Sedans and Saloons, Oh My!

As I mentioned, the lingo is slightly different here. In this entry, I’ll focus on the different classes of cars.

This is a sedan:

A sedan

A sedan.

The Brits call it a saloon. Naturally, that always makes me think it should look like this:


Thanks to Chris for making this image.

A saloon, complete with spitoon.
Thanks to Chris for making this image.

One salesman actually used the word sedan with me recently, and it was so very refreshing – I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it. Ah, the little things.

More pictures …

Also, this is a station wagon:

A station wagon.

A station wagon.

The Brits call it an estate. Makes it sound like a completely different beast, doesn’t it? After all, The Chatsworth Estate doesn’t quite have the same ring as The Chatsworth Station Wagon, for example. 😉

Car salesmen know what an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) is, and also talk about Crossovers and MPVs (Multi Purpose Vehicles), but I can’t see a difference between these three, myself. What’s really weird is that my friends are really clueless about what SUVs are when I mention them. Even describing them (as tall estates, for example) yields confusion. I’ve yet to figure out what SUVs are known as colloquially – but it’s okay; I only need to know how to communicate with the car salesmen (and women, if I ever find any), and I can do that.

Mazda Tribute 2.0 GSi SUV

Mazda Tribute 2.0 GSi SUV

Infiniti EX 3.7 GT SUV

Infiniti EX 3.7 GT SUV

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi Titan SUV

Kia Sportage 2.0 Titan SUV



Citroen C4 Picasso MPV

Citroen C4 Picasso MPV

Seat Alhambra MPV

Seat Alhambra MPV

Volvo XC60 Crossover

Volvo XC60 Crossover

Mazda CX5 Crossover

Mazda CX5 Crossover

Skoda Yeti Crossover

Skoda Yeti Crossover

Beyond these, there are the superminis, which are the tiny baby cars that haven’t yet grown up. 😉 There’s a brilliant bumper sticker on one red one I pass frequently that says, “When I grow up, I want to be a fire engine!” There are the small family cars, which are smaller than their American counterparts. There are the family cars, the compact executives, the executive cars, the luxury cars. Shrinking back down, we get the coupes, which the people who can’t pronounce fillet correctly suddenly decide needs to rhyme with the American fillet, so it’s ridiculously written as coupé and it’s even pronounced as two syllables. When I’m feeling particularly irritated at the process, I get the white out and obliterate the stupid accent mark from whatever magazine I’m reading. Lastly, convertibles get renamed cabriolets, just because that’s a fun word to say, I think.

Each car comes with about six to 24 different engine choices, and I’m learning lots in sussing out what all the mysterious acronyms mean. My determination to research and choose something I’m happy with bleeds into most decisions I make (consumer and otherwise) – and a car’s the second biggest purchase a person will ever make (unless they immigrate) – so this is a long process, not helped by the weather and other difficulties, but we’re hoping to be happy with it in the end!

Chris remains steadfastly against getting the Porsche, however. No matter how many times I tell him that all the models get top marks for reliability! 🙁

One day, Porsche, one day!

One day, Porsche, one day!

They’re Vacations, Not Holidays

Happy August! We find ourselves deep in summer trip territory with this turning of the calendar page. Ah, but what do we call those journeys?

If you’re American, they’re vacations, and you don’t necessarily get them very often. There is no national (federal) law requiring any paid time off to be granted to employees for vacation purposes; this falls under the benefits we look for when we job hunt, along with a raft of other things.

If you’re British, your summer trip is a holiday, and you’re guaranteed the paid time off, at least, by the law: every worker gets four weeks’ paid time off every year.

If you’re American, a holiday comes from the words Holy Day, so our holidays come from Holy Days: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, American Independence Day – what, you don’t think patriotism in America is a religion? Clearly you’ve not spent long enough in that culture. We’ve tacked on some more, of course: Presidents’ Day, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day, Mardi Gras, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and New Year’s Day.

If you’re English or Welsh, days like those are called bank holidays, and aside from a scant few (namely, Christmas, Boxing Day, Good Friday, and Easter Monday), are just arbitrary Mondays throughout the year that create 3-day weekends. (There are one or two more meaningful bank holidays for the Scottish and Northern Irish.) The same ideas apply for bank holidays as for federal holidays as regards time off – it’s not guaranteed you’ll get those days off, that’s mostly for office workers, etc. Much of the retail and leisure sector operates as normal, or even at fever pitch, on those days, so obviously those workers don’t get the time off. In years past in the UK, they used to get some sort of compensation – double pay or paid time off later – but those rules have gone now, so they’re just treated the same as any other day on the calendar. In the US, some employers will pay 1.5x the regular hourly rate, but that’s entirely voluntary, and infrequent.

So if you’re British, you “go on your holidays” or you “go on holiday” or you’re “off on your jollies.” Americans will “go on vacation” or … other things that escape me right now. (My fellow Americans, chime in in the comments!)

If you’re British, and you’re trying to make a date with a friend but look at your diary and see that you’re going to be on your jollies some 100 miles distant that week, you’re away. If you’re American, you look at your calendar, phone, or planner, see the same thing, and tell them you’ll be out of town.

Another aspect of breaks is the staycation. In the US, this generally means you have time off work/school/etc, but stay in your house. Perhaps you arrange a series of day trips, or perhaps you just sleep in and enjoy not having to put on your uniform each day, or whatever. In the UK, because vacations have been for some years decidedly things that involve going abroad, when the term came across from the US, they adapted it to mean staying in the country. I give you the chart from the Office for National Statistics showing this – this is the federal government’s statistics arm:


(GB here means Great Britain: England, Wales, and Scotland.)

This brings me nicely to another point about vacations: because the UK is so small (remember, it’s only the size of Louisiana and Arkansas put together), and because there are many other countries nearby, it’s really common for people to go abroad at least sometimes – even school trips will sometimes go abroad. It really breaks my English friends’ brains when they realize that most Americans go through their whole lives without once going abroad … but then, most of them don’t ever realize just how BIG the US is, so you can have all manner of vacations and experience many different cultures without ever leaving the country. I try to tell them: it’s over twice the size of the EU; it doesn’t really sink in. Indeed, what Chris and I began to suspect on our US road trip last year was that for the most part, it doesn’t really register even to those living there just how vast the country is, until you really go out and explore it.

My word choices these days are very conscious, deliberate things – given choices, I’m having a field day reducing ambiguity, which always seems to me the best goal to have in communication (probably has something to do with that math degree). So no matter what passports I hold, they’ll always be vacations; holidays are days of meaning, and perhaps even holy days. And I really don’t like this word staycation, regardless of how it’s used, so it’ll either be “time off” or “vacation” or some other word or phrase that’s served us so well for so many years. Oh, and a diary is always a private record for my eyes only, not a schedule of events – that’s a calendar (which could be on my phone or in a planner). I think a UK journal is a US diary, but I’m not sure; a journal will always be to me a less personal record, such as a lab journal, or the journal of water outages I started keeping when we had a spate of those: logs meant to share.

Isn’t language funny?

Introducing a new page

Once upon a time, I spent a great deal of mental effort making sure to choose the right words and phrases before they came out of my mouth. It wore me out. I finally realized that, because I’ve moved from the US to the UK, and not the other way around, and particularly because I’m living in the friendly place I do, I’m surrounded by people who will just understand my meaning and roll with it, instead of doing that stereotypical American thing of demanding the immigrant to perfectly fit in, berating and shaming them if they don’t. Sometimes my friends and I don’t understand each other, but we just ask nicely; whoever was speaking will explain, and it’s all okay, really. It’s not the horrible thing I feared it would be. So now I just use whatever words come to mind, and I’m so much less worn out when I converse with friends, which is as it should be.

I do, however, still notice the differing word choices, and you’ve seen me include the translations here when I feel it’s appropriate, since I have readers on both sides of that vast ocean*. I’ve decided to start a page collecting up some of these words and phrases, with the best translations I can think of for them, linking to blog entries where I more fully explore their meanings and connotations – as I know them so far! Eventually, once more content is added, you’ll be able to check that page for a translation if you’re not sure.

I’m a little on the fence about the name for that page (ironically). It’ll certainly have translations, such as sick/ill/poorly/puny, so it could be called Translations. However, it may also serve as a repository for words and phrases specific to me / me & Chris / Glossop / Derbyshire, such as “When I were alive.” In that latter case, it feels more like a Glossary. For now, I’ve decided to take Chris’ suggestion and call it Words Of Interest, without the audio file that plays it in a booming god-voice everytime you look at the phrase (we concluded that’d be annoying). Anyway, so the name might change (or not), but you’ll surely be able to figure out what it is on the menu bar.

Oh yes, and finally: sometimes I may put tongue-in-cheek translations on this new page.

* I’ve decided: Anyone who thinks it’s just a pond has clearly never flown over it, or listened to Jan Meek talk about rowing across it. It’s a 24-hour day with three separate flights each time I fly to my parents’, and then the same again to come home. It’s an ocean.

I don’t feel so well…

Ugh, I hate being this way.

What way is that? I have a throbbing head, a massive sneeze that returns frequently enough to make my chest ache, a running nose (I didn’t tell it to go for a run, no idea where it got that notion!), at night a sore throat, and so on. I have a head cold.

To my UK friends, I’m poorly. To my US friends, I’m sick, or ill.

These aren’t reversible …

These don’t work the other way around, I note: I’m not sick to my UK friends, because sick to them is a direct replacement for the word vomit. “I had to clean up her sick” means “I had to clean up her vomit.” It’s not a synonym, which usually has a slightly different meaning or connotation (take car, which has a synonym of automobile, but automobile means many more things than just car – could mean a truck, etc).

I don’t know how other Americans use ill, but I picked it up as a slightly more elegant way of saying sick, with the same range of meanings: you’re sick or ill whether you have a head cold, pneumonia, cancer, or whatever; you have to use other words to convey which it is (I generally unimaginatively use the words head cold, pnuemonia, cancer, and so on). A few times I’ve said someone’s ill to my friends here, and they react with such concern that it’s as though the person in question is on their death bed. I now usually remember to not use ill.

A new American word for my current state has entered my awareness recently: puny. My aunt wrote in a letter recently: “I have been a little puny this week, but as the day goes by, I am doing better.” Then when I was on the phone to my grandmother, she used the word puny to describe my current state. So I think puny and poorly are the best match, but I don’t know how widespread puny is (in this meaning). I just don’t remember coming across it that much, but then, it’s not the kind of thing I paid much attention to until having to learn the new vocabulary for it.

But then, in a recent conversation, someone was talking about his father, who’d been in the hospital for 9 weeks before dying recently, very sad. He said, “… but by then, Dad was poorly,” referring to that 9 weeks. So poorly doesn’t always mean a mild illness, clearly.

Forget sick/poorly/etc. I’ve decided that I prefer to simply call my current self a snot monster.