Saturday, September 29, 2007

Words have different meanings etc etc

I grew up in South Africa. Now I live in England. Words have different meanings everywhere, don't they?

In South Africa, a "yard" is somewhere at the back of the house where you keep your bins and have a washing line. A work space in a way. In England, a "yard" is either a stable yard, or an old measure of length. In the States, it is a garden. In South Africa, and in England, a garden is the outside leisure area of your home, and is not usually associated with work areas. Maybe a greehouse or a shed will be the work areas at the bottom of the garden. Garden sheds are very English things. You will not find them in South Africa. That sort of stuff will be in the yard. Am I confusing you??? We are all supposed to be speaking the same language here!

Most gardens here have patios, and now the "deck" is all the rage here as well. Like the American "decks". I have rather too much experience of "decks" on ships. Only problem with decks is that they are increasing the rat population across the country, as they are finding that rats thrive under decks. I don't have a deck. Therefore, I assume, no rats. Yuck. I do not do rodents, as I have stated on a regular basis.

Most of our roads are tarred, not concrete, and so are our pavements, which are sidewalks in the States. "Stay on the pavement, sweetie" might not be good advice in the States! In cities, pavements are block-paved at times, or cobbled, or bricked. Our letters are delivered by a postman, who puts them through the door, but if we want to post things, we have to go to the post office, or to a letterbox which are usually regularly spaced through the vilage or town or city.

Most of the central heating here is gas, and the boilers are small and either in a kitchen cupboard or in a linen cupboard. In South Africa, there is no central heating and no mainline gas. It is open fires or electric heaters if you want to be warm. We do not have basements here, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why, when space is at such a premium. If you do have oil-fired central heating, you have a tank outside the house. My sister has a massive tank in Switzerland, which is only filled once a year. Her boiler is huge and in a separate room in the "basement" where the washing machine etc is kept. I dream of a room like that. Here, washing machines are either in the kitchen or in the utility rooms which are in most newer homes and very small. And the washing machines are all front loaders, not top loaders. In South Africa too. But in New Zealand, they are top loaders. Sigh.

Most people I know, cook on a gas hob, and have an electric oven. In South Africa, we call them "stoves" and here they are "cookers". I have never got used to that one. We use Centigrade temperatures here, and in South Africa, which went totally metric in 1962 or 3. I only ever learnt the metric system, so to say that I was befuddled by weights and measures here is an understatement.

In South Africa, things (like humans) are weighed in kgs. So I might weigh 60kgs (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!! - she picks herself up from the floor after an attack of hysterical laughter) but HERE, humans are weighed in "stones". Stones????? A stone is equal to 14 lbs. And there are 2.2lbs to a kg. So it is like going back to the dark ages when I have to estimate weight. Which allows some latititude, thankfully. I am foreign, after all. But airlines weigh baggage in kgs.

It is a little confusing here, because some things are metric and some in imperial measures. Miles not kilometres, pints not mls for beer, but not for milk...that is in litres. And in Switzerland they use dls not mls. Deci- not milli-. I remember being taught the "King Henry Died a Miserable Death Called Measles" way to remember the metric system when I was about 7. (And I am 53 now) - Kilo Hecta Deca Metre Deci Centi Milli to remember which way to jump the point to change quanitities. Simple. But there are no pints or stones or miles in that.

All the above musings were inspired by Barb saying that she finally understood that a garden was the same as a yard. I got a little carried away. There is no right way or wrong way to refer to things, it is just something that you have to adapt to when you move countries! Chips are crisps here. Flapjacks are oat biscuits not dropped scones. Our bread rolls are your biscuits, our jam is your jelly. Our courgettes are your zucchini. And so it goes.

The one thing I am really grateful for is when my US friends post photos of their ingredients for a recipe...I can blow up the photo to see the labels. So I know how much a stick of butter is now. Or what baking soda is ...Bicarb or baking powder...that was always the question!

And now I have run out of steam. And my son is up and wants to use the computer too.

Have a great weekend!


CONNIE W said...

I enjoyed reading your post, well written and helpful. I've been told that our (in the USA) cookies are your biscuits and our fries are your chips.

Kelli said...

Great post!

I love the kg. thing. At dialysis, they weigh us in kg, so that's always an ego boost!

When we were over there, our leader's name was "randy" which, at least in Scotland, brought gales of laughter from the teenagers.

Then there was 'trunk' vs 'the boot' of a car, 'chips' vs. 'french fries', 'soccer' vs ' football' and it went on and on.

When we came home after 3 months of being embedded in the culture, everyone looked at us funny with some of the things that had rubbed of.

This was, honestly, where I picked up using 'bum' for, well, my lovely derrière.

Ah, the memories ....

Angie said...

I had so much to learn when we moved to South Africa in '99! Laundry became the washing, a dryer is a tumble dryer, ketchup is tomato sauce, I called kebabs "keh-bobs" but the waitress at Spur said "kee-babs". My friends would give me recipes with everything in mls and I would have to translate into cups. And don't even give me a recipe where things are measured in grams. I don't own a kitchen scale!

Gas became petrol, diapers became nappies, hamburger meat became mince, ham at Christmas was called Gammon at Woolworths! I remember thinking "What is a gammo? This looks just like ham to me!"

My shoe size changed from an American 9 to a South African 7. The "buggy" I pushed in the supermarket in the American South became a trolley. Stores became shops. Pies became cakes.....I couldn't find lemon meringue pie on the coffeeshop menu.....then found it under cakes! And all the pies were the savory kind like steak and onion.

I could go on and on. It's fun to think of the differences. And you should hear my older sons switch from their American accents to their South African accents. It's really funny.

Susie said...

You did have lots to learn when you moved. I understood some of the terms you used as my sister in law is Australian.
Quite interesting post!

Dawn said...

We definitely learned some things that we say in America that are inappropriate in England. I would have a huge learning curve if I had to live where the metric system is used - I had a terrible time with it in school.

At A Hen's Pace said...

My husband remembers a time in the 80's when he was backpacking around Europe and ordered a hamburger in Sweden, maybe?--and got a slice of ham on a bun!



meggie said...

It is quite funny to compare the differences. I think Sth Africa & NZ have a lot in common. We find American things quite funny- f'rinstance, a "fanny pack" in our countries is known as a "bum bag".
As the world 'shrinks' we are using more & more terms that come from both cultures, & are readily recognised now.
Bangs for fringe...I will never get that one!