During my first freshman semester in college, I took a class on world history. The professor was an older gentleman from Romania traveling around and teaching a semester or two at different universities. Nice guy. Excellent teacher. If he finished his lecture for the day early, he would tell us either about his life in Romania or about an observation of being in the United States.
One day, he was telling us about his first trip to a US grocery store, comparing it to Romanian grocery stores.
He gasped and covered his mouth with his hand for a moment. “And then I turned into another row and the entire row — from floor to above my head — was full of biscuits. All kinds of biscuits. Every shape, size, flavor imaginable.”
I thought he meant the bread aisle, but then he mentioned the chocolate ones. Donuts? No, there’s no “row full of donuts” in the average US grocery store.
One of the upper classmen figured it out. “Sir, do you mean cookies?”
“Oh, yes, yes, you are right. I am not using the American name. Good, good. You keep correcting my American English.”
That was the first time I realized that English in America and English in other parts of the world was not necessarily the same thing. Oh, I knew that accents and dialects differed, but vocabulary? That, I did not know.
I learned a lot in that class, and not all of it history.
(c) 2004 Lyza // Retrieved from Flickr // Used unchanged under Creative Commons License