10 on the 10th, Lost in Translation, English to English

Before coming to Kenya, we had loads of books to read, lectures to listen to and articles to read to prepare us for cross-cultural living. One of the aspects of this education was how to live with people from many different cultures, and not just those who are national Africans. We were told that our teammates would likely be from other cultures outside the good ole USA and that sometimes it would be hard to communicate or work through any issues that may arise. Well, they were right that we’d work with people from many different backgrounds. Our teammates have included Australians, Koreans, Brazilians, Kenyans, a Moldovan, Scottish folks and Brits, so we’ve learned quite a bit about each of these cultures. Not to mention the differences that come up even just between Americans from separate parts of the country. This variety has proved to be one of the biggest blessings of being here. The food that shows up at our potlucks is always a treat! However, there are certainly times when things get lost in translation. Can you believe there are Americans who look at me sideways when I talk about making shrimp and grits for dinner?!

Anyways, I’m losing focus. This month’s 10 is a little list of the new English words we’ve learned from our dear friends who made their way from their home in the United Kingdom to their house that sits two doors down from our own. For those reading this from the States, put on your best British accents and get ready to practice speaking the way you’re supposed to…the way the Queen intended you to speak from the start! Here’s to the language that’s our own, but not really. 🙂

Pictured below: Our favorite Kijabe Brits, The Halestraps! 

1. Torch. (Seriously. These must be read with that amazing, endearing accent.) No, a torch is not just something you light with a match and use at a luau or nighttime pool parties. As far as I know, there is no actual flame involved in the kind of torch I am speaking of. Torch is the Brits’ way to say flashlight. Cool, right?!

2. Biscuit. Y’all. I’m from North Cackalacky, so I KNOW biscuits. I’ve even found and conquered a recipe for those of the Bojangleseque, buttermilk variety. They are delish. But if you ask Mrs. Libby for a biscuit, you won’t be needing jelly or spicy chicken to throw in the middle. She’ll politely hand you a cookie, and probably some hot tea to go with it. Biscuits are cookies. And to her, our “biscuits” are scones. Also note: black tea is not referring to the type of tea you may want to drink. You can have your green tea black if you prefer. It simply means you don’t want milk in it, which, by the way, is very wrong to an Englishman.

3. Jumpers and trousers. While a jumper conjures only images of women in long denim dresses in the what, late 80s early 90s to those of us from the States, this is not what our British and Australian friends mean when they tell their child, “Don’t forget your jumper.” A jumper is a jacket or sweater to keep you cozy warm. And as for trousers vs. pants…I think it’s more widely known that one doesn’t go out in just their pants…or they’d be standing in only their underwear!

4. Rubbish. That’s fancy speak for trash.

5. Popsy/poppet, etc…Maybe my favorite thing about our British/Australian counterparts is the multitude of nicknames they have for their children. If only I could remember them all to list here. Poppet is definitely the most used in these parts. Not that we Americans don’t have our own terms of endearment. I, for one, have a Natterpoo/Nattypie/Sistersuzy/Sissy, Bubbydude/Bubs/Scrubbydoo/Scrub and Becketboo/Babydude/Boozer (not a great nickname right?) in my family.

6. Mum/Mummy. Not the word, the person. And not the dead, yet well-preserved type person. It’s yo momma!

7. Pudding. Now this one has been explained and re-explained to me. The best I can understand is that pudding means any and all dessert. It could in fact be pudding as we know it, like chocolate or butterscotch Jell-O pudding. But it doesn’t have to be. I believe cookies, wait, biscuits can also be considered pudding if served after a meal. Figgy pudding, anyone? I think this means a dessert made of figs….but I’m certainly not sure. There’s also a bit of confusion with the way we call banana bread a bread. Libs feels strongly that this should indeed be referred to as banahna (i wrote it phonetically so you would pronounce it like she does) cake. And I have to agree. It’s half sugar, just like cake. So why do we try to pass it off as bread?! And the worst little trick is zucchini bread. Now that just sounds like something totally healthy to eat. Um, no. It’s not at all healthy, but it IS delicious. If you fancy a slice, open Lib’s fridge at any moment and pull out a freshly frozen loaf. She’s always happy to share.

8. Boot/bonnet. Now, because we were the proud owners of a Mini Cooper in those days before children, we were previously educated on which end of the car is which. For those who are hearing this for the first time, the boot is the trunk or back of the car, and the bonnet is the hood or the front. Seriously though, what sounds more elegant? A trunk & a hood or a boot & a bonnet?! Those Brits are so sophisticated. 🙂

9. Chips vs crisps. This is another one that will leave you with the wrong type of fried potato on your plate if you aren’t careful. Because the UK is famous for their Fish ’N’ Chips, I think we are all pretty familiar with the fact that they refer to their french fries as chips. So what are chips then, you ask? They call them crisps. Here’s the official potato review: chips= french fries, crisps= potato chips. Whichever you order, you’ll be fine either way. Just dip them in toe-mah-toe ketchup.

10. Swimming costume. This is probably my favorite. There are no swimsuits or swim trunks. They swim in swimming costumes! Is it just me or is simply everything more fabulous the way they say it?! We never should’ve thrown that tea overboard and become an independent nation!

11. Frumpy dumpy. While it’s probably more Libby, than actual British lingo, it’s so wonderful I had to add it as a bonus term. While you would never call your best pal frumpy or dumpy, you would most certainly refer to your comfiest, coziest, wooliest sweater (jumper) as your beloved frumpy dumpy.

So, if you plan to visit Kijabe, practice these few phrases. You are likely to run into a few fine folks who use the Queen’s English. In case you get invited to dinner, or are asked if you’ve seen their frumpy dumpy, poppet or torch you will know exactly what they mean!