Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is That How the Brits Spell Toilet?

QUOTE of the blog:

Yesterday I sent out a text to a few members of our British staff asking if they could take a pounds check (meaning a UK check for reimbursements); however, I didn’t see that I sent the phrase “sounds check” instead of pounds check. Kate thought I wanted her to check the sound in the DJ booth in the auditorium and Rodina couldn’t figure out quite what I meant. I told Rodina I should have written cheque. She wanted to know what a sound cheque was and I told her it meant we were going to reimburse her with verbal payment. Oddly, she declined. Had I used cheque instead of check the spelling mistake of Sounds would have been self-evident.


I am back in Oxford, England for just about six weeks. I realized few weeks ago that this is my seventh summer of the last ten I’ve spent in England! That is just crazy. The first three, 2003-2005, were six weeks spent with 45 college students in London (including a week in Paris). The latest times around, 2008-2011, has been for five weeks with 140 junior high students (grades 8-9). Coming back to England always brings back memories of summers prior and some of my favorite stories.

Today, walking down St. Aldate’s I saw this sign (indicating the space is for rent) and had to take a picture. It reminded me of a summer with the college students. We had one girl who was, well, not the quickest. We’d been in London for at least three weeks and she and a group of guys were walking down the street. She looked at one of the “To Let” signs (which are all over London) and said, “I’ve been wondering, ‘Why don’t the British spell toilet with an I?” The boys burst out laughing and managed to convince her for at a couple minutes that it was actually the French spelling and pronunciation of the word Toilette. I wish London had that many public toilets!

It’s funny what a differences phrases and spelling make. My first year I asked some staff of the dining hall where I might find some silverware and received puzzled looks. It wasn’t until I used the terms knife and fork that they realized what I really meant was “cutlery.” It wasn’t until later that I realized they probably thought I was referring to the extensive collection of Renaissance silver owned by Corpus Christi.

Just a few summers ago our staff and admin team were having drinks in the back garden (before the students arrived). One of our deans held out her wine glass to our drama teacher and mixed up the British phrase (top up: to fill up or top off) and said, “Simon, will you give me a touch up?” Simon stopped for a moment and said, “I don’t think I will.” Realizing what she said she turned bright red and we all had a good laugh.

Every summer abroad yields fantastic stories. I can't wait for this year. Our kids just arrived last Friday and so far everything is going smoothly (with the exception of one broken window pane). Nothing quite as exciting (yet) as my first summer here when our program was in Oriel and Corpus Christi and, on their first night, students sat down to eat in the Oriel dining hall - imagine a small version of the Harry Potter dining hall and you've got it. They were chatting and getting to know each other when, all of a sudden, a DEAD BIRD plummeted from the 50 foot ceilings and landed in the middle of the table with its little feet up in the air. It took about 3 seconds of shock before the students started screaming. The staff whisked the poor thing away a moment later. I had hoped that they would have been serving Cornish hen or some other small bird for dinner but alas, the comedy ended there. Well, actually not quite, as the Studio Art teacher asked if she could have it to draw and finished out her dinner with the small thing wrapped in napkins near her feet.

For a few other favorite study abroad stories see the March 2010 blog entry titled Loch Ness and Pumas (famous mythical creatures).