Showing posts with label odd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label odd. Show all posts

British Oddities - Behold the Chip Butty

Let me preface this by saying that I've never eaten a chip butty and, unless completely plastered and desperate for carbs, I probably never will.

A butty is another word for sandwich over in these parts, usually reserved for combinations involving a bread and breakfast meat. Sarnie also means sandwich, though I'm not sure the difference between a sarnie and a butty. It's like how the Inuit people supposedly have hundreds of words for snow - the British have a lot of different ways to say 'stuff between bread'.

Did you know the word 'sandwich' came from someone named John Montagu who "revived the concept of bread as utensil" in the 1700s. He named his revival after himself - he happened to be the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. Incidentally, Hawaii used to be known as the Sandwich Islands, named after the Fourth Earl by Captain Cook. The word butty came a few decades later and has less certain origins, though it is believed to be a slang combination of the words 'bread and butter' (how's that?) and originated in Yorkshire.

Only today was the concept of the chip butty unveiled to me and I just totally don't get it. The concept seems as goofy to me as the idea of eating pasta with rice on top. Has anyone eaten one of these? Was it good? Please enlighten me.

The chip butty so inspires some people that there is a song that is sung at Sheffield football matches - Sheffield being in North England where the chip butty is quite beloved. Sung to the tune of John Denver's Annie's Song:
You fill up my senses
Like a gallon of Magnet
Like a packet of Woodbines
Like a good pinch of snuff
Like a night out in Sheffield
Like a greasy chip butty
Like Sheffield United
Come fill me again....
Na Na Na Naa Naa Naaaaa, ooo!

Image of the Chip Butty from Fotobank.

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For the Next Cocktail Party

I am totally making these cutie pie olive and carrot penguin appetizers at my next cocktail party. Maybe a pre-birthday drink fest in February before dragging reluctant friends out for karaoke?

I think they are the perfect martini favour.

Image by Mathea Tanner.

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I Wanna Speak Like Common People

As a language obsessive, one of the things that has dogged me since moving to the UK is the strange insistence so many people here have on using the word whilst instead of while and amongst instead of among (and a few others).

I've never adopted the habit and, in my professional life, often find myself correcting it out of our content. Over the last year or so that I've been in my job (I work in marketing), my insistence on using the common, modern while and among has slowly been eroded and quite recently, I'd all but given it up. Although my employer is quite agreeable and allows me to adopt the language style-guide I think is the most appropriate for the tone of our brand, I slowly allowed myself to become convinced that the difference was geographic and that as a Canadian, I just didn't relate to this particular turn of phrase.

Tonight, armed with a bit of time between episodes of The Wire, I decided to do a little research and I am renewed in my petition against the common use of these particular two terms.

According to Wikipedia, reputable language stylistas on both sides of the Atlantic have renounced the use of the word whilst, including the Times Online Style Guide and the Guardian Style Guide. "Notably, there are no style guides that explicitly recommend the usage of whilst over while in any circumstances whatsoever. The general consensus of English is that whilst is an unnecessary, archaic word whose primary usage is by Britons who prefer what they perceive as a more 'noble' word. Its etymology derives from the early English whiles and, simply put, while is the word that has replaced whilst in modern English, just as thee and thou were replaced by you." (source)

I've found similar results when trying to get to the bottom of the use of amongst over among.

So why are whilst and amongst so commonly used over here? I don't tend to spend time with pretentious people or royalty. I am most often editing things written by developers - that is, people who write code. Call them many things, but they are definitely not pretentious. If the origins of both words are similar to thee and thou, and the evolution of language has truly made them archaic, why are they still so prevalent, so ... common?

Although I am renewed in my effort to purge our official company language of these kinds of terms on the basis that I believe language is at its most effective and powerful when it is simple and accessible, I have to conclude that technically, whilst and amongst are not wrong or meant to be poncy (unless you are royalty) but likely just the result of habit.

Some sources I've looked at have suggested that the choice is completely aesthetic. Apart from writers and language whores, I doubt many people think about their choice long enough to really understand why they use one word over another. Besides, why would anyone intentionally choose to clothe their sentences in the linguistic equivalent of this:


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British Oddities - Eggs

I could easily construct a top ten list of the things I find most culturally odd about Britain (and in some ways, I have an ongoing one I am compiling and revising constantly in my head). On that list I would definitely include that supermarkets in this country consistently do not refrigerate their eggs. It is also considered completely normal to keep your eggs on the counter top in your kitchen, not in the ice box.

According to the Egg Safety Centre (yes, there is such a thing!), you should refrigerate eggs and even throw out any that have been accidentally left out on the counter for over two hours and the USDA agrees. Despite the fact that it feels patently wrong to me to not refrigerate any animal products (meat, eggs, cheese, milk ...) I do regularly eat eggs over here that have undoubtedly lived chill free on a supermarket shelf, and as far as I know, have yet to get sick from them.

I do put them in the fridge the moment I get home from the market though and I have to say, if I think about it too much, it creeps me out a little.

Two points to anyone who can tell me how this cultural anomaly came about!

Robin Eggs image from Photoholic1 .

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