Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bacon Butties and Brown Sauce (Funny British and American English Differences Part Seven and a Half)

You may have noticed that I avoided blogging about the Royal Wedding.  I did actually get up at 5am to watch it on the day and found it great fun, despite me being a royal skeptic!  I do by nature have a strong contrarian streak in me and in many ways I felt averse to joining the general throng and chattering about Kate’s dress and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s eyebrows immediately after the union.  However, now that things have moved on and everyone in the blogosphere is talking about where and when they were when they heard that Bin Laden was killed, I feel it is safe to return to the Royal Wedding, albeit in an indirect way, and talk about some funny British and American English differences that cropped up on the day of the big occasion.

95% of British and American language and culture is pretty much the same in my estimation.  However, from time to time, misunderstandings can and do occur.  The afternoon after the Royal Wedding was one such funny example.  It started when my wife was confused by a particular English custom and that led on to an extended bout of bafflement that went from types of condiment to terms for arterial roads.

“What’s a bacon butty?” she asked me first.

When I enquired why she was asking, she explained to me that the BBC news had just reported that some British Royal Wedding partiers living abroad were eating ‘bacon butties’ to celebrate the royal betrothal.

“It’s basically just a bacon sandwich,” I said.  “Fried streaky bacon served between two slices of bread.”

“So why is it called a butty?”

“All sandwiches can be called butties in Britain.  I guess it’s because of the butter that goes on the bread.”

She looked shocked.  “You put butter on your bread in a sandwich!”

“Yes, why?  What’s wrong with that?  Don’t you do that in the States?”

“No, we use mayonnaise.”  She paused for a moment and frowned.  “So, what’s ‘brown sauce’?  The BBC said that people were putting it in their bacon butties to celebrate the Royal Wedding?”

“Brown sauce is, urm, brown and sort of spicy.  The most popular brand is called HP.  It’s named after the Houses of Parliament for some reason.”

“Is it like A1 sauce?”

“What’s A1 sauce?”

“It’s what some people put in their burgers here.  A1 means ‘top class’ - you must have the same expression in England?”

“Yes, we do,” I said.  “But when English people say ‘A1’, they are usually referring to a big road that runs from London to Leeds.”


  1. Haha, I can only imagine how often you go through this. My husband is from Canada and it sounds like a conversation we have. And the butter thing on a sandwich, sorry Butty, is weird. The Germans do it too :) Thanks for the English info!

  2. I'd never stopped to wonder why a sandwich is called a butty, but I'm thinking you're probably right!

  3. some burger joints in the US put butter on the burgers to seal in the juices, also butter is used to toast the buns, so it is known over here, just may not be as wide"spread" as over in Britain

  4. I hate the fact that mayonnaise is on everything here. It's just kind of white stuff that tastes of nothing, it adds the same moisture as butter but with none of the taste. Why would they do that to themselves? Next they'll be asking about the wisdom of chip butties.

    If you have an Earl of Sandwich near-by you can expose Americans to the wonders of HP Sauce though - it's right there on the table.

  5. Aye, brown sauce and a good brown ale...

  6. LOL!!! These are the type of conversation that my husband and I have too!

    P.S. Paul, thanks for visiting my blog a while back. I have been absent from the online world for a bit and has just recently getting back on track. So apology for responding late.

  7. I made a sandwich for my 7 y/o's friend last week, with margerine on the bread. I thought he was going to throw up - he couldn't believe I would do that and refused to even let me scrape it off. Fer cryin' out loud.
    On a brighter note, I goaded my 15 year old into trying HP sauce and he now prefers it to Ketchup. Score!

  8. Well I couldn't possibly move to America if they don't put butter on their butties!!

    You might also have explained that in this country there is a north/south divide in that south of Ashby-de-la-zouch bacon butties come in slices of bread, north of that they come in bread rolls!!

  9. @Texa - Did I mention that sandwiches/butties can also be called "sarnies"?

    @Iota - well, it's a guess of mine, I didn't research it!

    @ Kevin "wide spread" - you should be made to suffer for a joke like that! ;-)

    @Incons - they actually have a "British" section of the ethnic area of a big local supermarket here!

    @Angus - I've now included an ad for brown sauce that I found!

    @starlet - no probs starlet, glad to see you here!

    @expat mum - I can't say I am a big fan of brown sauce myself. I am sure that "Daddies" used to be the big brand when I was a kid?

    @David A - I would guess that bacon butties come as an optional extra with the "Ulster fry up"?

  10. Yes, I often visit Publix just to get some Jaffa cakes!

  11. Jaffa cakes were the only thing that I serously considered buying, oh, and heinz baked beans - the rest was mainly food that I stopped eating in the 1980s like Angel Delight, presumably it's there for the older Brit retirees in FL?

  12. those are awesome! keep them coming!

  13. yeah I am a brit in US too and don't understand why they don't put butter in the sandwiches. ooh you've got me all salivating about a bacon butty or a chip butty or any kind of butty really!

  14. I presume so, because I can also buy Turkish Delight and Wine Gums. Never bought either of them, but my granddad likes a good wine gum.

  15. Your timing is uncanny. I was just wondering what a butty was yesterday!

  16. @Happy H - they can also be called "sarnies" too! :-)

  17. My children just think anything with the word "butt" in it is hilarious - they wouldn't quibble with the etymology.

  18. Well, I can understand that, Iota! :-)