5 changes of a Chinese wife in England: on Language

English is such a fascinating language. It’s common that people do not always say what they mean, or do not mean what they say. Below is a list of 5 things that I’ve learnt:

1) A Cream Tea is not a cup of tea with cream

On our honeymoon in Jersey back in 1999, my husband asked if I fancied some Cream Tea. I said yes as I was thirsty after a long walk.

He later gave me a plate with a fat, boring looking bun (I later learnt it was called a scone) with jam and cream next to it. I sat and waited patiently for my tea. “Where’s my tea?”  I asked. Hugh pointed at the fat, boring looking bun and said ‘You said you wanted some Cream Tea.’

Cream Tea means a scone.

2) There’s something called a Tea Towel

A Tea Towel is a piece of cloth you use to dry dishes and cutlery. Why is it called a Tea Towel? I’m wondering if ‘tea’ means a drink or a meal?

I’ve also learnt that the tea towel is a minor British Institution.

3) What is lunch, tea and dinner really? 

I was appalled when my son’s school referred to a mid-day meal as ‘School Dinner’. I learnt English abroad, and I’ve always thought a meal eaten at noon is normally called lunch.

To complicate my lunch/dinner confusion, when Ben’s friends invited him round to play and have ‘tea’, they meant an evening meal eaten at around 5pm.

4) You go to the Loo to Spend a Penny

One of the first British English words I picked up was the ‘loo’ — toilet. My female friends sometimes like to add a bit of mystery to the toilet business, they ‘spend a penny’. Not more; not less. Just a penny.

I learnt that coin-operated public toilets were introduced in London more than 150 years ago.

These days, if you go to the Waterloo train station, to use the public toilets, it costs 30p — but my friend still only ‘spends a penny’.

5) What happens if you give someone an inch?

In Chinese, there is a saying that ‘if you give someone an inch, he will take a FOOT.

But in English, if you give someone an inch, he will take a MILE.

Which one do you think is more logical, mathematically?

What is your view of my mini series about a Chinese wife in England so far?

What fascinates you? What else do you want to read? Please leave a comment and let me know.

My Related Posts:


23 thoughts on “5 changes of a Chinese wife in England: on Language

  1. rhmay

    And in America if you wish to spend a penny you can say “I’m going for a rest”, because a toilet is a rest room. And if you smoke a fag you shoot a homosexual. More like this please.

  2. Colline

    Now to make things even more confusing – the English spoken in another country will not have these expressions. Instead they use expressions that are indigenous to that particular country 🙂

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      That can be tough! I realise that when I speak English in Singapore on holiday, for example, I spoke it differently — more direct speech and fewer nuances. I don’t only have to adjust my vocabulary, I adjust my style and register all together.

  3. Pingback: Do you remember the victims’ names in Asiana plane crash? | Janet's Notebook

  4. Pingback: The only Chinese word you ever need to learn | Janet's Notebook

  5. Pingback: The most refined Chinese Farewell song | Janet's Notebook

  6. Pingback: Christmas vs Chinese New Year | Janet's Notebook

  7. Pingback: Chinese Character of the Year 2012 Revealed: From ‘Tiny’ to ‘Lust’ | Janet's Notebook

  8. Pingback: Learning the Chinese character for Big (大) | Janet's Notebook

  9. Pingback: 5 changes of a Chinese wife in England: on Culture | Janet's Notebook

  10. Pingback: 4 English film titles in Chinese to amuse you | Janet's Notebook

  11. Pingback: 7 interesting English film titles in Chinese | Janet's Notebook

  12. Pingback: Blogging in English: Who am I? | Janet's Notebook

  13. Pingback: My Site Table of Contents – I did it! | Janet's Notebook

  14. Pingback: Am I British enough? | Janet's Notebook

  15. Pingback: Test yourself on the new British Immigration exam | Janet's Notebook

  16. Pingback: 5 changes of a Chinese wife in England: on Food | Janet's Notebook

  17. Pingback: Oriental and western views on postnatal confinement | Janet's Notebook

  18. Pingback: Seeing the world through my names | Janet's Notebook

  19. e

    A cream tea isn’t just the scone. It’s the whole thing, usually a small mid-afternoon meal with scones, jam, and cream. They’re a bit touristy, mostly found in fancy hotels these days.


Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s