Language Lapses

I’m fascinated by the way English speakers from various cultures use the same words to mean completely different things, sometimes with hilarious results.  I have readers around the world so I’m generally conscious of words that are innocent in some places but rude in others, and I try to stay away from the iffy ones.

But sometimes I fail.  F’rinstance…

Hubby is an electronics genius, and he’s always repairing and/or inventing things in his mancave. Sometimes there are worrisome whiffs of electrochemical odour that make me wonder whether the air is safe to breathe.  So the other day I was talking with a doctor; a knowledgeable and pleasant man with a British accent.  And he asked whether we had any potential toxins in our house.

“Solder!” I announced.

In the momentary pause that followed, I realized I’d slipped up.  I had forgotten that in Britain, ‘solder’ is pronounced ‘sole-der’ (rhyming with ‘bolder’). In the U.S. and Canada, we pronounce it ‘sodder’. And just after the word launched from my mouth into that instant of silence, I recalled that ‘sod’, ‘sodding’, and its variations are quite rude in Britain. Similar to the F-bomb, according to the online dictionaries.

Oops.

I hurriedly added, “…from electronics repair” and the doctor replied as though nothing was amiss (and his answer was that we’re probably safe, considering the minimal amount of soldering Hubby does), but there was definitely a thread of amusement in his voice. I’m glad he decided to see the humour!

Considering that Canada actually began as a British colony, it’s surprising how many of our words have diverged in meaning.

Take ‘gas’, for example. Here, it’s fuel for our vehicles. In the U.K. it’s called ‘petrol’ — ‘gas’ is something you get after eating too many beans. I can only imagine the chuckles over there when somebody from this continent bemoans the unfortunate addiction of gas-sniffing.

Then there’s the time-honoured British tradition of smoking fags:  To them, a ‘fag’ is a cigarette. Over here, it’s a derogatory word for a homosexual man. Add that to the fact that ‘smoke’ is slang for ‘kill’ in North America, and a casual social practice in the U.K. becomes a criminal act over here.

But the word that came closest to embarrassing me internationally was ‘fanny’. As you may know, the protagonist of my novels wears a waist pouch; commonly known as a ‘fanny pack’ in North America. Here, ‘fanny’ is a semi-polite word meaning ‘bum’ or ‘buttocks’.  Over the pond, ‘fanny’ is a very impolite word for female genitals. I’m SO glad I didn’t call it a ‘fanny pack’ in my novels!

And speaking of novels… Book 15’s cover and blurb are finished, woohoo!  I’m expecting feedback from one more beta reader, and then I’ll be ready to announce a release date.

Here’s the cover art, with many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers who offered feedback and advice last May.  Most people liked the original cover photos, but over half thought the colours and fonts could be more dynamic.  So here’s the new look — I hope you like it!  (You can see the rest of the updated covers on the Books page.)

Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.

Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack.  Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past.  As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.

Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice:  Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.

63 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

63 responses to “Language Lapses

  1. Your book was just delivered I have to say it looks good feels good. It survived the amazon delivery. I’m in the middle of reading something else but will start the series again in paperback once finished it

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  2. Did I miss a blog? Just realised that it’s Friday and I don’t think I read your blog this week. I hope you are well xxx

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    • Hi there! No worries, we’re healthy over here — thanks for thinking of me! I got swamped with Book 15 and a bunch of other work-related stuff, so I switched to blogging every second week last November (https://blog.dianehenders.com/2019/11/13/artificial-what/).

      I’m still going flat-out, but Book 15 should soon be out the door and my other (top-secret) project is winding down. After that, I’m hoping to get back to my regular weekly blogging schedule. (And if all goes well, I might have a happy announcement about the top-secret project, too — here’s hoping!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. LOL!! Love it and so get it….our daughter and son-in-law were just talking about this (her boss is British) concerning a really bad word we use for female genitalia that is used widely by the British…..Had to laugh with fanny pack. I didn’t realize you didn’t call it that in your book, as I was in my head whenever you would refer to it! Looking forward to book 15!…love the cover!!

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  4. Yup, after some years of living in England, now it drives me nuts when my fellow Americans say “pissed” to mean “pissed off!!” 🙂

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    • Ha! That’s right, there is a substantial difference between them, isn’t there? I’d rather be pissed than pissed off… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Umm, well, I’ve never been pissed, but having spent much time pissed off, perhaps it is better (though, as the child of an alchoholic, I tend to think not…).
        Best Regards,
        Shira

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        • I can see why ‘pissed’ might not be a desirable state for you — I’m sorry to bring up bad memories. Without the spectre of addiction haunting me, my occasional indulgences in alcohol are enjoyable and don’t adversely affect others, or me. As the saying goes, “All things in moderation, including moderation”. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the cover. You are looking fabulous as ever. As to the word warping, well it is hard to speak multiple languages. 🙂

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  6. Michelle

    Love, love, love the cover and I’m so excited for book 15! I swear when it gets close I start jonesing. Do Canadians use that term too? Lol!
    I live in fear of language faux pas because I’m usually the one who finds the person that won’t see the humor in it. And speaking of humor, I was reading comments about words spelled with “o” versus “ou”, I happen to spell like the American that I am with just an “o” but when I read I like the way the words look when they’re spelled with “ou”. I know it makes no sense but everyone has their own quirks 😁.
    Thank you for working so hard to bring us our favorite reads and for giving us this space to express it!

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Michelle! That makes my day. 😀

      “Jonesing” gets used here, too — I think we get most of our vocabulary from all the U.S.-based TV shows we watch. And it’s funny that you like the look of the ‘ou’. Until I put the disclaimer about Canadian spelling in the front of my books, you wouldn’t believe how many indignant letters I got about all my “spelling mistakes”. Live and learn… 😉

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  7. Love the cover! And the blurb. Well done! Your protagonist sure got herself in a pickle! Now, is that an American expression or a British one? While the meaning of English words used in Canada and the UK might be different, it does boggle my mind that Canadian spelling is still the same as in the UK and American spelling is not. Confusing?? Oh another one that comes to mind is “boot” for “trunk”.

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    • Right, I’d forgotten about that one. So many little differences! I guess the only good thing about it is that Canadians didn’t invent a third method of spelling. 😉

      I’m glad the cover and blurb are appealing — thank you! I find it a lot easier to write a full-length novel than to distill the novel down into just a few sentences while still keeping the blurb interesting and semi-coherent. Glad I don’t have to do another one until Book 16 is finished. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love the cover. Damn you look fine.
    Youngest daughter lives in London. I think she learned some of your words the hard way.
    Years back a Canadian in Oz referred to something being as funny as a rubber crutch. She learned crutch in Australia is how they say crotch.

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    • “A rubber crutch” – now there’s a vivid mental image! It’s pretty funny regardless of how you interpret ‘crutch’.

      And I can tell you must be from the Canadian prairies if a puffy winter parka looks good to you! 😉

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  9. My mom used to say “I’ve had a bugger of a time with that” when something really gave her fits, and she couldn’t get it to work. Can’t say THAT in good ole’ England!

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  10. Huge congratulations on your book (and the blurb has ignited my booky lust).
    Sodder does my head in when I hear it on TV.
    Orstrayan English is closer to British English – with some quirks and minefields of its own.

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    • I researched Australian slang for the 13th book in my series — what fun! One of the things that really gave me a chuckle was that Orstrayans seem to attach “ies” to their words. What we call “bikers” become “bikies” down under. Also on the list were “bities”, “blowies”, “freshies”, “mozzies”, “salties”, “footie”, “bikkies”… it was endless. But any time I come across lists of slang on the internet, I always wonder whether that’s how people actually talk, or whether it’s only a clever joke on those of us who don’t know any better. So… which is it? (Or is that a state secret?) 😉

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  11. Tom

    I never knew solder was pronounced sodder – you learn something new every day!
    Your new cover looks good, Diane.

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  12. jenny_o

    I love that cover! I think it’s perfect.

    I’d have never thought about “solder” as having a different meaning. Yikes! And I say “bloody” quite often, intending its less offensive meaning. I think I’ve even used it on my blog, which I describe as “family friendly” in the sidebar. Oops!

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    • LOL! It’s “Canadian family-friendly”. We do the best we can; and I like to think our international visitors will forgive us a few slipups.

      I hadn’t thought about ‘solder’ that way, either, until there was that momentary silence on the telephone line. Now I’ll remember… 😉

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  13. MOST excellent!! Book 15 is almost in my hands! And that lovely hot redhead is still your cover model!

    Life is almost too good to waste on mere mortals!

    My own novels are DONE. I’ve been through all three twice without changing a word or even a comma. So now all I have to do is get through the rest of this semester (five face to face classes are now online—and were never meant to be) and then figure out how to get this stuff published. Looks like I’ll have plenty of time. Our 50th anniversary cruise is cancelled, as is the rest of life as we know it for the foreseeable future. So, yep, I’ll have lots of time on my hands to figure it all out. 🥴

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    • Is that what they call a ‘silver lining’? And a HUGE ‘congratulations’ on finishing your novels! You rock! And if you managed to get through them without changing so much as a comma, I genuflect in your general direction. Even now, after Never Say Spy has been published for 10 years, I’m still tweaking. Some of us don’t know how to leave well enough alone…

      Also, congratulations on your 50th anniversary. It’s sad that you’ll miss your cruise, but at least you didn’t get caught on one of the plague ships in this mess. Stay safe out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Inga Hinnerichsen

    Here’s another English language expression from Down-Under: “Rooting” in Oz doesn’t mean “cheering for” as in the song “Rooting for ya”. It’s another version of the F-bomb!
    Joke du Jour: What does an Australian male and a herbivore have in common? The Aussie dude eats, roots and leaves

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There are lots of odditys to language.

    Love the blurb for the new book, can’t wait to read it.

    Also can’t wait for the madness to end, I need paperback copies of the last couple of books, the last one I have is once burned, twice spy. As long as the new spines stay black I can happily have them on the shelf with the others 😉😉😊😁🎉

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    • Okay, for you I’ll keep the spines black! I recently released “Friends In Spy Places” in paperback… tentatively. I’m trying a new supplier and I’m not sure about the quality. If you decide to give it a try, please let me know if the quality is okay: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1927460573/

      I often think of you as I’m writing Ian Rand, and wondering whether his “accent” sounds right to you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oooooo payday is Friday so I’m treating myself as soon as I wake up and I don’t care how long it takes to get here.

        Awww thank you for keeping the spines black, it’s a mini petpeve when covers change, I can live with cover changes it does annoy but then it’s not always the authors choice so I’m told.

        I’m honoured I’m thought of while you write. I can picture the characters but I don’t really hear the voices, well I do with some after the first audio book well hellhound anyway I think she got him spot on.
        Oh you said something about the audio books, I must get round to downloading audible again so I can enjoy the series while doing housework.

        Love the series and can’t wait to enjoy the rereading starting next week when I’ve painted the hall after finishing the deep clean. Once I’m done with chores it’s me and dooks until I get to go back to work. I hope every one stays safe and healthy xx

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        • Thanks, and I hope you stay safe and healthy, too! I just finished cleaning our house, as well — it’s one of those things that I need to do on impulse because if I think about it too much I find a million other more important things to do. 😉

          I hope the paperback is okay – thank you for giving it a try!

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  16. There are times when I go to see my wife’s family in the UK, that I have no idea what they are saying. The words sound a bit English, but the meaning is a mystery.

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  17. Rudy™

    I miss the smell of rosin core solder… *sigh* Brings back memories of my teen days, messing around with electronic circuits in my “workshop” in the basement. I’m sure your hubby can relate–electronics today are all SMDs and considered to be pretty much disposable. (SMDs are surface mount devices, little infuriatingly microscopic electronic components that my fuzzy eyes and shaky fingers can’t even begin to deal with.)

    So that leads into languages. I didn’t realize it until now, but “SMD” also seems to be a rather derogatory insult that involves a vacuum-like action on a certain male appendage.

    What about the term “bloody?” To us, the word is either an unfortunate paring knife accident in the kitchen, or a quaint and mild little British adjective. Yet the way I’ve seen it used, it is a bit more harsh in the UK, almost like dropping an f-bomb amongst a gaggle of old ladies out feeding the geese at the park. On the flip side, our naughtiest of words (f-word, even the c-word) seem to be mild curses on their side of the pond, and actually sound humorous when they speak the words.

    I’ll admit I do like the term “bollocks” but am not sure just how insulting it is on either side of the pond. Other than being insulting, to me it is just the right low-level intermediate swear word when you need to say something without wasting your better cussing talents when things get worse.

    Have you ever considered a US/Canadian dictionary and translation guide? 😁 I love needling one of my pals in Toronto. “It’s 75 degrees here. That’s 24, Canadian.” Or, “That was humor. Or should I say ‘humour’ so you understand it’s supposed to be funny?” Our banter about the exchange rate is legendary also. “That’s $35. About $473 Canadian.” All in good fun!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Here in Texas, it’s the exchange rate with Mexico.

      How much is a six-pack of Corona in Mexico ?

      12,574,279 pesos. Or $1.32.

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    • Ha! Those are hilarious! (Except maybe the exchange-rate one — it’s a little too close to the truth.)

      I’d never heard of SMD except in the electronic context — clearly my education has been sadly neglected. Believe it or not, Hubby does actually use and replace those itsy-bitsy components. I can’t even see the damn things, let alone install them accurately on a circuit board. But he seems to enjoy it, and he’s one of only a handful of guys who can repair the new electronics.

      And I’ve been using “bloody” for decades, ever since I encountered it in books by Donald Jack and James Herriot as a teenager. I didn’t realize it was so offensive, either. Live and learn…

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  18. Anne Tinnon

    I am in Customer Service. I once called a customer a “Goober” as he was being silly (think chocolate covered peanuts). Apparently in Alabama and parts of Georgia and Arkansas that means “Dick”. He didn’t want to work with me for about a whole year!

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  19. Larry

    Along with the pronunciation, how about spelling “odour vs odor” Liter vs litre, Neighbour vs neighbor, labour vs labor and the list goes on and on.

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