I’ve mentioned before in this blog that it’s not a good idea to call Native Americans ‘Red Indians’ when visiting the states, not unless you want everyone to drop to the floor! Being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, the term was used every weekend at the local flea-pit (Queen’s cinema) as the cowboys fought the redskins. It’s easy to cause unintentional offence with obsolete terminology, and especially confusing when there’s an American football team named the Washington Redskins, and the Redskins serve as the mascot of Red Mesa High School on the Navajo Reservation in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, go figure.
During my nurse training it was perfectly normal to refer to the Elderly Care wards as the Gerry’s ward – as in Geriatrics – and this was to our tutors. Now I am pretty sure Gerry’s is out and I suspect even Elderly Care is frowned upon, I think it’s referred to Care of the Aged now and during training terms like physically handicapped and mentally handicapped was perfectly acceptable but now handicap is only used during golfing conversations and the term disabled or disadvantaged is preferred.
I was talking to an American member of staff today and mentioned the ‘red’ faux pas to her and she agreed that if she hadn’t been sitting down then she would have fallen over if I used that term in normal conversation, however I went from one faux pas straight into another because I mentioned that her fringe needs trimmed and she looked at me quite shocked, apparently whilst fringe is a common term here in Europe, it’s called ‘bangs’ in America, where she comes from to have your fringe trimmed means something much more personal. Oops!
We all know over here that fag is a cigarette but means something completely different across the pond and beaver is a small water dwelling damn building forest animal – at least in this country but can mean your butt across the pond, fanny here is considered vulgar and not suitable for polite company but not considered that racey across the water. However, during my twenties in Northern Ireland and then in London we had terms, that as young lads we used all the time without a second thought.
Vincent Van Gogh – Rhyming slang for ‘cough’. As in ‘That’s a nasty Vincent you’ve got there’. As a digression, we had a tutor at school called Mrs Chesnokov and whenever she was mentioned in conversation it was de rigueur to skip her name but to quickly touch your chest then knee and then cough; chest-knee-cough.. geddit?
Salad dodger – an extremely overweight person. Sometimes we would also say busted sofa – an overweight woman wearing a tight dress/trousers. As another digression, I once sat on a bus with my very young son only to be mortified as he said in a very loud voice whilst pointing to the lady sitting in front of us, ‘Daddy, that ladies very fat, isn’t she?’. The young couple sitting behind us had to get off because for the next five minutes they tried and tried valiantly to supress their laugher before finally giving in to it. So did the rest of the bus.
OK OK digression #2, when I was at Secondary school we had a tubby chap in our class called George Burns and being the horrible cruel kids that we were, his nickname was ‘Fat Burns’ and loved our cleverness as not only was he obviously fat but because, of course that fat does actually burn.
Aeroplane blond – this is a nursing term and no, it’s not about dumb blonde’s, it’s a phenomena one got used to seeing, especially in A&E (ER) Units, it’s a reference to an attractive woman who has dyed her hair but still has a black box. As yet another digression, we once had an unconscious patient in A&E who had dyed her pubes green and had a tattoo ‘Come Lie On The Grass’ above it. She needed to be prepped for emergency surgery so one of the nurses shaved her and wrote in ink above the tattoo ‘sorry, we had to mow the lawn’.
Pearl Harbour – cold weather. Rhyming slang. “It’s a bit Pearl Harbour out there!”. Meaning it’s a bit nippy out there or there’s a nip in the air. This comes from the well-known surprise attack by Japanese planes on the American port in Hawaii in 1941. We would also say ‘it’s brass monkey weather out there’ meaning it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey, I had absolutely no idea where that came from but if you wish to be educated then click here.
Mork and Mindy – Rhyming slang for ‘windy’, i.e. “It’s a little bit Mork and Mindy today, innit?”. This isn’t actually a reference to the weather outside but this expression is always accompanied with a grin as you flap your hands around your rear end. Speaking of which, I was reading a blog (yes, mine actually) about life’s most embarrassing moments and this girl wrote that when in sixth form her teacher asked if anyone could do something unusual…like wiggle their ears or somersault…so this 16yr old said she could do a cartwheel. The teacher thought that’s a good trick so the entire class pushed all their desks back and she stood up to do her cartwheel, unfortunately as she was in the middle of it two things happened simultaneously
1) Her skirt fell down and everyone could see her awful Bridget Jones knickers..
2) She farted…REALLY LOUDLY
The entire class fell to the floor laughing and she was humiliated.. even the teacher laughed…
She left shortly after that and became an axe murderer..
Blouse Bunnies – you can probably figure this one out from the following totally true story. Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he’d just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he’s walking with a limp.
‘What happened to you?’ asks Sean, the bartender.
‘Micheal O’Connor and me had a fight,’ says Paddy.
‘That little O’Connor,’ says Sean, ‘He couldn’t do that to you, he must have had something in his hand.’
‘That he did,’ says Paddy,’a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin’ he gave me with it.’
‘Well,’ says Sean, ‘you should have defended yourself. Didn’t you have something in your hand?’
That I did,’ said Paddy, ‘Mrs. O’Connor’s breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but useless in a fight.’
Five Finger Discount – to steal something. Another completely true story. It’s Saint Patrick’s day and an armed hooded robber bursts into the Bank of Ireland and forces the tellers to load a sack full of cash. On his way out the door with the loot one brave Irish customer grabs the hood and pulls it off revealing the robber’s face. The Robber Shoots the Guy Without Hesitation!
He then looks around the bank to see if anyone else has seen him. One of the tellers is looking straight at him and the robber walks over and calmly shoots him also. Everyone by now is very scared and looking down at the floor. Did anyone else see my face?’ screams the robber.
There is a few moments of silence then one elderly Irish lady, looking down, tentatively raises her hand and says, ‘I think me husband may have caught a glimpse.’