My good friend, Kate Naylor, laid down the linguistic-cultural gauntlet in her guest post about the many ways Americans have influenced British music, writers and television shows. That gate swings both ways. From the British Rock Invasion – to Agatha Christie – to all the British actors who won Emmys for their roles on
American television shows this year, Brits have left a lasting mark on American culture.
Kate makes a fair point that Brits may know more about American geography than we know about the UK. I confess that I have no idea why some places are in and some are on. But, then again, I wouldn’t want to holiday in Scunthorpe – though I’m told that certain Brits cherish the chance.
As a writer, I’m most interested in the differences in our language and how that can affect dialogue. So, I thought it was interesting that Kate zeroed in on the American variation on jugs, a term Brits use to refer to a container and which she correctly notes Americans sometimes use to refer to tits. While this video makes her point, you should keep watching after the jugs quit jiggling for another segment on the amazing things one man does with his face – and then note his UK url at the bottom of the screen. I don’t know about you, but after seeing these two strut their stuff, it looks like there’s plenty shaking on both sides of the Atlantic.
Kate concludes with a passing comment noting the potential for misunderstandings arising from the use of “bum” and “fanny”. This is a topic too important to give such short shrift, particularly given the fascinating ways in which Brits manage to use the more popular term – arse.
Here’s a sampler from www.effingpot.com.
Arse about face – This means you are doing something back to front.
Arse over elbow – This is another way of saying head over heels but is a little more descriptive. Usually happens after 11pm on a Saturday night and too many lagers! Some Americans say ass over teakettle apparently!
Arse over tit – Another version of arse over elbow, but a bit more graphic!
This last one makes sense. After all, nobody would understand what you meant if you said arse over jugs, now would they?
By contrast, American slang is much more diverse when it comes to one’s arse as shown by this list of synonyms from the online slang dictionary –
ass – ass crack – back off – badonkadonk – batty – behind – Big Booty Judy – booty bubble butt – bum –bun – buns – business class – butt – butt crack – caboose – cake – can – crack – dookie maker – duff – fanny –fatty – ghetto booty – junk in the trunk – keister – matako – moneymaker – onion – patootie – pooper – pooter –pressed ham – rear – T and A – thick – trunk – tuchus – tuckus – tush – whoopie cakes
By no means do I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of this, but we’ve certainly made a good start. Anyone out there who wants to wade in?