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The Interesting Ways We Use Words

The interesting ways we use words

As bloggers, we play with words. Some of them are more fun quirky than others. Here are a few of the interesting ways we use words.

That crazy pond that separates us

Despite speaking the same language, there are a lot of differences between British-speak and American-speaking, with Canadian-speak thrown in there somewhere in between. Blogging has brought me into more regular contact with Brit-speak than ever before.

I always have to pause and think when I hear “half ten”. Is it 9:30 or 10:30? I know it’s 10:30, but I need an extra second to be sure about that.

I still haven’t gotten used to “GP’s surgery.” I know what it is, but it still doesn’t make sense. Unless they’re performing a surgery, why is it a surgery?

Speaking of healthcare, what on earth is with the nursing sister and matron job titles in the NHS? Most of the world is moving away from gendered job titles, but not the NHS! The term “modern matron” in particular seems like rather an oxymoron.

What’s up with the pronunciation of lieutenant and colonel? The American pronunciation is fine; it’s a reasonable anglicization of the French. But why in Canada and the UK are we throwing an “f” sound in there?

Then there are works and expressions I’ve learned from fellow bloggers across the pond. Ami of Undercover Superhero introduced me to the phrase “got on my tits,” which creates some interesting imagery. Rory of A Guy Called Bloke introduced me to cracking and, more recently, pootlings.


Words & phrases from TV

In my mind, Seinfeld will always be the best show to ever be on TV. Aside from that, though, it’s contributed many sayings that are still well recognized, including soup Nazi, low talker, shrinkage, anti-dentite, and not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And chances are the word “pivot” will forever be pronounced in your head the way Ross shouted it in an episode of Friends.


Me or her?

Some people like to refer to themselves in the third person. I find it rather strange, but that’s just me. I used to work with someone who did this frequently. His girlfriend also worked with us, and she said she tried to break him of the habit, but she had no success.


The versatility of swear words

Talking about emotions coming and going, Paula of Light Motifs II said “Sometimes itโ€™s a long-ass train.” In general, swear words can be added on to either the beginner or end of most words to add a nice bit of emphasis. A long train is just so much less interesting than a long-ass train or a long as fuck train.


A few assorted others

Some people say “I’m on my period,” but I’ve always said “I have my period.” I’ve tried to look up this difference, because I’m curious that way, but I haven’t figured out if it’s a regional thing, something else, or just random.

Goof is an insult that has Canadian significance. It’s prison slang for child molester, and it’s considered one of the worst things you can call someone.

Canada has some quirky regional terminology for men’s underwear. Gotch and gitch are used in central Canada, and gonch and ginch are used in western Canada. My dad is from central Canada, so I grew up in a gotch household. I despise the word almost as much as I despise the word panties.


Personal quirks

I’m not that big a fan of Batman, but there are some gems from the Adam West era, such as “Holy purple cannibals, Batman” (and yes, that’s a real example). I was particularly taken by this about 20 years ago, but rather than being creative enough to come up with the word(s) in the middle of that sentence, I just shortened it to “holy Batman!”

I’ve gone through assorted other idiosyncratic phrases over the years. A current one is “grates my rutabagas” (annoys me). Perhaps it stems from my brother’s prolific creation of his own words when he was a kid.

Do you have any personal favourite odd or interesting expression?

an assortment of idioms for describing people

45 thoughts on “The Interesting Ways We Use Words”

  1. OK, I get the ‘f’ sound in lieutenant (leftenant) but how the heck do you get an ‘f’ sound in colonel? I have to say that I am not a ‘Seinfeld’ fan because those people are real – I worked with them, I even dated a few – talk about ‘got on my tits’ – yes they did literally, well they tried, and figuratively. I’m an Italian-American from New York City, I’ve got more odd expressions than Carter has liver pills LOL

    1. Oops, I didn’t’ get that quite right; I meant the “r” sound that magically appears in colonel is like the magic “f” in lieutenant.

      I’m guessing New York has a huge variety interesting expressions from different ethnic groups and neighbourhoods.

  2. I sometimes like to translate Dutch expressions (or very local ones) into English. It sounds fun to me and normally speaking the context provides enough clarity for people to understand what I’m saying.

  3. Interesting post Ashley.
    I believe, as a child, I heard the word ‘goof’ used somewhere. (I am from the UK for those that don’t know.) I can’t remember if I heard on tv, or somwhere else, but it was used in fun, as in goof for idiot. Thankfully, I only heard that once, so it’s shocking to hear this same word used for something else.

    Knickers I used to hear growing up and say myself. But I now use the term underwear.

    I used to watch Batman and can remember some of their words just being funny. As I got older, maybe a little irritating.

    In the UK, we say chips, but America its fries. Their chips are our crisps. So that was an interesting conversation when meeting an American friend for the first time as we came across some word differences.

    1. Goof is normally used the same way here, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that i learned it has a totally different meaning for people who’ve been in jail/prison.

      I like the sound of knickers, but it’s not really used here except in the phrase don’t get your knickers in a knot.

      I’d heard of the chips/fries difference. What sounds very odd to me is when people talk about tea as an evening meal. I think I’ve heard that’s a regional thing, but I’m not sure where it’s used.

      1. Yes. I was brought up to say dinner and tea.
        I now say lunch and dinner. But as I have sandwiches in the evening, it sounds strange saying dinner. Mum would cringe and say its tea, not dinner. I would laugh, just to wind her up while holding my mug of tea and say, I have got my tea. ๐Ÿ˜

        Knickers in a twist, over here we say in the UK.

  4. I found this post amusing, I struggle sometimes with the different uses of language between England and America.

    Don’t get me started on the Scotish use of words (I have a Scottish friend who I quite often have to ask to explain what he means lol)

    1. Yes, it’s surprising how many differences there are. I used to work with someone from Sunderland and I had no idea what he was talking about most of the time.

  5. Unless theyโ€™re performing a surgery, why is it a surgery?

    Ah, but MPs also have a surgery, and they don’t perform any surgery at all!

    In the nineteenth century, a guy tried to create an English-Portuguese dictionary and ended with a lot of hilariously literal or bizarre translations of idioms (or “idiotisms” as he called them); I have a little book somewhere that has some of the funniest. (It’s speculated that he didn’t speak English and translated into French and then into English via an English-French dictionary.) Next time you feel sick, you might call out, “I have mind to vomit.” You might lament that “the shurt him the doar in face,” Or you might simply “craunch the marmoset.” As the man said, “It is difficult to enjoy well so much several languages.”

    More examples here.

    1. I’d never heard of MP surgeries before; it’s not a term Canadian MPs use. That’s definitely a lot stranger than GP surgeries.

      I quite like “craunch the marmoset.”

  6. Oh wow, I saw myself in some of your examples!! ๐Ÿ˜€ HA HA! Fun topic!!

    I’ll tell you what I love–the accent. Whether it’s British or Australian, oh mylanta. I also love and approve of British spelling versus the inferior American spelling:

    Judgement is better than judgment, because the e in the middle makes the g soft, and without it, it should be pronounced jud-guh-ment.

    Travelled is better than traveled, because the second e, as per the “magic e” rule, ought to make traveled be pronounced traveeled; whereas the double l in the British spelling blocks the magic e.

    Pyjamas is better than pajamas because it just looks classier. Same with colour rather than color.

    Some aspects of an accent I might have involve the word drink. I don’t say it to rhyme with ink. Instead, I was raised to pronounce it like draink. It’s hard on my throat to say it like -ink. Also, due to speech issues as a child who had mild hearing loss, I pronounced soft sounds as loud sounds. For example, instead of saying sport, I’d say sbort. Instead of skate, I’d say sgate. Instead of stake, I’d say sdake. I still do to some extent, but now I’m more conscious of it and will try to say sport and skate and stake.

    I also mispronounce words that I learned by reading instead of hearing. In elementary school, I was convinced that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name was pronounced Lah-ra (instead of Lora). I still am. I can’t break that habit. Good thing I don’t have any friends named Laura! And I thought her sister Carrie’s name was pronounced like an automobile, like Car-ry. I still mispronounce basin like buh-SIN, accent on the second syllable. I can’t break the habit to save myself. BAY-sin. BAY-sin. BAY-sin. Doesn’t help! ๐Ÿ˜€ But I think there’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond about how he can’t say cinnamon–he keeps saying cinnamum. I guess we all have mental glitches!

    In Frasier, he asks Daphne is his dad is awake yet, and she says, “Yeah. He banged me up earlier this morning.” ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. There were a lot of words that I got from Anne of Green Gables that I either didn’t pronounce correctly or didn’t know what they meant. I thought Avonlea was pronounced ah-VON-lee-ya. I knew stout was a body size descriptor, but I though it meant the opposite of its actual meaning.

  7. Great post! In Philly, we use the word “jawn.” It’s street slang for just about anything. Example: “Can you hand me that jawn over there?”

    I have no idea where this word comes from, but it’s used only in Philly for some reason.

  8. It has been said that the English language is one of the worst to learn.
    We have, to, too, two. Just one example.
    I loved this post because I grew up in Ontario. Now live in Saskatchewan. I literally had culture shock when I first moved to this province in the eighties. Now I find myself using the same terms that once left me wondering what they meant.

  9. I’m more used to British English as I’ve exposed myself to it more, so it feels kind of more natural, though since I’ve joined the English-speaking blogosphere and generally started to interact with people on the Anglophone Internet I see and hear just as much, if not more of American English. But since I don’t live in an English-speaking country anyway, a lot of expressions from all varieties of English feel strange.
    The GP’s surgery is a bit weird to me, too, haha.
    I do get the “f” in lieutenant, somehow, don’t know how, though there’s no logic behind it at all so perhaps through a similar pattern in another language that’s familiar to me or something, no idea, but the “r” in colonel makes no sense whatsoever.
    Chips and fries are so freakishly confusing in actual use! ๐Ÿ˜€ And the tea thing is so funny. When I was learning English at school, I used to think that it’s just a time for drinking tea, or perhaps only a very light meal accompanied with tea, but experienced utter shock when I read once in a book: “I had pasta for tea”! And I actually stumble quite a lot upon this in British books, or sometimes even on blogs, and read that people have all sorts of things “for tea”. It still makes me snort internally whenever I hear it and feels very absurd, but there’s some very cosy feel to it.
    Speaking of cosy, I used to confuse homely and homey for a long time – which is used where and in what meaning. – I now get it (well I believe I do at least), but I always use the British homely anyway and just clarify if I think someone may not get which kind of homely I mean. Might seem like a lot of unnecessary hassle but homely just sounds a little bit more homey to me than homey, lol. Also I was always told at school that you should stick to one type of English, so if I’ve always used British, I guess it wouldn’t make sense if I said homey. And since my use of English in actual interactions with people is limited to writing, I can always write home(l)y.

    1. I would use homey. I don’t think I’ve ever actually used the word homely, but what immediately comes to mind when I think of that word is an old-fashioned way of saying ugly.

  10. Well this was a very entertaining read! ๐Ÿ™‚ Some I had heard before but most were definitely news to me – including the many Canadian versions of men’s underwear hahaha. I also enjoyed the batman slang -well done.

  11. Oddly enough I blogged a post today that sort of has the same train (it’s a short ass train though) of thought:

    : http://sparksfromacombustiblemind.com/2020/08/20/ten-or-less-utah-sayings/

    This was written in response to Brian Lagose’s two recent posts about Southern (USA) phrases.

    Personally I use things like “Bull cookies or muffins” instead of B.S., ‘scrud” (a Utah word my father used to use) for sh*t, but I also use “shite” – the Anglicized version of that word, and scut which is German for the same thing. Maybe I’m preoccupied a bit with potty words. Uh.. Okay then.

    I’ll use the two finger salute instead of flipping the bird to people. That’s a lot safer to do over here because few recognize it for the insult British people do.

    I love weird words and archaic ones and the grandiose word of the day series is a favorite of mine. So much fun!

    What a great topic!!

  12. Oh my, I am no fan of Batman but I am of Batman theme covers! My initial thought after reading the post. Is something wrong with me?

  13. Having a blog on here is great! You get to know awesome people who don’t judge you for being silly. ; )

  14. I would have no idea if “half ten” is 9:30 or 10:30. I’d intuitively think the former. But, fortunately, we Americans are an easily confused lot and just add on “half past ten” or “half of ten” to straighten things out. But somewhere along the line I picked up “good on you.” And, that gets me some odd looks sometimes. It’s such a great phrase, though, with such fun ways of shading its meaning through stress and intonation.

  15. I laugh when my family in America tell me the time. We use 1/4 past, half past, or 5 past 10 and so on lol. ‘Getting on my tits’, I love, and ‘gets up my nose’, or ‘laughed my head off’ but my American brother-in-law just thinks “How can you laugh your head off?”

    He laughed hilariously when I told him to “f*ck off, and when you get there, f*ck of some more!”

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