Not the Same Language

I was remembering an episode from my past the other day and wanted to share it with you. I lived in Brazil for several years and taught ESL (English as a Second Language). The school where I taught specialized in British English. My first week, I was teaching a class of 4th and 5th grade students. One of the boys came up to me and said, "Teacher, do you have a rubber I can borrow?" (For any non-Americans who may not know, in US-English, "rubber" is slang for a condom.) Now, I knew this child was not asking me (in the middle of class, anyway)if he could borrow a condom. I didn't know what he wanted though, so I asked, "And, why do you need one?" He answered, gesturing to his paper on the desk, "I need to rub out an answer." Ah-ha..... in British English, rubber is slang for an eraser! I had one in my workbag and gave it to him.

When I taught my young adult class (more advanced) I took the opportunity to teach them both British and American slang. I could just see one of them coming to the US, needing to buy an eraser, going into a store and asking for a rubber.

It's fun discovering the differences in languages. I also found out (in a very embarrassing way) that in British English you do NOT call your behind your fanny. If you are interested in why, check out this
fun site.


Marianne Arkins said…

In Playing House, Tish uses a fanny pack. I do believe that Al was shocked... in Australia they're called "bum bags" for just the reason you were noting in your blog.

Incidentally, the link for "this site" re: british slang, didn't come through.