You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

From time to time, my non UK peeps throw a little Britspeak into their comments and emails. Like me, they sometimes get it wrong. So I had to laugh when I got an email recently in which one of my blogging buddies mentioned having forgotten something and said:

I forget that because I am starkers (one of my very favorite “I’ve read too much Brit Lit” words)

To which I replied:

Laughing my ASS off. Starkers means naked! So unless you being in the nude affects your memory…  I think you must mean stark raving mad?(which I love) Or bonkers perhaps?

To which the blogging buddy replied:

Wait, what??? I thought it meant stark raving mad, not naked. I am sitting here laughing my own ass off now.

I spent the rest of that day wishing I really could laugh my ass off chuckling about starkers, which is an awesome word, when used appropriately.

That little linguistic lapse, I could help with. But sometimes I can’t, so I was chuffed to bits* when Lisa sent me a link to Separated by A Common Language, a blog written by Lynneguist, self-described “American linguist in the UK.”

Peeps. Ask me for help anytime. But remember, I’m an amateur. Lynneguist?  She’s a professional. It’s good to know I have back up.

What’s your favorite linguistic faux pas?

*British expression, appropriately used here.

23 thoughts on “You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

  1. I’m partial to my own je m’en fous faux pas. Nobody in France seemed to mind me saying “I don’t give a fuck” instead of “it doesn’t matter.” Curious that.

  2. Here’s a linguistic faux pas concerning Aussies: when our daughter was 15 she travelled to Sydney to spend an exchange term at a girls school. She wanted to bring something for her teenage hosts and so we went to Roots – relatively famous Canadian brand for clothing – and bought t-shirts. Her embarrassment was significant when the Aussie girls explained that ‘roots’ is slang for sexual intercourse. Curiously, they still wore the t-shirts :)

    • Ha. My former office mate in London was a Kiwi. She kept going into shops asking for leather pants. (instead of trousers) She got some looks.

      • Love these. In Australia we also call flip-flops thongs so you can imagine when I used to tell my kids, Come on guys, put your thongs on! Isn’t a thong a g-string over your way?

  3. I got nothin’ so good as starkers. Love it!

    On that subject, however, my neighbor had a friend (Robert) fly in from Australia on Saturday. Between the jet lag and too much booze over dinner, he was a bit schnockered and wandered into their bedroom in the middle of the night, lost, and flipped the overhead light on. Wearing only a t-shirt! Hahahaha!

  4. In college, I knew a student from London who often used his more outrageous-sounding Britishisms as pick up lines, knowing full well what they sounded like to Americans.

    At a party one night, he told one of my friends that he’d “knock her up” sometime. She looked him over, held out her left hand, palm down and said, “You’ll have to ring me first.”

    They’ve been married fifteen years now. Two kids. :)

  5. I wrote something on my blog a while back about ‘rooting around’. I could hear Mr iPants, my Aussie friend, hooting from the other side of the world. ‘Root’ is more vulgar than the f-bomb, down under. Who knew?

    Now of course I use it all the time.

  6. My favorite is when we Americans don’t realize that nappies means diapers in the UK and mistakenly use it as a short-cut term for napkins.

    • I swore I would never use the word nappies. My resolve lasted about two days. My British born children think the word diaper is hilarious. Either way, I’m glad those years are over.

  7. Well in Italian – this is not really the same thing but foreigners slip up – ‘scoppare’ means to sweep but in real talk it also means to f***. So imagine poor beginner Cat saying ‘I really should be f***ing’. Or ‘I really need a sweep’.

    Starkers was just hilarious.

    • The word sweep used to be innocuous for me -pushing a broom. But, in the UK at least, if your baby is overdue, a “membrane sweep” is recommended. I didn’t need one, but 9 years after my last pregnancy, the term still makes me shudder.

  8. It’s a bit unfair, that… starkers is short for “stark naked”, so there’s no reason it *couldn’t* be short for “stark raving mad”. It just… can’t.

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