Thursday, September 16, 2004

Almost-genital post but not quite as it turns out

My friend - Jesus, was it? - has got me musing about slang differences. You see, I learned my English in a British school. Even though we have loads of American series and movies and my slang is a bit influenced by it, British English is my template. This has given rise to all sorts of fabulous confusions, case in point being my previous post.

I was pretty sure about my use of slang, i.e. it was so ingrained I just used it without giving it much thought. Until one day not so long ago. I had an American staying with me for a few weeks and was telling her a very unkind joke about a gipsy (there was an Anthropological point to it, worry your PC little heads no more) and her fanny. A British one, a vagina. She looked doubtful and asked for clarification regarding anatomical terms.

"You know what you are saying when you say fanny, right?"
"Er, yes. Fanny. Our twat. Your pussy so to speak."
"You're wrong, a fanny is an ass for the Brits as well."

Right. Funny thing about being an English-speaking foreigner. Even though you may feel damn sure about the things you say, when natives tell you you're wrong you are led to consider that it might just be so and your inclination will be to assume they're right - she's pretty articulate usually - especially if you aren't sleeping so much, are doubling too many consonants and your mind is fusing all the languages you once spoke or even merely heard of (I have this notion there are a lot of "KK" in the Finnish word for "shoes"). (Decided have a look at it, it seems our friends the Finns are shoe-worshippers: jalkine, kengittää, kenkä, liukukappale. I knew there had to be "KK" somewhere, I once went shoe-shopping with a Finnish exchange student.)(I love the internet.)

So I assumed that a fanny is a fanny is a fanny. When I wrote the previous post I meant it in what I, post-correction, thought was both the British and the American sense. Our bum, your butt.

Jesus started me thinking (alright, I am now resisting the pull of the vortex created by this last sentence, there are so many levels on which to work it, Jewish Holyday and all)

So yes he started me thinking about that. Because that nagging fanny feeling persisted. So I got out the dictionary and yes, she was partly right because in the US fanny is an innocuous way of referring to a bum. She was bloody wrong in correcting me though because I was right*. We had valid, different definitions for the same thing. So it would seem that I do know more British English and should stick to my smoking words. We also had an argument regarding hire and rent. I was taught that we hire anything mobile and rent immobile assets. As in hire car and people, rent houses. She said it wasn't like that in America. I can't be bothered to even confirm it. I'll go on hiring cars, I suppose, I can't bear the alternative - there will be a clipped voice in my ear saying "I beg your pardon! I believe you know better than to say that.".

But this is a recurring theme. I once had an argument with an Australian who tried to convince me that both people and objects were hung. They are not. People are hanged. Do you know how long we went over matters like these at school? How many exercises we did? How many sentences we rephrased? How many essays we wrote? How long we were forced to utter "Edinbra" till we could roll our "rr" in all their proper glory?

I'm keeping my britlieves.

So when I say "Blow me [down]!" I'm just surprised and not actually asking for oral sex, nor could I be unless I grew a willie (and yes when I first heard of "Free Willie" I thought it was hilarious because a willie is a penis and Bob's your uncle. Orcas pop into my mind a good while later - as well it should be). I have two pussies and they purr, my car has a boot and a bonnet, letters are posted, a "Z" is a "Zed", I live in a flat and my kitchen has taps, knives are blunt, people are dull, I love aubergine, school starts in a fortnight and I can't be fagged to think about it or I'll be gutted, and I think this post will go down like a bomb. Which means of course you'll think it's smashing.

Almost forgot: anatomy, UP YOUR BLOODY YOURS.

* - She has apologised in the most grovelling manner and informed me that there is a "Cafe Fanny" where she lives and she'll take a picture and send it over. I can barely contain myself.

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At 21/9/04 20:48, Blogger d.x. said...

this is an incredible post. intense. i love the rant at the end. this is the finest linguistic diatribe i've ever seen.

At 24/9/04 00:11, Blogger Marg said...

I must say, I agree with most of that! Only, I've heard of rent-a-car... but never hire-a-car and I really don't know what the rules for that are.

Only 2 simple doubts:
"my kitchen has taps"

As opposed to?

And would to opposite to "I love aubergine" be egg-plant?

"school starts in a fortnight" Beg to differ. It started a fortnight ago. *sigh* ;)

At 24/9/04 00:50, Blogger The Lioness said...

Ah, yes, the old rent-a-car... Brings back fond memories "But Mr.X," says unsuspecting pupil, "you always see rent-a-car written on the billboards and such." And then the divine wrath "YES ONE DOES BUT THAT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!! A CAR IS A MOBILE OBJECT, THEREFORE, A CAR IS HIRED!!! THOSE PEOPLE SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW ENGLISH AND SHOULD REFRAIN FROM TAINTING IT". Or something equally traumatising. As I said, I wouldn't dream of using it any other way, I've been most effectively indoctrinated. Thank you Mr. X, you closeted sadistic puff.

Taps as opposed to faucets, aubergine as opposed to eggplant, yes, so sorry abt school. Think of it this way, you'll end up with an education of sorts.

At 24/9/04 19:28, Blogger Marg said...

lol, okay =)
Yes, no one ever said "you have to know grammar before starting up a business" did they? No. Didn't think so.

Faucet? AAAaah.... of course. I thought a faucet was the type of tap you get outside, on a farm and in such places. But then again... I wouldn't know O.O

PS: Thanks for the comment on my... eermmm.. poetic rant =D

At 26/10/04 05:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an American who spends a lot of time in England, let me assure you that in England fanny does mean what you think it does. It was confirmed when a female American executive I worked with addressed a room full of English men and announced that the latest quarterly numbers really gave her a kick in the fanny. What she meant to say, of course, was that she was compelled to take action, but instead was facing a room of wide-eyed men.

Other phrases which are Lost in Translation: Americans "blow someone off" when they don't return a phone call, much to the amusement of the Brits; and when a Brit needs a cigarette, he will "bum a fag from a mate", which in America mean that you pick up a homosexual from the person you are already sleeping with. (Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. It's permitted now.)

Concerning the hire vs. rent: I'm afraid I side with the Yanks on this one. In America, only a person can be hired, and all non-humans are rented. Therefore we have Hertz Rent-a-Car, and we often rent power tools. If we hired a compound miter saw, we would need to interview it first.

At 30/4/05 03:33, Blogger Farmwife said...

I had a British (male) friend stay with me a number of years ago, and he nearly choked when we went out for a sandwich, and on the counter of the shop was a display for "Otis Spunkmeyer" cookies...


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