A is for Aluminum

On Tuesday Child 2 found something I said so amusing that he had to get his phone out and record me. Seriously, that’s just wrong. Isn’t it??

Anyway the word in question, as you may have guessed, was Aluminum, because in Britain its not Aluminum, its Aluminium.

To be clear:

US English – Aluminum – pronounced Aloominum

UK English – Aluminium – pronounced Al-you-min-eum

For the record I can tell you that after you’ve repeated it 20 times for the entertainment of your 13 year old, you can no longer pronounce either right and may well wish you’d wish you had not been born.

So why this difference in spelling and pronunciation for the 13th Element of the periodic table? Well I did a little research and for a while I thought that the element was first identified at the beginning of nineteenth century by this man, Humphry Davy:


So I read a bit more about Humphry Davy and found out he (maybe) invented the Davy Lamp (which I remember learning about at school) and also that he was addicted to laughing gas (which wasn’t on the curriculum, sadly). Also sadly though, it turned out he didn’t discover aluminium/aluminum and the website I read that on was wrong. That’s because this man, Hans Christian Orsted, discovered it instead:


You can just tell by looking at him that he wasn’t addicted to anything, can’t you? Although he did write poetry, so perhaps I’m wrong.

After all that, I have failed thus far to shed any real light on the aluminum/aluminium difference, beyond the common, post-Independence divergence of the language. But I did get a giggle in a thread of comments I read on the About.com chemistry page on Aluminum which I have a snapshot of here, just to show that squabbles over US/UK language differences are alive and well on the good-old internet:

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 1.30.58 PM


P is for Persil (you say Per-sill, I say Per-zill)

It is with deep joy that I announce that my favourite (favorite) washing powder (laundry detergent) has just arrived Stateside and is exclusively available at Walmart, only 4.1miles from our house!

Here’s an amusing little ad (commercial) for it:

The pronunciation is amusing me greatly but what I am most happy about is THE SMELL.

Today I washed child 2’s clothes in it and when they came out of the drier I tested them out on child 3. Child 3 has a great sense of smell and the instant I wafted some under her nostrils she cried, “They smells like Granny!”

Now in some families this might not be a good thing, but thankfully Child 3’s granny is not too old or crumbly (banish those stereotypes of boiled cabbage or rose-scented hand cream immediately) and so her clothes and indeed her house, Child 3 says, smell of Persil. Which is a good thing. To me it smells fresh and clean.

When you move counties or continents you miss things you don’t expect. Persil, I have missed thee. Your scent is welcome in my home.

Z is for zee


What a relief! Last month Mr T got a new job and is no longer the employee of a major international company whose name we cannot pronounce. Of course looking at the news headlines, it may not exist much longer (if Pfizer has their way) but while it still exists, I am prompted to talk about that company and the letter zee.


AstraZeneca – AZ for short – is pronounced AZed in Britain and AZee over here. What a gift for someone looking for differences betwen US & UK English. Tons of people round here have heard of AZ (AZee) and they have that special look I’ve described before when we call it AZed instead.

So why zee?

One school of thought says it’s all about the rhyme. You know it: A, B, C, D bla bla bla V, W, X, Y and ZEE. Now I know my A, B, C, bla bla bla bla follow Meeee.

It doesn’t work with Zed. Because Zed rhymes with… oh, yes!

Who doesn’t recognise this clip??

Happily of course, Zed is far from dead but living (a kinder, less violent life I hope) in any number of locations in the British Isles. And it seems that his cousin Zee, although living in the US and one of the many in the population who don’t have a passport, does have perfect immigrant credentials and is another example (like Fall) of a word or pronunciation, once use in Britain that came over with the Pilgrims and  is thriving in the New World, despite perishing in the old.

So live on and prosper Zee. Especially now I am no longer required to say AZed ever again (hopefully).



S is for Schedule (verb)

teethSo today I finally called the orthodontist to schedule an appointment for Child 3 and the phone call was a continual act of simultaneous translation on my part. First up, I said I was calling to sKedule the appointment. At home I would have said SHedule… well, really I’d probably have said “book”. Then I gave the nice lady my cell (mobile) number and full address with zip (post) code. I had to turn down the first appointment she offered me because we will be on vacation (holiday) and then I had to mangle some dates, remembering to say the month first. This only really matters when I’m saying or writing Child 2’s birthday as it’s January 12th. 12/1 is not same here as 1/12. But I always have to think before I speak.

And of course we couldn’t even show up at the office unless they had pinned down our insurance details. That takes a bit of getting used to and involved more birth dates, social security numbers and so on.

After all that endeavour, I’ve not really spent much time contemplating the reason I am taking her there and the distinct possibility that if we were in the UK, I wouldn’t be booking any such appointments. The probability is that in the UK we wouldn’t be about to have a palatal expander put in our 8 year old’s mouth, or seeing this as the first step in a process towards a shared vision of perfect white teeth. Perhaps that’s why its taken me over a year to actually book the appointment and perhaps I’ll be sorry that I have. But Child 3 has no such qualms. Many (many!) of her friends have already been down the same route (pronounced rout here) and she seems quite excited about the whole idea. When in Rome, I guess…

W is for WimbleTon

Tomorrow is a big day in this house. It is Child 1’s 12th birthday. But more importantly, it’s the men’s final at WimbleTon. Just in case there’s anyone in the world that doesn’t know this: it has been 77 years since a Brit won WimbleTon.

Here is the last British winner, Fred Perry:


Perry won WimbleTon three years in a row and in 1936 his winning scoreline was 6-1, 6-1, 6-0. I think we can safely say that tomorrow’s score will look nothing like that. But if Andy Murray can beat Djokovic to become WimbleTon Champion, I will be a happy bunny.

While Murray has made his way to the WimbleTon final for the second year running, the US have had their worst showing in the men’s singles for 101 years so talk of WimbleTon is pretty muted around here. Just as well probably. There’s something very, very absurd about this common mispronunciation. I have spent quite a bit of the last WimbleTon fortnight (now there’s a word!!) trying to induce people to say the name of the world’s greatest tennis tournament to see if they fall into this d/t trap and they don’t all, by any means. But when they do it is seriously hard not to laugh. I guess it’s almost as funny to me as it is to them when I try and say Maryland – of which more soon in a future post.

For now I am all about Andy Murray and Wimbledon, WimbleTon, Shimbletown – call it whatever, just let him win it!


Oh, and happy birthday to child 1… when the WimbleTon final is over.

C is for Car-ml

What? What is this car-ml? Here is a visual clue:


Ah! car-ml is carAmEl, that yummy thing that happens when you heat up sugar. The strange pronunciation of caramel in these parts has long been a bugbear for Mr T, so I was very happy to come across the following dialect map on Facebook today.


I can confirm that we live (just) in an area indicated in red on the map and so we are in two syllable car-ml territory. The research was done by Joseph Katz at NC State University and his wonderful project of US dialect maps can be viewed here.

There are some great (and important) questions addressed. My favourites include:

What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket? Trolley is not even an option!

What do you call the act of covering a house or area in front of a house with toilet paper? There is a name for that? Other than stupid? Apparently it is “tp’ing”

What do you call an easy course? Okay. Now I am lost! The sample answers are “other”, “blow-of”, “gut” and “crip course”. Suggestions on a postcard please 😉

G is for Graham Cracker

So far I have not touched on the thorny issue of pronunciation. The old you say tomAto, I say tomatOE thing. But with three kids in school here, the youngest two of whom appear to be totally uninfluenced by my Scottish accent (weakened as it may be) or their father’s English one, please believe that this is a live issue in this house. Because these are not shy, retiring kids, these three. When they hear something they think is wrong, they’ll say so, and one of the words we routinely say wrong, is Graham. That might not be much of a problem (thankfully none of them is actually named Graham!) were it not for the popularity of this particular food item:


So what is a Graham Cracker? I guess I’d describe it as a fairly plain biscuit, probably more a like a Digestive than a Rich Tea, often drunk with milk. It can also be an ingredient in smores, but I think that’s a post for another day. The point here is that every time we have this fairly innocuous looking food product in our house a squabble breaks out.

That’s because the kids call this a….. grum cracker.

And we adults call it a Gray-ham (or at a push a Gray-hum) cracker.

I mean, can’t they see the ‘h’ in the middle of the word? Why can’t they? Do they think bum is spelled buham, do they??

No? Then I rest my case.

And will now go back to playing with my dolls. That is all.