Separated by a common language

Reading Andrew Purvis’ Running on empty carbs piece in the Guardian brought to light an unusual number of words and phrases in British English that I didn’t know (or would have used a more common American English surrogate for). So I decided to list them out and look them up.

a line – as in “to stand in line”. pretty much everyone knows this one.
raised – as in “their children were raised on Happy Meals”
19 stone
a stone is a unit of mass equal to 14 pounds, thus 19 stone = 266 pounds
Brabantia bin liner
given the context I can only imagine these are upscale garbage bags
refuse truck
a garbage truck (obviously)
this one is my favorite: a compost bin!
Somerfield bags
used in contrast to the Brabantia bin liners, I can only imagine these are down-market garbage bags
council flat
apparently a form of public housing, aka a housing project
Turkey Twizzlers
this was a new one, they are apparently “spiral strips of processed meat are manufactured by the giant Bernard Matthews food company.” think: curly fries made out of meat. awesome!
fizzy drinks
soda (duh)
this one was also completely new to me, apparently it’s like basketball without a backboard
muesli bar
granola bar
already salted, as in “not unsalted” (I think)
furry deposits
creative way of saying fatty deposits
orange squash
a concentrated sugary beverage that one adds water or seltzer to
unpacking, further investigation?



This is brilliant to coin a phrase, but having English ancestry should have aided you especially since your grandfather, and all of your great grandparents were of English heritage. I remember as a wee lad when my Scottish grandmother would trill her Rs and talk to me in her brogue. Even now when I hear someone talk like that it takes me back to those times. So whether it’s color or colour, or zee or zed, or hood or bonnet it doesn’t really matter….

my god that article is awful. My wife and I spent all day laughing at it yesterday. Utter made-up bullshit designed to tweak middle-class fears…

You’re spot on re most of those terms.

‘wormery’ is a fancy composting system, using worms, kind of trendy right now. see also: . Do you know artwells? he’s big into them.

‘Turkey Twizzlers’ are indeed delicious, even if they are made from the worst bits of the turkey. mmm low-grade meat.

‘ready-salted’ simply means with salt, but no other flavourings, added.

‘unpicking’: extraction, analysis — as with a knot. It’s funny that doesn’t translate.

Yeah, definitely a puff piece. In the end I liked it more for the language than anything else. Who or what is Artwells? Next time I’m in the UK: Turkey Twizzlers will be on the menu!

oops! this is artwells:

For some reason, I assumed you were a member of a forum site with myself and Art…

Ha, now I’m curious who you confused me with. I thought “Artwells” was like a department store in the UK or something. I can almost hear the jingle in the back of my head.

Katie M.

The ready salted thing is probably a throw back to smiths, who used to sell crisps in a bag with no salt and a small packet of salt inside that you had to open, pour in, and shake the bag to cover the crisps in salt, presumably before food technology meant you could coat them in salt in advance and they wouldn’t go soggy. Smiths called them salt n shake, if I remember correctly…

Netball is basketball for girls with no dribbling.

Wow, thanks for the culinary history. Though the first thing I pictured after reading your comment was a bunch of kids salting their chips at a Smiths concert.


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