Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Those English and their beastly grammar

Apart from having different names for the same thing (lorry=truck, loft=apartment, loo=restroom), the use of grammar is a way to tell the differences between the Queen's English (or England's English, if you prefer) and American English. A prime example is this headline on the BBC News site: "Harry to pass out from Sandhurst"

Americans, I want you to look at that headline for a moment. Take several moments, if you need them. What does it say to you?

"Harry to pass out from Sandhurst."

Ah, yes. Poor Harry passes out at Sandhurst. Things are so bad at Sandhurst that Prince Harry has been knocked unconscious - and apparently on a regular basis.

For Americans, to "pass out" is to become literally unconscious. This could be caused by many factors: imbibing too much alcohol (which Harry may have done from time to time) and being bladdered, being knocked on the head, being unable to breathe because all the air has been sucked out of the room, being forced to watch golf on the telly (that's TV to you, silly American), and so on. Passing out is not generally thought of as a positive thing - you're not likely to hear anyone say, I just LOVE passing out!

When you read the article, you see nothing about Harry being knocked unconscious. What you read is this:

Prince Harry is graduating from Sandhurst as a commissioned officer in the British Army. The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Camilla and his brother William will be at the ceremony. The 21-year-old, who last week joined Army pals at a lap dancing club near Slough, will join the Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals.

Apparently, in England, to pass out is to graduate - and Bob's your uncle.

Somehow, it's just not as interesting as reading about how Harry can't keep conscious when he's at school.

Ah, well. The best of British to you!

An aside: Bob is actually my uncle. Honest! I'm telling the truth. Bob, or Robert as he is called, is my father's brother. Curiously, he was called Uncle Joe when I was growing up - I think it had something to do with his middle name being Joseph, but I'm not sure.

Update: As of 8:09 AM, the headline of the article reads "Harry graduates as Army officer." The first line of the article is "Prince Harry has graduated from Sandhurst as an Army officer, where his passing out parade was inspected by his grandmother - the Queen."

Can you imagine if we in America had "passing out" parades? If everyone was unconscious, who would be able to watch it?


  1. Funny ones on your side of the pond include 'bum' ;)

  2. Alison: Didn't we get that one from the English? We usually use the shortened from of the word "buttocks," and of course there is the popular word that can be also used for "donkey."