Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 462

The missing H

I love to tease my American friends about their pronunciation of the word ‘herbs’.

‘Say the words I spell out,’ say I. ‘H-E-R-B-S.’
‘Oh, ‘erbs,’ they say.
‘What are you, effing French!? It’s only acceptable to say that word that way in a French accent,’ tease I. ‘Now say this word: H-O-T-E-L.’
‘Hotel, with the H pronounced,’ sigh my friends.

But wait…! There is a rebellion and a retort from the American team!

‘Say the word H-O-N-O-R,’ says one friend.
‘Ah, you caught me,’ say I in defeat. ‘Honor, sans the H.’

(Although, I am thinking in my head, I’d spell it with a ‘u’. 😉

Eddie Izzard gets it right. Watch and smile!

Enid Blyton

I was shocked to discover my American friends had not heard of British children’s author and legend Enid Blyton, nor read any of her books in the 70s and 80s when they were growing up. (I know this because there were seven of us and I referred to us as ‘The Secret Seven‘!) They’d not even heard of her when her life story was made into a movie starting Helena Bonham Carter 😉

Of course her writing is now considered rather sexist and racist and the writing is certainly dated, but Enid Blyton’s skill for weaving a thrilling adventure still enthralls me, and there’s much to be said for encouraging the imagination with stories such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Famous Five books.

So, what did American children read with a torch under the duvet covers after lights out in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s? The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew? (We read those too in the UK 😉 ).

Answers to the above on a postcard please, or better yet post a comment below!

Helena as Enid

Helena as Enid

Tennis Shoes

I still find the American use of the words ‘tennis shoes’ funny in a cute way. I can’t help it, I just do. 🙂

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15 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 462

  1. Haha ‘erbs’ gets me every time! The first time I went to America, I thought my new friends were talking about some strange food I’d never heard of. And as for Enid Blyton, I adored her books 🙂

  2. tim spahr says:

    She offered her honor. He honored her offer. So all night long it was honor offer honor offer. If you don’t get this just ask an american buddy!

  3. Sally says:

    Loved Enid Blyton as a kid but saw a documentary about her recently and she was really mean to her own children. She would invite kids round for a picnic in the garden with lashings of ginger beer etc but her own children weren’t allowed to join in. 😦

  4. Andy says:

    Enid Blyton, I loved all of her books when I was a nipper but I have a very sad story about Noddy.
    When I was little I had a stuffed Noddy which I loved dearly, and to offset the trauma of my first day at infants school (aged 5 for American readers) I took Noddy with me. Alas I lost him (or more likely he was nicked by some thieving little naffer) and I was heartbroken and (apparently) inconsolable for weeks.

    Happy ending to this story though, about 3 years back after he heard this story, my son found a Noddy on a UK website and bought it for me for Christmas. What a good kid.

  5. carolcordall says:

    We donated some of the new, edited versions of some Famous Five books to Eric Jayne’s 5th grade classroom when Tom went up to CMS. I don’t know what the American children have made of them!

  6. jackie says:

    Gordon Ramsey always says “pass-tuh”,for pasta. When British friends say that they don’t pronounce words of foreign language in the original way, I wonder how they pronounce ‘rendezvous’.
    And why say “shedyule” if you don’t say “shool”?

  7. jackie says:

    Oh, enjoy New Orleans. But don’t say ‘Noo Orleenz”, and don’t order “bee-ig-nets”.
    If you think you’ve had trouble with American pronunciations, wait till you hit gulf coast Louisiana.

  8. Kathryn says:

    As a child in the 80s/90s we read books by Judy Blume, the “Ramona” books by Beverly Cleary, The Berenstain Bears series, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin.

  9. Pat and Pam says:

    I read Enid Blyton as a kid, but at the time we were stationed in Thailand, so Mom took me to both the American Embassy library and the British library. I really enjoyed the Famous Five stories.

    As to herbs/’erbs — an explanation that made sense to me was that when America was settled in the 17th Century, the use of herbs was still very French and on this side of the pond we retained the ” ‘erbes ” while back in Blighty you added in the H. At this time, also, English spelling had not been standardised, so over time the words like “hono[u]r” were standardised differently .

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