Friday, May 6, 2011

Growing an International Vocabulary

One of the benefits of living and working among a community of international expatriates is the effect it has on your vocabulary.

Before I came to Africa, I had a mostly American English vocabulary. Yes, I understood that people in other English-speaking countries used different words than I did to describe certain things, but my working knowledge of those words and phrases was limited.

That's not the case anymore. I've lived among English-speakers from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and others for long enough now that my international English vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds. I even find myself interchanging my Americanisms for the way others might say it when I'm in an international group.

See how my vocabulary has grown:

  • You don't wear pants, they're trousers. Pants are underwear.
  • You don't have fries with your hamburger, you have chips. Potato chips are crisps.

  • That red, tangy condiment you put on a hamburger is tomato sauce, not ketchup.
  • You don't put jelly on bread, it's jam. Jelly is gelatin. (Side note: I've discovered that many of my non-American friends think that peanut butter and jell-uh, I mean, jam together is gross.)
  • You don't push your baby in a stroller, you push him in a pram.
  • You don't trim your bangs. You trim your fringe.
  • You don't put food from the market in the trunk. It goes in the boot.
  • You don't look under the hood of your sedan. You look under the bonnet of your saloon car.
  • Living here in the land of huge thorns and horrible dirt roads, we've had more flat tires - I mean - punctures than I'd care to mention.
  • You don't mail a package, you post a parcel.
  • You don't give a kid a cookie. Give that kid a biscuit.

  • You don't use an eraser to erase a mistake , you rub it out with a rubber. (Um...yes, we'll have to have a gentle conversation with our kids about this one before they enter the American school system again.)
  • You don't love your mom. You love your mum.
  • When a child get's his first bicycle, it comes with stabilizers not training wheels.
  • You don't hang out your laundry with clothes pins. You hang out the washing with pegs.
  • When you need to wipe your face during a meal, you use a serviette not a napkin.
  • You change a nappy, not a diaper.
  • The baby sleeps in a cot, not a crib.
  • If you're making Mexican food, add some coriander to your salsa, not cilantro.
  • You don't let your dog out into the back yard, he buries his bones in your back garden.
  • You don't go on vacation, you go on holiday. (I think this one might stay permanently in our family's vocabulary. It just sounds more fun and luxurious to go on holiday than vacation.)

  • If you're exercising, you put on your trainers, not your tennis shoes.
  • Garbage doesn't go in the trash can, rubbish goes in the dust bin.
  • You don't watch a movie, you watch a film.
  • If your friends invite you over for tea in an international community, you'd better make sure you understand what they mean. They might only be serving you a cup of tea and a biscuit, or they might be expecting you for dinner/supper.
  • And after tea, it's always polite to ask your host to help with the dishes - I mean - washing up.
  • You don't take a turn kicking the soccer ball, you have a go kicking the football.
  • If you're cold you put on a jumper, not a sweatshirt.
  • If you head over to the pool, don't forget your swimming costume.
  • If you're taking a hike, you need a rucksack, not a backpack.
  • Kids don't learn to go to the bathroom to pee, they go to the toilet to wee.

  • And, finally, one of my all-time favorite new vocabulary words: During that hour before the evening meal when your kids are frustrating and unmanageable, they don't whine, they whinge. I love that! I just sounds appropriate.
So, there you are, mates. Aren't you proud of how my vocabulary has grown?