You Say Potato Chips, I Say Crisps

English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England!

– Homer Simpson

OK, before we go any further, I want to get one thing clear. I am not from here. I am an Englishman living in Minnesota. And I’ve got to tell you, Americans do things differently to the English. There are the obvious differences that everyone knows. An American car has a hood, a trunk, a windshield, and turn signals; an English car has a bonnet, a boot, a windscreen, and indicators. All that’s fine. In fact, it’s fun! Like learning a new language without the hard grammar stuff.

One area I find particularly tricky, is that of home improvement. I have the hardest time referring to that thing on the sink as a faucet. To me, it always has been, and, probably, always will be a tap. But, I have learned the language, and know that, to be understood here, I need to call it a faucet.

Recently, I needed a tool to remove a headless screw from a cabinet door. So, off I went to Menards, our favorite home improvement store. “Excuse me,” I said to the young man at the desk, “I am looking for a stud extractor.” Immediately, I could tell from his expression that this conversation was not off to the best start. “A what?” he said. To buy myself time, I said it again. He looked puzzled.

It’s at this point that I usually change tack and describe the activity that I would like to perform. When I did this, he exclaimed, “Oh! A screw extractor!” And I suddenly realized how my request had sounded to him. In England, a stud is a type of screw, whereas in America, studs are pieces of wood used to build wall frames that sheet-rock [plaster-board in England] is attached to.

So, to him, I was asking for a tool that would remove framing members from a wall. Perhaps he thought someone was playing a prank on me, in the same way that apprentices might be told to go for a long stand or some striped paint. I can only imagine that, given my apparent age, he must have thought me amongst the most gullible of people to have ever lived.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in American vs English, D'oh! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.