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January 14, 2006
Posted at 6:44 pm
 

Talking funny

Why you people actually read this blog is one of the great mysteries of life, well, my life anyway. But my mail says you do, and some of you have a good time doing it. Life should be fun, you know?

Anyway I got a note from a friend of mine who's British, who made reference to one of my stories where there was a teenaged girl sitting on the porch really unhappy because her brother and one of her friends were off ... having fun. When they came back from ... having fun, they looked at her and the way I described it was "She was pissed."

Now us Americans think of that as "angry". But all the Brits who read that story shook their heads because to them it meant "drunk". In 'one' story she was mad that her friend went off and had sex with her brother. In 'the other' she just got drunk.

Of course context helps, and all my very literate British readers figured it out, but why is language so odd sometimes?

And I don't mean just different meanings for the same words.

For example, in lots of America, if somebody hands you something, say, like handing you the Playboy you just asked for over the counter, the person will often say "There you are."

Where the heck did THAT come from? Of course you are "there". That's why they could find you to hand you the magazine in the first place. And, come to think of it, where else would you be? It's meaning has no relationship to the words used in the phrase.

Same thing for "Here you go." which is also used in that same exact situation. The words themselves don't make any sense at all. How did that come to be used for "This is your Playboy ... I'm handing it to you now."

In my admittedly somewhat warped imagination, I have this image of where that one came from though. I see some white trader, during the Indian days (Native American Indians, to my Brit pals)in the old west, trading with the Indians. They have learned by now that when a white man comes around, everybody gets screwed, literally and figuratively, but the damn white-eyes won't go away so you have to deal with them, right? So the Indian hands over whatever it was the white man wanted and says "Here! You go!" Over the years the puncutation got lost and ... there you are! So to speak.

Of course sexual terms are some of the worst in the language. I used "screwed" up above, which doesn't make any sense unless you think of the woman in a harness, hanging from the ceiling on a rope. The guy lets her down onto his prong and spins her. Now THAT would be getting screwed. "Nailed", on the other hand, I understand completely.

There are hundreds of others. "What's up?" doesn't make any sense at all. "You're freaking me out." is completely senseless. "I'm so happy I could die!" Now there's a good one. I don't think I ever want to be that happy, OK? And the list could go on and on. You probably have your favorites and I'm sure there's a web site out there somewhere that collects things like that, but I've never seen it.

So, gentle reader, what I ask from you is to look at the context of the words as I use them. It's going to be an American context, cause that's all I know.

But please DO write to me if you find one of those "Pissed" things. It's so much fun to hear about other meanings for words I use.

Thanks for reading.
Bob