Last week while we were discussing the possibility of our works being translated into other languages, I said that I would like to bring up translating English to English, that is to say, “British” to “American”.
I have read books written by English writers all of my life. I watch English movies and some TV shows, so I am fairly well versed in ‘English English’.
Although my mother’s English was impeccable, with no sign of an accent, English was not her first language.The only tell-tale sign of this was that, with the exception of those with Italian or Spanish, Mom had real trouble understanding anyone with an accent, no matter how well they spoke the English, and that included most British accents.
So, I learned to translate “English” early on to the woman who insisted that we all speak “English” to perfection.
In my foray through movies, TV and literature, I have gained knowledge of many differences in phraseology, idioms and common terms. I think that most of us also know that “crisps” there are “chips” here and over there, their “chips” we know as “fries”. but there are some that still confuse both Americans and English folk. I knew all but one of these, in fact, we sometimes use the terms interchagably in America, ( yet I could see how an ‘eraser’ in England might give some Americans a jolt!)
One English writer, a friend to most of us here, was upset years ago that they changed some of the wording in the original Harry Potter books when publishing American versions. Her one real peeve was that they changed the term to “Sweater” from “Jumper” in the American books and she could not understand why. I told her that in America, a ‘jumper’ was a sleeveless dress which is worn with a blouse under it, and American kids would have been shaking their heads over why Mrs. Weasley would be knitting them for her sons. She said, “Oh, I didn’t know. I just call them ‘Sleeveless dresses that I wear blouses under”.
I’m still laughing.
I will also have a guest in soon who is Australian, but there are only a few differences in terminology between us. However, I wrote recently here of a very charming book written by an English woman and boy, is it in “British English”!
I had to really stop and think about a few, and she had me running to look up others.
You must know me by now, so you know that I won’t by-pass references to food, so when the children in the story had a birthday party and they ate cake and “jelly”, it wasn’t:
but, as shown in the chart above:
I got very excited when the main character and her sister were eating “custard creams”, as I thought of:
or another favorite:
however, they were only:
(they seem basically like blonde Oreos, but I hope are better).
I was at a total loss over “Jammy Dodgers”, which I found to be what I would call ‘Linzer cookies”, but since the British eschew everything German and even call German Shepherds “Alsatians”, I guess these needed another name there.
Let’s see if you know these or how long it took you to figure out what the protagonist did or meant:
1). She consulted her “SATNAV”.
2). She placed things on the ‘hob’.
3). She put her clothes in the ‘linen basket’. (Clue: not as obvious as you would think.)
4).Someone lived in an “Identikit” house.
5).Something looked like it came from a ‘lucky bag’.
6).They looked for a ‘car park’.
7). Her handbag was ‘nicked’, (they used to use that here, long ago).
8). Several times the phrase, “Needs must”, came into play.
9).The hairdresser made a ‘pig’s ear’ of someone’s hair.
10). She walked in, and “the place was a tip”.
11). Did someone want a “top-up?”
12). There were “half-eaten takeaways”
I had to actually look up a couple of those, if not, at least, they gave me pause. How about you? I will leave ‘translations’ in the comments if you aren’t sure.
Please comment and let me know or if any others have confused you.
If you are English/British, please join in. How have we confused you?