We are staying with our American friends. Hubby and I have been to America before and picked up some ” American Speak” during our travels. I have learnt that what I call in English the ” boot” of the car or the ” bonnet” is called here; the ” trunk” or the ” hood”, I know that my ” footpath” is their ” sidewalk” , that my ” motorway or highway” is their ” freeway” that by the way, might be a toll road and not free at all. (the Dutch call this a ” snelweg” which literally means “fast way” and is far more logical a word then any of the English options.)
I ask my friend’s children to please put something on the bench in the kitchen, they ask ” what is a bench please?” We do the describing Game and learn that my bench is their “counter” …
Still, Just when we think we know what is going on in the conversation, new words jump out that we don’t expect and leave us with vacant stares on our faces, as our brains desperately try and make sense of a word that doesn’t seem to fit or is new and we just have no clue of the meaning.
Take this situation in the supermarket for instance: My friend and I have a supermarket trolley each… they are standing side by side in a supermarket isle. We are going though a list of items we need for the next weeks and looking for the various items. Good enough. Suddenly my friend leans over her trolley and exclaims “ oh we don’t have enough hamburger!” and rushes away down the isle and disappears around the corner, off to who knows where in the supermarket. I lean over and look into her trolley.. enough hamburger? I don’t see any hamburgers at all. This isn’t making sense for me at all.
Now, I am a foodie, and I have tried very hard to at least learn Foodie American Speak… I know the Cilantro/Corriander one, that Americans add a Glaze or Frosting to a cake whilst I add Icing to mine, and have learned that Pop, may or may not have something to do with fizzy drinks or Fathers, depending on the context of ” Mom and Pop Diner” or “my favourite flavour of Pop“. So when my friend rushes back to me clutching a sty-foam tray that contained a large slab of minced meat ( or ” mince” for short) and dumps it triumphantly into her trolley, I felt a little duped.
Noooooo.. surely this can’t be ” hamburger” … I had already learned that this is what over the pond was called “ground beef” , Hamburger is when you have round white bread and fried patties of meat…. right?
Well, apparently Yes and No…. “ground beef” also goes by the name ” hamburger” here. (sigh) Just when you think you have cracked it, along comes another word that you didn’t know. Just to confuse things further, in Dutch ” hamburger” means a meat patty, either uncooked or cooked, But importantly it refers only to the rounded patty, and never ever to a large square or rectangular slab of ground beef/ minced meat.
So it just goes to show.. we are learning all the time, Now I know a little more American Speak… I know that there’s still a lot more to learn and that these strange moments of miscomprehension will happen again, but in the meantime we laugh and learn.