Math Problem

March 9, 2007

This is by far the funniest thing I have seen this week.  Among a bunch of math test problems students were expected to solve, this was one student’s response:

Find x


‘S’ or ‘Z’

March 9, 2007

Union Jack “S” —- OR —- Stars & Stripes “Z”

My sister brought to my attention this morning that if I really want to be a true Brit and represent my country, I should use the letter ‘s’ in place of the American use of the letter ‘z’ in words like realise and customise and follow the Queen’s English to the letter. She makes a very good point. While I have pondered the thought of going back through my blogs and doing a global replace of ‘z’ for ‘s’, I want people to know (especially my English countrymen) that it was a conscious decision on my part to use the ‘z’ format.

Why? Well in short it is because I simply wanted my American readership to feel more comfortable. While seeing ‘z’ in words like custimize is merely a peculiarity and mild irritation to a Brit, seeing an ‘s’ in a word like customise is more alien to an American.

Besides, I’ve had over seven years to get used to writing ‘ize’ words instead of ‘ise’ words and I am quite comfortable with it now.

I think if there was a big enough groundswell of opinion for me to change back to ‘s’ I would do so, but to me, its a minor concession to make.

Just because an authoritative and standardised English dictionary existed in England approximately 60 years before such a dictionary came to pass in America should not be cause for me to be overly pietistical. Besides, my blogs are courtesy of WordPress, an American company, a fact I am constantly reminded of when I try to “ise” my words and the inbuilt spell checker underlines my words in red, demanding I change them to “ize” words. I do hate red ink on my virtual documents.

I do however struggle enormously with saying and spelling the word aluminum instead of aluminium. For some reason this really seems to go against my upbringing. Thank goodness there aren’t a lot more words in the English language that end in “ium” because if Americans forced me to replace “ium” with “um” I think I’d just have to pack my bags and head back home to Blighty! Instead of helium we would have helum and Kurt Cobain’s Lithum just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Things: An Urban Dictionary

March 8, 2007

International Conversion Reference Guide
English to American / American to English

I hate redundancy and so I will try not to repeat or reiterate things I have already covered in previous blogs. The purpose of this particular blog is to correlate all those things that I have come across that can cause possible confusion for our two countries and try to provide clear and concise explanations for each.

This document will be a work-in-progress so I will keep coming back and adding to it as I remember things. I feel it is more accurately defined as an ‘urban dictionary’ than an authoritative guide.

Once you’ve read the article and appreciate the format, feel free to comment and contribute your own additions. I do not intend to cover words that we pronounce differently but are basically the same, like aluminum (aluminium), tomato, yogurt (yoghurt) etc., only those things that are actually completely different and can cause the most confusion to a visitor.

The conversion format is American to English in all cases except where you will see *no equivalent* on either the American or English side of the equation notating that there is no known equivalent for said item in one of the cultures. Slang terms will be enclosed in single quotation marks ‘like this’.

American (first) to English (second)

Hood – Bonnet
Trunk – Boot
Gas/Gasoline – Petrol
Gas Station – Petrol Station
Stop Light – Traffic Light (on red)
Windshield – Windscreen
Windshield Wipers – Windscreen Wipers
Stick Shift – Manual Gear Change (i.e. non-automatic)
Sidewalk – Pavement
Freeway – Motorway
Rest Stop – Services/Service Station
Semi – Lorry
Road Sign – Sign Post

Wrench – Spanner
Monkey Wrench – Wrench/Monkey Wrench
Flat-Blade (Flat-Head) – Screwdriver
Philips – Posidrive / Philips Screwdriver
Come Along – Pulley (specifically ratchetable chain pulley found in an automotive garage)

Around the Home
Restroom (public) or Bathroom (private) – Loo/Bog/Toilet/Bathroom/Ladies/Gents
Faucet – Tap
Stove – Cooker
Closet – Cupboard
Vanity Unit – Medicine Cabinet
Broiler – Grill (and hence broiling = grilling)
Grill – BBQ (Americans use the term BBQ’ing too but specifically Grilling to an American = BBQ’ing)
Toilet Tank – Cistern
Toilet Paper – ‘Loo Roll’/’Bog Roll’
Baseboard – Skirting Board
Baseboard Heating – Floor Height Radiators
Doorwall – Patio Doors (uPVC)
*no equivalent* – Electric Kettle (for boiling water) –

Americans use archaic stove kettles, a saucepan, or a jug in their microwaves for boiling water. The concept of boiling water in an electric kettle is almost non-existent.

Pants – Trousers/Pants
Underwear – Pants/Underpants/’Undies’/’Undiegrots’
Tennis Shoes – Trainers
Sweater – Jumper
Bibs – Dungarees
Nylons/Hose – Tights
A run in a woman’s hose – A ladder in a woman’s tights
Diaper – Nappy
Sleeper/Playsuit – Sleepsuit
Pacifier – Dummy (Americans also use slang favorites like ‘binky’, ‘nuk’ and… ‘ninny’* {see physical})

Bangs – Fringe
Ass – Arse/Bum/Backside
Pregnant woman’s baby belly – Bump
Booger – Snot/Bogey/Ninny
‘Loogie'(Loogee) – Phlegm/’Greb’
‘Cooties’ – ‘Lurgy'(Lurgi)

Going Places
Going to the movies – Going to the cinema (English say “movies” too but Americans never say “cinema”)
Strip Mall – *no equivalent* (closest would be shopping center)

Basically a strip mall is a consecutive line of adjoined shopping stores either in a straight line, a rectangular horseshoe, or a full quadrant but the overriding features are that a) it has its own common parking to all stores and b) it follows a uniform design across all stores as the entire mall is usually designed and built by a single contractor who rents/leases out the individual stores to businesses. We do have similar places in the UK but is less common for an entire shopping outlet to be planned and built first in the hope that it will later be filled by high-street stores.

After creating this page I came across Chris Rae’s excellent The English-to-American Dictionary which you should also check out. Chris, a Scot, has been at this a lot longer than I have and his site has a wealth of content on this very subject including a great deal of reader contributed data.

Advertising Executives: Stop The R-Rated Advertising During PG Shows!

March 7, 2007

The Slasher Flick: A Disturbing Trend

Something that my wife and I find very disturbing lately is the dramatic increase in the number of slasher-genre horror movies that have come out in the last 18 months. Since the first “SAW” movie was released (which I personally believe was a catalyst for the new resurgence in gore movies) there has been a steady flow of grisly flicks including names like Saw II, Saw III (obviously), Hannibal Rising, The Grudge 2, Hostel (I and II), The Hills Have Eyes, See No Evil, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Dead Silence, The Abandoned and more. I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Neither my wife or myself are fans of the Horror genre, especially the slasher type movie. The thought that people out there derive enjoyment and pleasure from watching other people get cut up, chopped up, minced up, burned, raped, tortured and God knows what else is sickening to us and a depressing indicator of society these days as we appear to be sinking ever further in to depravity and a general disregard for human life.

Now a horror fan could be forgiven for reading this and thinking that I am a religious, sanctimonious prude but hear me out as this could not be further from the truth. I thoroughly enjoy suspense thrillers such as the original Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, the original Omen movies and more. Although there was violence and the occasional shocking content in these movies, the story itself is what drives the movie forward and makes it suspenseful and therefore enjoyable. Leaving the mind to think what might happen is far more effective than having it shoved in your face.

It strikes me that this latest batch of so-called horror movies seem to exist solely for the benefit of demonstrating the latest advancements in CGI and special-FX purely so that the director and producer can show us just how real, lifelike and gruesome they can bring their sick imaginings to life. The sad part being (in my opinion) that there is most definitely a market out there for this stuff and what’s more it is growing. Weak plots, non-existant stories and amazing special effects have become a vehicle to serve up this feast of nastiness at an ever increasing rate.


As with all things movie related though, it is usually the marketing machine behind a movie that drives its visibility forward and ensures its success. And this means advertising, and lots of it.

Now, I have no problem with advertising executives getting their movies promoted to the appropriate target audience but herein lies the problem. Who exactly do these execs believe their target audience is? You would think that we are talking about post-watershed advertising during related viewing, where viewers have tuned in to watch something of this ilk and would expect to see such advertisements. However, more and more often lately the advertising is being slipped well below the traditional watershed of 9pm/9:30pm and instead during peak family viewing time, namely popular evening shows that have absolutely nothing to do with carving people up.


This blog rant cannot be substantiated unless I provide examples. Allow me to give you some examples that have ‘horrifed’ my wife and I lately, and these are a but a tiny portion of an ever-increasing, upward-spiralling trend that needs to be stopped!

1. While watching Friends on TBS we were shocked to note that Hostel 2 was advertised during one of the breaks. Also The Grudge 2 was advertised during another episode. There was another too but its name escapes me.

2. Sci-Fi Channel: Someone in a decision-making position at The Sci-Fi channel has clearly decided that if you like Sci-Fi, you must obviously like slasher horror movies too. I can clearly see the correlation can’t you? Not. While watching shows like Stargate SG1 and Star Trek:Enterprise we have been subjected to R-rated promos for just about every new slasher flick that has come out in the last 12 months.

And last but not least: although not a horror/slasher movie promo, this last example is even more indicative of the R-rated advertising trend during PG and PG-13 rated shows.

3. While watching Ice Age on FX with our 8 year old son early one evening, we were even more shocked to see promos for the police drama The Shield full of guns and violence. Ice Age is rated PG for “mild peril” I hasten to add.

Indeed, it has got so bad recently that we simply mute the volume and bring up the cable menu to cover the screen during advertising breaks simply so that our son can be in the same room as us before he goes to bed at 9pm.

Now I will counter those people right away that come out with statements along the lines of “Well you have a brain, a finger, and free choice, simply turn off the TV or change the channel!” Well my friends, there’s the problem right there! How can you prepare for a slasher promo instantly appearing on your screen during a show that should never even see such a thing and at a time of the day when such things were never previously shown, until recently?

The very nature of advertising on TV here in the United States is that as much as possible must be crammed in to the small alloted time space. So, one second you can be watching Chandler joking with Joey during an episode of Friends and the next second you’re seeing some guy being tortured on a rack.

The manner in which slasher movies are promo’d is also typical these days and worthy of a discussion all its own. Namely; dozens of dark, disturbing and frightening images and sounds bombarded at you in a disjointed fashion and at a rapid rate, playing on the human subconscious mind and the way in which it can recall imagery that it only sees for a fleeting second.

Channel and Advertising Execs: Do Something

I would like to make a call to all channel chiefs (especially Sci-Fi and TBS) and to the advertising executives that allow this to happen. You are violating our home with your misplaced, mis-timed advertising and it needs to stop. Recognize your audience and show some common sense. Put a stop to R-rated advertising during family viewing times!

I’m very interested to hear what others have to say about this, especially parents who care about what their children get to see and don’t see, such as myself.