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OSCAR WILDE

THE BRITISH AND THE AMERICANS HAVE EVERYTHING IN COMMON, EXCEPT, OF COURSE, THE LANGUAGE

Textul de mai jos reprezint mrturisirile unei americance care viziteaz Anglia i ntmpin unele dificulti de ordin lingvistic, prezentate de Oscar Wilde ntr-un celebru paradox: The British and the Americans have everything in common, except, of course, the language .

THEY SPEAK ENGLISH TOO

Thanks heavens we wont have to worry about making ourselves understood on this trip, you think as you board an English liner, bound for Liverpool! No need for interpreters or a 700 page dictionary again. But scarcely six hours pass before your high spirits begin to sink as you notice that you and your English fellowpassengers do not speak the same language after all. At dinner, the very first night, your eyes note the word maize on the menu. Maize, you mutter, maize, a color appearing on the menu? A friendly Englishman next to you explains helpfully, Maize is what you Americans call Indian Corn. Oh, corn, you smile understandingly. No, not just <corn> - but <Indian corn>, he patiently explains. Corn, to us, refers to wheat, rye, or barley. You laugh weakly, daring no further remarks until you reach dessert. This you find does not mean the whole last course, but includes fruits only and is served after the course referred to as the sweets. In the sweets course are listed all the puddings, pastries and cakes you have always called dessert. At breakfast, the biscuits turn out to be merely our crackers; yet should you ask for crackers the waiter would be horrified, for crackers to him mean only fire crackers (most indigestible food, youll agree). Shortly after landing you start out from your hotel to visit the places of interest. If you should go to see friends, you should not say visit, for in England that word is applied to a much longer stay at least overnight. A shorter stay is merely a call. Yet, inconsistent as it may seem, you leave your visiting card for the hostess who was not at home when you called. But to return to your sightseeing trip. You soon find yourself applying to the bobby (policeman in America) for information or directions. If your destination is within walking distance, hell probably say: First turning (never block) right, or Second turning left. If its a greater distance away, hell suggest a tram (our trolley or streetcar) or the underground or tube (never subway). You wont be in London many days before you find your vocabulary changing. You no longer mail letters by dropping them into a mail box, you post them by dropping into one of the red pillar-boxes that stand on the corners of the streets; you never stand in a line to buy anything, you stand in a queue; and you no longer reckon your weight in pounds, but in stones. An Englishman does not say he weighs 162 pounds, he says I weigh 11 stone 8.

Your first shopping experiences are rather annoying. Department stores in England are called general or multiple shops. In fact you dont go to a store to buy things, you go to a shop. The salesman is called a shop-assistant, never a clerk. This word is applied to book-keepers and office workers, and rhymes with park. In search for a tie for your brother, you ask for the haberdashery department. Then having followed directions carefully, you stop short in surprise. Whats this?, you ask. To the right and left of you are buttons, pins, thread, in fact all the items known in America as notions! So now that you have learned that English haberdashery departments are American notion counters, you begin to wonder whether a dictionary to English shopping would not save you much inconvenience and irritation. Our dry good stores become drapers shops, drug stores are chemists shops, a womans tailor-made suit is called a costume, rubbers are galoshes and galoshes are overshoes. Exhausted from the shopping, you stop for tea at the nearest tea shop. You sink into a chair and order pie and tea with a pitcher of cream. The waitress looks at you in astonishment, then timidly asks, Beg pardon, madam, but are you sure thats what you really want? Realizing that again you have made a mistake, you patiently explain, and to your surprise discover that pie refers only to meat pies in other words, a main dish, never, never served at tea, while tea itself is served with a jug of milk or cream. There are no pitchers in England, only jugs (for water, cream, or milk) which serve the same purpose. While you wait for your tea, you pick your copy of the London Observer. There is an article about the strike of some employees of the black coat class for fortnight holidays with pay. After carefully reading every word of it, you gather that the white collar class wants two weeks vacation with pay.