Butt, Fanny!! We Don't Speak the Same English!
I have many friends and acquaintances whose first language is English, but they are not from the United States. They are English, Australian, Irish, New Zealanders, Scottish, Canadian, and more.
As a little girl, I read many stories written by authors from these countries, so I realized that American (US) English was not always the same as British English, which was spoken elsewhere.
I remembering feeling a bit more "cultured" when I was able to recognize (recognise) the differences, utilize (utilise) them when I wrote, and find some humor (humour) in how I might use other words strategically, though defined much differently in common language. The difference? The country where it was spoken.
I read a post by a fellow writer on another site where she used the terms, "water infections" and "my waters." This was new for me, though I easily understood what she was relating based on my own experience.
In this case, she was referring to urinary tract infections (UTIs). Here in the US we are much more "clinical" and less genteel about it, especially when we are referring to this bodily function and fluid.
Medical professionals, including doctors, will ask, "Is there blood in your urine?" or "Does it burn when you pee?"
Over the years, I have learned that the words and phrases we use in different English-speaking countries can get us into some trouble or be confusing, at best.
Consider the words used to describe the part of the body upon which one sits: Bottom, backside, butt, bum, behind, rear, buttock, rear end, ass, arse, fanny and tush. One of these words is a label for a different part of the body in some countries.
"You four--George, Fanny, Pat and Bo! Get off your ass, go to the bottom, pick up any butts you may find, put them in your fanny pack, get back on your ass, and come back in from the rear!" might frighten one who is not well-versed in all the meanings each of these words may have.
Bo (a student from China) watches the others for clues, and follows their lead: He dismounts the pack mule, walks to the depth of the canyon, picks up any cigarette filters thrown by smokers, put them in the waist pack attached to his belt until the litter can be disposed of properly, and gets back up on the animal to ride back up to the top, and rejoins the team at the back of the line, along with George (on holiday from England), Fanny (the 80-year-old adventurer from the Midwestern US who was named for her great-grandmother), and Pat (from New York City).
Is it any wonder that non-native English speakers who are learning it as their second language might have problems with this language? Even those of us who do speak English as our native tongue would interpret the statement very differently.
I think it is about time I share some of my stories about how I learned some of these differences. One involved the Australian Navy in 1980. The other is from a 1999 Christmas holiday I took in London, when asking for directions from a proper, British woman.
Until then, it is time I rattle my dags, even though my dogs are barking, or I will have to stay on my own ass until I get it all done.
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Adapted from original piece originally written at Bubblews on March 10, 2014
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