April 13, 2007

I’m Sorry! How many dimensions?

OK this is a really short rant.  I just have to say that if I hear Dr. Whatshisface say one more time “Discover the beauty of being matched across 29 proven dimensions of compatibility.” I think I am going to call him out on it.

I have no idea what irritates me so much about this statement.  Somewhere in my brain my mind is telling me “fictitious, contrived, manufactured, cooked-up”.  I have no doubts that the service has helped couples find one another but the rose-tinted picture of perfection that is painted by the good Dr. makes me wonder just how many of these couples end up splitting up that we don’t hear about.

I’m sorry, but the only person that matches me in 29 dimensions, is me!


Nothing much to report.

April 7, 2007

Well, not much to write about lately as far as staying “on topic”.  Been very busy with real life.  Both my wife and I have been working non-stop for the last 3 months to convert our home and get licensed to run it as an Adult Foster Care home for the elderly.
At the same time I’ve been trying to bring back together a bunch of gaming friends that have known each other for close to 10 years but who have drifted away to do other things over the last 2 to 3 years.  I have a reputation (according to my wife) of being “the glue that binds”  when it comes to getting and keeping people together like this and I’m determined to see the good times roll but it takes work, and someone has to do it.

I’m sat here typing and two things struck me.  First, its freezing cold, windy, and snowy outside… and its APRIL for goodness sakes.  I’m supposed to be dethatching the lawn.  Oh well thank heavens for small mercies.

Meanwhile, in the warmth and comfort of my living room/office I am frequently being drawn away from my computer screen to watch a re-run of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  which I haven’t seen since I was a small kid (we’re talking at least 30+ years here).  I think someone must have digitized and re-colored this version because it looks fantastic for its age.  It has prompted me to think to myself, where are the lesser known actors from this childrens’ classic today?  Well check out this wonderful page which does its best to inform us exactly that:

Well, its almost Easter and its time to go and color easter eggs with my wife and children.  After being up all night consoling a fussy infant, and then being required to boil 3 dozen eggs first thing this morning, I’m much more inclined to go lock myself in my bedroom and have a damn good nap.   Still, that’s a lot of egg-salad sandwiches which I adore.

Happy Easter Everyone!

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.

Common Misconceptions

February 28, 2007

I would never presume to re-educate ‘my fellow Americans’, not that I am entitled to use that term, given that I am a Limey who hasn’t taken his Citizenship test yet, but I do feel it is within my rights to put pay to a few misconceptions and in the process hopefully right a few wrongs.

First of all, let us look at American misconceptions of the English.

Part 1. Teeth
We don’t all have bad teeth! I really don’t know where this falsehood first began but it simply isn’t true. I spent 31 years of my life in England and I did not see a larger percentage of the populace with crooked, yellow or generally bad teeth as I have seen here in the U.S. I think films like Austin Powers just help to exacerbate the pre-conceived myth that all British people have bad teeth. Not true.

I will say this however, there is definitely a morbid fascination with “whitening” and “straightening” one’s teeth here in the U.S. The number of commercials on TV dedicated to products and services to make your smile whiter than pure snow is quite remarkable. The marketing machine making all Americans think they have to have perfect, white teeth is so mind-alteringly insidious, its almost as bad as the same marketing that makes all women think they have to be stick thin.

Will you meet a Brit with bad teeth? Yes quite possibly, but would you like to stand them up against a hillbilly as a shining example of the average American? I think not.

Part 2. Royalty
There are two rife misconceptions that need to be put to bed here right away! The first is that every Brit you meet must know the queen. False!
The second is that most Americans think they can trace their lineage back to royalty. Also False! There are over 60 million people in the United Kingdom, that’s almost one fifth of the entire U.S. population on an island 40x smaller and hardly any of them can trace their ancestry back to royalty, so what makes you think you can? And if by the remotest chance I am mistaken, then we have a situation where the majority of settlers that departed England’s shores to start a new life here in the Colonies are related to royalty, which means that the War of Independence would make no sense at all. A war to gain independence from governorship and taxation by an English government backed by a monarchy, when we’re saying that most of that royalty was already over here? Wouldn’t that be somewhat akin to fighting yourselves?

Part 3. Fruitcake
Yes its true a large number of English folk love a good, heavy fruitcake at Christmas. I will say this though in its defense, it is not the same cake passed around year after year because no-one wants it. Now that might be true here in the U.S. where the definition of ‘cake’ appears to be a pound/sponge cake covered in fake cream icing. A really good Christmas fruit cake is home-made, extremely dense, heavy and moist and contains a lot of alcohol (usually Brandy or Rum). Unfortunately these ‘quality’ fruitcakes that English families enjoy bear little resemblance to the dry, unsavory fruitcakes that are sold commercially in stores and it is these, regrettably, that fall into the hands of our American friends.

Part 4. Tea
We all love tea! This is for the mostpart true. Tea is an excellent brew and a wonderful drink befitting any time of day. I have found that a really good, quality tea is very hard to purchase here in the U.S. Even in specialty stores, the shelves here in the U.S. are stocked with ‘fragrant’ and ‘piquant’ specialty flavored teas like Darjeeling, Earl Gray, Green and Orange Pico and some other very bizarre offerings involving plants that should never be spoken in the same sentence as the word tea. Given that these options are all that is available to most Americans I am not surprised in the least that America has fallen in love with coffee instead.

Part 5. Stuffy
I often get my American friends and family trying to impress upon me their impressions that English are stuffy, stand-off’ish and arrogant. Let me break this down:

i) Stuffy – Only the very rich have a tendency to exhibit this behaviour. As the very rich only constitute 1% to 2% of the British population, its not really true.

ii) Stand-Off’ish – This is a mis-perception. English are typically very reserved and quiet when you first meet them. They like to study you before they get to know you but once they do you will find they can become some of the best friends you will ever have. Sadly if you only visit the U.K. as a tourist or on a business trip, you won’t be around long enough for the average Brit to warm up to you so I can see where this impression comes from.

iii) Arrogant – I think there is some truth to this but it is true on both sides of the pond. American arrogance is more brash and down-to-earth (and in-your-face) whereas British arrogance is more aloof and intellectually inclined. Neither nation likes this manifestation in the other so its touché I’m afraid.

Part 6. London
It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans make the assumption that I am from London. Only about 8% of the entire population can be considered to be ‘from’ the London and Greater London area which covers over 600 square miles. I’ve been asked “What part of London are you from?” on several occasions. This, to me, is akin to asking Americans “What part of New York are you from?”. Sadly the same fascination with London drives the tourist driven American to visit little more than London when they travel to the United Kingdom and then make the assumption that they have “seen England”. How much more inprecise and an injustice this could be is hard to fathom and would be like an Englishman visiting New York and saying “That’s it. I’ve seen America. Now I can leave content!”.

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There’s a lot more I can cover but that will do for now. I now want to cover a different area which can cause considerable embarrassment for Brits visiting America and Americans visiting the U.K.

American terms
Fanny pack – In the U.K. a fanny is not your ass (we say ‘arse’ by the way). On the contrary, a fanny is slang for a woman’s vagina. So please, when you visit the United Kingdom, no shouting out phrases like “Anyone seen my fanny pack?” or “I slapped him on the fanny”.

Puffs – Here in the U.S. “Puffs” are delightfully soft tissues for blowing your nose on. However, my American wife and her family were very bemused when I first emigrated over here and they presented me with a box of “Puffs”.  I was suffering a mild cold at the time and upon being presented with said “puffs” I proceeded to laugh uncontrollably. You see, in the U.K. “puffs” are homosexuals. So again, please save yourself and everyone around you the embarrassment of asking for some puffs or what you would like to do with them.

Beer – This information I am giving you now is probably the most valuable snippet of information you can take with you on a trip to England. What you Americans call beer, the British call “lager”. Lager is a light, slightly carbonated and chilled beer, in other words, Bud, Miller etc. It is not what British people consider to be real beer. So, if you like your Budweisers and your Millers and your Heinekens then ask for a can or bottle of lager when you’re in a bar or pub. If you ask for ‘beer’ you are going to get a draught pulled pint of bitter or mild which is pumped to the bar from barrels in the cellar at slightly colder than room temperature. This is what British consider to be “real” beer and is a lot yeastier, uncarbonated and will often come with a creamy, frothy head (if its a good pint).

English Terms
Fag – Please, my fellow countrymen, when you come to America, do not visit a store and request to purchase a packet of “fags” when desirous of obtaining cigarettes. “Fags” are homosexuals here in the U.S. and not cigarettes. You will not be received warmly if you ask if you can “bum a fag” (Ed. English slang for ‘borrow a cigarette’)

Arse – Use the word “ass” when traveling the Colonies please.

Lorry – Americans have no clue what a lorry is. Just say “Semi”, “18-wheeler” or “truck”. Be careful though, a “truck” is also used in local lingo to denote a “pick-up truck” which is typically a 4WD vehicle with 2 or 4 doors (quad cab) and a 4foot or 6foot flat-bed loading area at the rear with drop tail-gate.

Loo – If you need to use the bathroom here in the U.S. don’t say “loo”. Americans love to refer to the bathroom as the “rest room” and have no idea what a loo is. Also try and refrain from using the word “toilet” as for some strange reason they find it vulgar. “Lavatory” is passable but I would stick with “rest room”, “gents” or “ladies” if I were you.

and on the subject of housing…

Bungalow – They call it a ranch (don’t ask)

Semi-detached – They call it a condo or duplex

Housing estate – They call it a sub-division (again, don’t ask). When my wife and I first started dating, apparently I lead her to believe that I was a lot wealthier than I am by telling her I lived on an ‘estate’. She spent several months believing I lived in some kind of manor with expansive grounds instead of my humble 3 bed detached.

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Please post a comment if you have anything else you would like to add!