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.”