Immitation is the Sincerest Flattery
Posted on January 31, 2010 by pacificyorkshirebird
It wouldn’t be an authentic experience of living in Britain without the inevitable friendly jabs about the way Americans seem to have made up our own version of the English language. Once I had someone tell me ‘I love how Americans just seem to make up words and still claim they speak English’. One of the most embarrassing terms was ‘bachelorette party’. Although I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘hen do’ either. Even now when I hear that term I imagine drunk chickens dressed up in matching outfits and tiaras clucking through the streets of some city in Spain or maybe Newcastle or York.
Anyways, it is hard not to notice how many places in America and Canada copied British names. I’ve been known to wake up in the middle of the night panicked that perhaps I just bought a plane ticket to Manchester, New Hampshire or London, Ontario on accident. There are many places all over North America named after British places which is no surprise given our history.
The really funny times though, are when we find things for which we copy a British name, but mean different things. A classic example is the word ‘fanny’ of course. Last summer, I discovered another example that left me feeling very unobservant having never noticed this difference in Britain:
British In-Law visiting PacificNW: ‘What are them birds called? The really big ones that look a bit like a robin?’
Me: ‘Hmm, really big birds? I’m not sure. What did they look like?’
British In-Law: ‘Like a robbin, but really big. With bits of red on the fronts’.
Me: ‘I can’t think of anything bigger than a robbin that looks like a robin. How big do you mean, like a crow?’
British In-Law: ‘Smaller than a crow and smaller than magpie. But quite big.’
Me: ‘Are you sure it isn’t a robin?’
British In-Law: ‘How big are your robins then?’
Me: ‘Well, not that big. Smaller than a magpie for sure. I think you saw a robin.’
British In-Law #2: ‘Are you talking about them big robins we was looking at this morning? Your robins are massive. It is true that everything is bigger in America. I’ve never seen a robin that size before.’
In 4 years in Britain, how did I never notice that the European Robin was completely different than the North American Robin? They are not even related – we all looked it up on Wikipedia together. Who knew?