S is for Showing

Quick note to self. Stop calling that thing when people come and look at your house which is up for sale a “viewing”. That, I have learned, is a British thing. Instead, call it a “showing”. Because if you persist in calling it a “viewing”, all your American friends will be able to think of is something like this:


S is for Suspenders

Only in America would you get a text like this one from a neighbour:


To be fair – it is Halloween. But this is not the kind of neighbourhood where people borrow each other’s intimate underwear (thankfully). No one wanted one of these:


What they wanted were braces. By which I do not mean these:


I mean these:


Which left me wondering what these are called over here, if not suspenders…


And they are called a garter belt.

Which made me think of this:


Now that’s a long way from those:


But the Queen here is wearing robes as a member of the Order of the Garter which is one of those British things that you grow up hearing about but really not having a clue what it is. So I have done some highly superficial research and from the Encyclopaedia Brittanica I have learned that the Order of the Garter began in the 14th when Edward III gallantly picked up and wore a garter which had fallen from his dancing partner’s leg. Here he is in his Order of the Garter get-up:


All which is a long way to go from someone wanting braces/suspenders for a Halloween costume. But I liked it.

S is for Spring

A brief one…

Anyone wondering why the Google logo looked like this yesterday?


It was because Spring began yesterday at, wait for it, exactly 12.57 pm.

I know this because a) they said so on the radio in the morning and b) because Child 2 came home and shared this fact as his news at the dinner table last night.

I have covered the US approach to the seasons recently here, and to their bizarre accuracy about time here, so I very much enjoyed hearing those two cultural differences synthesize so perfectly yesterday. And really I am not too bothered about when Spring is sprung, so long as we are finished with that God awful Winter 🙂

When did Spring start in the UK this year?

S is for the Shamrock Shake

Child 2 didn’t have the happiest of weeks last week and so on Thursday when he put in a special request to be allowed to try a Shamrock Shake, I was weak. Yes, I succumbed and took Child 2 & 3 to that most famous emporium of fast food, McDonalds. Here is Child 3’s snap of the delicacy they were so keen to try:

photo 1A Shamrock Shake, for UK readers, is a seasonal delicacy served up by McDonalds in the week running up to St Patrick’s Day. As a Scot, I am not too interested in commemorating the old snake shoo-ers death day, but the Irish population over here, combined with a general (and laudable) desire by many people to have a good party, have ensured that March 17th is a BIG THING.

But what is a Shamrock Shake? Or – perhaps more to the point – what is IN a Shamrock Shake. Well the quick answer is…. too much. In fact AFTER our little visit to the House of the Golden Arches, I did the research I should have done before I went, and found out that this one shake has 54 ingredients. Can you believe it? 54 ingredients to make a ‘smooth and creamy mint flavoured shake topped with whipped cream and a cherry’? A “medium” shake (16 fl oz) has a whopping 660 calories and – wait for it – 93 grams of sugar. 93!! I have just read a CNN article which suggests that for a healthy adult less than 5% of their daily calories should come from sugar.

So if you are an average adult eating 2000 calories in a day…. only 100 of those calories should be from sugar. And as one gram of sugar has 4 calories that suggests to me that an adult (far less a kid) should not have more than 25 grams of sugar per day.

Which makes a Shamrock Shake look a lot less like a jolly green way to share some luck on St Patrick’s Day and more like a really, really bad thing to put in your mouth.

But there is an upside 🙂 There is one good thing about Shamrock Shakes.

They taste terrible.

Thank goodness they are the most disgusting cross between toothpaste and chewing gum you could ever imagine. Child 2 & 3 hated them. It is so unhealthy I’d have put money on Child 3 in particular loving it, but even she couldn’t drink it. Here’s the evidence (her one is on the right).

photo 2

So after this little adventure in bad parenting, I am left to reflect that I should have known that anything man-made and green could never be any good. Did I not pay attention to Blackadder all those years ago? Here is one of Percy’s finest moments – making purest Green. Definitely worth sitting through the advert:

S is for Strep

Strep or strep throat is short for streptococcus pharengytis.


It’s a bacterial infection (currently setting up home in Child 2’s throat) and his symptoms include a sore throat, a temperature over 102, some vomiting and a lot of limp wimpy behavior.

Thankfully Child 2 is quite a cute patient. When he asked me yesterday if throwing up in the corridor at school counted as vandalism I was very amused by the relief on his face when I said it was not. He has also thanked me repeatedly for fetching him water in the night and ‘doing everything for him.’ He has also declared that the Heinz tomato soup I bought him from the special little UK foods section in our local supermarket is ‘the best.’

But the burning question, from a translation standpoint at least, is – is strep throat the same as tonsillitis? Kids in the UK, as far as I am aware, do not commonly get strep throat but it is all the rage here and in Canada. In my totally unscientific opinion, it’s one of the most common childhood ailments. And it’s not just a sore throat – as evidenced by the fever and the prescription of antibiotics I just collected for Child 2. But does that mean it’s tonsillitis?

And the answer, as far as I can determine is… kind of. Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils caused by either a virus or the strep bacteria and I’m pretty sure that the definition of tonsillitis is the same in the US and the UK. But here’s what I think… I think if Child 2 had strep in the UK, a doctor would call it tonsillitis and give antibiotics. If it was viral tonsillitis, they’d call it a sore throat. Whereas here you have strep or a virus. But what do I know?

S is for Snogging

kissOver a cocktail or seven this weekend I happened to use the word snogging causing general uproar and confusion amongst my lovely American lady friends.  But what a mighty fine word it is! For those who do not know the term, it means kissing. Or to be more precise French kissing, which, just in case that’s another term that hasn’t travelled the many waves of the Atlantic, means kissing with tongues. In other words, not the kind of kissing you do with your Dad. Some dictionaries do suggest it can mean more than kissing, but I’m very clear that it doesn’t. Americans, snogging does not mean making out. Snogging is kissing. And that’s all. Making out, I have been advised, is much more of a catch-all term that can be quite useful when you don’t want to be too open about what you have or have not been getting up to. Perhaps more on that another time.

But for now back to snogging. I can’t seem to find an etymology for it, except a suggestion that it comes from the word snug. I’m not sure about that… although there is a cuddly aspect to snogging which isn’t present with a couple of synonyms for snogging that I wouldn’t use now but did as a teen. Necking, for example. Means the same thing but doesn’t sound cuddly. In fact it sounds almost violent. Or how about nashing? On reflection, perhaps I ought to have spelt with a g at the front. Snogging but with teeth? Nice.

I did read today that snogging has increased in popularity as a word in the US since this happened:


Apparently JK used the word snog in one of the Harry Potter books and happily it wasn’t translated into something else for the US audience. Jolly good thing. Looks like me and JK Rowling are spreading the word. Perfect company to imagine being in 😉

S is for Stroller

The trouble with children is that you are always having to get them from A to B in one piece. And as they grow, and as you have more and more of them (in our case, we had three on our hands before number 1 had even turned 4), your need for equipment grows too.

With Child 1, we started off with one of these:

three wheelerI would call this a pushchair, even maybe a jogging pushchair, or at a stretch, a jogger. We chose it over some of the more fantastic beasts on the market at the time which I believe are known on both sides of the Atlantic as a travel system.

But by the time Child 1 was 18 months old, his little brother had come along At that point we moved to this:

double pushAnd this I would call a double buggy. I think of it as a pushchair. But I’m pretty sure I’d call it a double buggy. It always made me feel a bit like the driver of a double decker bus.

So far so good. But we were not done having children. And since they don’t do triple pushchairs (as far as I know) we added this:

buggyboardAnd that’s a buggy board.

Of course as time passes, the need for these aids to perambulation decline. The boys were able to walk further, the double buggy was abandoned (hurrah!) and we down-sized to one of these:

strollerAnd this, finally, I would call a stroller.

Ours was great. It cost twenty quid in Argos and survived many a baggage carousel in many an airport. I could hang more shopping bags on that thing than was ever safe or sensible and with Children 1&2’s hands clamped on each side and Child 3 strapped in the seat, we were unstoppable…. At least until one of them needed the toilet, or was thirsty, or started crying etc etc.

I hope I am right in thinking that all of the above (except the buggy board) would be called a stroller in the US. And I do like the term stroller. For a start it implies a lot less effort than pushchair. The original, perambulator, has a nice ring to it too, conjuring up visions of leisurely Victorian walks through parks with lakes with families of swans gliding around and nursemaids watching boys in sailor suits playing pooh sticks.


Whereas buggy…

According to the Urban Dictionary a buggy, is a collective noun for clowns. And that spelt buggie, in Pittsburg, it’s a shopping cart. Of course I’d call that a trolley. But that’s a whole other post.