Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nominate WotYs & Untranslatables Month II

Two matters for this belated blog post:  Words of the Year nominations and the Untranslatables Month summary.

WotY Nominations
Long-term readers will know that we have (at least) two Words of the Year here at SbaCL, and nominations are open for both categories as of now:

1. Best AmE-to-BrE import
2. Best BrE-to-AmE import
The word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2012, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year. I retain the editor's privilege of giving other random awards on a whim.

Please nominate your favo(u)rites and give arguments for their WotY-worthiness in the comments to this post. It might be helpful to see my reasoning on why past words were WotY worthy and other nominations weren't. Click on the WotY tag in order to visit times gone by.

Vote early and often! I plan to announce the winners in the week before Christmas.


Untranslatables II
Last year, as a birthday treat to myself, I declared October to be Untranslatables Month, which meant that I tweeted an expression that was unique to one dialect or another, in that its meaning was not captured by an expression in the other dialect. This year, I did it again, but made the job easier on myself by deciding not to tweet on weekends. Here's a summary of the 'untranslatables' I tweeted. In some cases, you can follow links to places where I (or someone) have discussed them in more detail.
  • BrE lie-in (noun). The act of staying in bed later in the morning than usual. Sleeping not required, but lazing is. Example: 'The family was away, so I had a lie-in on Saturday as an early birthday treat.'  (AmE & BrE both have sleeping in for when one sleeps late.)
  • AmE cater-corner, kitty-corner, catty-corner (regional variations), adj & adv, meaning 'diagonally opposite to'. Example: 'I live kitty-corner to the bordello'.
  •  BrE builder's tea. Very strong (hot, of course), basic (i.e. not a special cultivar/flavo[u]r) tea with milk and lots of sugar. The 'lots of sugar' part is in most definitions for it, but some of my correspondents don't consider 'sweet' to be a necessary feature.
  • AmE Nielsen rating. The television rating system that determines advertising rates, used figuratively as a measure of popularity. Example: 'When you give babies a choice of what to listen to, a kind of baby Nielsen rating, they choose to listen to mothers talking to infants' (from The Scientist in the Crib).
  • BrE It's not cricket. 'It shouldn't happen because it's not fair/proper'. Occasionally heard in AmE too.
  • AmE poster child. Figuratively, an emblematic case of something, esp. a cause. Originally a child on posters promoting a charity. This one has come into BrE--as untranslatables often do (because they're useful). In the US, it's especially associated w/the (US) Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is also responsible for the US's longest-running charity telethon. It's interesting how different diseases are 'big' in terms of fundraising in different countries...
  • BrE overegged describes something that is ruined by too much effort to improve it. From the expression to overegg the pudding.
  • AmE hump day. Wednesday, but with the recognition that it's a milestone on the way to the weekend. Though it's heard a bit on the radio in the UK, I'm not sure it'd work well in BrE because of interference from BrE get the hump (='get annoyed, grumpy'). (The sexual meaning of hump is present in both dialects.)
  • BrE bumf = a collective term for loose printed material/paperwork (forms, pamphlets, letters) that's deemed to be unnecessary. It comes from old slang for 'toilet paper': bumfodder.  Example: 'The hallway is littered with election bumf that's come through the door.'
  • AmE earthy-crunchy (noun or adj), Having 'hippie', 'tree-hugging' tendencies. Synonym = granola.
  • BrE white van man. I mentioned it on the blog here, but there's more about it here.  Though I've read of white van man making it to the US, white vans are much more common and much more associated with skilled manual trade in UK. Some American correspondents had assumed it meant serial killer or child molester, which is not usually the intended meaning in BrE. 
  • AmE antsy. 1. fidgety and impatient, 2. nervous, apprehensive. Has been imported to UK somewhat, but mostly in sense 1.
  • AmE visit with. To chat with someone, especially if you're having a good catch-up.
  • BrE for England. To a great extent. Example: 'He can talk for England'. There's no for America in this sense, but in South Africa, for Africa is used in the same way. And perhaps elsewhere. So, 'untranslatable' to AmE.
  • AmE soccer mom or hockey mom (regional). A (middle-class) mother who spends much time ferrying kids to practice.
  • BrE sorted (adj & interjection): Most basically, it means something like it's all sorted out. 'My blog post? It's sorted!' But its meaning has extended so that can mean, of a person, basically 'having one's shit together'. Example: 'With all my new year('s) resolutions, I'm certain I'll be fit and sorted by April'. Collins also has it as meaning 'possessing the desired recreational drugs'. Deserves a blog post of its own.
  •  AmE freshman/sophomore/junior/senior. Names of the people in the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th years of secondary (high) school and undergraduate degrees. Fresher is used somewhat for university 1st years in UK, but generally the university years do not have (universally applied) special names in the UK.
  • BrE gubbins. To quote the Collins English Dictionary:
    1. an object of little or no value
    2. a small device or gadget
    3. odds and ends; litter or rubbish
    4. a silly person
  • AmE to tailgate. To have a party where food/drink served frm a vehicle's tailgate. Mentioned in this old post. (Both dialects have the meaning 'to drive too closely behind a car'.)
  • BrE for my sins = 'as if it were a punishment'. Often used to mark a 'humblebrag'. Example (from the British National Corpus): 'I happen for my sins to have been shadow Chancellor since the last election in 1987.'
  • AmE the (academic) honor code. Ethical guidelines that students must follow. Of course, UK univeristies have ethical guidelines for students, but there's not really a term that covers them all, like honor code does. Also, US honor codes typically require that students turn in other students whom they know to be cheating. This does not seem to be as frequently found in UK academic conduct rules.
  • BrE locum. Someone who stands in for someone else in a professional context, particularly doctor or clergy member. This is a shortened form of locum tenens, which one does see a bit in AmE medical jargon these days (but not just locum, and not in general use).
Whether I do Untranslatables Month again next year remains to be seen...

Don't forget to leave your WotY nominations in the comments!