The Corner

The Wide World of English

In the last couple of days, I’ve had a little fun with language: British meanings and American meanings. It started with “pissed” (“drunk” in Britain, “angry” in America). And it went on to “shag.”

Readers have, of course, been writing with their own contributions. For instance, there was the Englishman who said to the American lady, “May I knock you up tomorrow?” He wanted to know whether he could come by, knock on her door. There was the Englishman who reported to work in America and asked his secretary for a rubber — meaning an eraser. There was the Englishman who said to the visiting American soccer team, “Would you like to hire a coach?” But they already had a guy to coach the team. The Englishman wanted to know whether they wanted to rent a bus.

Then there is, of course, the classic “Just going to the gents’ to have a fag.” (I guess you can’t smoke in restrooms anymore.)

We might also consider Australia, whose citizens find it hilarious when Americans sing, “Root, root, root for the home team” — for “root” is in Oz what “shag” is in Britain.

There are many more examples, but I think that’s enough — thanks to all.

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