You say…, I say… – A look at the American Vernacular

Americans do not speak English. Well, not proper English anyway – it’s a bastardised version (i.e. it is a unique, distorted version of British English). I once was told a story about an American woman who was at an overseas ATM wanting to withdraw some money. When the teller prompted for the language to use, she complained that there was no button for American – someone nearby told her to use the English option – this hadn’t occurred to her (I am not sure if she was blonde, or if this happens regularly)!

Anyway, as I have mentioned before, although we speak the same language, we have encountered all sorts of issues with being understood in America. Sometimes the word is the same, but pronounced differently, sometimes the word is completely different to what we would use and sometimes it’s just the spelling that is different.

Now, we can thank one Noah Webster (founder of the American dictionary) for all the variations in spelling between British English and American English. In 1801 he started work on his American dictionary because Americans were using words that just weren’t in English dictionaries – for example – ‘skunk’, ‘squash’, ‘chowder’. Webster also believed that English spelling rules were too complex and sought to simplify them; thus changing the spelling of ‘colour’ to ‘color’, ‘metre’ to ‘meter’ and ‘plough’ to ‘plow’. There are plenty of other examples, like ‘masque’ to ‘mask’, ‘gaol’ to ‘jail’ and ‘tyre’ to ‘tire’. However, he thankfully didn’t succeed in the following: ‘cloak’ to ‘cloke’, ‘women’ to ‘wimmen’, ‘tongue’ to ‘tung’ and ‘ache’ to ‘ake’.

Changing the spelling is mostly ok, since it generally hasn’t changed how the word is pronounced. However, when the word is spelt the same, but pronounced differently, that sometimes causes a bit of a smile or a “what the…” reaction. Now it is also true that there is differences between the states with what things are called as well as how words are pronounced (particularly between Northern & Southern states – and New Yorkers seem to have a dialect all their own); I have just listed a few words that we have found differences with here:

English word: How Texans pronounce it: How Aussie pronounce it:
Pecan Pe-kahn Pea-can
Bowie Boo-ey Bow-ie
Caramel Car-ml Car-a-mel
Herb ‘erb Herb
Vehicle Ver-here-cal Veer-cal
Coupon Qu-pon Coop-on
Second Sec-nt Sec-ond
Golf Goff Golf

Words that start with an “h” seem to render the “h” silent as in herb = ‘erb, hotel = ‘otel, etc, but if it’s in the middle of a word, for example, as in “vehicle”, then the “h” is almost stressed.

Then there are the instances when the word for an object is different and when we ask for something using the word we know – we can get a completely blank stare or the “huh?” response. So, here are a few notable differences we have found:

What Aussies would say: What Americans would say:
Petrol Gas
Service station (or Servo) Gas station
Serviette Napkin
Cutlery Flatware or silverware
Garbage Trash
Toilet Bathroom or restroom
Tap Faucet
Runners (or joggers) Tennis shoes
Footpath Sidewalk
Take-away Carry-out
Bench-top Counter-top
Entrée Appetiser
Main Entrée
Thongs Flip-flops
Biscuit* Cookie
Arnotts biscuits - delicious!

Arnotts biscuits – delicious!

*A note on the humble biscuit. Now, in Australia (& Britain & New Zealand too), a biscuit is a sweet, delicious thing (similar, but not the same as an American cookie) and is often dunked into your tea or coffee. My favourites are probably all made by Arnotts; check out their website to understand more about this iconic Aussie company and their products.

Biscuits in America are a bread-like item and more like a scone than anything else and are often served with a main meal and with gravy.

But some of the most interesting sayings – I have at times almost needed to ask what they were talking about, or indeed have felt the need to correct their grammar. The word “drug” is used instead of “dragged” and a bedroom suite (Aussies would pronounce that as ‘sweet’ and refers to a bedroom setting made up of bed, bedside tables, dressing table and drawers) is referred to as a bedroom suit – when I first heard this one I thought it might be something akin to your birthday suit, but worn in the bedroom!

Not all are bad though, and some of my favourite (not favorite) Texan sayings include: “Y’all” and “Do what now?” – meaning could you please repeat what you just said.

The development of language and dialect is interesting and I am not saying Aussies are perfect either – we have a terrible habit of abbreviating just about everything wherever possible – see the “servo” example above (and maybe that’s something to look at in a future blog).

Please share your views and thoughts in the comment section below: 🙂

Water, water everywhere!

Today we have seen a lot of rain again, with lots of lightening and thunder (enough to cause the floor to shake). The picture below was taken from our balcony; you can see we have a waterfall and dam forming and the drain is creating a mini whirlpool.

Our new water-feature outlook!

Our water-feature outlook!

We have also seen history made again this past week; Texoma Dam (for the very first time) has breached the spillway twice in the same year (within 4 weeks even) when it went over again last Friday. And it looks like it may just break another record yet, with the water level at Lake Texoma Dam possibly peaking on Monday.

There has already been so much flooding around our local area, destroying houses and roads, and it seems it just not ready to let up yet. Here’s a link to a YouTube clip of the local marina on Lake Texoma under water and a story by a local news station on the Spillway record.

Bread – why so sweet?

OK – why is bread so sweet in America?

Since we have been in the US of A, one of the things we miss most about home is the wonderful fresh bread we have ready access to (particularly the fresh delightful “Bakers Delight” bread, oh I miss that so much!). Bread in the US is VERY sweet; it is impossible to find bread at the supermarket, or even a “bakery”, without a significant amount of sugar in it (up to 4 or 5 grams per serve – more in buns and rolls). I just don’t understand Americas need to add sugar to just about everything (no wonder they have health and weight issues). And from what I can gather, anyone coming from outside of America doesn’t like their bread either – even Americans returning from overseas stays!

I think going home and eating good bread made me realise how much I like and miss it. Last week I finally reached a point where I decided it was time to try my hand at making my own bread and ordered a bread maker/machine!

My first homemade loaf of bread!

My first homemade loaf of bread!

The new Bread-maker in action

The new Bread-maker in action









So yesterday I had a go at making a basic white loaf, following the directions (but halving the sugar amount). It turned out ok and although my first attempt was not an unmitigated disaster, there certainly is room for improvement – it was still a bit dense and heavy for me. Does anyone have a good recipe for light, fluffy bread you can make in a bread maker? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this one!

Meanwhile, I have some bananas that are too ripe – a great excuse to attempt a banana bread loaf! 🙂

A lesson in Chickasaw

A trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center: A lesson in Native American History

I have been wanting to take a trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center for a long time now and this past weekend we finally made the trip.

Chickasaw Warrior statue

Chickasaw Warrior statue

The Chickasaws are one of the Five Civilised Tribes, (which refers to the five Native American nations – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole), they have their own constitution and are federally recognised as a Native American Nation – the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw’s traditional lands were originally in the south-eastern states of America – principally Alabama, Tennessee & Mississippi before they were forced to relocate in the 1830’s. The US government wanted to acquire all the lands east of the Mississippi and therefore forced the re-location of thousands of Native Americans to “Indian Territory” (Oklahoma).

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is located in Sulphur in Oklahoma, about an hour & 40-minute drive for us from home.

Cloak made from turkey feathers

Cloak made from turkey feathers

The Center is located within a 109-acre property. The Cultural Center is made up of a collection of buildings set in beautifully landscaped grounds and is dedicated to the history and culture of the Chickasaw people. There is an exhibit center/museum with plenty of information and some interactive displays, a research center & library where individuals may trace their genealogy and study the Chickasaw history, culture and traditions, a 350-seat theatre, a replica of a traditional Chickasaw village and even a café (we had lunch here and the food was great). There are several water features throughout the grounds, an outdoor amphitheatre and a sky terrace where you can observe the traditional village from above. I have to say that this is a world-class facility. The buildings and amenities are brilliant. My only complaint would be that there were a lot of exhibits that were obviously replicas; there didn’t appear to be very many genuine artefacts on display. However, what was there was good.

The Chickasaw Village

The Chickasaw Village – viewed from the Sky Terrace

It is free to look around the grounds, the village, the theatre and the library – the only thing that requires a fee is admission to the exhibit center which house a “museum” that offers a walk through Chickasaw history and culture with displays of and any special exhibits, but at $6 per adult, I think it is good value for money and worth the effort. All-in-all it was an interesting trip and I learnt something new – always good!

The Center is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday midday to 5pm all year round (except major holidays)

Road trip anyone?

There is nothing like a road trip to revive the soul! ❤

Welcome to New Mexico

Welcome to New Mexico

After returning from my 6 weeks in Australia, I had been feeling a bit down in the dumps, a bit flat, that sort-of, I-can’t-be-bothered feeling. So I needed something interesting to do to get me going again. A road trip to New Mexico was just the tonic!

A road trip is defined (by MacMillan dictionary) as a “long trip in a car”! And according to Wikipedia, “in the United States, a road trip typically implies leaving the state… However, in larger states (e.g. Texas), travel within the state may also be considered a road trip”. So, we have done quite a few now (Memphis, San Antonio, Arkansas, to name a few). Did you know that the first road trip by car occurred in 1888 in Germany when the wife of Karl Benz (inventor of the first patented motor car) took her 2 teenage sons for a drive (top speed of 10mph), without the knowledge of her husband, from Mannheim to Pforheim in Germany – a total distance of 66mi (106km) on the pretence of visiting her mother, but generating publicity for her husbands car which previously only been used for short test drives?

I was keen to visit the city of Santa Fe (capital of the state of New Mexico) as I had seen a feature on TV about it and I thought it looked good; it also has some interesting history (founded in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US).

3 of the 10 buried Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Tx

3 of the 10 buried Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Tx

It’s a long way to Santa Fe, NM from Sherman, TX so we decided to break up our 9 hours of travel time by leaving Thursday night, driving the first 5 hours to Amarillo (made famous, I believe, by Neil Sedaka and his song about “sweet Marie” waiting there for him (I couldn’t get the song out of my head)! I can’t really say too much about Amarillo as we didn’t spend too much time there, but it does have an interesting display of 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground at Cadillac Ranch.

On then to Santa Fe via Albuquerque (another 5 hours of driving – 4 to Albuquerque and then another hour to Santa Fe). We stopped in Albuquerque at a little, local (very popular) restaurant La Salita that offered traditional New Mexican fare. We can attest, the meal was great (no photos, it was too good and we busily ate it all up ☺) and the complimentary dessert, Sopaipilla – a type of fried pastry/bread that looks like a puffed pillow and is hollow inside, was delicious served with honey and cinnamon!

In Santa Fe we stayed 3 nights (in 2 different hotels – I couldn’t decide, so I split the stay between the Hilton Historic Plaza (2) and the Hotel St Francis (1), both historical hotels – I was a bit disappointed, but that’s another story). We spent a day and a half in Santa Fe and we took a day trip up to Taos, taking in the historic chapel El Santuario de Chimayo on the way and also took a drive out to the Rio Grande Canyon bridge.

El Santurio de Chimayo

El Santurio de Chimayo

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Horse head sculpture on Canyon Rd

Horse head sculpture on Canyon Rd

In Santa Fe, the main area of downtown surrounds the historic Plaza and is very pretty. The city radiates from the central plaza and is very much a center for art – if you like art galleries, there are dozens to choose from – you could spend days just looking at the various types of galleries (particularly along Canyon Road).

A typical Adobe Santa Fe style building

A typical Santa Fe adobe style building

Santa Fe has a very distinctive look (Santa Fe Style) – all the buildings exhibit the old adobe style on the exterior and all in earth tones. For those who don’t know (I didn’t), adobe is a clay building material, typically sun-dried mud bricks.

There is plenty of history to see – the oldest church in the US, the oldest house in the US and lots of other interesting buildings. There is plenty of shopping (for all those New Mexican souvenirs – blankets, jewellery, pottery, etc.), the farmers markets on a Saturday and there are plenty of dining options available also. We chose to sit outside on a 2nd floor balcony at Thunderbird Bar & Grill and enjoy the view and atmosphere of Santa Fe, watching life go by.

I will do a newsletter with more details about our trip into New Mexico soon, but I just wanted to share a few details of our road trip for now.

Any one want to offer a comment on a road trip they have done, or has anyone else been to Santa Fe? I would love to hear about your experiences; share your thoughts below in the comment section.

The Issue of Pie – not just a dessert food!

Note: Sorry for the lateness of this post – it was supposed to happen last week!

a tomato & onion pie for one!

a tomato & onion pie for one!

After returning from my recent trip to Australia, I had a longing for a good meat pie (having enjoyed a couple whilst I was there) – and since you cannot buy a meat pie here in Sherman, Texas, I set about making my own family sized meat pie (I added tomato and onion too, because that’s my favourite).

In America, a meat pie (as an Aussie or Kiwi would think of one) is practically unknown and although pizzas are sometimes referred to as pi’s, a pie in the US is generally of the sweet, dessert variety.

berry pie - courtesy of my friend Becky Goldsmith

berry pie – picture courtesy of my friend Becky Goldsmith

American’s love their pies and the research I have done indicates that there are dozens of favourite varieties including: pecan (definitely a Texan favourite), apple, coconut cream, custard and cream, strawberry, rhubarb, key lime, cherry, Mississippi mud, banana cream, blueberry, lemon meringue, peach, etc., the list goes on. However, in Australia, if you mention pie, most people would conjure up the image of a good old meat pie smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup). And a meat pie has a pastry top as well as a pastry bottom. A true meat pie should not be confused with an American “pot pie” which is served in a crockery pot with a pastry top (not a true pie)! Americans, please be advised –  pies are not just for sweet things and can be equally delicious when filled with savoury flavours (pumpkin and sweet potato don’t count).

One family sized meat pie!

One family sized meat pie!

The meat pie is a staple in Australia – a favourite at all sporting events (as Americans would consume hotdogs at the football, Aussies would eat a hand-held meat pie), it could almost be considered a favourite national dish. The traditional meat pie is made of diced or minced meat and is most often smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup).

Dinner: a slice of meat pie served with veges and a glass of red wine!

Dinner: a slice of meat pie served with veges and a glass of red wine!

Now meat pies are not solely made of beef; in Australia pies often contain other, flavour enhancing ingredients (mushrooms, tomato & onions, cheese, bacon, peas, carrots, etc.) or instead of the traditional beef, the main filling could be lamb, chicken or even seafood. The humble meat pie has come a long way in Australia; there are now many gourmet-type pies. (I should also mention this applies equally in New Zealand – where you can find some mighty fine and delicious pies. I know because I have lived there and enjoyed quite a few).

Meat pies also feature in an iconic jingle to promote Holden cars in Australia (made by GMH, a subsidiary of the US General Motors) “…football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.” Perhaps Americans would recognise a similar jingle by American Chevrolet: “…baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”?

Aussies are so passionate about their pies, there is an annual competition to determine the best pies in the land – The Official Great Aussie Pie Competition

Do you have a thought or comment about pies? I’d love to hear it. Post a comment below.