In pursuit of life, liberty, happiness and mildly diverting things a clueless immigrant learnt this week

by awindram

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  1. Drunkeness:
    I’ve discovered that in America my drunken behaviour is a wee bit different from my drunken behaviour when at home. Instead of singing the theme tune to Dangermouse as loudly as I can, I now feel the need to corner some poor sod and try to explain to them with as much clarity as I can muster in my addled state the laws of cricket. Doesn’t matter what the original topic was, I’ll segue it into talking about what constitutes an LBW – complete with physical demonstrations and hastily drawn diagrams.  This probably explains why I don’t get invited to many social gatherings nowadays.
  2. A punnet:
    You can’t buy a punnet of strawberries here. Well, that’s not quite true. You can buy a punnet of strawberries from some very nice strawberry stands, but if you specifically ask how much it is for a punnet of strawberries you’ll be given that same blank stare that greets you when you try and explain LBW.
    “Oh, you mean a tray of strawberries,” they’ll finally say after you’ve picked up a punnet of strawberries and said “one of these.” And it all seems a bit of a shame, it feels a little bit more luxuriant, in my opinion, asking for a “punnet of strawberries,” rather than a “tray of strawberries,” or a “small plastic box of strawberries.” Nice word “punnet.” I miss being able to use it.
  3. Ordering eggs:
    It would seem that American linguistic fussiness is more concerned with the humble fried egg than the strawberry. There are as many terms for how you can have your egg fried in American-English as there are Inuit terms for snow.*You can have your eggs: sunny-side-up, over-easy, over-hard, over-the-hill, over-there-over-there-send-the-word-over-there-that-the-Yanks-are-coming and, last but not least, with-a-freakin’-candle-in-it.
    Knowing these handy phrases should ensure that you avoid the ordering a fried egg dilemma I recently had.
    Waitress: “How you want your eggs?”
    Me: “Fried.”
    Waitress: “How?”
    Me: (now a little confused and about to make a misjudged attempt at humour) Erm…fried – and without salmonella preferably
    Waitress: (now a little pissed) No! How you want ’em fried?
    Me: (now very confused and a little scared) Erm…in a frying pan?


*And before anyone writes in to correct, yes, I am aware that the idea that Inuits have thousands of words for snow is, in fact, something of an urban legend. And yes, you’re right that the various Inuit language add suffixes to a noun whereas in English we might create a compound word to express the same idea. I was just making a vaguely comical analogy. Sorry. Jeesh, way to break the joviality with your pedantry. 

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