It always cracks me up how frequently our conversations revolve around language.  Sure, we all speak English… well, technically.  That doesn’t mean we always understand each other.  Here are some examples:

It’s only called Jello in the US.  Everyone else calls it Jelly! One day I was telling Michelle about when Tony was on a liquid diet after having his wisdom teeth out.  She asked if I was able to make him jelly.  “I said no, he couldn’t have anything with particles in it, so I made him Jello.”  Little did I know…

In the UK pants refer to someone’s underwear.  Gemma had an especially astonished look on her face when someone came into work asking about the man across the street with no pants.

Other school-related terms that I’ve understood, but have been new to me include anticlockwise, timetable, and maths.

Because of Tortola’s proximity to the USVI, and the fact that most of our imports come from the US, it’s pretty “Americanized” around here.  However, there are definite signs that we’re in a British Territiry:  A barrister is a lawyer.  A pidgeon hole is a mailbox. A zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing.  A rubber is an eraser.  A skip is a trash dumpster.  Trash is called rubbish and goes in a bin.  A torch is a flashlight.  French fries are chips, but chips are called crisps! (Actually, most of the restaurants go either way on this one!)


French fries, chips, and crisps? Oh my!

Did you know we pronounce VanGogh’s name differently?  When I talked about him in class, several of my kids said, “Do you mean VanGogh (van-gof)?”

Now, I’m doing my best with the spelling.  You may have noticed I throw in an extra ‘u’ from time to time here on the blog.  Cedar uses British spelling (makes sense in the BRITISH Virgin Islands) even though many of the locals do not.  It’s sure screwing up my already rather poor spelling abilities though!  The ‘u’ doesn’t get me as much as the ‘z’ (pronounced zed) in words like organize and realize.  It was a real eye-opener for me when in a staff meeting a few weeks back someone explained that the Brits actually use both!  OrganiZe is used when the word is noun and organiSe is used as a verb.

So much to think about!  And, I haven’t even started with the other countries!

We have several friends who are South African.  They have all kinds of strange words!

Tony’s favourite is kiff, which means awesome, but he’s also partial to laka, which means great.

Tennis shoes are called trainers by the Brits and takkies by the South Africans.

Then there’s the local phraseology….

  • “I gaan” (I gone) = I’m leaving now
  • “Mash up”= Messed up/Broken
  • “Dem”– Used as a noun phrase – has to precede and follow the noun-  (“Dem boat dem” or “dem girls dem”), and as a prepositional phrase – “Dem boat be over dem”.
  • “Y’know” – follows any phrase you want to emphasise as important to the listener.

This, and so much more, makes for interesting conversation at the Watering Hole on Fridays!

**A special thank you to Michelle for her assistance with this post!**

And, for you Aunt Barb – a photo of the islands!  You’ve seen this view before.  It’s the view from our porch this evening, but unlike we’ve seen it since arriving.  It’s so hazy you can’s even see St. Thomas!

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3 Responses to Language

  1. beth says:

    wow, how very interesting! I had no idea there was such diversity with the folks you are closest to! cool. thanks for sharing!

  2. Barbara DeJardin says:

    Thank you for the scenic view, Linday. Keep ’em coming! Of course, I love all your postings. They’re very educational, and fun. Is there any chance you and Tony will be able to come to Green Bay for Jill’s wedding on June 16th? Love, Aunt Barbara

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