It’s all gone pear shaped: British terms used in US English

You can read a lot of writing lamenting the influx of Americanisms into UK English. “Can I get a…” (instead of “could I have,” or “may I have,”), “sure” (instead of “of course”), “movie” (instead of “film”). American media is consumed globally, and is probably exported more than any other country’s media that I can think of, so you can expect the adoption of some of these “Americanisms”.

However, culture and language works both ways. The Harry Potter books and movies have certainly played a part in introducing a number of words into American English, that while they may have been understood before, are becoming more and more commonplace. The most notable is probably “ginger”, which is “redhead” in American English. Though I have seen an internet post or two claiming there’s a difference between “redhead” and “ginger”, the two are used interchangeably in the US. Now even though it’s understood in the US, it’s still a little “funny” sounding, and you probably wouldn’t use it with a straight face as a descriptive term, and it’s not overly-positive sounding to our American ears.


June 19, 2013 1 comment

Some things I found strange the first time I went to Italy

Last week Caterina, PocketCultures contributor from Italy, wrote about some things she found strange when she lived in England. As an English person who has spent a lot of time in Italy (I am married to an Italian!) I thought it would be fun to look at it the other way round – things I did not expect when I visited Italy.

Italian food is famous in many countries around the world, and one of the most famous Italian dishes in Britain is Spaghetti Bolognese. Or so I thought. It turns out in Italy each sauce is normally combined with a particular shape of pasta – spaghetti with clams, penne with arrabiata (spicy tomato), … Bolognese sauce, or ragu as it’s usually called in Italy, is rarely served with spaghetti.

Italian breakfast

And whilst we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk about breakfast. The typical Italian breakfast in a bar is a cappuccino with a ‘pasta’ – a croissant, doughnut or other pastry. As Caterina wrote, it’s very different to the traditional breakfast served in British cafes. At home Italians might eat biscuits, or even a piece of cake, to go with their coffee. I have to admit I was surprised – In England we might eat a couple of biscuits mid-afternoon, but only as a treat, and definitely not as a meal.


January 30, 2013 Comments disabled

Cape Verde: Encouraging Storytelling and Creative Writing

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese.]

Set over the course of seven weeks, a creative writing competition promoted by the young Cape Verdean journalist Odair Varela on his blog, Crioulo n’Descontra, has led a dozen word lovers from three different continents to get behind their keyboards and let their imaginations flow.

Dolls from Cape Verde. Photo by Wanaku on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The competition was launched at the end of March [en] to “promote a taste for writing and for linguistic and artistic evolution”. Odair suggested a set of four challenges; the responses, written in either poetry or prose, were published on his blog.

On 9th May the winners were announced, determined by counting the number of views their texts had received. This article will provide an overview of the stories told. (more…)

May 22, 2012 Comments disabled

India, as seen by Anu: A World of Cultures, Languages and Traditions, In Just One Country

Anuradha (Anu), our regional Pocket Cultures contributor from India, is a home- maker and a freelance writer who loves to travel. In Anu’s words “While I would love to travel around the world, I am so fascinated with my own country that I want to explore every inch of it and experience every bit of its rich and varied culture.”

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

My family originally hails from the southern state of Tamilnadu, but over the last 4 generations, we have moved all over India. I was born in the national capital Delhi which is in the north, and live in our commercial capital, Mumbai, which is in the west. I love living in Mumbai for the simple reason that its a melting pot of cultures and traditions. It attracts people from across the country and gives each one the freedom of following ones own way of life too!

January 12, 2012 5 comments

New Zealand Languages

Saturday means washday!

Learning the days of the week in Te Reo Māori

What language or languages are used within a country is a complicated issue. Sometimes there are strict rules in order to preserve a language and sometimes it is simply historical happenstance. It is also interesting to note that many countries do not have language policies. We may assume that the language most people speak in a country is the official language but there is not always legislation to prove that. For instance, the United States does not have a nationwide declaration of an official language (State by state legislation may differ). English is only the lingua franca. Surprising, isn’t it?

In the case of New Zealand, we do have an official language policy. In fact, we have three languages. Can you guess what they are? One hint can be that the first people to arrive in New Zealand, also known as Aotearoa, were the Māori and the next to arrive were the Pakeha (Europeans). So, two of our official languages are Te Reo Māori and English (technically English is a de facto official language because of it’s widespread use rather than by written policy). Our third official language is New Zealand Sign.

Most New Zealanders use a few Te Reo words in everyday life. If you feel hungry, you may want to get some kai. After the Christchurch earthquakes began people started collecting koha (precious gifts, usually money) to help those in need. And at work, you may need to attend a hui or meeting, on occasion. And everyone likes to say kia ora (hello) when they see someone.

If you are keen to learn some NZ Sign, there is a great online dictionary that you can use at the NZSL website. And, as for English, well you are already reading it, aren’t you?

January 3, 2012 Comments disabled

Infographic: Top languages on the Internet

As the number of web users grows around the world, languages on the internet have continued to expand resulting in an increasingly multilingual internet. The Internet used to be English centric and even today; English remains the dominant language, but the remarkable growth of languages such as Chinese has changed the online language landscape.

Continuing on from a previous post on the Top 10 languages on the internet, which listed the growth of various languages on the web, I thought of revisiting the topic and look at the changes that have occurred since then through an infographic.


October 14, 2011 Comments disabled