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Old Jun 13, 2011, 4:56 AM   #11
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Oh well, as no-one else has mentioned it ...


... the word fanny.

In the US it's refers to that part of the body on which one sits. Whereas in the UK it is considered vulgar slang for a very personal part of a woman's anatomy.

I'm sure morethan one Brit has been shocked on hearing the phrase "fanny pack"!!!
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 6:27 AM   #12
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College is another one ... although in recent years in the UK the status of colleges has changed somewhat. However when I was growing up there was always a distinct difference between a University & a College whereas in the USA they seem to be one and the same thing.
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 1:40 PM   #13
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And don't forget cars, where the trunk is a boot and the hood is a bonnet!
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 1:46 PM   #14
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I've been trying to think of the differences between the two words "jumper" and "sweater". There is actually a third, "pullover" and even a fourth, "cardigan". And you and we also use "sweatshirt" as a variation on "sweater". They all mean similar things but with subtle differences, and because of its multitudinous origins English often offers alternatives that nowadays regardless of what they may have meant originally allow for subtle distinctions.

I don't mean above that I don't know the difference between those four words - I do - but that it's difficult to explain. One clear difference that others may dispute is that a cardigan is buttoned down the front whereas none of the others is. It's actually rather odd that a "sweatshirt" isn't also buttoned, because that's a key aspect to a shirt that differentiates it from a "smock". And most of these garments are made from wool, but a sweatshirt is (I believe) always made from cotton.

"Fanny" to me is a rather different issue. In America you speak of a "fanny pouch" or "fanny pack" whereas in England (I'm being quite specific about England, because I can't be sure what different usages exist in other parts of the UK) we speak of a "bum bag". But neither the word "fanny" nor "bum" is acceptable in polite speech in England (in South Africa "bum" is a perfectly proper word for buttocks/posterior/that which you sit upon). I believe a key difference between the two objects is that a "fanny pouch" is worn at the front and a "bum bag" is worn at the rear, over the (South African usage) bum. The "fanny" itself is, I believe, a female's pubic area, so a "fanny pouch" sits just over it. I don't believe the male pubic area ever has that name, so a "fanny pouch" can't strictly be worn by a man, though I have heard the term used in America when the item has been worn by either sex.

English has countless variations both within England and around the world. It is the only language that can truly claim to be a "world language". It is growing and changing all the time and in different ways in different places, though nowadays the internet and telephone communications are tending to bring those strands that have evolved apart from each other back together again. Unlike French no-one has ever tried to be prescriptive about how the language should be used. It's ironic that the French are as a nation paranoid about English displacing their own language and even have laws intended to protect the French language, yet vast numbers of words in English came from French (due to the Norman conquest).

I say no-one has tried to be prescriptive about how English works. In England that's true, but not so in America. I hadn't realised until I read Melvyn Bragg's book that "Webster" was any more than a publishing house that produced a dictionary. Turns out that Noah Webster thought that the French idea of controlling the language was a great idea and decided to do the same. He arbitrarily changed the spelling and sometimes the meanings of words to meet his own ideas, dropping letters that were mute altogether. So for example the reason you use the word "color" instead of "colour" has nothing to do with gradual evolution of the language, but merely that Webster decided to strike out the "u". He wasn't concerned with the origin of the language ("colour" came from the French and most certainly needed the "u", even though with modern English pronunciation it wasn't sounded) but merely with what he considered "efficient" and "accurate" spelling matching the way the word sounded.

Similarly he decided that "sidewalk" was where you walked at the side of the road so that was what it should be called - in England where such provision was made (generally in towns) they were called "pavements" because they alone were "paved" with paviours (like cobblestones). The area of the road where carriages passed was, perfectly logically, called the "carriageway". I imagine that when roads started to be surfaced in America they used paviours so the road surface was called the "pavement", though I don't know if this usage was one of Webster's changes. At the time he was writing roads outside towns were generally not surfaced in any country.

And of course he decided that the letter "s" was often pronounced as if it were a "z" so he changed most instances of "s" to "z". Witness how "realise" (the English word with a long ancestry from Norman French) was changed in an instant to "realize". That was one of Webster's arbitrary changes, not evolution.

His actions were as draconian in his small sphere of operation as were Napoleon's in his much larger one. Of course, when Webster was working there was every possibility that America might have become a French colony rather than a British one, so maybe he felt he was being prudent in adopting French methodology. Anyway, his dictionary stuck and was all-influential in America so his quite arbitrary changes also stuck.

Incidentally, how many Americans realise that Napoleon was responsible for some fundamental aspects of American life? Like the side of the road you drive on. From time immemorial pedestrians and people on horseback had passed each other to the left, so that their sword hand would be towards a potential adversary (most people were right handed, and indeed left handedness was suppressed as a sign of the devil). So carriages also passed each other to the left, in every country of the world. Napoleon had conquered all countries in Europe except England and his inability to make that final conquest really got to him. So he decided by edict that whatever the English did he would do differently. In his countries (which at that stage included Louisiana, then by far the largest part of north America) all people would pass to the right. They would no longer use feet but metres, and he considered a temperature scale with 100 degrees difference between water freezing and boiling was preferable and more logical than the old scale (these changes were late and didn't hit America). At the time of his ultimate defeat he was intending to change the way we measure time, so the relationships between units (seconds, minutes, hours) would also be metric. Had England not beaten him the whole world would now probably have 100 seconds to one minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and possibly 10 hours to each of the day and night. Whether he would also have changed the length of the week I'm not sure, but I know "l'Academie Francais" under his direction was considering it. He really was the ultimate megalomaniac, Far more intelligent than Hitler (and indeed than most of his English opponents) and all the more dangerous for it, albeit they both fell largely from the same mistake (under-estimating the Russian winter). But in America Webster did some of his work for him unbidden.

Back on the English language, I strongly recommend Melvyn Bragg's book to you.
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 1:50 PM   #15
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No dispute here Peter ... cardigans always button down the front !
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 2:11 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogfish View Post
No dispute here Peter ... cardigans always button down the front !
Unless they are Welsh, in which case they bark!

(Cardigan Welsh Corgis, for the uninitiated)
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 3:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogfish View Post
No dispute here Peter ... cardigans always button down the front !
Another interesting variant here. In England a cardigan or indeed any jacket when worn by a man always fastens so the left side (as viewed by the wearer) overlaps the right. Women in Britain wear it with the right side over-lapping the left, just as everyone in America does. I have not the remotest idea how this difference came about.
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 3:11 PM   #18
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But any American will tell you that a jumper is a dress, not a sweater. Though I must admit that the dress jumpers have been out of style for a very long time.
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 3:12 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keithw View Post
Oh well, as no-one else has mentioned it ...


... the word fanny. ..... In the US it's refers to that part of the body on which one sits
Surely not? Isn't it the same part of the anatomy (a woman's pubic area) that is meant in England?

Do Americans use the word "bum" in polite speech? As I said above, they do in South Africa, they don't in England, I'm not sure about the rest of the UK, and I don't believe they do in Australia.
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 3:16 PM   #20
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A fanny in the States is a somewhat more correct version of bum, though both are considered slang and refer to any person's sit-upon part of their anatomy. I've noticed that at least some Canadians will use bum more commonly than in the States, where the word is more often used to denote a person living on the streets.
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