Reversepilgrims Blog

a northwest family moves to the UK

Bits and bobs and boots February 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversepilgrims @ 10:11 pm

I have a new all-time favorite difference between British & American English.

The use of the word ‘trolly’ for shopping cart amused me for weeks, and calling something ‘brilliant’ or ‘brill’ for short to describe something awesome or excellent was my favorite after that.  But, nothing has tickled my funny bone quite like this one.

I was just minding my own business at a birthday at the bowling alley when the  guest of honor showed me his new pair of shoes, which happened to be what we Americans call ‘high top’ tennis shoes. I said they were cool. He said they were basketball boots. What? I said, sure that I had misunderstood. Basketball boots, his mother confirmed. Seriously. Even the old classic Chuck Taylors? Yep. Basketball boots, the whole lot of them.

For some reason I found this completely hilarious. I laughed so hard my side hurt and it still brings a smile to my face when I think of it. It has the potential to be at the top for months, but I’ll keep you posted.

What’s next, soccer slippers?

Here are a few more of my favorites:

I do love the classics, like ‘torch’ for flashlight and ‘boot’ for the trunk of your car. And, of course, you call the things you pull on and zip up to cover your legs ‘trousers’ here–definitely not ‘pants’. Unless, of course, you’ve got your undergarments on over the top.

One that I find particularly descriptive is the use of the word ‘shattered’ for being totally worn out or exhausted, especially if it is stretched out and seems as if the word itself is almost too much to say.

A new friend invited my 7 year old over for “tea” after school one day and I thought, well, that’s a bit formal for a playdate, but when in Rome, right? I now know that “tea” is just their word for the evening meal. However, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, I still envision people sitting around on fancy chairs drinking tea with their pinkies and backs perfectly straight.

I also giggled when a neighbor mum walked my son home from the play date. When they arrived at the door, she apologized for him getting a bump on his head and said she had put a “flannel” on it. Odd remedy, I thought, but I tried to keep an open mind. It obviously worked because he was fine. Thank goodness I then recalled a fellow blogger sharing that a “flannel” is what they call a washcloth, or I would have gone on thinking she had put an old shirt on his head.

They use the word “pavement” for sidewalk. This is particularly unsettling. When I hear parents telling their children to walk on the pavement I can’t help but think it is their version of the classic dismissive comment, ‘why don’t you go play in the street?’.

The phrase ‘bits and bobs’ or just ‘bits’ to describe small items or stuff in general is definitely in my top ten. For example, your ‘bits and bobs’ could be your hat and gloves, or that pile of things you need to put back where they belong, or the things rolling around in your pocket. I didn’t realize that I was missing a word for that stuff–thanks!

And if you ever want to feel right out of the loop, try calling to plan a kid’s birthday party at a farm park. I didn’t think the woman on the phone would ever stop being amazed at the fact that I didn’t know what the party game called “pass the parcel” was. If you can imagine her saying that with an English accent “poss the paahsul”, I thought for a moment that she was talking about a hands-on farm experience involving live opossums!

The fun never ends. I’ll keep you posted.


11 Responses to “Bits and bobs and boots”

  1. Kathy Reddick Says:

    Love how you share the differences. We Americans really need to be careful when we are outside the USA. Take Care.

  2. Fiona Says:

    Americans may refer to them as ‘high top’ tennis shoes…..but when have they ever been worn for tennis ???

    As basketball grew in its popularity, the Converse Company wanted to provide the players with good basketball shoes to accompany their sport. The Converse all Stars were the first mass production BASKETBALL SHOE in America. As a high school basketball player in Indiana, Chuck Taylor began to wear Converse All Stars and became very fond of them. The shoes were not particularly popular until Chuck Taylor adopted them as his preferred shoe.
    The ‘high-top’ is a shoe that extends significantly over the wearer’s ankle. It is commonly an athletic shoe, particularly for BASKETBALL. It is sometimes confused with the slightly shorter mid-top. Examples of basketball shoes that are high-tops are Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
    During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Converse All Stars became extremely fashionable. Even adults who had grown up wearing them, refused to give them up. The shoe became part of the hippie movement accompanied by musicians and their bands. The hippies often wore the shoes as mismatches to promote their individuality. Converse All Stars were no longer only a basketball shoe, but also a shoe for more casual wear that began to represent rebellion and freedom.

    I rest my case !!!!! lol

    • My dad had a white pair of Converse All Stars that had to be 30 years old and my friends wore them in crazy colors throughout the 80s. We all called them “high tops” or simply “Converse”. It’s really the “boot” part that I find so funny. I obviously have an odd sense of humor, but hey, it’s my blog.

  3. Fiona Says:

    With no official language of your own, English is the common language used by the US federal government and is considered the de facto language of the United States because of its widespread use…we English are a generous bunch and we like to share, even though you mispronounce and misspell our words !!!!! LOL

    Anyway, a few snippets (that’s small pieces) of useless information…..

    Torch is used in Britain and all English speaking countries outside of North America….only Americans refer to it as a flashlight…..

    The names of a shopping cart vary by region. The following names are regional-specific names for shopping carts:
    Shopping cart – the United States and Canada.
    Trolley/shopping trolley – the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and some regions of Canada.
    Carriage/shopping carriage – New England region of the United States.
    Buggy – Some regions of Canada, Southern U.S. and Pittsburgh; the latter case often being considered a word related to Pittsburghese.
    Bascart/basket – various regions.
    Wagon – Hawaii, New England.

    Trousers are an item of clothing worn on the lower part of the body from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately. The word trousers is used in the UK, but some other English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United States often refer to such items of clothing as pants. North America, Australia and New Zealand use pants as the general category term (though Ambrose Bierce found the word “vulgar exceedingly” and recommended trousers). Interesting thought there Ambrose !!!!

    A flannel, wash cloth, washcloth, or face cloth is a small square about the width of a hand towel, and is used by wetting, applying soap to the towel, and then using the towel to apply the soap to skin….maybe we should just call it a towel !!!

    You say sidewalk, we say pavement….it’s just a pedestrian path next to a road !!!

    Bits and Bobs is English slang for a collection of small items too numerous or varied to name individually. It originated from carpenters’ tool kits containing parts for a drill, with bits used for making holes while bobs are routing or screwdriving drill attachments.

    Pass the parcel- a popular British children’s party game in which a parcel is passed from person to person around a circle.

    On that note I shall retire to my ‘boudoir’ to read my encyclopedia….No, not my dressing room, nor my private underwear drawer, but my private drawing room that is used for activities such as embroidery or spending time with one’s romantic partner !!!!!

  4. victoria Says:

    I say tom-ah-toe, you say tum-ayedoh…. my Father on the other hand says “Toodle-pip” instead of goodbye and my Mother in law says “terr-rah”. Takes all sorts kids – and what a dull life if it didn’t 🙂

  5. karen the glaub Says:

    Always a joy reading your blog. Looks like the birthday party was a success. I’m doing a little park b’day for Krista on Wen. #5 already. We’ll have a family gathering for her on Sat. Love ya, Karen I hope you had a nice time on your Birthday.

  6. Kinghk Says:

    Glad you wrote this post as I teach in Hong Kong and came upon a book using the term “boots” for high tops and wanted to double check. I’ve never heard it before, and I’ve been dating a Brit for over 5 years.

    It’s a hilarious, my current favorite as well.

  7. blozulfog Says:

    Oh.. I can tell I’m going to have a lot of laughs over your blog! Finally getting some time to read! Love it Erin!

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