Words. With Friends.

Time for another installment of new words, old words, spellings, and just plain weirdness.

It's really kind of random the way you discover new words, because it often requires a very specific experience to encounter the requisite vocabulary, like climbing with a rope. I'm sure I could have gone quite a while without climbing, swinging, or scaling anything that would require a harness in England. But as it turns out, we went to the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich a few weeks back, and for the kids, there was a climbing wall set up as ship rigging. The volunteers helping the children were some very happy French people (yes, happy AND friendly) with limited English skills. As I was directing Eli how to rappel back down, the man that appeared to be in charge of the activity, came over to ask me how to describe what Eli was doing in English. "Oh, you mean rappel? Yes, that's the word I used. It means to lower yourself vertically by a rope." He practiced saying it a few times. At that point, someone that spoke real English interrupted us, "Actually, the English call that abseiling." I was agape, "Really? Abseil? I've never heard that word before." It was my turn to practice saying it a few times, with my awesome American accent, no less.

(Actually it reminded me of living in the Philippines in my early 20s. I had been there over a year and felt like I was becoming fluent in Ilonggo, until one day I ran into a mechanic and he started talking about cars and rust. I was so lost - I had no idea what he was talking about simply because of the vocabulary.)

Anyway, here are some words you may not know, friends:


Get down that rope, laddy!


I only discovered this because I have primary school children. Plimsolls are a specific kind of shoe that the kids wear for PE class. I wouldn't classify them as trainers, because they're simply canvas - and as you can read, they were made to be a beach shoe. (even though it talks about chucks, I'm pretty sure you couldn't get away with converse in your PE kit.)





aka, counter clockwise.

It cracks me up when I hear this word. I feel like asking, "Why are you so against clockwise?!"




I kept reading this in all of the school emails, and occasionally hearing the teachers say it. Finally figured out that it's a roster or a schedule.


In the US, I would only use this word to describe a journal or a book where I wrote about my crushes and enemies. Here they use it instead of calendar, "Let me just put that in my diary." (But that doesn't stop me for looking for a little notebook with a heart lock when they say it.)


This might be my favorite usage yet - because it so perfectly describes the emotional state of someone about to cry. I first heard it used by Fin's teacher when he was telling me that she "had a bit of wobbly moment the other day in Maths." I guess I only think of wobbly in the physical sense of the word, but the few times I've heard it here, it's more of emotional insecurity or uncertainty.


This one really threw me - and I'm still not used to it, even though I come across it frequently. I think of scheme, or scheming, as a plan with clever or devious intent. However, it is used here as a business plan, or an arrangement to attain a particular item. For example, we had to pay a rental deposit as tenants and that money went into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. There are Retirement Schemes, public, private, or voluntary. At schools they talks about the 5 a day School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, which is basically just the food pyramid talk. Honestly, the variety of situations with which is it used and/or applied kind of confuses me. I only know that I have to stop picturing a bald, mustachioed man tapping his fingertips together every time I hear it.


I thought I had a lot of the food words figured out - I know chips are fries, crisps are chips, bread can be called a bazillion different things, cilantro is coriander, and I know that you have to say "aluminum" crazy fast with different emPHAsis. But at a few restaurants, I kept seeing this rocket option. Was it a sauce? Was it spicy? Did it give you the runs or gastrointestinal distress? I finally looked it up. Duh. It's arugula.

Rocket: making salad a lot more fun to talk about.


H to Zed

This last one is all about pronunciation. We all know that the English and those other north Americans use zed, instead of just saying Z. Not a surprise. What did surprise me was being corrected by my 5 year old about saying H. Not surprisingly, Holland's favorite letter (also the very first one she learned) is H. Well, she insists that it's correct to actually say the H. So it's not aitch, it's haitch. Doing a bit of research, and by research I mean googling it, I found that there's quite a bit of controversy about it. (watch the video!!!)


Mendy Waits5 Comments