You Say – We Say

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

~ George Bernard Shaw

I’m sure everyone has heard the expression, ” You say to-may-to, we say ta-mah-to.” Here in the UK, it is still almost a daily event for me to have a bit of word wrangling with John over how different words may be pronounced. It’s interesting how we can be referring to the same thing, but saying it in different ways leaving room for confusion at times.

We just work it out generally, but there are times when it’s too funny not to share. One example that still makes me smile was when John and I were watching his granddaughter, Jersey Girl (JG) while her parents were away for a few days in Spain. Right before they were expected home from their trip, I called out to JG from the kitchen and asked her to please pick up the living room as her parents would be home soon. What I heard back was, “Pardon?” a word that had become a frequent refrain over the previous days whenever she was having trouble with my accent, pronunciation or phrase usage. A moment passed and then I heard her say, ” Do you want me to tidy up my toys? ” and I was reminded once again of all the ways we may speak the same language, but say things that have very different meanings.

Another example occurred when John came to see me in America. We went to Home Depot, a DIY store in midtown Atlanta because we were working on a few home repair projects while he was in town. The midtown Home Depot has a large customer base in the gay community and is generally pretty busy with lots of people around to help you if you need assistance. After searching on our own for what we needed, I began to look around for a salesperson to help us. Having absolutely no success with this I muttered something along the lines of…” not being able to find someone when you need them, ” to which John said in frustrated voice,” That’s because they’re all outside having a fag! ” My immediate response besides my eyebrows arching to the ceiling was to say very quickly, ” Shhh, you cannot say that here!” Of course, he meant that all the sales people were outside having a cigarette, but still….

Another adjustment was one that I had to work out over the phone during the early stages of our initially long distance relationship when John spoke about his granddaughter pulling faces.  I remember thinking, pulling faces… and visualizing what this might look like. It took a bit more conversation to discern that he meant making faces as in silly, funny ones. JG is a champion face puller having done so since before she could speak so that now if you even point a camera in her direction you may get a series of photographs that look like the ones below.

These were taken from a distance in low light and then enlarged so the quality is not the best, but you’ll get a good sense of what I’m talking about when you see them. Also, you should know that I had no idea that she was creating a different look for each shot as my completely unaware expression indicates.






The last two faces are my favorite funny ones that she “pulls.”  In case you’re wondering how JG learned to make such interesting looks for photographs, the one below is her mother practicing for the day when she’d need to teach her own daughter how to get a laugh with just a look.


10 thoughts on “You Say – We Say

  1. This really made me laugh – I can relate though I am in Texas; we sometimes speak a different language than the rest of the US. A coke is ANY soft drink, as in “You want a coke? – “Yeah” – “What kind?”. Fixin’ to means gonna, as in I’m fixin’ to have a coke , which may mean I’m gonna have a Dr. Pepper. LOL!

    Great post.

    🙂 Debi

  2. They say things in a completely different way in India too. I have had endless confusion over this. I’ll come back when I’ve had time to think up some examples!

  3. Great post – makes me wonder about all the times I may have unknowingly insulted someone. The HD incident is so funny. These language differences are very interesting and it is fun to read about your experiences.
    The photos are delightful! I love the way JG pulls faces (thanks for the new term!) She is beautiful, and so are you with your gorgeous smile, sincerely posing for the photos while she continues to pull as if she could go on forever. And I love the one of her mom, years ago, mastering the art! Beautiful shots!

    I haven’t been to my blog in a while and I just noticed your comments – thanks for stopping by! You are so right about winning and not winning, and as a GA Tech fan of many years, I mostly know about the not winning feeling, so this season is especially nice for all us old Tech die-hards. After last night’s win at Vandy, GA Tech is now 8-1, best record since the national championship year of 1990. Virginia Tech is a well-respected rival, and GA Tech fans know all to well how it feels to lose to those guys, so this was a great win. Sorry your daughter and her friends went home sad that evening, but as you say, can’t win every time.

    Ahh, Home Park! My husband and I lived in the high-rise married student bldg way back in the 70’s that used to be right off 10th St. in Home Park. Great memories of that neighborhood. He was working on his Masters and I was working in the GA Tech library. Our 9th floor apt. faced south and even tho we were very poor, we had a million dollar view of downtown Atlanta for a very low student rent rate. The high rise is long gone, but the neighborhood is hot – I’d love to own property there!

    I love your blog – can’t remember how I stumbled on it, but small world, huh?

  4. Oh this happens every day in our house as my kids can’t let anything go by. Yesterday it was me pronouncing pitta bread the way it is written (pitta) while they all say “peeda” bread. Excuse me? Is there a “d” in there anywhere? No, thought not.

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