Truly English grammar

I had a few recent moments of “???” puzzlement over England-English grammar lately (as opposed to my own American-English) so I thought I would put them out there.  Although I’m not sure either of these are quite as pervasive in my daily life as the nonsensical statement “Big Issue Please” which I hear more or less every day, they are still bothering me.

“Female toilet” is a common sign on a restroom door.  What, the toilet itself is female?  It could be “toilet for females” or “females’ toilet” but definitely not just “female toilet”.  I have to admit, I find the use of the word “toilet” to describe the entire restroom also a bit indelicate… there are sinks in there too!

Cream tea” is one that had puzzled me until I actually sampled it this past weekend in Bath.  I had seen signs for “cream tea”  all over and had assumed this meant some sort of special tea served with warm milk or something.  But no, this is just a shorthand for “tea plus scones served with jam and clotted cream” where clotted cream is this bizarre substance that has the consistency of butter but is unsalted and tastes like whipping cream.

The word cream actually got me into trouble just this morning, at Starbucks of all places.  In the US, we frequently say “room for cream” in our coffee even if we really mean skimmed milk or at very worst half and half.  This morning in Starbucks when I said that I ended up with a separate espresso cup of heavy cream on the side of my coffee.  As I have noted before, I have not yet been able to duplicate the consistency of coffee with half and half with any sort of thing I have found in the UK, so this turned out to be a very strange cup of coffee indeed.  I added some of the cream and some skimmed milk in an attempt at half and half but it was just not right.


One response to “Truly English grammar

  1. NFAH:

    You may want to read this blog by an American linguist living in the UK:

    Further, I have to say I am pleased we do not have half-and-half in the UK. We are doing quite well without it in our obesity trajectories. In some things, it is wise not to emulate – and worse, beat – the US 😉

    PS: Yes, obesity is my PhD case study. I also write a mega-blog on it. Recently moved it to WordPress.

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