Jeff Burks has written here several times about the drinking habits of 17th- and 18th-century woodworkers viz. they used to work like the devil all day and then spend all of their hard-earned largesse on gin (known as “mother’s ruin” here in the old country). Workshops typically set up a system of penalties for unsuspecting apprentices to generate alcohol for the journeymen.
It should not have been a surprise that when students joined Chris for the first New English Workshop course the evenings were, in short, a mess; our group of budding anarchists simply reverted to 17th-century type. They worked like the clappers and then went nuts every night.
Inevitably talk turned to differences between U.S. (i.e. damned colonial) and The Queen’s English. It all started innocently enough with the usual woodworking terms: English “timber” being U.S.’s “lumber,” the English cutting “rebates” whilst Americans cut “rabbets” (though there is evidence that “rebate” was originally pronounced “rabbet” here in dear old Blighty). Then we moved onto the more general terms like “chips” in the UK being “French fries” in the U.S., pedestrians getting hit with the hood of the car in America whereas we run them over by hitting them with the bonnet. You get the picture.
I can’t remember who mentioned it in the deepening alcohol-induced haze but somehow the word “chub” came up, and Chris and another American plain flat out snorted their (warm) beer through their noses. So for the next 5 minutes:
Americans: Hooting with laughter.
English: Staring in shock, bemused.
We managed, eventually, to get out of them that in America a chub (chubb?) is a semi-erect willie, whereas in civilised parts of the English speaking world it is a fish or a brand of lock. I’m serious: Englishmen everywhere lock up their homes with a large Chubb at night and fine upstanding Englishmen spend long hours on riverbanks here trying to catch the biggest chub they can….
But then in the U.S. if you have a “semi” you are driving an articulated truck, whereas here in the UK you have a semi-erect johnson… Result:
English: Hooting with laughter.
Americans: Staring in shock, bemused.
But then there are always going be differences: In America “Hooters” is a chain of family restaurants with a friendly owl as its mascot. We also have “Hooters” in the UK but this is dirty, salty, saucy Edinburgh Hooters that has naked ladies of the pole writhing barely inches above your burger and chips. (If my better half is reading this, I heard that on BBC Radio 4, I swear.)
So, thanks to the power of alcohol we established each evening that The Special Relationship is alive and well. Our sorry anarchic crew would then troop into the workshop each morning, scarf down a litre (about a quart) of water and crack on banging out tails in time to the jackhammer pounding in their head. But then on a course where everyone got their bottom ripped French style (see photo above) at least once isn’t a special relationship just what you need?
– Paul Mayon, the New English Workshop