Talkie Tuesday: More fun with British vs. American English, Part 2

At the end of the first half, the score was America, 9 and Britain, 2. Let’s cheer the teams back onto the field as we continue the list and find out who wins. If you missed the first half, you can catch it here.

  1. Demister (car) vs. defroster

It’s in your car. It’s designed to clear up your back window on particularly damp, humid mornings when the glass is fogged by condensation. I suppose that it could theoretically be used to remove frost and ice, but most people facing icy circumstances will use a scraper first, instead.

Nope. What we’re generally dealing with here is a wet, foggy window that you can’t see through.

Correctness Verdict: The point goes to Britain, for actually using the right term. 9-3.

  1. Drinks driving vs. drunk driving

You shouldn’t do this no matter what you call it, but the first one sounds like an awkard sentence made up of two verbs: “He drinks driving.” The second is a nice, simple adjective and verb combo.

Correctness Verdict: America, for not have an utterly stupid sounding expression. 10-3.

  1. Earth vs. ground (electricity)

This is the third wire that provides a method for your electrical circuits to not kill you by directing overload and the like down into the ground where it will dissipate. Yes, technically the ground is the Earth, but the problem with using “earth a circuit” as a term is that it turns the planet into a verb, which is unnecessary since you can just ground a circuit instead.

Correctness Verdict: America, because planets should not be verbs. 11-3.

  1. Fairy-cake vs. cupcake

Although fairy cakes are a little bit smaller than their American counterparts and have less frosting, it’s another case of the fanciful versus the practical.

I mean, what could a fairy cake be? A sheet cake decorated with fairies? A bar of soap made by the same company that made Fairy washing-up liquid? (That’s dish soap in the U.S., which should be another point to the U.S. because dish soap is specific.)

Fairy cake conjures up those abominable flavors of American ice cream, like birthday cake or unicorn vomit or whatever they call that one — conflagrations of unnatural pinks and purples with far too many sprinkles, way too much sugar, and a base of vanilla fighting valiantly against it all.

Meanwhile, a cupcake is a cake small enough to have been baked in a cup. Simple. Straight-forward. Practical. You know what it is immediately even if you’ve never seen one.

Correctness Verdict: America, for not being twee about it. 12-3.

  1. Fancy dress vs. costume party

I’m sure that this one has caused much an embarrassment on either side of the pond. If you’re invited to a fancy dress party in the UK, don’t show up in black tie and tails. Well, I mean, you could and claim that you came as James Bond, but you’d still feel awkward.

Of course, there have probably been people who were invited to something fancy dress in the U.S. and appeared decked out as Peter Pan only to find a sea of black tie and tails. Now, we don’t tend to use the term fancy dress here all that often — generally, we’d say black tie if we meant it — but fancy dress would never mean the equivalent of Halloween party or furry convention.

Correctness Verdict: I’m calling this one a tie, because you can never be overdressed, even at a costume party, and American English doesn’t lead to the error. 12-3.

  1. Flyover vs. overpass

These are things you see on the freeway or highway (both U.S.) or the motorway (UK), and they are ramps designed to enter or exit by going up and over what I’ll collectively refer to now as the roadway. They have a lot to do with how that roadway was built, with overpasses or flyovers being much more common between cities and underpasses (or… flyunders?) more common within cities.

That’s because the intercity/interstate routes were quite frequently laid down through undeveloped land with long, straight stretches, so it was just easy to keep the whole thing at grade — meaning ground level — then build a bridge over it where necessary to join it to local roads or create interchanges with other major arteries.

Meanwhile, within cities, there were already existing streets, so the roadways had to be elevated to pass over them, with ramps going down to street level to provide entrances and exits.

Again, this is a case of British English being unnecessarily obtuse. They could have called it a drive-over, although it’s probably fortunate that they didn’t call them pass-overs instead. But no. They had to suddenly mock the fact that we still don’t have flying cars.

Correctness Verdict: Clearly America. It passes over the road. Simple. 13-3.

  1. Greaseproof paper vs. wax paper

Another kitchen staple and it’s actually for the purpose that the British word states on the tin. Yes, it does this by being coated with a thin layer of wax on both sides and it’s great for keeping things from sticking or keeping oil from leaking through onto the cookie sheet. But people who don’t cook or bake a lot might wonder why it should even be a staple in their kitchen drawer.

Still, the American term is misleading, since it’s paper coated with wax and not paper made out of wax. Some people do say “waxed paper,” but they’re actually wrong. And remember: wax paper is mostly used for putting greasy things on when they come out of the fryer or oven, or separating layers of sticky things like fudge.

You shouldn’t put it in the oven because it will smoke. For that, they make parchment paper, which is not for writing on.

Correctness Verdict: Point to Britain here, despite the term using more syllables. 13-4.

  1. Hen (stag) night vs. bachelorette (bachelor) party

No matter what you call it, it used to be an excuse for that final night of debauchery before locking oneself into presumed monogamy. Of course, the complexion of both has changed. A lot.

Once upon a time, the guys’ version usually involved lots of booze, strippers, perhaps a pub crawl, and either the future groom or best man or both having a go at one or more of the strippers, either separately or collectively.

What happened at the bachelor party was like what happens in Vegas. It stays in Vegas.

Meanwhile, back in those days, bachelorette parties were sort of like baby showers, but for the bride, with her, the bridesmaids, and friends gathering to give the bride gifts — some serious, and some of them raunchy gags — along with playing various slightly risqué party games. There might even occasionally be a male stripper, although it would be far more likely for an unmarried bridesmaid to have her shot at him instead of the bride-to-be.

Present day? At least in America, a bachelor party is just as likely to involve an evening of laser tag or an escape room, no strippers, and a lot more decorum. Bachelorette parties, though, frequently go off the hook, with the popular pre-COVID version being the whole party renting a limo, taking over a popular local gay club, and then getting bombed and groping all the cute men.

No, I’m not making that up.

Meanwhile, stag nights in the UK seem to remain the piss-ups that they’ve always been with epic pub crawls that often end in inappropriate behavior among the boys — who leave video evidence online — which is even more incriminating if they take the party to Magaluf for the weekend.

Hen parties are likewise, apparently. The women are just wise enough to not post it all on TikTok.

Correctness Verdict: Point to America for not using animal terms that imply strength vs. weakness. 14-4.

  1. Hoarding vs. billboard

Once upon a time, a “bill” was something put on a wall to advertise something — hence a common admonition seen in places like temporary walls around construction sites: “Post no bills.”

Eventually, advertising got bigger and paid for, and so those bills got put up on big boards. These were attached to walls, building marquees, or freestanding frames. In the modern day, we even have electronic billboards that can change their message every minute or two.

Technically, a British hoarding is the temporary fence put around a construction site, but that term is also unique to the UK. Also note, temporary vs. permanent. In the U.S., billboards, particularly the large ones on rooftops or their own poles, are permanent, with the ads rotating in and out on a regular basis.

Correctness Verdict: A tie, mainly because while there are connections between the two, they really aren’t the same things. 14-4.

  1. Hob vs. stovetop

To Americans, British kitchens are just weird. For one thing, what is your washing machine doing in there? Okay, once upon a time in New York, the bathtub was in the kitchen as well, but that was New York, and it was always weird.

To us, a stovetop is fully covered and has multiple burners, usually four, and sometimes a warmer or covered griddle in the middle. Each burner has a wrought iron metal trivet that holds pots and pans just above the heat source, and each burner is powered either by an electrical coil or a gas flame.

To us, if we even think about it, the gas flame comes from a hob, or nozzle, but it’s a mostly hidden part of the stovetop, and each stovetop has more than one.

A hob just takes a part of the whole but doesn’t really express the entire idea.

Correctness Verdict: America, hands down. You can only light a hob. You can cook on a stove. 15-4.

  1. Hundreds and thousands vs. jimmies or sprinkles

These are the colorful things that you sprinkle on ice cream or sundaes or the like, and note that even in America there are multiple terms, with jimmies being less common and regional. (I picked it up from my east coast relatives. Otherwise, it’s rare where I live in California.)

But if we go with sprinkles, that’s pretty damn accurate. Get your frozen treat, grab that shaker, and sprinkle away.

Meanwhile, what does “hundreds and thousands” even mean, especially given that you’re nowhere near likely to shake that many of them out without burying your ice cream in molded sugar bits?

Correctness Verdict: America, as Britain once again goes for the fancifully impractical term. 16-4.

  1. Ladybird vs. ladybug

 This one just demonstrates a real lack of biological knowledge on one side of the Pond. Yes, both birds and a lot of bugs have wings and legs, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Birds have two legs, warm blood, and feathers. Bugs have six legs, a not at all warm oxygenated goop that doesn’t use veins or arteries to circulate, and no feathers. Not to mention that birds eat bugs.

Even the smallest of birds, the hummingbird, is like a Lear jet next to a typical ladybug.

Of course, there are religious reasons that the ladybug got this very inappropriate name. As with many things over there that have “Lady” in the name, it’s a reference to the Virgin Mary, because the red color of the ladybug’s shell resembled the red cloak with which Mary was often depicted in medieval art, and the European variety tended to have seven spots on its shell, seven being a mystic number.

It is possible that they didn’t use the term “ladybug” in the UK because it’s close to the term “bugger,” but they could have just as easily gone with the original name for it, which was Our Lady’s Beetle.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., if you say “Ladybird,” people are going to think of either a former First Lady, Hank Hill’s dog, or a recent award-winning movie.

Correctness Verdict: America, for keeping religion out of entomology.

Final score, 17-4, America, with two ties.

Friday Free for all #45: Olympics, techie, weird, types

The next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website, although it’s been on hiatus since the Christmas Countdown began. Here, I resume with this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

If there were internet Olympics, what sports would be in it?

Oh, there are so many potential sports for the Internet Olympics (IO). Here are a few I can think of.

  1. Trolling

Competitors would face off, with one team designated trolls and the other defenders. Trolls would be scored in various areas, including most opponent time wasted, best Poe, number of logical fallacies used, and farthest move of the goalposts. Violations of Godwin’s Law and ad hominem attacks in response to trolling would cost the defenders points. Meanwhile, defenders would score points by making well-formed arguments in response to the trolls and providing valid citations. (Wikipedia is not an accepted source, which instantly makes this entire description ironic.)

  1. Unboxing

No, I’ve never figured out the appeal of these videos, either. This event would be single competitors acting on their own, with various categories, including most drawn-out unboxing of the simplest packaging, greatest degree of hyping each new level of reveal, and greatest feigned excitement at each new level.

  1. Famewhoring

This is the equivalent of the marathon, or maybe even a triathlon. Starting with only a specially-created email account, each competitor would work throughout the two-week span of the IO, building and hyping an online presence, creating a website and social media accounts, and then exploiting them. Uniquely, this competition would receive no coverage during the IO until the final day. The competitors would be on their own online. Scoring is based on the combined number of followers, views, likes, comments, and shares that all of their posts across all social media platforms get before the final day of competition. Snapchat and Only Fans are banned from the competition, though, per a ruling by the IIOC. There is a special medal, however, for anyone who can get at least one follower on MySpace. 

  1. Vaguebooking

For this challenge, competitors must create a post on their Facebook account that reveals the least information while gaining the greatest number of views, likes, and comments. Enormous bonus points if it inspires someone to create either a Kickstarter campaign or MoveOn petition in response.

  1. Banhammer

The goal in this competition is for each player to be either permanently or temporarily banned on as many social media platforms as possible, again starting with a specially created email address so that their real social media identities are not damaged. However, these addresses would not be hosted at, because that would give away the competition, and could incentivize social media hosts in competitor nations to cheat. This would probably be a co-op venture with gmail or another “everybody’s got one” email host.

  1. Thirst trap shooting

This one is simple, but has multiple categories. The idea is that competitors choose and post exactly one revealing but non-explicit photo of themselves to various social media platforms, and the one that gets the most inappropriate comments, requests for racier shots, unsolicited dick picks, and general creepiness wins. This one is broken down by gender into male, female, and non-binary, with each of those categorized into straight, gay, bisexual, as well as cis- or transgender. Secondary competitions include medal categories for person getting the most thirst reactions from the category least appropriate to their declared status — i.e., lesbians hit on by a lot of straight cis-males; straight cis-males hit on by a lot of gay and bisexual men; and gay men hit on by straight and transgender women. Point scoring is also weighted by age-difference, as in the older the creeper is relative to the competitor, the greater their posts count in the overall scoring.

I’m sure there are a lot more events, but those were the most obvious. What are your ideas?

How techie are you?

About as techie as you can get. I met my first computer when I was barely a teenager, and fell in love with the concept immediately, so started learning coding very early on, as well as did some amazing things with hardware.

I remember one early experience when I had the opportunity to upgrade the keyboard on a computer, but this was back when things weren’t all USB and sunshine. The keyboard I ordered happened to be wired differently than the previous one, so keystrokes made no sense.

But, somehow, I had the insight on how keyboards worked. Each row has a unique voltage running across it, and each column has a unique voltage running down it. When you press a key, it connects voltage A with voltage B and creates voltage C, which is unique to that character. Adding shift, alt, or ctrl just tosses in another voltage.

And so I opened up that new keyboard, rewired its guts, and it worked perfectly.

BTW, this is still how keyboards work. They just might not do it with actual wires but instead via the circuit board that the things under the keys sit on.

On top of that, I’ve built or rebuilt more computers that I’ve used than ones I’ve bought off the shelf, and have done my own emergency IT more times than I can count on both hands, both feet, and a pair of abacuses. (Abaci?)

I am also really good at learning the hell out of any piece of software you toss in front of me, but that’s not as hard as it seems, because they all use the same sort of general conventions. Well, the good ones do. The bad ones, not so much, but those tend to be so specialized that they’re rare. Not unheard of, and I do use a few, but rare.

A big consequence of this, though, is that in every job I’ve ever worked, I somehow became “That guy that people go to when they fuck up something on their computer and don’t want to call IT.” This has given me one really scary insight.

Despite computers having been ubiquitous office tools for nearly the last forty years, most people barely understand them beyond using them as glorified typewriters, and that makes me sad. This ain’t rocket surgery, people.

What do people think is weird about you?

If anything, it’s probably my sense of humor. It is rather dark, twisted, irreverent, and adult. Of course, people who share my sense of humor tend to become fast friends immediately. As long as you’re punching up, you can never get too inappropriate with your humor.

I mean, here’s a really funny one that’s basically on my own community, but there’s also some reality behind it. “Q: How many gay guys does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

You: “I don’t know. How many?”

“Only one. But it takes half the ER staff to get it out.”

Of course, this one is extra funny because it’s based on the truth, because ERs and A&Es spend way too much time pulling things out of people’s asses.

Pro-tip: If you ever do wind up seeking medical attention for something stuck in your ass, don’t lie to the docs, because they’ve seen it all before and they don’t care. So dispense with the “I slipped in the shower and landed on it” bullshit, and just say, “I wanted to see what it felt like to shove (object) up my ass.”

There are two types of people in this world. What are the two types?

Those who think there are two types and those who don’t!

Nah, that’s the joke answer. The real answer is this one: Those who accept that there are all kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t. So maybe it’s a one type vs. every type dynamic?

Another way to put it is there are people who embrace the new and different and those who fear it. The former bunch lives in a hopeful world where everyone they meet has value, no matter what their backgrounds, abilities, and identities are. Well, unless they belong to the other group, which dumps those values because of their beliefs: Only people exactly like me count. Everyone else is a threat.

Group 2 accuses Group 1 of being just as hateful, and while the “just as” part is true, the reasons why are far, far different.

Those of us who tolerate accept people for what they are and what they believe. We only despise people for how they act, meaning what they do. Meanwhile, the intolerant hate people for what they are and what they believe, and don’t care how they act if they happen to look exactly like the intolerant.

So yes, there are two types of people. Those who accept the fact that there is only one Human species that lives on this planet, and all other divisions — nationality, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, language, etc., are just so much decoration on entities that are otherwise identical in every way when it comes to emotional needs and inner lives.

One planet. One people. Please.

The other type has bought into the illusion, and would continue to divide their lives, their worlds, and this planet into “Us” vs. “Them.”

The only problem, of course, is that there is no us and them. There is only and ever We.

Sunday Nibble #17: Julep

In late April, a friend shared a link to one of those “write a short play” fast contests that I happened to run across a bit late in the process. If I remember correctly, that one was sent out on a Friday evening with a deadline of Monday afternoon. I didn’t see it until Saturday night.

Called the Quarantine Bakeoff, it’s based on the bakeoff playwriting concept created by Paula Vogel. Here’s how it works: all of the writers get the same “ingredients,” usually four or five things, with an extra “bonus” ingredient, to be used or not. Then, they get a short period of time — usually 48 hours — in which to write a short play.

The Quarantine version was created by four theatre students at the University of Minnesota, and the idea was to give their acting students something to do during quarantine and lockdown. The goal was to choose about ten of the pieces to be read live via Zoom session streamed on YouTube.

Anyway, like I said, I didn’t get the ingredients until late, but cranked out my piece in short order and submitted it on Sunday. Near the end of April, I found out that mine had been chosen. And the other great part about it was that the pieces chosen came from all levels of writers, from elementary school students through to a few professionals.

In watching the whole evening as probably the most credited and experienced of the contributors, it was actually really encouraging, because in seeing the works from an eight-year-old, a team of twelve-year-olds, a couple of high school students, a few college students, a couple of grad students with professional credits, and me, I was basically watching my entire education as a writer unfold before me.

I saw the same approaches and shortcuts I’d taken when I was young, as well as the shift in subject matter from being about the plot and idea to becoming about the people and relationships. The latter held true for the more professional writers whether they were telling their stories in realistic or abstract ways.

They just closed the entries for their third quarantine bakeoff today, and of course I entered, because how could I not? I am totally expecting to not be chosen because I already had my chance, though. It’s just that the first one gave me a short play that I’m proud of and that I can submit to contests in future. Plus it was a lot of fun.

The link below goes directly to my piece, Julep, at about two and a half hours in, although you can watch the entire piece if you want to. Fun fact: Mine is the only one in which they had a technical glitch, and the guy who was supposed to read the stage directions had his camera freeze up. Unfortunately, the others weren’t on the ball, so the piece was presented without.

However… knowing this would be on Zoom, and because I tend to not overdo them in short pieces anyway, there really aren’t a lot of stage directions to miss. The one big thing is that he characters alternate making increasingly stronger mint juleps for each other, with the final slapping of the mint sprigs before placing them as garnish used as punctuation.

That particular drink happened because two of the “ingredients” were Wild Turkey and sprig of mint, by the way. But it became a metaphor for the story I tell. Watch if you feel so inclined, and enjoy.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video here, but you can follow this link to watch.

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