November 2007



deendictionary.jpgI’ve always known that there are differences between US and British English—quaint differences that make the English’s English sound funny to the American Ear, and I’m not just talking about the accent—the accent only serves to make me drool.

Take for example the fact that British people put their groceries in a boot—I don’t know about you, but besides errant stones that I shake out, the only thing that goes in a boot at my place are feet; and a flat is something that I hope never happens to me, not something that I live in (ok, I lie: I use the word flat in the British sense now, but for rhetorical purposes, I include it here). Bonnets are also a quaint style of hat that Laura Ingalls Wilder wore while living in the Little House on the Prairie, not something under which a v8 roars.

I still love reading Harry Potter—it causes me hours of endless entertainment when the Weasley Twins shout out to “keep your pecker up” – and this is the children’s book sold in the UK, not the adult fantasy fiction one can read on the Internets.

But these are only the well known differences between American and British English—it turns out that the depth of my English-ignorance is deeper than I suspected. I realized this when I picked up a copy of the illustrated Deutsch-Englische dictionary recently at Thalia.

In the food section I was promptly reminded of a dinner I had shortly after moving to Germany whilst on a trip to Berlin. I was eating at an Italian restaurant, and I couldn’t understand something on the menu—food is something that I have picked up relatively quickly—but I didn’t know what “Aubergine” was, so I consulted with the waitress: „Wie heißt du „Aubergine“ auf Englische?“

She didn’t know the name and proceeded to describe it: purple.

“Ah, eggplant,” I informed her.

How right and wrong I was: It seems that eggplant is only eggplant in America; everywhere else that purple vegetable is an Aubergine, even in English.

There were other examples in this dictionary of English words that I don’t know—and even after looking at the pictures I was clueless as to what the words meant—like ayurveda. Any guesses as to what that is—the German word is “das Ayurveda.” Or Reiki? What about secateurs? Dressage?

Language is a funny thing—I wish I had the ability to learn it more quickly.

5 comments to Neuenglische