organisation of both radio and TV) which unlike just about every other broadcasting organsiation, was founded as a public service. To this day the BBC carries no advertising and it is funded by the licence fees. This gives it the unique advantage of not having to chase ratings to satisfy sponsors and advertisers which means it can make more programmes of specialist appeal which, to this day, is the case.

Having seen TV in much of the rest of the world, I would say that the licence fee we pay is a small price, if the alternative were to get only the garbage that passes for programming in many countries.


Richard English
 
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I thought the British only looked on the American accent with disdain.

Maybe that is just some folks . . . and the others stay silent for fear of being mocked.


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~Dalai Lama
 
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I thought the British only looked on the American accent with disdain.

Certainly not! We are known for our tolerance of those eccentrics who, for whatever reason, are unable to speak English correctly.


Richard English
 
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So which is it, what Arnie says or what Richard says? Arnie indicated above that "plenty" in England try to sound American, or at least mid-Atlantic. Richard says that the English "tolerate" the eccentrics who speak with an American accent.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
So which is it, what Arnie says or what Richard says? Arnie indicated above that "plenty" in England try to sound American, or at least mid-Atlantic. Richard says that the English "tolerate" the eccentrics who speak with an American accent.


It doesn't show so much in speaking, but in singing. I've noticed that, no matter what the "native" country of a pop singer may be, they all seem to sing with an American (or at least Transatlantic) accent. I heard an interview with a young Australian singer recently and they played a clip from her latest album. Sure enough, there was the American accent well to the fore - although her speaking voice was very strong Aussie.
 
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It was difficult for the French to accept the demise of French as the prominent world language, so I wonder what most Brits think of the surge of American English all over the world. We may not speak it "correctly" but the notion of what is correct is certainly being changed by exactly that phenomenon. I am not necessarily pro-American language, but I do note what is occurring, and wondering how the British react - with resignation or indignity?
 
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We take on all comers over here!!! At one time nearly 1/4 of the world was either part of the British Empire or trading with it, so we assimilate foreign words with great ease because we're used to doing so Smile.

Most of our "native" language is a mixture of different languages reflecting all the tribes (such as Vikings, Danes, Angles, Saxons and Jutes) who invaded various parts of the country before William the Conqueror in 1066 put a stop to them by invading ALL of it.

So because of Old Bill we had three languages over here for several hundred years. The Royal Court spoke Norman French, the Church spoke Latin and the rest spoke Anglo Saxon - which had been the principal language of everyone in England until then.

The rise of Britain (England in particular because Scotland, Wales and Ireland still had their own languages till way into the mid-19th century - and still do in parts) as a trading nation and then as a Colonial power meant that foreign words entered the language from all over the world. Words like bungalow, pyjamas, tycoon, typhoon, tea, coffee, zero, algebra are all imports from places like India, China, Japan and various Arab countries.
 
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I also like the way the Norman French influenced the "classy" layers of society (e.g. politics and diplomacy, and even the kitchen). For example, the Anglo-Saxon words for pig, cow, and sheep were retained to refer to the animals themselves, while we use the words pork, beef, and mutton to refer to the meat from these animals; the words for their meat come from the Normans' French.
 
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Originally posted by markmywords48:
It was difficult for the French to accept the demise of French as the prominent world language, so I wonder what most Brits think of the surge of American English all over the world. We may not speak it "correctly" but the notion of what is correct is certainly being changed by exactly that phenomenon. I am not necessarily pro-American language, but I do note what is occurring, and wondering how the British react - with resignation or indignity?

It's not American English that bothers me, after all it is still English and still came from England, American English is merely a variant of it, no more so than my own accent and dialect has it's own manner of speaking, and it's own words but is still unmistakeably English- even though there is some who would disagree!
American spelling however do jar a little. Richard cites 'licence' above for example. In English English license is a verb, licence is a noun (same with defence and defensive), there is a clear difference in usage, which there is not in the US version. Another to me is aluminium/aluminum, the usual US pronunciation being al-oo-mi-num. The English would never pronounce 'u' as 'oo'! Which is why Humphrey Davy who discovered and named the stuff must have used the former as the latter is virtually unpronoucable in the E.English way! Plus it does fit it better with helium, radium, etc.(I'll quietly ignore platinum here!- probably some Yankee invention!).
Meter/metre has a similar problem as in E.English a meter is a gauge of some kind, e.g. speedometer, altimeter and metre a measurement- again a different usage. So there are good sound reasons why some things are spelt that way and Noah webster, among others, should have accepted them. Honour/honor and colour/color I'll accept could be either way, certainly I've seen both used in posters of the 17th Century produced in England,the language still hadn't settled down into a definate one way or the other.
Maybe we and you Americans should meet half way and find spellings we're both happy with! At the end of the day it's still English in all of it's wonderful varieties!
 
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I think it's interesting with the variations in spelling. What is really interesting is to see how English is used in India (not to mention in all the other ex-colonies). I wouldn't go so far as to say it's mangled, but it's pretty close. Such things as "offer good until supplies last" and "the truck is plying between Delhi and Agra" are just a couple examples. Their English seems frozen in 1947 (the year they gained their independence from the British), and they still use "it was gifted to me" and other anachronisms. Of course, that may not seem out of date to some living Brits. Neither does "whilst", although I have yet to meet an Antipodean or Brit who can explain the difference between "whilst" and "while". Anyone out there who can explain?
 
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No, but I will comment on one peculiarity of Indian English.
This is something I notice time after time when teaching, in Indian English it is extremely common to use the present continuous as a past tense in phrases such as

"I am going last week." or "I am eating my dinner last night when a man is knocking at my door."
 
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I've also mentioned before that the while/until confusion exists in certain regional variations within the UK. Usually the other way round though.

In some parts of the UK "wait while the lights are red" means that you should go when the change TO red.
 
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It makes the problem of learning how to conjugate irregular verbs much easier. Just stay in the present tense - no problem!
 
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Like the US expression "I could care less" which makes no sense at all. It is actually "I couldn't care less" but seems ingrained in its incorrect form.
However, I'm still waiting on a comment regarding the difference between "whilst" and "while".
 
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I can't explain the difference, mark, because I never use "whilst." I always thought they were the same.

quote:
Maybe we and you Americans should meet half way and find spellings we're both happy with! At the end of the day it's still English in all of it's wonderful varieties!

I rather like the differences. I think it enriches our language.

quote:
Like the US expression "I could care less" which makes no sense at all.

You won't find that used by educated Americans, I don't think. I don't hear it often, thankfully. "I could care less" is almost as bad as "irregardless" in my mind. Mad
 
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See what Michael Quinion of World Wide Words has to say about the "I could care less/I couldn't care less" debate.

There are many phrases that are absurd on their surfaces because they are contradictory. Why do we say "That's the last thing I want" when we really don't want it at all. We often reply "Yeah, right" to something we don't agree with.

Tinman
 
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Tinman, Thanks! That was so interesting. I had always thought that people who said "I could care less" just stupidly forgot the "couldn't." That explanation makes sense.
 
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I remember reading a story about an English teacher who said to his class, "A double negative makes a positive - 'I can't not do it', means 'I can do it' The same does not, however, apply to double positives, which invariably remain positive".

To which comment a student replied, "Yeah, right"!


Richard English
 
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I remember reading a story about an English teacher who said to his class

This story is pretty well known. The person in the audience was the late Sidney Morgenbesser who was professor of philosophy at Columbia University. The person who asserted that there were no double positives that had a negative meaning is J. L. Austin, professor of philosophy at Oxford, and an important philosophy of language person. The story has been corroborated by third parties who witnessed it.

[Added a negative to comply with reality.]

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Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I felt sure it was a well-known story. I am delighted to learn that it is also a true one.


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
..... 'I can't not do it', means 'I can do it' .......


I beg to differ. I am neither a linguist nor a logician, but I would suggest that, strictly interpreted, 'I can't not do it' must mean 'I must do it' rather than 'I can do it'. Does it not? Confused
 
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I would agree with you, Duncan, though I also am not a linguist or a logician.
 
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I agree with you, Duncan, especially if the stress (when spoken) is on the "not".
 
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I beg to differ. I am neither a linguist nor a logician, but I would suggest that, strictly interpreted, 'I can't not do it' must mean 'I must do it' rather than 'I can do it'. Does it not? Confused

I wouldn't argue with the precise meaning - my point was simply that the double negative turned the expression into a positive - even if it were not a precise opposite.


Richard English
 
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Is it true that "bed sitter" means a studio apartment in England? Do you use the phrase studio apartment at all?
 
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A bedsitter (or bedsit) is a small flat (apartment) with the kitchen and bedroom combined in one room and a small bathroom just off to one side.

We do use the phrase "studio apartment", but it usually tends to be for more up-market places ("bijou residence" is another term bandied around freely in such circles). Bedsits here tend to have somewhat negative connotations of sleazy student or bad social housing.
 
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