I just got back from vacation (a beautiful tour of the Amalfi Coast) and I did the traditional vacation thing of reading a mystery novel, End in Tears, by the splendid (and English) Ruth Rendell. Three passages struck me as relevant to this blog. The first related to a recent entry on trousers. A character meets an old-fashioned woman and reflects on her garb: “The only name for her trousers, Hannah thought, was one her own mother used, ‘slacks.'” No mention of pants.
The second reminded me that I have been meaning to do an on-the-radar entry on flat, the dwelling unit that Americans have traditionally called apartment. In Rendell’s world, things are moving in the opposite direction, with the American term apparently a sign of pretension. A character refers to “these flats or ‘apartments,’ as the prospectus calls them.”
The final quote relates to the issue of the extent to which Britishisms are Americanized in American editions of books. Here’s a description of a bad guy:
He was sitting in front of the television on a sagging sofa eating a burger with a fried egg on top, a large portion of fries, and a thick slice of fried bread, the lot doused in tomato ketchup.
Surely Rendell wrote chips rather than fries? If so, on the very next page, the translator nodded, leaving unchanged a reference to “the coagulated egg, burger and chips on Prinsip’s plate.”