From Across The Pond…A Translation

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Our family television viewing often consists of programs produced by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), so many of the films or series take place in England or any of their commonwealth territories, therefore the dialogue and vocabulary are similar. From watching such shows as Midsummer Murders, Call the Midwife, Father Brown and a host of others, we’ve become acquainted with many of the words the British use that are different from what we call similar items. I also became familiar with these words in person when I visited our daughter many years ago when she was doing a semester abroad in London. Going back further in time, my teachers and professors often gave us reading assignments of classic British literature and these books also gave me a chance to be familiar with vocabulary words unheard before these books were recommended.   See how many British vocabulary words you know from reading or your television viewing. You’ll see the United Kingdom (UK) has distinct terms to describe commonplace items.

Questions: 1) The trunk of a car is a? 2) An apartment in England is called a? 3) A diaper is called? 4) What would you put the baby in, which has four wheels, to go for a walk?  5) When you have to get in a line to buy something it is called the? 6) In the U.S. we’d go to the pharmacist to pick up a prescription, but the British would go to the?

Answers: 1) Boot, 2) Flat, 3) Nappy, 4) Pram, 5) Cue, 6) Chemist

Food Items:   Naturally, we’ve all heard of the famous “fish and chips”, but the chips are not what we know here in the United States. We know chips as that snack food that is thin and salty and is eaten at parties or lunch box snack and come in a cellophane bag. In the United Kingdom (UK) what they call chips is a version of our classic French fries, only theirs are a bit thicker than ours. Most of us enjoy our sweets and desserts, so if you are offered some biscuits after a meal, it is not what we know as a roll or bread item. A biscuit is what a cookie is called in the UK. So yes, pass me the plate!  Here’s a cute expression the British use to describe a cupcake. Although not as big as our traditional cupcakes in the U.S., the British version is much smaller. The adorable name they give to these tiny ones are called Fairy Cakes, a name that is whimsical and one can imagine were baked or eaten by little fairies. British fairy cakes do not have the thick layer of icing most of our cupcakes have, so the tiny cakes are less sweet and daintier. Now if one wanted to order Fairy Cakes that have a topping of multi-colored little beads, what we would call sprinkles, a British baker wouldn’t know what we meant. Instead, a visitor would have to request “Hundreds and Thousands” to be put on top.  For this one, I think our term, sprinkles is a more descriptive term. Now a sweet treat mostly found at carnivals and fairs and is pink and fluffy is what we call cotton candy.  The British name for it comes fairly close and is called candy floss, reminding us of thin dental floss. Because it is spun, and then swirled onto a paper cone, the name floss best describes this stringy treat in the UK that delights children of all ages.