Tag Archives: translation

Fanny pack or bum bag?

bumbag

Now I thought that bum bags (fanny packs) had gone out with the Ark, but lately I’ve seen all manner of reference to them by perturbed Americans who have come to realise that in Britian, ‘fanny pack’ is not something to be said in public (and if said in polite company may cause an elderly aunt to faint quite away).

Relax, dearest cousins.  If you wish to wear one whilst in Blighty, just call it a bag.  “Where’s the camera, dear?”  “It’s here,  dear, in my bag”.  There!  Problem solved.  Right, now we can all relax.

But the subject of stowage is fraught with translation problems, so here’s a guide in case things get a tad confusing:

Handbag – that’s your purse.  Whether clutch, Kelly or shoulder-strap, teensy-weensy or big enough for the kitchen sink,  it’s a ‘handbag’.  (see The Importance of Being Ernest – “a HANDBAG??”).

Manbag – a new term for modern types, that’s his handbag.  But never EVER called a handbag.  EVER.  Usually a ‘monosac’, ‘record bag’ (younger chap) or a European style small zip-bag with wrist strap (older, usually retired chap).

Purse – that’s a ladies wallet, usually with a coin compartment.

Wallet – A man’s wallet, usually with no coin compartment; hence my daughter making a fortune out of picking up coins which have fallen from her father’s trouser pocket and banking them in her ‘spotty dog’ moneybox.

Placky bag – A thin plastic (usually grocery store) bag (may also be called a ‘plaggy bag’ in some regions).  Many shops now don’t give out bags for free in the name of saving the environment, so we all carry a ‘placky bag’ in our handbags for our purchases.  Complete posers will ensure it’s a ‘Mulberry’ bag and I freely admit to once stuffing in an ‘LK Bennett’ bag, but really, Tesco’s bags should be good enough for anyone.  Are we being green or trying to preen?  Hmmm?

Luggage – Baggage, but not the emotional kind.  Usually more, well, suitcasey.

Car boot – trunk.  Although, should you arrive at your hotel and ask the porter (bellboy) to retrieve your luggage from the trunk, fear not; he will perfectly understand and will not be looking for your pet elephant.

Trunk – A large chest.  No!!!  Not THAT kind of large chest!  Shame on you.

Old bag – A Chav’s wife or mother.

Granny bag – A wheeled shopping bag, usually with a steel frame and made from colourful checked (plaid) fabric, this evil weapon of mass destruction can mow down a dozen innocent shoppers in seconds when wielded by a mean, bargain hunting granny in a crowded market-place.

Trug – A very shallow, flat-bottomed basket made from flat strips of woven wood for collecting freshly cut flowers or vegetables from one’s garden.  Its shape is similar to an old American grape basket, with a generous handle to carry the basket over the crook of one’s arm.

There!  So hopefully on your next visit to Blighty you’ll be faux-pas free, know your trunk from your trunk, your wallet from your wallet and your purse from your handbag (although many Brits don’t even know their arse from their elbow).

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Pants!

BigPants

Okay.  There seems to be some confusion about pants and to be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised.

In England, pants are underwear.  Otherwise known as knickers, briefs, grundies, or (if large), Bridget Jones’s.  They can also be known by type (eg G-string, boxer, Y-front etc).

Dear reader, one can imagine the trans-Atlantic shockwaves caused by the overheard statement “I wore my new red pants to Emma’s party last night with my red satin Jimmy Choos”.  It’s enough to get the office blogger quite (needlessly) overexcited.

But what the confused American in question asked me (after the Brits involved had all calmed down a bit, stopped giggling and wiped away their tears) was, “What did I say that was so wrong?”.  And the answer, my lovely cousin-from-across-the-Pond, is that YOU are RIGHT and WE are WRONG.  Oh yes.  Because we use the term pants as a shortened version of ‘underpants’.  And I think we are all in agreement as to what underpants are.  However, we Brits are lazy and careless with our mother tongue, so ‘pants’ they have become.

Now it doesn’t take a college professor with a degree in logic to work out that if underpants are the undergarment, then pants must be the garment worn on top, yes?  Yes.  So you can relax now and I shall even give you licence to feel just a tad smug if you want to (I would if I were in the same boat, I assure you).

However, just be aware that when in Britain, you may wish to refer to your ‘trousers’, as approaching someone and commenting “I love your pants!” may not get you quite the reaction you were anticipating.

And, chaps, please remember that if you find a belt on your trousers uncomfortable, whatever you do, do NOT go into a store and ask for suspenders!  Because that’s a garter-belt.  And you want braces.

Do you know what?  I’ve just penned this post, re-read it and I don’t know whether to publish it.  It’s pants!

Ah, yes.  Pants also means rubbish.  Useless.  Not good.

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English As She Is Spoke

American:English translations

Starting this blog has drawn me into some interesting ‘translation’ conversations with my chums (friends) in the US.  There, you see?  I’ve already had to explain one term in the first sentence!

I’ve also seen some translation bloopers, such as the website that advised an American that when in Britain if one wants to buy diapers, one should ask for napkins.  Now that probably would have worked in Charles Dicken’s days, but these days a diaper is a nappy (whether disposable, washable or modern ‘smart’ nappy).  And if you ask for napkins, you’ll be shown to the linen section so you can buy some damask table napkins for dinner.  In fact, it’s much easier if you don’t worry and simply ask for diapers, as we get so much American TV here that I can’t imagine anyone would have a problem understanding you.

And things could be much worse.  You could be Portuguese and trying to learn English back in the 19th Century.  In which case you couldn’t turn to the web, but would have had to rely on a book called “English As She Is Spoke”.  Unfortunately, it seems that the authors of this book had rather a fragile grasp on the language themselves; so not quite sporting to write a book that others may rely on, is it?

Probably my favourite mis-translation in it is:

“A cavalo dado não se lhe olha para o dente”, which should be translated as “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, but somehow got translated as “A horse baared don’t look him the tooth”.

I don’t know about you, but I may have a spot of bother working that one out.

Wikipedia says:

English as She Is Spoke is the common name of a 19th century book credited to José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino, which was intended as a PortugueseEnglish conversational guide or phrase book, but is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour.

The humour appears to be a result of dictionary-aided literal translation, which causes many idiomatic expressions to be translated wildly inappropriately. For example, the Portuguese phrase chover a cântaros is translated as raining in jars, whereas an idiomatic English translation would be raining buckets.

Mark Twain said of English as She Is Spoke that “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”

And yes, you can get it from Amazon!

All I’ve got to say about Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino is…  Bless.

And we all know what that means, eh?

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