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Untranslatable October VII summary

Better late than never (I hope) here is the summary of the SEVENTH 'Untranslatable October'—my
annual tweeting of an 'British–American untranslatable' (that is, item lexicalized in one national dialect and not the other) on each weekday. If you'd like to complain that any of the following does not qualify as 'untranslatable', please first read my provisos about what's meant by untranslatable in this context. Yes, it's an imperfect word for the situation. But so is nearly every other word in nearly every situation.

BrE safeguarding legalistic processes for protecting vulnerable people. See Wikipedia for description. (Starting to be seen in US, but nowhere as prevalent/broad.) Suggested by @Gnorrn

AmE podunk (adj.) - There are lots of words for small towns or remote places, but podunk is interesting for its use as an adjective, describing to a place of little importance, as in: Her degree is from some podunk college.  Suggested by @kirkpoore.

The 2016 gurning competition winner
at the Egremont Crab Fair
BrE to gurn - to make (or BrE pull) a grotesque face. (In Scotland the word also means 'complain peevishly'.) Gurning competitions are a long-held tradition, particularly in Cumbria.

AmE shut-in (n.) - a person confined to their own home due to (physical or mental) infirmity.

BrE heath and safety - it refers to safety regulations, but the phrase's cultural importance goes far beyond what a phrase like OSHA regulations would do in the US. Sometimes mocked as Elf and Safety, a joke that takes advantage of two Londony dialect features: h-dropping and th-fronting (th->f).

AmE blue-ribbon - as in blue-ribbon panel. Not the same meaning as winning a prize, it's about people who are chosen on the basis of their high reputation for some other activity. See Wikipedia.

BrE fry-up - a breakfast of separate, mostly fried foods, usually including eggs, sausages, bacon, some starch, and, around here, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans. Now, this is a debatable inclusion, as it could be argued that the fry-up itself doesn't exist in the US. We'd never put some of those thing on a breakfast plate. I took the position here that a full English (breakfast) (which is sometimes treated as a synonym of fry-up) would not be a legal untranslatable for my purposes, because it assumes certain types of ingredients and breakfasts with those ingredients are not found in the US (so the US doesn't have the expression because it doesn't have the thing). But since fry-up is more ambiguous about what's on the plate, and Americans do eat fried, separate foods on a plate for breakfast (especially in diners) and we don't have a word for it (other than listing the things on the plate), it counts as something that could be an expression there but isn't. Suggested by @mhanson62 

AmE recuse - to challenge in a legal context on the grounds of conflict of interest. Hence to recuse oneself: to remove oneself from discussion or position so as to avoid conflict of interest. I got complaints about this one because Englishfolk thought "but it's a word we use all the time". But really, it wasn't until recently a word that Brits (except for Scottish legal types) had much exposure to.  I know because I wrote a blog post about it 10 years ago.
Hanging out on the stoop in NYC. Image from here.

BrE parp - an onomatopoetic word for (as opposed to a straight imitation of) the noise of a fart (unlike raspberry, refers only to the fart-noise, not to the imitative lip-noise)

AmE stoop - the front steps of a (porchless) house. Used especially in northeastern US, borrowed from Dutch

BrE lock-in - a time when are locked in a pub (by their agreement!) to continue drinking after legal drinking hours. Suggested by @lilyglowember

AmE lock-in - an event in which teens are locked into a church/school/community cent{er/re} for a night of wholesome fun, study, or fundraising. wiseGEEK has more.  (Suggested by many people after the BrE lock-in.)

BrE break one's duck - (of an individual, usually) to score a first point. Explained further by World Wide Words. Suggested by @lawwife2005

AmE padiddle Also: pediddle, or as we said it in my family, perdiddle. It's a game in which you call out the word and possibly kiss or punch (depending on whether it's with your sweetheart or siblings) the person next to you when you see a car with a headlight out. (In my family, it was perdiddle for a headlight, padaddle for a tail light. By extension, it becomes a name for a car with a faulty light (and that's the meaning I'm deeming the Untranslatable). Here's Wikipedia on it.  Suggested by @sethadelman

BrE a good degree - an undergraduate degree that is easily 'usable' for employment or (post)graduate study. Which is to say, a first or 2:1 (pronounced 'two-one') in the English degree classification system. US degrees are not classified, but instead students' transcripts, with grade-point averages, are used as evidence of academic success. There's no cut-off between the 'good' and the 'bad'.

AmE chicken scratch - cramped, illegible handwriting. Some discussion as to whether BrE spider scrawl is the same. To me they bring up different images of the type of writing, but maybe they are close enough to count as translatable. Several correspondents pointed out that there are chicken-related expressions for bad handwriting in many languages.

BrE well that’s me told then - a passive-aggressive response given when the responder finds their interlocutor patroni{s/z}ing. On Twitter we discussed whether AmE That'll teach me! is the same, but there was some agreement that, as @xtnjohnson put it, "that’ll teach me implies some genuine self-reproach — this [BrE} phrase deftly shifts focus to the other party". But thinking further on it now, I think the usage is translatable as:  I stand corrected.

AmE bully pulpit - a position of political power from which one can 'inspire or moralize' World Wide Words covered it here.

BrE fall between two stools - to either not be or not take one of two good alternatives

AmE to go stag - (for a man) to go to an event without a date. Suggested by @SimonKoppel

BrE the family home - a legalistic term that's become common in journalism. The Shelter charity offers a definition and discussion here.  Suggested by @cococoyote. @arielmc_g  pointed out that primary residence might serve as a US legal equivalent, but that doesn't have the traction or connotations that family home has beyond the courtroom.

Of course, on the first of November, I started having ideas for next year's list--but I am pretty sure I'll reduce to a week then. It is definitely more work than my usual Differences of the Day.

Today is the last day of the Term from Hell. I should be posting more regularly in the new year. (Thank you to a few people who expressed concern for my well-being because of the lack of posts!) Next up will be the Word of the Year posts, for US-to-UK and UK-to-US words that have made a splash in 2017. Nominations still welcome!

This post first appeared on Separated By A Common Language, please read the originial post: here

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Untranslatable October VII summary


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