Funny phrases

Living and working in the UK has led me to laugh a lot. My British co-workers have come to learn that while conversing with me, my laughter indicates that either I didn’t understand anything they came out of their mouth or that the words they said were pronounced in a very British way. Most of my giggling is due to confusion and misunderstanding of what people are trying to say in general. It definitely makes conversations with me lighthearted.

Here is a collection of twenty phrases with American English translations that I’ve learned since moving here:

1. “Away with the fairies” = Daydreaming.
Example: Tara hasn’t responded to your e-mail? She must be away with the fairies. I personally would say, “Tara is in la-la land.”

2. “Bob’s your uncle” = There you have it. OR And there you go.
This is usually used at an end of list of instructions.

3. “Swings and roundabouts” = It all evens out in the end.

4. “Sixes and sevens” = Refers to a state of confusion
Apparently this is based off a game.

5. “The dawn chorus” = Refers to the chirping and singing birds at dawn.
I tried to sleep in today but was woke up by the dawn chorus.

6. “Horses for course” = Different people are better at different things.
I would say “different strokes for different folks.”

7. “Chin wag” = gossip or gossiping

8. “Donkey’s years” = a really long time
Example: I haven’t seen you in donkey’s years!

9. “To have a butcher’s” = To have a look.
This is derived from Cockney Rhyming Slang of “butcher’s hook” to mean look. When people start throwing cockney rhymes into sentences, it gets incredibly complicated in no time!

10. “It’s monkeys outside!” = It is really cold outside.
This sentences is derived from the sentence, “It is cold enough outside to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.” The etymology (or so I’ve been told) of this phrase that ships used to store cannonballs in brass trays called “monkeys.” Whenever it became very cold outside, the monkey would contract and the cannonballs would thereby fall off. I’m fairly confident that this is just urban legend though, but the phrase is still funny!

11. “Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire” = To go to bed.
The Cockney Rhyming Slang for this would be: “Up the apples and pears to Bedfordshire” in which “apples and pears” translates to stairs.

12. “Her majesty’s pleasure” = In prison

13. “A cockup” = To mess up

14. “Up the duff” = A lady is pregnant. (I think a lot of my friends say, “bun in the oven.”)

15. “Easy peasy” or “Easy peasy lemon squeezy” = really easy
My co-workers and boss say this expression a lot.

16. “Know your onions” = I believe this is a saying based on a French expression. It means to be knowledgeable

17. “A one off” = One time only

18. “The dog’s bollocks” = The absolute best. Americans and Aussies say “awesome.”

19. “Nice one” = It is good. This is a completely underwhelming compliment that isn’t sarcastic, but it definitely feels like it could be. It really is a compliment.

20. “Lose the plot” = This roughly translates to either meaning that you have lost focus or that you’ve gone crazy (or irrational).
Sam used to known his onions but lost his plot. He ended up making a right wrong cockup and is now living at Her Majesty’s pleasure. For those still needing a translation: Sam was knowledgeable but then went crazy. He messed up and is now in prison.

And Bob’s your uncle!

I would love to know other British phrases. Leave them in the comments for us to enjoy (and for me to giggle at for awhile). I’ll test them on my British co-workers!

Learning English

The more time I spend at work, the more [British] words and phrases I learn. Here is a collection (part 1 of many, I hope) of new-to-me words and phrases I have learned while living in England. I have provided the American word(s) that are the equivalent.

AA: the Automobile Association (equivalent to the US version of AAA)

A&E: the accident and emergency department of a hospital (emergency room or ER)

Aggro: aggressive or problematic

Aubergine: a purple vegetable (eggplant)

Bits ‘n bobs: various things; a way of saying “this and that” or “stuff and things”

Blimey: a word used to exclaim surprise (However, I sometimes feel that this is used sarcastically at times.)

Bonnet: the panel on a car that covers the engine (hood)

Boot: the rear storage compartment of a car (trunk).

Bubble and squeak: an English dish with pan-fried leftover vegetables, typically from a roast dinner (or Sunday roast). The main ingredients are usually potatoes and cabbage, but any leftover vegetables are fair game. The dish apparently gets its name because it makes bubbling and squeaking sounds while you’re cooking it.

Bucket loads: a large amount. For example, my co-worker told me, “We have bucket loads of data!”

Bum bag: What Americans call a “fanny pack”

Car hire: car rental

Cheers: a way to say thank you, but it can also be used to say good-bye

Childminder: a person who looks after babies and young children while the parents are working (childcare)

Chips: fried potatoes (steak fries)

Cooker: the kitchen appliance that can be gas or electric used to cook food (stove)

Courgette: the green summer squash (zucchini)

Crisps: thin potato slices that come in a bag (potato chips or chips)

Diary: a book with spaces for each day of the year that one notes appointments or information (Americans would call this a daily organizer or a personal calendar or an agenda book)

Earworm: a piece of music that repeats in a person’s mind, even after it no longer playing (or being sang by your co-worker)

Elephant roll: a roll of paper towels

Fanny: ladies private parts (pro tip: never say fanny pack in the UK)

Flat: apartment

Footpath: the area adjacent to the street where pedestrians walk (sidewalk)

Fringe: the collective strands of hair that cover all or parts of the forehead (Americans call them bangs)

Full stop: the punctuation mark at the end of most sentences (period)

Gherkin: a pickle made from a cucumber (pickle)

Green fingers: to have talent for being able to grow plants (green thumb)

Half-#: thirty minutes after the hour. For example: The seminar begins at half-nine.

Hire: to rent something

Hob: the heating element on a cooker; what Americans call a burner on the stove.

Holiday: vacation

Jacket potato: a baked potato with the skin still on the potato

Jumper: a sweater

Launderette: a self-service place to do laundry (laundromat)

Learnt: past tense of learn (learned)

Lift: elevator

Lorry: a large motor vehicle (truck)

Miffed: annoyed or irritated

MOT: (pronounced as the letters, not the word) a annual safety and “roadworthiness” test required for motor vehicles over 3 years old

Motorway: a controlled-access highway that has a very fast speed limit and a high volume of traffic (freeway, interstate)

Nappy: the adsorbent garment for babies (diapers)

National Insurance: required payments made to the UK government from earnings to pay for welfare benefits, such as the NHS (national health service – the healthcare system in the UK) and the pension fund.

Pants: underwear

Peckish: a little bit hungry

Pelican crossing: pedestrian crosswalk with stop lights controlled by the pedestrians (crosswalk)

Postcode: the alphanumeric code used to identify an address (ZIP Code)

Quid: the informal way of referring to the pound sterling monetary unit. (Note: the plural form remains quid) – similar to referring to the US dollar as a buck.

Rota: a roster of names with a rotation of duties (sometimes referred to as a monitor)

Rubber: a pencil eraser

Rubbish: 1) literally the garbage or 2) something is terrible

Sat Nav: satellite navigation (GPS)

Sellotape: transparent adhesive tape (Scotch tape)

Sleeping policeman: mound in the road used to slow down vehicles (speed bump)

Solicitor: legal representative (lawyer, attorney)

Telly: television

Tinned: canned as in “tinned soup” or “a tin of tomatoes”

Toliet: refers to the room, not the plumbing device (restroom or bathroom) – it can sometimes be referred to as the loo or the water closet, but I’ve mostly seen “toliet”

Toucan crossing: a type of pedestrian crossing that allows pedestrians and cyclists to both cross the street (named because the two can cross together).

Trainers: athletic shoes (sneakers)

Treacle: a thick, refined sugar syrup (molasses)

Uni: short for university

Wellies: short for Wellington boots, which are waterproof rubber boots

Whilst: another way to say “while”

Windscreen: the window part of a car that the driver looks through (windshield)

Zebra crossing: the area of a road with painted stripes, where vehicles are required to stop if a pedestrian is crossing within them. Note: The Beatles Abbey Road album features a zebra crossing. And yes, if you go to the original place to re-create the album cover, the cars are required to stop for you.

Zed: the last letter of the alphabet (in the US, it is pronounced “zee”)


Remember, Remember

Today is the 5th of November. And to Americans, this is just another day. In England, today is a day to celebrate! And to light bonfires and fireworks! And for remembrance.

Today’s post is about history of today and the history leading up to today. First, let’s first go through some historical perspective on monarchies and the messes they created along the way.

The family tree of the House of Tudor members. Monarchs of England shown in red, monarchs of Scotland shown in blue. Source: wikipedia.

The family tree of the House of Tudor members. Monarchs of England in red, monarchs of Scotland in blue. Source: wikipedia.

Henry VIII is known for a couple of things:
1) having six wives
2) creating the Church of England (the separation from the Roman Catholic Church is called the Reformation) – he declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church in 1534. This is where the title “Your Majesty” originates.
3) having an awful temperament and beheading anyone that upset him – this list of people include wife #2 (Anne Boleyn) and wife #5 (Catherine Howard). Anyone who publicly disagreed with the Church of England was executed as well.
4) he was King of both England and Ireland
5) he had three children, two daughters and a son – interestingly, all of them became the King or the Queen of England

Henry VIII and his first wife (Catherine of Aragon, who was the widow of his older brother Arthur) had one child whose name was Mary (later becoming Queen Mary I, but popularly called Bloody Mary). After being married to Catherine of Aragon for 18 years, Henry VIII decided that it was bad luck to have married his brother’s widow; this luck was clearly the reason for not having more children, particularly a son as an heir to the throne. Therefore, he divorced and annulled his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in order to marry wife #2 – Anne Boleyn. Anne would later gave birth to Elizabeth (later becoming Queen Elizabeth I). He beheaded Anne and married wife #3 – Jane Seymour; she died shortly after giving birth to Henry VIII’s only male heir, Edward (later becoming King Edward I). Wife #4 was Anne of Cleves. Henry VIII and Anne Cleves were divorced after only being married for six months. Wife #5 was Catherine Howard – she was executed, and wife #6 was Catherine Parr. Catherine Parr outlived the King and later remarried again (for the fourth time). However, Catherine Parr convinced Henry VIII to pass the Third Succession Act in 1543, which would restore the line of succession to the throne to both of his daughters.

After King Henry VIII died, his only son, Edward, became the next monarch of England and Ireland under the title King Edward VI. Edward VI was a Protestant king at the ripe age of 9. Succession became a big issue in England because he was really sick. Many wanted to keep Mary (King Henry’s first child) off of the throne because she was Catholic; others claimed that both Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate for the throne, even though the Third Succession Act of 1543 named Mary as the next heir.
Four days after Edward VI died, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England (and Ireland). She was Edward’s cousin – King Henry VIII’s niece and the next heir to the throne (if you thought Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate). Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen by the Duke of Northumberland (John Dudley). John Dudley was the head of King Edward I’s government and happened to be Lady Jane Grey’s father-in-law. Coincidence? I think not. Now, if I was Mary or Elizabeth (Henry VIII’s daughters), I would have been angered by this. Mary made a counterclaim saying that she was the rightful heir of the throne, which gained a lot of support. Lady Jane Grey was executed after being Britain’s first Queen Regent (her reign of only 9 days is the shortest reign in British history).

Queen Mary I was crowned in July of 1553. Just as a reminder, she was Catholic and was the first child of King Henry VIII (and wife #1 – Catherine of Aragon). However, after her parent’s marriage was annulled, she was stripped of her title, declared illegitimate, and expelled from the court, which mostly likely made her very resentful towards Protestants. However, because of her mistreatment, Mary I had huge support as Queen initially, but it was short-lived. Her marriage to the future King of Spain (Phillip II) was very unpopular to the English. And she became a tyrant, burning hundreds of religious dissenters (non-Catholics) at the stake, which earned her the popular nickname of Bloody Mary. Mary and Phillip were childless; therefore when Mary passed away, the crown succeed to her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was the second child of Henry VIII (and wife #2 – Anne Boleyn). She reigned for forty years and restored a lot of peace to the country. The Protestant Church of England had been created by her father and continued by her half-brother Edward I. However, her half-sister Bloody Mary attempted to restore Catholism to England and did it in a not-so-nice way. Queen Elizabeth I rejected the extremes of both Protestant and Catholic religions; she favored a more moderate Protestant religion with some Catholic traditions. For whatever reason, she never married and declared herself married to England. She is well known for this and for the resurgence of literacy and exploration under her reign as Queen.

Meanwhile, the following was happening in Scotland
(warning: the following information is very heavy because of all of the people named Mary or James):

1. King Henry VIII’s sister (Margaret Tudor) married King James IV of Scotland (reigned 1488-1513); they had a son (King James V of Scotland, reigned 1513-1542).
King James V married Mary of Guise had a daughter named Mary; she became Queen of Scotland (reigned 1542-1567 better known as Mary Queen of Scots). And because it becomes important later, Mary Queen of Scots was Catholic.

2. After King James IV of Scotland passed away, Margaret Tudor married Archibald Douglas. They had a daughter named Mary. Just joking! – they named her Margaret [Douglas].
Margaret Douglas married Matthew Stuart and they had a son named Henry Stuart, whose title was [English Catholic] Lord Darnley.
Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley) should not be confused with the third husband of his grandmother (Margaret Tudor) – his name was Henry Stewart.

3. Mary (as in, Mary Queen of Scots) married her cousin Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley) and they had a son, James (he would later become King. Twice.) Due to Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley)’s mysterious death and Mary Queen of Scots subsequent marriage to James Hepburn (Protestant Earl of Bothwell), a civil war broke out in Scotland. Mary Queen of Scots’s side lost this war. She was imprisoned and forced to abdicate the throne to her son (James) who was named King James VI of Scotland at the age of 1 and was brought up as a member of the Protestant Church of Scotland.

4. After breaking free from Scottish imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots eventually fled to England to seek the mercy of Queen Elizabeth after that whole mess. Mary Queen of Scots was then imprisoned in England for 19 years under Queen Elizabeth’s rule – until Elizabeth had Mary Queen of Scots beheaded.

5. James VI of Scotland (son of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart (Lord Darnely)) and was the great-grandson of King Henry VII of England. He supported Queen Elizabeth I against (Catholic) France and Spain. Technically, Queen Elizabeth I of England (and Ireland) was King James VI of Scotland’s godmother. Because of all of this, it does seem fitting that when Queen Elizabeth I passed away (childless), she named James VI of Scotland the King of England/Ireland. Therefore, he is known as James VI of Scotland and King James I of England and Ireland – or for clarification James I/VI. This is where England, Ireland, and Scotland come together for the first time under one crown (the Union of Crowns).

Now all of that history leads to the history of today – the 5th of November!
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was devised to restore civic rights to Roman Catholics in England. A group of Catholic extremists planned to wipe out King James I/VI and his Protestant Parliament, then put one of his children on the throne as a puppet supporting Catholic causes. The Gunpowder Plot’s explosive expert was named Guy Fawkes. There were 36 barrels of gunpowder were planted under the House of Parliament. Because a Catholic Parliament member was advised to not attend Parliament on the night of November 4, suspicion caused guards to investigate. They found the explosives being guarded by Fawkes, who was arrested and tortured until he named the other conspirators. They were sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered. (Ew.)

In the aftermath of the failed conspiracy to assassinate the King James I/VI, his council allowed the public to celebrate his King’s survival by lighting bonfires. The following year, the Observance of the 5th November Act was passed, which suggested that the king’s apparent deliverance by divine intervention deserved official and public recognition. For a long time, there was a long history of anti-Catholic sentiment, which was expressed and prominently displayed on November 5 by burning effigies of Guy Fawkes in bonfires. The modern November 5 celebrations are now mostly ran by volunteers and paid for by local charities or with paid admission and controlled access to spectators.

Tonight, we walked to a nearby park (Midsummer Common) where there was a fireworks show and a large bonfire along with carnival rides. There were volunteers maintaining the bonfire and other volunteers holding buckets for donations to cover the costs of the celebrations. For me on this November 5, I remember that lighting a giant bonfire and setting off fireworks have a deep footed history and are tradition in the UK. However, more importantly, I remember that hate, crime, and inequality are still present in the world, but unnecessarily so. We all have a responsibility to be a part of a movement to change the world that we live in today to be more peaceful, respectful, and tolerant one.

Slight differences

As Americans look forward to an extra hour of sleep this weekend, we “fell back an hour” last weekend.

I put together a list of things that we’ve noticed so far that are completely different between the two countries.

It is a US versus UK showdown!

1. Doors
For fire safety reasons (correct me if I am wrong), most doors in the US push out from the inside (you must pull on the door handle to enter). Opposite for the UK (pull handle to exit).

2. Light switches
To turn on a light (switch) in the US, you push the top of the switch. Push down to turn off. Opposite for the UK – one pushes down on the switch to turn on the light.

3. Outlets
The ground in a three-prong outlet is on the bottom in the US. Opposite for the UK; the ground is on the top. Also! You must have three prongs in the outlet in order for the device to be able to even plug into the wall in the UK. Additionally, the UK has switches on the outlets. Yes, to turn on the electricity to that device, the outlet must be switched on.

4. Bathroom electricity
The only electrical outlet you will find in a bathroom in the UK is the one for your electric razor. It is also the only place that happens to take 220 V or 120 V plugs. Sometimes, the shower will be electric (no, seriously…I’m not joking!) – it helps with water pressure and in some places it also helps create hot water. In the US, there is at least one electrical outlet in a bathroom. And we do not purposely mix water and electricity, unless it is a dam.

5. Plumbing
In the US, most faucets have two handles/taps that control the water temperature (one for cold, one for hot), and the water comes out of one spigot. Sometimes, there is one lever that goes through a variety of temperatures, ranging from cold to warm to hot – but almost always one spigot. In the UK, even in new houses and buildings, there are two taps each controlling their own spigot. One for boiling hot water, the other for ice cold water. Yes, when washing my hands, I love burning my hands just to cool them off. The only place that doesn’t do this is in the shower. Maybe I’ll just wash my hands in the shower all of the time.

6. Voltage
The voltage is different. 220 V in the UK versus 120 V in the US. I think most people already know that though. We tried to leave all of our appliances in the US before moving here.

7. Lightbulb size
The lightbulbs are a different size. They are slightly smaller in the UK.

8. Window Screens
Almost every window in the US has at least the ability to have a screen on it (if the window opens). Window screens are a luxury item in the UK.

9. Time frames
In the US, we get annoyed when that repair person or delivery person is scheduled to arrived at your residence between a range of hours. And generally speaking, they are always within those time limits. In the UK, they still give you those range in time, but it means nothing. They are never on time. They may call saying that they’ll be there “soon” – and several hours later, they show up.

10. Politeness
Brits are insanely polite. Painfully polite. There is a great list of examples compiled on the web about this (my favorite: “I don’t feel well but I don’t want to disturb my doctor”). They will go out of their way to be polite, even if they aren’t being sincere about it. I am blissfully and completely oblivious to the sarcasm or insincerity.
Exclusion to this: many drivers and bicyclists in Cambridge. Drivers park or drive in the bicycle lane without warning or signaling. And many bicyclists also can’t be bothered to signal when turning. Some bicyclists don’t even look before crossing streets or merging onto a street/bike path. They have a death wish since ~90% of bicyclists in Cambridge do not wear a helmet while bicycling on the street.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve noticed other major differences between the US and the UK that I haven’t mentioned here!

Holiday versus vacation

In the US, I never really thought much about the meaning of the words I used on a regular basis. However, nearly every day I’m learning gobs of new words and phrases. Or I am learning alternative meanings for words and phrases (for example, pants aren’t the same thing as trousers). One thing I recently learned was what the difference between a holiday and a vacation. A holiday in the US is a day that people celebrate something (e.g., Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day); some holidays in the US are federal holidays, such as New Year’s Day, in which almost everyone is off of work (e.g., school, federal employees) and some places may have limited hours but are usually still open (e.g., grocery stores, gas stations). Other holidays are basically “hallmark card holidays” that are celebrated by most but you don’t have the day off of work (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day). A vacation in the US means that you selected days that you wanted to take off of work to do whatever you want to do, except go to work.

I think many people recognize that in the UK, to go on holiday is to go on vacation; literally meaning that you took time off from work to do whatever you want to do (same as vacation in the US). No one says that they are going on vacation. Holidays in the UK also has the meaning of being pre-selected days that may or may not have any significance and are vacation days for everyone. I believe the technical terminology for these days are bank holidays (similar to US federal holidays). On these days, everything (and I mean everything) is closed, at least outside of London. Don’t expect to be able to get a taxi or go to the grocery store.

To make things just slightly confusing in this holiday versus vacation explanation, universities have vacations. Specifically “long vac,” or what most American university students would just call summer break. Long vac is “long vacation” composed of the months that the university has off for the summer. And because nothing else seems to be the same in the UK as the US, summer vacation is July, August, and September. This was all brought to my attention because students started university last week, the first full week of October. Many young people seem to just call it uni – pronounced as “you knee.” And as long as we’re keeping up with differences, university is different than college in the UK (but mean the same thing in the US).

I can actually see a difference in the amount of people riding bicycles in the morning. In some cases, they appear to have never ridden a bicycle prior to going to uni. And, unfortunately, the number of people wanting to cross the street has increased, meaning that traffic is stopping more frequently at all of the crosswalks and intersections. I’ve also noticed the number of people stumbling home from the pubs increased last week and weekend. They all looked 12 years old. Which probably just means that I’m getting old and can’t tell the age of young people anymore. More than likely, they are probably freshers, which is a really unique way of saying that they have started their freshmen year of university. The word freshers may be inclusive to all first-year students (including first-year graduate students) though this seems to be debatable.

English muffins

I first need to distract you from this post. While writing it up, I couldn’t help but think about a scene in the movie Shrek, in which Gingy (the gingerbread man) is being interrogated by one of the villains, Lord Farquaad (NOT MY GUMDROP BUTTONS!) This leads to further distraction (at least for me) to find the nursery rhyme* about The Muffin Man. Yes, in the US, we learn a British nursery rhyme about English muffins that I’ve discovered aren’t English or muffins at all.

And here we are, coming full circle: muffins and the misconception that Americans have about them.

When I think of muffins, of course I think of the baked pastry that can have a variety of flavors, including such deliciousness as blueberry, lemon poppy seed, chocolate chip, and oat bran. Looking for my favorite (or is it favourite)? I haven’t really found one that I didn’t like. They are sweet but not usually as sweet as a cupcake, though generally made in the same style pan, and are very similar to scones.

Muffins (US)

In the US, there is this other type of muffin that really isn’t a muffin. Americans call them English muffins, which are yeast-levened, small, circular, savory, and not originally from England. (!!) In England, the most similar thing is a crumpet, They are best known for having lots of nooks and crannies (for margarine or sauces to seep into) and made popular to El in the form of a breakfast called eggs benedict (the English muffin is the base).

English muffins (US)

However, I did manage to pick up some muffins at the market the other day, but these were definitely not what I would call English muffins. They were still small and circular but flaky – perfect for jam! I would call these biscuits. Again, El has another favorite breakfast item that is also full of too much fat and calories: biscuits and gravy. In this country and most of Europe, I would be wrong if I called it a biscuit! A biscuit in the UK is what Americans call cookies or crackers, depending on if it is sweet or savory. Most likely, I would refer to a UK biscuit as a cookie.

A plate of biscuits (left, US; right, UK)

What it really boils down to is that we have the same sorts of baked goods around the world, we just can’t agree on what to call them.

*If you’re looking for the tune of The Muffin Man, please look no further: here’s a link. Please note that I am not responsible if this song stays firmly placed in your head for the remainder of the day.

You alright?

In a quick, high-five styled dinner, a friend who lived in the area for a few years mentioned that locals have a very strange [to Americans] greeting of “You alright?” When Lynn told me about it, I hadn’t experienced myself, yet. I think the way she described it to me perfectly exemplfies how I feel every time someone asks me. Though I can’t recall her exact words; I was a little jet lagged when we met and had only been in the country for a few hours.

In essence, “You alright?” is an informal British greeting. And sometimes it also intends to be a way to question your well-being. As in, “How ya’ doing?”

No matter how many times I’ve heard this phrase now, from co-workers to store clerks, I still am a little frozen with how exactly to respond. Generally, I pause and panic, thinking, “Do I look unwell? Maybe I don’t look alright today. Do I have toothpaste on my face? Do I look a little extra frazzled today?” And by the time the words, “yes, and you?” utter from my lips, it has already been too late in the game of greeting someone. With time, I’m sure that this phrase may become a part of my normal, day-to-day vocabulary. At least one can hope.

An enlightening first vocabulary lesson

On the top level of my workplace, there is a wonderful cafeteria. The food they sell is what I would consider to be fairly multicultural, especially in comparison to most American cafeterias. Every day, there are sandwich, soup, and salad options in addition to the hot meal specials. Each week, there are some expected foods: Curry Thursday!? (a choice of three different curries, one always vegetarian). Yes, please!

Every Friday afternoon, the cafeteria posts a menu for the following week in the lifts (elevators). I find this to be really helpful for planning what days I should bring my lunch. Recently, I had a wonderfully amusing vocabulary lesson based on the Monday cafeteria hot meal: pasties.

I was slightly confused and embarrassed to read this. Clearly, the Monday hot meal was not American pasties. I had to ask. And then explain my confusion while turning bright red in the face. I’m happy to make my co-workers chuckle at my limited UK vocabulary. A pasty (pasties) in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland*) is a savory, half-moon-shaped, baked pastry. Sometimes known as a Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe and must be filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (turnip), and onion. If the pasty isn’t specified as Cornish, then the filling can vary. But always, the flat circle has the fillings place in the center and it is folded in half, crimping the edge to seal the pastry. The final baked good results in a semicircular food item.

A tray of UK pasties.

A tray of UK pasties.

I heard the description from my co-workers and declared it to be like a wellington or a calzone. I had first ran across a wellington at a cute pub called The Walnut Tree in Worlington. Another military spouse had taken me out to lunch, and I ordered a wellington filled with root vegetables, which was quite delightful! Thankfully, all of my co-workers are foodies. The differences between pasties, wellingtons, and calzones are subtle to me. A pasty is made with dough, a wellington is made with puff pastry, and a calzone is what makes pizza more portable. To me, I think they are all pretty much the same – unless you’re talking about the adhesive coverings applied to cover a person’s nipples (Americans pasties)!

*In Northern Ireland, a pastie looks to be a deep fried burger that can be served on a “bap” (bun) as a pastie bap. Alternatively, if served with “chips” (thick steak fries), then it is a pastie supper.