Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Language Lesson: Tea

I enjoyed a cup of tea.
New official feature of The Red Accordion Diaries: Linguistics!

David made this for tea last week.

There's a joke that pops up often over here that America and the UK are "two countries separated by a common language." There's more truth to it than fiction. While touring with an English songwriter last month, most of our spats stemmed from pure misunderstanding of language -- or one of us being offended when the other asked what something meant. I know a lot of Scots and UK English already, but several times a week, I'm puzzled by a new word. Occasionally, even when I get the word correct, I use the "Upper Class" or "Non-Upper Class" version (read: "loo" versus "toilet") to the wrong person, causing either snickers or eye-rolling.

Today, I'm starting with the basics: tea.

To Americans, having tea brings to mind either a straight up cup of tea or a fun little afternoon tea party with tiny sandwiches and maybe a few of your favorite stuffed animals. Folks in the UK really do have "afternoon tea" on occasion (though I do not mingle with the kind of folks who have tiny sandwiches and desserts every day), but more often when they say, "What's for tea," they are inquiring as to the night's dinner menu. And that's dinner as in "supper," or the meal you eat around 6-8pm.

Oddly, I don't think supper at a British friend's home has ever actually included a cup o' tea, at least not until long after we've stuffed our faces and are digesting in epicurean delight.

Funny, eh? It took David and me a while to figure out that when Catriona (our gracious host who saved us from sleeping on the streets when we first arrived) wondered what she would "cook for tea." It seemed that tiny sandwiches did not require cooking.

Anyway, feel free to confound your partners or mothers by asking, "What's for tea?"

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1 comment:

  1. You know, it's been told to me by more than one Brit that "tea" is an acronym for "Traditional English Ale."