Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Where's my translator?

It was a simple enough question.

"Where are your washing lines?"

The blank stare got even blanker. Then, "Excuse me?"

"Do you sell washing lines," I tried.

"You mean, like for the tub? The tubs are at the back of the store," she replied.

"No, no, sorry," I said. "I don't want to buy a bath-tub."

'Here we go again', I thought.

I was in my local hardware shop, Home Depot - one of our favourite US shops because it looks just like B&Q inside and out! Even has the same logo (are the two stores sisters?) Anyway, the Mom/Mum household often find ourselves here on a Sunday if we're feeling homesick and want some comfort from a bag of nails.

But today wasn't Sunday and it wasn't DIY that brought me, Cheeky and Monkey through their doors.

"I'm looking for a clothes dryer," I continued, though I might as well have been speaking Russian for all the sense I seemed to be making.

"Well Ma'am," she said. (I still love how I get called ma'am over here) "The dryers will be right next to the tubs and the washers. In the home appliance section."

This wasn't going well. And I thought it would be such a quick and simple trip out to the shops. Silly me.

We'd decided to Go Green you see. The guilt of how much our little corner of the US is contributing to global warming finally got to us. Kitchen towels individually wrapped in plastic then put in their big multi-pack cellophane wrapping. No fines for over-stuffing your wheelie-bin in my neighbourhood. No. Garden sprinklers going even when it's raining, minimal public transport, four-car families a-plenty, Hummers all over the road. It had finally brought me out in a not-very-Eco-friendly sweat. I decided our family were going to do our bit for the environment (an our electricity bill) and STOP USING OUR TUMBLE DRYER!

Which brings me to why I was having yet another getting-me-nowhere conversation with an American shop assistant.

I wanted to buy a whirly gig. Clothes line/outdoor clothes dryer/retractable washing line/laundry line - whatever you call it I think in the UK they all amount to the same understandable contraption for drying ones smalls outside.

Not Stateside though.

So I got descriptive and with some GCSE Drama improv and mime, the shop assistant's beffudlement finally faded and she said,

"Oh you mean you want a rotary airer?! Aisle seven."


I didn't dare ask her if they sold pegs too. Just as well, because when we got to the washing lines, there was a bin next to them full of lovely pastel coloured pegs and it was marked, 'Laundry Pins.'

Isn't the English language just marvellous?!


  1. Please excuse the dodgy italics at the end. I seem to be muddled by scrapping wrong hhtml when going back to re-edit. Advice gratefully received!

  2. I Love your blog. I think you might like mine too! Here is a link if you get a chance to peak

    I will definitely be back to read more!

    Happy Blogging

  3. LOL! I had an idea what you meant. Good for you for persisting. Wish I could have seen the charades routine.

    Glad I found your blog! I'm a hopeless Anglophile. I'm sure the way I make tea would make you faint.

  4. ha ha ha, rotary airer and laundry pins!

    oh and threeundertwo, you don't make tea by putting it in the microwave do you??! I had the misfortune to witness that once before.


  5. I know when I have been to the US, I have often wondered if they thing I speak French bceause despite me understanding EVERYTHING they say, whenever I speak they look at me with a puzzled expression. Good luck with your rotary airer! I have just done it the other way around and just got a washer/dryer...the shame...

  6. just found your blog... my mother had exactly the same thing happen to her. We moved to california for 2 years during my childhood and she needed to buy a new lid for our dustbin. We went to the hardware store and saying she had trouble making herself understood is a gross understatement!

  7. I'm amazed they sell them. The concept of drying laundry (even when it is in the 90s for weeks on end) without using an electrical appliance is an alien one to most people. One woman (60ish) told me "we used to do it like that when I was a girl, but not now". I felt like replying, "what, you mean, not now we understand how delicate the planet is and how global warming may be the end of us all?"

  8. Found you via my blog buddy "girlwiththemask" and I'll be back!

    You are one funny lady! ;)

    Next time try, "clothes line" and "clothes pins"...they seem to be universal in the States, but there are regional differences. And Michigan suffers from additional confusing Canadian influences.

    Try telling an American that you will "knock them up" or "ring them up" and you'll probably get either a horrified stare, or a thousand-mile stare.

  9. Steph - thanks for the compliment & stopping by. i left you a comment too.

    3under2 - The charades routine was worthy of an Oscar methinks! and I'd be happy for anyone to make me a cuppa right now!

    pig - thanks for reading. I have been known to re-heat the same cup of tea more than 3 times in the microwave because the kids never gave me the chance to drink it the first time. Euch.

    cttf - shame on you for going the dryer route. ha ha. I have to confess my dryer still gets a good tumble. And yes, am sure we brits would be much better understood byt the Americans if we did indeed speak french or actually Spanish to them. I mean, at least they all watch Dora!

    rachel - I need an actual Amercian English to British English dictionary to accomplish anything round here!

    iota - don't! It's all do everything to excess here and I can't bear to think how much it's crippling our planet. She says, as she's left her computer on accidently ALL DAY!

    jlk - Am going to try the 'knock them up' line down the play centre just for a laugh. Thanks for visiting and enjoying btw!

  10. Thank you for popping in to mine. I'm going to add you to my reader; I think I'm going to enjoy your Brit in the US story!

    My mum had a real problem trying to get some 'cutlery' in a US restaurant. Eventually she found they were called 'eating irons'!?!

  11. I bet you are going to have many MANY of those conversations! I look forward to reading more of your adventures . . . Great to 'meet' you!

  12. Very glad I found your blog! Hilarious. I spent some time living in the States (DC) and was greated in Starbucks every morning as "That crazy English gal who drinks tea!"

  13. Oh mud - 'crazy Englsih girl' has become my nom du jour over here. thanks for stopping by btw..

    working mum - the things they call knives and forks here is bizarre. Even plastic picnic cutlery gets called, 'silverware' ho-hum! thanks for visiting

    tara- lovely to 'meet' you too! Am enjoying your blog musings muchly and feel am doing my bit to support Coventry (as that's where Him downstairs) studied.