Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 13

Language barriers…..

So Harry will need some super new clothes for his super new school.

Thus, I re-visit the website to see what’s what in the land of American school-wear.

I am going to copy the portion of text that I then read, and explain my confusion, next steps and admission of frenzied silliness that almost led to me berating my American compatriates for inventing nonsensical words that I had not heard of before.

Dress Code

The School recognizes the benefits of school uniforms, including: instilling students with discipline and respect; helping students concentrate on their school work; and helping parents and students resist peer pressure. For these reasons, the school has adopted the following uniform code. Students not dressed in accordance with this code will be given a reminder; repeated concerns will be addressed by the Division Head as needed.


Pants………… khaki, twill, or corduroy with belt loops or elastic

Golf/polo-style shirt…….. white or hunter green (solid color)

 Oxford shirt…………….. white or light blue, short or long-sleeved

 Turtleneck………………. white or hunter green (solid color)

 Sweater…………………. white or hunter green cardigan, crew, v-neck or vest style (solid color)

 GCS Fleece jacket………. gray or hunter green, long-sleeved or vest style, pullover or zip-up, with GCS logo (MUST BE PURCHASED IN SCHOOL STORE)

 GCS Sweatshirt…..…….. gray or hunter green, with GCS logo, worn over collared shirt (MUST BE PURCHASED IN SCHOOL STORE)

 Socks……………………. white, hunter green, gray, or black

 Shoes…………………….. brown or black leather or suede school shoes, belowankle

 Sneakers…………………. neat, primarily white leather, below ankle, no lights, (PRIMARY SCHOOL ONLY)

 When reading this list one can titter, as we Brits do, at ‘pants’ and even ‘sweater’ and of course ‘turtleneck’ (still don’t know exactly what that is) and definitely at ‘sneaker’ (I admire that they allow children under 6 to wear white sneakers to school…………..practical?).

 Other observations:  Twill – how perfectly English! Courdroy – how marvellously British! Hunter green – how utterly Cheltenham!

 But let me take you the bit that foxed me completely…….it’s ‘belowankle’ – the last bit in the shoes section.

“What is a belowankle?” I cried upon reading this! (Pronounced, by the way, as “bellow-ankle”.)

I open up Google, mystified by this American footwear that has passed me by. Will I be the first British person in this particular vicinity to discover the joys of a ‘belowankle’…..? Could it be a Victorian revamp of a shoe, pimped up by American youth that no-one here has yet heard of? It is button down or velcro? I imagine a wooden heel and studs, laces and leather made by elves sometime after midnight on a Sunday and worn by children who can talk to foxes.

As I tap into Google , it dawns on me. This is not a shoe of any sort. It is simply a typo. Someone forgot to press the space bar between below and ankle.

They simply, and quite clearly, mean shoes should be ‘below ankle’. Nothing more, nothing less, and definitely not Converse.

And that, dear reader, is the excitement I felt in almost discovering a new word. In actuality (is that a word?), I think my colleagues have taken to this new turn of phrase and I feel it will be adopted discerningly and not bandied about to mock me………..only time will tell. I may even have to copyright ‘belowankle’.

How we laugh!

Passport photo hell…..

My passport and visa photo is hellish, what more can I say.

“You’ll have that with you for ten years now,” mocked my husband, kindly.

I hope they let me in to the country. I look not dissimilar to a crack-cocaine addict whose picture I once used to highlight the ravages of drugs in a community awareness marketing campaign in north London. Sigh.


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